Thursday, February 26, 2015

#29: Early Retirement

Season: 3

Synopsis in 3 sentences or less:
While the Phoenix Foundation team is dismantling a nuclear weapon, an accident occurs and three people die.  Pete takes responsibility for this and resigns from the Phoenix Foundation while MacGyver tries to talk him out of it.  They learn later that the accident resulted from an act of sabotage committed by an ambitious co-worker trying to take Pete's job.  

Memorable Quote:
Find Amunde!  Webber's mine!  ~Pete

Fun scene at the end when Pete kicks Webber's butt and then brings him in on a cart.  Amazing that Pete was able to catch him on foot: either Webber is really slow, Pete is faster than I thought, or this is a fictional television show.

In general, I like Nikki, but she doesn't do much for me in this episode, in particular her notable lack of any kind of emotional reaction when Webber reveals his true colors.

Best MacGyverism:
Blows steam into the train car through an opening in the top.

Other thoughts, observations, and questions I didn’t ask when I was in fourth grade:
  • Madison Mason makes his third and final MacGyver appearance as Matt Webber. We saw him as a bad guy in Jerico Games and as a good guy in Deep Cover.  In fact, his manipulation of Nikki Carpenter (i.e. using a relationship with her to gain information and access) is reminiscent of Landis using Gwen in Deep Cover.  In this episode, Mason does a great job as the smarmy Webber.  
  • 8:41 mark - a "DSX" reference from Webber (should be "DXS").  
  • Fun scene at the ice rink where MacGyver is shooting hockey pucks at Pete who is playing goalie and wearing an awesome mask. 
  • 13:55 - another "DSX" reference.  And the train yard here is the same one from Blind Faith
  • Webber's plan is to kidnap Amunde (the visiting leader who he claims is a terrorist) and shake him into revealing the locations of his fellow terrorists around the globe. Webber sees the Phoenix Foundation as weak for coddling Amunde and working with him to find peace. Interesting to have a villain who's a little more three dimensional than usual - in fact there's many people in this country who would claim that he's doing the right thing. 
  • Great dialogue between MacGyver and Pete in Pete's apartment.  Kind of neat that there's no background music at all while they're going back and forth.  And an interesting contrast with Friends where MacGyver wants to retire and Pete tries to talk him out of it. 
  • Sam the security guard is played by Jackson Davies who we see later as Father Lafferty in The Madonna and in several other episodes as Lt. Kiley.
  • Funny how the technical team that evaluated the accident couldn't find the cause of the explosion but then MacGyver finds it in 10 seconds. 
  • 32:07 - even MacGyver throws in a "DSX".  Now I'm doubting myself - it is supposed to be "DXS," isn't it?  Let me check online....yep, it's DXS.  
  • Later we see "DSX" on the computer too.  I'll stop now. 
  • In the denouement, Nikki speaks of Webber and says "I came so close to falling for his total lie."  Uh, I think you totally did fall for his total lie, Nikki. 

Final Analysis:
Excellent, well-written episode and a strong performance from Dana Elcar. And RDA is fantastic as well and shows some signs of emotion and fire. Some may see a slowness of pace, but I see great dialogue and a memorable plot. And this episode makes me feel warm and fuzzy because I consider it (along with "Blow Out") to be MacGyver (the character) in his prime.  In earlier seasons, he's doing stuff for the government all over the world.  In later seasons, he does less for Phoenix and is more dour in general.  But here, he's working full time and doing stuff for Phoenix while full of energy and vigor.  He's living in the houseboat, driving the jeep, and wearing the brown jacket. Pete is heavily involved. Nikki is around which adds to the sense of a greater Phoenix community.  It just feels like his character is firmly rooted and has a strong sense of place, and for whatever reason I have that fuzzy feeling most often with this episode and Blow Out.  I'm not sure if that makes any sense at all, but that's one of the main reasons that I have this one as high as it is and probably higher than most other fans. 


  1. More people than you think really like this one....but I'm in the "most other fans" category here. It's not without its attractions but I find it a little dry by "MacGyver" episode standards, the kind of episode that gets made when a studio bean counter visits the set panicked about how overbudget they're running. Now those kinds of episodes can be fantastic and are necessary on a show like this but they're generally not gonna be my favorites. A low-key episode like this was in capable hands with writer John Whelpley though, who always wrote strong dialogue and seemed to have an excellent sense of the characters and their interaction, in this case MacGyver and Pete. Matt Webber was a competent and intelligent adversary (plus Madison Mason is always fantastic) and his co-conspirators, while relatively colorless, also made for an intelligent hour of crime drama. Compliments aside, I think Whelpley is the common denominator for the "DSX" misfire though as I recall the episodes he wrote all have the agency digits transposed and the actors reading their lines accordingly.

    More than most episodes though, the lack of action in this one really stood out to me. It's interesting because the next episode in succession was the action-free "Thin Ice" but given that episode's thematics I didn't expect action and was able to just go along with a great story. In this one, it just felt like there needed to be more, much as I enjoyed Pete coming to grips with his would-be role in the accident and MacGyver's instinctive mistrust of Webber and reflexive support of Pete. But there was one more glaring downside with this episode for me and it was the one you touched upon....Nikki. Just two episodes earlier, MacGyver and Nikki were still scrapping like David and Maddie, er brother and sister, with a presumed expectation of a budding romance. Then this episode comes along and their relationship is as cold as ice. If the writers were trying to convey to annoyed female fans that the plans for a pending love affair were over, they certainly accomplished it with their frosty banter in this episode. I was in fourth grade at the time, and didn't even see elementary school relationships run from hot to cold that fast!

    It was humorous seeing Pete find the adrenaline to take out Webber at the end and I always walk away from this episode satisfied but not "fuzzy", and I usually glow after a "MacGyver" episode. For me this was the low point of season 3, but it speaks well for season 3 that this was the episode I consider the weakest. I rank it #124.

    1. Interesting about Whelpley and the DSX. I'm gonna try reaching out to him at some point (thought about doing it now but decided to wait). And you're right that they removed all possibility of a Nikki/MacGyver romance with this one. So now #124 is off your list - that leaves #109 and #122 as your remaining low ones....

    2. I can imagine Elyssa Davalos reading the script for this episode and placing a call into her agent halfway through to "keep your eyes open for other jobs because I don't think my services will be needed on this show for much longer!"

    3. It did feel a bit like she mailed it in here.

    4. Regarding MacGyver and Nikki, I guess Starkos didn't get all of his predictions right.

    5. Starkos didn't count on the power of the fans. =)

  2. This was one of the episodes I first saw so l it has a special feel to it even though it may not be one of the best.
    As they’re carrying out the disarmament, Pete says ‘the eyes of the disarmament commission are on us’ - do the guys really need the extra pressure of this reminder? I liked how Ed reminds Pete that a few years ago they were waging the cold war – its good how they don’t just rewrite history and do allude to the different political climate even over a couple of seasons of MacGyver. I too, lost count of how many times they called it DSX over the episode. You’d have thought someone would have remembered! Its clear to the viewer from early on that Webber is still not on message and is going to be trouble but not, apparently to anyone else - he clearly wasn’t vetted very well.
    Always good to see MacGyver on the ice and enjoyed him and Pete playing hockey and their banter is amusing - but did Macgyver really think that it would help Pete relax?
    The accident is shocking and as we would expect. Pete mans up and takes responsibility but who were the 8 in hospital?
    When MacGyver is trying to persuade Pete not to resign he says Pete hates fishing – but later Pete goes on at least two fishing holidays. I think MacGyver’s being a bit whiney here – he’s seeing it all from his point of view and how he won’t like working there without Pete.
    Nikki and MacGyver are still bickering but its quite subtle as MacGyver implies that she does not care enough about Pete and as usual. one minute they’re working together, the next, falling out but as you point out, its pretty cold stuff. ‘Always a pleasure MacGyver’. As you’ve noted, her role is less dominant and capable here and I like Mark's idea that her agent was, by now, looking around for her! She’s fooled by Webber and later in the railyard she doesn’t join in the fight – the old Nikki would have been right in there whacking the villains too, although she does put in a good elbow as she escapes.
    MacGyver’s relationship with the security guard shows us how he just gets on well with everyone. I agree, the previous accident review team were rubbish!
    Good that Pete gets to show that he can still hack it, but as you point out, not really believable. Poor Pete looks a mess afterwards but MacGyver always seems to come out of fights unscathed.
    A good one but maybe not among the top echelons. I'm with Mark that it seems slow paced sometimes although, I agree, the dialogue and character relationships are well done and Webber is a good villain because its quite believable that that there are spooks who think that way. I had it at no. 65.

  3. Does this episode finish so suddenly? Immediately after Nikki says 'familiar face" it jumps right to the credits. I was expecting to see MacGyver laughing and freezing the shot at that moment and the credits start. At least in Netflix, it seems like a scene was missing between Nicky's part and the credits.

    1. You're right! They cut the scene where Pete says he's going back to karate school.

  4. I agree with your earlier observation & analysis of Nikki Carpenter's character, she did seem to become more of a naive damsel in distress type of character after the initial episode that she was seen in.