Thursday, March 19, 2015

#17: Obsessed

Season: 7

Synopsis in 3 sentences or less:
As the Phoenix Foundation is handling the security of a Latin American dictator on trial in the U.S., MacGyver believes that Murdoc is alive and involved in a sinister plot related to the dictator. Cindy, a Phoenix co-worker, thinks he is crazy and accuses him of being obsessed with Murdoc, and Pete pulls him off the assignment officially but lets him investigate covertly.  He goes to an army base where he sees Murdoc and the dictator working together, and he and Murdoc have one final battle.  

Memorable Quote:
Blew it again, huh Murdoc?  ~MacGyver
Is that supposed to be a joke, MacGyver   ~Murdoc
No. You're the joke.   ~MacGyver

Highlight:
My favorite part is the scene referenced in the Memorable Quote when MacGyver goads Murdoc into executing him creatively instead of just shooting him.  There's great music and a palpable sense of animosity between the two men, and it's an electric moment.

Lowlight:
After having to endure Cindy's constant obnoxiousness and putting down of MacGyver for 20 minutes, it's very disappointing that we never get to see her reaction to learning that MacGyver was proven right. 

Best MacGyverism:
I always enjoy the escapes when MacGyver is strapped to something, and this is another fun one as he flicks his shoe and hits a nearby cart carrying liquid nitrogen which moves the cart towards him. His footwork is as equally fancy and miraculous as it was in the Legend of the Holy Rose, but this one is not as memorable as that one (probably because that one was first and had the backdrop of a swinging pendulum). Nevertheless, an escape this miraculous deserves at least an honorable mention on the top MacGyverisms list

Other thoughts, observations, and questions I didn’t ask when I was in fourth grade:
  • What an opening!  MacGyver dreams that Murdoc sneaks into his apartment and swings an axe at him, and then he wakes up and we think that everything is ok. But then the phone rings and it's Murdoc on the other end.  Tremendous stuff, and love the ominous music.
  • Great scene in the Phoenix Foundation where Cindy, the new Phoenix director of field ops, comes down hard on MacGyver for being obsessed with ghosts, since she is certain Murdoc is dead. Wendie Malick does a wonderful job portraying Cindy, a character who quickly becomes unbearable to the audience.  And great job by RDA while portraying MacGyver as unusually angry and slightly out of control.
  • Things quickly escalate as MacGyver spots Murdoc shooting a dart from a camera outside the courthouse.  Cindy's obnoxiousness continues to the point that it's hard to watch because we the audience can't wait for MacGyver to be proven right, even though it means that Murdoc will strike again. And the audience watching this for the first time isn't even 100% sure that MacGyver is right about Murdoc. What a strong plot and a great way to drive the episode.
  • More greatness as MacGyver gets another call from Murdoc, traces it, and then goes by himself to the location, a room full of pictures, newspaper clippings, and explosives.  Then MacGyver finds the chess pawn under Marietta's car, and we see Murdoc dressed as a hotel employee bringing food to Delasora's room.  The plot's really moving now. 
  • 19:40 mark - interesting that they're using the old Vancouver Phoenix Foundation exterior shot even though the production moved to L.A.
  • Nice twist where it looks like Pete fires MacGyver but we learn later that it was just a ruse. And then a fantastic moment as Pete tells MacGyver, "Maybe it's time that somebody paid an unannounced visit to that army base that Delasora's being held at." This is immediately followed by lively music and MacGyver running through a field toward the base.  If this was being shown in a movie theater, this would be the part where everyone starts clapping and cheering. And then what a moment as MacGyver looks through the binoculars and is stunned to see Murdoc in military dress saluting Delasora.  This episode is ridiculous, as in ridiculously awesome. 
  • I have to admit that I had forgotten why Murdoc was trying to kill Delasora earlier, but now it makes sense that he wanted to highlight the weakness in Phoenix security so that Delasora would be moved to the base where he could gain control.
  • I love the army base with Latin American soldiers everywhere. It harkens back to the earlier glory days of MacGyver, even if it is hard to imagine a U.S. army base being so easily overtaken/off the grid.
  • Fun conversation as MacGyver and Murdoc come face to face for the first time in the episode:
    • "Well, MacGyver, it appears that the military look is in.  Of course, I have more accessories."  ~Murdoc
    • "A little early for Halloween, isn't it Murdoc?"   ~MacGyver
  • The military Murdoc look is very cool, and a creative twist to the normal MacGyver/Murdoc battles. And I like how Murdoc gives MacGyver a little pat after he straps him under the rocket. 
  • The moment where MacGyver drives the jeep over the hill to rescue Marietta feels a little James Bond-like with the big vehicle coming from out of nowhere. And then not sure why Murdoc and Delasora take time standing around watching Stryke getting shot by the dart while MacGyver is on the loose. 
  • Did MacGyver and Marietta really have to go to the command center to use the radio? Not the smartest place to go back to.  And then a strange time for Delasora to turn on Murdoc, but I suppose it works with the story.
  • Cool how MacGyver knows that Murdoc isn't dead, despite the gunshots that they hear. Then we see Murdoc driving a MacGyver-style jeep as MacGyver gives chase. It's a decent sequence, but I feel like they could have come up with something better for a "death" scene since it doesn't make sense to me why Murdoc would drive full speed at MacGyver and go right over the cliff.  The implication is that he didn't see the ledge, but I'm not sure how anyone could miss the ocean in the distance. 
  • Doesn't MacGyver have a bed? Why is he always sleeping on the couch?
  • So the series ends the Murdoc saga as a draw between he and MacGyver, though I suppose you'd have to give the edge to MacGyver since he always foiled Murdoc's plans and Murdoc was the one who experienced the lion's share of the bodily harm. My Dad has seen a few of the Murdoc episodes and commented that the idea of a bad guy who always gets away (similar to Wo Fat in the original Hawaii Five-0) drives him nuts, but it doesn't bother me. Even though it would have been great to bring Murdoc to justice, I think they did the right thing by calling it a draw.

Final Analysis:
A glorious hour of television - thank God that Season 7 happened so that we got to see this episode. It's Murdoc and MacGyver at their best, and good to see Pete and the Phoenix Foundation again. Hard to believe this is only at #17 - most other shows aspire to have an hour of television only half this fine. Coming up, if you can believe it, the episodes just keep getting better and better!  

19 comments:

  1. This is actually my 2nd lowest ranked Murdoc episode. (Though, that likely won't tell you much about where it is in my countdown. *g*) A large part of the down-rank is Cindy and her over-the-top insistence that MacGyver must be out of his mind to think that some guy could still be alive. That was my thought about her when I watched this the first time - back when it originally aired - and it still is today. I don't know if the character is written oddly or if Malik just over-plays it. I tend to have a problem with characters who end up so far to the extreme that even if you didn't know the show or main cast at all, you'd know this person was written in just to be a pain in the ass. We don't get anything from her that would be remotely like-able, since she storms in and gets all up in Mac's grill about Murdoc and how he has to be dead. For us to believe that this character has merit, we have to kind of like her first - and we don't. So she comes across as a know-it-all bully. Which then makes that lack of 'see - I told ya!' so much more disappointing.

    Regarding Murdoc driving off the ledge - I agree, no one as smart as Murdoc would've missed that he was driving at a cliff. In "the Widowmaker" Mac caught him off guard w/ the rope cutting. I don't see Mac catching Murdoc off guard just jumping out of the way. Murdoc would've planned for Mac to dive out of the way at the last minute and might've jumped after him and slipped off the cliff. That would've been more believable.

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    1. I've noticed that if a certain character gets under your skin you tend to be against the episode in general for it. I get that to a degree, but Finnigan's character was meant to be a loathsome foil and I thought Malick played the role with a drunk-with-power gusto that added a great deal to the conflict. Agreed that she needed her comeuppance in the end and that all contributed to why the second half of this episode disappointed.

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    2. Finnigan doesn't drop this episode down as much as some other characters, but she does make the episode less enjoyable for me.

      Also, keep in mind that I'm still writing up my various reviews for the episodes for my own countdown, so I'm not putting *all* of my thoughts in the comments here unless I've already done the episode, and since I'm still in the triple-digits, that's not very many.

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    3. Fair enough. If you had to single most appalling character in the history of "MacGyver" who would you go with? Sorry Nick but Mama Lorraine would be up there for me, but I think Natalia from "Trail to Doomsday" might have her topped. I should do a more formal "bottom 10 characters" list some day.

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    4. I can't speak on Natalia (don't remember the movies) but will know her soon enough! The first character that popped into my head was the fire chief lady from the Prometheus Syndrome - ugh.

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    5. Ah yes....Rachel. Not one of my favorites. I couldn't stand Ellen Jerico either.

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    6. 'Appalling' as 'the one I don't wanna see on the show b/c they drive me up the wall'? When I was watching as a kid - I wanted the Boziers to all go away. I don't know why they bothered me so much - maybe b/c they were always getting in Mac's way and causing trouble and they were kinda bumbling idiots. I like them quite a bit more now, so probably not them. None of the recurring characters really bother me. But to pick one? I think I'm with you on Natalia from "Trail to Doomsday"... though I didn't want Mac to punch her in the face! (OMG all the things wrong w/ "TtD")

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  2. I have this episode ranked quite high, but I'll have more to grumble about in this one than just about any other episode in my top-50 with the possible exception of "The Golden Triangle". I've highlighted a few episodes in previous reviews where I really enjoyed the first half but thought the episode took an unappealing turn in the second half. "The Wasteland", "Slow Death", and "Gunz 'N' Boyz" are three prime examples.....as is this one. Now I've ranked this episode quite a bit higher than those other three for one key reason....the first half of "Obsessed" was just THAT spectacular! Ironic timing on this one as exactly 10 years ago yesterday I lost my job because of the equivalent of Cindy Finnigan. But even at age 14 when I first watched this one, her character just jumped out as perhaps the best example of someone you love to hate in the entire run of the series, and Wendie Malick was just spot-on in her portrayal of the Wicked Witch of the West going after our beloved MacGyver at one of his weakest moments. While we always knew MacGyver was right about Murdoc, the extent to which he appeared to be going unhinged added a mysterious and unpredictable flair to the narrative, and when coupling that with the great scenes with the chess pawn taped to the bottom of the dissident's car, the hotel bombing, and Pete forced to terminate MacGyver in front of the smirking Cindy, I thought we were looking at one of the top-five "MacGyver" episodes of all-time.....

    But then things went off the rails for me and the rest of the episode was average at best. Yeah, I enjoyed the moments of RDA and MDB with their ongoing MacGyver and Murdoc banter and the dart under the money in the briefcase bit was cool, but the idea that this massive conspiracy was unfolding where Murdoc and Delasora had joined forces with apparently large swaths of American agents to hijack this top-secret military base and scheme to revert Delosora to dictatorial powers with Murdoc as his top lieutenant was absolutely nuts! Now the Murdoc episodes are meant to be nuts, but this one seemed like the rushed and forced kind of nuts rather than the inspired kind of nuts. In the "Lesson in Evil" review, I said John Sheppard's biggest weakness is recycling some old plot lines and he was in full recycle mode here, ripping off the "Legend of the Holy Rose" boot escape (gotta love those giant tanks of liquid nitrogen randomly sitting around at military bases!), unconvincingly blowing out light bulbs with a single squeeze from a bottle of window washer, and then the lame ending where we were supposed to believe neither MacGyver nor Murdoc realized they were at the edge of the cliff. The fiery, explosive crash was pretty impressively filmed, but like most of the second half, it seemed uninspired and rushed.

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  3. And let me run with this "rushed' theme. Even though it was the third episode to air in season 7, it was the first episode produced for the new season (which was why MacGyver was still sleeping on the couch in the new house, presumably which he was not settled in yet as "The 'Hood" was meant to follow this episode). And there's a reason this was the first episode of season 7. Michael Des Barres was in high demand in 1991, cast a series regular on "The New WKRP in Cincinnati" which premiered that fall along with a semiregular stint on ABC's "Roseanne". In other words, if there was gonna be a Murdoc episode in season 7, it had to happen right away before the other shows started filming. Perhaps this is why the episode felt rushed to me. And even though I enjoyed the mysterious "Murdoc survived again!" epilogue, it was malpractice for the series to not have at least some measure of closure with that character....because they knew this was gonna be it. There was no ambiguity whatsoever that season 7 was gonna be "MacGyver's" last. It was only a matter of whether the show would end after only 13 episodes or if ABC would order four more episodes, as the price tag of $1.5 million per episode that season was too rich for ABC's blood to entertain the idea of a full season as it had in the past given the series' sinking ratings. Given Des Barres' busy schedule that year, there was next to no chance that we'd see Murdoc again. So why did they leave another unresolved cliffhanger with him? It just seemed a little unfair.

    Anyway, while I didn't care for the second half of this one (and yeah, why couldn't we have seen something from Cindy in the second half....she was the centerpiece of the first half and stole the show!!!), I also didn't hate the second half as much as I hated the second half of "Gunz' N' Boyz" and "Slow Death", and the first half of this episode was among the best half hours the series ever produced. And agreed that Ken Harrison's music was great throughout. It's a mixed bag for me, but still good enough on balance for a reasonably lofty #34 ranking.

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    1. My ranking for this one falls somewhere between Mark's #34 and Nick's #17. But that's all I'll tell for now. =)

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    2. Interesting that even though it's your second least favorite Murdoc episode you still have it ranked better than me! Not sure if you're counting "Serenity" as a Murdoc episode. If so, then "Obsessed" is also my second least favorite Murdoc episode.

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    3. I liked the 2nd half better than you did, but I see where you're coming from. Seems like we're all in agreement about the puzzling nature of Murdoc driving off the cliff. And interesting take on the closure (or lack thereof) of the Murdoc character - I'm with you to a point that it would have been nice to have closure but I see why they did it the way they did and it works for me. If this episode was produced first why did they sit on it, do you think? And I like your comment about the real life Cindy Finnegan though am sorry for your losing your job.

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    4. You're gonna think I'm joking about this but presumably this episode was shelved until the third episode of the season to air was because the network wanted to air "Honest Abe" as the season premiere! The ratings for "Honest Abe" were terrible (worst yet for a first-run "MacGyver" episode....and not by a small amount) and I suspect the weak nature of that season premiere kept ratings even lower than they ordinarily would have been as I know a few long-time fans that gave up on the show after that one, feeling it was over-the-hill and instead flipping the channel to the upwardly mobile new sitcoms on CBS and NBC at the time.

      As for me losing my job, don't be sorry. It was a small-town newspaper, an industry that's been in collapse for decades and was terrible even at its peak. If you want poverty pay, terrible and unpredictable hours, never-ending stress, and sleazy, cutthroat management selling you out at every turn, then the newspaper business is for you. But on March 18, 2015, my male version of Cindy Finnigan gave me get-out-of-jail-free card from the newspaper business....and I haven't had a bad day since!

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    5. Oops...I meant March 18, 2005

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    6. Wow, I do think you're joking. I wonder what Steve Downing thought of that one.

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    7. I do count "Serenity" as a Murdoc episode, thus "Obsessed" being the 2nd-lowest ranked. (My definition of Murdoc episode is 'any episode that Murdoc is in as a legitimate character' - flashback episodes don't count.)

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  4. I’m not quite as keen on this one as you. I agree with a lot of what Mark says; the first half is better than the second which does seem a bit rushed and lots of things don’t seem to make sense; how could the base be run in broad daylight like that, why would Murdoc play second fiddle to a tinpot dictator, why does Delasora kill Murdoc and (I agree with you all ) how would Murdoc simply drive over the cliff etc. Some interesting stuff from Mark about the season and why they didn’t finish Murdoc off more definitively.
    Initially I thought that putting MacGyver in charge of security ops for a visiting dictator didn’t seem that likely somehow. Cindy is deeply unpleasant – how dare she treat MacGyver like that? and Pete seems obsessed with his own career, until we learn from the twist that he hasn’t fired MacGyver at all. I agree; we want to see Cindy’s come-uppance.
    Things I like; the phone tap, a nice, over-enthusiastic knockout from MacGyver which sends him sprawling too, the military look and Murdoc’s line about the accessories and (to MacGyver) ‘You’re always trying to save everyone but yourself’ and the MacGyver/jeep chase.
    I like the concept that MacGyver’s on his own in this one although instinctively we know he must be right. He’s also paranoid, stressed and angry and whilst I’m always interested to see different aspects of his character this is not my favourite MacGyver demeanour.
    In spite of all this, its still a good episode and I think I’m putting it in the 50’s. My much talked about (by me!) rankings overhaul is nearly done but there’s going to be some pretty drastic re-ranking of some previous episodes just to fit everything in since I took an intuitive rather than scientific approach to my intial placings!

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    1. Looking forward to your rankings overhaul. Any idea when you'll be done with that? Presumably when Nick's countdown is completed?

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  5. Season 7 did not start very well, and that is an understatement. As I mentioned, The Coltons was just not MacGyver and Honest Abe was terrible. The 'Hood was slightly better, but only very slightly. Now what? How relieved I was when I saw 'Michael Des Barres as Murdoc' appear at the start - this is more like it! A Murdoc episode has often bettered most others so there was no doubt that this one was going to beat season 7's poor showing so far. It was a clever idea to have us wonder whether MacGyver was really seeing his nemesis or if it was all in his head, which of course it could have been as we have had several dream sequence episodes. I did wonder if the whole thing would turn out to be a dream at one point. It was great to have The Phoenix Foundation and Pete back, although of course it was a bit bittersweet as sadly his sight was nearly lost. Murdoc was in fine form when goading MacGyver and he made a different, if slightly odd, sight as General Murdoc. There was another nice cameo from Don Galloway, although it didn't quite work with him suddenly being in league with Delasora for money when there was no indication that he was a traitor. I have to agree with the majority of your views that it wasn't the best final 'death' for Murdoc but can see by the information about Michael's schedule and the series likely ending that it was perhaps designed to be more abrupt than many would have liked. Unfortunately I suppose this means that there won't be any more Murdoc in season 7. Thank goodness that there was the last sinister phone call to prove that the ultimate villain has yet another life! MacGyver versus Murdoc has been a real treat and provided many of the series highlights and whilst this wasn't the best of their duels, it was still very good and has redeemed season 7.

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