This review contains spoilers.
Well, this is certainly one of the oddest 'MacGyver' episodes that I have experienced yet. As I've said (like a broken record) on my reviews for previous episodes, 'MacGyver' is one of the few action-adventure shows of the era that I wasn't into "first time around", only watching it for the first time now on DVD. So with this one... I think it's kinda one of those where you had to be there, and many of those who were hail it as a classic.
First things first, the gambit, of Mac rescuing a kidnapped scientist from captors in the Pyrenees Mountains. It was okay, nothing special as the show's opening gambits go – and the woman was so moany that I wouldn't have minded if Mac had decided not to rescue her!
That out of the way, we're onto the main story. And what a surreal one it is. In short, MacGyver must put a stop to a horde of everything-eating mutant ants!
The acting in this one, to be honest, isn't the best. With all due respect to those involved, part of the charm with the series is the corny acting, but even so, this episode has some pretty hammy performances. Throughout we expect David Ackroyd's wealthy landowner, Trumbo, to be revealed to be behind some dastardly plot, which never happens, and eventually the mutant ants are revealed to be the menace of the episode.
One thing I have noticed watching 'MacGyver', is how it reminds me of those classic text and point-and-click adventure games I enjoyed playing on the PC so much as a kid. Not only the "combine everything in your inventory to find a solution" notion, but also the general structure of the stories. "Trumbo refuses to help > Look at faulty machine > It has a broken piston > Combine coins with leads and generator to arc weld piston > Replace piston > Machine will now work; Trumbo will now help". It plays just like one of those games.
Anyway, we're halfway through the episode, and it slowly becomes apparent that Trumbo maybe isn't the big villain after all. And then we get... the ants! For all of us expecting the revelation of some power-mad plot by Trumbo, it comes out of nowhere. If the episode has any faults, it is maybe that this whole ant plot was introduced too late into the episode; I felt it could have been laid out much earlier, and the episode presented as a more direct spoof of the many 1950s & '60s monster bug movies that obviously influenced it (and indeed, it uses chunks of footage from the 1954 film 'The Naked Jungle'!).
Beyond the maybe awkward outlining of the plot, the production values didn't strike me as too good in this episode. There were numerous uses of blue screen (using a blue background on characters to lay in another image / background), not only with the ants but also in a scene with Mac and Charlie on the boat. Add to this numerous stock footage shots even before those lifted from 'The Naked Jungle', and awkward frame speeding up / slowing down trickery with other shots... it did seem a bit "cheap and cheerful" to me.
It comes as a quite a surprise when Charlie dies, eaten alive by the ants. But it does add to the feeling of hopelessness, as the zombie ants swarm everything in their path.
Of course, Mac does eventually get rid of the ants by brute force (he floods the area), but I liked the feeling of sheer desperation that was built up.
Through most of this episode, with the noticeable stock footage, shaky picture effects and dodgy acting, I had this episode ranked in the sevens. But towards the end, I kind of warmed for what they were going for; a nice change from the usual "power mad villain of the week" in both this show and its contemporaries, part of me likes the sheer outlandishness of this story. It isn't one of my favourites of the series, but I'll give it a reasonable 8/10.