A MacGyver Community
ABC (ended 1992)
Another week, another adventure. The best I can say about it is that... it wasn't too bad.

Let's recap "Bear Trap + Mob Boss". The episode starts in media res with Mac and Jack in camouflage outfits chasing a guy named Sergei through the Ukranian forest. Jack sneezes a lot and they bicker. A lot. Riley is on a motorcycle for some reason, but soon runs out of gas.

Then we jump back a few hours, as TV shows are wont to do these days. Mac spends a lot of time with Jack and Wilt (and eventually Riley) deciding whether to confront Matty. Setting aside that this might reveal Jack broke into Matty's place (although why does Mac have to have the redacted file to confront her?), I'm not seeing the issue here. Jack insists that Matty had her reasons for keeping secrets, but... so what? Mac is still entitled to a few answers about his father. Is there some reason that she can be a trustworthy person and he can still ask her what's going on?

Sorry, I don't get the conflict here. Which means the whole thing seems like... well, padding. It'd be bad enough if at the end Mac decides to confront Matty anyway. But he doesn't. So not only is the episode padding, but it leads to more episodes of padding until we get to the season finale were presumably Mac's father will be found and he'll be some "big" actor.

Matty sends Mac, Jack, and Riley off to the Ukraine to bring in Sergei. Sergei is a Russian mob informer., and he took off shortly after the CIA contacted him to rat out his boss Dmitry. Cut back to the present, and the team learns that Sergei stepped into a bear trap and some people hauled him off to nearby Chernobyl. During all of this, Jack goes on (and on, and on) about radiation and mutants and superpowers. I'm reminded of the line in the newest The Tick: "I don't even know what you're doing now. It's like a non sequitur poetry jam."

Actually, Jack sounds kind like Mack on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Maybe it's the fact that they both talk about the movie C.H.U.D. Was C.H.U.D. really that big a hit, or has earned a cult following since then? Yes, I've heard of it, but it's not like Night of the Living Dead or The Evil Dead or The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Or did I miss something back in 1984?

So Mac MacGyvers a makeshift Geiger count and the trio goes into Chernobyl. They eventually find some "stalkers": Russians teenagers who come into the abandoned city, perform stunts, film them, and put them out on the Internet. The unnamed head guy (Mikhail, according to the press release) gives them directions to where the bad guys are working, and explains that they're "monsters". And that's the last we see of the stalkers.

And that reminds me of another reason why nu-MacGyver hasn't ever managed to exceed old MacGyver. Mac would round up these stalkers and turn them into a makeshift army. Or one of them would have a personal issue or a need for revenge or something. Or the original show's writers would do something with them. But the stalkers just pop up, provide convenient directions, and disappear for the rest of the episode. The agents are already following the tire tracks, why do they need directions? I have no idea why these stalkers are her. Maybe the writer owes David Garelik (who plays Mikhail) a favor.

Sometimes the creative team does give us interesting secondary characters. But "Bear Trap" is not one of the episodes with them.

So the team go to some generic building where guys in hazmat suits are loading up radioactive waste. In what is a relatively cool scene, Mac makes some climbing gear out of a piece of chain-link fence and rebar. That's the kind of MacGyverism that some of us know and love. Not Mac making electronic doohickeys out of other electronic doohickeys, but just improvising cool things.

I can understand why he doesn't carry around climbing gear and has to MacGyver it. But he knows they're heading to the Ukraine near Chernobyl: why not just bring a Geiger counter instead of MacGyvering one?

Mac scales the wall and lets Riley and Jack in. The latter two head to find Sergei, who is dying of his bear-trapped foot wound. they grab him after Jack acts like an idiot (i.e., Jack acts like he normally does) to try and fool a Russian guard with Riley providing earpiece translations. Meanwhile, Mac sabotages all of the trucks except one so that they can escape in that truck without pursuit. All he does is cut some wires: he doesn't even bother to MacGyver something.

It turns out the guys in the rad suits are "nuclear pirates" who are taking radioactive waste from Chernobyl and selling it on the black market as fuel for dirty bombs. Mac goes against Matty's orders when Matty tells the team to focus on getting Sergei out rather than taking down the bad guys. Jack and Sergei head for the escape truck but Jack sneezes. For some reason, this tips the pirates off that Jack isn't Russian. Because... I guess Russians don't sneeze? The capture doesn't last long, because Jack and Sergei escape and get in the truck. They drive off only to run into Dmitry and his mobsters. Mac MacGyvers another electronic doohickey which triggers off Geiger counters so the bad guys think they're irradiated, irradiates some dosimeter badges, and tries to convince Dmitry that they're irradiated. Dmitry decides to shoot them anyway, but he steps into what seems to be a bear trap just sitting on the road (??). As he screams in pain, the team takes out the other mobsters.

In the end, Matty admits that Mac was right for going after the pirates. And Matty kept Wilt around to investigate the break-in at her house. Wilt thinks that Matty is trying to pressure him because she already knows the team broke into her house. We get a lot of scenes of Justin Hires acting twitchy. And the damn robot shows up again. Basically, the creative team doesn't know when to stop. Not with Jack's attempts at humor, not with Wilt acting all twitchy and obvious, not with the damn robot.

But instead of making any effort to extend subplots that are interesting, like the whole Murdoc/Team Assassin scheme, they cut that short after one or two episodes. Giving Team Mac some actual opponents rather than the generic Eurotrash of the week could have been interesting. But they cut that short, while the damn robot keeps coming back.

I don't say it enough, but credit to Meredith Eaton as Matty. She typically plays Matty as more than a one-note character like the other four main characters. Playing the sarcastic boss with a secret agenda who may be playing mindgames with her underlings isn't the toughest role in the world, but she does it well.

The agents come back and Mac decides not to confront Matty about his father. I'm not sure why, when as I noted earlier there seems to be no good reason to avoid confronting her.

So another week, another episode. It had one cool MacGyverism--the climbing gear--and one actor who gave a little more oomph to her performance. They just seem to be dragging the whole "What happened to Mac's father?" thing on way too long. I don't think they can pay off on the amount of hype they built up on it short of bringing in Richard Dean Anderson. But then again, it's CBS Friday nights: there's not a lot of hype to hype.

But that's just my opinion, I could be wrong. What do you think?

And no new episode until 3/30. So see you in three weeks!
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