MacGyver

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Mac built that missile out of some PVC pipe, potting soil, and an old sprinkler head.


Barbara Spencer: Blow an opening. With what? Don't tell me you know how to make a bomb out of a stick of chewing gum?

MacGyver: Why, you got some?
—pilot episode
"...in the end, perhaps Mac’s ultimate badassery can be summed up with one semi-rhetorical question – if you were captured by terrorists, strapped to a time bomb in the basement of an old Soviet gulag and had thirty minutes to break free, deactivate the bomb, rescue your girl and stop the terrorist leader before he steals the Russian nuclear launch codes and starts World War III, who would you rather have at your side than MacGyver?"

Adventure TV series, running from 1985 to 1992, starring Richard Dean Anderson. The title character didn't like guns (after a friend of his died in a revolver accident when he was a child), preferring to solve problems with his intelligence, resourcefulness and improvized gadgets. He often created some device worthy of Rube Goldberg out of whatever odds and ends were at hand, which is why MacGyvering is named after it.

In the first season, he was an agent for the "Department of External Security", after which he left in favor of a philanthropic Heroes-R-Us organization called the Phoenix Foundation for Research, an organization that, if not a front for the CIA, is almost certainly on its speed-dial, where his boss was one Pete Thornton (played by Dana Elcar).

Mac would travel all over the world performing missions for good ol' Uncle Sam, retrieving spy satellite information and helping defectors from Commie Land get to the United States, but spent most of his time in California. He seems to have had several Busman's Holidays as well.

The man seems to have had a plethora of ex-girlfriends and "old friends", who would turn up every so often, usually in need of help, though more often than not they would get killed in the first few minutes of the episode. As the show went on, an increasing percentage of episodes were devoted to Mac's attempts to help an old friend out of trouble.

Among the show's cast of recurring characters were Jack Dalton (played by veteran character actor Bruce McGill), airplane pilot, part time spy, and con artist, who was constantly embroiling Mac in backfiring get-rich-quick schemes, and Murdoc (played by British Rock Singer Michael Des Barres), an assassin for "Homicide International Trust", reputed Master of Disguise, or so we're told. He had a penchant for leaving every episode by falling off of something very high while shouting an enraged "MacGyver!" Mac's most featured love interest was the scatter-brained Penny Parker, played by Teri Hatcher before Lois and Clark or Desperate Housewives.

It is however, probably true that later seasons had a few too many Very Special Episodes, an indulgence that likely led to its declining popularity.

Still, the show remains hugely memorable in the US (it was heavily referenced in the The Simpsons as a favorite show of Marge's sisters, Patty and Selma, and is parodied in the regular Saturday Night Live skit MacGruber where Richard Dean Anderson once made an appearance). It shows in prime-time in Indonesia and Ukraine. According to TV Cream (which doesn't like the show), it didn't really work in the UK.

The Film of the Series was set to be released in 2011, and then 2013, with Dino deLaurentiis as executive producer. Following the death of deLaurentiis in November 2010 it remains to be seen if the production will continue.

Not to be confused with Guyver or MacGruber, an Affectionate Parody. Not to be confused with the trope of the same name, either.

Tropes used in MacGyver include:
  • Accidental Kidnapping: In "Hearts of Steel", kidnappers accidentally kidnap the housekeeper's daughter rather than the daughter of a business magnate because the two girls have swapped jackets.
  • Adventure Series
  • Adventures in Coma Land: "Passages".
  • All Crimes Are Equal: "Jack in the Box".
  • Alliterative Name: Penny Parker, Lampshaded.
  • All Just a Dream
  • All That Glitters
  • The Amazon: "Trumbo's World".
  • Amnesia Danger
  • And Some Other Stuff
  • Asian Baby Mama
  • Back from the Dead: Murdoc.
  • Badass: He plays ice hockey and climbs mountains (the latter despite his acrophobia) in his spare time, used to serve in the military as a bomb defuser, used to be a race car driver, regularly faces enemies who do have guns and tends to make them look like chumps, is the key to defeating pretty much every security system conceivable, and is now synonymous with the concept of getting a bunch of random trash and making it do something amazing.
    • Badass Bookworm: He doesn't look physically imposing, but he's more than capable of handling himself in a fight, whether through quick thinking or a punch to the face.
  • Bamboo Technology
  • Banana In the Tailpipe: In "A Prisoner of Conscience", Mac stalls the car of the secret police who are tailing him by sticking a potato in the exhaust pipe.
  • Banana Republic
  • Batman Cold Open
  • Bavarian Fire Drill: Especially when operating undercover.
  • Bedlam House: "A Prisoner of Conscience".
  • Belligerent Sexual Tension: Nikki Carpenter.
  • Bertha in The Attic: "The Secret of Parker House".
  • Bitter Almonds: Used to identify a cyanide poisoning attempt on Peter Thorton, in one episode.
  • Blade Brake: MacGyver once got down from a catwalk by sticking his pocket knife through his wallet (as a guard) and then that through a curtain.
  • Bond Villain Stupidity
  • Booze Flamethrower: In "The Eye of Osiris", Mac throws alcohol in the face of a man holding a torch, setting the man's hat and shirt on fire.
  • Bottle Episode: "Phoenix Under Siege".
  • Bound and Gagged: "The Hood", "Gunz N Boyz".
  • Bounty Hunter: The Coltons.
  • The Boxing Episode: "Split Decision".
  • Brainless Beauty: Penny Parker.
  • Brainwashed and Crazy: "Brainwashed".
  • Breakout Villain: Murdoc.
  • Buffy-Speak: Penny Parker tends to lapse into this whenever she shows signs of intelligence.
  • Bulletproof Vest: In "The Coltons", we learn that both Frank and Jesse wear these: a fact that saves their lives.
  • Bulungi: MacGyver featured several of these over the course of the show's run; the episode featuring Kembezi was unusual in that the country was actually indicated on a map (specifically, as being in the vicinity of South Africa).
  • But You Were There and You and You: The Old West dream episodes: "Serenity" and "MacGyver's Women", and the King Arthur/Camelot episode "Good Knight, MacGyver".
  • By Wall That Is Holey: Done on purpose when Mac and the old movie guy he was with use a prop wall to take out some armed assailants, in conjunction with a fake surrender.
  • The Caper: "The Heist".
  • Cattle Baron: Pete Thornton in "Serenity" and "MacGyver's Women".
  • Cavalier Consumption: See Shout-Out below.
  • Chained Heat
  • Chained to a Railway: "Deadly Silents".
  • Characterization Marches On: In the pilot episode, MacGyver actually uses an assault rifle. Also, his first name was originally meant to be "Stace" according to the pilot's script.
  • Chase Scene: too many to list
  • Chewing the Scenery: Murdoc again. In his second episode, he smashes through a window with a flamethrower manically yelling "time to die, MacGyver!"
  • Clip Show: "Friends", "Unfinished Business", "Hind-Sight".
  • Cold War: Including episodes set in Afghanistan, East Germany and Czechoslovakia.
  • The Commies Made Me Do It
  • Complaining About Rescues They Don't Like: In one episode, Mac and this other guy are saved from being "processed" on a conveyor belt by being shunted... into a container of fish. The man's response? "Oh no! Fish! I hate fish!"
  • The Con: "Twice Stung", "Jenny's Chance".
  • Conveyor Belt O' Doom: "The Black Corsage".
  • Cool Car: Mac's 1957 Chevy Nomad, left to him by his grandfather.
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive
  • Corrupt Hick: "Jack in the Box".
  • Cowboy Episode: "Serenity" and "MacGyver's Women".
  • CPR: Clean, Pretty, Reliable
  • Criminal Amnesiac: "DOA MacGyver".
  • Criminal Mind Games
  • Cut the Safety Rope
  • Death of a Thousand Cuts: Two characters are eaten alive by ants in Trumbo's World.
  • Death Trap: Murdoc is entirely too fond of these.
  • Defector From Commie Land
  • Destination Defenestration: In "Phoenix Under Siege", the villain of the week happens to be a martial arts expert and makes a jump-kick at our hero in a high-rise building, but misses and ends up crashing through the window instead.
  • The Diaper Change: Happens when Mac and Jack Dalton have a baby dumped on them in "Rock the Cradle". Mac's solution involves uses duct tape to ensure the makeshift diaper stays on the baby.
  • Dick Dastardly Stops to Cheat: One episode involved a stock car race between the title character and an old rival. The rival had nitrous oxide installed in his car without his permission ("That's illegal"), but even though he was already ahead of MacGyver and would have won had he just kept the course, he decides to use the nitrous oxide he criticized anyway and ends up spinning out on the shoulder.
  • Die Hard on an X: "Phoenix Under Siege".
  • Disney Villain Death: Murdoc, repeatedly.
  • Doesn't Like Guns: Due to a childhood friend being accidentally killed by one.
  • Doomed Appointment
  • Dressing as the Enemy
  • Duct Tape for Everything: C'mon, like this needs explanation?
  • Easy Amnesia
  • Education Mama: Ma Colton when it comes to the education of her youngest son Billy. She seems to have given up on the older two.
  • Eighties Hair
  • Electrified Bathtub: "Lesson in Evil".
  • Elevator Floor Announcement: Jack Dalton issues one of these in season two when showing Mac where he runs his business.
  • Embarrassing First Name: Angus MacGyver.
  • Enemy Mine: Murdoc and MacGyver work together to rescue Murdoc's sister in "Halloween Knights".
  • The Engineer: Mac was an ordinance disposal tech before becoming a secret agent.
  • Enhance Button
  • Every Car Is a Pinto: And some boats, too.
  • Everyone Knows Morse
  • Evil Laugh: One of the Murdoc-centric episodes ends with MacGyver answering the phone to hear Murdoc's laughter.
  • Evil Poacher: "Eagles", "The Endangered", "Black Rhino".
  • Exact Time to Failure: In "Nightmares", an interrogator gives MacGyver a slow-acting poison, and tells him that if he doesn't get the antidote within six hours, his death will be inevitable. There is a prominently-displayed countdown timer. MacGyver gets the antidote with two and a half minutes to spare, and makes a full recovery. It's never explained how they were able to state the time limit so exactly -- the interrogator says that the poison was calibrated specially for MacGyver, but that just changes the question to how they got the medical information about MacGyver they'd need for the calibration.
  • Expansion Pack Past
  • Explosive Instrumentation
  • Explosive Leash: "Lost Love" Part 1.
  • Expospeak Gag: In "Last Stand", Mac is holding some piece of equipment that he's supposedly going to use to fix up a plane so the bad guys can escape. When asked by his guard what the item is, he replies "Lateral... cranial... impact... enhancer", and smacks the guard across the head with it.
  • Fake-Out Make-Out: Mac and his female partner pull this trick when they are caught by a motorcycle cop while scoping out the hospital they are planning to break into in "For Love or Money".
  • Fake in the Hole: In "For Love or Money", Mac removes the explosive core from a grenade and then tosses it at a group of border guards to distract them while he makes a run across the border.
  • Falling Chandelier of Doom: In "The Coltons", Jesse Colton takes out a gunman who has taken cover behind a table by shooting out the chandelier above him so that it falls on him.
  • 555
  • Flashed Badge Hijack: "The Prodigal".
  • Flock of Wolves: In "Honest Abe", Mac gets shanghaied by his CIA agent friend Abe to take down a South American dictator and a corrupt Army Major supplying the former with weapons. Eventually, one of the Major's lackeys reveals to the other he's a Federal agent... and the other lackey reveals he's one as well. And via background checks they find the real identities of Mac and Abe. Naturally they are dumbfounded at the revelation that they are involved in an operation involving four secret agents of different agencies while they previously thought they were acting alone.
  • Fun with Acronyms: Murdoc works for the Homocide International Trust... making him a literal "HIT man".
  • Fur and Loathing: When he helps a runaway turned hooker, she wears a rabbit fur jacket, until she's saved.
  • Gadgeteer Genius
  • Ghost Ship: The episode was even titled "Ghost Ship".
  • Gilligan Cut: "The Gauntlet", when the Girl of the Week declares she's not going to eat the lizard MacGyver is cooking for dinner.
  • Girl of the Week
  • Gosh Dang It to Heck
  • Government Agency of Fiction: The DXS.
  • Great Escape: "The Escape".
  • The Gunslinger: Murdoc in "Serenity".
  • A Handful for an Eye: "The Escape", "Strictly Business".
  • Hannibal Lecture: Dr. Zito.
  • Heroes-R-Us: The Phoenix Foundation.
  • Heroic Sacrifice
  • Hidden in Plain Sight: One episode featured some criminals trying to get an East German expatriate to reveal where he had hidden some gold bullion they had him smuggle out when they got him through the Berlin Wall. The gold had been melted down and reshaped as figurines, which were then painted over and prominently displayed in the window of the man's toyshop. Everyone who looked at the painted toy soldiers made of a heavy metal assumed they were lead.
  • High Heel Face Turn: Karen in "Deathlock".
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: The assassin Pierta, whose assassination methods of choice involved sharp poisoned objects. He tries to assassinate a priest, but scuffles with Mac, drops the pin, and ends up getting his hand pricked with it when he falls.
  • Hollywood Spelling: The password in "Ugly Duckling".
  • Houseboat Hero
  • Identical Grandson
  • I Have Your Wife: "Hearts of Steel".
  • I Just Shot Marvin in the Face: "Blood Brothers".
  • Improbable Antidote
  • Incredibly Obvious Bomb
  • Inner Monologue: MacGyver, providing linking narration or relating a folksy anecdote about something in his childhood that the onscreen action reminds him of.
  • Instant Sedation
  • Instrumental Theme Tune
  • Invincible Hero: Sure, he's caught often, but he always jimmies a non-violent way out. Which, admittedly, was the expected and entertaining part.
  • It's Quiet... Too Quiet: "MacGyver, something's not right. It's a little too quiet out here" - Charles Alden, "Trumbo's World".
  • Jailbird of Panama
  • James Bondage: Especially in the later seasons; however, Mac usually freed himself, often with a Conveniently Placed Sharp Thing.
  • Jury Duty: "Rush to Judgement".
  • Karmic Death
  • King Arthur: "Good Knight MacGyver".'
  • Knife Nut: MacGyver is so obsessed with his Swiss Army Knife one is surprised he doesn't want to marry it.
  • Large Ham: The coach in "Legend of the Holy Rose". "RYAN!!! I WANT TO TALK TO YOU!!!"
  • Laser Hallway: Deadly version in the pilot; detector version in "The Heist".
  • Leave Him to Me: "The Thief of Budapest".
  • Lemming Cops: "The Thief of Budapest".
  • Locked in a Freezer: "Last Stand".
  • Locking MacGyver in the Store Cupboard: The Trope Namer.
  • Luke, You Are My Father: MacGyver's illegitimate and previously unknown son Sam shows up in the last episode, and demonstrates that Lamarck Was Right.
  • Luxury Prison Suite: "The Escape".
  • MacGuffin
  • MacGyvering: The Trope Namer, of course. Special mention has to be made of MacGyver's ability to make aircraft: on separate occasions, he's built a hang glider, a two-seat fan-powered glider, a hot air balloon, and a Fan Man-type parachute-and-fan combo, all basically from scraps and duct tape. All four flew. And he patched the balloon up with a map when it got a hole in it.
  • Mad Bomber: "The Prometheus Syndrome".
  • Magical Defibrillator
  • Magic Brakes: "Hellfire", "The Enemy Within".
  • Manchurian Agent: Jack Dalton in "Brainwashed".
  • Master of Disguise: Murdoc, and "The Assassin".
  • Midair Repair: Mac uses a map to patch a hole in his hot air balloon after it is shot.
  • The Mole: In "The Enemy Within", Mac must discover the identity of a mole within the DXS who has caused the death of four agents.
  • Mountain Man: Earthquake from "The Spoilers" is a modern day version of this.
  • Murder, Inc.: Homicide International Trust - H.I.T.
  • Musical Pastiche
  • Near Misses
  • Never Found the Body: Murdoc.
  • Never Mess with Granny: In "The Madonna", an elderly bag lady whom Mac and Peter Thornton are helping turns out to be not only a fount of wisdom, but also turns around a troubled youth by hustling him at pool.
  • New Old Flame: "Flame's End", "The Endangered", "Jerico Games".
  • Nitro Express: "Hellfire".
  • No Name Given
  • Noodle Implements
  • No One Could Survive That: Murdoc.
  • Not the Intended Use: The entire premise of the series.
  • The Old Convict: Francois Villars in "The Escape".
  • One-Dimensional Thinking: "Fire and Ice" almost suggests that there is a mystical force that compels people to run in a straight line in front of oncoming objects. A man hit by a truck at the beginning of the episode would have been perfectly safe if he had not gone out of his way to run in front of the truck.
  • Operation Game of Doom: Attempting to move the bomb with the mercury switch in "Hell Week".
  • Or Was It a Dream?
  • Pilot: Which did air as the first episode of the series, although it contained a couple of elements that were not continued -- such as MacGyver actually pointing and firing a gun at an enemy.
  • Pinocchio Nose: Jack Dalton's left eye twitches whenever he lies. It's mentioned in his first scene with Mac.
  • Poorly-Disguised Pilot: "The Coltons".
  • Powder Trail: "The Escape".
  • Praetorian Guard: "Humanity".
  • Prison Episodes: "Jack in the Box" and "The Escape".
  • The Professor
  • Put on a Bus: Nikki Carpenter.
  • Reckless Gun Usage: "Blood Brothers".
  • Red Scare: In this case, actually called Soviets, but in later episodes, Soviet hardliners.
  • The Remnant: K-Force in "Humanity".
  • Right-Wing Militia Fanatic: "The Seven Per Cent Solution".
  • Rock Bottom: Casually averted in "The Gauntlet": the Girl of the Week proclaims that nothing more could go wrong, MacGyver admits she's probably right, and the scene ends without anything happening to either of them.
  • Rock Star Parking
  • Ruthless Modern Pirates: "Pirates".
  • Sawed-Off Shotgun: Jesse Colton's Weapon of Choice.
  • Scary Surprise Party: "Friends".
  • Science Hero
  • Shooting Gallery: "Halloween Knights".
  • Shout-Out:
    • "The Heist" has a sequence where MacGyver confronts the villain in a casino in a tuxedo; when he first appears in the tux, the background music starts with the same four notes as the James Bond theme.
    • "Target MacGyver" has a scene where MacGyver builds a trap out of stuff he finds in the bad guys' kitchen; the first thing he finds is a bag of carrots, from which he carefully selects a single carrot that he then proceeds to not use in the trap in any way -- but when the trap is ready, he picks up the carrot again and takes a bite of it Bugs Bunny style.
  • Skepticism Failure
  • Soft Glass
  • Something They Would Never Say: In "Countdown", Mac cues Pete in on the fact that he needs to speak to him on a private channel by 'reminding' him that they are due to play golf when he gets back. Mac has never played a round of golf in his life.
  • Spexico: Take a band of Zapatistas. The more indigenous the better. Then drop them in the Rockies, dress them with the clothes left over by the Sicilian scenes of The Godfather and make them live in wooden barracks with bananas in the porch. According to MacGyver, this is the Basque Country.
  • Spider Sense: Frank Colton's eye twitches when something isn't right about a situation.
  • Stalker with a Crush: "Cleo Rocks" is a riff on Phantom of the Opera, with Penny Parker and Murdoc(!) in the lead roles.
  • Standard Hollywood Strafing Procedure
  • Stock Footage: Many times in many episodes, but particularly noticeable in "The Thief of Budapest", in which violent handwaving is applied to justify reusing the entire car chase from The Italian Job, and "Trumbo's World", where maybe a third of the episode consists of footage from The Naked Jungle, which the episode lifted its entire plot from.
    • Also the second season episode "GX-1", which stole the footage for its opening aircraft sequence from another Paramount property: Top Gun. It is never explained why the secret stealth spy plane looks exactly like an F-14.
    • Can also see it in the episode "Out in the Cold" with a painfully obvious stock-footage avalanche.
  • Stuffed Into the Fridge: early episodes would often kill off the newly introduced old friend to set up the rest of the episode, then never again mention the character in the series.
    • This very thing was lampshaded in the Kid Radd web comic. Bogie is watching what's probably Read or Die, flips the channel to see what else is on -- and comes across "Radd", complete with a MacGyver opening parody. "Also starring a bunch of people who are supposedly old friends of the guy yet only ever show up in one episode."
  • Tap on the Head
  • The Teaser: At least initially, each episode began with a mini-episode called the "Opening Gambit", which -- unlike the teasers in most series -- was unconnected to the rest of the episode, and often created by a different writer and director. Later episodes either had a standard teaser or went straight to the opening credits.
  • Technical Pacifist
  • Television Geography: The show was primarily set in Los Angeles. Production moved to British Columbia from the third through the sixth seasons, then returned to LA. As a result, Southern California looked very much like Canada for four years.
  • Temporary Blindness: "The Negotiator", "Blind Faith".
    • Pete's blindness in "Blind Faith" was real and permanent.
  • Ten Little Murder Victims: "The Invisible Killer".
  • Those Wacky Nazis: "The Seven Per Cent Solution".
  • Thrown From the Zeppelin: "Legend of the Holy Rose".
  • Too Dumb to Live: At the start of "Target MacGyver", MacGyver takes his ski mask off in the middle of a covert raid for no in-story reason, just so the people he's raiding can get a look at his face and spend the rest of the episode trying to kill him.
  • Trademark: In one episode, when trying to track down a drug dealer, he mentions how that dealer's customers could recognize his particular brand of crack cocaine was of higher quality because it had the "Rocket" trademark on it. Now, of course, what stopped everyone else from using the same trademark on their crack was never said...
  • Training the Peaceful Villagers: "The Golden Triangle".
  • Translation Convention: Wherever MacGyver goes, everyone apparently speaks English, albeit with a range of funny accents.
  • Trapped in Containment: In "Kill Zone", a scientist creates a chemical for maturing plants. When her dog knocks over the vial, she is trapped with it and ages to death.
  • Trash Landing: In "The Coltons", Frank and Jesse tackle a pair of bad guys out throw a second storey window and land in a dumpster which is miraculously full of bags of shredded paper.
  • Tree Buchet: When he needs to throw off some pursuers in the jungle in "The Road Not taken", MacGyver builds a tree-based catapult to throw stones, and puts a light-based fuse on it. First he pulls four flimsy trees together and bends them down to the ground. He routes them under a solid tree branch and ties them together with a thin vine. Then he sets down his friend's rosary to refract sunlight onto the thin vine, creating a fuse. He stakes the thin vine into the ground with a good knot on a pointed stick, and attaches the pockets from his jacket (filled with rocks) to the tree trunks.
  • Tribal Carry: "The Golden Triangle".
  • Trigger Phrase: In one episode, Pete gets brainwashed into shooting whoever utters the trigger phrase "From the bottom of my heart, I salute you". The villain of the episode wanted to use him to kill a visiting dignitary (who was scheduled to give a speech containing that phrase at a dinner Pete would be attending).
  • Underside Ride: Mac clings underneath a truck to escape the cops in the episode "Jerico Games".
  • Unnecessary Combat Roll: One of the assassins in "Target MacGyver", entering the house where Mac is staying -- and very silly he looks, too.
  • Unwilling Suspension: Happens to Frank and Jesse in "The Coltons".
  • Vehicle Vanish: In "For Love or Money", Mac and Pete are watching a pair of defectors at the zoo who disappear when a crowd of pedestrians temporarily obscures their view.
  • Vehicular Sabotage: One episode of MacGyver featured the tampering with brakes version as an excuse for the title character to repair a moving vehicle.
  • Very Special Episode: Every other episode from around the third or fourth season onwards was one.
  • Vision Quest: "Trail of Tears".
  • We Help the Helpless
  • Whole-Plot Reference: Several episodes are either rare examples of a Whole-Plot Reference played entirely straight, or a cynical attempt to rip off the plot of a film most of MacGyver's audience wouldn't have seen -- these include "Countdown" (Juggernaut), "Trumbo's World" (The Naked Jungle, which as noted above it even uses actual footage from), and "Kill Zone" (The Andromeda Strain).
  • Why Did It Have to Be Snakes?: Mac is afraid of heights, more so in the early seasons than than the later ones.
    • Murdoc himself was afraid of snakes, which became a problem when he and Mac were trapped in a snake pit during the Enemy Mine episode.
  • The Wildcats: "Thin Ice".
  • The Wild West: Two dream episodes set in the town of Serenity.
  • With My Hands Tied
  • You Look Familiar: Dana Elcar played a one-off character in the pilot before being cast as Pete Thornton in the ongoing series. Numerous other actors appeared in multiple roles over the course of seven years.
  • Zorro Mark: In one episode, Murdoc blowtorches "R.I.P. MacGyver" onto the wall of Mac's home.