Tuesday, April 14, 2015

#7: Out in the Cold

Season: 2

Synopsis in 3 sentences or less:
A mob informant passes MacGyver some microfilm on the ski slopes without MacGyver's knowledge, and then MacGyver gets trapped in an avalanche.  Pete helps save MacGyver but breaks his own leg in the process, and he temporarily stays in MacGyver's apartment while recovering.  The mobsters believe that MacGyver was the informant's contact, and they kidnap Pete and demand that MacGyver turn over the microfilm. 

Memorable Quote:
Look, I hate to have to tell you this, but only one out of 25 survives an avalanche.  ~Ski Patrolwoman
MacGyver will be the one.   ~Pete

The moment where Pete pulls MacGyver out of the snow goes to the top of the list of best moments from the series.  By the time it's all said and done, it will be #4 on the list.  More on this moment below. 

As great as the avalanche scene is, it does give me a touch of claustrophobia, similar to the end of Eye of Osiris.

Best MacGyverism:
While trapped in the avalanche, makes a parachute using his bandanna and zipper weight and then deploys it by blowing through his ski pole.  This is a memorable one, and I'm adding it to the top MacGyverism list as an honorable mention. 

Other thoughts, observations, and questions I didn’t ask when I was in fourth grade:
  • It's clear that at least a few of the shots of MacGyver skiing in the beginning is actually RDA since the shots end with him in a close up.  One such moment is a humorous one as Pete falls down and then MacGyver jets in and hits him with some snow.
  • Some notable guest stars in this episode include:
    • Michael Constantine, the head mobster, featured in "My Big Fat Greek Wedding" and also played the Hungarian Inspector in Thief of Budapest.
    • Jonathan Goldsmith plays the mobster's deputy, and he has gone on to mega-stardom as Dos Equis' "The Most Interesting Man in the World."
    • Robert Pastorelli as the hit man on the slopes, recognizable to some as Murphy Brown's painter. 
    • Michael Corbett plays Phil, the informant, and he is a correspondent on "Extra" and an author. 
  • The avalanche sequence with MacGyver speeding down the mountain is thrilling, despite the stock footage.
  • I've mentioned before how I'm not someone who normally cries at movies/tv shows, but it does happen occasionally.  So far I've shed tears during The Madonna and Passages, and if you remember, I said that there was at least more episode, #7, which might cause me to reach for the tissues.  Well, despite starting to get a little choked up once Pete notices MacGyver's bandanna flag, I still thought that I could stave off the tears.  But then Randy Edelman decided to hit me with some slow MacGyver-themed piano music as Pete pulls MacGyver out of the snow and gives him a hug. Let's just say I was toast after that.
  • For me, this is the most powerful moment between MacGyver and Pete in the whole series, and it beautifully symbolizes their friendship. Not just the moment of pulling MacGyver out of the snow, but also Pete's fight and determination to do whatever it took to find him, and MacGyver's knowing that Pete would be doing exactly that.
  • Poor Pete has his finest moment and then can't go one minute without falling and breaking his leg.  This causes him to be extra needy and leads to some fun banter in the apartment between he and MacGyver.
  • Funny how if the bad guys never had bothered MacGyver, he likely would have never known about or found the microfilm.
  • 42:26 - not so cool any more, are you, Mr. Dos Equis man?

Script Analysis:
Here's a link to my script analysis where I compared the original script to the final episode.

Final Analysis:
This was one that I wasn't totally sure about where to rank since I didn't remember the second half of the episode very well, and I probably do have it a smidge too high.  Nevertheless, it's still a great episode with an all-time classic moment and ranks as one of the two best Pete/MacGyver buddy episodes (with the other one still to come on the countdown).  The mobsters aren't going to win any prizes for competency to say the least, but the second half is still enjoyable as heck, And of course there is great music throughout: what else do you expect from Mr. Edelman?

And with that, we bid adieu to Season 2.  A tremendous season overall, and it has my favorite version of the opening theme.  I imagine some people can't tell the difference between the Season 2 vs. the Season 6 theme song, for instance, but I sure can.  When I've been watching Season 5, 6, or 7 episodes for this countdown, I just skip the song to save some time.  But I have NEVER skipped the song while watching a Season 2 episode - it's too good. It has the absolutely perfect combination of instrumentation and tone including an ornate quality that is missing from the later seasons' theme. As for the episodes, the first third of the season was my least favorite part, but things really picked up starting with Silent World.

Now we move into the top 6 and transcend even one more level.  At this point, I could make a strong case for any of the remaining 6 episodes as being my numero uno.  But only one can hold the coveted honor - which one will it be?!


  1. I love the moment where the head mobster says "the sword of socrates is hanging above his head", and the subtle but priceless facial expressions by the others. For me this was one of the most hilarious moments of the series. I wonder who came up with that, it's so subtle but just perfect for that scene. I also thought the first half of the episode is top 10, but overall it would definitely rank a bit lower for me as the bad guys never really seem threatening to me so there's not much to keep me on the edge of my seat the last 20 minutes. Still, a very fun episode.

    1. On that "sword of socrates" line, I actually googled it when that part came up to see if it was used elsewhere, and the only reference that I saw for it was from a site talking about this episode. :)

    2. Yes it's supposed to be the sword of Damokles, you'll find that one on google easily :). It's just funny how they used this "mistake" to show that he's probably not the brightest of mob bosses :)

    3. I'm wondering if what they meant was the Sword of Damocles: http://www.inspirationalstories.com/0/2.html

    4. I learn something new every day!

  2. I always enjoyed this one for the same reasons you did and audiences must have been compelled by the exciting footage of MacGyver getting buried in an avalanche from the advertisements back in February 1987 because this was far and away the highest-rated episode of season 2 and the second-highest-rated episode of the entire series. It lived up to expectations too. I've made my position clear that the lighthearted version of "MacGyver" seen through most of season 2 wasn't my favorite tone for the series, but they nailed the formula with a number of episodes, including this one. Now I'm definitely with Nick and David that the first half of the episode is better than the second, but the second half was entertaining too, with the usual assist from Randy Edelman's first-rate score.

    The execution of the avalanche was excellent, from the "ski vacation" opening where MacGyver obnoxiously but hilariously sprayed Pete with snow to the clever swapping of ski poles by Phil to lose the microfilm to the avalanche itself and subsequent escape. It's a good thing they didn't try to film that scene in the mountains near LA in early 2015....because there wasn't any snow this year! As for the stock footage, the dazzling original footage lost a bit of its innocence for me when I picked up the DVD collection of my favorite show before "MacGyver"--"The Fall Guy". The ski footage from a 1982 episode was looking very familiar until, sure enough, the entire avalanche chase scene was shown frame by frame five years before it was aired on "MacGyver". In "The Fall Guy" episode, there was some impressive additional footage of the snow from the avalanche crashing into the ski lodge and bursting through the windows. Worse yet, the theme song from another early 80s action show on ABC--"Hart to Hart"--also contains footage of skiiers in identical red snowsuits that I suspect probably contained the same avalanche escape footage. The scene on "MacGyver" may have been at least the third time this footage was used in five years on ABC shows. Either way, it was nicely edited and the escape was very exciting. I must confess that Pete helping MacGyver out of the avalanche was not even on my radar as the "third scene that brought you to tears" from "MacGyver" but I sort of get it. It was a great moment of bonding between them and took their friendship to another level.

    That next level of friendship transferred nicely to the scenes in MacGyver's apartment which I thought were quite amusing. Pete's indecision about blankets and ginger ale with "shaved ice" were a scream. The final third of the episode was solid too and soy sauce packets made for a pretty clever MacGyverism to help him escape the van with "The Most Interesting Man in the World" (I had no idea whatsoever that was Jonathan Goldsmith by the way). The laundry factory was a good setting for the final stand with some fun foils of the bad guys (not fun for them....some major discomfort for a couple of those guys!), picking them off cleverly one after another much like he did with the bad guys on the boat at the end of "Deep Cover". Pete breaking his other ankle in the end was a bit much though and they had to take that season 2 cheekiness to overload with the lead mobster's wife calling him to buy milk. It was fine I guess, but I'm glad "MacGyver" moved past the need to have silly scenes like that in every single episode as they felt the need for in season 2. Overall though a well executed episode with some solid location work, escapism on the ski slopes and inside laundry factories, and great chemistry between MacGyver and Pete. I ranked it #37.

    1. What was the number one episode for ratings? I'm sure you've mentioned it before but I don't remember. That's an interesting theory about the advertisements being the key to the higher ratings - makes you wonder why they didn't spring for more natural disaster episodes after that!

      Also interesting what you said about the avalanche scene being taken in full from elsewhere. I was thinking about that as I was watching it and wondering if the shots of the red guy flying down the slopes was a MacGyver stuntman or from another show altogether, and it's interesting how as in other episodes, they started with the footage and then made a story out of that.

    2. Here's the theme song from "Hart to Hart" in season 4 (which would have been the 1982-83 TV season) and at the 0:52 second mark you see a very familiar looking set of red snowsuits that I suspect were from the same stock footage seen on "The Fall Guy" and "MacGyver". Judge for yourself....

    3. A brief shot, but yeah, I can see the similarity.

    4. The highest-rated first-run of "MacGyver" was "Deathlock" on January 22, 1986. January is traditionally the highest-rated month for TV (or at least was back in the 80s) for obvious reasons, and since three networks accounted for 85% of the TV audience back then, when one network's hit show wasn't on or was a rerun, the competition gained at their expense. In this case, NBC's "Highway to Heaven" was at its peak popularity on Wednesday night which "MacGyver" had just moved to the week prior. NBC pre-empted "Highway to Heaven" for some reason that night so "MacGyver" benefited, scoring its highest rating ever....for a new episode. I think I mentioned before that two months later--on March 26, 1986, a rerun of "The Heist" actually had an even larger audience. You'll be happy to hear the lowest-rated first-run "MacGyver" episode was "The Mountain of Youth". But considering it aired with nearly no promotion in a brutal Thursday night timeslot in late May, the audience it got was still pretty impressive, and spoke volumes for the loyalty of the show's fan base that they'd show up for an unpromoted "lost episode" aired on a random Thursday night after the season officially ended in 1992.

      "MacGyver" had a number of obstacles that kept it from being a huge hit, most notably that "Monday Night Football" time zone complication. But beyond that, ABC was a distant third-place network for the first three years of "MacGyver's" run and its poorest-rated nights of the week tended to come in the days before "MacGyver" was on. This is important because its in the days before a show is broadcast when it gets promoted. For most of 1985-1988, ABC's Thursday night lineup was a rolling calamity, its Friday night lineup was mostly weak until the "TGIF" craze heated up right around 1990, Saturday night was a complete disaster, and Sunday night only gave "MacGyver" some solid promotional time if there was a popular movie of the week on. My guess is that whatever movie aired on February 15, 1987, was highly rated given that it led into such a highly rated "MacGyver" episode the following night. It was a much different set of rules on TV back then, and it's no coincidence that "MacGyver" was closest to becoming a bona fide ratings hit in the second half of season 1 when it was moved to Wednesday night....following ABC's only genuinely successful night of the week in the mid-80s, the Tuesday night trio of "Who's the Boss?", "Growing Pains", and "Moonlighting", which gave the series timely promotion the night before it aired. It's another reason why I think "MacGyver" would have become a top-20 hit and remained one if the network had kept it on Wednesday night. Obviously more info than you bargained for but I like relaying this inside baseball TV info from back in the day.

      As for "more natural disaster episodes", "MacGyver" did more episodes set outdoors than any other show I know of as it and I'm sure the expense and high-stakes gamble on the location work coming together without a hitch gave producers and especially the network and the studio heartburn already. I can imagine ABC exec Brandon Stoddard, who hated the series, having a heart attack if Steve Downing approached him for the greenlight to do even more outdoor natural disaster episodes!

    5. Thanks for the info. I just did a little googling and found that 2/15/87 on ABC was the debut of Amerika, a 7 day miniseries about the Soviet takeover of America that was very highly rated according to Wikipedia, so I bet you're "right on the Mark" with your theory!

      I remember TGIF. I hadn't thought about that in a while. Full House, Family Matters, Step by Step. Those were the days!

    6. I had a feeling February 15, 1987, might have been the first night of "Amerika". I remember that got widely panned in the reviews and I think the ratings dropped a fair amount over the course of the seven nights it was on. But yeah that first night would likely have given "MacGyver" quite a promotional boost the following night. That's the kind of thing that no longer counts for much in the fragmented TV environment of 2015 but back in 1987 if you were getting promoted during a show with 40+ million viewers, it would definitely help you out the next night in a way that would be far more uncertain nowadays.

      As for TGIF, I wrote a very comprehensive nostalgic hat tip to that on my blog last year. Here's the link....

    7. Great post, I love this line in particular:
      A couple were good and some had just enough charm to keep me interested as I transitioned from boy to teenager, but not many of them would stand up well to 2014 audiences given that they were barely serviceable a quarter-century ago.

      I was in on the early part of TGIF and had forgotten about Perfect Strangers and Just the Ten of Us until just reading about it now. I vaguely remember one episode of Perfect Strangers where they are trapped in a flooding basement and they do a MacGyverism of sorts with a science kit. I also enjoyed your description of watching Sabrina with the mute button on just to see MJH. :)

    8. Glad you enjoyed it. "Perfect Strangers" was my favorite TGIF show and the only one I'd probably still like as an adult as it was kind of a hat tip to comedy legends and Mark-Linn Baker had absolutely brilliant comic timing. And MacGyver was actually referenced in that episode where they were trapped in the flooding basement.

      "Just the Ten of Us" had its moments too but was pretty racy for the TGIF mold, which is probably why it got canned. Urkel was quite funny that first year or two. It was a one-joke gag they milked for all it was worth but there was no way the show could keep going without turning him into a cartoon.

      Some of those outfits MJH wore on "Sabrina the Teenage Witch" might still get me watching with the mute button on today. And I could do so without feeling guilty because she's older than me and was playing a teenager at age 23-24!

    9. I watched quite a bit of the TGIF, but Urkel was the reason I couldn't deal with "Family Matters". He is also indicative of a really bad 'trope' of sorts in the TV world - they find out that the audience really *really* - no, I mean REALLY - loves this one character and that character is SO popular when they show up, that the production people or network execs insist that character start showing up even MORE often and become a more regular part of the show. Then they milk the heck out of that character, usually to the point of, like Mark said, them becoming a cartoon, or they end up with gross character assassination. Somehow, that show about the nice family becomes the show about the kooky neighbor. Uh oh! That's not the show they pitched to the network - or the audience. Now the audience is changing the channel b/c the show they used to love isn't there anymore b/c someone made a bad decision and now they can't get out of it.

      Can you imagine what would have happened if they'd done that with Murdoc on MacGyver? Sure, I'd've loved a few more episodes with Murdoc, but I kind of also feel that he was in *just* the right number of episodes to keep his character from toppling head-first into 'joke' land. (They pushed the envelope a little with Jack and Penny, but not too much.)

      TV's done this a lot and I don't know of any instances where it worked out - probably b/c it was done seamlessly and with style. Mostly I remember ones that didn't work out well at all. (TV has a similar issue with pairing up primary characters in a show, b/c they shift the focus from the show's premise to this 'relationship' thing that wasn't part of the original premise. But that's a whole other rant. *g*)

    10. Rumor was that producers wanted Bruce McGill to be a regular cast member on "MacGyver" but McGill only wanted to be semiregular. I'm glad that decision was made or I could easily imagine Jack Dalton becoming Urkel.

    11. I agree. I love Jack, but I don't know that having him as a regular sidekick would've been a good way to go.

  3. As for feeling claustrophobic during the avalanche scene and in "Eye of Osiris", I never really got that but could see where you and others might. My biggest claustrophobia moment on "MacGyver" was an odd one as the first time I watched "Birth Day" it made my skin crawl that MacGyver and Elaine couldn't get out of that factory after repeated attempts.

  4. This is one of those episodes that, when it starts, I get kind of excited, then once Mac's rescued, I remember why I don't always remember what this episode's plot is. The 2nd half of the episode is not nearly as good as the first. The whole skiing part and the avalanche are great, but after that - it's less memorable. I still like it, but not as much as some of the others higher on my list.

  5. BTW, did anyone else notice that Richard Lawson (aka Jesse Colton) just married Beyonce's mother?

    1. Uh no! That headline went right past me. Way to go, Jesse!

  6. A very good one but not amongst my really top episodes Like everyone else, I enjoyed the exciting first half much more than the second. I too, liked the skiing theme - yet another holiday where they’re bickering and Pete wants to go home. But why is his house being fumigated – I suppose it ties in with his later concern about potential ‘bugs’ from MacGyver’s potato clock! Great to see RDA skiing and I thought the old footage was matched well and was exciting enough to warrant its inclusion. Interesting about its previous use –thanks for all the info. I agree, the avalanche was dramatic and the rescue was a great Pete/MacGyver moment but didn’t quite bring me to tears.
    Pete is a terrible patient and their banter is amusing – I have to say, I think I’d be with Pete and pass on the tofu casserole in favour of Chinese takeaway! Enjoyed the soy sauce trick in the van and MacGyver tackling a villain with a gun head on which we don’t see so much of later. I liked his making use of what was left of the microscope to read the film ; How can MacGyver recognise a ‘bookies ledger‘ – he knows everything.
    In the laundry, MacGyver/RDA has a plaster on his finger as he cuts open the mailbag and in a later scene he seems to catch his finger on the dryer – presumably filmed first.
    The lighthearted tone is fine but I did find the villains rather cartoonish. How was one of them knocked out by falling in a laundry basket? The threat level was greatly diminished as a result and I agree with Mark, Pete breaking his other leg was a bit OTT. Its at no. 67 for me which seems a bit low but as Mark said earlier, a mid- ranking MacGyver episode is still an excellent one!

    1. I noticed that too where MacGyver catches his finger on the dryer, and it seems pretty genuine (i.e. that RDA actually hurt himself there).

    2. I seem to remember an RDA interview where he said he was always nicking his fingers on things he had to do (and fiddling wtih the SAK) so much so that his hands became too 'gnarly' for close-ups and they had to double with his brother's hands instead.

  7. This was my second episode and one that stands out as my first look at Pete and MacGyver's friendship. There was lots that I wasn't overly keen on including the dumb villains, the annoying rescue team lady who just wanted to leave and Pete's second leg break, but the avalanche and rescue scenes made up for all that. The desparation and sincerity that Dana managed to convey in his performance was outstanding and was a great introduction to Pete and his instantly likeable character. Mac is lucky to have a friend like him, and vice-versa of course!

    1. Yeah, I think the avalanche and rescue scenes are outstanding and it's the greatest MacGyver/Pete friendship moment in the series.

  8. This is the episode that I remember when it was broadcasted in my country. I didn't grow up with cable tv in my house, didn't need it, but when one of the local channels of my country started to broadcast the show on Saturday nights I got hooked immediately. It was double in Spanish, back then, I wouldn't be able to understand it if it was in English, but I loved the show. Episodes were presented at random, not following a particular order, so, one week you would have a dark hair younger MacGyver and the following week we had a blond long hair older MacGyver (pronounced MacGeever in the Spanish version).

    Time passed and I forgot about MacGyver, I don't think I was able to watch the whole serie then, but when I found out that MacGyver was on Netflix, the episode that immediately came to my mind was the avalanche one. I didn't remember the whole plot, I only remembered the scene in which he is trapped in the pocket, as a matter of fact, I thought that the whole episode was about MacGyver surviving the avalanche. When I saw that scene the first time, I remember I thought how educational the show was, and all the knowledge I was getting from that particular scene. Of course, because in the Caribbean you have to know how to survive an avalanche. :-)

    Anyway, this is the one and it's kind of nostalgic for me. I'm glad you have this one on your favorite 10. Another episode that I enjoy and that has a special space in my heart.

  9. The interaction between Pete and MacGyver in this one was brilliant. Pete's presence is really justified, and there are some hilarious scenes with the two of them.

    I found the bad guys a bit silly, though. For most of the episode they didn't seem menacing at all. I guess it's part of the whole "light" feeling of season 2 that Mark sometimes complains about, and I can see where he's coming from.