Saturday, January 3, 2015

#69: The Madonna

Season: 5

Synopsis in 3 sentences or less:
It's Christmas, and the Challengers Club is facing the possibility of closing its doors if they do not receive more funding.  Meanwhile, a church has its Madonna stolen, a statue that had been there for 20 years and was very important to the people of the church.  And MacGyver is struggling to cope with the loss of his mother, and he meets a mysterious homeless woman named Carol who helps to make everything right.  

Memorable Quote:
MacGyver, even if she had lived until you got back, it wouldn't have mattered. She had a stroke. She wouldn't have known you were there.  She just kept muttering things that made no sense about you and ice cream.  Crazy stuff.  But she loved you.  Don't ever doubt that.   ~Father Lafferty

See memorable quote.  I'm not someone who often cries at movies or tv shows, but there are at least 3 moments that I can think of in the MacGyver series where it's hard for me to not shed a tear, and this is one of those moments.  I was trying to hold it in, but when Fr. Lafferty is telling MacGyver about how his mom said their special word as she was dying, it's just about impossible not to get choked up.  I was watching this with the MacGyver Project Mom who also had tears in her eyes.  "I think you should have had this one higher on your list," Mom said at this point.

An odd scene outside the Challengers Club where Carol is yelling at a drunk Santa and hitting him with a broom.  First of all, why is there a drunk Santa at the Challengers Club?  And second, shouldn't the Angel Carol have a more heavenly way of dealing with this man?

Best MacGyverism:
Places weights under the stage platform so that it can slide and be moved more easily.

Other thoughts, observations, and questions I didn’t ask when I was in fourth grade:
  • The actor who plays Lieutenant Kiley in 3 episodes is back as Father Lafferty.  Does a nice job with a subtle Irish accent.
  • Nice scene where young Violet surprises MacGyver with a gift and he warmly perks up.  
  • Mom notes that she likes MacGyver's yellow and brown pickup truck because it reminds her of cars she saw when she was younger.
  • Not a huge Cynthia fan as I've said before, but in this episode she's more tolerable for me.  Maybe because she's in crisis mode, I feel sympathy for her. 
  • "The church looks big on the outside, but on the inside there's only 8 pews."  ~Mom
  • Memorable scene where MacGyver comforts Violet by sharing the secret words ("Ice Cream") he had with his mother that would make the stage fright go away.  
  • "How much money were they hoping to raise with a Christmas pageant?  It's a poor neighborhood, and the kids won't have wealthy parents."  ~Mom
  • I don't get Casey's story (Casey is the boy who brings the Madonna back to church on his squeaky wagon).   He promised the Madonna he would give her a ride if he got a new wagon for Christmas, and when he went out and saw the wagon, the Madonna was there waiting for him.  Is this more divine intervention at work or is Casey pulling a fast one on Father? 
  • "I like this one and always have.  Good acting, and good writing."  ~Mom

Final Analysis:
A special, memorable episode that is very well-written and brings tears to the eyes.  So why is it only ranked at #69?  I imagine there are very few people who would look at this episode and say that it is less of an episode than more standard fare like Ma Dalton, for example.  And I agree, this episode is much better than Ma Dalton.  But my rankings have always been about what episodes I enjoy more, not which ones are unobjectively better, and I generally prefer some gripping action-adventure and/or some light-hearted fun more than being moved to tears.  But it's good to be moved to tears every once in a while, and I wholeheartedly acknowledge the greatness of this episode.  And as Mom said, it probably should have been a little higher.  


  1. Ouch! I was in the right season but I guessed the wrong episode.....and you've wounded me more with this one than the one I expected as it is one of my all-time favorites. But I've found this episode is a lot more polarizing than I expected as I always thought everybody loved it, but perhaps a fair number of people are of your mind demanding more, faster, and harder action than a Christmas season melodrama has to offer! I kid.

    Whatever the case, this was a MacGyver classic from beginning to end and hands-down the best made-for-TV Christmas story I've ever come across. Interestingly, I've long speculated this was another spec script as writer Cathleen Young has exactly one other professional credit to her name besides this. As tightly drawn as the script for "The Ten Percent Solution" was a few episodes up your list, even that one paled in comparison to this as there was a literal maze of things playing out in tandem throughout this story, a collection of lost souls brought together by this stolen angel in the 24 hours she graced us mortals with her presence, beat up a drunken Santa, hustled pool, and turned back into an inanimate object before Christmas morning mass. The directing was also spectacular, with Carol's angelic presence seen in the reflections of windows and Christmas ornaments throughout the hour assuring us she has a hand in every miracle large and small that the story stitches together.

    I'm glad you were able to contain your teary-eyed moments to the scene where MacGyver mourns for his mother because as a 12-year-old watching this for the first time, the water works turned on for me during Cynthia's breakdown over the death of her husband and Carol's glowing final moments wheeling away from the Challenger's Club. Even Cynthia's proclamation that "all we need is a miracle" tends to choke me up a little knowing what's coming, notwithstanding the fact that a man of MacGyver's stature can surely choke up $2,711 to keep this place from turning into the "Challenger's memorial parking lot".

    Listen to your mother, Nicholas! This one should be much higher! Seriously though I get your logic to a degree, as I was just pontificating a couple of days ago that my #102-ranked "Runners" was a considerably better episode than my #91-ranked "Off the Wall" by every conventional metric, but my association with "Off the Wall" as the final Monday night MacGyver episode takes me to a special time and place with that one that and inflates its currency. But a story as special and this epic comes along very rarely on television. Based on writing alone I'd rate this one #1 but my overall ranking for it is #6. I wouldn't be certain that everyone else will agree more with me than you on this one though, at least compared to "Nightmares".

    One bit of trivia. The young actress who played Violet grew up to play a not-so-wholesome role last season on NBC's "Hannibal".

    1. I told you I'd be breaking hearts with this one! I didn't realize this episode was polarizing, but I believe you. I just assumed that most people would have it in their top 10 and I was the oddball. And I'm still not convinced I have it in the right spot, but oh well. Glad that you enjoy this one - it is a great one to watch during the holiday season and I'm glad I got to see it with Mom. Also I like your point about the $2711 - I had the same reaction, like MacGyver and Pete couldn't afford to pony that up given the dire circumstances?

  2. I rank this one a bit higher than you did. I have a soft spot for 'backstory' episodes. The true backstory ones, not the ones where 'oh, hai, MacGyver with random talent from the past we never mentioned', but the ones about his family or how he met his friends.

    Regarding the $2k - I assumed that Phoenix and Mac had already tossed a considerable amount into the coffers, thus already footing a good chunk of the bill, but since they're good people, they wouldn't draw attention to something like that, but would help as much as they could to try to bring in the rest of the money. Also, if the Challengers Club is a non-profit, there are rules and regs about how much a single individual or company can donate - legal stickiness and the like.

  3. A low-key episode here and far-removed from my more action-centred favourites but excellent none-the-less. Like Highlander, I love any episode with serious MacGyver backstory. There's a lot of characters, including MacGyver, hurting this Christmas and their issues combine to create a sense of hopelessness, gearing towards a Christmas that noone is going to enjoy; even the drizzly weather injects some pathetic fallacy here. Pete tries hard to draw MacGyver out on the subject of his mother but MacGyver pulls the blinds firmly down with a 'you get over all that sort of stuff'. Oh no you don't MacGyver as well you know. On a lighter note I enjoyed MacGyver's terrible Irish accent as he greets his friend the priest although I found the Father's Irish accent too subtle for me to detect. Loved Pete trying to jolly up the depressed Santa (Robin Mossley of Wilt Bozer fame in other episodes) and telling how to do his job only to appear as a suitably ho-ho-hoeing santa at the end himself. Like everyone else here, I'd defy anyone not to well up at MacGyver's grief but in the end, its a heart-warming and well written story of how the characters reconcile themselves to their pain with each others' help and, we might believe, that of the Madonna. Couple of minor points,Pete does say near the beginning that he couldn't persuade the Phoenix board to donate any more money (but still can't see why he and MacGyver can't dig deep). The childrens' choir performance is way too good for a bunch of troubled street kids and hey, the credits tell us its the British Columbia Boys Choir - fair enough! Great episode and in my top 30, Glad you Mum likes it too!

    1. I like the Irish accent too - "Hey, Patrick!" And forgot to mention Wilt Bozer as Santa - that's a fun scene also.

    2. One doesn't '...get over all that sort of stuff', but it does make it a little easier when friends say they can see it your eyes that you're hurting. I lost my best friend to a drunk driver in 1999. I was 3000 miles away in a foreign country. I lost my dad in 2014 and didn't know that he had passed until hours later. Remembering the special things about them and remembering the good times help too.

  4. Is the guy that has the beef with the church (that made the Madonna) the store owner from 'Widowmaker'?

    1. Yes, he's also in Faith, Hope, and Charity also (same actor, different characters).

  5. My mom made an observation that I missed. Carol's injured hand and Madonna's damaged hand were both the left ones.