Wednesday, October 26, 2016

MacGyver Reboot -- Episode 5: Toothpick

Synopsis in 3 sentences or less:
MacGyver and his team board a German train to rescue an informant from a hit squad.  The bad guys turn the train into a runaway, and MacGyver must stop it before it crashes into the Frankfurt station.

Memorable Quote:
But don't worry, once we're done with you you'll make Jason Bourne look like Matt Damon.   ~Jack

You can't go wrong with action on a moving train.  It worked in From Russia With Love, Slow Death, Honeymoon Express, and Under Siege 2.

Speaking of Slow Death, why not name this episode "Fast Death?"  And it would have been a nice touch if MacGyver would have made a sock puppet for a little girl on the train while Randy Edelman's glorious track played in the background.  See, I told you they should have hired me as a MacGyver consultant. 

The Patricia Thornton scenes (shooting at some bad guys in the train station and then interrupting the business conference) didn't serve a purpose and were unnecessary to the plot. In particular the conference scene where she shoots the video monitor and tells everyone to leave was overdramatic and ridiculous -- how could she possibly have gotten out of the building? And why did the executive need to trigger a silent alarm when any of the 15 people who left the room would presumably have called the authorities?

Best MacGyverism:
Swaps engine wires (while lying on his back under speeding train) to reverse polarity and make motors spin backwards.  Though I'm not sure how he doesn't catch on fire.

Other thoughts, observations, and questions I didn’t ask when I was in fourth grade:
  • Watching this episode with The MacGyver Project Mom!  I will honor her request to fast forward through the lackluster theme song as a form of protest.
  • I like the broken heart he makes with the paper clip, which I only noticed after Mom pointed it out.
  • Who knew (other than people who speak German) that German restrooms were labled as "BAD?"  Another Mom observation, by the way -- good thing she's here.
  • If Penny Parker wants to call him "Angus," I can live with that, but he shouldn't be introducing himself as "Angus MacGyver."  RDA's MacGyver did not like the name and never called himself by it.
  • "She's an American in a German train station firing bullets with pedestrians all around, and no one seems to care."  ~Mom
  • Why is everyone on the train just sitting there as bad guys are getting knocked down or thrown out windows?  Reminds me of Countdown when tourists are comfortable milling about the ship despite multiple bombs going off.
  • "Why don't they just get off the train?"  ~Mom
  • I've said this before but I'm not a fan of Riley's borderline omnipotent ability to do anything with a computer (in this episode she can track all the bad guys on the train). Stories are more compelling the more the heroes are challenged, and it's too easy and unsatisfying for Riley to solve a problem by pushing a few buttons on her computer.
  • While building the magnesium torch (reminiscent of Last Stand):
    • "Of course there's a hard way.  There's always a hard way.  And the hard way always sucks."  ~MacGyver
    • "MacGyver's got some language problems."  ~Mom

Final Analysis:
Best episode so far -- relatively tight story and compelling setting.  Still not an hour of television that I'm going to tell my grandkids about, but Mission City wasn't built in a day.


  1. Although "Bad" is the short form for "Badezimmer" (bathroom), I've never seen one labeled as this. It's usually only pictograms or "WC" or "Toilette". But as it's clearly NOT a German train they used, there's no reason for the train to have the correct labeled signs anyway, I guess...

    There's so many things wrong with this train I don't even know where to start - first of all German trains running on electric power, not on diesel fuel ;-)

    1. They should have brought you in as the German train consultant!

    2. While Swiss trains are a bit different from German trains, I probably have spent more time in German trains than the writers and producers of this show... but I can't fault them for not having the budget to film in a real, modern long-distance train from Germany.

      At least I could have helped with the grammar on that supposedly German cat magazine, though... but maybe it's an hommage to the original show; "The Enemy Within" had German spelling issues, too ;-)

  2. I thought this episode looked pretty good at the outset and had hope that the train theme would deliver as it usually does. Can't say I walked away with a more favorable impression than anything else so far though. The scenes with Patricia Thornton were nonsensical as you said and I wasn't buying MacGyver and the German girl falling for each other. If they were gonna have MacGyver awkwardly fall for a German girl, they should have at least named the character Maria Romburg! Agree with the MacGyver Project mom by the way that MacGyver's vocabulary needs a lot of work. He's supposed to be this smart guy but his narratives always make him sound like he's a stoned 17-year-old boy at a skate park.

    The ending also let me down. The magnesium torch bit was not original and everything to do with the execution was absurd, from the way he turned the torch (the contents would have all spilled onto the tracks) to the torch cutting through a cut of steel that thick (terrible lava-like CGI of molten steel) to lying underneath the train amidst a sea of sparks that would inevitably have turned our hero into Zavros from "The Lost Treasure of Atlantis". Again, I walked away disappointed. It wasn't unbearably terrible....just uninspired, soulless, and not even as good as the average episode of CBS's "MacGyver" ripoff "Scorpion". It could be a long year if they don't find their sea legs soon.

    1. Yeah despite my ranking it as the "best" episode I agree with your points -- calling it the "best" makes it sound better than it was, but it's just that the bar has been pretty low. It was not an episode that really excited me or that I would be all that interested to watch again.

  3. Hahaha your mom is funny! Love your mom and so agree with her! :)

    1. Thanks! The MacGyver Project Mom doesn't hold back!

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  5. "Thanks! The MacGyver Project Mom doesn't hold back!"

    Glad she doesn't!!! :) Seems like you got her sense of humor! :)

  6. Low Points:
    • All the banter between Riley and Mac’s roommate, I can’t even remember his name. That’s how insignificant his character is to the show.
    • Why did Katarina dye her hair? She did not know that Agent Abbott was dead and that she was in trouble. Also, it is very hard to dye brown hair blonde. It would have been better to go the opposite direction, blonde to brunette.
    • In the Frankfurt Germany train station, the floor sweeper was obviously the gunman. And, with an AK-47, he missed Patricia Thornton at close range. Really?
    • Another really? Eight people board the train via suspension from a helicopter. How did it happen so fast? Patricia Thornton just called to say the cover was blown and the men were already being air lifted.
    Favorite Line: [paraphrasing]
    • Mac to Katarina: “What exactly is a secret agent supposed to look like?
    • Riley to Jack: “If you tell anyone, I’ll deny it but I think I just learned something from you.”
    • Mac taking tweezers and pulling out cut and dyed hair from Katarina’s train compartment drain.
    • Paper Clip shaped like a broken heart. Mac makes this while on a ‘stake out’ in Portugal outside Nikki’s apartment.
    • Mac stealing an electric razor from a sleeping man’s compartment [which was not locked] and making a Taser gun.
    • Puncturing a pressurized hair spray can and using it as a weapon.
    • When Classic Mac used a bicycle frame to make a blow torch, he shaved the Mg. Smaller particles make for a faster reaction. In this episode, he did not shave the Mg armrest. The torch would not have worked in so quick a time.
    Final Comment:
    One of my favorite movies from the 1976 is Silver Streak with Gene Wilder, Richard Pryor and Jill Clayburgh. Gene and Richard are on a train trying to protect Jill. The evil mastermind kills the engineer and places a toolbox on the accelerator. The engine gains speed and there is no way to stop it. The train is heading for Chicago. They jump into the last car and disconnect it from the train. Sound familiar?
    I also agree with Nick. There was a little girl traveling with her mother. It would have been nice if he had interacted with her and made her a doll.
    Project MacGyver Mom