All I can say about MACGYVER “Awl” is: FINALLY! Cue Rihanna because this is what we came for, guys. Where should I send David Slack’s (the writer for this episode) fruit basket?
You may be reading this thinking I’ve gone a bit off the deep end in my reaction, but if you’ve been following the show at all you know exactly what I mean when I say it’s been absolutely terrible up to this point. And we’re only three episodes in. But, “Awl” has given any MacGyver fans still out there watching a shred of hope; this week addressed every complaint about the story flaws of the first two episodes, and was, for the first time, a living example of exactly what a rebooted, revamped modern-day MacGyver could and should be.
First and foremost, a pattern is being established in the structure of the show, and so, just like “Metal Saw,” the show opens on Mac and Jack in the middle of the action. Except this time, the audience is made aware pretty quickly on that this is an assignment that’s about to be finished, so there’s no confusion about following it through the rest of the episode.
The situation is one that Mac has gotten Jack and himself into, so for the first time, we’re actually seeing that Mac has flaws and his macgyvering skills sometimes get him into more trouble than the trouble they get him out of. And this continues throughout the episode; instead of winning one challenge after another with his magical macgyvering, Mac has to create plans using his skillset, plans that are sometimes foiled or don’t turn out exactly as wanted. We’re finally able to get invested in the story and really feel the stakes because for once, we’re not sure if, when, or how Mac’s going to get himself out of this one.
And we finally have genuine character development! It’s sweet that we get to watch this softer, more spiritual side of Jack as he holds conversations with his father at the site of his father’s grave. And when Mac joins him, we find out that there’s something bothering Mac about his own relationship with his father. He’s a bit guarded about the subject, but we don’t know why. We want to find out, though, because for once, the character development and the emotion behind it feels real and earned.
There are still some logical jumps in the storyline, but they are much smaller and the outcome of the entire story doesn’t rely on them. Because of this, it’s much easier to suspend disbelief and accept that the world of MacGyver is one where the laws of science and time, as well as luck and coincidence, are a bit warped in Mac’s favor.
But most satisfying is the fact that MacGyver’s macgyvering is actually cool and interesting to watch! From beginning to end, Mac comes up with creative, resourceful solutions to getting himself and his team out of every situation. Not once do his makeshift inventions feel cliché or boring. And they are all pretty believable and in a couple cases, incredibly clever. Every time Mac macgyvers something in this episode, it feels like a true testament to the original, instead of an insult to its concept.
Mac and Jack are stuck in a burning building, thanks to one of MacGyver’s grand plans. They have to get out of there before the whole place goes up in flames and they either burn to death or die of smoke inhalation. When the stairwell Riley sends them to explodes in flames, they do the next best thing: jump out of a three-story window and land on a makeshift landing cushion.
Once out safe and the mission is complete, Jack and Mac return to LA, where we discover that Jack likes to go visit his father’s grave after near-death experiences. Mac joins him, and Jack asks Mac about Mac’s father. The two haven’t spoken in years, but Mac won’t say why. Jack tells Mac that he should talk to his father, too. For the both of them.
Before Mac has too much time to dwell on this, though, Patricia has called the team together for a new mission: stopping a notorious terrorist group targeting the U.S. The only problem? The government can’t figure out where this group is, how to take them down, or where they’re planning on attacking next. The solution is to find their “hedge fund goldenboy” Ralph, bring him into custody, and pry some answers out of him. Good thing ol’ Ralphie is easy to track, and the team pinpoints him in Malaysia.
With some cunningly quick thinking on Mac’s part, the team is able to get into Ralph’s house and take him into their custody without problem. Unfortunately for them, the terrorist group isn’t going to let them off the hook that easy. The group sends snipers to cover Ralph’s home, and when they see Mac and Jack escorting Ralph out, they shoot. The first bullet hits Ralph in the chest before they’re able to take cover. With a rain of sniper fire upon them and a bleeding, dying asset in their arms, they send Riley (who’s been waiting patiently in the getaway car) to find a doctor while they make a run for it into Ralph’s top-notch, designer car.
They make a quick getaway, but the snipers are close behind. Mac macgyvers a smoke bomb out of one of the car seats, and sends the snipers on a wild goose chase while Jack, Mac, and Ralph take cover in a parking garage. They get a call from Riley about the doctor – he’s the best on the island and he doesn’t speak a word of English. When she shows him the pictures of Ralph and his gun wound, he tells her they have to operate immediately – there isn’t even time to get Ralph to a hospital. Thanks to Google translate and plenty of hand sanitizer, though, Macgyver is able to do the operation himself, while the Malaysian doctor walks him through the procedure.
After operating on Ralph and saving his life (again), the snipers show up. The three make a run for it into an elevator. They get off at an office lobby, and Riley is close behind to meet them. They take cover in a corner office, where Mac happens to find a bottle of high blood pressure medicine. He comes up with a new plan: He macgyvers a pen into a syringe, and uses the blood pressure medicine to make a sleeping draught. Then the team moves Ralph downstairs, outside of the building altogether, and out into a public courtyard, where there will be lots of witnesses.
Mac tells Ralph they’re going to fake his death by lowering his heart rate until it’s nearly undetectable. Ralph freaks out and begs MacGyver not to let him die. Mac promises he won’t, though he’s not sure where he’s going to get the antidote to wake Ralph up from the draught yet. Ralph tells Mac that he hasn’t spoken to his mother in a really long time, but he doesn’t want to die without making amends first. This hits home with Mac. He gives Ralph the sleeping draught and they send him out into the crowd to pass out and fake-die. Right before he collapses, Ralph tells the team that the terrorist group had him set up a fake company name in Miami last week. The team informs Patricia that this is where the terrorist group is likely planning their next hit.
The snipers see Ralph die and leave. With the terrorist organization off their tail, Mac, Jack, and Riley acquire a medic vehicle to transport the body and pose as three medical examiners investigating Ralph’s death. But just as Ralph is being wheeled to their vehicle, the snipers show back up and bribe the worker moving Ralph’s body so that they can confiscate it. The team watches in a panic as Ralph is shoved into the trunk of the snipers’ car and driven away.
They follow the car to a warehouse and watch as a crowd of burly men join the snipers at their car and help carry Ralph inside the warehouse. One of them has a hacksaw. Riley reminds Mac that they don’t have much more time before they’ll miss the window in which they can revive Ralph. Thinking quickly, Mac macgyvers some gas masks and then uses a couple of propane tanks to gas the warehouse room where the terrorists are keeping Ralph. With the gas keeping many of the men at bay, Jack and Mac fight their way in to get Ralph, and back out again.
By the time they return, Riley tells Mac that it might be too late at this point to revive Ralph – the blood pressure medicine could have killed him completely at this point. Mac quickly gives Ralph the antidote, and they wait with bated breath. Ralph isn’t waking up – Mac panics and removes Ralph’s gas mask to start CPR when Ralph begins snoring. Relieved, they wake Ralph up and finally take him into custody safely.
Back in LA, Ralph must go into the Witness Protection Program. He thanks the team for saving his life, and leaves to start his over. Jack tells Mac that he should call his dad. Reluctant but knowing Jack is right, Mac sits down instead to write a letter to his dad, because calling on a phone “won’t work with him.”
And thus ends the best episode of the series so far. What will happen next with Mac’s dad, and will the episodes continue to use Mac’s macgyvering to actually solve problems, get Mac out of situations he’s gotten himself into, and in general just be more interesting? I’ll be watching next week to find out.
Season 1, Episode 3 (S01E03)
MacGyver airs Fridays at 8PM on CBS
Tasha is a freelance writer currently based in Los Angeles. Originally from Kansas, when she’s not writing about or watching TV, Tasha is searching for the best BBQ place in LA to fill the KC BBQ hole in her stomach.
Keep up with all of Tasha’s reviews here.
Tasha Cerny | Contributor