Thursday, January 15, 2015

#61: Deep Cover

Season: 5

Synopsis in 3 sentences or less:
The Phoenix Foundation has developed technology called ERMA which makes subs invisible to sonar, which will help in the drug war.  The lead scientist, Gwen, has unknowingly become romantically involved with a criminal who is manipulating her in an attempt to steal the ERMA unit and sell it to a Colombian cartel.  MacGyver attempts to infiltrate their ring by posing as Dexter, a computer hacker and super-nerd, but Gwen blows his cover and he's locked up in a sinking submarine.  

Memorable Quote:
MacGyver!  What are you doing in there?!   ~Pete
The backstroke, Pete.    ~MacGyver

The entire finale on the small boat at the pier is enjoyable as MacGyver takes out all the bad guys in different ways.  Highlights include opening a giant life raft indoors to pin the Colombians in a small room and then attaching a giant motorized hook to a guy's belt and making him hover.

The moment where Gwen blows MacGyver's cover.  I know it's coming and still it's hard to watch. How could you be so dumb, Gwen!  Dumb, dumb, dumb!

Best MacGyverism:
Uses a flare gun to blow open the hatch of a submarine.  I think the oxygen tank serves a purpose too but I'm not sure.  And he pulls some string/rope attached to the gun trigger, but I'm not sure why that's necessary.  This is why I like it when he talks to himself so that I know what is going on.

This escape is remembered in Hind-Sight when MacGyver brings it up to remind Pete of a time when he (Pete) was useful, but Pete correctly points out that all he did was throw MacGyver a life preserver (which we never actually get to witness).  

Other thoughts, observations, and questions I didn’t ask when I was in fourth grade:
  • I remember as a kid thinking that the name Erma was cool, and I also liked the name Gwen, so I would think of this as the Erma/Gwen episode.  
  • Hold the phone, it's Madison Mason as a good guy!  Last time we saw him, he was shooting people while impersonating MacGyver in Jerico Games.  Nice to see him and Pete working well together after their kerfuffle in Early Retirement.  
  • What a slimeball Landis is, leading that poor lady on like that - she'll never trust anyone again. Though you'd think she would have gotten a little suspicious upon learning that her new boyfriend runs a submarine company.  As we see when she blows MacGyver's cover, she's not the sharpest pencil in the box despite her scientific prodigiousness. 
  • It's another Dexter episode!  Whoever came up with the idea for Dexter (MacGyver's nerd alter ego) was brilliant, and great job by RDA once again.  We just saw Dexter in Squeeze Play, and we'll see him again once more.  
  • Why does MacGyver wait to ask Pete to call for backup once they get there?  They could have called for backup a while ago and it would have been there by now.  I guess MacGyver just wants hero honors all to himself once again.  
  • 40:35 - amazing that MacGyver trusts Gwen to not blow his cover again.  Even more amazing that she actually keeps her mouth shut this time. 
  • 44:52 - Sweet move by MacGyver to avoid the gunfire, similar to moves I used when playing Dodge the Bullet.  See my On a Wing and a Prayer recap if you need a reminder on the Dodge The Bullet game.  

    Final Analysis:
    Awesome episode, even better than I remembered.  Great acting, clever plot, smart bad guys, and a Dexter appearance: what more can you ask for?  In particular I like the guy who plays Landis the villain.  Next up, an episode that is similar in some ways.   


    1. Damn, son....two reviews in one day! I'm impressed! Seems like you're really picking away at season 5 episodes though. Wouldn't have been the season I'd expect you to run out of episodes first on but it's beginning to shape up that way. I've always enjoyed this episode and probably like it a little more now than I did 20 years ago. I've never "loved" it as I've always found it a tad conventional execution-wise, but it's solid through and through. Not sure if you're aware but this was MacGyver's 100th episode. Hollywood Reporter did an uncharacteristically thorough spread on MacGyver in March 1990 for reaching this feat and the series of articles they did were exceptional.

      I really liked the cast in this one (Madison Mason, Mitchell Laurence, Timothy Webber, Rosemary Dunsmore....everybody was great) and the core plot of this smooth drug cartel subsidiary manager romancing the nerdy girl and gaining access to secret government information was also engaging. We heard in previous episodes how Phoenix does extensive background checks of employees and their significant others so you'd think Mr. Landis would have raised some red flags to them even if they didn't to Gwen, but that's a minor grievance. Ultimately, like Dan the DEA agent, I was willing to forgive Gwen's naivete towards Landis because of her vulnerability, and even though her foolishness made MacGyver's job a lot tougher, she came through in the end and finished the job on Landis. I also liked how she was selling Landis up the river by telling the Colombians exactly what they didn't want to hear when Landis left them alone with her on the boat.

      While I enjoyed Dexter's appearance as usual, I will say that doing two Dexter episodes in a row in succession pushed my limits of Dexter tolerance and it took quite a leap of faith to believe that Dexter's hustle on Banneker in the county lockup would pass the smell test to savvy operators like Landis. Having a fake newspaper printed with Dexter's mug on it was a nice touch though. The scenes on the boat where MacGyver dispatched his tormentors in the most outlandish ways possible one after another was my favorite part of the episode. No real complaints about the episode and it's one I have enjoyed more as the years have passed but at the same time I've never had a huge emotional connection with it. I ranked it #93.

      1. I didn't realize this was MacGyver's 100th episode - a great accomplishment for a series whose pilot was directed by Alan Smithee!

      2. At least under the old rules of TV when MacGyver was on the air, a series was officially in the money if it hit the 100-episode mark because it meant a lucrative syndication deal. And close didn't count either. If you only hit 94 episodes before cancellation, the deal for the studio and the network wasn't as good. Hitting episode #100 was a big deal, and you can bet the USA Network paid a significant sum the following fall for syndication rights as a result.

        One other bit of trivia. The actor who played Nick Landis in this episode was Mitchell Laurence, who has an identical twin named Matthew. On an episode of "The Commish" that aired the year after this MacGyver episode, there was an episode where the brothers conspired to get away with murder by establishing reasonable doubt based on who the real killer was.

    2. And I think the relevance of the oxygen tank inside the sinking submarine was to provide upward pressure on the flare gun so it fired straight up at the latch overhead.

    3. I'm a fan of the Dexter episodes. And I saw Hind-Sight before I saw this one, so I had to wait around for this one to roll up in the USA line-up to know where that whole submarine scene came from.

    4. Macgyver is doing some Phoenix high tech science as we open although somehow I always prefer his more ad hoc expertise. The hair is pretty long.

      Does it ever snow in L.A?

      The escapes from the sub and boat are exciting ( the sub especially so as it doesn't work first time and MacGyver has to adjust the string and try again, adding extra suspense) but I think some of the scenes with Gwen and her lover, the villiains talking and Pete piecing together the clues slows it all down a bit. I find there's less interesting things to spot in some of these later episodes although did enjpy the sighting of RDA's body double ( in MacGyver and Stargate) Dan O'Shea, driving the blue van. I'm not a huge Dexter fan and reckon you've ranked this about right.

    5. I enjoyed bits of this episode but overall it wasn't particularly good and I agree with most of the critical points made by Mark and Al. I was surprised to see the Dexter alias used again straight after Jenny's Chance and I didn't think it worked so well here. One really funny moment was when Pete rushed up the steps of the submarine tank after the flare explosion and just stood and said "MacGyver!" in a really surprised way as if it was so unlikely for Mac to be there when he had already determined that Shark Submarines was the likely location where Landis, and almost certainly Mac and Gwen, would be! The action on the boat was quite exciting but it felt a little as if characters were almost pausing to let things happen at times. I was also doubtful that the drug smugglers would actually have been trapped for very long in the cabin by the life raft, they looked like they would have been well armed and probably had knives to quickly burst the inflatable. It was good to see another Stargate actor appearance by Dan Shea who was stunt coordinator on both shows, as well as Rick's stunt double as Al noted.

    6. "Lowlight:
      The moment where Gwen blows MacGyver's cover. I know it's coming and still it's hard to watch. How could you be so dumb, Gwen! Dumb, dumb, dumb!"

      I know!!!! Gwen is so dumb!

      "It's another Dexter episode! Whoever came up with the idea for Dexter (MacGyver's nerd alter ego) was brilliant,"

      Yeah whomever came up with Dexter, it was a smart and brilliant move! Maybe you can email one of the producers and ask who's idea it was for Dexter. :)

    7. I wanted to slap Gwen.

      I think the oxygen filled the top of the sub and was sparked by the flare gun to trigger the explosion that blew the hatch off. MacGyver had to be underwater to protect himself from the explosion.

      It does seem that the abandonment of the voice overs has led to playing it fast and loose with the science. Watching Season 5, I'm realizing why I grew up thinking that a Swiss Army Knife could be used to pick any lock.

      I have almost no recollection of this episode, except the line "Remember Dexter?"

    8. I don't know why (maybe confusing it with "Early Retirement"?) this always strikes me as having Gwen as a stand-in for Nikki (written earlier, reworked for later seasons), just like somehow Lulu strikes me as sort of a stand-in for Penny.