Friday, November 4, 2016

MacGyver Reboot -- Episode 7: Can Opener

Synopsis in 3 sentences or less:
MacGyver goes undercover as an inmate in a high security prison with the goal of breaking out a drug kingpin and leading him back to his hidden base in Mexico.

Memorable Quote:
You know what they say about birds.  They don't live very long.   ~El Noche
Actually the Laysan albatross can live up to 40 years.   ~MacGyver

I like the scene where MacGyver fixes the old man's inhaler -- I always enjoyed moments like that from the original when he would do small things to help people even when it wasn't a big part of the plot.  And I thought the old guy was a good character with some well-written dialogue.

I didn't like Jack as an undercover prison guard.  First of all, how would the Phoenix Foundation ever get him assigned to that prison so quickly and easily?  And how would they know that he would be assigned to a spot where he would be in any kind of position to help?  And then he doesn't end up helping with the escape, so it wasn't necessary to have him there -- I guess it was just a way to get Jack involved in the story.  But this would have been a good time for MacGyver to go it alone just like in the good old days.  After all the show is "MacGyver," not "MacGyver and Jack."

Best MacGyverism:
Mixes radio battery, salt, and water to make a bomb in the toilet.

Other thoughts, observations, and questions I didn’t ask when I was in fourth grade:
  • Riley gives Bozer a digit to her phone number each time he helps her with something, but they must be communicating already if she's over all the time.  Maybe they're messaging through something else like facebook, but it would make getting her phone number less important if they're already able to communicate.
  • Seems like it would make more sense for the Phoenix Foundation to let the prison guards in on their plan so that way they could at least make the escape a little easier. Season 3 of 24 had a similar storyline where Bauer broke a drug boss out of prison and took him back to Mexico.
  • The origami must be a nod to Prison Break where Michael Schofield was fond of using cranes as symbols.
  • The prison guards' lockdown efforts and response time after the initial escape from the cell is pretty weak.  As is MacGyver's plan once he's out of the cell.
  • The morse code in the taillight is reminiscent of the morse code flashing lights in the Pilot.
  • The flying nitrogen tank taking out 4 guys was ridiculous.  Would have been better if there was only one guy to take out, or best to just let Jack and the commandos take care of them.
  • The prison staff just lets MacGyver stroll around after he pretended to be an inmate and escaped?  And Jack just hangs out by the gate?  Even with the greater good of the completed mission, I don't think the guards and the warden would have been too happy to have been played like that.
  • Looking forward to next week's Murdoc episode! 

Final Analysis:
Overall I thought this one was decent.  The gravity and impossibility of the situation make it compelling, and I liked the escape from the cell.  The escape after that left a bit to be desired in terms of creativity, and the ending felt rushed where they went down to Mexico and resolved the situation in a couple of minutes, but I suppose that's the difference between a 40 minute episode and a full season of Prison Break.  I'll rank it 3 out of 7 for now.


  1. I had a very similar impression. I'm big on jail escape shows and movies but season 1 of "Prison Break" set the bar so high that it's pretty hard to get there when limited to about a 25-minute segment of a 40-minute episode. And even in the context of single-episode jail breaks, I thought the escape plan here was far less thorough and imaginative than on "The Escape" in the original episode.

    I will say that they mostly got the tone right here as MacGyver seemed stuck in a genuinely terrifying situation way beyond his comfort zone, although the full context of landing him in prison--and as you said installing Jack as a fly-by-night guard--was far-fetched to the point of annoyance. Even though I didn't fully understand his toilet bomb in the jail cell, it was an intense and reasonably well-done scene. The rest of the escape was way too easy and whatever it was in that mop bucket he used to shatter the jail cell bars like twigs was ludicrous.

    And again in the final scene, the tone was sufficiently intense with the drug lord (name????) torturing MacGyver with that nitrogen ingestion, they completely ruined it with that insane spinning nitrogen tank scene, which may well have been enough for the whole episode to jump the shark.

    If I'm grading on a generous curve this one was "above average" for this reboot but it still had a lot of problems. The old guy in the prison did have some good dialogue and decent chemistry with MacGyver, and the actor looked so incredibly familiar but I can't place him. At a more macro level, none of the secondary players are doing it for me. Jack has his moments and Riley gets the occasional funny quip in but Bozer and Patricia Thornton are completely useless to this show's mythology, insofar as there is one. Like you, I'm excited to see how they handle the Murdoc introduction next week, but early indicators are mixed as the actor playing the new Murdoc appears to be wearing a goofy wig to match Des Barres' 80s big hair. We'll see how it goes but I'm pretty close to giving up on this series completely nailing it on any single episode.

    1. I should add that despite the complete lack of plot, I enjoyed the opening gambit with the "ring of fire" and the descriptions of the dog that seemed in the spirit of the opening gambit from the "pilot". Simple but fun...and they could have played two Johnny Cash songs in this episode with "Ring of Fire" in the opening and then "Folsom Prison Blues" in the prison scene.

    2. I actually thought of that too (that the voiceover in the beginning reminded me of the Pilot).

  2. Can Opener
    Low Points:
    • Riley looking for an apartment. With all her computer skills, why can’t she do something to help herself?
    • My comment about the basic premise of Mac wearing an orange jumpsuit as prison garb and going undercover to break out a Mexican cartel boss was “this is a stupid idea.”
    • We now have someone else who could be a recurring problem for Mac. The cartel leader, at the end of the episode, is back in prison. He warns Mac that he has plenty of friends and he has placed a bounty on Mac’s head.
    Favorite Line: [paraphrasing]
    • Riley talking to Thornton: “I’ll go home when Mac goes home.”
    • Prisoner with the inhaler: “If you want to survive, mind your own damn business.”
    • Jack refers to the cartel leader as, “El Nacho.”
    Recognizable Actors: None that I saw.
    • Reminded me of Smiley, Arkansas. I really liked that episode. This time Jack is helping Mac escape rather the Mac helping Jack in Arkansas.
    • Opening Gambit in truck yard. Mac reliving his 12 year old affection for Archimedes, his dog. Instead of a shock delivered by an electrical invisible dog fence, he changed it to a high pitched dog frequency. This helped him to build a “fire wall” to contain the criminal. It is also interesting that “fire wall” has a new modern day connotation with computers.
    • Music of Johnny Cash. Playing the Folsom Prison Blues (1957) was classic.
    • Fixing a fellow prisoners inhaler. This was a good character and was well executed. I am not sure why the prison doctor would not issue a new inhaler in over six months. Later in the show when Mac has fight in the yard, he supplies Mac with first aid ointment and bandages in a copy of “Crime and Punishment.”
    • Making a defensive weapon in the laundry room from a towel, powder and water.
    • Morse code with the tail light. While Mac is stuffed into the trunk of the car, he flashes Jack’s phone number.
    • I like Mac’s well-worn leather jacket. It doesn’t look new. It looks like he has worn it for years.
    • Generating H2 from a battery, salt and water. The hydrogen gas, which is less dense that ambient air, would accumulate up near the ceiling. It was used in the Hindenberg, which exploded in New Jersey in the 1930’s. While in theory this would work to blow out the door, as seen in the Hindenberg, hydrogen gas is also flammable. Mac was taking a big chance not to be burned alive under that mattress. I have heard of Nutraloaf used in prisons to feed prisoners who are discipline problems. It provides all the necessary nutritional components of a good diet without the taste. In addition to the salt, other water soluble substances would have been transferred to the toilet water via osmosis.
    • Canisters that fall or get knocked over can have the safety valves dislodge. The canister becomes like a loose cannon. Canisters have been known to go through brick walls and kill people.
    Final Comment:
    So the show is improving. I and Dad (thought he was going to stop watching; but he still watched with me.) rated this episode the highest so far.
    Next week is Murdoch. What is with the hair? But we will have to see what becomes of this.
    Project MacGyver Mom

    1. Good point about MacGyver potentially being burned alive. And glad to hear Dad is still watching -- it's not as if he has anything better to do!

  3. By the way, here's a great site to track the ratings numbers each week.

  4. I liked this episode, despite all the flaws which have already been addressed here.

    MacGyver actually sounded like he really is smart -- which is what MacGyver is all about using your smarts to get out of apparently impossible situations.

    MacGyver was on his own. This I think has been my biggest problem with the new MacGyver. When there's this whole team of people helping him, it just takes away from MacGyver being, well, MacGyver. So, having him actually doing it on his own was great.