Saturday, February 7, 2015

#41: The Spoilers

Season: 3

Synopsis in 3 sentences or less:
MacGyver and Toberman, a Vietnam veteran turned mountain man, spot some men dumping toxic waste into a creek.  Toberman's dog drinks the water and dies, and Toberman agrees to testify against the company suspected of the dumping.  The company boss frames Toberman for murder, and Toberman and MacGyver break into the headquarters at night to try and set the record straight. 

Memorable Quote:
You oughta be more careful, Mr. Farber.  You almost fell.   ~MacGyver

Three words: Daniel "Earthquake" Toberman.  Awesome character and a fantastic wingman for MacGyver (I'm vaulting him to the top of the Wingman list for now).  Why couldn't the Phoenix Foundation have hired him as MacGyver's personal bodyguard?  Imagine if MacGyver took him along on all of his adventures to provide the muscle as MacGyver provided the brains - they'd be unstoppable!  That big guy from Bitter Harvest who was throwing MacGyver through the glass? Say hello to Toberman!  The Egyptian guy who threw MacGyver over the parking garage ledge in Passages?  Try doing that to Toberman!  The actor, former pro boxer Randall "Tex" Cobb, isn't going to win any academy awards, but he does succeed in creating a tough yet likable character in the Earl Dent mode.  In fact, it's too bad they never had a Toberman/Dent joint episode appearance - that would have been fun.  

The part in the beginning where the polluters dump the pink sludge in the creek makes my stomach turn.  

Best MacGyverism:
Inflates a tube that expands and bursts a car windshield as a distraction, and then uses a chlorine gas mix to smoke out the bad guys. 

Other thoughts, observations, and questions I didn’t ask when I was in fourth grade:
  • We start things off with MacGyver collecting a water sample from a creek while the snow falls.  It's "close to home," as MacGyver says, even if the northern winter scene doesn't feel much like L.A.  Nevertheless, the falling snow in the great outdoors leads to some beautiful shots.  
  • How could the guy at the disposal company (played by Allan Lysell who we just saw in Bitter Harvest) have learned Toberman's name and identity?
  • Fun moment at 16:23 when MacGyver and Toberman go undercover to get access to the disposal company, and MacGyver presents the security guy with a "hot load."
    • "A hot what?"  ~Security guy
    • "A hot loooaddd" ~MacGyver
  • 20:26 - great moment where Toberman makes eye contact with the dumper he spotted from the beginning and then charges him. 
  • How can those empty suits on the Environmental agency panel let the Harvard sleazeball lawyer badger Toberman like that and then come down on Toberman when he responds? Argh! 
  • 34:28 - why does MacGyver walk upright on the steel beam (like a balance beam)?  I would have crawled.  And similarly to Walking Dead, this episode spends a good five minutes on MacGyver sneaking around.  Probably not the best use of time for the average viewer, but I don't mind it because I've always enjoyed the element in spy-type movies or shows where the good guy sneaks around a complex full of bad guys while trying to stay invisible.  I remember sometimes as a kid in school I'd pretend that there were hostiles everywhere (which in some cases was true) and I'd see how long I could move around without being spotted.  I was a weird kid.  
  • What a cute dog at the end!  And a perfect way to end the episode - MacGyver surprises Toberman with an adorable little pup.  Fun fact: I reached out to Emily Kuroda (who plays the Phoenix lawyer), and she said that originally her character was supposed to run off with Toberman at the end, but at the last minute they thought a dog would be a better choice.  "So I lost out to a dog," she says. 

Final Analysis:
Great episode.  I've said my piece on Toberman, and there's also strong bad guys, a plot that flows, solid action, and a memorable outdoors scene in the beginning.  Coming up next, let's take a trip to Season 4 - maybe we'll make Mark a little nervous!  


  1. There was plenty to enjoy in this episode and I've always been a little intrigued that among various "favorite episode" trackings among fans, this episode typically rates in the lowest tier. I don't quite get what people don't like about it....compared to some of the episodes where it's more obvious why some people wouldn't like it. I will say, however, that this was another episode where I enjoyed the first half more than the second half and I rate it at the lower end of the middle of the pack in my rankings. Interestingly, this one tied for being the highest-rated episode of MacGyver's third season on its original airing in March 1988. The episode it tied with...your favorite "Kill Zone", ironically another episode that featured a very emotional scene of a dog dying.

    The opening was very cool with MacGyver in his element in the woods in the middle of a conveniently timed snow storm that gives the setting a little more gravitas and visual appeal. While the polluters dumping their sludge in the river was infuriating, the toughest scene for me was seeing Buddy drink it and die instantly, denying Toberman the only friend he had left. MacGyver's ability to get to Toberman and appeal to his sense of justice in the scene that followed was all effective, and I loved seeing Earthquake ride the bus into the city and tangle with the muggers who he easily dispatched. The flashback scenes were also effective in giving the character some depth and while Randall "Tex" Cobb was undeniable not a great actor, he faked it reasonably well through most of this hour. Agreed that the scene where MacGyver and Toberman pretended to be deliverymen dropping off a "hot load" at the front gate was a scream.

    Some odd narrative turns were taken in the second half though as Farber got to be his own attorney who cross-examined Earthquake at an environmental hearing and bring out his fury before that odd frame where Gray flipped his partner to his death and framed Earthquake for it (very convenient that the two of them were by themselves in the middle of the afternoon in the center of a heavily trafficked urban center and there wasn't a single witness to back up Toberman). An interesting aside that Branscombe Richmond who played Gray was Lorenzo Lamas' sidekick in the long-running syndicated action show "Renegade" in the 90s which I didn't watch much of but was one of the few action shows in the mid-to-late 90s that found an audience. And I'm a little less willing to forgive the extended scenes of MacGyver bouncing around on Chemco's storage bins sneaking in to break Earthquake out as they seemed like weak filler scenes. Admittedly though, seeing him walk that steel beam and nearly get spotted was more exciting that watching him crawl around under the stage for 10 minutes on "Walking Dead". The final moments were exciting though with that cool intertube in the truck cab bit and Earthquake busting right through his handcuffs (seriously??) to facilitate the capture of the sleazy Farber (and Allan Lysell!!).

    Fascinating comments from Emily Kuroda and I'm really glad the writers went with Earthquake getting a dog to replace Buddy at the end as it was a fantastic scene, one of the scenes USA dropped the ball on the most by erasing it from their syndicated broadcasts (they couldn't have made their edit during the scenes of MacGyver jumping around on Chemco's storage bins??!?!) but it made it fun to revisit the scene when I bought the DVDs. Really glad they didn't go the route of hooking Toberman up with Karen (because she's Asian?! Really?!?!). A solid episode that wasn't a favorite but ranked #94 for me....and being the 94th best episode of this series is still an impressive achievement!

  2. As for going to season 4 next, all but one of that season's lower-hanging fruit has been picked on my I'm nervous, man! I'm nervous! Wild that half of season 3 episodes are still yet to come in your top-40.

    1. It's interesting that so far you only have 2 season 4 episodes in your top 40 (The Challenge at 12 and Gold Rush at 24). I guess we're generally in agreement on the best episodes vs. the low hanging fruit from that season. Based on your comment above, I'm guessing that of the 8 season 4's that I have in my top 40, you will have 7 that match.

    2. 6 of your remaining 8 season 4 episodes are in my top-40. One is in the middle of the pack and the other is in the bottom third.

  3. This one ranks really low for me - the Vietnam flashbacks slow the pacing down too much for me. The plot is fine, but the story just takes forever.

    I've noticed that even after seeing all of the episodes a dozen or more times, the ones that I didn't love on initial viewing, I still don't like better than that original. I have my 'go to' episodes and the ones that I will sit through if I'm doing a whole re-watch, but maybe don't pay as much attn to when they're on. I like all the episodes, I just like some a lot more than others. =)

    1. Are there any you didn't like on the initial viewing that you've grown to really like? There are several where that was the case for me....most notably "Two Times Trouble" and "The Escape".

    2. None that I can think of. I did my initial rankings entirely from memory, then watched all the episodes in that order. Some episodes got moved around a little, but most didn't move more than 5 or 6 spots up or down.

  4. This is an okay episode but doesn't have a particular resonance with me. Like Highlander, I have episodes I'm always up for revisiting but this wouldn't be one although its a reasonable plot and Tobermann is a sympathetic character.

    The hazchem waste is a convenient fluorescent pink so we can see it ; I hate it when the dog dies; you can see that coming. I agree with Mark, MacGyver deals with Tobermann sympathetically, as we might expect, and doesn't push him too far too soon.
    The first trip to the plant is exciting and Tobermann and MacGyver make a good team ( I like with the wingman idea) with Toberman doing most of the fighting. A body rolls across the scene just as the fight ends and I thought it was MacGyver but then he seems to appear from the side so perhaps he it was one of the goons that he actually managed to knock over.

    The longhaired sidekick is just unbelievably trusting; he's ruthless enough to kill his partner without a second thought but it obviously hadn't occurred to him that his boss would do the same to him.
    For the return to the plant at night, I agree, there's just too much of MacGyver creeping around in the dark to find a way in. Toberman seems to go in down the drain - would you go down a drain at a dodgy chemical waste disposal plant? Nice line from McGyver about his Grandpa giving him a ' chemistry set and a subscription to Popular Mechanics' just before he describes the plant as 'one big chemistry set'. Its fun to imagine MacGyver just being let loose in a chemical plant to play all day! I agree that the tyre in the cab MacGyverism is good.
    The puppy scene at the end is very heartwarming but had they drugged the dog? I've never seen such a sedate puppy!
    I think I preferred watching this second time around to the first but wouldn't rate it too high.- Just too much stuff happening on a very dark set that made it difficult to see what was going on. Around the 85 mark for me.

  5. I appreciated Farber as the villain in this episode. He seemed smarter than a lot of other MacGyver villains. Plus he has Branscombe Richmond and Tom Rosales Jr working for him.

  6. "In fact, it's too bad they never had a Toberman/Dent joint episode appearance - that would have been fun."

    Oh that would have been AWESOME! :) Damn! Missed opportunity! :(

  7. Hey, does anyone know what movie the Vietnam flashbacks might be from? thanks