A MacGyver Community
ABC (ended 1992)
They're not even trying, are they?

I've complained before about how they've turned the basic concept of MacGyver from one smart guy on his own, into a CBS clone of Mission: Impossible. The movie version or the 80s version, not the 60s TV version.

But for tonight's "Duct Tape + Jack" they split the team in half. Or really, into three parts as Wilt got his own little non-adventure-related escapade with Technician Jill to find out who stole Jack's cigar box. Yes, it's just as exciting as it sounds. Meanwhile, Riley and Sam have their own separate assignment.

So they don't even have to have Mac on part of the team. It's like watching old-school MacGyver and having a third of the episode showing what Pete is doing on a mission. Or Jack. Or Harry. Or Penny.

But let's recap. First we get an even more pointless opening tag than usual, where Mac and Jack get stranded in a tree, argue about whether Ewoks eat people, and swing free on Tarzan-esque lines. And when I say "more pointless", I mean more pointless than the typical pointless opening tag. And I'm still not sure what the point of these is. We get it: Mac makes things. They show us this during the opening credits. They show us this during the end previews for the next episode. They say it during the end previews. We see it a half dozen times per episode. This is a revival of an old show that presumably people are familiar with, so we get that the original MacGyver improvised things. So why do they have to spend five minutes showing us every frikkin' week that Mac makes things.

We get it.

Really, I'm starting to feel condescended to here. Even if I wasn't a fan of the original series, I think after twenty-eight episodes, I'd understand the basic premise of the show. The original MacGyver dropped the opening tags halfway or so through the first season. Of all the old-MacGyver things to emulate, this is one thing that nu-MacGyver hasn't. They can change Penny Parker and Wilt Bozer, but they can't change the first-season opening tags.

Anyhoo, on with the motley. Jack takes the team (but not Sam?) to his apartment for the first time. By the kind of timing you only see on TV shows, someone has just robbed the place. A not-so-helpful officer points out that a lot of Jack's cool weapons are still there. Which generates a goof later, but we'll get to that. The point is that Jack's cigar box with his father's dog tags is the biggie item that was stolen.

Matty then tells the team that there was a military coup in Ecuador, and now some pro-democratic leader Leon is running for office. The evil military guy Zarate wants him dead, and Leon has a heart condition and needs a transplant. Because Phoenix interferes in foreign affairs along with whatever the heck else they do, Phoenix has arranged for a doctor and a heart to be transported from Columbia to Ecuador. There the doctor will give Leon a new heart. Jack and Mac will pick up the doctor and the heart, while Riley and Sam will pick up Leon and get him to the hospital in time.

Wilt has to sit around and watch the paint dry on disguise masks for another teams. And... Phoenix has another team? And they wear disguises? Why doesn't Team MacGyver ever wear these full-head disguises? Wilt convinces his robot pal (ugh: robot pal) to watch the masks dry while he convinces recurring background character Jill to go with him to Jack's apartment and solve the mystery of who stole Jack's cigar box.

Let's get that subplot out of the way first. Turns out that the neighbor kid Tommy stole Jack's things on a dare. He wanted it to get cool stuff to show to his friends. And took a cigar box. But... didn't think that Jack's collection of weapons like a katana was cool? Say what? Anyhoo, Wilt and Jill quickly solve the Mystery of the Missing Cigar Box (tm), confront the thief, and force him to return the stuff to Jack's apartment.

Meanwhile... Sam and Riley discover that their end of the mission has gone tail-up when they discover that Leon collapsed and his aide called an ambulance. Which tipped off Zarate. Sam and Riley intercept the ambulance, take Leon, and Matty redirects them to a plastic clinic since Zarate has shut down all of the regular hospitals.

Meanwhile, Jack and Mac pick up the doctor, Alejandra (Daniella Alonso, Revolution). She's pro-Leon and pro-democracy. They get pulled over at the border and Zarate's men take the box with the hidden heart in it. Our trio chase after them, but the box is in one of two jeeps and they go separate ways. After escaping by mixing hot sauce and water in a gallon jug to make a crude tear gas bomb, Mac takes out one jeep with an improvised slingshot using a tire jack as a missile.

It's the wrong jeep, and the trio goes after the second jeep with satellite guidance from Matty. Jack drives it off the road but damages the heart. In a cute bit, Mac hooks up Jack (since he's a universal donor) to the heart pump box and uses Jack's heart to keep Leon's new heart going. Giving us the title, which actually refers to Jack and not a tire jack. So congrats to the creative team, who made me think that Penny Parker was going to show up in "X-Ray + Penny" a few episodes ago.

So they get to the hospital, and Sam and Riley get Leon to the hospital. Zarate shuts down all the power in the city to keep anyone from operating on Leon. Mac uses a scooter they borrowed to power the generator. I think: they don't explain it very well. Riley hacks the nation's TV to broadcast that Leon is still alive, and once again the day is saved.

In the closing bit, Jack comes back and finds his stuff returned. And Wilt is there, so they hug and Jack declares him his friend for life. I thought they were already friends, but now I guess they're really really besties. And then Wilt meets with Tommy, takes him to a fast food place where he used to work, and gets Tommy a job. And talks about how Mac got him a job the same way and saved him from a life of crime so that he could talk to piss-poor comic relief robots and make slow-drying masks. I also thought Mac and Wilt grew up in a small town and went to school together, so where this whole "Mac found me and was the wind beneath my wings" thing came from, I'm not sure. Am I misremembering things?

What else? For some reason Jack tells a lot of heart-related puns. I don't recall him doing this on other missions. Granted, they didn't have a heart-related mission, but couldn't he find some kind of running theme to pun on? All they do here is pad the running time, particularly near the end when Mac and Jack try to one-up each other.

And since Jack lost a memento from his dad, he and Mac have several chats about how Mac lost his dad and only has a watch as a reminder, and blah blah blah. This makes the second week in a row we've heard about a Dalton ancestor: last week was Grandfather Dalton the oil-rig firefighter, and this week Father Dalton the military rescue pilot. Did he have any female relatives that had an impact on his life?

Overall, how well you like "Duct Tape + Jack" depends on how well you like a) puns, and b) Wilt having an adventure of his own. If you like one or other, you'll probably like this episode. I'm okay with puns, and I've complained before that Wilt seems to be on the team's field missions for no particular reason. So in one sense I liked the "realism" of Wilt not going on the mission. But in the other sense, it was a pretty boring side mission. We did get to see more of Jill, though. Even if she's suspiciously Felicity Smoak-ish here., Nobody outSmoaks the Smoak: just ask Louise on Inhumans.

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