Friday, February 20, 2015

#32: Bushmaster

Season: 2

Synopsis in 3 sentences or less:
MacGyver goes to Latin America to rescue Joe Henderson, a "bushmaster champ" whose plane went down.  Henderson's daughter, Kelly, unknowingly tags along as part of the rescue team so she can prove to her father that she could be like the son she thinks he always wanted. MacGyver breaks Henderson out of his cell with the help of a local contact, and they head toward the border in a broken-down jeep riding on train tracks. 

Memorable Quote:
I need your help in putting together a crack rescue team.   ~Moore
Come here.  There it is.  There's your rescue team.  ~Pete

A man named Edelman.  More on this below.

Kelly drives me a little nuts - does she have to be so damn dumb?  She looks like an ace as she wins the war game and later parachutes out of the plane, but then she doesn't bring food or a passport! And why must she try to prove that she's like a son - couldn't she just want to rescue her father?

Best MacGyverism:
Uses eggs from a local chicken coop to plug the jeep's radiator.  I also like at the end where he sticks the metal pole against the train track while moving to create a spark - simple and clever.

Other thoughts, observations, and questions I didn’t ask when I was in fourth grade:
  • Fun yet somewhat clunky opening where it looks like MacGyver and Pete get killed but then we realize that it's a drill. And the actress here is Renee Estevez, Martin Sheen's daughter.  In fact, she played an assistant to Jed Bartlet (played by Sheen) in The West Wing.  Also interesting to note that she was only 19 when this aired. 
  • I like the part where Pete talks about the rescue team (see memorable quote) as MacGyver is shooting paper basketballs.  And funny how there's one lady there watching him. 
  • This sounds a little Edelmanish to me: first the great music as they're getting ready to jump out of the plane and then the Latin MacGyver theme as they catch the bus.  Let me check....yep, it's Edelman.  STUD.
  • Alex Colon plays Col. Salazar, and we saw him as Samad in The Mountain of Youth.
  • As a kid, I loved the story backdrop of a hero stuck in a Latin American dictatorship and surrounded by hostile soldiers in jeeps.  Some of my creative writing in elementary school bears this out. 
  • More breathless Edelman piano music at 23:48 as MacGyver gives Kelly a pep talk in the dark church.  I'm starting to think I'd take an Edelman interview over RDA.  (Just kidding, Rick. Call me!) 
  • Wouldn't it have been smart of MacGyver and Parra to give Kelly a quick heads up that MacGyver's subsequent capture was part of the plan?
  • 32:00 - how about some more awesome Edelman?!
  • I like that MacGyver uses Kelly's explosives in the gas can because it means that Kelly had at least a little bit of value in coming along.  
  • At the end, I wonder why the soldiers didn't follow MacGyver across the bridge.  I know the jeeps are out of commission after MacGyver throws the gas can bomb, but MacGyver jeep-train also looks to be running on empty (unless they just intentionally stopped right after crossing the bridge), so I'd think they could have at least run nearer on foot given that it looks very close.  Perhaps there's territorial integrity to worry about, but there is nobody else around. 

Final Analysis:
In hindsight I may have had this a smidge too high.  I do like it a lot - good action, great music, and an awesome locale (this has been my favorite Latin American army episode thus far).  Kelly and Joe are decent characters, but the acting is average.  And the opening let me down a little - it wasn't quite as edgy or memorable as I thought.  But overall, still a ton of fun.  And a ton of Edelman.

At the end of last episode, I thought of giving a clue that the next one was an international adventure before I realized that almost all the ones left are domestic.  I will say that next episode we'll take a dive into Season 3.  There are 19 Season 3 episodes and I've reviewed 9 - that means there are 10 Season 3 episodes (over half) in the top 31!! That's why it's the best season, my friends.  But will it lay claim to the top overall spot?  Time will tell...


  1. You're definitely a bigger fan than me on this one. Back in 1987 this one just left me cold. I like it more now than I did as a boy but some of the elements that rubbed me the wrong way then still don't quite work for me. They had a good template for an episode here and some solid production values to convey this effective ghost town that the military dictatorship vacated to centralize the population and control them the way the Khmer Rouge did in Cambodia in the late 70s. The darker and more ominous tone also felt right, particularly in the second season where the jokey-cheekiness sometimes got cartoonish. And there were some great MacGyverisms including that classic gimmick with the egg white plugging the hole in the radiator and the free-on container snuck inside the makeshift jail cell on the back of a rat. And Randy Edelman blew the roof off the joint yet again. So what could possibly be my gripe?

    You touched upon two of the biggest ones. That opening could have been a surprise worthy of the fun gimmicks that opened "Final Approach" and "Children of Light", but the acting was so goofy by MacGyver and Pete that it was obvious they weren't under real threat. if the banter between MacGyver and Pete didn't tip the viewer off right away, MacGyver's subsequent reaction to seeing the guardians of the silver box getting shot in the chest really made it clear they weren't on a real mission in the jungle. No idea why the director chose to play that scene so light. Whatever the case, things certainly improved after that with the revelation of Kelly's father going down over Central America and being accused of being a spy, followed by the plan to spring him which Kelly tagged along on. I agree that Kelly's brash idiocy took a lot from her character and more or less made her just a silly little girl who MacGyver got to pat on the head and show how the pros functioned, which seemed like a waste of her character. Even after the viewer go to see how dumb she was though, the bus ride into town where she didn't have her passport kept things interesting.

    After that though, I don't know....I really thought this idea of Kelly having to prove herself as "a son" to her father was dopey and as little sense as the whole thing made, they just kept on milking it throughout the hour. I never quite understood why this defense attorney trusted by the military dictatorship was actually a double agent that MacGyver knew he could trust. I suppose he could have been some deep cover intelligence operative but it would have been helpful if we would have discovered what his backstory was and why he was risking everything to get MacGyver and Joe out. And then there's Joe.....this alleged "greatest guy ever" by everyone who ever knew him who I found absolutely insufferable. The U.S. government was moving heaven and Earth to rescue THIS ungrateful jackass who grumbled and sneered through the entire hour showing zero gratitude towards MacGyver for rescuing his sorry butt?!?! I suppose I should put myself in the shoes of a man captured by a Central American dictator and wrongly imprisoned with a likely death sentence ahead of me and perhaps cut him a LITTLE slack. I doubt I'd be in too good of humor either. But the contrast between the guy everyone was fawning over early in the episode and the curmudgeon that the audience got to see couldn't have been more chasmic. And while the ending was decent, I had a few of the same observations you had (why didn't they follow across the bridge?!?!?) and one you didn't in that MacGyver's very long paper fuse didn't seem very viable, particularly since he effectively smothered the rudimentary flame with a rag seconds after it sparked.

    There's plenty to like in this episode as I said in the beginning but it just didn't gel with me and has the feel of an episode where a number of cool MacGyverisms came first and a story was stitched together around it. I ranked it #119.

    1. Sounds like we're mostly on the same page despite the difference in the final number ranking. Were you a big west wing fan given your fondness for politics and television? My parents love that show more than they love me (just kidding mom!) and I like it too (currently I'm rewatching it and am in season 3). I hadn't realized or remembered that Kelly was played by Renee Estevez.

    2. Crazy as it may seem, I never got into "The West Wing". I was in college when it premiered and wasn't in a position to get in from the beginning. I watched a couple of stray episodes over the years but without the context of the characters I had a hard time getting into it. I suspect I would like it if I watched it from the beginning though. The same producers gave us "Mr. Sterling" in 2003, a short-lived show starring Josh Brolin as an accidental Senator that I really enjoyed.

      As for Renee Estevez, I've mentioned before that "Growing Pains" was my favorite comedy during the "MacGyver" era, and she guest-starred on an episode of that show only a month or so before her guest starring role on this "MacGyver" episode.

      Do you agree by the way that Joe Henderson was not at all likeable in this episode? The writers' decision to turn him into a curmudgeon worthy of Professor Axford from "Eye of Osiris" always confused me given his sterling reputation by those who knew him.

    3. Wow, I'm shocked that you never delved into the Wing. You should give it a try sometime, seems right up your alley. In general I think Sorkin is the man - A Few Good Men is one of my favorite movies of all time.

      I actually don't mind Henderson. I see where you're coming from in that he is a little rough around the edges, but I didn't see that as being ungrateful. He actually seems kind of like a nice, cool guy to me. As you alluded to, maybe the fact that he has a broken leg and is in a Central American prison put a damper on his spirits.

    4. Agreed....I should make the plunge into "The West Wing".

  2. ( bah! stupid blogger with your stupid 'sign out' button where everyone else has a 'post' button! )

    My ranking for this episode is much closer to Mark's. (Coming up soon in my countdown actually.)

    Kelly gets on my nerves. She does a lot of dumb things for no reason other than 'plot', which is silly and a lot like when they say 'eh, no one will notice that glaring continuity error' - they will and they do... all the time.

    [this is the short version b/c blogger ate my other comment]

    1. Ugh....been there a couple of times and have spent 15 minutes writing something only to accidentally sign out and delete everything. That "sign out" button has no business being in the location that that it is.

    2. ikr? who puts a 'sign out' button ON the comment box? c'mon google... not all of your UI designs have to suck!

  3. Coming at this one well after everyone else as I’m so behind with the comments! I’ve got mixed feelings about this one. Its one of the few hat I saw originally and actually had on tape so I think I’ve watched it too many times. First viewing I remember thinking it was pretty good but now I’m not so sure….
    Agree with you both about the opening – acting fairly poor and silly fake drama built in.
    I do like the ‘there it is’ (your rescue team) from Pete as MacGyer is goofing around in the office. Good shot from RDA if he really got the paper ball in the bin.
    As they’re flying over South America there’s a great, presumably stock footage, scene of the landscape which looks like it has paint drizzled over the terrain. I wonder where it was. Always like to see MacGyver parachuting. I agree that Kelly just seems really annoying here messing up the plans and worse, actually getting them into trouble. Another minor character meets a gruesome death – the old man being shot for no reason made a big impression on me. Not sure whether it’s necessary to show how serious the situation is or rather gratuitously violent.
    They do seem to spend an awful lot of time sitting around in the yard and MacGyver does get to do his psychotherapy- in- a- dangerous- situation thing (including the trademark stroking her face!) which I often enjoy. However, I agree that here the whole idea that she’s trying to act like a son seems really dated. The story these days would just be about her wanting to do it for herself and I hope we would no longer have an ending where she’s become a proper girl and is wearing a pretty dress. Cringeworthy.
    When Macgyver’s captured as part of the plan (which I didn’t figure out for ages) I love the line ‘You can keep that if you like’ to the soldier who finds something in his pocket –as if he’s in any position to stop him! Poor MacGyver takes a couple of blows to the solar plexus in this one.
    I have to agree with Mark. Joe Henderson has been over-rated by all who know him and as you say, doesn’t seem anything like grateful enough that MacGyver’s risking his life to rescue him. ‘One man to get me past an army?’ That’s all you need.
    MacGyver uses the word ‘crimp’ to describe what to do with the Freon tube from the fridge - The defence attorney's English is truly impeccable if he understands that!
    Good example of MacGyver’s patience as he traps the (clearly tame) rat. Joe says ‘he’s as tired as ‘we’ are’ – there’s not much evidence that Joe has done anything to help. MacGyver is just too nice to him.
    Why doesn’t Kelly stay put? But equally why didn’t MacGyver tell he what was going on?
    The soldiers are truly rubbish at searching; they’ve had two long sessions behind that corrugated fence! The egg in the radiator MacGyverism is good as is the spark from the track and the jeep really does look like its driving down a proper railway line. I read somewhere that the egg idea was sent in by a kid and was about the only sent-in idea that they used. Great to go down in history for that!
    Reading back, this all sounds pretty negative but I did like this one originally although I seem to have done a good job of talking myself out of it! I’ve put it at number 34 but I think more for old times sake, so may need to revisit the rankings again!

    1. I like the comment about the defense attorney understanding "crimp!"

  4. MacGyver: ¿Cuánto para dos?
    Bus driver: 1.60

    Guard: ¿Americano?
    MacGyver: ¡Sí! Buenos días.

    MacGyver has a pretty nice accent when speaking in Spanish. Love it!!

    1. I love this part also! Great accent, and amazing Edelman score.

  5. Wait a minute! Why is this episode under the Dalton finest category? Just curious!!

    1. Good question! I was looking for ways to group them after ranking them and saw that 3 of the 4 in the group involved Dalton so went with that.

  6. I'm not sure what to say about this one. I generally love the episodes where MacGyver travels to some exotic locale on some crazy mission. On the other hand, an important part of the backstory was the relationship between Kelly and her father, but Kelly turned out to be really annoying, even though I had had such high hopes for her at the beginning. (I mean, she bested MacGyver and Pete. Come on!) I'm not usually so sensitive about these things, but I was almost offended that they made her so useless, and made out at the end that she was only being tough because she thought her father had wanted a boy. And her father was not a character I felt particularly attached to. I didn't have any strong negative feelings about him, though.

    All in all, a good episode with some good MacGyverisms, but also with some serious problems.