Saturday, February 14, 2015

#36: Last Stand

Season: 1

Synopsis in 3 sentences or less:
MacGyver is driving around looking for a lake to fish when he stops at a small airport to ask for directions.  The airport has been commandeered by a band of criminals who are looking to make a getaway with 8 million dollars.  A game of cat and mouse ensues as MacGyver tries to stop them from taking off in a plane with the money. 

Memorable Quote:
MacGyv-ah, wheyah ah yoo?  ~Buddy

One word: Buddy.  A phenomenal, Emmy-worthy performance by Lewis Van Bergen, who makes Buddy one of the most memorable bad guys we've seen.  He's the guy we love to hate: a gruff, motorcycle-riding, chain smoking, beer drinking bully who owns every scene he's in, despite not being the leader of the group or the sharpest tool in the shed.  I wish I knew more about the actor - there's not much online about him.   

The storyline of Dave overcoming his past to fly the helicopter gets a little wearisome.  And it ends up not being all that important to their escape that he flies it. 

Best MacGyverism:
Grinds magnesium (from a bike) and ferric oxide (rusted iron) into powder, then puts it in a bike part to create a blowtorch, and ignites it with an emergency flare gun. 

Other thoughts, observations, and questions I didn’t ask when I was in fourth grade:
  • We start things off with MacGyver driving around looking for Sparrow Lake, a fishing hole he used to go to with his dad.  He's in Arizona, which we can tell by seeing the Arizona state flag at the airport  A few continuity issues here in that we learn later in the series that MacGyver is from Minnesota and his father died when he was 7, so it seems unlikely that his dad took him fishing in Arizona multiple times, but I guess it's possible.  
  • Another case of MacGyver being in the wrong place at the wrong time.  He's very good at that. 
  • 2:55 - love the entrance by Buddy.  The camera starts at his motorcycle boots and scrolls up, and we see him drinking a beer.  He doesn't say anything to MacGyver but just smiles, and then we see him shielding a large gun behind the corner.  Awesome foreshadowing. 
  • Anthony Pena plays Elias, one of the henchmen.  We also saw him as Hector Lopez in Bitter Harvest
  • 10:43 - famous shot of filing the bike's magnesium into powder.  Hard to believe the bad guys would be all that patient while MacGyver is sitting around filing stuff down.
  • Speaking of the bad guys, I don't really get what's happening or what their plan is. Two of them drove a truck all night from Dallas with a van in the back, and the van had a guy locked inside the whole night? And how did he get in there?  And couldn't they have just driven the van? And where did the money come from? And why were they willing to blow up the money before MacGyver suggested using a torch? And with so much money, shouldn't they have a better escape route than to hijack a minuscule airstrip and commandeer a broken down charter plane? And why couldn't they all just have gone to Dallas and opened the van there?  OK, I'll stop now. 
  • 17:20 - "Aw come on now Buddy, that's just bad taste.  Picking on girls.  Show a little class for a change."  Now this is some swagger that I can get behind! 
  • "I just gotta take care of one thing before we split.  MacGyver."  Buddy's the best.    
  • Great moment at 20:40:
    • "What's that?"  ~Turk
    • "Lateral.  Cranial.  Impact.  Enhancer."  ~MacGyver
    • Boom. 
    • And nice job by Jackie Earle Haley falling backwards off the barrel - kind of an underrated tricky stunt.  
  • Nice little homemade bombs made from fertilizer and starting fluid and wrapped in newspaper. I wonder if anyone ever tried this at home because it looks so easy - hopefully this is one where the writers left out an ingredient.  
  • Couldn't they have all escaped in MacGyver's car instead of the big, slow water truck?
  • 24:46 - take a seat, Buddy! 
  • Great leap by MacGyver and Dave off the water truck.
  • 28:00 - good look at the plane from the opening credits (the shot where we see "Starring Richard Dean Anderson").  That particular pose where he stands over the wing must have been done separately because it doesn't appear in the episode itself. 
  • Nice escape from the freezer by melting the water with the light bulb and then refreezing it inside the lock where it expands.  
  • Big fan of the cook - he's a great character. 
  • Conversation at 42:30:
    • "And I don't give a damn about the money."  ~Dave
    • "They killed a man.  I give a damn about that."  ~MacGyver

Final Analysis:
I wasn't a huge fan of this one as a kid - it's got a 1970's redneck ambience that I wasn't wild about. But as I've gotten older, I've grown to enjoy it more and more.  Just a lot of fun from beginning to end with good MacGyverisms, lots of bad guys, and of course Buddy.  And after all the globetrotting early on in the first season, it's nice to have an episode in the good ol' rural US of A.  Of all the episodes in the whole series, this is the one that feels the most dated to me.  Not in a bad way, but it really feels like we're in the 1970's.  Coming up, my Season 1 streak can't possibly continue, can it?


  1. The only running theme of your "binge" after the last two was that they were both season 1 episodes. I guess that's the common denominator here. Interesting that this one has grown on you as it's declined for me. The episode has a great cast and mostly strong acting performances, but I'm a pretty tough critic when it comes to dumb behavior by incompetent bad guys and there was no shortage of it in this one. Regarding the shot of MacGyver in the opening credits, this must have been the final shot put in the season 1 theme song because all of the other footage came from the first five episodes produced. "Last Stand" was the sixth episode produced and originally scheduled to air three weeks earlier than it did, but the 1985 World Series went seven games and delayed this episode's airing, much to the chagrin of the "MacGyver" crew I'm sure as all the hype surrounding the World Series, which back then had a huge audience, would likely have given "MacGyver" a serious ratings bounce. It ended up getting one anyway in the weeks that followed because of the advertising it got during the highly rated "North and South" miniseries which aired on ABC in early November 1985.

    I agree that this episode has a dated 70s feel to it. A lot of shows from that era had the feel, but MacGyver's early episodes were so much better produced than most of what was on network TV at the time that they didn't really have that same feel. This one operated more within the conventions of your typical 80s action show set stateside. Lewis Van Bergen was actually fairly prolific as an 80s villain, although he usually went without the beard. Either way, he's tall, imposing, and just a rough-looking dude. He was the lead in his own series with the short-lived 1987-88 ABC series "Sable", which was kind of a cool show, but dark and violent for the time. I agree that his Buddy character lit up the screen in this one and his fierce unpredictability heightened the sense of danger than MacGyver and the others in the diner faced. Still, his nitwitted walking around calling MacGyver's name when he was presumably searching for him at the end lost some gravitas for me. And that was kind of a running theme for the episode, some of which you touched upon in your review. The hour basically involved MacGyver doing a bunch of admittedly cool stuff and the story was built around some very foolish behavior by third parties allowing him to get away with it. The most classic example was when MacGyver made the fertilizer bombs, knowing that the bad guys would all come running out at once and leave Kelly, Dave, and Tennison unattended so they could escape out the back door undetected into the waiting truck.

    The truck was supposed to be an armored truck and given that there was a missing armored truck with a driver in the back, it made sense that they'd hide it the back of the semi-trailer and I generally thought their hijacking of this remote desert airstrip to seize control of a chartered plane to escape the country was a good idea, but as you pointed out, why would they blow up the back of the van with the money inside? Pretty convenient for MacGyver that there's an all-magnesium bicycle laying around to perform his blow torch trick, cool as it was.

    Kay Lenz was pretty solid as wingwoman Kelly but I didn't understand her dynamic with Dave. She told MacGyver she was married "once" so apparently they're not husband and wife. What was their relationship? My favorite part of the episode was the escape from the meat locker though. The light bulb stunt is one of those moments that really stands out as this show's early-season creativity, something they lost a little in the middle and later seasons even though I enjoyed them too. A good episode with some overall flaws that stand out to me more a quarter-century later than they did as a boy. I ranked it #111.

    1. No - the theme is 'birds' - Ugly Duckling; Quayle; Sparrow Lake.... =)

    2. Gotta hand it to you for coming up with a clever unifying theme.

    3. And Crane (#39) and the Black Dove (#40). How'd you guess my bird binge?!

    4. That makes sense about the van - I didn't realize it was an armored truck. That Sable show sounds interesting - I'd like to see more Lewis Van Bergen.

    5. Unfortunately I'm betting against "Sable" coming out on DVD! I believe it lasted seven episodes. Here's the relatively nondescript intro.
      Interestingly it looks like the pilot episode is available on You Tube in separate 10-minute fragments.

    6. That intro was really poorly done. And I'm not into comic book stuff - instead they should have had a spin-off called The Buddy Show and I would have signed up.

  2. I thought he said the fishing spot was where his grandpa used to take him? (I think I'd even gone back to re-listen to that part b/c I thought he'd said 'dad' too... now I'm not sure.)

    I love the welding torch MacGyver-ism and the 'Lateral - cranial - impact - enhancer' - but beyond that, this one struggles to keep up with itself.

    As for all of your questions about the truck - it's an armored car and, I *think* there's usually one guy in the back w/ the money the whole time - like a security thing? But, don't quote me on that. (The dood's may have stuffed that guy in there - no idea.) I don't know why they would find some random out of the way airstrip to use to get their score and leave - unless they figured it would be harder to trace, tho, as big as Texas is, why not find an out of the way airstrip there? Texas is f'ing HUGE. And Mac talked 'em into letting him open the door the slower way by appealing to their greed - 'hey - you'll have ALL the money if you let me open the door this way... your way, you risk blowing it all up and that would just suck now wouldn't it?' And I suppose they may have thought they could control the explosion? But that dude had a pretty good sized wedge of C4... so I don't know what they were thinking.

    Like I said in my own review - this episode is a lot of crap happening to get to the MacGyverisms. Which, is okay, but some of the side-plot parts are just blah.

  3. I’m more with Nick than Mark and Highlander on this one. I love it including the 70’s feel which to me feels classic, not dated somehow.
    It doesn’t seem like prime fishing territory, and MacGyver’s got lost which doesn’t seem that likely. There’s an air of menace as he enters and quickly senses it. Buddy is a seriously nasty piece of work amongst a collection of unpleasant and weird villains. The tension between Buddy and MacGyver builds up well and he’s a serious threat although you’d have thought he’d have been even madder when MacGyver knocks him off his bike and stuffing them in the freezer doesn’t seem to be Buddy’s style. Enjoyed MacGyver’s cool ‘lets not fight over me boys’ about who gets to finish him off.
    Another series character gets to ask the pointless question ‘what do you do for a living’….’I move around’… It all helps to build up the MacGyver myth that was more evident in season one.
    The classic arc welder MacGyerism is great but its truly shocking when Buddy shoots the poor security guard anyway after MacGyver’s efforts to prevent him being blown up. Buddy is seriously sociopathic and the killing does serve to demonstrate how little regard for human life he has.
    I agree, the traumatised vet story is a bit hackneyed but it does help to demonstrate Kelly’s loyalty and determination to help her husband.( I got the impression they were married)
    MacGyver kindly gives Kelly his jacket in the freezer –is it the first appearance of the brown leather jacket? – I can’t remember if we’ve seen it before in season 1. As he’s dismantling it, the meat hook bar sort of falls on MacGyver’s head and I wondered if that was meant to happen but MacGyver is at his most laidback, explaining to Kelly what he’s doing and we get a cheerful ‘yes ma’am’.
    I like the description ‘MacGyver’s on the loose’ as the reason the villains don’t take off in the plane but it was a bit lame of them. The phrase ‘They killed a man, I give a damn about that’ is a great MacGyer line. (and one of the few occasions he uses a word even as mild as ‘damn’). We then get the classic MacGyver taking out the bad guys one by one ending with the terrifying Buddy after the MacGyver’s amazing plane tail stunt. Buddy is floored by a great MacGyver leap but doesn’t put up as good a fight as you might expect. MacGyver nurses his bruised hand afterwards but we don’t get an actual ‘shake’.
    Ok.. there are a few plot holes and the annoying vet story but some great MacGyverisms, too numerous to mention, some good stunts (the leap off the tanker, hanging on to the plane) , MacGyver is in charge, has plenty of swagger and is hated by the villains who at least at the beginning presented a serious threat level. What's not to like? Mark and Highlander may find this hard to believe but its in my top 10, at around 9.

    1. I don't find it hard to believe! A great episode in my book.

  4. This episode is weird, but i like it. It's choppy but the main thing that bothers me is buddy's voice. It seems dubbed and don't always match. The other voices seem kinda dubbed too. The show never admits to dubbing, but there are a number of season one characters that don't sound right. It's amazing how the brain works.

    The continuity issues are a bit irritating. Why Arizona? Did they film it there or just put up the flag? And obviously it doesn't fit with his background. Some of these season one episodes have to be an alternate universe, maybe the whole season even. :P

    I don't really have any complaints about doofiness. It's a TV show, they can't always have great villains, or maybe they can. I suspect this will be mid ranked for me. I think only three left now!

  5. Woops i forgot to add the bombs seem to be ANFO bombs, which is what was used in Oklahoma city. Very easy to make and very devastating. Ammonium nitrate and fuel oil. I don't think engine starter would be the best idea. The kerosene they'd have or gasoline would work better. The amount MacGyver sprayed on wouldn't really be enough either.

    The thermite torch was also missing an ingredient. Thermite is rust and aluminium. You can't light it with a match so magnesium shavings are used. On that note, i like how MacGyver always carries strike on anywhere matches. I've always thought those were cool but could never find them anywhere. They aren't exactly safe to keep bunched up in a pocket however.

    1. They very strategically would 'leave out' elements of any of the MacGyverisms that could result in fire/damage/explosions for safety reasons. Either they anticipated people trying to mimic them or something happened and someone did and got hurt, I don't recall which.

  6. I loved the memorably dark, tense atmosphere of this episode, set right at the start with the gun hidden around the corner, and it just builds from there, next with the writing in the mug which I thought was a clever idea. The black dot in palm would have come handy!
    The death of the guard was an utterly shocking demonstration of the threat level – here’s a guy who doesn’t mind shooting someone just to get back at MacGyver for pushing the hot truck door on him!
    The nearly successful escape was an edge-of-the-seat minute, not any less than the one on the boat in Along Came a Spider, and even the shooting of the fisherman to death was a similar kind of bitter surprise to the death of the truck guard. If you like “MacGyver”, you’re likely to like Along Came a Spider. Megan is absolutely awesome, comes up with one ingenious yet simple MacGyver-like solution after another and refuses to give up no matter how dangerous and hopeless the situation is.
    I was surprised to see that the cook didn’t get shot for the escape attempt as I remembered, then I realised that was in a film called Playing Dangerous. Again, MacGyver fans are recommend to check it out. It’s an action movie with formidable villains who shot the cook after taking the family hostage just to ensure they are taken seriously, so ignore comparisons to Home Alone!
    The “lateral cranial impact enhancer was a great moment indeed and MacGyver drops the most danger-defying cocky one-liners all throughout the episode. He nearly got killed for them had he not made himself useful just in the nick of time when the pilot called in.
    I liked that he immediately handed his jacket over in the freezer. He seemed to genuinely be startled by the pole whacking him on the head when he yanked the meat off, I wonder if that was unscripted.
    Probably the only reason I didn’t tape the whole episode was a couple of exceptionally silly bits towards the end, one is the villains’ cartoonish and stupid “MacGyyyyyveeeer!” callouts which was totally at odds with their previous portrayal, the other one MacGyver’s ridiculous takedown of Turk, putting some handkerchief over his mouth, whaaat...??
    Nice character development from Dave and stunts at the end!

  7. I like this one. It seems like RDA hurt his hand at the end of the episode. You can see him closing and opening his hand and touching it with his other hand when talking to Kelly ("be careful what you wish for" part).

  8. One of my favorites of season 1. Watching a Mannix episode ("Sunburst") right now that starts off very similar at a diner with the waitress passing the coffee cup with "Help" written inside. Stephen Kandel was the writer of the Mannix ep, but Judy Burns wrote "Last Stand," with Kandel as the producer. Hmmmm...

  9. Actually, Kandel wasn't the producer of this episode, but as I watched the rest of it, there were more plot elements that were obviously borrowed from the Mannix episode. For example, there was a scene where Mannix thwarts the take-off of a small plane (a cropduster), and also that the waitress' husband is a weakened character like the boyfriend in "Last Stand." It's not an out-and-out remake like the "Mod Squad" episode where Julie was accidentally shot by the mentally handicapped boy, that was remade for Spelling's later series, "Charlie's Angels."