MacGyver “Pilot” (part 4 of 4)

The pump switches on, and all the dry ice is safely vacuumed out. Uh… presumably along with all the oxygen? MacGyver and Spencer get out of the lab. Up in the computer room, everyone cheers. Gant tries to radio down to MacGyver, but can’t get through, and he then overhears someone saying that the soldiers are about to start “the launch procedure”, and wants to know what they’re talking about.

Charlie casually explains that neutralizing the acid won’t be enough—they’ll also have to form a seal to keep the chemicals out of the aquifer. Which is an elaborate euphemism for “this episode needs more narrative tension”. Luckily, blowing up the lab with an underground missile will solve both problems.

As a ticking timer appears onscreen (with 31 minutes to go), Gant tries to radio down and warn MacGyver. But it turns out MacGyver accidentally left his radio back in the lab. There’s that narrative tension!

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Meanwhile, MacGyver and Spencer are looking for the acid leak. MacGyver warns Spencer (who’s supposed to be a scientist, mind you) that sulfuric acid is “nasty stuff”. Remarkably, she does not punch him in the face.

She finds the cracked tank, and they stare at it for a bit. Spencer complains that there’s nothing they can do, but MacGyver says they might be able to “whip up a Band-Aid”. He then produces the chocolate bars he stole from the vending machine. “To you, they’re milk chocolate,” he patronizes. “To sulfuric acid, it’s lactose and sucrose. C-12, H-22, O-11. Disaccharide.” Again: she’s a scientist.

Supposedly, the acid and chocolate should form some kind of goop (the technical term is “thick gummy residue”) that will plug up the leak.

So Spencer climbs up on MacGyver’s shoulders and sticks the chocolate bars in the crack, while they engage in some non-witty banter that I won’t repeat here. Also: this is the second time he’s totally looked up her dress.

Caption contributed by Ms. Avery

Ew, bunions.

Up in the computer room, someone announces that there’s nine minutes to go until the missile is launched. Down at the acid tank, the thick gummy residue stunt has worked.

MacGyver and Spencer then run through some kind of boiler room that has water raining down from the ceiling, and I think there’s no point to this scene other than to make their clothes all wet and clingy in a last-ditch attempt to sex things up. It fails.

They arrive at Stubens’s lab to find that the door is blocked off with rubble. Handily, there’s an intercom that Spencer uses to contact Marlowe and Stubens inside. Meanwhile, MacGyver crouches down and smells the rubble. “Plastique,” he says to himself. “A bomb.” I have no idea how smellable that stuff really is, and I’m unwilling to Google it extensively, on the off chance that I end up on some watch list.

Spencer gets through to the others on the intercom, and Stubens seems kind of dismayed to learn that they’re about to be rescued. MacGyver then butts in and tells Marlowe to build a barricade at the far end of the lab, because he’s going to blow a hole in the wall.

“With what?” Spencer asks. “Don’t tell me you know how to make a bomb with a stick of chewing gum.” Wow, the first ever MacGyver joke was actually in the first ever episode of MacGyver. That’s actually kind of impressive.

MacGyver "Pilot" (part 4 of 4)

MacGyver reasons that since it’s a lab, there must be something explosive around. He’s an eternal optimist. Eventually, he decides that sodium metal will work, and Spencer fetches a can of it from what looks like an office supply cabinet. Next, they need something small to contain the sodium. Spencer pulls a cold capsule out of her pocket.

MacGyver says, “You’re starting to get the hang of it. But I do wish I’d known you had a cold before I kissed you.” Spencer looks unsure whether he’s really that neurotic, or just makes really bad jokes.

MacGyver pulls apart the capsule and puts some sodium inside, accompanied by ominous synth music. Meanwhile, the guys upstairs are preparing to simultaneously blow up the lab and fill it with sodium hydroxide, which seems like overkill to me. Gant looks miserable and guilt-ridden. Charlie glares at him.

Down in the lab, MacGyver puts the capsule in a jar of water, and then explains to Spencer (a freakin’ scientist) that once the water dissolves the capsule casing, it’ll react with the sodium and cause an explosion. He then buries the jar in an extremely convenient pile of sand, right next to the lab wall. After a minute, it explodes, making an extremely rectangular hole in the wall. He climbs through, telling Spencer to wait outside.

Caption contributed by Ms. Avery

Angus MacGyver, pioneer of the rectangular explosion.

The two scientists are hiding behind their barricade, and MacGyver sends Marlowe to contact the computer room via the intercom. Stubens promptly pulls a gun out of his filing cabinet (the best place to keep all your firearms) and points it at Marlowe.

Just then, Spencer climbs into the room. “Gosh darn it, I told you to wait outside!” MacGyver yells at her, wholesomely.

Rather than actually shooting anyone, Stubens is just standing around looking threatening, which gives MacGyver a chance to explain that the explosion was caused by a bomb. And, of course, with all the tight security, Stubens is the only person who could have smuggled a bomb into the lab.

With the help of information Spencer told him in a scene that apparently got cut from the episode, MacGyver figures out that Stubens was trying to kill himself and Marlowe in order to cover up something he’d discovered.

Stubens chips in that he discovered a way to destroy the ozone layer, which would kill everything on earth. He didn’t want it to become public, so he had to kill himself, and Marlowe as well, because… well, that’s not really explained.

MacGyver "Pilot" (part 4 of 4)

Having failed to blow Marlowe up, Stubens now tries to shoot him. But Spencer throws herself in front of the gun to save this guy she’s never met before, and she gets shot in the side. Also, the countdown clock reappears to tell us that there are two minutes left before the Missile of Narrative Tension is launched.

MacGyver starts bandaging Spencer’s bullet wound with a filthy cloth handkerchief, while she complains feistily about how doomed they are. “You did everything in your power,” she tells MacGyver. At this, he looks inspired, and jumps up and runs out of the room, then finds the master light switch for the entire building, which is conveniently nearby and easy to find.

He starts flicking the lights on and off, and some guy up in the computer room realizes that he’s spelling out a message in Morse code. Everyone realizes MacGyver and the others are still alive, so the missile launch is stopped, and the day, believe it or not, is saved.

Caption contributed by Ms. Avery

So. Much. Hairspray.

The show hastily glosses over how they get Spencer back up to ground level, and we see her being wheeled out the front door in a stretcher. MacGyver stops her to kiss her goodbye, and they flirt a bit, and then she’s wheeled off. It’s not really made clear whether she lives or dies, but I’m guessing she probably lives, because it’s that kind of show.

Later, back at the observatory, MacGyver’s Little Brother is asking him what he actually does for a living, and MacGyver replies vaguely that he’s “sort of a repairman”. The scene closes with them playing basketball in the kitchen.

MacGyver "Pilot" (part 4 of 4)

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is the first episode of MacGyver.

Multi-Part Article: MacGyver "Pilot"
TV Show: MacGyver

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  • John Berndt

    There are already a number of scientific problems with the pilot to Macgyver.
    1) Sulfuric Acid is indeed nasty stuff but the amount you see is far,far, far less than what you would need to actually poison a huge area like several states. It might be enough to poison the water for a dozen miles, at best.
    2) The water hose will almost certainly burst before it will be able to leverage a huge beam
    3) Sodium metal isn’t a high explosive and is unable to blow open a hole in the wall. Macgyver is in a lab and should be able to make much better explosives. Nitroglycerine comes to mind.

    • Dr Xenolan

      It’s true that he could have made a better explosive… but the producers of the show knew that too. They routinely fudged MacGyver’s explosive recipes on purpose, so that impressionable young viewers wouldn’t be able to duplicate them.