There was no guarantee when this episode was written and produced that there would be a sixth season of MacGyver, so the crew was mindful when making this pivotal episode that it may end up being MacGyver's last. Of course, there would be a sixth season, but it was nonetheless perfect timing in the chronology of this series, particularly with the narrative about MacGyver's mother finally revealed in its completion in "The Madonna", for this strange but affecting episode, an episode considered by many to be the series' best. It was not a new idea for a TV series to subject its lead character(s) to have an out-of-body experience ("Magnum, P.I." did it a few years earlier), but I've never seen it done with such a thoughtful and layered execution, or with such dazzling otherwordly imagery. The production values really stood out on this episode, and yet another example of how despicable the TV industry was to ignore this series' accomplishments year after year.
Despite the story's brilliant layering and juxtaposition, I have to dock the episode a couple points for logistical snafus throughout the hour. It's one thing to dismiss some of the weirder decisions made by the characters on the "death boat" given that it was a quasi-dream sequence, but why on Earth did Pete, Hakim, and the Phoenix historian stand around to choke on the tear gas when Hakim's associate tossed the gas into the room? Who would do that? I just didn't get it. I also didn't get why Pete thought he could get away with holding three armed killers at bay in the hospital room at the end of the episode, yet feel secure enough to turn away from them completely and jubilantly mutter "Welcome back MacGyver!" Whatever the case, the acting was good, the writing was generally superb, and the production values were spectacular.
MacGyver finished season five with its lowest overall ratings, but the audience didn't diminish enough to where the network felt the series' performance was likely to be improved upon by a replacement, so it would return for a sixth season in the fall of 1990 and simultaneously raise its low profile with reruns on the USA Network. Creatively, season five was another success story for the series, keeping the creative momentum of the excellent fourth season, but finally starting to show a few signs of age late in the season.