Saturday, February 21, 2015

#31: Rock the Cradle

Season: 3

Synopsis in 3 sentences or less:
MacGyver and Jack Dalton find a baby in Dalton's airplane hangar, left by a woman whom Jack had been involved with.  The woman also left counterfeit money and plates in the baby's basket, and the counterfeiters are looking for her so they can get their plates back.  As MacGyver and Pete try to find the counterfeiters, Jack bonds with the baby and wonders if he is the father. 

Memorable Quote:
"What was that?  Cat?"  ~Dalton
"That was no cat!"  ~MacGyver

Love the scene where the federal agents are looking for the two crooks in the Officers Club. They can't find them and have given up when MacGyver cleverly notices that the room upstairs is smaller than it should be.  He flicks a light switch and reveals their hiding spot behind a fake mirror. Something about this scene captivated me as a kid, and I still find it magical.

Great opening where MacGyver and Jack are in the faulty Dalton Air plane, but MacGyver is acting a bit baby-ish with all his whining.  He didn't have to fly in it if he didn't want to, and after all Dalton did to help him steal the Ming Dragon, he should settle down.  In fact, MacGyver is overly surly with Dalton throughout this episode.

Best MacGyverism:
Only MacGyver could put a ticking clock inside a teddy bear to comfort the baby.

Other thoughts, observations, and questions I didn’t ask when I was in fourth grade:
  • I've now cracked open Season 3, Disk 5, making it the final DVD to be opened during the MacGyver Project.  4 episodes in the top 31?  Let's not lose that DVD! 
  • Impressive, well filmed opening.  We see the classic shots from the opening credits of MacGyver getting the landing gear down and then parachuting out of the plane, and I like how the "Dalton" in Dalton Air looks like it was painted on the plane by a kid.  
  • We can see from in the opening credits that Jack Jr. is played by twins.  Also starring in this episode are Mitzi Katpure as Katie (played Laura in The Wasteland) and Garwin Sanford as one of the bad guys (played Rafael in On a Wing and a Prayer). 
  • The Officers Club looks very much like Sparky's restaurant in Ma Dalton, complete with the aviation theme and the small upper room. 
  • Why is Carlo still hanging around after stealing the plates and the fake cash?  He should have been gone a long time ago. 
  • Great moment as MacGyver and Dalton first hear Jack Jr. in the hangar (see memorable quote). Hopefully they got their filming done quickly so that the baby didn't have to keep crying for too long.  And cute kid (or kids).  This movie came out 6 months after "3 Men and a Baby," so surely there was some influence there. 
  • More surliness from MacGyver as he goes off in a huff to "find a cop, preferable a lady cop."
  • Cool domino effect as Jack Jr. knocks over a lamp that then falls into a few other things (including an old school disk holder) and then eventually knocks a drink onto MacGyver's keyboard.  Jack Jr. doesn't look too happy after MacGyver says "Look out!"  I wonder who had a rougher time on set: the Jack Jr. twins or the Thief of Budapest horse. 
  • 24:29 - "You guys are pathetic, you know that?"  ~Pete on seeing that MacGyver was using duct tape to seal the baby's diaper.  Strong acting from Elcar here.
  • Great scene at the hangar where the bad guys show up in clear masks, but MacGyver dispatches them with a remote controlled plane (ala Last Stand), knocking them down with flame retardant (ala The Odd Triple) and some old-fashioned trickery (telling Dalton to call the cops even though they both know his radio doesn't work). Though I'm not sure why the bad guys would just run away so quickly given that MacGyver and Dalton aren't armed, and the cops would take at least a few minutes to get there. 
  • I like the creativity in MacGyver and Jack flying the plane with their phone number on it so that Katie can reach out to them, but surely the bad guys could see it too (though they should already be able to find out where MacGyver lives). 
  • Fun conversation at 34:35:
    • "If she didn't see the sign, that means she's long gone, and so is my cargo contract."  ~Jack
    • "THAT is NOT what's IMPORTANT here!" ~MacGyver
    • Good stuff from RDA here.  And then nice work from McGill playing his throat like a drum. 
  • Great acting from McGill again as he learns that Jack Jr. is not his baby. 
  • Awesome denouement as MacGyver helps Jack Jr. shoot a soft hockey puck through a makeshift goal and into a laundry basket, followed by MacGyver cheering and talking about Jack Jr. as the future of amateur hockey in the United States. 

Final Analysis:
Fantastic episode with one great scene after another.  It has a nice flow with short scenes and lots of memorable moments, and it's hard not to enjoy MacGyver putting his own unique spin on fatherhood with clocks inside teddy bears and duct taped diapers.  Coming up, time to venture into the top 30 with a dynamite episode that has great personal significance.   


  1. Like most of the really lighthearted episodes, this isn't one of my favorites but I do like it. The writing was successful in pulling off the comic touch they were going for with a lot of snappy dialogue and memorable one-liners. I didn't mind MacGyver's surliness and exasperation with Dalton here either as I have the same kind of rapport with some of my friends and coworkers where we're jokingly playing off of each other with that good-cop/bad-cop sort of banter and I felt like that's where MacGyver and Dalton were in this episode. Also pretty good long-distance foreshadowing with MacGyver's musing on fatherhood in this episode laying the template for the big revelation coming ahead in his life four years later.

    Anyway, great opening with some solid production in that plane scene and I've been known to deploy that "good news and bad news" line Dalton used in regards to the landing gears in other situations where it's really all bad news. Dalton's reaction when he saw MacGyver's parachute pop open below was hilarious. Most of the content related to the MacGyver, Dalton, and the baby (and Pete) was humorous and well-done, including the epilogue. And agreed that we saw some solid acting from McGill when Dalton found out the boy was not really his, the scene that I thought was perhaps the best from the episode. That scene along with a couple of rather violent gunshot deaths offered some balance to the generally lighter-hearted tone of the episode that assured that this episode wouldn't be slapsticky in the realm of "Soft Touch" or "Honest Abe".

    And while I guess the counterfeiter plot was done well enough, I will say my biggest grievance with this episode along with most of the lighter-hearted episodes is that the primary action plot seemed to be secondary to the sillier stuff. Now that's not necessarily a bad thing as the sillier stuff was pretty strong in this episode, but it also doesn't make for a MacGyver episode that I'll rate in my top tier. Agreed though that the ending was fun with the mirrored wall and the secret room with the counterfeiting apparatus in the nightclub. I wondered if you'd make the catch that it was the same place as Sparky's joint on "Ma Dalton". A fun episode that I'm glad they made. From a tactical standpoint this one should be higher than my ranking of #105 but it doesn't hit my sweet spot the way that a bunch of others did.

  2. A couple of other interesting bits of trivia here, the first of which I should qualify as being what I heard at the time and in doing research since, although the interview with Stephen Downing put in doubt that everything I thought I knew in the past is in fact correct. But at least the story back in 1988 was that this was poised to be the final episode of season 3. As I said before, "MacGyver" was not renewed for a full season for any year except season 5, and season 3 was no exception in that it only had a 13-episode order going in, but the ratings were good enough that ABC extended that to 18 episodes. But it wasn't until ratings really started to perk up in the spring of 1988 that ABC put in a last-minute order for two additional episodes. in season 3. The timing was especially challenging because Hollywood writers were on the precipice of going on strike and "MacGyver" really had to crank those last two scripts out before the deadline, one of the two being what Rick Drew confirmed was a spec script in his e-mail comments to the old "MacGyver Homepage" site.

    The other trivia about this episode is that it was the episode chosen to air at an LA banquet honoring "MacGyver" in either 1997 or 1998. The banquet consisted of RDA, Dana Elcar, John Rich, and writer John Whelpley who wrote "Rock the Cradle" and four other episodes. I read the transcript of the banquet and two of the regulars at the old MacGyver Homepage Chatroom attended and gave those of us who couldn't a personal account of the banquet, which they said was really fun.

    1. Here's a link to a transcript of that banquet:
      I had read that a few months ago and forgot that it was Rock the Cradle that was aired, or else I would have included it in the post. They mention the "Mac Pack" as a group of hard-core fans - I never heard of that group, were you in that?

      And interesting stuff you mention about the end of season 3. Good thing all these episodes got made because all of the last 4 are in my top 31! Which one was the spec script that Rick Drew mentioned?

    2. I was never in the "Mac Pack" and didn't even really know where to locate them online. I visited the MacGyver Homepage Chatroom every Wednesday night for four years between 1996 and 2000 before it dissolved and don't recall any of the hard-liners there mentioning "The Mac Pack" either.

      "The Endangered" was the one written as a spec script, according to Rick Drew. And "Murderers' Sky" was written by an OLD hat in Hollywood named Herman Miller who was 69 year old in 1988 and would be 95 if he's still alive now. "MacGyver" employed a lot of very senior writers in the business.....guys like Robert Sherman, Rick Mittleman, and Brad Radnitz have writing credits going back to the late 50s and very early 60s. I'm guessing these guys worked cheaper since they weren't in high demand in a business dominated by youth...and that allowed more of the weekly budget to be directed towards the expensive production costs of an action show. Seems like having as many old hands in the business would have other advantages on a show like this as well.

    3. One more bit of trivia from this one. The music was done by a one-hit wonder composer named John E. Davis for this episode. I don't recall any genuinely distinctive compositions in this one although the music certainly wasn't bad. Not sure why he only did the music for one episode and then disappeared. There were no other episodes with one-hit wonder composers although Randy Edelman got some help from some guy named Mike Melvoin (perhaps a protege of some kind) on "The Golden Triangle" and "Thief of Budapest".

  3. We all agree; a classic and brilliant opening where MacGyver mends the landing gear and has to parachute down with great music.; interesting that the composer was a one –off because I really did notice the score here. Not sure why Jack was explaining the controls to MacGyver who is a pilot himself but I think that must be for the benefit of the viewers!
    The actress has a great name; Mitzi Kapture.
    Great scenes in the boat house ‘Look at my couch, look what you’re doing to it’ and all the scenes with the baby. MacGyver’s practical approach is great fun with the cradle, clock in teddy and duct tape on the nappy. ( English for diaper!). Its amusing when they leave it to Pete, the expert; he’s actually not much better than they are. Not sure how MacGyver can pretend the plane is for the kid, he’s way too young – its unashamedly a boys-toy for MacGyver! In spite of the light-heartedness there are some quite tender and powerful emotions around the kid and fatherhood andfwhat it takes to be happy.
    I too, liked the Fun table hockey scene at the end.
    I know what Mark means; the plot plays second fiddle to the baby scenes and makes it an enjoyable rather than great episode. But agree, the light-heartedness works much better than elsewhere. Ranked around no.63 for me subject to a complete overhaul of my rankings which are frankly, out of hand!

    1. You're right, Pete is not that great at the diapers either!

    2. Didn'McGill play the same tune on his throat as D Day in animal house?

  4. Just noticed you linked to Slow Death in reference to an RC plane MacGyverism where I think you meant Last Stand. I might be wrong, it seems Netflix is missing several scenes from the DVDs.

    1. You're absolutely right, thanks for the good catch! I've now updated the original post.

  5. That triumphant fanfare as MacGyver parachutes to the ground was great! Does it not make a return in later episodes? What a waste.

    1. Good call, that is a great fanfare. I don't think it is ever heard again.