Saturday, March 28, 2015

#13: The Negotiator

Season: 3

Synopsis in 3 sentences or less:
MacGyver leads a Phoenix Foundation environmental study that may prohibit the building of a billion dollar marina, and the developer hires a professional hit woman named Deborah to stop him. She inserts herself into MacGyver's life and they become romantically involved, and she tries to convince him not to pursue the study any further. When he refuses to relent, she decides the only option left is to kill him.  

Memorable Quote:
How 'bout it MacGyver?!  Am I a sight for sore eyes or what?  ~Deborah

Good God, what an ending.  An epic confrontation between Deborah and MacGyver in the warehouse at night in a thunderstorm. A classic moment.

A sad part where Bunky the dog (who we saw earlier in Blow Out) is stabbed by Deborah. Fortunately we don't see the stabbing on camera.  

Best MacGyverism:
Uses jumper cables and fluid from jeep to electrocute Deborah when she steps in the puddle.  

Other thoughts, observations, and questions I didn’t ask when I was in fourth grade:
  • The small State Environmental Agency courtroom is the same set that we see an episode later in The Spoilers when Toberman is testifying.
  • A few familiar faces from Season 1:
    • The slick marina lawyer is played by one of the hit men in Ugly Duckling.
    • Mr. Knapp is played by David Ackroyd who we saw long ago as Trumbo in Trumbo's World.
  • Some great exposition as we see Deborah getting her assignment from Knapp in the museum and then gathering her own intel in MacGyver's houseboat, while wearing a fur coat no less. Deborah is a three-dimensional villain and a fantastic character, played to perfection by Kristian Alfonso.
  • More greatness as we see Deborah in her office listening to MacGyver (through the bug she planted), and then he takes out a guitar and starts to gently strum.  And I love the description she types regarding his routine: "Phoenix Foundation, Art Classes, Volunteer for Handicapped, Environmental Causes." What a guy!
  • I don't remember the very brief moment where Deborah buys the used yellow beetle bug - maybe a formerly deleted scene? Probably should have been considering the car is not seen again for the rest of the episode. 
  • MacGyver's painting of the USA hockey goalie is very impressive.  But not as impressive as his ability to tell the difference between a sea otter (in Deborah's painting) and a river otter.
  • Clever work by Deborah to reference the acid rain study that she observed in MacGyver's apartment.  Clearly the path to MacGyver's heart goes through the environment!  And great job of acting by RDA as he searches for the right words and makes some subtle facial expressions before asking Deborah if she'd like to get a cup of coffee and talk more about acid rain.
  • Now all of a sudden MacGyver and Deborah are frolicking around fountains, snapping photos, taking in sunsets, and...gasp...kissing in the darkness by the roaring fireplace! All while set to music that RDA wrote himself. How does MacGyver have time for all this - shouldn't he be focused on his urgent 3 week study? 
  • I guess that as a result of the negative Nikki Carpenter feedback from female viewers, the only way to allow MacGyver some romance was from a woman who was trying to kill him.  Poor guy's never gonna trust a woman again after this one.
  • "So, you're the one who's got MacGyver's heart going pitter-pat."  ~Nikki
  • If Deborah was a true professional and really wanted to kill MacGyver, it seems like she would have had much better opportunities than the bomb on the boat given her closeness to him.
  • I like how Pete asks MacGyver if he needs any bean curd from the store - harkens back to the memorable "whipped bean curd" episode.
  • Amazing sequence as Deborah is driving a blind and bandaged MacGyver through a rainstorm at night (and looks like it actually is raining). And then Nikki calls his jeep phone but Deborah hangs it up, prompting Pete to declare, "She's got him." Then Deborah sees the police blockade ahead and turns the car around while telling MacGyver that she wants him to have a chance to call Nikki back. All while set to some exciting music. Compelling stuff here.
  • MacGyver even allows himself to deliver a zinger while kneeling over Deborah's prone body - "I think it's about time we re-negotiated."
  • Solid ending as the Phoenix team brings Deborah into the courtroom to reveal to Knapp and the board that she has given testimony against him.  She turns to look at MacGyver right at the end, and he makes an expression that seems like a mix of confusion and sorrow.    

Final Analysis:
An absolute classic featuring one of the most memorable villains (and the one true femme fatale) in the series.  There's never a dull moment or a wasted minute, and the plot crescendos to the very end where we have the amazing scene in the warehouse.  A great job by Kristian Alfonso and RDA, and poor MacGyver putting his heart on the line only to be betrayed.  


  1. You mentioned RDA's face when he's asking Deborah out and it reminded me of my fave ep of SG-1 - "The Fifth Race". RDA spends at least half the episode delivering his lines 'with his face', since his character is unable to speak English as part of the plot. It speaks to an actor's level of talent if they can give a compelling performance without saying a word. And RDA's pretty damned good at it. =)

    1. Yes he is good at acting with just his facial expressions. In fact, I think he is the best there is!

  2. It’s an excellent episode, I agree.
    Some great moments both chilling and the more light-hearted; MacGyver pulling uncomfortably at his tie in the courtroom and Pete having thanked him for wearing it says ‘can’t talk you into a haircut can I?’, Deborah’s profiling of him gradually building up on the computer; ’ Loner, Athletic, Artistic, Intelligent.’ And the next stage when her final checklist solution coldly appears on the screen; ‘Kill him off’. I agree, the moment where MacGyver is trying to ask her out is brilliant. What a chat-up line (it wouldn’t work for every girl) - ‘I’m doing some research on acid rain, maybe we could compare notes over a cup of coffee’, followed by, ‘I don’t drink coffee’…’Neither do I’ and the slow smile spreading over MacGyver’s face. He’s hooked! I'm with you both; some great acting here.
    We know Deborah is evil by the vile fur coat she’s wearing; great idea in the plot to use that to ensnare her by getting poor old Bunky to take a mouthful. I really didn’t like the dog killing scene. MacGyver, as usual, is worried about people close to him, in this case, Nikki, getting hurt; the irony is that this time it the other way around. I’m with you, she’s a great character, well-played, truly ruthless and efficient (although not efficient enough in the end). Only MacGyver could have survived the motor boat explosion!
    Great atmosphere built up by the drive in a terrible storm and the phone ringing to save him, only to be stopped by Deborah’s quick-thinking. There’s a dramatic moment when MacGyver, already uneasy, hears the click of the switchblade and knows for sure. I’d forgotten; he lashes out and knocks her over, as far as I know, the only occasion, (apart from Trail to Doomsday), where he hits a woman although as we know, he says he comes close in ‘The Escape’. I didn’t quite understand the significance of the piece of broken glass which played a part in the jump lead and fluid electrocution and couldn’t work out why Deborah kept talking to him as she was constantly giving away her position when she thought he still couldn’t see at all. Poor MacGyver, I reckon that’s twice in the same season that he’s been taken in by a femme fatale -_I'm counting Lisa in Lost love as one too.
    At around 39 for me, and the only reason its not higher is because I don’t like poor MacGyver’s flash burn eye injury which makes him so physically as well as emotionally vulnerable (and me somewhat squeamish).

    1. MacGyver's goofy smile is amusing when he learns that she doesn't drink coffee. And she is interested in acid rain - as you said, he's hooked! I had forgotten about Lisa but you're right, she's a good femme fatale even though she has more good in her than Deborah. I'm also not 100% clear on what is going on during the part with the jumper cables (I've fortunately never had to use them myself). I know he uses the glass to cover up the sound of the drip as she walks by, but I'm not sure if it has any other purpose, and I'm not sure exactly how he gets the sparks to ignite (maybe touching the jumper cables to each other)?

    2. I believe the jeep was left running. You could see steam coming from the radiator. He connected one red (+) clamp and one black(-)clamp to underside of the jeep(the black clamp caused the spark) and laid the other red clamp in the water. The black clamp did not have to touch the red clamp in the water. It only had to land in the water.

  3. An episode we all like! Very cool. I agree this is a very strong episode and have always felt the same regarding Nick's "never a dull or wasted moment" comment. Deborah was a true professional (at least until her second episode!!!) and it was fun to watch her work even if you resented the work she was doing. Every scene naturally flowed into the next and as everybody else has cited, there were some genuinely clever dialogue throughout whether it was about MacGyver getting a haircut, grabbing a "cup of coffee", Nikki embarrassing MacGyver in front of Deborah, and, my personal favorite, Pete "sparing MacGyver the kiss" that he got from Deborah and Nikki and MacGyver thanking him for it, a moment that almost always gets a laugh out of me.

    Solid acting performances all around and I thought David Ackroyd was great too in that scene at the art gallery where he's making his pitch to Deborah. But Kristian Alfonso and RDA were the show stealers here throughout the hour. I was never convinced that MacGyver was actually falling in love with Maria Romburg, which meant Deborah was the only woman we ever truly witnessed him falling for on an episode with some spectacular imagery and outstanding music composed by RDA himself. It made it that much more a tragic tale that the only time the audience sees this is when he's been hustled by an extremely calculated hit woman who knows exactly what buttons to push with MacGyver either not picking up on it or trying to convince himself she wasn't playing him. It was hard to tell at times. And yes, even though this was a shorter episode, the one deleted scene was that 30-second clip where Deborah bought the beetle at the car lot.

    While MacGyver surviving the exploding boat was a little far-fetched, the resulting flash burn represented one of the most cleverly employed literary metaphors we've seen on this show....MacGyver being blinded by love and letting this femme fatale sucker punch him. While I agree it was also clever that Deborah's lynx coat was responsible for her getting caught, I also thought it undermined Deborah's professionalism a bit that she would make such a sloppy mistake. Also should be said that season 3 really was the season of animals dying on this series! Agreed with everybody that the ending in the rain was intense. It was narratively convenient that all Deborah brought with her was a switchblade, allowing even a blinded MacGyver to relatively easily escape her lair, but I don't fault the episode for that. His jumper cables bit was pretty inspired and I think the purpose of the glass was to silence the leaking antifreeze and help MacGyver know where Deborah's feet were when he dropped the cables.

    Simultaneously chilling and clever final scene in the courtroom where Deborah surrenders Knapp and then exchanges looks with the heartbroken and shattered MacGyver. There were a lot of soul-crushing moments of loss and grief for MacGyver in season 3, including this one, that I thought made the pending darkness of season 4 a natural direction for the series, whether intentional or not. Either way, an outstanding script by Calvin Clements, Jr., with great production values and acting performances by all. I have it ranked #45 but acknowledge that might be too low.

    1. Interesting point about the blindness as a metaphor - I hadn't thought of it that way.

    2. Both Kristian Alfonso and Kim Zimmer were neck-deep in daytime soaps back in the late 1980s and I know those shows are very labor-intensive productions for the cast. I wonder how they both were able to take time out of their schedules (twice!) to make "MacGyver" guest appearances. Maybe their characters' stories on the soaps were suspended for a week so they could work on other projects.

    3. The Negotiator was one of THE BEST episodes of MacGyver. I especially enjoyed RDA playing the guitar and composing the melody for that number. The romantic involvement with Mac and Deborah was just as it should have been.....exactly the right nuances and words and expressions...and, yes, kisses. Thanks for all the good comments on this episode.

    4. Agreed! Thanks for the comment!

  4. I'm really concerned here. You've put up three amazing episodes in The Invisible Killer (my top three for sure), Cleo Rocks, and the Negotiator. Yet you have still to post Good Knight Macgyver and The Mask of the Wolf. I'd rate these last two somewhere in the 100s. Too zaney and far-fetched for me. I do hope you have either the Survivors or Phoenix Under Seige as your #1, but hey it's your list!

    1. So it is! As far as #1 goes, time will soon tell...

    2. My rule of thumb is that most "MacGyver" fans agree on about two-thirds of the episodes.....and disagree on the other third. All of our respective lists will undoubtedly produce a few "oh hell no!" reactions from one another, and I think it speaks volumes of the variety of stories on this series that different fans can have such polarized reactions on so many different episodes. Maybe it's this way with most shows....who knows? Whatever the case, it would be boring if our lists matched completely!

    3. I've found this to be the case. One episode Mark and Nick mostly agree on that I rank a bit higher than they do is "MacGyver's Women". (We're not there yet on my countdown.) I like the 'western' episode, even if the story isn't the best - it's a dream sequence, so I'm not expecting the same sort of story I would from an ep like "the Negotiator".

    4. I can respect that. Am enjoying your analyses, interviews, and perspectives. Though i have owned all seven seasons on dvd for years, haven't bothered to watch some episodes for years until i read your blog. Excited to see your final 12!

    5. Awesome - glad to hear you're enjoying the reviews and rewatching some episodes!

  5. What a dark episode. It just feels so sinister even from the very beginning with MacGyver being threatened by that guy in the light of the sunrise. I think part of that is that we see most of the story from he point of view of the villains. So beautifully lit though in so many scenes. I think there's at least one sunrise and sunset in this episode and the fantastic thunderstorm at the climax.

  6. Another one that I really like!! I feel so sorry for MacGyver here, I definetely believe that he was falling for Deborah.

    I'm curious about what RDA was telling Alfonso in that sunset scene and the moment right before he kisses her (while playing RDA's composition). It is well known that RDA has a good sense of humor, wondering if he was making some jokes there (at least in the sunset scene, we can see Alfonso reacting to whatever he is saying with a laugh).

  7. This is a great episode, but how on earth was Mac supposed to have electrocuted Deborah using just the low voltage supply from his Jeep?

  8. Just watched it again, and noticed that even though she introduces herself as "Debbie", she is subsequently referred to as "Deborah". Also, in the first-run airing of the episode, wasn't there a scene where the dog is shown biting the fur of Deborah's coat? If so, it seems to have been cut from the Netflix version.

  9. It's worth noting that she uses a Leatherman multi-tool, the archrival of MacGyver's Swiss Army Knife.

  10. Deborah was a great character..the writers brought her back in season 4. A shame they chose to kill her off.