Monday, October 7, 2013

#131: The Challenge

Season: 4

Synopsis in 3 sentences or less:
A white supremacist and his thugs aim to shut down the Challenger’s Club, a youth center for rehabilitating teens.  When they can’t do it legally, they instead kidnap and murder the Club’s leader, Booker.  An enraged MacGyver goes after them and is about to exact vengeance when Cuba Gooding talks him back from the brink.   

Memorable Quote:
That was luck. ~Cuba
No, that was Physics.  ~MacGyver

MacGyver talking angles and physics while challenging Cuba to a game of 8-ball in the bar while the gang members quietly watch.

MacGyver discover Booker’s dead body and has a mini-breakdown as he screams in agony and punches the wall.  I haven’t seen this episode since I was a kid, and I had thought that Booker’s face had gotten “scooped out”, so I was surprised when they said his throat was cut.  Just different from what I remembered, but equally disturbing.  

Best MacGyverism: 
Applies rubbing alcohol on the drug package label and sees the ink rub off, proving that the label is counterfeit.  

Other thoughts, observations, and questions I didn’t ask when I was in fourth grade:
  • Noticed in the opening credits this was directed by Dana Elcar.  How many episodes did he direct?  Let me guess, two!  Just kidding, I didn’t know that, I cheated and checked IMDB.  The other episode?  The Invisible Killer.
  • I’m not a big Cynthia fan.  Not sure why, she just kind of bothers me.
  • Breeze, however, is the man.  I didn’t remember that he and Cuba Gooding were in this episode.  Both of them give good performances here.
  • Speaking of Cuba, who makes his first of four appearances here, how many other MacGyver guest stars have won an Oscar?  This one I don’t know and am not sure where to look up.  I don’t even have a guess. 
  • The “street-life” scenes were never a strong point in the series.  They usually end up feeling dated and and inauthentic
  • I prefer the calm and collected MacGyver, but it is kind of exciting at the end to see a rare glimpse of fired-up, vigilante MacGyver. 

Final Analysis:
Of all the episodes in the series, this was the one that I remembered the least before starting this project.  The reason for that is because I never liked it and skipped it when it was on.  If this were the Academy Awards, this episode would probably do well.  It’s substantive, well-acted, dramatic, powerful, and emotional.  But this isn’t the Academy Awards, it’s my rankings.  And I’m not a big fan of “disturbing”, and this is by far the most disturbing episode of the series.  Between Booker getting beaten by a baseball bat, having his throat cut, and then MacGyver having an emotional breakdown and vengefully going after the bad guys, this is one that you’ll want to have little fourth-grade Johnny skip over.  In fact, you might just want to skip over it yourself.  


  1. Hmm, I'll take a pass on this one. If I want disturbing, I'll watch Silence of the Lambs.

  2. Very polarizing episode but I like that you acknowledged it was well done despite being too dark for you. The darkness was compelling for me and the performances and mature content really showed a different side of this show and what it was capable of that made people sit down and take notice. The fourth season was really a pivotal season all around producing a diverse spectrum of episodes that laid out the template for the show's direction in seasons ahead. I'll concede that the show sometimes began to take itself too seriously in general after this episode was made, but I'm still very glad it was made. It's ranked way up there for me....#13 on my list.

  3. A very strong and powerful episode, probably in my top 10 or 15. How can you not like it! It was well acted with a very good plot.

    And here you complain that MacGyver was too unforgiving and in another episode you said he was too forgiving! :P I think its great that he was infuriated by this and it parallels a bit with other deaths of close friends. It also shows he is not infallible.

    1. It's a well done episode, just one that I don't enjoy watching.

  4. They hid the white supremacy angle for a while in this episode so I found myself wondering why a print shop owner was going to so much trouble to Clos this club.

    Then with the ties to the crack I assumed they were producing or selling it and disliked the club's anti drug program. Nope, just turns out they really hate black people.

  5. "I haven’t seen this episode since I was a kid, and I had thought that Booker’s face had gotten “scooped out”, so I was surprised when they said his throat was cut. Just different from what I remembered, but equally disturbing."

    Yeah back then I had no idea what happened to Booker! What was it? A Columbian neck tie? Anyway I looked it up as an adult, and WOW! Yes very disturbing. And there were pictures too. Anyway Macgyver almost hitting that guy with the gun! WOW! Great acting by RDA!!!!

  6. The scene where MacGyver finds Booker's body left a big impact on me as a kid and is certainly the most memorable part of the episode. My memory was that the body was burned, or skinned, or something gruesome. Just goes to show that not being explicit and leaving it up to the viewer's imagination can be a powerful method. Nicely done by Dana Elcar.

    1. Thanks for sharing, Andy -- sounds like we had similar impressions of that scene.

  7. This is my second favorite episode of MacGyver. There are some other depressing and dark episodes people like as well.

  8. In the episode, the detective mentioned the "Columbian Necktie". I have the displeasure of being able to say I looked this up and...the imagery was about as gruesome as I imagined in my own head. Let's just say the line that racist gave about "Booker having a slick tongue"...motivated his method of mutilation. It's no wonder MacGyver reacted the way he did.