MACGYVER plays prisoner in this week’s episode, “Can Opener.” We all saw that one coming, right? For a show that plays so unapologetically upon the trope-iest of action movie tropes, a jail break episode was only a matter of time. Thankfully for us, something MacGyver has not unapologetically kept up is its messy storytelling. That at least, has cleaned up its act. And by this episode – number seven on a full season order – the show finally feels like it’s hit its sweet spot.
I know I’ve spent this entire season either complaining about this show or talking about how it’s improving, but could be better. Not so with this episode. In fact, really my only complaint is that the show felt so much like a movie that the ending felt rushed. Perhaps it would’ve been better to deviate from the show’s adopted pattern of finishing one job in the cold open and then jumping into the real story in the first act. If, perhaps, the show had started with the main story from the begginning, there would have been more time to wrap things up at a slower pace.
As it was, MacGyver’s incessant habit of stealing plots from old action movies was still rather fun in this episode. The show deviated from its usual dilemma of having to somehow split the action between its four characters and focused solely on Mac. Perhaps this, too, is the reason this episode felt like a sweet spot – we reverted to a more traditional MacGyver set up, with Mac having to operate almost entirely on his own.
What truly made this episode good, though – and ultimately separated it from its ancestral show – was the fact that we still got some great character development out of the team as a whole. When the team gets called in on an assignment to break a drug lord out of a high security prison so that he will lead them back to his hidden cartel in Mexico, Mac has to go undercover as a prisoner. This puts Riley on edge, however, as she remembers the two years she spent in prison herself. It doesn’t help that, once Mac is inside, the prison does a security update on their wireless systems and patches up the “hole” Riley was using to hack in. Now Mac and Jack – who is posing as a security guard at the prison – are on their own to find a way out of the prison.
The complications don’t end there, though. Jack is able to switch Mac’s chore assignment over to laundry so that he can make friends with El Noche – the notorious drug lord. However, Jack gets reassigned to a different ward shortly thereafter – on the opposite side of the prison – leaving Mac completely on his own.
Eventually realizing that he’s completely on his own, Mac comes up with a new plan that won’t involve the need for outside help – he hopes. Once he gains El Noche’s trust, Mac strikes up a deal – if Mac gets them out of the prison, El Noche has to get them out of the country. El Noche agrees. Mac macgyvers a hydrogen bomb that blows the door off of their cell. He has to think quickly as they run through the prison, narrowly avoiding guards. Unfortunately, they don’t get through the prison gate before it closes. Jack is able to distract the guards long enough for Mac and El Noche to get to the laundry room, but not before El Noche tries to kill a guard. Mac stops him, using the excuse that if they don’t make it out, Mac doesn’t want to add murder to his rap sheet.
Once in the laundry room, Mac is able to macgyver some liquid nitrogen to freeze the prison bars on one of the windows, thus breaking them so that he and El Noche can crawl out. With a little misdirection, Mac and El Noche are able to escape on the roof of the prison building. However, El Noche has a surprise waiting for Mac in the woods.
Once out, El Noche calls his men who have been waiting to rendezvous with them in the woods. Except, they all have their weapons trained on Mac. Turns out, El Noche was suspicious of Mac the whole time, and Mac’s refusal to let him kill that prison guard was only confirmation of that suspicion. They tie Mac up and put him in the trunk of their car. Mac is able to hack into the wiring of the brake light from the trunk, though, and use the light to morse code Jack’s name and number – which Riley and Patricia must be able to see, as they watch the border security cameras for the vehicle carrying Mac.
When Mac is finally let out of the car, they are at the cartel’s headquarters. (We’ll ignore, yet again, the suspension of logic and time on this one.) They interrogate Mac, but he gives nothing away. Right before Mac is about to be shot and killed, Jack shows up to save the day.
Okay, so there’s still the loosely-built plots that have been so characteristic of this show from the beginning, but the balance of action, invention, and character development is much more balanced. The show feels well-rounded, and not simply like a desperate attempt at adding shock-value or impressing with big explosions. Since this episode was so guy-heavy with Mac and Jack taking up all of the action, I’m hoping that perhaps next episode, or some near future episode, will be all about Patricia and Riley.
Season 1, Episode 7 (S01E07)
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