Wednesday, January 7, 2015

#67: Squeeze Play

Season: 6

Synopsis in 3 sentences or less:
A neighborhood boy steals Frank Colton's baseball cards, and Mama Colton asks MacGyver to get them back.  He teams up with Wendy, the daughter of former star Novis Riley, and they stumble onto a card counterfeiting operation.  The ringleader kidnaps Wendy in an attempt to extort Novis into stealing memorabilia originally used by Reggie Jackson in the 1977 World Series.

Memorable Quote:
But Mrs. Colton?   ~MacGyver
MacGyver, you always said just call if I needed help when the boys weren't here, didn't ya?   ~Mama 
Yes Ma'am.   ~MacGyver
Well?   ~Mama
Yes Ma'am.   ~MacGyver

Lots of good choices here, including the scene referenced in the memorable quote.  But I have to go with the dramatic ending where MacGyver pitches Reggie Jackson's World Series home run baseball to former superstar Novis Riley who then puts a perfect swing on it and hits it into the electronic scoreboard, ala Robert Redford in The Natural.  The scoreboard then malfunctions and crashes down onto the bad guy in the getaway car. You can call it crazy, ridiculous, and unrealistic, and you'd be right on all counts, but it sure is fun.  

I like Wendy, but she instantly goes from 0 to 60 in the card shop and it feels a little over-the-top.

Best MacGyverism:
See Highlight. 

Other thoughts, observations, and questions I didn’t ask when I was in fourth grade:
  • Watching again with the MacGyver Project Mom!  First we saw one about MacGyver's Mom, then Dalton's Mom, and now it's Mama Colton!  I did not plan it like this, believe me. 
  • It's our first Frog Dog sighting!!  I am President and CEO of the International Frog Dog Fan Club.  I have a lot to say about Frog, but he doesn't have a big role in this one (though he does chase down Ricky the baseball card thief), so I'll save my thoughts for another episode where he is more prominently featured.  
  • MacGyver has some trouble getting Mama's heavy suitcases up the steps.  "And this is the same man who can hang by his fingertips on the base of an elevator going up twenty stories."  ~Mom (referring to the scene from Ma Dalton).
  • "Why are there deep puddles outside the card shop, but not by Mama's house three blocks away?"  ~Mom
  • The guy who plays the sleazy card store cashier does a great job.  IMDB lists him as one of the punks that pesters the bag lady in The Madonna.  
  • Another fun moment with Mama outside the card shop:
    • "MacGyver, I think you oughta consider working with this young lady, don't you?" ~Mama
    • "Mama, I hardly even know this young lady."  ~MacGyver
    • "Well you're both traveling on the same path and she seems to know the road!"  ~Mama
    • MacGyver glances around sheepishly
    • "MacGyver, I don't have my boys here to help me."  ~Mama
    • "Yes Ma'am."  ~MacGyver
  • MacGyver tells Novis that he used to usher at Mets Stadium when he was in college. I don't think Western Tech was in NYC (and the NY Mets never played at "Mets Stadium") so it must have been a farm team. 
  • IMDB doesn't say how old the actress playing Wendy is, but she looks almost as old as her father, Novis, who reminds me a little of Val Kilmer.  Novis Riley is an awesome name by the way.  
  • Our first Dexter episode!  Great stuff here.  It's fun to see RDA play a different style of character.  And a cool trick to get the phone number by recording the dial tones. 
  • Couldn't they have looked up Bill Marsh's address to start with instead of going through the whole process of floating a fake baseball out in the market with a tracking device? Speaking of Marsh, we saw the same actor in Second Chance.  
  • Like the scene where MacGyver tricks the dog into going in the shed and then locks him in.  Too bad Wendy blows it later.  
  • 28:30 - not a very strong or emotional reaction by Novis when he learns that Wendy is kidnapped.  Maybe she annoys him too.  
  • "How did Novis get the key to the closet with the memorabilia?" ~Mom
  • We saw Hank Aaron in Back From the Dead, and now it's Mr. October himself, Reggie Jackson making an appearance!
  • I've said before how MacGyver's self-defense skills are much improved by Season 6. It's great to see him not only hold his own but actually take down a bigger guy (in this case, the guy is played by former pro football player Tim Rossovich who was also in A Prisoner of Conscience and Friends).
  • The ending where Novis gives away a free signed baseball reminded Mom and I of when I met Jose Canseco.  When I was 7 years old, Canseco was my favorite player, baseball's first 40/40 man (and later admitted steroid user).  In fact, the poster that is hanging outside the card shop in this episode is the same poster I had in my room. At the height of my fandom, he came to the Trexler Mall near where I lived to sign autographs.  I can remember standing in a long line with my Dad and being very excited to meet him.  But he didn't look up at all or say hello to anyone - he just kept signing balls (which the fans had to pay for - I think it might have been 15 or 20 dollars).   This did not make my mother happy.  "After that, I was glad every time he struck out."  ~Mom

Final Analysis:
Awesome episode!  Lots of fun from beginning to end, and I love the baseball theme.  I was never much of a baseball player but I've always been a big fan of the game and its history since I was very young, so this show is right up my alley.  Throw in Mama Colton, Reggie Jackson, Frog Dog, and a cool ending, and I'm in!  Next up, who wants to see more from the Colton family?


  1. I definitely like this episode more than "Ma Dalton". I wanted to love it and thought I would as I'm a big baseball fan, was a huge baseball card collector back in the day, and enjoyed getting the only Colton family fix from Season 6. Can't say that I ultimately "loved" it, but it was fun and an entertaining hour without question. And by the way, I had a similar autograph incident with notoriously surly Willie Mays in the summer of 1986....he didn't even look up at me.

    What worked for me in this one: Mama Colton! We'd been hearing the Colton brothers reference their colorful mother and her nuggets of streetwise wisdom for a couple of seasons and Della Reese absolutely nailed it in this role. Dexter! I'm glad the show used the "Dexter" alter ego sparingly as Urkelizing MacGyver on a more regular basis would have been a bad call, but they got it right with his appearances, and this one was especially humorous. And I had no idea where they were going with that dial-tone copying thing until he got in the car....and it was a very clever ploy.

    What didn't work as well for me: The villains! Could it have been any more obvious that their ticket to "motivating" Novus Riley was through his daughter who was endlessly hassling them and getting in their way in the first place? Did these guys really need to have Wendy wander through their backyard (literally!) while racking their brains on how to get Novus to steal the Jackson collection before reaching this epiphany? Also, Wendy! I had really hoped by this point in the series' run that they were past the "bimbo of the week" female guest star. In this case, Wendy showed flashes of real intelligence and charm and could have been a great sidekick, but the writers just couldn't resist drawing the character out as an annoying cookie cutter variation on Penny Parker/Lulu/Zoe Ryan. The contrast of Wendy versus Mama Colton really stood out like a sore thumb.

    What was mixed for me: Reggie Jackson's cameo! He's by no means a natural actor but his encounter with Novus was not completely without charisma either. And the exploding scoreboard ending, which you touched upon and seemed to have a similar response to as I did. It was simultaneously absurd and wildly entertaining, and while that sort of thing could describe a lot of MacGyver stunts, there's something about that scene that I still can't fully rally behind.

    I always feel like I'm lowballing this episode ranking it at #112 because it was an enjoyable hour, but I also feel that amidst the show's overall body of work this one doesn't quite sparkle as much as most.

    1. Della Reese really did nail it in this role - her scenes with MacGyver are fantastic. And it is funny how the bad guys are trying to decide what to do next as Wendy appears in their lawn.

      Do you still have your baseball card collection? And are you a Twins fan? If so I imagine the fall of 1987 must have been a glorious era for you. 1987 was the first season I paid attention to baseball, and I got a Panini stickerbook and read through it hundreds of times.

    2. I do still have my baseball card collection but in retrospect I should have sold it in the late 80s before 25 years the bubble burst and a quarter century of jaw-dropping depreciation followed. Crazy to think that my 1984 Donruss Don Mattingly rookie card was worth $100 alone back in 1988 or so. Now I'd be lucky to get $1 for it and $20 for the whole set. I got into baseball cards in the winter of 1984-85, right before the onset of the "junk card" era, and had the sense to buy cards backwards to the year of my birth. This meant I got a few sets from the late 70s and early 80s that weren't as mass produced and might be worth something today. Still, the demand is gone from the baseball card market entirely and it's very hard to see it coming back among today's kids. That late 80s/early 90s baseball card boom just seems surreal today with malls chock full of vendors at baseball card shows in cities large and small in every corner of the country, with vast sums of money changing hands from collectors aged 8 to 80. And all of my 5th grade classmates walking around the hallways with our "price guides" in tow. How it wasn't obvious at the time that this was a bubble every bit like the late 90s tech bubble in the stock market I'll never understand....but it was undeniably fun while it lasted.

      And yes, I'm a lifelong Twins fan. 1987 was incredibly exciting but to be honest 1991 was even a little more exciting as I was older and a little more patient to take in the game with full understanding of what was going on.....and the 1991 Twins vs. Braves World Series is almost unanimously agreed upon as being the best World Series of all-time. I definitely feel lucky to have experienced two impressive World Series wins for my team at an impressionable age as so many other young people didn't get that....particularly all the long-suffering Chicago Cubs fans that exist in Iowa. I'm not sure what part of Wisconsin you're from but were you a Twins fan? Or a Brewers fan? Or a fan of another team entirely?

    3. Interesting stuff about the baseball cards. I'm from Eastern PA and in baseball I used to change teams I rooted for based on players I liked. Oddly enough, it wasn't until I moved away from the area in college that I solidified into a hard-core Phillies fan which I remain today.

  2. This one ranks pretty low on my list too. Dexter and Mama Colton bump it up a little, but the plot here is a little lack-luster. And Wendy is obnoxious.

    regarding autographs - not saying that the two guys ya'll met aren't jerks (they could be), but a lot of times when auto-sessions are organized, the organizers tell the celebrity *not* to interact with the fans. Reason for this? It costs the organizers money. B/c if Canseco talks to that cute little league kid for 2 minutes, then does the same with all the others, that's slowing down the autograph sales. Creation Entertainment (they do cons for big shows like Stargate and Buffy) does the same thing. From what I hear, a lot of the actors don't like it, but they can't change it other than not going and since they get paid for being there - they sign the contract and go.

    1. That's certainly a plausible explanation for the rudeness of a lot of autographers. I imagine it varies in different settings. When the players are basically signing autographs as in a factory assembly line, I'm sure they have to be as efficient as possible, but I've been to some autograph signings where there weren't long lines and had time to converse with those signers. One was Don Larsen, the New York Yankees pitcher who threw a perfect game in the 1956 World Series. As for actors, I've always heard RDA is one of the friendliest with fans....and just friendly all around.

    2. RDA is fabulous - though a little 'shy'. And, with a few exceptions, most of the people I've gotten autographs from, have been pretty damned awesome! (more on this stuff as I get to episodes in my review countdown that have ppl other than him that I've met. *g*) And a lot of it does depend on the setting - at fan-run cons, the actors seem to be pretty laid back and chat with people when they can.

    3. That's interesting, I look forward to hearing more about what these people you met are like. Did you talk much to RDA?

      Regarding Canseco, looking back on it he at least should have looked up and said hello or smiled, even if there was no conversation.

  3. I didn't get to talk to him as much as I would have liked, but a few words exchanged was good enough. Plus the photo op. =)

    Yeah - it's not cool w/ the famous people don't acknowledge the people that are part of why they're famous. =(

  4. A lot of the references to baseball were over my head and I'm afraid I have no idea who any of the players are but somehow I still quite like this episode. Macgyver spends most of his time being bossed about by other people and I find his reluctant acquiecence and perplexed politeness, 'yes ma'am', 'sir, ' enjoyable.He teams up well with Wendy even though she is.I agree, annoying and I like how he describes Novis' playing style so astutely. I remembered this as one of several episodes where MacGyver's parking was pretty lax and I wondered if in America anyone can just pull up in their car and leave it parked about 6ft away from the kerb! Its a good moment when he outfights the big guy especially after, as Dexter, he's commented how huge he is. I have mixed feelings about the Dexter persona but though it was ok here, used sparingly.I remember re-watching the pitching and hitting scene and their mutual congratulations several times as it was so cool, in spite of its ludicrousness.I have no way of knowing if MacGyver's pitching technique was good or not but it works for me! Almost a caricaze here but I guess it doesn't count as he throws himself across the bonnet first and is then punched away by the driver rather than throwing himself across the road! Regarding signings autographs, If meeting Football players in the UK is any comparison, most the Championship and lower league guys are pretty good and come over to the stands during their warm-up to sign programmes for the kids.Probably not in the Prem though! Great that Highlander has actually met RDA - he always seems be thought of as a really nice guy to crew, fans and interviewers.

    1. I think MacGyver's pitching technique looks pretty good and better than Novis's hitting technique. I can understand why baseball wouldn't make much sense to a UK audience, kind of like if we saw an episode about cricket or rugby. I think it's similar here where the minor league players will sign autographs before games moreso than major leaguers.

    2. MacGyver's pitching technique looked impressive to me. I wonder if RDA was in baseball at all as a boy. I know hockey's his main sport but I wouldn't be surprised if come spring he switched sports.

  5. I mostly agree with everyone's comments. But did anyone notice in the final fight scene where Reggie's bat was obviously rubber as they were swinging it around? Just an observation.

    1. Good observation! I hadn't noticed at first but I went back and took a quick look, and I just happened to pause it at a moment (43:40) where you can see the bat bent in half.

  6. The title of this episode always puzzled me; I had no idea what to expect but it sounded strange and intriguing. What a let down then to discover it was about counterfeit baseball cards! As Al noted and I mentioned elsewhere, the American sports featured in the series are a bit beyond our knowledge so we lose something in the subtleties of the references and guest sportsmen. I haven't liked the way different Colton family members were suddenly introduced throughout the series so Mama, as likeable as she was, seemed a bit of an odd character to meet so long after the others. I don't really like dogs either so even Frog can't redeem the Coltons! Wendy was highly irritating, her Dad was wooden as a post and the finale with the strike at the scoreboard was just overdone in slow motion and looked ridiculous. As you might have guessed, this was not one of my favourites!

    1. Looks like Major League Baseball has some work to do in expanding its product to the UK!

    2. Haha! Maybe, although I presume that baseball would be available somewhere on satellite channels for those who want it, or online of course. There is definitely more exposure for American sports over here now, such as with the NFL games that are played in London, so youngsters will have the chance to develop an interest and understanding.

  7. Its kind of amazing that they managed to get the guest stars that they did. Reggie Jackson, Hank Aaron, among others. I wonder how. Wendy is a bit annoying, but I like her too. That may be a more personal thing. :P If you are president of the Frog Dog Fan Club, can I be Vice President? I love Frog! I want to get an English bulldog and name them Frog. Well I did until I was walking around one day and heard someone say to a dog "Come here, Frog". I thought it was such an original name...

    There are different muscle groups to pull yourself up than to lift dead weight. Lifting dead weight is one of the most difficult tasks. I think there also is a psychological strength enhancer when you are carrying a human (yourself or otherwise). Try carrying your friend or wife around vs an equal weight bag of bricks. The human will seem easier, and not just because bricks are hard.

    I caught on that Mets Stadium thing too. These continuity issues are a bother. Its a shame they didnt have a uniform character profile to draw from. Apparently there is a Mets Stadium in Florida since 1988. I still doubt Western Tech is near there. Whats odd is that Western Tech has been implied to be on the West Coast (not necessarily, altho probably California), but also occasionally Minnesota.

    Wendy looks old? She plays young to me. Kinda could look older, but Im not feeling it. Her dad looks late 40s at least and she looks 30 tops. I worked with a girl who looked 40, but was only on Earth for half that. Some are blessed; some are cursed.

    He probably had the key as one of the administrators of the museums and collections. I forget his actual title. He was overseeing the donation of the Jackson collection. I thought the big muscle guy also played Earthquake Toberman, but apparently not. Interesting that he actually is a former Pro player. I tried looking up the character only to find out the Titans didnt exist back in 86. Cal State Fullerton is the Titans, but I couldnt find the guy there either. Silly me, expecting a real reference. I wonder where the "Titans" in MacGyver are supposed to be.

    Yea some celebrities can be jerks, some can be great. I feel like Ive had a similar experience, but I cant place it. I know I had issues with a political candidate once. He was fine, but his staff was very rude and that turned me off.

    Funny, Im the opposite. I liked playing baseball as a kid and loosely fantasized playing pro, but I never liked watching it and find it incredibly boring. Hockey is more my speed.

    1. Thanks for the comments. You are welcome to be my VP of the Frog Dog fan club!

  8. YAY DEXTER! :) I love when Macgyver gives Mrs. Colton respect. Yes Ma'am. Yes Ma'am, and does what she tells him to do. :)

    I am President and CEO of the International Frog Dog Fan Club.

    Oh great! I wanna join! :) And I just love Macvyer project mom's comments especially in this episode! Especially this one,

    "After that, I was glad every time he struck out." ~Mom"


    1. I hereby grant you membership to the International Frog Dog Fan Club.

  9. "Nicholas Sweedo says I hereby grant you membership to the International Frog Dog Fan Club."

    YAY! :)

  10. The Mets Stadium reference was actually Met Stadium (Metropolitan Stadum), where the Minnesota Twins MLB team played in the 1960's.

    1.'re right. I'm from Minnesota but still never picked up on that reference.

  11. Are you ready for the World Baseball Classic? My country didn't win the championship, but we got an honorable second place. We are sub-champions of the WBC 2013 edition.

    Guess you know now where I am from. Can't wait!!

  12. I didn't make the connection until just watching this now, but the actor playing Novus Riley was Kent McCord, who starred opposite Martin Milner on the 70s cop show "Adam 12". Both leads on that show ended up guest-starring on "MacGyver", but the real tie-in here is that the former police captain who was hired as a consultant on "Adam-12" but liked TV work so much that he stayed with it for a couple of decades was....a Mister Stephen Downing. "Adam-12" was his first gig in TV. And he must have maintained some ties with Milner and McCord to get them to be guest stars on the series that was the biggest project of his career.

  13. I guess this is again one of the episodes that strikes more on the home turf (pun intended) than internationally as baseball is pretty much just American thing.
    But the theme of counterfeit collector cards is an interesting one and also relatable since I remember very well that when I was a young everybody around was collecting hockey cards (ice hockey is pretty big in my country, second to football/soccer). And the premise that cops won't deal with that because it's silly yet somehow tens of thousands of dollars (I guess it's around hundreds of thousands when inflation is taken into account) are at play is interesting but also seems kinda ridiculous, as cops should deal with a possible fraud that big.
    Anyway, my highlight of the episode is mama Colton of course, even her massive plot device of "my cousin's friends acquaintance knows somebody, who knows somebody" or whatever it was was more funny than ridiculous when Della Reese delivered it. And here we go with MacGyver (and all the rest) doing "yes, ma'am" to her.

    And you already pointed out just enough how ridiculous (yes, I am overusing that word) the strike on the scoreboard was. So let me just quickly add that electric stuff that's not powered on will not short circuit and if stuff short circuits it doesn't shoot fireworks, it just flashes quickly and then dies or catches fire and it certainly doesn't cut wires it's hanging from.