Friday, February 6, 2015

#42: Birth Day

Season: 2

Synopsis in 3 sentences or less:
MacGyver is at a gas station minding his own business when a pregnant woman climbs into his jeep and says she's about to be murdered.  MacGyver drives them to an abandoned warehouse where they are chased by the woman's husband and his army of ex-cons.  She starts having contractions as they are searching for a way out of the building while eluding the bad guys, and they wonder if the baby is going to arrive right then and there.  

Memorable Quote:
Do you know who's following us?   ~MacGyver
Friends of my husband.  ~Elaine
Any reason why?   ~MacGyver
I'm having a girl and he wanted a son. Could you step on it please?  ~Elaine

I enjoy MacGyver's creative use of the fishing pole, and it's a bit like a sword for a rustic knight. First he knocks a bad guy out by hitting him on the head with something (that looks about 4 inches long) tied to the end of the pole.  Then he uses the pole to wrap around a bigger metal pole and whack the bad guy.  Finally, my personal favorite - tying a line across an open door and pulling on it as the motorcyclist runs into it and then goes flying off the bike.  

Nothing much comes to mind.  It is a bit hard to understand how this nice lady got involved with the creepy ex-con. 

Best MacGyverism:
Attaches signal flags to a balloon made from a sail bag.  Dips the sail bag in water to allow the surface tension in the water to plug up the holes in the fabric.  Then inflates bag with helium to create the balloon. 

Other thoughts, observations, and questions I didn’t ask when I was in fourth grade:
  • So MacGyver likes to drive across the city early in the morning just to enjoy the quiet?
  • It's Mr. Woodman from Hearts of Steel and Twenty Questions as the sleazy bad guy! He always was a bit of a sleazeball even when he was supposed to be a good guy.
  • For reasons that I don't know and can't possibly explain, when I was a kid and I heard the characters talking about the "halfway house," I didn't know what that meant and thought they meant a "pancake house." 
  • Poor MacGyver - talk about being in the wrong place at the wrong time.  And it's interesting to see how perky and chipper he is with the gas station attendant.  Season 7 MacGyver would have been down in the dumps right along with the grumpy employee. 
  • Some amazing one-liners from Elaine in this episode - she has a future in comedy. 
  • Not sure why MacGyver intentionally pulls off the road and into the abandoned warehouse.  Oh yeah, I forgot, because it is a great setting for this episode! 
  • 18:32 - I always enjoy when MacGyver taunts the bad guys after tying them up. 
  • This is probably the ultimate "if only MacGyver had a cell phone" episode.  
  • I remember as a kid thinking this episode would have made a fun Nintendo game where you would drive the jeep around the warehouse and avoid bad guys.  
  • 33:50 - time for MacGyver's patented move of affectionately brushing the lady's cheek with his fingers!  
  • Conversation between the cops who see the signal flag balloon:
    • "Those signal flags say somebody needs help."
    • "How do you know that?"
    • "4 years in the Navy's how I know that."

Final Analysis:
Fantastic episode.  Loved this one as a kid, and still do.  Great dialogue, good acting, well filmed, strong female lead, lots of bad guys, and a cool locale in the abandoned warehouse.  And the expectant mom with baby ready to come any time adds an extra layer of humor and meaning. Seems like an episode that would equally appeal to both men and women with something for everyone.  Coming up, I'm having a real hard time differentiating between the next 6 episodes - let's go with the episode with one of my favorite wingmen of all time. 


  1. This episode always jumps out at me as the most vivid snapshot of "MacGyver" in season 2. While I've made it clear that season 2 is not my favorite season, it was still a great season and this episode embodies the formula nicely with fast pacing, clever dialogue, a general degree of lightheartedness balanced with enough action and mayhem to keep it from becoming cartoonish, and a steady drumbeat of MacGyverisms. While I enjoyed this one as a kid, I got a little annoyed at their difficulty in escaping from this factory. Guess it made me claustrophic that they kept getting so close to getting out of there but always ended up stuck or going back in. I don't get that same source of aggravation watching it as an adult and just enjoy the story.

    While I tend to roll my eyes as much as I smile at some of those quirky early season scenes like the exchange with the crabby gas station attendant, you make a good point identifying the contrast with MacGyver's sunny disposition being a welcome change from his own dour, middle-aged stick-in-the-mud persona of the last couple of seasons. Elaine had a great everywoman appeal and was one of MacGyver's better female sidekicks over the years, and I also enjoyed some of her one-liners. I saw Elaine as a little like Crystal/Jennifer from "Runners", being an intelligent young woman whose low self-esteem got her stuck with a lowlife husband, in this case a sleazebag worthy of, well, Eric Woodman! Joseph Lambie was a scene-stealer in all three of his guest-starring roles....the guy you love to hate. I have own quirky association with the term "halfway house"....for me it hearkens me back to the mid-80s sitting at the breakfast table drinking my hot Nestle Quik listening to my mom's old Rosanne Cash tape that she nearly wore out listening to every morning, which featured a song called "Halfway House."

    Back to "Birth Day", I admire its all-around fast pacing and what Al described as a "jumping out of the frying pan" effect in his review of "The Human Factor" where there was one obstacle after another to deflect. And while all of the various gauntlets MacGyver devised for the villains were cool, his method of dispatching Andrew at the end was quite lame, sliding underneath the Jeep and somehow pulling him by the feet under the Jeep and knocking him out. I wasn't buying that as an effective means of taking a full-sized man out, and certainly didn't live up to the tactics he deployed to snuff out Andrew's underlings. Anyway, fun episode that encapsulated the season 2 experience. Since season 2 for me generally was a tick below the series' overall center of gravity, my ranking of #81 feels appropriate.

    1. Your analysis of Season 2 is well put, and I also like your description of late season MacGyver as "sour, middle aged stick-in-the-mud." Especially watching these episodes out of order, his personality change is even more evident for me.

      And actually it just occurred to me that as a kid I thought of the halfway house less as a pancake house and more like a bed and breakfast (where I guess they could have served pancakes). And later in life when I learned it was for rehabilitating ex-cons, it was kind of a downer because I liked the idea of the bed and breakfast.

    2. Unfortunately, MacGyver's diminishing presence as a fun character extended after the series into the movies, where he continued to be the grumpy straight man shaking his head in frustration at his more colorful sidekicks. Not sure whose idea it was to turn MacGyver into such a curmudgeon. In a way it makes sense that he would become jaded , insular, and cynical after the years of disappointments and betrayals he endured, but it felt more like laziness on the part of the writers to turn MacGyver into the guy who simply reacts to secondary characters' colorfulness rather than play along or instigate some of his own as he did in earlier seasons.

      Good thing you learned what a halfway house was before you went knocking on the door asking for pancakes one morning. :)

    3. I wonder too if the character is a reflection of RDA (since I've always believed he was just playing himself for the most part). And maybe by the end of the run the fun had worn off and the injuries, frustrations with the network, etc. just added up and seeped into the character.

    4. I think you may be on to something. While RDA was always a vocal supporter of the "MacGyver" series, it's hard to disagree with the season 7 DVD reviews that identify him as looking bored and distracted. The next time I watch the series in full, I'll have to keep count of how many of those vintage season 7 grimaces emerge on his face. I bet we're looking at at least 25!

    5. When you rewatch, do you watch it in full or do you pick and choose episodes here and there?

    6. I usually watch them all in succession. I never skip any of them when on my every 3-4 years view-all tangents, but in interim periods such as now I'll occasionally go on a lark and watch one that I'm in the mood for for whatever reason.

    7. I remember we discussed the change in MacGyver's character over time in the comments on the Pilot episode. I agree that there must have been an element of RDA just losing the enthusiasm and freshness that comes with the first seasons in a new role together with very long hours and the shooting schedule. I think he said by the end of the series that he 'had no life'. See my comment on the Pilot for Michael Greenburg on RDA/MacGyver too - he obviously thought that they became pretty interchangeable over time , in a good way.

  2. Fun Fact: That cop who reads the signal balloons goes on to play Rear Admiral AJ Chegwidden - it's John M. Jackson. =)

    Beyond that, this is one of those episodes that makes me groan because they spend so much time running 'round and 'round that warehouse. Also - that woman directly telling her hubby exactly what she was going to do? Please drop the Idiot-ball, m'kay? It's like the bad guy waxing on about his plan to the good guy rather than just killing the good guy and executing his freakin' plan!

    1. It seems like in general you prefer the later episodes to the earlier ones, is that safe to say? And Al likes the early ones best. And Mark and I like middle/early.

    2. Nah, not really. I have episodes from all the seasons all up and down my countdown. I think it's that the ones you've been rolling here recently are just near the bottom of my list. And by 'bottom', I'm meaning anything under #80.

    3. Nick, at the end of your countdown, I'll post my season by season breakdown, listing the episodes from each season in their pecking order as well the average ranking from each of the seven seasons. I just added them up a few days ago and there were a couple of minor surprises when I did the math.

    4. Awesome. At the pace I've been going lately, we may not have to wait too much longer!

  3. MacGyver is both cool and chirpy as he drives around early in the morning even after his encounter with the grumpy attendant and the tyre as he throws the spanner nonchalantly into the jeep. It’s a nice touch that the annoying red car which disturbs the peace turns out to be driven by the bad guy.
    The hallway house seems very fancy for an ex-cons’ hostel, I can see why you might have thought this one was a B&B with its twee ornaments, pictures, antique furniture and the strelitzias (flowers) in a vase on the kitchen table!
    Its another case of MacGyver being in the wrong place at the wrong time and ending up the knight in armour to the damsel in distress (I can see we’re going to have to face the real knight in armour episode before too long). I agree, Elaine is a cool character with some good line’ Its going to be ok ….relax MacGyver’.
    The warehouse at the docks this time provides a playground for MacGyver’s jeep to take a starring role by itself. It’s a good advert for the versatility of the Jeep (and its traction) especially when it gets them out of the pit. At one point MacGyver catches his finger on the winch with an ‘Ow’. I wonder if that was in the script or if it was RDA for real. I’ve read somewhere hat he was always getting nicks and cuts from the things he had to do as well as from fiddling about with the SAK. I liked the scene where the tied-up ex-con says ‘That guy with her isn’t normal, man’. No he’s MacGyver!
    MacGyver’s fishing rod casting is awesome and even he thinks so with a slightly cocky smirk after the first stunt. There’s a certain unity to using the rod to take out all three bad guys in slightly different ways but I agree, taking out Harriman should have been way more exciting than it was. Also enjoyed the explanation of the science behind helium molecules – good stuff. The ending is slightly clichéd but enjoyable as MacGyver paces up and down behind the ambulance like an expectant father himself.
    All in all a feel-good episode and ranked almost identically for me.

  4. For the past week or so, I had been trying to remember what episode had the gas station where he had a fight with a guy. I wasnt even sure after awhile if it was MacGyver or another show. Finally, on a whim, I popped this one in and almost jumped out of my chair.

    We always have those cute things where we completely misperceive something as children.

    I didnt like this episode in my memory, but rewatching it, it actually is pretty good.

    You know, I never noticed any change in his demeanor thru the seasons. You kind of ruined it for me now. :(

    1. And here we are at the last episode in my recent total rewatch on Amazon prime video! This one doesn't stick with me well but i have the admit it's a great episode and really clever idea. I love the gas station scene but there's no way that guy would keep his job with an attitude like that.

      I never understand why someone says theyre going to expose the crime. Don't you think they might kill you for sure now? I get the confrontation thing, but to say what you're going to do??

      I think he pulled into the warehouse expecting to throw them off and go weaving around the property but ended up caught.

      While watching this, i had an experience you know too traumatically well: i was a few minutes from the end when the internet went out. So i had to wait awhile for it to come back and it was the last one i had to watch the finish the series! Fortunately I'd seen it already twice and i have them on DVD and it was easy to get back once the internet came on.

      And now... I'll be taking some time to figure out my own rankings. I'm not sure how I'm going to do that but i think I'll print out strips with each episode and sort them out by hand. I'll let you know when I'm done and maybe I'll make a blog too with reviews and other stuff.

    2. Congrats on finishing the series Mikey! I appreciate your reading the blog and your comments and I've enjoyed hearing your thoughts. Once you've made your rankings, if you want me to I can create a page for them like I did for Mark and Al.

  5. Well that's me finished with 'new' episodes until CBS Action resumes at season 6 in February, fingers crossed of course!

    I wasn't too keen on this one really, or the preceding 'Penny-fest' of Soft Touch, certainly compared to the great run of four before them. Contrary to the opinions above, I found Elaine a bit wooden and stop-start in her delivery, sometimes she was really abrupt which seemed a bit unfair on MacGyver who basically saved her life ten times over. MacGyver himself was in good form but the criminals were a bit one-dimensional, aside from Harriman who was just horrible to the core; it was a bit sickening to say the least to hear him say he was ready to kill his unborn child.

    Happy Christmas to Nicholas and any other MacGyver fans who are reading this.

    1. Thanks Ed, Merry Christmast to you also!

  6. Haven't seen every episode yet but this is possibly my favorite. The pace is great and I think it pretty much takes place in real time with the action taking about the same 46 minutes or so that the episode does. That makes it pretty unique in 80s television.

    1. That's a good point about the real-time aspect of it, I hadn't thought of that before.

  7. "Lowlight: Nothing much comes to mind. It is a bit hard to understand how this nice lady got involved with the creepy ex-con."

    He pretended to be someone he is not and she fell in love with him.

    "For reasons that I don't know and can't possibly explain, when I was a kid and I heard the characters talking about the "halfway house," I didn't know what that meant and thought they meant a "pancake house."

    Hahhaha pancake house! Cute. :)