Season 1 Episode 18

Ugly Duckling

Aired Sunday 9:00 PM Mar 12, 1986 on ABC
out of 10
User Rating
76 votes

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Episode Summary

A 15-year-old genius hacks into a defective missile guidance system and attracts the attention of both the FBI and some black marketeers, who think that she may fix it for them. It's up to MacGyver to save her from being kidnapped by either side.

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  • Lots of clever science helps to overcome the gag reflex of the poor-me melodrama.

    Even though the acting had notably improved over the course of MacGyver's first season, the most cringeworthy aw-shucks moments of the first season nonetheless came in this episode, with "ugly ducking" teenage brainiac Kate lamented her reputation as a nerd. If Kate was 10 years old rather than 15, MacGyver's "you are special, Kate" consolations may have been more constructive, but as it stood, the banter between them was a blemish in an otherwise impressive script. As mere senior and junior eggheads, MacGyver and Kate had some good chemistry, and the energy was clear as they tried to figure out the other's ingenius escape plans (Kate explaining to MacGyver how she short-circuited the federal building's control systems and MacGyver nudging Kate to comprehend his plans to triangulate radio frequencies via cactuses and turn harnessed sun into a high-temperature laser beam). The scene with MacGyver's college professor dying in his arms was touching as well. Aside from the self-pity party that Kate kept throwing for herself and MacGyver kept-indulging (and of course the lame stock footage used to represent the marathon), this was a very well-done episode that would trigger a late-season ratings surge for MacGyver at exactly the time it needed one to secure a berth on ABC's fall schedule for season two.moreless
  • After Mac's professor is killed for information regarding a defective missile guidance system, he tries to protect a young computer genius that some terrorists are after as she holds important information. She despises her self image and Mac tries to givmoreless

    This was a good episode, we see one of Mac's favourite professor's who plays a mean saxophone. The professor has a young female student which is a computer genius, she broke into the defence departments computer!

    The whole episode is about the army's Snake-Eye missile guidance system. Terrorists steal two missile's and are selling it on the black market. Throughout the episode, these terrorists want to kidnap Kate (the ugly duckling) so she can tell them information on the Snake-Eye system. Mac eventually gets to her and finds out how much hatred she has about her self confidence. Mac uses his charm and gives her some confidence.

    The two of them teaming up was good, it was like Mac's daughter - the young female version of Mac. Overall, a good episode to watch.moreless
Darcy Marta

Darcy Marta

Kate Lafferty

Guest Star

Lee De Broux

Lee De Broux


Guest Star

Richard McKenzie

Richard McKenzie


Guest Star

Dana Elcar

Dana Elcar

Pete Thornton

Recurring Role

Featured Episode Clip

Trivia, Notes, Quotes and Allusions


  • TRIVIA (2)

    • The computer MacGyver copies files from—as well as the table it rests on—switch between shots.

    • When Kate shuts off power to the building, she types the command in to the computer "close all circuits" when in fact it should be "open all circuits". Closing a circuit means to complete a circuit so that power flows and open means to cut a circuit so that power doesn't flow.

  • QUOTES (18)

    • MacGyver: Pete, I owe it to Professor Willis; he wanted this girl protected, and I'm gonna do it.
      Pete: Now wait--
      MacGyver: So, best of luck; I'm a phone call away if you need me - I know all of that, Pete. Thanks. (Mac leaves the room, still quoting Pete.) Stay out of trouble. Keep expenses down. Come back alive…
      Pete: Took the words right out of my mouth.

    • MacGyver: They said you had one of your students working the problem with you.
      Professor Willis: Just like we did when you were in my classes.
      MacGyver: Well, yeah, but I don't remember ever breaking into the Defense Department's computer.

    • Professor Willis: Good ones like Kate, they are rare. Then there's MacGyvers who have to have their brains rattled every now and then just to make sure they're still in tune.

    • Professor Willis: You have one of the finest minds I have ever encountered, young man… I expect you to… to (Professor Willis dies)

    • MacGyver: This was my desk, here in the corner. There's a heater back there; I'm no dummy.

    • Carol: Kate, why are you so rude to Mr. MacGyver?
      MacGyver: I think it has something to do with defense mechanisms, Mrs. Lafferty. Hers.

    • Agent: Are you a relative or something?
      MacGyver: Something.

    • MacGyver: It's not like she was selling the Pentagon to Gorbachev.
      Pete: I know, Mac, but it's not exactly like she stole an apple off a push cart, either.

    • MacGyver: Why didn't you just give them the answers?
      Kate: 'Cause. They've got no right to treat me like a criminal.

    • Kate: You're trying to break in using these passwords?
      MacGyver: Too easy?
      Kate: Not my style.
      MacGyver: What's your style?
      Kate: That's your problem. I'm sure you can solve it.

    • Kate: All they do is tease me about being an egghead.
      (Mac tries "egghead" as the password, and it doesn't work.)
      MacGyver: Kinda tough, huh.
      Kate: What do you know about it? Look, I'm not pretty. And the boys that do notice me, they run like rabbits when they find out I'm smarter than they are.
      MacGyver: So you just decided to go it alone, is that it?
      Kate: What is this, some kind of shrink session?!

    • MacGyver: Boy, you are not seeing who you really are, Kate.
      Kate: You're wrong! I know who I am and what I am - and you do too! Look!
      MacGyver: That's your password.

    • MacGyver: You are special, Kate, and it's not so bad to be special. You just have to learn to feel good about it, that's all.

    • MacGyver: One of the great things about satellite navigation is that they can pinpoint a location down to one hundred yards. Problem is, they still can't tell who's liable to be waitin' there.

    • MacGyver: Everybody makes mistakes once in a while. The trick is learning to live with it.

    • Kate: All for one--
      MacGyver: --and one for all! (He laughs) I can't believe you just said that.

    • Kate: What are we going to do?
      MacGyver: We're going to assess the problem and then come up with a solution. That's usually how it's done.

    • MacGyver: So, why don't you introduce him?
      Kate: He's shy, especially around strangers. But get him alone in the lab? Can he compute!

  • NOTES (0)


    • Professor Willis, in dying, quotes, "just not so deep as a well, but so wide as a church-door, but 'tis enough," from Romeo and Juliet, Scene 1, as Mercutio lies dying in Romeo's arms.