Monday, January 19, 2015

#57: The Stringer

Season: 7

Synopsis in 3 sentences or less:

While investigating goods made in a Chinese labor camp, MacGyver meets a photojournalist named Sean Angus Malloy (Sam).  They discover that MacGyver is Sam's father, and they team up to take down the import company responsible for moving the goods.  MacGyver and Sam then set off on a motorcycle journey where they can make up for lost time.  

Memorable Quote:
What do you know?  My first father/son lecture.  ~Sam
Yeah, how was it?    ~MacGyver
Kind of hard to take.   ~Sam

Nice ending scene where MacGyver bids an emotional farewell to Pete and then father and son bike off into the sunset (not actually a sunset, but figuratively speaking).  Also a nice message from RDA thanking the fans.  How awesome it would be to be in Sam's position and get to hear all of MacGyver's awesome stories and life experiences on the road ahead. 

The first time I saw this episode as a kid, I didn't like it at all.  It bothered me for two primary reasons:
  1. Even though MacGyver didn't know about his son until this point, the whole thing still makes him seem irresponsible.  
  2. MacGyver's reaction to meeting his son and on sharing the news with Pete is not one of warmth or excitement - instead it feels like a detached inconvenience.  I understand that he is still trying to process everything and is a little scared by the whole idea of fatherhood, but it would be nice to at least see a little joy.   
These feelings haven't totally gone away, but they have softened, and the rest of the episode has grown on me which is why it is as high as it is.  And there are a lot of nice father-son moments (like commiserating over the name Angus or sharing the pocketknife), and it's nice for MacGyver to have some family in his life now.  But I'm still not a huge fan of the surprise father plot line.

Best MacGyverism:
Uses high pressure washer, a steering wheel, and seat belts to make jet-packs (ala the Rocketeer) and "sprout wings."  Far-fetched to say the least, but nice to see they pulled out all the stops for the last episode.   

Other thoughts, observations, and questions I didn’t ask when I was in fourth grade:
  • It's series finale time!  (not including the two movies or the lost episode).  
  • Mei Jan is back reprising the same character from Children of Light.  And the guy who plays Chung was also in Children of Light but as a different character.  At one point Mei Jan mentions seeing someone in the video tape of the Chinese labor camp and it sounds like she says Sue Ling, even though Sue Ling was killed in Tiananmen Square according to the events in Children of Light. 
  • Sam's mother was a photojournalist named Kate, but not the same photojournalist named Kate from The Gauntlet.  
  • Nice scene at 14:23 where Sam opens his locket with the pictures of his parents and he and MacGyver discover the truth.  Good music too. 
  • Even though I'm not big on the whole idea of MacGyver having a son, I really like the character of Sam, played to great effect by Dalton James.  He's likable, smart, charismatic, and a good wingman for MacGyver.  He even outshines RDA in their scenes together, though it feels a little like RDA was mailing it in at this point.  I wonder if at the time the studio was leaving open the possibility of a spinoff (like MacGyver: the next generation).  
  • 15:42 - Pete is back for the final episode, as is the classic jeep! 
  • 22:12 - bad guys looking at photo of Mei Jan.  The photo is from Children of Light and her meeting with Wing Lee. 
  • Good scene in MacGyver's garage where he lectures Sam on why not to kill Chung.

    Murder is not justice.  The killing has got to stop with us.  We should be telling ourselves we're good enough to solve our problems without taking human life.   ~MacGyver

    In three short sentences, MacGyver perfectly encapsulated his worldview more articulately than at any other point in the series.  
  • 33:27 - great karate skills from MacGyver.  I've said many times that by season 6/7 he's very respectable in hand-to-hand combat.  
  • 35:00 - oh no, MacGyver's been shot!  He breaks his arm from the resulting fall, but the wound seems to be non-existent afterwards.  Nevertheless, this brings the total number of bullet wounds to 5.  Time to update the shot chart.  

Final Analysis:
Overall, a good episode and one that's grown on me as I mentioned above.  Now we're kicking things up a notch and crossing a threshold of sorts by moving into my top 56.  I don't think it's hyperbole to say that I love the rest of the episodes.  Now I'm not discounting the possibility that there may be a few misses (i.e. rewatching and not liking as much), but it's less likely than before since I'm more familiar with them (since they're my favorites).  Will I be offended and take it personally if you don't share my good feelings toward them?  Yes, I will!  No, I won't!  We've already proven that MacGyver fans have a diverse taste in episodes, and that's ok and to be expected.  How will I differentiate between all these upcoming great episodes, then? Recently Mark mentioned the idea of "emotional connection" - I like that concept and find it's a good way to explain why #8 is higher than #42, for instance.  

Coming up next, MacGyver takes a little trip to help a friend in need!  


  1. I'm intrigued that you hated this episode at first. I suspect most who were disappointed by it were expecting MacGyver to end with the "greatest adventure of all-time". I had heard it leaked months in advance that he would be discovering a long-lost son and at first I thought that sounded like a weak angle, I was ultimately very pleased with the execution. My only disappointment was that the baby mama wasn't one of the gals we had already seen from his past rather than a new "greatest love of my life". I can sort of see why you were disappointed in MacGyver for spawning SAM and being out of his life for 19 years but given the circumstances it's hard to say he was irresponsible. And putting myself in that situation, I would respond exactly as MacGyver did with the pace in which he came to terms with the fact that he had a 19-year-old son! Instantaneous jubilation just didn't seem like it would fit the mood for either of them. And in retrospect it was a perfect way to end this series, and I point to the very last episode you reviewed--"Passages"--as the reason why. MacGyver had to have his arm twisted by Grandpa Harry to abandon the sunboat since "there's no one left in the family now". Only two years later did we discover MacGyver had a reason to leave after all, finally giving this dark loner a chance at the family life that was taken away from him as a boy through bad luck. And, as you said, Dalton James was terrific as SAM. Couldn't have asked for a better performance.

    The story itself was decent but I gotta say that the undercurrent of weariness throughout MacGyver's final season was evident here. Most long-running shows limp to the finish line with exhaustion and MacGyver was no different, but they nailed the budding relationship with SAM and the scenes where the two of them bonded, from their fateful meeting to riding off at the sunset at the end, were first-rate. Now I liked the general criminal plot and how the series went out with MacGyver serving the humanitarian causes that he dedicated his life to, but the scenes on the ship were definitely the weakest part of the episode. The bullet magically disappeared after he was shot and the broken arm seemed to be a mere convenience to describe why he couldn't climb out of the ship's hold. He had no problem ascending ladders, putting on and taking off harnesses, and engaging in hand to hand combat as soon as the script no longer called for him to pretend his arm was broken. And using a water pressure tank as a jetpack was preposterous, one of the hokiest things MacGyver ever did.

    The epilogue was one of MacGyver's best scenes of all in seven seasons though, with great melodramatic Ken Harrison music to accompany it. There was just the right level of heartfelt drama without spiraling into a saccharine shmaltz-fest. You said before that MacGyver brought you to tears three times during its run. Was this one of them? It certainly did for me, and I got choked up earlier in the episode when SAM showed his the picture in the locket and when he broke the news of SAM to Pete. I also shed some tears generally that the show I grew up with was over. MacGyver ended in style for me, and I walked away much more satisfied with the series finale than I did either of the two movies. I rank this episode #34.

    1. Gah! Scratch that....I rank it #33.

    2. I agree on the appropriate level of drama in the last season. It didn't bring me to tears, but I can see how it could. I mentioned The Madonna and Passages as the two slam-dunk tear-jerkers for me. The third one, I'm actually not 100% sure if it will bring me to tears or not - we'll have to wait until #7 to find out!

      Regarding the irresponsibility, it wasn't so much about not being in his son's life (since he had no control over that since he didn't know about him) as it was in creating the son in the first place. Without getting too graphic, there are things the man can do to prevent against that, though happy accidents do happen. But I was more puritanical as a 10 year old and my feelings have softened over time. Plus, Sam turned out ok without a father figure in his life. All is forgiven, MacGyver!

  2. Couple other bits of trivia. Did you know MacGyver was one of three long-running ABC shows to end its run on April 25, 1992? It was billed a "Night of Goodbyes" with ABC sitcoms "Who's the Boss?" and "Growing Pains" bowing out at the 7:00 and 8:00 hours, and "MacGyver" ending at 9:00 (central time). Even though WTB and GB were much bigger hits in their prime, "MacGyver" had the highest-rated finale of the three. This finale had originally been scheduled to air in February 1992 until ABC came up with this "Night of Goodbyes" sendoff gimmick. I'll admit I was always nervous waiting four months for this thing to air as the series went off the weekly schedule in December 1991.

    The other bit of trivia is that someone at ABC must have thought the idea of MacGyver and SAM riding off into the sunset on their motorcycles was a great idea for a show because in September 1992, ABC debuted a new drama called "Crossroads" starring Robert Urich and, wait for it, Dalton James (!) as a father and son reconnecting on the highway as they traveled the country. It was canceled after five episodes, unfortunately, but was kind of a dry show anyway.

    As for taking it personally if any of us talk smack about episodes higher on your list, remember we had to endure the trash talk about plenty of episodes we liked that were on the lowest rungs of your list. Turnabout is fair play! :)

    1. Thanks for the background knowledge. Maybe for Crossroads they could have just had flashbacks of MacGyver to pass the time! And you're right, turnabout is indeed fair play so if I can take shots at The Challenge and Kill Zone, you can say bad things about Mama Lorraine.

  3. This one definitely ranks a lot higher for me too. A lot of the higher ranking is more nostalgia and emotion, but the story is good.

    I agree with Mark that Mac's reaction to this suddenly appearing kid is about right - even for someone as up-beat as MacGyver. And, it's hard to be 'irresponsible' about something you know nothing about. Kate never told Mac about Sam, so he couldn't be irresponsible about him. Had she told him and he told her to kiss off, that would've been different, but Kate didn't expect to be shot by Chinese soldiers, and, as such, wasn't expecting that her kid would be orphaned without having met his father. Then, '8 y/o hikes through Red China' makes for a great headline/story. =)

    I remember the 'night of goodbyes' thing too - I know I watched the Growing Pains episode, but I don't remember Who's the Boss.

    Turnabout, indeed. =)

    1. I wouldn't put "Growing Pains" quite on equal footing with MacGyver in terms of my boyhood memories but I really did enjoy that show. I picked up the only two seasons released on DVD a few years back and find that it holds up quite well. I was never a big fan of "Who's the Boss?" though. I watched all three finales that night in April 1992 but WTB's was the only "meh" one for me of the three.

    2. I remember on GP - the family packed up and moved out of the house. At least that sounds right. But WTB? I couldn't even begin to tell you what happened in that one.

    3. I seem to remember Tony having moved out on WTB but returning in the final scene to tell Angela--who he discovered he was madly in love with--that he heard she was looking for a housekeeper....which is the same way the show began. And yes, on Growing Pains, the Seavers moved to Washington DC when Maggie got a job for a Senator.

      By the way, I've been checking in daily on your MacGyver countdown. Like Nicholas's rankings, I've agreed with some and not others. Haven't really come across any that are in the bottom tier of all three of our lists interestingly enough. I'll be keeping tabs on it in the days ahead though and appreciate the effort.

    4. That bit about WTB sounds vaguely familiar. I wasn't ever a big fan of that show, so wasn't all that invested in the finale. GP I did remember them moving out.

      Thanx! I figure, if you asked 100 MacGyver fans to rank the episodes, you'd get 100 different lists. =)

  4. Although not an out and out favourite, I really like this one. It opens atmospherically, in the dark, damp misty docks. I have to say,MacGyver is not that smart in the warehouse and its just as well that Sam is on hand to rescue him with a spectacular bike- through- the -window stunt (causing MacGyver to pick the pieces of glass out of his jacket afterwards - nice touch of detail, I felt). I kind of agree, with Nicholas; it did seem a bit irresponsible of MacGyver to have fathered a child he didn't know about and out of character but I like the idea that he does have a son he can get to know. Its a good finale; any earlier in the series and it would have changed our attitude toward him somehow - you can't be so reckless and have so little regard for your own safety if you have a family even if they are, as Sam, very much able to take care of themselves. I thought the handling of the revelation was good; MacGyver's dawning realisation that not only did he know Sam's mother but that he was his father, The shock, the fact he's never felt ready to settle down and have a family ( and still doesn't need to settle down as he's conveniently skipped that part!) and that he's probably blaming himself that Kate had to bring Sam up alone, all result in a low key, introspective MacGyver throughout the episode but it works here, I feel.

    You're right, Meijan does mention Soo Ling and seems to forget that she's supposed to be dead. (MacGyver comforts her as he does with all women, by stroking her hair!)

    I like Sam knowing as much about everything as MacGyver - another reason why its best that this is the last episode or Sam might have taken over -he's already more of a live wire than his Dad by this stage in the series.

    Its good to see the old jeep again but, Uh Oh ..not for long as its wrecked by the gunfire - another end of era motif. (When the villains jump out at them, I'm sure Sam flies backwards before the door is opened!).
    I liked the drama of MacGyver's high dive into the hold but I too wondered what had happened to the bullet wound. Also enjoyed the father-son, son-father talk reversal, them both saying 'Oh man..' simultaneously just before the (ludicrous) high pressure water jump and Sam's repetition of MacGyver's 'the killing has to stop with us' Great ending; it did make me emotional the first time I saw it and I agree, nice message from RDA. I ranked it higher, somewhere in the 30's , I think if only for its place in the MacGyver history!

  5. I didn't like the finale just because it was the finale - I didn't want the series to be over at all. But the action in this one was still good and it was emotional (very much) with Pete and Mac saying goodbye. Thanks for the blog info.

  6. It might not have seemed quite right to me for MacGyver to suddenly find his long lost son but it was certainly a huge surprise to finish the series. Somehow I managed to avoid this rather large piece of information before watching this episode and I'm glad I did because it really surprised me. I had often wondered about the title 'The Stringer', it didn't point to anything in particular and there was nothing to indicate what a 'Stringer' was. During the episode it didn't explain why the term would be used for a photo journalist so I looked up some possible explanations, straight from Wikipedia:

    The etymology of the word is uncertain. Newspapers once paid stringers per inch of printed text they generated. The theory given in the Oxford English Dictionary is that a stringer is a person who strings words together, while others use the term because the reporter is "strung along" by a news organization, or kept in a constant state of uncertainty. Another possibility is that using a sports analogy, the freelance journalist is seen as a "second string" whereas the staff journalist positions are more of the "first string". Another possible derivation of the term "stringer": journalists at newspapers and television news stations sometimes use the expression "I'm still gathering string" to refer to the initial stage of reporting or fact-finding.

    That takes care of the title, what about the episode? As I said, it didn't quite feel right for MacGyver to find his son right at the end of the series, although it did provide the reason for him to leave everything familiar that we saw; Pete, The Phoenix Foundation and his home. Sam was good and the way he was portrayed as very similar to MacGyver was nicely done, the handing over of the penknife being very symbolic. As a finale it did work but I would have maybe preferred a more simple ending that eluded to a trip (skiing!) with Pete and Jack (and others if the actors were available) and some reminiscing about their past adventures, something to just let you feel that everything would remain the same. MacGyver could even have found a final cryptic message from Murdoc just to keep him on his toes!

    1. I'm amazed that you were able to avoid hearing about MacGyver's son before seeing this episode, but glad that you were able to be surprised!

  7. This one is pretty good and would have made a nice spinoff. The only annoyances are the plotholes like this being the third college girlfriend, but that all could be retconned by shorter timelines or MacGyver having multiple girlfriends at once! :^) In any case, Sam and MacGyver make a great team. Im not sure what else to say about this. Its a good episode, but doesnt jump off the charts.

    I love Petes reactions to the whole thing. I love Pete in general. Hes probably my favorite character that isnt MacGyver. It really is a shame what happened to him.

    Sometimes the audio in the show is really bad, that I have to turn on the Closed Captions. I think Mei Jan said Su Ming, not Su Ling, but I didnt check the CC. There also could be multiple Su Lings!

    I must have another two dozen episodes to watch again and then I can start my own ranking, and maybe blog. There are a few things Ive wanted to see that no other fansite has done.

  8. I felt this episode was a bit of a disappointing ending, it lacked excitement, except the jet pack. While it was awesome to see them work together as a great team I felt disconnected from it being a Macgyver episode. It was good to see Pete again though. New Macgyver in one month any feelings on that?

  9. Hey you didn't even mention the very end of the episode, where Murdoc calls Macgyver and leaves a message on his answering machine laughing. :)

    1. That's a different episode - "Halloween Knights". Murdoc doesn't call at the end of "The Stringer".

    2. Actually it's "Obsessed" (Halloween Knights is where he leaves the tape recorded message).

    3. Dangit! I knew it was one or the other... and I knew he recorded a message in HK - which may also have a laugh... b/c it's Murdoc. XD

    4. Yes it happened in obsessed, but it also happened at the end of Stringer. I remember after Mac and Sam left for their adventure at the end of the show, Murdoc calls and leaves a message laughing.

    5. I'm not sure which version of that episode that you've seen, but the original airing in 1992 did not contain Murdoc calling and leaving a message for MacGyver. The original ends w/ Mac and Sam riding off, then RDA thanking the fans for being awesome for 7 years.

  10. But it did contain it.. That was an awesome scene! My brother even remembers it. I can't believe I can't find anybody who remembers it. Very strange.

    1. I'm pretty sure it didn't and it's not on the DVDs either.

      Where's Mark? he usually has all of this trivia lurking about somewhere, or the original airings on VHS...

    2. I have the VHS copy of "The Stringer" from April 25, 1992. No Murdoc appearance on it.

    3. "Mark says I have the VHS copy of "The Stringer" from April 25, 1992. No Murdoc appearance on it."

      Damn. I wish I had taped it back then, so I had proof. Cus I know what I saw. You don't see him, you just hear him on Mac's answering machine at Mac's place at the very end of the episode. Ah well. :( Well, what about the episode Widowmaker? Do you guys remember when Murdoc set mines all over, and he did flips through the mines? :)

  11. Well of course it's not on the DVD's. They take stuff out from the DVD's all the time on shows. Well I don't have any proof to back it up, so there is nothing more to say about it :(

  12. About Su Ling: I take it that one was supposed to assume that Mei Jan was *wrong* that she was killed at Tiananmen, but instead was captured and enslaved.

  13. has anyone who thought that McGyver was irresponsible for fathering a child that he didn't know about worked out that McGyver would have been a teenager ( or close to it) when it happened... in the 1970's, I think a little immaturity and accidents when you're young is excusable

  14. I think a spinoff was planned as the captions in the beginning of the episode say "And introducing Dalton James". I guess it was canceled sometimes after the episode aired.