Wednesday, July 27, 2016

MacGyver Script Analysis: Out in the Cold

I recently got a hold of an "Out in the Cold" script, and I enjoyed rewatching the episode and comparing it to the script because it's one of my favorites.  Despite the fact that I initially had it a bit too high in the rankings (I switched it from #7 to #17 in my post project rankings), it's still a classic with one of the all time great Pete/MacGyver moments.

This episode was written by acclaimed writer/producer Stephen Kronish, and I asked him if he had any memories of the episode or what inspired it.  I was especially interested to know if he had written the avalanche scene with either The Fall Guy or Hart to Hart in mind (both shows that used the same ski/avalanche action sequence as this episode).  He responded:

Nick, I wish I could help you -- but not only do I have no recollection of what inspired me to write the episode, I have virtually no memory of the episode at all. It's hell gettin' old.

The script version is a 3rd edition final draft, so most of what is in the script made it into the episode, but there are still several interesting things to talk about including some differences between the script and the final episode.  The bolded, italic parts come directly from the script.  
  • He topples over like a felled spruce.  I like this description of Pete trying to ski.
  • Pete and I have seen a lot of the world together -- but not as normal tourists. It's hard to read the guidebooks when you're being chased or shot at.  'Bout the only thing we've never done together is relax.  I figured it was time.   ~MacGyver
  • Sam Leland is described as in his late fifties and has the look of an old street fighter.
  • A very smart man once said, "Never look back.  Something might be gaining on you." I knew exactly how he felt.  ~MacGyver when skiing for his life away from the avalanche.  I wonder who the very smart man was.
  • As MacGyver lies unconscious, the ski patrolwoman runs out of the headquarters, and the script gives her the name Cathy Jennings.  Pete hops on the back of her snowmobile.  In the episode he gets his own snowmobile.
  • Only one person out of twenty survives an avalanche.  In the episode Cathy tells Pete it's one out of 25.  I guess she wasn't enough of a downer in the script.
  • From behind a tree, Jack emerges, grabs the ski patrolman, spins him around and lays him out with one punch.  Jack is the character played by Jonathan Goldsmith (aka the Most Interesting Man in the World) who at this moment is impersonating a patrolman in hopes of finding the film on MacGyver.
  • If you're trying to dig out from under an avalanche, you want the snow to be soft enough to move.  But if it's too soft, it could collapse on you all over again.  But if I had to choose between a ceiling of soft snow or one of hardpack, I'd take the soft stuff every time.  ~MacGyver now that he has regained consciousness.
  • Pete talking to Jack in a conversation that didn't make the episode:
    • Don't you guys have dogs that help you find people?  ~Pete
    • We used to.  Budget cutbacks.  ~Jack
  • My plan was to turn the ski pole into a power drill.  My problem was, the only power source was my own two hands.  ~MacGyver
  • I played the trumpet in my school band.  I wasn't good, but I was loud.  All I needed now was enough lung power to hit a high "C" -- and send that bandana into the air.  ~MacGyver
  • In the script it's Cathy who sees the bandana parachute (rather than Pete).  And then they hear what sounds like a crude trumpet or bugle (the sound of MacGyver continuing to blow through the pole).
  • When this is all over, I'm gonna take care of a certain boss who don't play fair with his employees.  ~Jack talking to Willie (another of Leland's men) about Leland. He's mad because Leland is skimmin' profits and I never see a dime.  Then when it all hits the fan, it lands on me.  Where's the fairness in this?
  • Conversation in the van:
    • I don't mean to be nosy, but you mind telling me what this is about?  ~MacGyver
    • It's about the future.  Yours and mine.  I'm gonna see to it that I have one.  ~Jack
    • And where does that leave me?  ~MacGyver
    • Out in the cold, my friend.   ~Jack
    • This line never appears in the episode even though it's in the title.
  • They say, "When in Rome, do as the Romans do."  I figured, when you're surrounded by laundry, do as the laundry bags do.  ~MacGyver before hopping into a laundry bag.
  • The script has no mention of Leland's wife calling him and asking him to pick up milk and then Leland describing her as the "Sword of Socrates."  There's also no second broken leg for Pete.
  • Sam Leland's gonna spend a long time indoors taking care of his cold.  ~MacGyver


  1. I kind of like the idea of Jack taking out a member of the ski rescue team and posing as one of them to try to find MacGyver before Pete does. I also like the idea of Jack going rogue on Leland when he finds out that Leland had been skimming and the peons weren't getting any of the money despite taking all the risks. Was all the banter at MacGyver's apartment with Pete about ginger ale, blankets, and bugs in the script? I'm thinking some of the discarded plot elements may been rubbed out to make more time for the Pete and MacGyver banter when Pete broke his leg. I wonder many drafts of this script were published before it went to production. Interesting to me that even in the third draft, there was still so much material that didn't make the cut.

    Not sure if I mentioned it but at my class reunion two weekends ago a second old classmate had "news I'd like to hear" when he told me that his 14-year-old son and 8-year-old daughter were addicted to "MacGyver" reruns on Netflix and had been watching a couple episodes a night for months. Surprising to me how well the show holds up despite being 25-30 years old. Most young people are typically pretty sensitive to popular culture that seems dated.

    1. Yeah I liked those elements too. Interesting also that the more lighthearted and semi-ridiculous stuff (Leland's wife calling him and then Pete breaking his other leg) wasn't in the script -- must have been a production decision to lighten it up. All the MacGyver/Pete apartment banter is in the script.

      And thanks for the story about your friend's kids -- hopefully with the reboot there will be more people who discover the original and get hooked.

  2. "Don't you guys have dogs that help you find people? ~Pete

    We used to. Budget cutbacks. ~Jack"

    Hahahahaha! That's really funny. Too bad it wasn't in the episode.