Another week of MACGYVER surprising me again with “Chisel.” I’m a little embarrassed to say how much I’ve grown to like this show. I keep going back to the first couple of episodes and how badly put together the plot was, and looking now at episode nine, it’s like I’m not even looking at the same show.
On a structure level, the series is all over the place. After the first two episodes, which felt like they were vomited out on a schedule with either far too much time on its hands to tweak, or not enough time to revise, the show fell into a pretty solid format that didn’t do much, if any adjusting from episode to episode. Then, episode seven brought in a few twists to what I’d come to expect from the show’s format, episode eight added to these twists, and now episode nine has thrown the entire thing out the window and finally given us what we all came for in the first place: MacGyver.
Yes, of course we’ve been watching a character named MacGyver be a secret action-hero spy as he hops around the world tinkering with locks and building bombs out of toothpaste. But we didn’t have the MacGyver. Sorry, let me clarify – Richard Dean Anderson is not in this episode. But by golly, he could have been and it would have felt right.
It’s like we’ve been building to this point for nine episodes (because, for whatever reason, TV has started making audiences wait entire seasons before actually getting to the point) and are finally FINALLY here, where we wanted to be all along, from the pilot: an episode that pays true homage to the spirit of the original MacGyver. It’s an episode that’s so filled with action, they had to skip over what could have been two action-packed, very interesting moments just to cover the other, more important stuff. An episode filled with damsels in distress – well, mainly embassy civilians, most of which are guys, particularly this one really whiny dude who wants to get home to his pregnant wife. An episode that brings Mac to the edge of his limitless creativity and challenges that notion. An episode where there feels like a real possibility that Mac might lose.
There were so many great things about this episode, from watching Mac work out a physics problem (how it all starts, people!), to getting to see how a U.S. embassy might work in a theoretical situation such as this. It was really fascinating. Not to mention fun to watch because the stakes were high and Mac’s ability to macgyver his way out of the situation was becoming increasingly less likely, as the embassy ran out of supplies and time while they tried to hold the terrorist cell off. It was like watching MacGyver’s version of The Alamo. Billy Bob Thornton could have popped up playing the violin somewhere and it wouldn’t have felt that out of place.
Now, I know all of that might have sounded sarcastic, but I honestly mean it when I say this was a good episode. If you’re not convinced, let me put it this way: every episode leading up to this point, I’ve given a fair rating for, and a fair review, but I’ve always felt a bit like maybe I was grading the episode higher than I should, just because it wasn’t the pilot or first couple of episodes. But, this episode? I can honestly say I’m giving it a good grade because it truly deserved it. “Chisel” had me rooting for Mac and sitting on the edge of my seat, wondering if help was going to arrive in time. This, when I know that Mac always gets the job done. Or at least, so far, no one has died on Mac’s watch.
But the great thing about this episode was that I actually questioned that presumption. I didn’t sit through the whole show going, “Oh, it’s okay, Mac’s going to get them out of there one way or another.” The stakes were high enough, and they’d established Mac’s limits well enough that it didn’t feel like Mac would be able to come up with endless tricks to save their butts. And in general, there’s just something very cool about the idea of being on U.S. ground in a foreign land. It grounds this make-believe world in a little bit of real-worldness.
The only thing I wish we had gotten to see was a small bit of a scene that the episode ultimately cut short, likely for time. Mac and the team have kidnapped the leader of a terrorist cell, and are now being chased by said cell. Every effort they make to escape the terrorists chasing them and get to the airport has failed. They are far, far outnumbered, but they happen to be very close to the U.S. Embassy. So they run like they’ve never run before to the U.S. Embassy gates, but before they get there, they’re greeted by a U.S. Marine with an assault rifle defending the gate. They have to call Patricia and get her to call the embassy to tell the Marines to stand down. But we don’t get to see Patricia make the call, or see the U.S. Embassy leader tell the Marines to stand down, or how close Mac and Jack and Riley come to getting mowed down by an assault rifle. We cut from Mac and Jack on the phone with Patricia to the three and their prisoner walking calmly through the embassy gate with the head of the embassy.
I could go on about this show, but I’ll stop here, because if I don’t, before you know it it’ll be next week and I’ll still be writing about this episode. For once I can honestly say, go watch the show. Maybe you won’t like it as much as I do. Maybe you will.
Season 1, Episode 9 (S01E09)
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