Tuesday, March 31, 2015

#12: The Endangered

Season: 3

Synopsis in 3 sentences or less:
After a brush with death, MacGyver heads to the mountains to visit Karen, an old girlfriend who is a park ranger.  He is surprised to see that she has a serious boyfriend, and he struggles to come to terms with it.  Meanwhile, some poachers who are shooting bears on park land end up wounding Karen and then try to kill her and MacGyver. 

Memorable Quote:
Now I know why we never say goodbye.  Too damn hard.   ~Karen

The scene where MacGyver is sleeping (or pretending to) and Karen's ranger boyfriend Sam comes home. As Karen and Sam talk quietly and the Lost Love theme plays in the background, we see the sorrow and regret in MacGyver's eyes, and then he is startled as Sam throws his cowboy hat on a nearby chair. A somewhat tragic yet poignant moment that gives the character depth and makes us empathize with him in a powerful way, and it's perfectly played by RDA.

Hard to think of something. I guess I'll go with the Earl character (played by frequent guest star Robin Mossley) - he seems overly wimpy and not too bright (not unlike Wilt Bozer, another Mossley character). 

Best MacGyverism:
Some good ones to choose from.  I like how he grinds the limonite rock into a bright powder and sprinkles it on some pieces of wood to form an arrow that the search helicopter can see. 

Other thoughts, observations, and questions I didn’t ask when I was in fourth grade:
  • I love the juxtaposition in the opening as the loud 80's nightclub abruptly gives way to a helicopter flying over the woods.  Very effective.  And then the great opening continues with some old musical favorites: the Lost Love theme immediately segueing into the Jack of Lies music as MacGyver sees Karen. 
  • You can practically smell the pine-scented air emanating from the television screen. I talked recently in The Invisible Killer recap about why I love the nature episodes and why I had wanted to be a park ranger once upon a time. It's also worth mentioning that I'm an INFP on the Meyers-Briggs personality profile, and I think the NF (Intuitive/Feeling) part is especially relevant in how I rank the episodes and what appeals to me.  There are several episodes that may have a better plot, production value, etc than this episode does, but the episodes like this one that are filmed in the woods of Vancouver often get extra credit from me because they make me feel quite warm and fuzzy.
  • I'm a big Karen fan.  She's intelligent, capable, and has great chemistry with MacGyver. She's not afraid to call him out or stand up for herself when she feels that he's out of line. And I think she would have been great for him - an outdoorsy park ranger seems like just his type. For that reason, I'm putting her at #1 on the top Love Interests list.  Karen is played very well by Moira Walley-Beckett who has gone on to be a featured writer for some show called "Breaking Bad," not sure if you've heard of it.
  • Another great moment where MacGyver sees the big boots in Karen's cabin and wonders who they belong to.  And then it seems like a goof where Karen says "you didn't just expect to fly back into my life after three years," despite MacGyver saying earlier they had a relationship in college. Are they implying that MacGyver is only three years out of college? 
  • It looks like a real bear that is in actually in front of MacGyver and Karen in the scene by the lake (as opposed to some kind of special effect). Maybe they had someone with a tranquilizer standing off camera in case the bear made a move. I didn't quite understand the humor in MacGyver's joke about the difference between the grizzly and the black bear, and it leads to the following cringeworthy conversation:
    • "That's an old joke."  ~Karen
    • "I'm an old boyfriend."  ~MacGyver

  • Interesting how MacGyver says his brush with death got him to thinking about what's important.  What about the other 257 brushes with death from earlier in the series?
  • This episode leads the way with "stuntmen making cameos."
    • Steve Blalock (RDA's stuntman) as Sam the ranger
    • Don Davis (Elcar's stuntman) as one of the poachers
    • Vince Deadrick, Jr. (another RDA stuntman) as a ranger
  • I like the scene in the restaurant and MacGyver's quick head turn when he hears the waitress mentioning the bear steak. Though I'd think having bear on the menu that close to the park would have aroused some suspicion before MacGyver arrived on the scene.  And then a fun conversation with the waitress:
    • "So what'll it be, cherokee?" ~Waitress
    • "How about a salad."  ~MacGyver
    • "And?"  ~Waitress
    • "House dressing."  ~MacGyver
  • The redneck poachers are surprisingly competent, especially Don Davis's character, Wyatt, who always seems to know just what MacGyver is up to (reminiscent of Chanthara in The Road Not Taken).  Eddie, the head poacher, is played with great menace by John Dennis Johnston. According to IMDB, Eddie and Wyatt's last name is Porter, so maybe they're supposed to be brothers, but later Eddie tells Wyatt that he'll kill his family if he walks away, so maybe not.  
  • I wonder if the ranger cabin is the same one as the Phil Crow cabin in Trail of Tears. At first glance it looks similar from the outside.
  • MacGyver's use of the tranquilizer darts to take out the bad guys made me wonder why he can't always have them as part of his arsenal.  He could get the Phoenix Foundation to order or develop a high powered tranquilizer gun that wouldn't kill people but could put them down accurately and from distance.  Think of how many times that would have come in handy.  
  • A symbolic handoff at the end as MacGyver delivers the wounded Karen into the arms of Ranger Sam. Almost brings a tear to the eye. 

Final Analysis:
The warm and fuzzy factor is off the charts in this one, a wilderness adventure in a national park with elements of romance, longing, and loss.  Just as in The Negotiator, we see some great subtleties in acting from RDA, who masterfully plays the part of an old boyfriend coming to grips with the fact that his former love that he left on his own terms has now moved on without him. Great story, great music, great acting, great locale, great episode.

Now we move to the top 11. You may remember that I mentioned in previous posts that there's one episode from each season.  Given that I specified "top 11" rather than "top 10," you may surmise that perhaps one of our seasons will be formally laid to rest with the next episode recap.  


  1. This is a very solid episode and I can't disagree with any of your points in the review. I don't have the emotional connection to it that you do but it's a great hour of television with above-average acting and character development, aside from my pet peeve of how any one of 73 girlfriends MacGyver had in college is always implied to have been THE girl that got away depending on the episode. This was the episode that implied to have been a spec script, so it's easy to imagine there was less input than usual from the producers during the pre-production phase, which may partially explain why, for instance, this one close brush with death sends MacGyver to the woods to the loving arms of an ex-girlfriend.

    Now I mostly like Karen and would qualify her as the most impressive of MacGyver's ex-loves (when your competition is Ellen Jerico, Roxie Yates, and Lisa Kohler, simply not being homicidal puts you on a pretty short list). The actress nailed the role and I had no idea she's now a writer for "Breaking Bad" (I've been dragging my feet for years to get around to watching that show!). I do have one gut-level grievance with Karen, even though it's not at all her fault. Even since college, I had a viscerally defensive reaction to her and for years couldn't figure out why....until it hit me that she just looks like this snooty girl I went to college with named Stephanie who thought she was better than everyone else in the room.....but since nobody here is volunteering to be my therapist, enough about that! MacGyver's reactions to the news of Sam--and even his cringeworthy line--really lifted those scenes to the next level and showcased the kind of emotion we could have used more of in the last season and a half when MacGyver became less a three-dimensional character and more a catalyst to advance each week's plot. The tearjerking Randy Edelman soap opera music from "Lost Love" heightened the emotional impact, including in the epilogue. Even though all of Edelman's music in this episode was lifted from prior episodes, it was the final episode chronologically to use Randy Edelman music in the score.

    Agreed that the villains were competent and I liked that they all had their own personalities. Earl was definitely the lamest (and the stock footage of the "deer in the prairie" that he shot was comical for all the wrong reasons too) but Eddie and Wyatt were interesting to watch, especially as it became clear that Eddie was getting off on the hunt itself as he chased MacGyver and Karen through the woods. As Minnesota's esteemed former Governor once said "You don't know what's hunting is like until you've hunted man!" and it appeared that rush was driving Eddie's foolish desire to finish them off. I guess there was a point around the episode's three-quarter mark where it lost a little narrative steam for me. Not exactly sure why but by the point MacGyver is using the rock to color the makeshift arrow for the helicopter I wasn't quite as engaged in the story as I was in the first half, but I did enjoy MacGyver's tranquilizer stunt that wrapped things up.

    I said in "The Negotiator" review that MacGyver had some humbling and sorrowful experiences in season 3 and having to walk away from Karen forever (did MacGyver specifically say he hadn't even seen Karen since college? I always assumed he had seen her three years prior only not in the context of their college relationship). Anyway, I did really like this one but I like most "MacGyver" episodes and had this one ranked more in the middle at #85.

    1. Good point about the possible spec script and why some things may have been rushed in the pre-production. And yes, the list of MacGyver love interests ended up being weaker than I thought it would be when I first started - too bad so many of them had homicidal tendencies. And what you said about the 3 year thing makes sense - perhaps they saw each other at some point after college.

      I haven't seen Breaking Bad and don't have much interest despite the acclaim - with my limited time I'll stick with my action/adventure!

    2. I'm actually interested in "Breaking Bad" and from what I've heard there's a fair amount of action and intensity. That and "The Wire" are the two acclaimed cable shows I'm most interested in. Gonna try to get them both in before 2015 is over.

    3. I tried to watch "Breaking Bad", but the handheld camera for all of the filming makes me dizzy, so buzzing through it is really difficult for me. If someone gets a few episodes in and can tell me they calm the hell down w/ the wobbly-cam, I may try again.

    4. Thanks for that tip. The handheld camera thing can be annoying for me but not a dealbreaker so when I watch it I'll let you know if the camera work improves.

  2. Another personal association with this episode.....I mentioned before how I was punished back in 1988 when this aired for forging my mom's name on a letter from my teacher. Unlike "Murderers' Sky", which I secretly watched in the hallway out of my mom's sight as she watched it, I didn't get to see this one at all on its original airing. I had to wait until September 1988 to see it at all, and the summer of '88 was the writer's strike years, so it was a sight for sore years after four full months of reruns (and often three-peat reruns to boot) to finally see something "new" from "MacGyver".

    1. Why were you unable to sneak out in the hallway for this one too?

    2. Once a month or so, my mom had to do evening training at work on Monday nights. May 2, 1988, was one of them......so she wasn't home when this episode aired so the TV was off at 7:00.

  3. You mentioned your MBTI and that possibly explains a lot of differences in our rankings. I'm INTJ, so we'll definitely like different things about different episodes.

    I do like this episode. More than Mark, but not quite as much as you.

    As for the bear joke - grizzlies are freakin' huge, thus would take out the tree to come eat you, whereas the black bear can climb and will just go up the tree behind you. Not sure if that helps make it funnier to you or not.

    And, ttly only semi-related... Dan Shae (one of RDA's stunt doubles) is the stunt coordinator on Psych (which I happen to be watching while I'm typing this. *g*).

    1. Interesting, thanks for sharing - I like hearing about different people's MBTI's. And thanks for explaining the "joke" - can't say it had me rolling on the ground, but a good try from MacGyver, I suppose.

    2. I loved RDA's emotional portrayal of a jilted lover of Karen in this episode. He did such a good job of showing the depth of his hurt due to her love for Sam. That's the main reason I liked this episode.

  4. Back after a few days away so playing catch-up again! Like Highlander, I've ranked this somewhere in between Nick and Mark. I agree, an excellent episode and I appreciated Marks' great description of it as amongst MacGyver's ' humbling and sorrowful experiences' of season three.
    Nick, you make a comment about why does this near-death adventure affect MacGyver more than the other 257 - I think its because he survived it through luck alone and MacGyver doesn't like relying on luck- he relies on his wits and ingenuity. He has said before he doesn't like 'the situation to win' and, laid back as he is, he needs to be in control of the solution. The out-of-control 'luck' unsettles him, turns him introspective and wanting to escape back to a more 'normal' life. He experiences something similar in 'Friends' when he wants to resign after three brushes with death which, if I remember correctly, he felt he survived by chance. I guess its difficult to work out a fictional character's MBTI but I'm pretty sure people out there have had fun working out MacGyver's!
    I'm with you; there's some great acting and character exploration and MacGyver's sense of disappointment is palpable. Karen's another firm and capable out-doors type who would have been ideal for him if he hadn't 'wanted to be a ranger, a pilot, wanted to go to Africa' and left it too late yet again. She's got him sussed.
    I too appreciated the contrast between the awful 80's disco, where MacGyver's working well under par with some very unsubtle tailing, and the great outdoors.
    Things I liked; the look he gives the owl when he sees the man-sized boots, and when he pretends to be asleep, the salad order in the game restaurant and his decision to make it up to Karen by helping to catch the poachers (reminiscent of the acid rain chat-up line in 'the Negotiator'). What's wrong with flowers and chocolates MacGyver? Hiding under and then in, their truck and the MacGyverisms including a great javelin throw across the river.I liked the limonite too and once again had something to find out more about from a MacGyver episode.
    I wasn't keen on the poachers shooting a bear we'd almost been introduced to ( I've never been able to watch Bambi) and didn't like the rather weak Earl character. At one point the restaurant owner gives the impression that the villains are simply dodgy 'meat men' and not real hunters which didn't stack up with Wyatt's obvious tracking ability and the main poacher's ruthlessness. I thought the first half better then the second too. MacGyver's voice-over at one point was very flat and impersonal; 'it became necessary to invent...' , the tranquiliser dart use was good once but it seemed a bit lazy to use it twice and once again I though the ending fizzled out. Wyatt was extremely slow to react to the other poacher being darted, then the rangers arrive and the shows over. I didn't like Sam, the ranger's, 'thanks MacGyver' as he takes Karen back leaving poor MacGyver looking lost and alone. He deserved better than that.
    All in all some great stuff and at number 49 in my revised rankings.

    1. There's a bit of debate over which MBTI Mac would be:




      ISTP fits, but Mac has a lot of E elements and sometimes wanders over into F. There are also arguments that he's got N too, so he fits into like half of the profiles depending on which episode you watch. But, most ppl have a little bit of all of the personality types in them, the MBTI pulls together the more dominant ones. More in depth MBTI analysis adds in the percentages of all the elements.

    2. That's an excellent observation regarding the incident at the beginning of this episode hitting MacGyver so personally because his survival was purely based on luck and not the quick thinking on his part that usually helps him get out of jams.

    3. Wow I just watched this and Ill have to rewatch this knowing the stunt guys are in it. I wonder what uncredited parts Don Davis is in. I like him here and he also plays the cement truck driver in Blow Out, one of my top episodes and one of the first I ever saw.

    4. Woops that wasnt supposed to be a reply to this thread

  5. "MacGyver's use of the tranquilizer darts to take out the bad guys made me wonder why he can't always have them as part of his arsenal. He could get the Phoenix Foundation to order or develop a high powered tranquilizer gun that wouldn't kill people but could put them down accurately and from distance. Think of how many times that would have come in handy."

    Hey that would have been awesome! Too bad Phoenix didn't have them. And too bad it wasn't in Macgyver's arsenal.

    "Highlander_II says As for the bear joke - grizzlies are freakin' huge, thus would take out the tree to come eat you, whereas the black bear can climb and will just go up the tree behind you. Not sure if that helps make it funnier to you or not."

    Oh thank you! I've wondered what that joke was about.