Tuesday, March 10, 2015

#22: Partners

Season: 2

Synopsis in 3 sentences or less:
MacGyver and Pete are lured to a junkyard and locked in a truck by Murdoc, an assassin who craves revenge.  While stuck in the back of the truck, MacGyver and Pete remember the time they met 7 years ago when Pete was chasing Murdoc and MacGyver was in the wrong place at the wrong time. Their reminiscing is cut short when Murdoc rigs some dynamite to the bottom of the truck, and they have 7 minutes to find a way out before it blows. 

Memorable Quote:
Bazookas?  You can explain bazookas?  YOU CANNOT EXPLAIN BAZOOKAS!  ~Jack Dalton

Highlight:
Hilarious scene in the hospital when MacGyver breaks the news to Jack about his taxicab being blown up by a bazooka.  The dialogue and the comedic timing make this one of the funniest moments in series history, right up there with the "Whipped Bean Curd" scene and everything from "Faith, Hope, and Charity."

Lowlight:
I'm not sure why the MacGyver from the flashbacks of 7 years ago is such an inexperienced, nervous nellie, like when he meekly tells Pete "OK, OK, you'll get no trouble from me!" or when he freaks out when sitting on the bed bomb.  From what we know of MacGyver's past, he was everything from a professional race car driver to a Vietnam War bomb squad ace to a loggerman to a world traveler, and he has overconfidence coming out the ears in Season 1, so his apprehensive, neophyte behavior seems out of place. Though as we talked about in Deathlock, the origin story of him meeting Pete conflicts with what was said in that episode (that they met in the desert and MacGyver pulled Pete out of the quicksand and put him on a camel), so I supposed it's not worth spending too much energy worrying about the backstory being consistent. 

Best MacGyverism:
Two great ones to choose from.  I'll go with the shoelace, wrench, and paper clip being used to push down the gas and drive the taxi forward into the firing line of the bazookas while MacGyver and Pete can escape.  

Other thoughts, observations, and questions I didn’t ask when I was in fourth grade:
  • Welcome to Murdoc Season!  5 of the next 22 episodes (including this one) will feature the infamous assassin, and I am thrilled to get to talk some Murdoc! And there's no more Western dreams or teaming up - it's now mano a mano time. Legendary stuff.
  • We're not wasting any time as MacGyver and Pete get captured right away in the junkyard by getting crushed in a taxicab and loaded in the back of a truck.  Awesome opening.
  • 7:47 - great moment as Pete says how Murdoc is dead and then Murdoc talks over the speaker to let them know that he's very much alive.  This is Murdoc's first ever appearance in the series, and the man knows how to make an entrance.
  • 12:20 - MacGyver adds to his catalog of impressive leaps as he jumps Pete who is taking aim at Sarah/Murdoc.
  • More fun with Dalton in the hospital when they tell him that Murdoc blew up his bed.
  • Would have been nice for MacGyver to think of a way out of the truck before there were 7 minutes left until the bomb goes off, though I suppose a hard deadline often brings out the best in all of us.
  • Pete, don't talk to him while he's thinking and when every second is precious! Let him work!
  • Some great Dennis McCarthy music at the end while they're escaping - this track has been in other episodes too but this episode is the one that I associate it most with.
  • When MacGyver throws the rock at the truck windshield at the end, it reminded me of something I read from a panel discussion about MacGyver from 1998 (linked here). Michael Greenburg, a producer, says: 
    • We were doing a sequence here, when we were shooting in L.A., where we were running out of light, and there was a big action sequence, you probably remember this. [Turning to Richard] You probably remember this. He had to throw a rock into the middle of a windshield to stop this truck, and literally we had five minutes to get the shot, and I went to Rick and I said, "Rick, you've got to do this in one take. You've got to nail the middle of that windshield, and it's rigged that it'll blow, and if we don't have it, I mean we'll never be able to come back and get the scene." So all the pressure was mounting, and he did, he threw it right down the middle of the windshield, and got the shot.
    • I'm not certain this is the episode that was referenced, but it does involve RDA throwing a rock into a truck windshield.  But based on the way it was filmed, it doesn't seem like it would have been necessary for RDA to hit the target since it wasn't all in one continuous shot. 
  • Instead of watching the remains of the blast and speculating whether Murdoc is dead, why doesn't either MacGyver and Pete run to the other side and make sure.
  • A consistency goof at the end when Dalton says it's Sunday but earlier in the episode MacGyver said it was Saturday.  But nevertheless a fun denouement where Dalton shows up late to the "party." 

Final Analysis:
A fantastic hour of television and an excellent introduction to the Murdoc character, played brilliantly right off the bat by Michael Des Barres.  Bruce McGill in particular is also outstanding in this episode - he's very funny.  There's never a dull or wasted moment, and the flashbacks are fun and creative. I'm a huge fan of the Murdoc character (which is why 5 of the 7 Murdoc episodes are in my top 22), and this one is loads of fun and a harbinger of great things to come.   

13 comments:

  1. Great episode. My favorite from season 2 and the best example of the writers getting the season 2 formula perfect, mixing cheeky lighthearted moments with hard and fast action. The narrative consistency issues here were a little sloppy though. In addition to the two you pointed out (conflicting stories of how MacGyver and Pete met, Saturday vs. Sunday), MacGyver was just being introduced to Jack's apartment under the office complex in "Dalton, Jack of Spies" but now we find out Jack was living there seven years earlier and MacGyver was staying there while Jack was laid up??? Minor grievance in a well-told story though, and I thought the character banter was outstanding present and past. We've seen flashes of Pete's temper before and his annoyance with meeting MacGyver in the wrecking yard was Pete at his surly best. The tone shifted ominously and rapidly when the taxicab got crushed and they were stashed in the back of the truck trailer. I don't often like when an episode of MacGyver or any show bounces back and forth from lighthearted to serious, but they made it work here.

    While I agree that MacGyver came across as a little too naive and meek in those flashback scenes, it was still done to humorous effect in both the taxi cab and in Jack's apartment sitting on the armed bed. The hospital scene was also fun and one of Dalton's best moments. I still struggle a little comprehending the physics of his "homemade cruise control" and thought it was a little goofy that MacGyver was able to rig all this outside the notice of hit men with bazookas a few feet in front of him, but it was a great MacGyverism. If I have any substantive criticism about this episode besides the narrative consistency goofs, it's that Murdoc's present-day revenge plot seemed a little thin compared to his more elaborate traps in episodes future. Granted, the backstory helped fill the hour with very entertaining scenes, but they were needed given that a long-distance drive in a windowless truck trailer wouldn't have otherwise made for a dynamic Murdoc story. With the backstory though, it would very well.

    The final act when Murdoc rigged the trailer with dynamite was great for its simplicity, and it was great to see how MacGyver had to come up with a way to blast out of a truck trailer with a taxi cab with no engine as his only weapon. For that reason, I liked the muffler, battery, and oil can bomb MacGyverism even better than the homemade cruise control, but agreed that Pete's distracting commentaries were getting a little annoying as they got down to the two minute mark. Even MacGyver all but told him to sit down and shut up at one point. I read the transcript of that 1998 panel discussion at the time but had forgotten Greenburg's commentary about RDA needing to hit the semi-cab directly in the windshield with the rock on one take. No pressure or anything, Mike! Quite a story...and really underscored the crunch this show was under to crank out an episode every eight days. Agreed though that it would have been pretty easy to figure out if Murdoc was or wasn't blown up in that truck. And his camera going off as proof of the hit was aimed at the cab and not the trailer and went off a minute or more after the trailer blew up!!!! Anyway, I still loved this episode and tip my hat to the writers for introducing the Murdoc character, one of the most legendary villains in the history of television. I rank this one #16.

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    1. I remember seeing the underground apartment in Dalton Jack of Spies. So you're saying that MacGyver acts like it's the first time he's been there in that episode? Good catch - I didn't remember that.

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    2. Yes...as Jack was opening that elevator in the sidewalk in "Dalton, Jack of Spies" and telling MacGyver to keep in claustrophobia in check, he explained how the new digs funded by the CIA was "two tax breaks in one" being his office and home. It was made very clear that MacGyver was just being introduced to this new residence of Jack that day. And this was the very next episode so it's pretty clear the writers were trying to play a fast one on us and take advantage of a location they probably had a two-week rental on, repurposing it for two episodes just as the ice cave from "Gold Rush" was repurposed as the corridors of the fun park on "Brainwashed". I've got another such example of a repurposed prop/location coming ahead, although this one is probably a little more obvious.

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  2. My boyhood association for this episode is benefiting at my mom's expense and being able to stay home and watch "MacGyver" live on March 2, 1987, rather than going to religious ed classes which I usually had to suffer through Monday nights at 7. Unfortunately for my mom, she was lying in bed in agony with an absessed tooth that night.....which was the reason I got to stay home. I remember telling her all summer that "you missed the best episode of the season and better catch it in reruns". When it was rerun in August, she agreed it was great....and was actually her favorite of the Murdoc episodes.

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    1. Did you normally watch MacGyver with your Mom? And did your dad or other siblings join in? My mom watched every episode with me. Sometimes my sisters would watch on the weekends. And my dad always found something else to do when it was on.

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    2. Yes I watched about 80% of "MacGyver" episodes with my mom over the years. She had to do Monday night training at work some weeks and missed some episodes here and there. For about 2 1/2 years, my uncle taped them for me while I was at religious ed classes and I went to his place after class and watched it, usually with my mom watching. As for my dad, he was a casual fan. "MacGyver" wasn't mandatory weekly viewing for him (nothing was) but more often than not he either watched along when I was a boy or was tinkering around in the basement and had it on on the TV there. Sometimes, when I'd come home from religious ed classes which my mom usually took me too, he would mention the night's episode, meaning he watched it while I was away.

      Pretty diverse selection of relatives were fans. I was an only child, but my Cousin Jamie was a fellow only child and almost like a sister through my childhood. She was just a tick or too less crazy about it than me and as kids we had sleepovers playing Nintendo and having mini-MacGyver marathons till sunrise. At the other end of the spectrum, my 60-something great-aunt was a regular viewer as was the 80-something parents of my boyhood babysitter. Whenever we went over to their place, I chatted with the old couple about baseball and "MacGyver".

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    3. That's fun that you had a lot of people to share it with. I wonder if MacGyver (and RDA) being from Minnesota made the show slightly more popular there than elsewhere in the U.S.

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    4. I have a feeling it did as well, and I may have been personally responsible for the larger audience of "MacGyver" in Minnesota just based on a multiplier effect of word of mouth. The Pacific and Mountain time zones undoubtedly drug the show down, especially during the football season when it was on late in the evening or not at all.

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  3. Indeed this was one of the best episodes of the series, no doubt. In fact this was the very first episode I ever watched and it got me hooked right away. I was living in Switzerland at the time and MacGyver was on once a week on some French channel, dubbed in French language and I could understand less than half if the dialogue. Nevertheless I got hooked :). Yes some great music by Dennis McCarthy at the end. This sequence was composed for the episode Twice Stung and was reused probably at least half a dozen times - Pirates, Easy Target, The Invisible Killer, Partners and possibly more.

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    1. Thanks David, that's neat that this was your first episode and that you got hooked even though it was in a foreign language. I remember noticing the McCarthy music when watching Twice Stung and automatically thinking of this episode for whatever reason (probably because I've seen it so many times).

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  4. I'm a fan of all the Murdoc episodes. He's just such a fun character. I'm pretty sure this one's pretty high on my countdown (tho, I don't remember exactly where right off).

    One thing I remember from when I first watched this episode, was wondering if it was a clip-show, since I'd seen some of the other clip-show episodes before I saw this one, and wondering if this other 'meeting Murdoc' episode existed somewhere.

    One of the things you didn't mention that usually cracks me up is Pete's toupee falling off or getting knocked askew. Poor hairpiece. =)

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  5. This was also one of the first few episodes I watched,out of sequence and before I knew very much about the MacGyver story but I remember at the time thinking how little effort they had put in into making the flashback MacGyver look different/younger than the 'current day' MacGyver. Now I know more, so much more,I agree with Nick, compared to his Season 1 persona, this 'young' MacGyver is way too nervous, inexperienced and 'rabbit in the headlights' ish. It seems to me that in any of the light hearted passages, MacGyver instantly loses his normal cool, laidback approach to life and danger. I've always found the backstory inconsistencies (and we know there are many!) mildly irritating and in this one particularly so where it transpires that the MacGyver we know has only come about from being in the wrong place wrong time and is just an 'ordinary guy' and for me it invests the MacGyver background story with a rather mundane quality. I know this episode is considered a favourite with lots of fans but I've never really taken to it in the same way.
    Why would Pete set an elaborate trail for MacGyver to follow - Mac describes it as 'something a little off centre' - that doesn't sound like Pete at all. Its the second time he's been in a squashed car in a scrap yard.
    I agree, the dialogue and light-hearted relationship banter is quite amusing; the hospital bed dialogue about the cab (and later the bed) is a catalogue of unlikely disasters. 'two guys with bazookas blew up your cab' 'Bazooka?' 'Two bazookas' as if its an everyday occurrence. (But why is MacGyver so sheepish about the cab anyway, its was hardly his fault and the DXS will pay for it all.) The toupee joke is quite fun and there are some classic lines. 'I've never been able to work out how your mind works but I know when it works'. He's got honesty the way some people got diseases.' ' Dynamite's stable... usually' and Pete describing how most people would walk away but the 'do-gooder' MacGyver is one of the ten percent who wouldn't. I agree, another great MacGyver leap to add to the list and a neat jump over the bed using the rail.
    The inside of the truck seems a lot smaller than the outside! The scenes are pretty dark so its hard to make out what they're doing. You can understand Pete's claustrophobia but he does seem to get wound up pretty easily for a pro.
    I thought Murdoc prepping the explosives took a long time and, as Nick notes, it takes way too long for MacGyver too even start thinking of an escape but its good when it comes. Not a particular fan of big explosions but you have to admire the special effects people for the truck and cab going up here. I was thinking that it looked like a good throw by RDA and the transcript you've included adds some interesting background to that, but I agree, from the way its filmed it doesn't look like it had to be in one take.
    Not sure why Pete and MacGyver go back to the scrapyard afterwards?
    Its a good episode with some excellent moments but ranked somewhere in the 80's for me, just not one of the Murdoc episodes I would want to watch again and again, unlike some.

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  6. I love that scene where MacGyver reacts to Pete aiming at him with his gun when thery are in the warehouse (MacGyver is on the floor). That scene reminds me of Back to the Future II, when Marty McFly screams to the school director "don't shoot, don't shoot".

    For some reason, I see some similarities in the acting style (if that's the correct way to call it), of RDA and Michael J Fox. I am a huge fan of both of them, and love the actors who are physically capable of doing amazing things while acting.

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