Sunday, January 18, 2015

#58: Passages

Season: 5

Synopsis in 3 sentences or less:

While trying to stop the theft of an Egyptian artifact, MacGyver is thrown off a parking garage and falls into a coma.  He follows his grandfather onto a boat taking people to Heaven, and he sees his parents and makes peace with the fact that he is dead.  But Grandpa Harry reveals to him that Pete will die too unless he comes back to life, so he escapes the boat and has a resurrection. 

Memorable Quote:
Look, he's coming out of it.  He's stabilizing!  Your friend is quite a fighter, Mr. Thornton!   ~Doctor 

I mentioned during The Madonna how there were at least three times that I remember being brought to tears during MacGyver.  Well, this is number two: the moment where MacGyver meets his Mom and Dad on the boat to Heaven.  Words really don't do it justice - all I can say is that it's the most emotional moment in television history (for me, anyway).   

Hmm, I'm not sure, maybe the part where MacGyver gets thrown off a parking garage and falls into a coma.  

Best MacGyverism:
Ties one end of a hose to the boat propellor shaft and the other end to the door.  Pretty cool that MacGyver has to do a MacGyverism to escape from the boat from Heaven. 

Other thoughts, observations, and questions I didn’t ask when I was in fourth grade:
  • The boy fishing with Grandpa Harry in the beginning is Shane Meier, the same kid who played young MacGyver in Harry's Will.  
  • You know it's going to be a serious hour of television when it opens with Grandpa Harry having a heart attack.
  • Conversation at 7:11 mark:
    • "Are you familiar with the legend of Osiris, MacGyver?"  ~Hakim
    • "I'm not up on my Egyptology, no."  ~MacGyver
    • Little does MacGyver know that next season, he'll learn all about Osiris.  
  • 8:00 - good music - a little Egyptian twist on a familiar background theme. 
  • I started watching MacGyver when it was live on Season 6, so the first time I would have seen this one was on reruns.  It's hard to imagine what it must have felt like watching this live and not knowing what to expect.  Given that it was the season finale, I wonder if people thought this might be the end of the show and that MacGyver might actually die. 
  • Not a huge fan of the boat to Heaven.  Why does it have to be so bleak and why is the crew so unfriendly?  I guess if it was too welcoming, then MacGyver may not want to come back to life. 
  • Hakim and Tarik are strong villains - let's add them to the top villains list.  
  • 24:30 - strange little out-of-place moment on the boat where a woman walks by in a short skirt and MacGyver says, "The afterlife certainly has its attractions."  
  • Amazing interspersal between MacGyver's resuscitation and his escape from the boat.  
  • Smart move by Pete to use the powdered tray to allow MacGyver to communicate. And nice quick draw on the gun by Pete, also.  But Pete, don't stop to turn around and smile at MacGyver while you're holding a gun on three dangerous people!  
  • All of this over a sunboat.  

Final Analysis:
This was a hard one for me to decide where to rank.  On one hand, it's not as if I say, "Oh great, Passages is on, it's so much fun and I can't wait to watch it."  Not that everything always has to be fun, but it's not really an episode that I get excited to watch.  On the other hand, it's very well done and deserves a certain amount of respect for being a pivotal episode and the climax of the series (in other words, if the entire series was one big episode, Passages would be the climax). In fact, just calling it "well done" is a bit of an understatement - it's an extremely unique, powerful story with a lot of clever touches (e.g. the boat named Osiris, the Egyptian coin Harry gives to MacGyver to stick in the binoculars to view the future, etc).  It's hard to imagine anything quite like it on network tv before or since.  Next up, another pivotal episode!  


  1. My feelings on this episode are generally similar to yours. It's a fantastic hour of television and I feel as though MacGyver's personal narrative was effectively completed after five years of being a "mystery loner" of sorts, and it was a perfect time in the chronology of this series for the episode only a few months after the story of his mother's death was revealed in full in "The Madonna". There was actually some speculation that this maybe the series' last episode as "MacGyver" had no guarantees as it wrapped up season 5 that there'd be a season 6 with ratings trending towards the mediocre by that point. It would have been a fitting series finale had the show ended there, but I'm glad it didn't!

    Back to the episode, I loved when MacGyver shook things up and did episodes that were outside the box, and they didn't necessarily have to be "fun" for me to love them. At the same time, it's hard for me to rate an episode where MacGyver is effectively dreaming for 45 minutes among the top tier of episodes. I was misty-eyed to put it mildly myself when MacGyver met his parents as well, and when he Grandpa Harry's revealed it was "his time" at the end. The emotional effect of the episode was definitely on point and I fully understand why this episode rates as one of the favorites of so many fans. The production values were also first-rate in depicting this "heaven"-like place (as well as the fall from the parking ramp) and the juxtaposition between MacGyver's comatose state and his situation on the "sunboat" was also exceptionally well-drawn. And you didn't mention the musical score (unless I missed it again) but I felt it was one of the series' most epic, very possibly the best from composer Ken Harrison.

    A couple observations from the episode that aren't exactly criticisms but things I notice, and you touched upon two of them. What on Earth was Pete thinking looking away from a room full of three armed bad dudes to "welcome back MacGyver!"? And regarding the hottie in the tiny dress who MacGyver was oogling, it seemed like the "sunboat" generally had a lot of younger people on it considering it was supposed to be people who passed. I wouldn't necessarily think it would be my first choice to find a bunch of attractive people! And lastly, MacGyver had the common sense to run away from the tear gas bomb tossed into the room by Tarik as he stole the sunboat....why on Earth didn't Pete and the sunboat historian guy have the sense to do the same rather than just stand in there and choke on it! with Hakim?!?! You mentioned that you didn't think anything like this had been on TV before and perhaps it hadn't in this strictest sense, but on the 7th season finale of "Magnum, P.I.", Magnum was shot and left for dead.....and on the 8th season premiere he had an out-of-body experience that connected to his ultimate revival. I haven't seen that episode since 1987 so I can't speak to the similarities but at least in the vaguest sense this had been done before. I doubt it was as legendary as this MacGyver episode though, which I rank #36.

    1. I totally forgot to mention the music! And you're right, it absolutely deserves to be mentioned (I will update my top-music list with it). That's funny that you had the same reaction to Pete turning around with his back to the 3 guys. Regarding the tear gas, MacGyver was out of the room when the alarm went off (talking on the phone to check in on his grandfather), but that doesn't take away from your point of why Pete and Hakim just stood there choking on gas. I have never seen Magnum, and that's interesting that the show used a similar plot device.

    2. I'll have to dig around for those Magnum episodes online when I get some free time and see how close they are. At the very least, I think the MacGyver treatment of the story was far more sophisticated. I'm skeptical Magnum PI's version had a script this elaborate.

    3. One more observation I just had to make....did you notice MacGyver's doctor in this episode was the same actor who played Sparky in "Ma Dalton"?

    4. I knew he looked familiar but didn't bother to look him up - thanks for mentioning.

  2. One other thing I'm confused said you just started watching MacGyver on USA by season 6, but I recall you saying you had gotten injured in a baseball game or something like that before coming home to watch the rerun of "For Love or Money". I had assumed you meant the August 26, 1987, rerun of that episode on ABC, but are you saying it was a 1990-1991 rerun on USA when that happened? I thought you were in on MacGyver from the very beginning as I was.

    1. Yeah, the baseball injury story related to a rerun on USA. The first time I saw MacGyver was when I walked into my upstairs bedroom and saw my sister watching it on the tv in my room. The episode was Lesson in Evil and it was not a rerun - quick check on the internet says that it aired on October 1990 which means I was 9 years old. The next day, I watched it on USA and remember the episode was Jack in the Box. From that point on I watched the reruns with my Mom, and then Monday was a special day (at least I think it was Monday) because we could watch two (the old one one USA and then a new one on ABC).

    2. Interesting. Here I was assuming based on that reference to the baseball injury before "For Love or Money" that you were in on MacGyver from the beginning as I was. And since I believe you referenced being 9 or 10 at that injury--which I assumed was 1987--I also figured we were the same age. But yes, MacGyver was on Monday nights for most of its run, a mixed blessing during its tenure for reasons I'll get into more elaborately at some point.

    3. Yeah, I wasn't on board from the beginning. In 1985, 4 year-old me was more interested in "Welcome to Pooh Corner" and "Donald Duck Presents" (maybe those could be my next shows to review once MacGyver is done!).

    4. Also at one point I mentioned how the power went out in the middle of an episode from my top-10 which caused my mother and I to go catatonic - that was a season 6/7 episode.

    5. I had a power outage issue on a 7th season episode too. We'll see if it's the same one.

  3. I'm not usually a fan of the dream sequence episodes but this one is different. As you say,not one you'd turn to for fun but instead a roller coaster of an episode in terms of emotion. Still MacGyver himself is no stranger himself to welling up so that makes me feel better. Our emotional journey starts with Harry's heart attack and his reaching for MacGyver's picture, MacGyver's stress at not being able to get there quickly followed by his terrible fall and Pete's obvious distress - I'm exhausted already! The filming in black and white is atmospheric but I do have a few nitpicky questions about the 'afterlife' - How come Harry knows what's going on and can see into the future and MacGyver doesn't and can't? MacGyver's parents were about 30-35 and 40-45 when they died but they've aged in the afterlife so they' look like they would do now - how does that work? Why would his mum want him to die even if they could be together and how come MacGyver, who has such a zest for life, almost gives in with 'I feel like I belong..I've come home'.
    I defy anyone to watch him hug his mum and later to say goodbye to his parents and then to Harry and keep a dry eye. I agree, the escape from the engine room interwoven with his real fight for life is is excellent as is the jump onto the quay and his determination to hang on and our realisation that he's made it in 'real' life too. Why would the hospital let the Egyptians into the room when they're resucitating MacGyver - they are hardly friend or relatives?
    As Mark says, the ending is a culmination ,and a closure, of MacGyver's angst and self-blame relating to death and his family which has haunted him over the years now (Some of the story is revealed way back in Target MacGyver, and his guilt about not getting to his mother's funeral is mentioned in GX-1) and its a cathartic end to the season.
    Altogether an amazing episode for a tv adventure series and I feel emotionally drained. - time for a cup of tea! Ranked somewhere in the 40's I think.

    1. The image isn't really *the* afterlife, so much as Mac's *interpretation* of the afterlife - or a version of it. He's in a coma and his mind is still doing things and, in this case, I think it's more his mind trying to figure out a puzzle, so he's picturing his parents the way he thinks they'd look. (Obvs the real reason is 'casting choices'.) He's also having his parents say what he would want them to say if he were actually throwing in the towel - so he'd want his mother to tell him it was okay to come to the other side. It's comforting. And he misses his mom. Which leads into why he might decide it's time to cash it in - he has no family left now that Harry's gone and he's been through a lot of rough times full of injuries and near-death experiences, so finding someplace where his family is - even if that's the afterlife - probably feels pretty good when he's at a particularly low point and feeling pretty lonely.

  4. What a totally surprising and emotional episode! The opening scenes with Harry and the boy fishing in the rain were poignant but I did not perceive all the drama that was about to happen. I was expecting Mac to have a reunion with his grandad but not on a boat to the afterlife! When he was pushed off the car park I was really shocked, he's been in so many scrapes before but this was serious and we have never seen him so vulnerable. Rick's acting was superb throughout and the emotion was difficult to bear at times, especially the scenes with Harry which made me remember my own grandad. Mac and Pete's friendship shone through again and Dana was in fine form, turning away from the armed baddies aside! A few holes in the plot have been pointed out above, but really this episode was just an unexpected triumph. The series has already had a dream sequence but nothing like this where the boundaries between reality and the mind were crossed and interwoven throughout the plot. It really was a fantastic end to season five, I can't believe I am so far through, although I have to solace of knowing season one and half of two remain for me to catch up on!

    1. That's cool that you're watching these without reading up on them first or getting any spoilers. There are several gems left in the later years, and if you haven't seen season 1 then you have a lot of greatness ahead of you!

  5. Your blog wouldn't accept comments over the last week for some reason?

    Thanks Nicholas! Although I am using your blog to look at episodes that I have watched, I don't want to spoil those that I haven't yet seen. It's something that is difficult to do with modern TV programmes because they all seem to show what happened previously, what's going to happen and what will happen on the next episode!

    I was looking forward to starting season 6 the other week but when I went to watch CBS Action I found that MacGyver wasn't on! I checked through the listings to see if it had been moved but to no avail - they weren't completing the series! This was obviously very annoying and if they don't continue with season 6 and 7 then MacGyver DVD's will have to be found! The only good thing to come out of it is that I discovered that they are restarting from season 1 but at a different time. It will be strange going back to the beginning before reaching the end but I always knew that I would have to watch the early days out of order at some point!

    1. Sorry that comments weren't working -- I wasn't aware of that and am not sure what the issue was. Too bad that they're not showing Seasons 6 and 7 -- as you said, DVDs are always a good option!

  6. ... Edit: At last! I had that comment ready to post at the start of October but, as I said, it wouldn't let me publish it, the text box just kept clearing without previewing or confirming I wasn't a robot as usual! Anyway, I've had a week of season 1 now and am finding it very odd seeing 'younger' MacGyver going it alone without Pete and The Phoenix Foundation!

    1. This 60 year old man has got something in his eye again.Brilliant episode,brilliant acting.I have just one question for you Nick,at the end of the episode when he asks his grandfather to get on the lifeboat hook with him if he had've who would've operated the winch?

    2. Good question! I'm not sure, maybe MacGyver's parents?

  7. "I mentioned during The Madonna how there were at least three times that I remember being brought to tears during MacGyver. Well, this is number two: the moment where MacGyver meets his Mom and Dad on the boat to Heaven."

    Yeah this episode makes me cry too!!! Such a great episode!! So emotionally charged!

    "Are you familiar with the legend of Osiris, MacGyver?" ~Hakim
    "I'm not up on my Egyptology, no." ~MacGyver"

    And this right here shows that Macgyver doesn't know everything and he is human! :)

    "Little does MacGyver know that next season, he'll learn all about Osiris."

    I wonder while learning about Osiris next season, that he didn't think back of being asked that question if he knows about Osiris! :) Like thinking, hmmm someone asked me if I know about Osirsis and wow I am learning about it now! :)

    "Given that it was the season finale, I wonder if people thought this might be the end of the show and that MacGyver might actually die."

    Wow! That is really funny that you are asking that question! Cus I was one of those people. I don't know if anybody else thought that but I sure did! I was so upset back then! I was thinking, I just started watching it 2 seasons/years ago! The show can't be over!! I really love this show! They can't just kill him off! Oh Macgyver isn't dead. Whew. :) I was so relieved.

  8. They just showed this episode tonight on METV. :) Couple of questions.. I wonder if after this episode, that Mac's guilt about his parents are gone. He didn't have guilt anymore when Harry died, and he didn't talk about his guilt he feels about his parents anymore, so maybe his burden of guilt is gone. Also, that actor who played the doctor, he has a bump on his head.. I wonder what happened. Always wondered what happened. The only stupid scene was Macgyver and Harry being shoved into a private room so that Macgyger won't be able to leave.. Come on I don't buy that! It's the afterlife, and they act this way? :) Hahahaha!

  9. I really love this episode. That fishing scene at the beginning where Harry does with the gum foil wrap the same thing that MacGyver did in Nightmares, is just a wonderful way to show how influential was Harry in MacGyver's childhood. Does anybody remember if MacGyver mentions in Nightmares that his grandfather taught him to do that?

    Love the childish way of MacGyver asking his grandfather to take him to his parents.

    Love the spectacular reaction from Pete, when MacGyver is fighting for his life (amazing actor Dana).

    Love that tear coming out from MacGyver when he finally tells Pete who the bad guys are.

    I just love it. One of my favorites!!

    I watched the whole serie in Netflix a few months ago, and now I'm watching it all over again following your ranking (from the not so good to the amazing ones). I'm enjoying the whole process and love reading the comments. Good job!!

  10. He got thrown off a parking deck and landed in a coma. I thought he landed on a car! Sorry, the smart a** in me couldn't resist. By the way I loved this episode. The hero in a coma plot has been done again and again on tv but never this well.

  11. Just about any episode involving MacGyver & Harry is deep. This one tops them all. Every actor here was spot on in their performances. This episode is on my personal favorites list.

  12. Great episode. One of Macs best. So sorry, Harry and A. had not had a chance to say Goodbye in the "real" life.
    Will miss MacGyver.