Saturday, March 7, 2015

#24: The 'Hood

Season: 7

Synopsis in 3 sentences or less:
As MacGyver moves into an apartment in a new neighborhood, one of his neighbors, Kelly, overhears some wealthy Texans who illegally used pension funds to corner the platinum market talking about killing the whistle blower.  The Texans spot Kelly and try to kill her too, but they accidentally kill her roommate instead.  MacGyver and Mama Lorraine find Kelly in a motel and use fake voodoo to intimidate the superstitious cowboy holding her into giving up the location of the upcoming hit.  

Memorable Quote:
Seem like that ol' boy really wants to be a hero.  ~J. Leland Knox
Well, not to worry, boys.  I think I know how to handle 'Hero.'  ~Bobby Lee

Two words: Bobby Lee.  Rob Youngblood (the actor) steals the show as a handsome, charming cowboy who is also ruthless (punches Mama Lorraine in the face!) and smart (devises a clever way to take out MacGyver).  A memorable villain - let's add him to the top 5 list.

Too much time spent on conversations between MacGyver and Mel (his landlord) about the apartment and the neighborhood.  And couldn't MacGyver have moved to a better spot?  Were the producers trying to make his final home as drab and sad as possible? 

Best MacGyverism:
A great escape as MacGyver is strapped onto a torture rack in the theater, and Bobby Lee lights the end of a rope that is attached to a light fixture directly over MacGyver.  MacGyver is able to grab an iron pole and tries to push on the release mechanism with it, but he can't quite reach it. So he pokes a skeleton that is hanging over him and knocks the hand down, and he's able to push on the hand to reach the mechanism and get himself released just an instant before the light fixture comes crashing down. I'm always a fan of the escapes where's he's tied to a table and has to beat the clock (like in Legend of the Holy Rose).  

Other thoughts, observations, and questions I didn’t ask when I was in fourth grade:
  • Interesting line in the beginning:
    • "Wow, you salvaged that much from the houseboat?"  ~Mel
    • "I had a good smoke detector."  ~MacGyver
    • So the implication is that MacGyver is moving because the houseboat burned down. Somehow I missed that in previous viewings.  Why did the houseboat have to burn down?  That's really depressing. 
  • 8:55 mark - "Besides, they make my eyes happy." ~Mel talking about Kelly and Molly. Mel seems like a nice guy but should probably keep those comments to himself. 
  • 9:45 - nice foreshadowing with Willie throwing salt over his shoulder. 
  • 14:55 - It's everyone's favorite beauty shop owner and voodoo priestess Mama Lorraine!  Always fun when Mama is involved. 
  • 16:38 - "Did you say...murder?!" ~Meter Maid.  This scene with the meter maid getting excited about Kelly's tale in hopes it will make her career is ridiculous and overly slapstick for my liking.  
  • Still can't believe Bobby Lee has the nerve to punch Mama in the face!
  • I like how MacGyver uses the candle wax to read the name on the matches and get a clue to Bobby Lee's location. That's followed by another cool moment when he's looking around the parking lot at the restaurant that was on the matches, and then he sees a Texas license plate in the adjacent motel and realizes that he has found them.
  • Bobby Lee asks Willie to tie Kelly up loosely to see if she's loyal to him. The whole thing is farfetched - why would Kelly stick around with them after they killed her friend thinking it was her? But it's a convenient way to keep Kelly alive for the purposes of the story, so I'm fine with it. 
  • 34:54 - as Mama is pretending to be a maid by the motel room door, you can see a cat slowly saunter by outside.

  • For a guy who's about to testify against some powerful criminals, Nesbitt is quite cavalier as he saunters around the hotel (where he checks in with his real name). And I just used "saunter" in two consecutive bullet points.  
  • Fun scene where Mama messes with Willie's mind in the hotel room.  "Voodoo, man. Voodoo," MacGyver says. 
  • 41:00 - Kelly yells out "MacGyver!" as loud as she can in the hotel courtyard and then tells MacGyver that she followed him so she could help.  She's much dumber than I remembered. 
  • Awesome ending as MacGyver takes a fire hose and wraps it around the scaffolding that Bobby Lee is on, and then he attaches the other end to an elevator which causes the scaffolding to crash spectaculary and Bobby Lee to go flying.  Though one has to wonder why Bobby Lee even went up there in the first place.  It would have been much easier for him to take out Nesbitt from close range, especially since the hotel isn't crowded (no one seems to notice MacGyver with the fire hose or hears the gunshots).
  • Fun denouement as MacGyver discovers that his apartment wall was painted by graffiti artist "Robo," played by Shawn Wayans. This character is not to be confused with graffiti artist "Lobo" from later episode Off the Wall

Final Analysis:
I loved this one as a kid, and I still think it's great fun.  I'm not shocked that it didn't win an Emmy, but the combination of Bobby Lee, Mama Lorraine, all the cowboy references, and a great escape is a recipe for success in my book. With the power invested in me, I hereby grant this episode a retroactive Emmy nomination for the '91-92 television season!  But that means I also have to grant nominations to the remaining 2 season 7 episodes that are higher on my list...


  1. I think they had to go with the houseboat burning down, otherwise, why would Mac move? That was a great house!

    The MacGyver-isms in this one are pretty fun. Though, this is another episode where I don't always remember the plot, because the title seems sort of incongruous with what's going on in the episode.

    I do have it ranked a bit lower than you though.

  2. I will say that I liked this one better than Mama Lorraine's second major episode "Walking Dead"....and I liked it better than the anemic 7th season premiere that was "Honest Abe". But a lot of the same factors that drug down "Honest Abe" for me hurt this one as well, namely cartoonish cartoons....and sorry Nick, but Mama Lorraine still tops that list for me. I was equally unimpressed with buffoonish Cousin Will, who we were supposed to believe was hit man material even though he was too dense to figure out a fast food salt packet. Kelly was a throwback to the bimbos of the week of earlier seasons and proved how dumb she was at the end as you mentioned when she pointlessly shouted "MacGyver!" in the hotel and tipped off Bobby Lee that she was there. The character you described as the episode's lowlight--Mel--was the one guy I thought would make for a good sidekick in an upcoming episode, which he appeared to be being groomed for. I'll get to my thoughts on the rest of the "neighborhood" stuff at the end of the review.

    It's too bad because the story here had some narrative momentum and had me interested up through the falling stage lights and MacGyver's cool candle wax stunt that allowed him to read the burned matchbook. I wasn't quite as impressed as you by Bobby Lee, but he was memorable and charmed up the episode a little, even though he was apparently not much smarter than Cousin Will if he really believed Kelly liked him. She was definitely not giving off any body language that indicated she was interested in the hit man who murdered her roommate and strapped MacGyver to the torture rack. And while I generally enjoyed his escape from the falling stage lights, I have to dock a couple of points for lazy writing for the second random metal rod MacGyver extracted from thin air (just like inside the incinerator in "Jerico Games") that facilitated his escape. Still, up to that point in the episode I was prepared to overlook this episode's downsides.....until Mama Lorraine's voodoo gambit against Cousin Will in a scene she accurately described as "Saturday morning cartoons". The episode kind of died for me right there.

    As for the ending, I'll agree the tipping of Bobby Lee's scaffolding tower in the motel was impressive, even though Kelly nearly screwed up everything by behaving a 9-year-old. As for epilogue and the whole "neighborhood" theme foisted on MacGyver, I have mixed feelings on this. As someone as introverted as MacGyver, it would be a nightmare for me to have this neighborhood full of oddballs barging into my place at the end of a long day wanting to party, so I sympathized with him. On the other hand, it's the sort of thing that might be good for me and might be good for MacGyver as well in meeting a bunch of interesting new people and breaking out of the "homebody" cycle. If they were all as annoying as Mama Lorraine and Kelly though, I think I'd install extra locks on my dreary new loft! I rank this one #122.

    1. With a 98 spot difference, this looks like the new leader in the clubhouse for biggest gap between you and I (for ones I like better). Walking Dead had a 97 gap and Early Retirement was 95. You still have one left at 109 so that may or may not be the winner. At least you don't have to see Mama Lorraine any more on the countdown! The Challenge has a 118 gap for ones that you like better - that looks like the grand prize winner for our biggest difference.

      I also thought it seemed like Mel was being groomed for more appearances - maybe something fell through with the actor. I'm more introverted than extroverted, though I may enjoy the neighborhood people coming in - it would depend on the people.

    2. There was a TV Guide article in July 1991 that mentioned how MacGyver was moving to a new neighborhood and that several new semiregulars would be introduced. Mama Lorraine and the cop Darryl were the only characters we ended up seeing more than once so it's possible fan mail was as harsh about the new neighborhood dynamic as it was about Nikki and Maria. Then again, maybe they were too close to the finish line to care by the middle of season 7.

      Interesting that my biggest difference with your favorites is 98 points because I think there a few episodes where your biggest difference with my favorites is over least two with "The Challenge" and "Kill Zone". I believe we're 99 points off on "Eye of Osiris".

    3. The Challenge is 118 points different and Kill Zone is 105. Trumbo's World is 107 off but I won't count that because I had that ranked too far down.

  3. I seemed to remember that Rob Youngblood played Elvis so I looked him up on IMBD and indeed he did in a TV movie two years after his "MacGyver" appearance. He was a charismatic actor so it was a good choice. While the Texas cowboy shtick on this episode didn't completely win me over, I kind of liked the Knox brothers, especially the bolo tie guy (can't remember which one was Lyle). I also thought their reason for wanting Bobby Lee to snuff out Victor Nesbit--so he didn't testify about them "using pension funds to corner the platinum market"--was a creative one.

    I have a connotation with this one as it's the first episode I talked my middle school English teacher into watching back in 8th grade. He was a terrible teacher and a raging psychopath as a human being, but I still lobbied him to watch "MacGyver". He wasn't impressed with this one but liked a couple of others in the months ahead when I kept pushing him to watch. Granted, he picked a bad season to start watching.....and when he saw the December rerun of "Honest Abe" he almost threw in the towel completely.

    1. Did you lobby all your teachers to watch MacGyver or was it because he taught English and was into stories and themes)?

    2. I lobbied a handful of teachers over the years. A few of them in elementary were already fans, or at least became fans after I gave them a tip. I had this English teacher for English and study hall and he was more approachable than most so I put on a full-court press. One time a girl sitting next to me asked him what the word "endear" means. He explained it and then looked at me and added...."if you want to endear to Mark, you watch that goofball on Monday night".

    3. Interesting that your teacher was approachable and a raging psychopath at the same time - sounds like a memorable guy. I don't remember MacGyver being much of a topic of conversation with me and kids at school - maybe that's because by the time I started watching, the live version was already into season 6. I do vaguely remember telling people in band that I named my flute MacGyver (I was the only elementary school boy in the district who played the flute) and that was amusing to some people.

    4. He was a memorable guy to be sure....the approachability factor being high when he was in a good mood which flipped on and off like a light switch. When he wasn't in a good mood, he would squeeze your collarbone, grind his knee into your thigh, throw you out into the hallway while you were sitting in your desk, or chase you around the room shouting "you make me sick!" at the top of his lungs. And while it was an accident he one time threw a textbook at a kid that pierced his cheek. And he was built like an ox too so you'd think we'd be terrified of him but we were too young and dumb to realize it. In case you can't tell I had a very interesting junior high experience, and this guy was only a small part of it.

  4. Sorry Nick, but my thoughts on this one are pretty similar to Mark’s. There’s a lot of scene setting for the wacky neighbourhood theme – are there really down town neighbourhoods like this full of annoying busybodies and where the cops know everyone’s name? They’d moved the filming back to LA so obviously MacGyver had to move somewhere, but why here – it doesn’t make any sense. (The real house boat still exists and was up for sale a few months back – how cool to own it now.)
    I agree, Bobby Lee has some charm and would make a good Elvis but Will is both weird and stupid and I don’t like the convenient ‘superstitious’ stuff. The rack escape is ok but as you say, has basically been used before and there’s no way the flimsy skeleton hand could’ve shifted the lever. I agree, the candle wax match book MacGyverism was good. I spotted the little cat walking past the door too but Nick beat me to it!
    How stupid is Kelly calling out MacGyver’s name like that and rushing up to hug him in the middle of staking out a hit man and how come Bobby Lee want to kill her now when he didn’t before? After the scaffolding comes down, MacGyver looks kind of shocked and bewildered like he’s never done anything dangerous like that before. Some overacting from RDA over the apartment wall (although I would have been even more annoyed than that!) and how likely is it that streetkid Robo’s graffiti mural would be all about the destruction of the rainforest. And I’m with Mark – the party would be my worst nightmare too although can also see his point about sometimes we all just need to get out more!
    It’s only the second time I’ve watched this one and now I remember why! I’ve ranked it pretty much the same as Mark around 123, actually lower than the Walking Dead because in that episode there was at least some interesting stuff to research.

    1. Yeah I forgot to talk about the mural. I can think of a lot of causes that the street graffiti artist would see worthy of drawing a mural, but the bulldozing of the rain forest? Seems like a pretty detached cause for a street kid.

  5. I believe the location "... Stirling Suites" was 1440 E Imperial Ave, El Segundo, CA 90245, it's currently Embassy Suites. I recognize it because I've stayed there. The scene with the scaffold collapse is this location.

  6. They just showed this episode on METV at 5:00! I noticed something that I never noticed before!!! When Mama, Macgyver, and Kelly was in that hotel, with the bad guy, there was a cat walking outside. ROFL! The door was open and it just walked right by!!! I wonder if that wasn't intentional and they never noticed it! :)

    "34:54 - as Mama is pretending to be a maid by the motel room door, you can see a cat slowly saunter by outside."

    OH! You noticed it too!!! Awesome. Did you notice it back then?!

  7. "Nicholas Sweedo says Yeah I don't miss a trick!"

    ROFL! You are so observant! I love it! :)