Saturday, January 18, 2014

#123: The Escape

Season: 1

Synopsis in 3 sentences or less:
MacGyver is in North Africa volunteering when he meets a woman, Sarah, who asks him to rescue her brother, Brian, from a local prison.  MacGyver gets himself thrown in the jail and orchestrates an elaborate escape for him and Brian.  After escaping, he learns Brian and Sarah are not all they seem. 

Memorable Quote:
"Let me tell you something, comrade, I’ve never hit a woman before but you come darn close." ~MacGyver 

I’m a big soccer fan, so it’s nice to see the beautiful game play a role in a MacGyver episode.  MacGyver shows off his soccer skills (or lack thereof) in the beginning when he plays with the local children.  And later in the prison yard he does a pretty sweet rainbow (flicking the ball up with his back heel) – I wonder if that was part of the script.

"Mac, you’ll be running a horrible risk.  I know I asked, but you were just a name then, not a man I like."  ~Sarah.  Winner of the anti-memorable quote. 

Best MacGyverism:
MacGyver attaches a spatula to a fan and then audiotapes the sound it makes.  Then he plays the audiotape over the prison loudspeaker to make it sound like helicopters are attacking the prison.  Remember, we're suspending disbelief here.  And the prison administrators are led to believe that MacGyver is planning a helicopter attack but they continue letting him roam around the prison.  Again, we're suspending disbelief.  

Other thoughts, observations, and questions I didn’t ask when I was in fourth grade:
  • It’s always fun watching a Season 1 episode immediately after one from the later years.  Season 1 feels like a totally different, older era, but still very enjoyable.  MacGyver has so much swagger in Season 1.  In fact, that’s a good name for it from now on: "Season 1 swagger."
  • In the opening MacGyver is talking to a nun, and we learn that he has been teaching the local kids soccer and has fixed the church’s organ after an earthquake.  What a guy! 
  • 2:36 mark – we meet Sarah, and MacGyver is instantly breathless/smitten.  According to IMDB, the actress was a Bond girl in Octopussy.      
  • "Mac, Sarah needs a favor," the nun says.  A favor, like help moving or a ride to the airport?   "I’d like you to break my brother out of prison here," Sarah asks.  Oh.  And of course MacGyver says yes and willingly gets captured and thrown into a North African prison to help rescue someone he doesn’t know at the request of someone he’s known for one minute. 
  • MacGyver creates a small hot air balloon made from a soccer ball and lets it fly into the sky in order to signal Sarah who is watching from outside the prison, but it’s unclear what this accomplishes.  Earlier MacGyver told her that he’d signal once he got the lay of the land.  "OK, I have the lay of the land now!"
  • "Fuad, you are one miserable son of a diseased camel." ~MacGyver.  Runner up for memorable quote.
  • So Sarah is a Soviet spy and gun runner but by the end of the episode she doesn’t like weapons and has no problem with MacGyver blowing up Brian’s cache.  Guess she fell victim to MacGyver’s incessant charm!
  • "Brother Brian wasn’t giving away any bargains.  Some of this stuff probably dated from the Boer War." ~MacGyver.   For whatever reason I like how he says "Brother Brian" with disdain – this is one of the few things I clearly remembered about this episode.
  • Speaking of Brother Brian, nice performance by John de Lancie, who plays a convincing European, but IMDB says he’s from Philly.  So far he’s been the best villain we’ve seen, which isn’t saying much given the current crop of episodes that have been reviewed, but let’s put him #1 on the villain board for now!
  • Denouement time!  MacGyver is back at the nunnery and unveils a new jungle gym for the children.  He and Sarah donate the money that they stole at the arms heist.  Apparently the authorities weren’t too upset about the prison break because MacGyver can just stroll around town like nothing ever happened.  And apparently the nun won't arouse suspicion when she starts spending 2 million dollars in stolen funds.  

Final Analysis:
No big highlights or lowlights in this one.  The middle third drags a bit, but there’s good acting and plot twists.  MacGyver’s got his Season 1 Swag, and there’s a good group of villains, including Brother Brian, Khan, The Commandant, and Fuad.  All and all, things are looking up for our list.  Next up, we’re going back to back with Season 1!


  1. Here's another episode I didn't like originally but grew to admire because of the clever nature of the jail escape. The middle third of the episode that you think drags on is the part I liked best because you get to see the brilliance of his escape plan roll out in all of its intricacies. It was the final third I didn't care for....after the escape when Sarah swung back and forth from good to bad to good, and the looney tunes-esque hand grenade gun powder trail. The jail break was the centerpiece of the episode though and it delivered big-time for me. I also thought they conveyed the dark culture of the African prison well for a mid-80s TV show. I ranked this one #56.

  2. This one's in my top 10. I agree there are several plot holes and I don't like Sarah; she's skeletally thin and not especially nice and I can't see why MacGyver becomes so goofy the moment he sees her. But its just like him to agree to help however demanding the request! The idea of the good guy going undercover in a prison and outwitting the resident convict boss and corrupt governor is an old one (Moonlighting had a prison episode too) but it works for me! I also enjoyed MacGyver playing footie (soccer), his beckoning 'come on' to the cops and his, later teasing relationship with Fuad, 'Posture,posture, Such season 1 bravado! The complicated escape plan was great and I always love MacGyver revealing any of his expert knowledge; this time drugs manufacture. John de Lancie is good as Brian and, I have to say that, as a Limey myself, I was taken in by his accent. He's a real life friend of RDA and they went on to work on the short-lived Legend together and he's in a few Stargates too. He remains convincing to the end unlike Sarah whose shilly-shallying was, I agree, most unlikely. Surprisingly, MacGyver does go on to hit a woman in 'Trail to Doomsday'' unlike his usual gentlemanly conduct. Speaking of which, not sure what was supposed to have happened during their night in the prison together - MacGyver has a definite spring in his step the next morning when he executes the 'rainbow'! Altogether on of my favourites.

  3. I enjoyed this one, it was full of action and over-the-top villains! The plot was interesting because MacGyver had to trust the girl and become a prisoner to rescue a prisoner who was actually a villain in league with the girl! We might have been forced to believe the impossible a little bit too much along the way but this is MacGyver and it's not as if we haven't had to take things with a large pinch of salt before! As Al noted, John de Lancie was in Stargate and played the slimy evil agent Frank Simmons particularly well so I wasn't totally surprised when he was revealed as a baddie here! The actor who played Khan was also in one Stargate episode as a military leader on an alien planet.

  4. "Guess she fell victim to MacGyver’s incessant charm!"

    Hahaha! Women always do!!! :)

  5. Well, this is one of the “more than 100 places difference in ranking” episodes as it is in my top ten, another one I kept in whole! The biggest winners were the elaborate MacGyverisms-packed escape (reminded me more of the tow truck trick than Borza prison) and his quick advancing of status inside as a way towards it (a bit like in The Shawshank Redemption), with an amazingly chilled-out attitude like when he’s casually chatting with Khan in his office (it looks so little like a cell that I used to think he was the head of the prison until the commandant threatened him!) while knowing that a wrong move could cost him his life. Covering the escape plan up with another one didn’t look like a good idea first as it’s got all the guards up in arms, but on second thought, it was probably the only thing MacGyver could have told Brian to convince the guards that he didn’t know about the bugs in the cells.
    I think Villars was named after Villon. The spatula-helicopter was awesome, regardless how realistic it was, and so was the block of ice though it would probably take a very long time for that size a block to melt enough.
    I liked the rainbow and the memorable quote too, a good way to tell her how he felt without actually doing anything. The “you’re one miserable son of a diseased camel” cracked me up. I liked the plot turn, and after such a prison break I didn’t mind that the rest of the episode was a bit less memorable!

  6. There are several scenes only MacGyver's hands can be seen - for example when he fixes the stereo. But I've recognized that these hands don't belong to Richard Dean Anderson. Does anybody know why?

    1. Usually it's for budget/time reasons - if it's just a set of hands, they can get by filming any random dude's hands, rather than using the principle actor, and the principle actor can be off shooting scenes that need his face.

  7. I really liked the actual escape bit. The Frenchman was a nice character, and ... look! John de Lancie! You can tell here he's a good actor and has real presence, a cut above most of the other supporting actors in the series. This episode also has some great MacGyverisms - but most of them work only because all the guards are so thick. Enjoyed this one.