Sunday, July 13, 2014

#112: To Be A Man

Season: 1

Synopsis in 3 sentences or less:
MacGyver is in Afghanistan to recover classified information from a downed satellite.  He gets shot in the shoulder while being ambushed by local tribesman and Soviet soldiers, and he takes refuge in a hut with a woman and her young son.  He befriends the boy, and they all escape across the border into Pakistan.  

Memorable Quote:
"American, if I had seen you, I might tell you the border is two kilometers due east.  But next time, American, next time, I drop roof on your head." ~Soviet soldier

See Memorable Quote.  Earlier in the episode, MacGyver lets the soldier go instead of killing him as the boy suggests.  Then at the end, the solider returns the favor and lets MacGyver go.  Nice symmetry there, even if one has to wonder why the soldier was allowed to be by himself after getting chewed out earlier by a superior.  And then I like how they just walk away with no urgency whatsoever.  

"You’re staring at me." ~MacGyver
"I just want to remember, do you mind?" ~Afghan mother
"Not at all." ~MacGyver
So much painful dialogue between MacGyver and women in the first season. 

Best MacGyverism:
Builds a hang glider out of spare satellite parts in about 20 seconds.  

Other thoughts, observations, and questions I didn’t ask when I was in fourth grade:
  • We start things off with MacGyver flying a jet!  Did not remember that at all.  Who knew MacGyver was a fighter jet pilot?  
  • If the data capsule was booby trapped, why did he have to go retrieve it?  Unless the Soviets had someone as smart as MacGyver who could defuse it.  Doubtful.  
  • Uh-oh, he's been shot!  Looks like we'll have to add it to the shot chart!  Let the games of Dodge the Bullet begin!  
  • We're seeing MacGyver in full action-hero mode here.  First he's flying a fighter jet and parachuting out of the stratosphere.  Then he's hang gliding off a cliff.  Now, he's amazingly hurling a rock with his left hand (due to his wound) and perfectly striking a charging horseman. 
  • I always check the cast on IMDB to see if there are any interesting nuggets.  Turns out the boy in this episode is none other than Ajay Naidu, aka Samir Naga-Naga-Notgonnaworkhereanymore of Office Space fame.  
  • To treat MacGyver's wound, the mother pulls a hot poker out of the fire and touches it to MacGyver's shoulder which makes him pass out.  They don't mess around in Afghanistan.  
  • "It’s very difficult to say goodbye to someone who means so much" ~the mother.  How can MacGyver mean that much?  He's only been there for like two days!

Script Analysis:
Here's a link to my script analysis where I compared the original script to the final episode.

Final Analysis:
I didn't remember this one hardly at all.  It's not bad, but not really that memorable or enjoyable. It is good to see MacGyver in first season swag-mode.  Next up we're headed to Season 2!


  1. This is a good write up on episode 112. Is the title referring to the young boy he befriends?

  2. Thanks Lara! Yes, the title refers to the boy.

  3. I really liked this one although I will admit that the middle third of the episode where the wounded MacGyver bonds with Ahmad and his mother plods along too slowly. It was kind of cool to see MacGyver being a father figure of sorts though and the "cauterizing" scene was intense so I'm good with it. The first and final thirds of the episode were straight-up high adventure awesomeness representative of the best of what this series did in its first season, and I liked the clever hook at the end too, hard to swallow as it was. Also, weren't the Afghani freedom fighters of the 80s fighting AGAINST the Soviets rather than colluding with them? Not sure I understood the oddball allegiance of Khali and his men under this context. Either way, I enjoy this episode thoroughly and rank it #47.

  4. I'm with Mark on this one! MacGyver's flying a jet ( don't you need years of training?) and coolly ejects just in time. Its a good start and gets even better with a trademark just-in-time booby trap defusion, building a hang glider out of a satellite, escaping whilst badly injured, dishing out sound fatherly advice whilst defeating an unpleasant villain and outwitting an entire army! MacGyver's injury is believably acted by RDA and leads to some real suspense - how is he going to defeat Khalil in the state he's in? The iron in the fire scene builds up well - Macgyver tries to make light of the impending cauterisation with an 'ouch' but there's a real sense of drama and apprehension. I'm ok with the scenes in he house in the middle third - they're almost cosily domestic as a little family unit yet there's the constant threat of discovery hanging over them. Is there a hint of romance between MacGyver and the woman - in the morning she wants to 'remember him' (after a very short time as you say) whilst combing her hair in a sultry way and gazing at him? The final escape is exciting although the ice and rock trick is a belief stretcher. The ending is a great example of how MacGyver's pacifist leanings serve him well although I'm not sure why they then assume that the route to the border is danger-free as they saunter casually off. Other points to note; you can see the shape of the cast on RDA's right hand under the black glove when he's working on the satellite. Maybe Khalil and his men were one of the militias bribed by the Soviets and Afghan government into supporting them - Khalil seems to be the type to swap sides if he thinks its in his interest. Altogether one of my favourites - in the top 10 with season 1 action- MacGyver, vulnerable MacGyver and sensitive father-figure MacGyver all in one episode together with a helping of Cold War geo-politics!

  5. "To treat MacGyver's wound, the mother pulls a hot poker out of the fire and touches it to MacGyver's shoulder which makes him pass out. They don't mess around in Afghanistan."

    No they sure don't mess around! Ouch!!!

    "It’s very difficult to say goodbye to someone who means so much" ~the mother. How can MacGyver mean that much? He's only been there for like two days!"

    Must have been really good sex! ROFL!

  6. It’s nice to see a late season one episode opening with so much of a Pilot opening gambit feel: MacGyver out on a rocky landscape on an assignment that involves defusing explosives, then he mentions that he hates heights and leaves flying. Even the voiceovers had almost the same accent. The outcome is less fortunate for him than in the pilot but the hang glider and the slingshot were impressive nevertheless.
    – To contact resistance.
    – You mean the bandits.
    – Bandits, of course. I keep forgetting.
    Bwah. Typical commie. ’56 freedom fighters? What freedom fighters? Counter-revolutionists!
    The cauterising scene was good for drama but it would have been more fitting if he had the knowledge to explain that burning a wound is a bad and outdated idea (mind you, he pulled on a broken bone before to straighten it). It may kill micro-organisms that can cause infection but it also provides more dying tissue for them to feed on! It’s the second time he passes out from pain which looks like a pretty good defence.
    It was interesting that they allowed a glimpse of the view of women that the men of the country adopt from a young age.
    – If you stay, you can fix the house and the barn roof and teach me to fly.
    – Oh, you bet. Anytime. No problem.
    It’s a bit strange that he says that hours before he says to Zia that he was leaving the next day. Good Ahmed didn’t call him out on it.
    The horse of the Afghan man who asks about Khalil looks so much better than The Thief of Budapest one. Probably because of the pigmented as opposed to pink skin.
    I liked the roof pull and that MacGyver set it all up with one hand.
    I was surprised Zia decided to move after they were better off with their pump working and the husband gone. They were lucky that the soldiers who jumped off their jeep to avoid the rock didn’t chase them
    The “as long as we’re alive there’s still a chance” and “because I didn’t have to and that should be a reason enough for anybody” are great lines! I liked that it turned out to be a good decision and so it helped to change Ahmed’s attitude.
    This was one of the episodes I only started remembering to once I started rewatching it. A bit less memorable with good moments.

    1. Thanks for the insight on the cauterizing scene. I thought it was a fantastic badass moment in the episode but always questioned whether that would be a useful of counterproductive tactic in the real world.

    2. I was part of a medical team that went to Brazil in 2015 and one of the doctors did a minor surgery with a pen knife. He used a lighter to cauterize the wound. We had antibiĆ³ticos, bandages and alcohol wipes for the patient to use until the incision healed.

  7. "'It’s very difficult to say goodbye to someone who means so much' ~the mother. How can MacGyver mean that much? He's only been there for like two days!"

    Maybe she was referring to how much he meant to Ahmed. Children quickly become attached to people that made an impact in their lives. It could have been something that an adult would not think could have made much of impact at all, like making a doll out of a handkerchief and a pair of socks(Slow Death episode), or something grand like hangliding off a cliff.

    It does happen,though. I was in Russia in 2007. I don't speak much Russian at all(5 words, of which the word for where was the most used the day I spent with one family). That's all I needed to know to play peek-a-boo with the 1 year old and play the guess-which-hand game with 7 year old. I was told a week after leaving there by one of the translators that the 7 year old had been asking for me every day.

    The same happened in Venezuela, Colombia, Belize and Brazil. The time spent in Colombia was only three days. It was a 15 year-old girl and her 12-year old brother. They were at that house because their mother was the housekeeper and they were treated like misfits. They did cry when I left.

    Venezuela had it's awkward moments of getting stared at. The pastor of a church there had never seen anyone with blue eyes before. At least his wife was there and told him, nicely, that it's rude to stare.

    I have good, long-time, friends in Venezuela who now have children. I have talked to their children through video chat a couple of times. The girls call me their aunt, which I found out later, is what a child there calls someone who has influenced them in a positive way, like a School teacher, forr example.

  8. Mark I think you’re spot on and it’s both, and thanks for the other interesting comments, too! :-)

  9. The boy and his mother were one-dimensional - there was probably not enough time to develop them - and the interactions between them and MacGyver were silly and hard to watch. There is, however, some real danger in this one. There is one death, and MacGyver gets shot (twice?), which raises the level of threat.

  10. Sorry, two deaths. The guy MacGyver hit with the rock and Khali. Anyway, while I didn't find this a good episode technically speaking, I did have fun watching it.