Tuesday, October 15, 2013

#130: Hellfire

Season: 1

Synopsis in 3 sentences or less:
MacGyver visits old friends who have discovered oil in a remote part of the country (West Texas?).  A light bulb breaks and starts a massive oil fire.  MacGyver and friends use dynamite to blow up and extinguish the blaze.  

Memorable Quote:
Well, I guess I’m gonna have to entertain a couple of theories a few o’ my buddies came up with a while ago.  Archimedes and Euclid, you may have heard of them. ~ MacGyver (in full hick voice)

A scene where MacGyver is simultaneously talking and juggling onions, and he’s pretty good.  He even finishes with a high toss flourish.  RDA used to be a street performer, and it's cool he was able to show off his skills.  

The brief fight between MacGyver and Bill.  It was not as bad as I remembered – only one punch and mostly just wrestling.  Nevertheless, I’m not a fan of friends fighting. 

Tangent alert!  When there’s good guys and bad guys, fighting doesn’t bother me at all.  I don't like graphic violence but I love movies/shows like 24, Bourne, and Die Hard 2.  Boxing also doesn’t bother me because there’s (usually) no malice behind it – it’s just a sport and the fighters can hug it out afterwards.  But hockey fights or street fights between strangers really bother me. Once on a bus ride, the movie Happy Gilmore was showing.  I had never seen it before, and I remember feeling badly when Adam Sandler and Bob Barker were having their lengthy fight on the golf course.  Even just thinking about it now gives me an unpleasant feeling in the pit of my stomach.  

I do love MacGyver’s response to Bill’s concern that MacGyver’s going in alone.  “I think that’s my choice, son.”  

Best MacGyverism: 
It’s a toss up between the ball-point pen and the gum wrapper!  It's good any time he does a "stereotypical" MacGyverism, and this episode had two.  I’ll lean toward covering the fuse with a gum wrapper because I like how he makes a point to chew the gum first.

Other thoughts, observations, and questions I didn’t ask when I was in fourth grade:
  • Wow, season 1 – so many thoughts, so little time.  It often feels like a totally different show from the rest of the series.  He is soooo young – was there really just a one year gap between season 1 and 2?  And he’s ten times more brash and cocky and often talks like a hick.  As I say in the FAQ, season 3 is my favorite, but season 1 is pretty awesome.  
  • Not a huge fan of the lovefest between MacGyver and Bill/Laura throughout the show.  So excited to see you!  You’re my best friend!  Hugs all around!  I’m all for MacGyver having friends but you don’t need to fawn all over them, MacGyver.  Plus I don’t really like them that much.  
  • This has got to be the smallest cast ever for an episode.  Four people! 
  • Hindsight is 20/20, but having the light bulbs smacking against the oil derrick doesn’t seem like a great idea.
  • I was curious if Hellfighting was a standard term.  From what I can tell from Googling, there was a John Wayne movie called Hellfighters which was probably where the idea for this episode came from.  
  • Not only does MacGyver have previous firefighting experience, but he can outrun gravity.  When the boxes of dynamite start to give way, he runs out of the shed and takes about 12 steps before the boxes fall to the ground and the shed explodes. 
  • They perilously haul multiple boxes of dynamite for fifty miles but then only end up filling a little thermos full of nitro?  Why couldn’t they have put the nitro in the thermos back at the abandoned site – it would have been much easier to drive back. 
  • Group hug at the end.  Ugh. 

Final Analysis:
Good news – we’re no longer talking about episodes that I would be embarrassed to show someone else.  This one is impressively filmed.  For all the series sometimes does with bad blue screens and stock footage, the fire scenes are believable and well filmed.  I don’t care for this episode, however.  Between the fight scene, the incessant fawning over one another, and the unlikeable characters, it’s at the bottom of Season 1.  


  1. I watched this episode recently. All of the sentimental relationship stuff between MacGyver, Bill and Laura was off putting. Still, the outdoor shots were well filmed.

  2. I can't disagree with your grievances with this episode in the least. The acting was rough all around, Bill's character was over-the-top and MacGyver acted out of character around him....and then there was that fight season. With all that said, this was a thrilling episode with all of the tropes in play regarding the oil derrick explosion, the unlikely retrieval of the dynamite from the "abandoned strip mining supply shed" (uh, yeah, sure....they're leaving dynamite sitting around) on the mountain road. The science of the episode was intelligently laid out and even having watched this episode a dozen times I'm still on the edge of my seat during the action scenes. That helps me overcome the more cringeworthy aspects of the episode and I rate it pretty high....#43.

  3. This must be the episode with the most explosions and pyrotechnics! Fire is burning almost constantly! Overall it was an exciting episode but it suffered from some dodgy acting and accents. Pete's weird repeated moaning with the leg injury sounded very odd! As described above, the actual setting and filming was very well done and really captured the hazardous scenario, it's just a pity Bill, Laura and Pete weren't always as convincing, although I didn't mind the fact that Bill had issues from his fire fighting past.

  4. This episode is pretty good, but quite odd and out of place. I don't feel like it adds anything, altho that's season 1 in general. Based on the mention of Texas and the oil, it seems like it's Texas but where the heck is Texas is it not accessible by road and requires helicopters and supply planes. That sounds more like Alaska, but this doesn't look anything like Alaska. When they come careening down the hill, you can see a highway in the distance with a white truck and something else moving briefly.

    The characters are a bit doofy but somewhat interesting. I can't stand how MacGyver thinks every woman regardless of how she looks is the most beautiful woman ever. The one here is nothing special. That fight seems contrived and unnecessary and the resolution is disjointed.

    Overall, a thrilling episode but a bit frayed here and there. It could've been better with some tweaks and maybe different actors.

    In the shack, when they're coming in, you can briefly see a gloved fist to the right of the crates, an explosives tech maybe?

    Season 1 reminds me how bad that California sun is. It's so bright and harsh. There's a clear lighting contrast between 127 and 3456.

    Only four left to rewatch!

    1. The TV Guide writeup of this episode from 1985 said it was set in Wyoming, and the landscape and isolation would be more fitting for Wyoming than anywhere in Texas.

  5. I had the impression that the “lovefest” was to “charge up” the friendship for the later conflict between Mac and Bill which I found weirdly interesting as two people fighting because they don’t want each other to get hurt.
    I think they drove the nitro down in boxes to save some time so the guys can get on with setting the jeep up while Laura fills the thermos.
    Spectacular pyrotechnics in this episode from the big explosion through the medium shed one and the mini ones in the truck to the inverted final one with the sudden silence after. Great classic MacGyverisms too, the medical stuff, however... did MacGyver grow X-Ray eyes to say that the fracture was a simple one?? And pulling on a broken bone is usually a bad idea!
    I liked the suspense at the shed entry, when floorboards broke right at the start when not expected, then later when expected they didn’t. MacGyver appeared to have his own private superfast gravity. The shed seemed to be about as high up from the ground as the boxes were on the shelf, and MacGyver landed sooner! But, actually, they show that the boxes were sliding slowly off the shelf and didn’t start the freefall until MacGyver was back with Bill, whose “You are crazy!” reminded me of the Holy Rose hostage’s exclamation.
    The name Huckabee keeps making me think of Huckleberry Finn and he had a role in a Huck/Tom sequel! I could not picture him as MacGyver for whom he was second choice though they look a bit alike next to each other in the shed.

    1. Did you like this one? You didn't really say in the review how much you enjoyed it. I'm surprised how many people give this one bad reviews. I agree there were a couple of unpolished moments to it, but for the most part I thought it was excellent.

  6. Very boring episode. MacGyver hangs out with buddies, a few things blow up, cue happily ever after. It's all very slow, and the only real danger comes from MacGyver's friend being stubborn.

  7. I did enjoy it, it would definitely be in a top third. I’m not sure if the negative reviews have to do with the borrowed plot.

  8. I don't think it deserves to be ranked so low. 😔 It was decent. I enjoyed the tense parts in the middle when they're gathering and transporting the dynamite - especially the bit where MacGyver runs out of the shed screaming just before it explodes - it's one of my favourite moments of the series. And the explosions and fire are really well filmed.

    But there are some things that prevent it from being a truly great episode. MacGyver's friends didn't knock me out, even though there are a few bits of gripping dialogue - like Bill revealing that he feels responsible for the deaths of three co-workers. And there are very few MacGyverisms (in a season that's otherwise chock-a-block with them.) The flight seemed force, but maybe they had to have it to make things more tense at the end.

    In summary: I liked the episode - enjoyed it - but nothing to write home about.