Saturday, February 7, 2015

#40: Easy Target

Season: 4

Synopsis in 3 sentences or less:
MacGyver and Pete are returning home from a ski trip when they are kidnapped by terrorists who have stolen an EMP (electromagnetic pulse).  The terrorists threaten to cripple a city unless their leader is released. MacGyver and Pete escape and find the high voltage lab where the EMP battery is being charged, but Pete is captured once again.  

Memorable Quote:
Hey, I was gonna return the gas can.  ~MacGyver

Highlight:
The scene with MacGyver and Pete tied up and holding grenades in the cellar is a classic.  

Lowlight:
This isn't a lowlight per se, but I think the writers missed an opportunity with the aforementioned escape from the cellar.  I love the idea of MacGyver not knowing what to do and then Pete trying to figure something out.  But they didn't take it far enough - once Pete threw out the idea of replacing the pin, MacGyver came up with the idea of using the ski lift ticket.  Then MacGyver took charge of actually replacing the pin and also using the C-4 to blow open the doors.  It would have been nice for MacGyver to be stumped and for Pete to come up with an idea, the creative angle, and the execution. 

Best MacGyverism:
See lowlight. 

Other thoughts, observations, and questions I didn’t ask when I was in fourth grade:
  • Great opening as MacGyver and Pete are bickering in the jeep coming home from a ski trip. Turns out Pete was on the advanced slope where he didn't belong and got into a confrontation with another skier (who "owned" the slope), and then MacGyver came to Pete's defense and got banned for life.  I always enjoy episodes that deal with the MacGyver/Pete relationship, and we're off to a good start here.  
  • 3:29 mark - looks like the actor who played Tarik in Passages (the guy who throws MacGyver off the parking garage).  
  • Once again, MacGyver displays an amazing knack for being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
  • Not sure what the incentive is for the bad guys to kidnap MacGyver and Pete, though it's good they did or else there wouldn't have been an episode.   
  • The lady with the black hair, purple fleece, and machine gun makes for a memorable and distinctive villain. 
  • Conversation at 12:38:
    • "History in the making, and you two are going to be part of it."  ~Jonathan
    • "You know, we'd be happy to just pass on that."  ~MacGyver
  • I was surprised to learn just now that the bad guy's name is Jonathan.  Wouldn't a German name to match his accent have been a better choice?
  • If the bad guy wants MacGyver and Pete to be witnesses to his plan, why put live grenades in their hands?
  • Another memorable conversation a bit later:
    • "I'm trying, Pete.  You know, maybe you can come up with something."  ~MacGyver
    • "All right, maybe I can!"  ~Pete
  • "Ever heard of a party game called pass the apple?"  ~MacGyver
  • Black Dove Front is a great name for a villainous group.  And its four members seem like a bit of a motley crew.
  • Interesting how all the threats in this episode are directed to a generic city (i.e. they never mention the city by name - they just call it "the city"). 
  • While the televised threat is airing, it sounds like some throwback Season 1 music in the background.  
  • 32:30 - nice job by Pete to set the stakes of the issue = a threat to the entire nation. Like The Ten Percent Solution, it's extra compelling when MacGyver has a global-sized problem to deal with. 
  • MacGyver has a terrible plan in the high voltage lab.  What makes him think he's going to climb the ladder and unplug the cord without anyone seeing him or breaking through his wimpy little door stop?  And his idea to have Pete pull the cable and trip the bad guys will slow them down...for 5 seconds until they get back up.  
  • The city only has one vantage point?
  • How would these guys even know if their leader was being released as they asked?
  • Good music during the EMP explosion - we just heard it last review (The Spoilers) and also during Twice Stung.
  • That general in the denouement is the nerdiest looking general I've ever seen. 

Final Analysis:
Fun episode.  I value it for its simplicity - there's nothing fancy, just some bad guys trying to destroy a city.  It has a Season 1 adventure-heavy flavor but in the great woodsy Vancouver setting, and the villains' plan is Bond-like in scope (in fact, Goldeneye also involves an EMP), but yet the whole thing still seems mildly realistic.  And the MacGyver/Pete dynamic also helps take this episode to the next level.  Coming up, a memorable female sidekick for MacGyver.  

7 comments:

  1. One cool thing I noticed is that if you enter the address below (which I found on the rdanderson.com locations page) in Google Maps and click on Street View, you can see what the gas station looks like present day. Looks like the phone booth has been removed.

    28568 Dewdney Trunk Road, Maple Ridge

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  2. We're actually pretty close on this one. You could have given me more heartburn with other season 4 choices but I really like this one. The show was on a spectacular creative roll at this point in its run and the momentum continued with this one, my favorite episode involved genuinely sinister terrorists. While MacGyver stumbled and bumbled his way into this one as he did so many other episodes after the first couple of seasons, the plot was still well constructed and the villains were sinister, memorable, and the actors playing them all very capable. The tone of this one was particularly violent and in just about every season 4 episode, there was a moment of jaw-dropping darkness. This one didn't disappoint on that front either with the EMT truck driver musing how the diner's corn beefed hash will "make you think you've died and gone to heaven" seconds before he and his partner are gunned down by an Uzi-wielding terrorist. It doesn't get much darker than that on "MacGyver"!

    I also got a kick out of Mac and Pete bickering early on and how the ski trip from hell because a very clever plot device to replace the pin on the grenades. The terrorists also impressed and I appreciated how thorough their plot was involving blowing out telephone switching stations and videotaped messages sent over the airwaves due to lightly guarded broadcast stations. I even sort of got the logic of keeping MacGyver and Pete alive to confirm the Black Dove Front's involvement in the attack they had planned. I also really liked how MacGyver deconstructed their plot after seeing the video and making the connection to PowerTech. The military and government figures denying the possibility of such an attack happening when interviewed by reporters was also compelling given the old adage that "you know things are going badly when they're telling you not to panic" and you can just imagine a real-life scenario where a major terrorist attack was pending and the military goes into full deniability mode. Everything just seemed to come together very smoothly which is interesting because Rick Drew, the writer of this episode, said the location where they originally planned to film backed out at the last minute and they had to scramble and retool the script in a hurry to account for the location changes.

    The tone continued to be dark and ominous at PowerTech with one terrorist getting fried and another shot in the chest. MacGyver's plan was indeed weak and Pete ended up paying for it. And while the "only one vantage point of the city" bit was pretty silly, the closing scenes with the EMP were also fantastic, complete with an epic rolling-down-the-hill-in-the-mud fight scene and MacGyver's clever way of turning the machine on itself, set to the music we both loved. The music was great all around, a potpourri of Dennis McCarthy's greatest hits. They said the Black Dove Front was said to be "Mediterranean" which I suspect was supposed to be more along the lines of Greece, Turkey, or the former Yugoslavia more so than German, to your point of the group's leader. Anyway, fantastic episode very representative of why I loved season 4 so much as the crew just seemed to be sharp and on their toes with smart writing, darker stories, great direction, and impressive locations with vastly improved acting on a consistent basis. I ranked this one #32.

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    Replies
    1. I didn't get the part about the telephone switching stations - what was the goal in blowing them out? And I thought it was mildly amusing the way the EMT guy was carrying on about the amazing food at the gas station!

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    2. MacGyver's deduction was that blowing out the phone grid in the rural area outside of the city "created a dead zone to work within", particularly in that there was no telephone coverage at PowerTech which would make their takeover of the place less risky. Little chance of PowerTech engineers phoning for help before or during their armed raid.

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  3. I don't know that the baddies in this one are all that smart. They have one plan with no back up. If they're plan goes to shit, they're kind of stuck with no plan. Granted, they don't expect MacGyver to be a worthy adversary - he's just a guy in a Jeep - but that's no reason to be sloppy in your planning and assume everything will go right.

    And Mac sort of destroyed some pretty expensive equipment taking out the EMP generator. I'd think the power company people might be a little ticked off about that.

    I really like the scene w/ the grenades and them figuring out how to not blow up to get out, but that's about the only part of this episode I truly enjoy.

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  4. I think we all enjoyed the initial bickering of the recurring holiday-gone-wrong theme. You’d have thought they would have learnt by now especially after ‘out in the cold’ that a skiing holiday together was not a good idea!
    It seems unlikely that MacGyver would be so disorganised as to run out of petrol but it does give him the chance to be in the wrong place at the wrong time again. I agree that the shooting of the truck drivers was very brutal and quite shocking dramatically in contrast to their homely conversation.
    The coal bunker scene is good and I too liked the thought of Pete at least starting the ball rolling with an idea. There is some good suspense as he substitutes the grenade pin but I’m not sure how MacGyver taking the C4 out of the grenade and using it more elaborately made it any less likely to blow them up .
    MacGyver gets to hotwire a car! That’s made my day.
    There’s rather too many scenes of the terrorists carrying out their plan in this one and not quite enough MacGyver and Pete but the complicated science presents an interesting threat for MacGyver to work out .Just before they broadcast their message there’s a kid’s programme on the telly - another nice contrast between normal humdrum stuff and the deadly serious.
    MacGyver’s sporting a very cool watch with three dials.
    I agree with you, MacGyver’s plan at the plant is not well thought through; he’s spotted really early on, Pete’s a bit slow and keeping them in the room fails dismally. Another brutal shooting this time of the terrorists themselves. I never like it when the villains do this at it seems very unlikely that they would reduce their advantage in this way and it also immediately lowers the threat level of villains that MacGyver will have to dispose of! They’re off to Jericho point – not ‘Jericho’ again!
    The terrorists tie Pete pretty loosely to the tree; he might have made a bit of an effort to wriggle free. The last few minutes are excellent; I’m not sure what MacGyver did with the walky talkies but it works. His leap and the fight downhill in the mud is great stuff and his last ditch ruse for disabling the EMP is brilliant. I enjoyed the ending with MacGyver’s simple and slightly sheepish, ‘sorry’ to the military type for destroying a multi-million dollar piece of equipment. We all know MacGyver’s general feelings towards military types as he ‘feels a stonewall coming on here.’
    All in all a good one and would be ranked higher if the terrorists hadn’t taken up so much screen time,so just nudged into the early 50's for me I think.

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  5. They had the portable TV (I miss those) with the news conference that said Shakti would not be released. Thats how they knew.

    Great episode. I agree that Pete shouldve done it all, and who doesnt love a team up episode. Thanks for noting the actual location. One time I really want to go visit as many of these spots in BC as I can. BC is such a beautiful place. Im glad they filmed so much in a place Id like to spend time in. Wonder if we can see the spot where the jeep was parked. There was that weird stream flood going across the road and there is a nearby brook. Maybe its there.

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