Monday, January 12, 2015

#64: Lost Love

Season: 3

Synopsis in 3 sentences or less:
The Phoenix Foundation is responsible for the security of the Ming Dragon, a priceless Chinese statue that is being temporarily displayed in America.  At the Convention Center, MacGyver spots someone from a distance that looks like Lisa Kohler, his former girlfriend whom he thought was killed in an operation.  Lisa is alive and gets kidnapped by her Soviet counterparts who demand that MacGyver steal the Ming Dragon in exchange for Lisa.

Memorable Quote:
MacGyver!  I don't know the combination!  I can't open it!  I don't know Arnold Palmer's birthday!  ~Jack Dalton

The entire heist where MacGyver and Dalton steal the Ming Dragon protected by the security system that MacGyver helped strengthen.  The scene is exciting, suspenseful, clever, and funny all at the same time.  And it's fun to see MacGyver on the wrong side of the law (a line that Jack Bauer crosses every third episode of 24, but MacGyver doesn't go there often).   Also great acting by RDA and BMcG here.     

Not a big fan of the Lisa Kohler character (played by Elyssa Davalos, aka Nikki Carpenter).  First off, the back story between MacGyver and Lisa is underdeveloped and confusing: he meets a contact on a mission in the Baltics and has time to fall in love and propose?  Then later Lisa says, "my death was faked, so your people would believe the information I gave you."  That doesn't make sense - why would her death be necessary, and what information?  (I thought MacGyver was just blowing up some buildings).  And if Lisa is working with the Soviets the whole time, why is Tanya and company shooting live bullets at her at the end of Part 1?

I also feel like the story would be more impactful if we knew more about her character and personality. What is she like?  Why did MacGyver love her so much that he was ready to propose?  It's also hard for me to believe that she would betray MacGyver this whole time but then just flip right at the very end of the two-parter.  And if she's Russian, why is her name Lisa Kohler? So many questions.

Also I went back and forth as to whether or not to include Lisa on the Love Interests page.  I eventually opted for No, because even though she turns to the good side at the end, it comes after she lied to MacGyver and strung him along multiple times.  Plus I just don't really like her that much to begin with.

Best MacGyverism:
I like how when he is stuck in the dragon display case, he blows on the glass and writes the numbers to the combination in the fogged up area for Jack to understand.  Simple, clever and creative.  And Dalton, my goodness, could you be any more dense?! 

Other thoughts, observations, and questions I didn’t ask when I was in fourth grade:
  • This is the first episode filmed in Vancouver.  The license plate at one point says Washington, and Dalton mentions that it's a surprise to see MacGyver "in town," so I'm assuming they're supposed to be in Seattle.  As I've mentioned before, they should have just moved the Phoenix Foundation to Seattle from seasons 3-6 to explain away the omnipresent mountains and pine trees.   
  • James Hong is great as the Chinese representative (we previously saw him in The Wish Child). 
  • Some different instrumentation in the opening song (Part 1 only)
  • I recognized the convention center/hotel building right away as the same one from Runners (they even show it at the same angle).
  • I like the romantic theme unique to this episode - adds to the epic feel.
  • Nikolai Kosov is back after failing to capture MacGyver in Thief of Budapest, but this time he's played by a different actor (same guy who played the villain in The Assassin). Too bad we don't hear an eardrum-bursting "MacGyver!" scream from Kosov for old times sake.  Speaking of actors, the lady who plays Tanya does a great job creating a menacing, unlikable character.  
  • I'm very confused about the defection scene.  Why does MacGyver have to make her disappearance so obvious (during Dalton's magic show)?  It's not like Lisa is under 24 hour guard - couldn't they have just run off any time and include Kosov?  And shouldn't MacGyver be suspicious that they are asking him for help?  It's not as if he's the only person that could have helped them.  
  • This is a great episode for Dalton.  He's not overly goofy or the center of attention - just an awesome wingman who supports MacGyver and adds an extra dimension to the episode.  Kudos to him for agreeing to help MacGyver every step of the way, after all MacGyver has done for him.  And after the way that Dalton puts himself on the line time after time in this episode, MacGyver should never be snippy again when Dalton asks him for help or takes over his houseboat.  
  • Funny how MacGyver tells Jack not to get Pete involved or else it could ruin his career.  You mean obliterating US/China relations and stealing the dragon that Pete's responsible for protecting won't ruin Pete's career?
  • If the dragon is that important, why not have multiple guards in the actual room itself? What were the five guys previously doing who ran in when the alarm was tripped?  Or else have some cameras that someone is watching 24/7.  
  • I'm with Jack in being shocked that MacGyver doesn't know the password three minutes before the guard comes.  And then MacGyver is surprised that Pete didn't use his birthday as the password.  Why even have a password if that's the case?
  • Timing issues: at the 13:28 mark (of part 2), Dalton says they have 3 minutes until the guard comes, but then they break the alarm at 18:11 before any guards are seen.  
  • The whole parade scene is great.  I especially like the shot of MacGyver's sneakers in the procession, and his feet even move with some rhythm! 
  • 23:37 - clip of MacGyver running to the street corner and then rendezvousing with Dalton.  I remember that shot from the USA network telecasts - I think it was before or after a commercial break but I don't remember exactly.  
  • Good scene where Pete sees the tape of MacGyver and Dalton stealing the Ming Dragon - hard to imagine the shock he must have been feeling at that moment.
  • 33:05 - why is Dalton driving on the left side of the road?
  • Quite the exchange in the denouement:
    • "I owe you an apology." ~Chu.  Really, you owe MacGyver an apology? After he stole your priceless artifact and risked the future of US/China relations to save a girl who lied to him and he hadn't seen in two years? And then he hid it in the store amongst the replicas where anyone could have bought it?
    • "MacGyver, you're a genius." ~Pete.  A few reviews ago I pointed out how MacGyver calling out Billy Colton for rushing into something without a well thought-out plan was the ultimate in the pot calling the kettle black.  Well, let's just say that the planning in this episode was not the most prominent example of MacGyver's genius that we'll be seeing.  

Final Analysis:
A good set of episodes, but I liked it a bit more as a kid.  Part 2 is much better than Part 1 and has a lot of action - I think that's what appealed to my younger self.  It has an epic feel, and the potential for greatness was there, but the Lisa character's lack of development and lukewarm chemistry with MacGyver hampers the effect.  Nevertheless, it's an enjoyable ride and one of Jack Dalton's finest hours.  Next up, heading back to Season 1!


  1. I generally agree with most of your review here and also that Part 2 was quite a bit better than Part 1, even though I liked both parts. In that sense there's an upside to your rating all of the two-parters as one episode, as this one played out better as a "movie" than two divided episodes. Nonetheless I rated them separately, ranking Part 1 as my #31 episode and Part 2 as my #19 episode. There is a real epic feeling to the whole production and I'm disappointed you didn't reference the melodramatic soap opera-ish Randy Edelman score, Edelman's final major musical contribution to the MacGyver legacy. However, I will say I didn't much care for the wussed-up theme music used occasionally in Season 3 including on part 1 of this episode.

    Back to the episode itself, the opening scene set the stage nicely for the rest of the episode with the killing of the guard in the elevator shaft and the message sent by way of falcon, although I'm not sure why they chose to expose Nikolai as a villain right away as they did. I guess we were still to believe Lisa was an innocent pawn all along (and at least at age 10 they had me going!). I feel like you're overthinking Lisa's back story a bit as I felt they handled it pretty well all things considered, knowing that by faking her death, she could credibly return to the Soviet Union as one of their double agents and could be used later to do the very thing she did--slither back into MacGyver's heart and help her score another win for Team Red! And there's no reason to assume "Kohler" was her real last name for that matter either. I actually thought it was a pretty compelling Cold War spy story all around, another reason I loved it as I get all nostalgic for that sort of thing having grown up with it. The story generally started slow but there was still some good action in Part 1 with the lengthy motorcycle chase and the Vancouver woods being taken advantage of right away with the series' first episode filmed there.

    Part 2 was where the episode really shined though and I agree that MacGyver and Dalton getting past MacGyver's own security was simultaneously intense and hilarious. Sometimes I cringe at this series' sillier moments but I thought they nailed the Ming Dragon theft scene. Also agree that James Hong was terrific in this episode, but was less impressed with the actress who played Tonya (Leslie Bevis) who delivered some of her lines very poorly. And agreed also that the Ming Dragon can have as good of a security system as ever devised and it wouldn't do much good if the Phoenix Foundation's guard all swarm at once to the theft location and leave the place wide open for the thieves to escape undetected. The parade scene was fantastic as was the hiding of the dragon in the trinket shop, leading to the surprise revelation that the heavies stole the wrong dragon and the fantastic closing scenes at Recubian's mansions. At least at the time, I didn't anticipate Lisa's double-cross and while I can understand why you didn't really care for her, the passing of the lock picks in her hair as they kissed was an epic moment and accompanied with that teary music, I felt genuine sadness for her when she died in his arms at the end. Comparatively, I was much less saddened about Tonya's darkly humorous explosive finale in the tool shed.

    A really solid episode as far as I'm concerned and set the stage for the new season with a more serious tone that I enjoyed more than the cheekier tone of Season 2. I'm glad this show got a few good years in before the Cold War ended so it could feed off of that dynamic as it did here, in my opinion its most epic spy thriller.

    1. I did mention liking the romantic theme music, and I do like the overall soundtrack in this one. Am not surprised it's Edelman as his stuff seems to be the best (though the other composers are good too). I forgot to mention the message by bird part - that was a nice touch.

    2. Guess I missed the writeup about the music the first read through. Not sure if you were aware but USA chose to air this as their two-hour "debut" of MacGyver back in September 1990 rather than the pilot episode. Not sure why since it was the third season premiere and they otherwise showed the episodes in succession. I also forgot to mention that I loved Anthony DeLongis.....fantastic sinister 80s villain appeal.

    3. I didn't know that about USA - that's interesting. De Longis is great - I ready online that he is a bullwhip expert and has advised actors like Harrison Ford and Michelle Pfeiffer.

  2. I was hoping you weren't going to put this one above the other two-parter as I way prefer this one but never mind ( although I do agree that the relationship and story behind Lisa's various allegiances were a bit confused).
    Things I liked; MacGyver trying out his Mandarin, the scene where he shows them that the security for the dragon is basically, rubbish, Jack's 'How in God's name do you know Arnold Palmer's birthday?' and MacGyver's 'Doesn't everyone?', the heist and subsequent escape and the double lock pick - first the hairpin to pick the handcuffs then the handcuffs to pick the door lock. I hadn't guessed the ending with the swapping of the dragon and enjoyed that including MacGyver once again getting Pete to stump up for 'expenses' incurred along the way. Things I didn't like; MacGyver dramatically saying he'd killed Lisa when he really hadn't - he must stop blaming himself for everything, his terrible beige jacket, the awful Tonya, Jack being so stupid when MacGyver is trying to tell him the code, and his romantic interest dying just when she is definitely on his side! Although I didn't like Tonya, her death seemed quite shocking. For a basically anti-violence series, some of the minor characters do meet gruesome or horribly casual deaths along the way.
    One of the more enjoyable Jack Dalton episodes, with a reasonable amount of action, suspense and humour in the dragon stealing scene, some interesting politics around the start of the thawing of the cold war and a trade-mark hopeless romance. Ranked in the 40's for me.

    1. I like it too when he picks apart the poor guy's security system in front of everyone.

  3. "Lowlight: the back story between MacGyver and Lisa is underdeveloped and confusing: he meets a contact on a mission in the Baltics and has time to fall in love and propose?"

    Oh wow!!!! I feel the same way! Back then and still now, I wonder how long they were together!!! Yes their relationship is so under developed and confusing I agree.

  4. A few things I noticed upon rewatching:
    -- In the proposal flashback, he puts a ring on her right index finger, and even then it's too big.
    -- The chase at the end of part one goes through an old steel mill, and it's the same mill from Log Jam. You can even see in the background the big conveyor belt that MacGyver and Glass fight on (I went back and watched that part of Log Jam and confirmed it's the same).
    -- Seems silly of General Racoubian to destroy one of his surely-valuable necklaces just to prove to MacGyver that they explode.

  5. Part 2 is far superior to Part 1. There are some exciting twists in the second part, along with a lot of action and funny dialogue between Jack and MacGyver, and counted by itself it ranks as one of my favourite episodes.

    I don't mind the fact that Lisa was fooling MacGyver all along, but her character was perhaps not developed enough. And when - SPOILER ALERT! - she died at the end I felt they didn't make it dramatic enough - MacGyver got over it pretty quickly.

  6. After watching it nowadays I feel the plot is a little too contrived. But watching it as a kid or just for fun it's good action and being a two parter almost feels like a movie. Also Jack seems to wallow from being quite sharp and clever to being pretty dense and helpless. But a still fine performance from him. And MacGyver even does that "Exactleh" Jack's signature exclamation. I would also bet that some of Jack's dialogue is unscripted. There were moments but I can't remember where it seemed like Bruce came up with it on the spot.