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MacGyvering

"With what?" Spencer asks. "Don't tell me you know how to make a bomb with a stick of chewing gum." Wow, the first ever MacGyver joke was actually in the first ever episode of MacGyver. That's actually kind of impressive.
The Agony Booth recap of the first ever episode of MacGyver

Describe MacGyvering Here, with just a match, an envelope, and three ounces of rubbing alcohol.

A character saves the day by making a gadget out of unlikely things, such as creating a bomb out of chewing gum, dental floss, duct tape, and a match. If he isn't already using the dictionary to provide the fuse, the character would realize he's a bricoleur and what he's doing is bricolage.

The characters that do this may be Technical Pacifists or Mr. Fixit. The Professor often seems to have the right tools on hand at the right time, as well.

The Trope Namer and most famous practitioner of the art is Angus MacGyver, main character of the show that bore his surname, who would create said gadgets at least Once per Episode.

Go here for a list of every MacGyver-ism.

Note that the gadget has to be based on more science than simply, "Hey, I could kill someone with this random object." Look for those under Improvised Weapon. May involve Noodle Implements.

Compare Homemade Inventions, Bamboo Technology, and Duct Tape for Everything. When MacGyvering is exaggerated and used as a setting it's Scavenged Punk. See Locking MacGyver in the Store Cupboard for situations in which this is used to escape confinement. Merit Badges For Everything is when MacGyvering is institutionalized and parodied at the same time.


Examples:

    open/close all folders 

    Advertisements 
  • Played for laughs in this Mastercard commercial, which explains where MacGyver gets all his common household items.

    Anime 
  • Shirou Amada from Mobile Suit Gundam: The 08th MS Team. His team uses highly limited production RX-79(G) Gundam Ground Types made from leftover high-spec parts of the namesake RX-78, so spare parts for repairs are limited. Unfortunately, his mobile suit gets turned into a heap of junk. So, rather than use the spare parts (which weren't enough anyway), he salvaged parts from normal military vehicles such as jeeps, helicopters, and tanks to rebuild his RX-79(G) into the Ez-8, which surprisingly performs better than the RX-79(G).
  • Yusei from Yu-Gi-Oh! 5Ds, in episode 88, disarmed a high tech battle royal collar with a nail.
  • Shogetsu from Dazzle got a can of mackerel for lunch... but no can opener. So, with a few tools he got from the school's kitchen and science lab and the graphite from a pencil, he made a welding torch in the hopes that it would open the can. It did, but sadly, it also burned the mackerel. Oh, and Rahzel and Fay both had can openers.
  • Sorieke! Anpanman
    • In the second episode, after Baikinman defeated Anpanman with his cloud, three rabbit kids (Pyonkichi, Usao, and Usako) saw Anpanman on a tree and he needed a way to get back to Uncle Jam's bakery since his head got bumped. They decided to take apart their unicycles to created a tricycle for him to get there.
  • Rena in Higurashi no Naku Koro ni, builds a homemade bomb by blocking the school's gutter with a base-ball, pouring gasoline in said gutter, and setting a cook-timer to ignite the explosive gas and blow up the school (in which she has also poured a generous amount of gasoline). It's only thanks to Satoko that Keiichi can find the bomb and defuse it in time.
  • Taichi Hiraga-Keaton in Master Keaton does stuff like stopping bulldozers with soapy water, defusing bombs with chocolate, and turning a lamp and oil paint into a bomb set off by a light switch.

    Comic Books 
  • Subverted in Marvel Zombies vs. Ultimate Fantastic Four, where zombie Mr. Fantastic convinces the soldiers guarding the Ultimate Frightful Four's cell that he's built a teleporter out of stuff lying around the cell and they promptly disappear. Turns out Zombie Invisble Woman had just made them all invisible so that the guards would open the cell to investigate, whereupon they were eaten.
  • Lex Luthor, on the other hand, has been known to build a teleporter out out of stuff lying around his cell. During his appearance in the short-lived The Joker comic, he improvised a jetpack out of a couple of bottles of pop and some paint flakes.
    • Spectacular jailbreaks based on his MacGyvering skills were a huge part of Pre Crisis Mad Scientist Luthor's character. One story has him consider that it has reached the point where his guards won't allow him to have anything other than a pad of paper and a pen. He knows perfectly well how to turn to the ink, metal, plastic, wood pulp, and glue into a high explosive to blast his way out... but he would never do that, because then they wouldn't let him have a pen and paper any more.
  • Mocked, inevitably, in MAD's spoof of MacGyver. MacGyver remarks the the room the bad guys have locked him in has nothing he can use to escape, to which the woman with him points out that the room is full of explosives. He complains about the indignity of having to actually use explosives as explosives instead of improvising.
  • Tintin tends to resort to this after being kidnapped by the villain-of-the-week. Interestingly, while they're still ingenious a lot of his inventions are surprisingly plausible.
  • Batman has pulled this off several times, usually on those rare instances where he is without his utility belt.
  • Alan Moore's Child Prodigy character Jack B. Quick takes this to parodic heights.
    Genetically re-constructing Spark-plug using only ingredients in toilet cleaner, aspirin and dad's hemorrhoid ointment is a longshot, but I have to try!
  • While trapped in the Nightmare dungeon in the second story-arc of My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic (IDW), Rainbow Dash muses that Daring-Do would make a bomb out of duct tape and Applejack's hair to escape.

    Fan Fiction 
  • In My Stupid Reality Light modifies a cheap laptop to work better with pieces ripped out of L's refrigerator.
    • Somewhat grounded in reality, believe it or not; the heat-exchanger from a fridge would be powerful enough to counteract a hell of a lot of overclocking.

    Film 
  • Angelina Jolie's rocket launcher in Salt, built from a swivel chair and cleaning chemicals.
  • The Star Trek example below is satirized (with so many other Star Trek tropes) in Galaxy Quest; with Tim Allen's Kirk-like character fighting a giant rock monster in a barren rocky valley and one of his crew-members suggesting over the communicator "Look around...can you fashion some kind of rudimentary lathe?" He's met with Tim Allen's character screaming, "A lathe? Get off the line, Guy!"
  • Iron Man: Tony Stark creates a revolutionary way of generating huge amounts of power and a bulletproof power suit whilst captured by terrorists and only some scrap weapons parts at his disposal. As explained in one of the quotes on the quotes page. In Iron Man 3, he even manages to make several homemade non-lethal weapons out of products bought at a hardware store, which he then uses to storm into the villains' hideout with maximum efficiency.
  • Half Baked had some fun with this:
    Thurgood Jenkins: The MacGyver Smoker is a very handy guy to have around, especially when it comes to reefer.
    MacGyver Friend: Hey, man, we're out of papers.
    MacGyver Smoker: All right. Then get me a toilet paper roll, a corkscrew and some tin foil.
    MacGyver Friend: We don't have a corkscrew.
    MacGyver Smoker: All right. Then get me an avocado, an ice pick and my snorkel.
    [Friend looks at him funny]
    MacGyver Smoker: Trust me, bro. I've made bongs with less. Hurry up!
  • Truth in Television, according to the man's autobiography: in The Right Stuff, Chuck Yeager breaks the sound barrier with the help of a sawed-off broom handle.
  • Also Truth in Television (see Real Life below): Apollo Thirteen features a scene where a group of engineers have to figure out a way to make the space shuttle's air filters fit into a port it's way too big for, using only the spare materials inside the lunar module. We later see the stranded astronauts rigging up the devised solution, which includes a sock, a plastic baggie, and duct tape, among other things.
  • Mallrats: Silent Bob is said to have a knack for this kind of thing.
    Jay: He won the science fair in eighth grade by turning his mom's vibrator into a CD player usin' some chicken wire an' shit. Motherfucker's like MacGyver. No, motherfucker's better than MacGyver!
  • This trope is invoked in Zack and Miri Make a Porno: "You give me a two popsicle sticks and a rubber band and I'll find a way to fuck it, like a filthy MacGyver!"
  • Common in the Tremors films and series, whenever they run out of ammo and need to improvise defenses against the latest Graboid life-cycle stage or Monster of the Week.
  • In Cast Away, Chuck finds himself stranded on a remote island with several FedEx packages full of stuff that initially looks worthless in his current setting, like a taffeta party dress (used for a fishing net), a pair of ice skates (which make handy axeheads when tied to a stick) and lots of videocassettes (whose videotape innards can be woven into some handy rope). There was also one package, the one he used to float to the island, that he never opened. According to one draft of the script, it contained two bottles of salsa verde and a note. In the FedEx commercial parodying it, it held a satellite phone, a GPS locator, fishing pole, water purifier, and seeds.
  • Vintage example: In the 1952 swashbuckler-spoof The Crimson Pirate, rebel townsfolk cobble together a hot-air balloon, cart-mounted cannons, a proto-gatling gun, and a flamethrower from old barrels, wagon wheels, wickerwork and some stolen long guns.
  • In Revenge of the Nerds II, the nerds get dumped on a desert island and have to find their way off it using their brains. In one of the most hilariously implausible scenes in the movie, one of them builds a metal detector out of coconuts, sand and seawater, leaving even his companions dumbfounded.
  • Jason Bourne of The Bourne Series has a talent for this. The stand-out example is probably him blowing up a building through the use of a toaster and a newspaper.
  • In Who Am I, Jackie Chan improvises a rear-wheel hub into a grindstone (with the wheel off) to make a tool to puncture a coconut to insert a tube to hydrate a snakebite victim with coconut milk.
  • In The Lego Movie, this is what makes a Master Builder: they have sufficient imagination to be able to pull out any Lego blocks around them and make whatever they need.
  • In The People Under the Stairs, Fool does this to lure Daddy into a trap, embedding coins in the sides of lit candles so they'll drop as the wax burns away, making it sound like he's around the corner counting them.

    Franchise 

  • Hunter of Ever After High can be very resourceful, and rather quick about it.

    Literature 
  • A Series of Unfortunate Events:
    • The character Violet uses her skills as an inventor to create gadgets off-the-cuff with available materials, often in dire situations.
    • And Klaus gets his turn in The Miserable Mill.
  • The characters in most Cormac McCarthy novels. Could be considered Author Appeal.
  • In Circumference of Darkness, the main character is locked in a barn along with some friends. Using a broken tractor, some copper tubing, and some other random items, he builds a fully functional giant tesla coil inside the barn. This also leads to a You Have Failed Me moment from the mooks responsible by their Genre Savvy boss.
  • Ciaphas Cain is not only a Hero of the Imperium! but apparently also the MacGyver of the 41st millennium; in Death or Glory, while escaping from a large mass of pursuing Orks, he takes shelter in an abandoned warehouse. Using AdMech-sanctioned cleaning fluids in a non-sanctioned way (apparently learned from pulling pranks back at the schola), he constructs a firebomb in a truck to go off in the Orks' faces when they follow it, and another bomb to blow up any Orks who burst in the building's back door. The second one is powerful enough to drop the warehouse roof.
  • The Mysterious Island, where a few people build a civilization on a remote island with nothing but two watches and a metallic dog collar.
  • Ragnar Benson has written multiple books on how to make deadly weapons from stuff lying around the house. These are encrusted with warnings that doing so before the Day of the Jackboot will land you in prison, hospital, or the morgue.
  • In the Magic: The Gathering novel Test Of Metal, Tezzeret performs an impromptu heart surgery on himself in a bare cave with no tools. Not even a box of scraps! It takes him less than ten minutes.
  • The Martian, a story about an astronaut stranded on Mars who has to figure out how to survive, involves pretty much constant MacGyvering, as the protagonist has to figure out how to repurpose all his gear for a long-term stay. He takes the hydrazine that was supposed to be a fuel source and burns it with oxygen to make water. He then uses one of his departed fellow crewmember's EVA suits as a cistern to hold the water.
  • Future History, involves a starship engineer whose spark of genius is doing things like using a polishing rag to interrupt a circuit in order to finish repairs faster than would be otherwise safe, or inventing completely new technology from systmes that were never meant to work together, on the fly!
  • Emily The Strange Stranger And Stranger: Emily was very capable. She even explains it to another character.
    I accidentally duplicated myself using a device I built from items I found in a junk store dumpster

    Live Action TV 
  • Second only to the trope namer in fame would be The A-Team who would consistently be imprisoned by villains who would inexplicably lock the 'Team in a warehouse (or other location) full of enough PVC piping, broken-down all-terrain vehicles, used engine parts, and potentially-explosive material to ensure that they could (after an A-Team Montage) build a makeshift tank, equip themselves with heavy artillery (usually consisting of the aforementioned PVC piping and explosive chemicals), stockpile massive amounts of ammunition, and still have enough material left over to escape from captivity via a very large, door-breaking (if not violently building-destroying) explosion.
  • The Doctor in Doctor Who does not carry a gun (though he has used them on occasion), and often cooks up homebrew supertech. In the episode "The Time Monster", he built a "time flow analogue" out of cups, spoons, a pie pan, and other objects found in a small house.
    • In "Time Crash" the Tenth Doctor lampshades this based on the fact that the Fifth Doctor never used a sonic screwdriver. "Like, 'Hey, I'm the Doctor. I can save the universe with a kettle and some string. And look at me, I'm wearing a vegetable.'"
    • The Kahler race introduced in "A Town Called Mercy" is described by the Doctor as being one of the most ingenious races in the galaxy, being able to build a spaceship "out of Tupperware and moss".
  • Sam on Quantum Leap had MacGyver moments, but only when he used his brain to make a gadget to save the day. Thus, a successful MacGyverist is different from a hero who is simply smart.
  • In the Star Trek: The Original Series episode "Arena", Kirk manages to build a primitive cannon out of bamboo, sulfur, and other ingredients for gunpowder he tripped over while stranded on a uninhabited asteroid. Partly justified by the fact that the asteroid was set up by powerful aliens so the combatants could fashion their own weapons, but still, a cannon... (The Chinese used similar mortars out of bamboo or ceramics centuries before Europeans made cannons out of metal.)
    • Busted in the Mythbusters MacGyver episode.
      • One Expanded Universe novel mentioned that that episode was turned into a training exercise that was considered hellishly difficult, and that 90% of the people who tried Kirk's approach ended up blowing themselves up when the cannon misfired. Riker's solution was to use the makeshift cannon as a giant mine, and clubbed the Gorn with a rock while it was disoriented from the blast.
    • And in The City at the Edge of Forever Mr. Spock builds a computer with 1930's technology, complete with a very cool but pointlessly energy-wasting Jacob's Ladder.
    Spock: I am endeavouring, ma'am, to construct a mnemonic memory circuit using stone knives and bearskins.
  • In the Babylon 5 episode "Grey 17 is Missing", Garibaldi makes use of a steam line and some bullets he had in his pocket to make an impromptu gun to kill a monster running loose on the level in the title.
  • Angel has Fred building a contraption that is either something lethal based on catapults, or a machine to make toast. It decapitates via flying blades.
    • Fred did that sort of thing a few times through the course of the series. One other time I don't remember the details of, but it was to defend herself against Wesley in the episode "Billy" when a demon so evil that Lilah killed the demon poisoned Wesley with violent and misogynistic emotions.
  • Mike Westen of Burn Notice does this constantly, either preparing at home or in the field. He has particular expertise with cell phones. His friends Fiona and Sam has also demonstrated some competence in this area. The narration provided by Michael often explains that this is part of his training as a spy since it is assumed that operatives will rarely have access to actual 'spy gear' and will have to improvise from readily available items.
  • In an episode of CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, Gil Grissom's crime lab kit was stolen while he was up in the middle of nowhere alone investigating a murder. Instead of filling out a form with the local police or request a new one from the lab in Vegas, he uses items he buys at a home maintenance supply shop as a makeshift kit.
    • Catherine did it once too, when she feared she'd been raped in "Built To Kill", though it was more like the CSI NY example with using stuff on the scene than Grissom's.
    • Also done in CSI: NY when Danny got stuck in a panic room and had to improvise with super glue, a hot plate, coffee filter, and several other items the victim had stockpiled. He even calls Stella "Miss MacGyver".
  • Used explicitly as a verb in the pilot episode of Stargate SG-1, where Samantha Carter refers to having been forced to "macgyver" a crucial device to make the Stargate work. The fact that Richard Dean Anderson used to BE MacGyver makes this a cheeky Shout-Out (which was apparently ad-libbed on-set by Amanda Tapping, much to Anderson's surprise).
    • And don't forget the one-shot Stargate in "Ascension", made out of (among other things) toaster parts.
    • There's also a prank executed for the bloopers reel in "Solitudes," (planned by Amanda Tapping and episode director Martin Wood) where Carter and O'Neill are stranded in a glacier, and she laments that she's "stuck in a glacier with MacGyver" and he can't figure a way out for them.
      Carter: We got belt buckles and shoelaces and a piece of gum: build a nuclear reactor, for crying out loud! (RDA's face is priceless)
  • When The Wizard does not have a high-tech toy handy, he can also macgyver one to save the day.
  • Real life example: Alton Brown of Good Eats. Basically, his credo of cooking is "the only single-purpose item in your kitchen should be the fire extinguisher". And in the 10th anniversary special, he uses that to cook too.
    • The episode "Scrap Iron Chef" featured this trope heavily, as Alton was forced (in a parody of Iron Chef) to construct various cooking methods (such as a smoker) from what he found in a scrapyard.
  • NCIS:
    • Ziva and Tony manage to MacGyver a means of getting a cell phone signal from inside a metal shipping container, using Ziva's necklace and bits of DVD cases.
    • Lampshaded in another episode. When a woman who has access to pretty much all iris scanners in existence is kidnapped, she eats blood pressure medicine she finds in the kidnapper's bathroom in an attempt to alter the blood vessels in her eyes, thus blocking her ability to unlock iris scanners. Abby's comment: "It didn't work, but A+ for the MacGyver!"
    • In another episode Ducky and Palmer are held prisoner by some Cuban spies and forced to autopsy their dead colleague to figure out where he had hidden a flash drive full of stolen files. The two pathologists use the cabin's stove, a cigarette, some autopsy supplies and gas extracted from the corpse's digestive tract to make a bomb that takes out one of their captors and distracts the others long enough to allow them to escape.
  • In an episode of Chuck, Casey handcuffs Chuck to a counter in a frozen yogurt shop (long story). After failing to get the Action Girl to come free him, he freezes the chain with some kind of nefarious yogurt device and breaks it in two. His quip afterwards was something along the lines of "all those years of watching MacGyver finally paid off."
  • The MythBusters often refer to MacGyver as their patron saint. So, for their 100th episode, they did a MacGyver special, consisting of several of Mac's myths, followed by Tory and Grant putting Adam and Jamie through their own "MacGyver obstacle course". Though both the myths were busted, Adam and Jamie managed to go three for four on the obstacle course.
    • No, saying three out of four does not do it justice. In true MacGyver fashion, they managed to escape the first part of the obstacle course, then had to use items found at a campsite to signal for pick up by the helicopter. The original plan was that they would build a Potato Gun, instead, they built a kite out of the same materials, plus the rope they were tied up with at the beginning of the segment.
    • The one task they failed was because they lacked the scientific knowledge to develop a roll of film. The apparatus they set up would have worked had Adam been able to remember one key aspect of the process.
  • Australian Aboriginal show Bush Mechanics is built around this trope - the first episode sees the protagonists claim an ancient car and macgyver it into (barely) working order out of scraps from a car yard and fix it up along the way using garbage, trees and an axe. When they stop for tea and find they're out of matches, one makes a fire the way "the old folks" taught him - with jumper leads and the car battery.
  • The British series Scrapheap Challenge, known as Junkyard Wars in the US, had two teams compete to MacGyver together some sort of machine from parts found in the junkyard each episode.
  • The USA series Royal Pains features the lead doctor utilizing "A bottle of vodka, a sharp knife, a plastic sandwich bag, a BIC pen, and some duct tape" to save the life of a hemophiliac who was bleeding internally. The girl helping him remarked "What are you, MacGyver?"
  • The Professor on Gilligan's Island could make a lot of things from the materials on the island, and jokes about the show made him able to make anything if he had enough coconuts.
    • Except a boat.
  • In Breaking Bad, Walt and Jesse are left stranded in the wilderness when their RV's battery dies. They eventually are able to construct a new battery out of coins, bolts, brake pads, and their meth-making chemicals.
    • Then there's the episode where Walt creates a bunch of smoke bombs that look exactly like meth, or the pilot episode, where he creates a poison-gas bomb on the fly, while two guys are trying to make him teach them his method at gunpoint.
    • Then near the end of the first half of the fifth and final season Walt finds himself strapped to a pipe in an office. He has somewhere he needs to be, pronto. He takes two wires, grits his teeth, and brings them together to make a circuit, burning his plastic cuffs, (and a bit of his skin, too.)
    • In the finale, a M60 machine gun and a car engine are used to make a remote-activated automated turret that kills six people: five of the seven Aryan Brotherhood members and Walt himself.
  • In the show Future Food, there is an element of this in some of the cooking methods employed.
  • In Torchwood: Miracle Day, the team creates a chelation agent (to treat cyanide poisoning) from only chemicals available on an airplane.
  • In Person of Interest Finch makes a WiFi antenna using a Pringles can.
    • This is almost Truth in Television; search online for "cantenna" if you fancy a go at making your own, but supposedly something like a coffee can will be more effective.
  • In one episode of Warehouse 13 Artie releases himself from handcuffs by making an electromagnet out of a hotel iron so he can get his toolbag. Lampshaded with "I was doing this when MacGyver was still trapped in his crib!"
  • In The X-Files episode "Detour", Scully tries to open a bullet and use the gunpowder to start a fire. She does open it (what a badass!), but the gunpowder explodes in one bright flash and the wood doesn’t catch.
  • In the M*A*S*H episode "A War For All Seasons", Hawkeye and B.J. rig a primitive dialysis machine using meat casings from a Toledo sausage company and a washtub ordered from Sears & Roebuck.
  • In Lost Girl Lauren is forced to make an antidote for a Fae parasite with basic supplies. She has some medical/mystical ingredients in her back, but she says she will also need things like hairspray, sugar, baking soda, vinegar, and lubricating oil.
  • Defied by Beckett in the Castle episode "Last Call". Before exploring a hidden passageway under a bar, Castle rigs up a torch by placing a roll of toilet paper in the cup of a plunger and soaking the paper with liquor.
    Beckett: What are you doing, Castle?
    Castle: We're going to need light. (lights a match to ignite the liquor-soaked toilet paper)
    Beckett: (blows out match, pulls out a flashlight) We're also going to need breathable air. (hands Castle an electric lantern)
    Castle (muttering to himself) A torch would have been more fun.
  • In the Masters Of Horror episode "Incident On and Off a Mountain Road", Ellen manages to quickly fashion a booby trap for Moonface using some sticks and her own panties.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Dungeons & Dragons: Nearly everything ever made by tinker gnomes, from Dragon Lance setting (and spread in Spelljammer 'verse) qualifies.
  • In Genius The Transgression a Genius can "kitbash" a Wonder together in hours, minutes, or even seconds if they're powerful or have bought the right merit.
  • Warhammer 40,000 is not devoid of this kind of stuff either, strangely enough. Da orkz build a majority of their own inventions from random scraps of junk, including most of their firearms and vehicles. Ironically, due to the generic mindset of the whole race, most of their inventions work simply because they ''think'' it will work.
    • Ork players have been known to construct vehicles using strategies ranging from "leftovers from other vehicles" to "grab all the spare parts, put them in a box, pour in glue, and stick wheels on whatever comes out".
    • Although it's not like non-Ork players don't get in on the action either. Because of the price of the hobby, any 40k player (or indeed, wargamer) worth their salt will have a bitz box wether they are Orks, Humans, Eldar, whatever. It is the most efficient way to go about doing things and anyone who has played for a long time will have closets full of hoarded spare parts that they can cobble together into just about anything.
  • Played for laughs in an early BattleTech sourcebook, as a pair of very efficient (but prank-prone) technicians repaired a lance of 'Mechs with various pieces of machinery... that included a lard rendering tank, a truck that advertised processed chicken, and metal labeled for Spam cans. Most of the Mechwarriors were amused, but one went after the techs with a wrench.

    Theater 
  • Hamlet features the title character forging a letter that will result in the execution of his Poisonous Friends Rosencrantz and Guildenstern with various items around the ship where he's being taken to his own execution.

    Video Games 
  • Team Fortress 2s Medic literally created a device that can heal people from the brink of death to full physical health within the minute, out of a Flower pot, blender, fire hose, several gauges and malfunctioning medical equipment. The Soldier has a cobbled-together rocket launcher, Pyro a flamethrower, and Medic once more, a syringe gun that's just as cobbled together as the Quick fix.
  • Alone In The Dark 2008 demands that the player combine odd items (without pausing, even during battle) in a way that would be cool yet MacGuyveresque. Usually, however, those brave enough to make an attempt have little success except for those who cheat and read the tips for good combinations of items, or worse, using trial and error.
  • The main character in the Tex Murphy games is all about this. It's necessary to advance past dozens of puzzles throughout the games.
  • Any of the Monkey Island games where Guybrush Threepwood has to use all manner of wacky items to save the day. One is in The Curse of Monkey Island, where you have to pour cooking oil on a guy's back so he'll get sun burnt and you can then peel off the skin on his back which just happens to have a map tattooed on to it.
  • Fallout 3:
    • You can do things like make a gauntlet out of a monster's arm and a medical brace, make a nail-launching rifle out of a steam gauge assembly and a pressure cooker, or make a Flaming Sword out of motorcycle parts and a lawnmower blade.
    • By combining a leaf blower with a vacuum cleaner, you can build a cannon that launches anything you put in, from tin cans to teddy bears. or a toaster
  • Fallout: New Vegas:
    • When faced with a broken world item (fuse box, food processor, etc.), you can either go hunt for parts, or use a high repair skill to fix it. Special mention for the food processor at Camp McCarran, which you can fix with a repair skill of 80 by using a paper clip, a swiss army knife and other stuff.
    • The Jury Rigging perk, which enables you to, among other things: repair a Power Fist with boxing gloves, repair an Inversal Proton Axe with a pool cue, and fix an Atomic Tri-Valence Radii Accentuator with a pair of sunglasses.
  • The Infocom game Leather Goddesses Of Phobos revolves around MacGyvering a machine to prevent the titular aliens from turning the population of Earth into their sex slaves out of, among other things, a pair of cotton balls, a blender, and a small white mouse.
  • Wizardry 8 has the gadgeteer class. Spell casters can obviously cast spells and bards can produce similar spell-like effects when they find the proper musical instrument. Gadgeteers will be collecting odd assortments of scrap and knick-knacks to assemble devices that allow them to do the same—like a lava lamp that hypnotizes enemies. Their unique weapon, the omnigun, also functions this way: it gets more powerful as the gadgeteer gains levels because they're installing upgrades and new functions. At first model omnigun is slow, inaccurate and uses musketballs and sling stones for ammo, the final model is very fast, very accurate, can cause a laundry list of debuffs, and can use every kind of ammo.
  • This is Doc Hawkins' trick in MDK 2. "I've created toast! Delicious!"
  • This is the superpower that fans have inferred Nitori of Touhou to have. She lives in a Medieval Stasis world, but has access to books from the real world, and is nevertheless capable of producing working machines of the modern age (or even better than modern equipment, as with her stealth suit) without access to an industrial base, education system, or any kind of energy source (until the end of the tenth game, at least). Western fans even directly state MacGyver to be her personal hero/romantic fantasy.
  • In Cave Story, a character makes a bomb out of charcoal, "jellyfish juice" and gum base.
  • In Jagged Alliance 2 you can make some gadgets out of random items you find. For example: duct tape and a steel tube can be used to make a barrel extender for your rifle, which increases its range (though it's prone to get fired off since it's only held on with duct tape), or combining a game system, an x-ray tube, and a couple other things to make an x-ray scanner (reports of massive doses of x-ray radiation when in use are "unconfirmed").
  • Parodied in Leisure Suit Larry: Love For Sail. When you try to combine random objects, the announcers says something along the lines of, "Larry, sometimes you try to mix two things together, but what do you always get? An ass".
  • Any Lego Adaptation Game.
  • EarthBound: Jeff Andonuts. He's the Badass Bookworm that can make anything from a Slime Generator from a broken iron to a Gaia Beam from a broken antenna.
  • Fotbar Laboratory in Choro Q HG 4 allows you to make powerful parts out of spoon, wrist strap, piece of cloth, paper bag, and others. The strongest chassis of the game is happened to be made of eraser.
  • Professor Layton has a habit of this:
    • At the end of Professor Layton and the Curious Village, the titular character manages to build a functioning glider from some poles, drapes, and other junk. Not only could it carry three people, but he was able to thwart the villain's own sinister flying contraption with it.
    • That's nothing - in Professor Layton and the Eternal Diva, Layton manages to produce a functioning helicopter out of a bunch of odds and ends in a shack on a deserted island. As above, it carries three people. And somehow works.
    • Not to be outdone, Professor Layton and the Unwound Future has the good professor create a working machine gun out of some spare slot machine parts. He's under heavy gunfire, but when a bullet knocks the parts loose, he's only one quick puzzle away from sending the Mooks running with their tails between their legs.
  • In Dead Rising 2, Chuck can make a weapon out of every last thing he finds. These range from simple (Nails + Baseball Bat = Baseball Bat With Nails Through It) to creative (Knifes + Boxing Gloves = Wolverine Claws) to really weird (Chainsaws + Paddle = Double Ended Polearm With Chainsaws at both ends) to just plain crazy (Gas Can + Super Soaker = Flamethrower.)
    • Actually, that last one is pretty realistic
    • So you're saying the first one isn't?
  • Rikku in Final Fantasy X, as part of her Limit Break, she can create powerful bombs or healing items just by combining two often ordinary items.
  • Most of the challenges in Return to Mysterious Island and its sequel are this trope.
  • Technologist in Arcanum can assemble explosives, chemicals, guns and various mechanical devices from random junk. This includes a device which can resurrect dead and is made from a capacitor, snake venom and three different herbs.
    • It works pretty well IRL too though the plan, like most, leaves out a few crucial elements and details for simplicities sake.
  • Dark Chronicle has the protagonist, Max, who is able to come up with ideas and create things out off photos he takes: trash can, belt, pipe, streetlight, hospital skeleton, tree, iron maiden, etc. Also, there's even more bizarre case where he can synthesize element out of bread to upgrade his weapon.
  • In Dead Space 2 the protagonist, Isaac, builds a plasma cutter (the main weapon of the series) out of a flashlight and a surgical laser.
  • In Minecraft, all the player has at the beginning of the game is their bare hands and the clothes on their back. They can fashion a crafting table after chopping down a tree and processing it into planks with their bare hands, use that table and those planks to make makeshift wooden tools, use those tools to gather cobblestone, which they can then use to build a furnace and upgrade to makeshift stone tools, which they can use in turn to gather coal and iron ore... and so on. With the right raw materials and a crafting table (which can be crafted on the spot in a pinch), the player can make whatever they need almost instantly.
  • Unturned is similar to Minecraft in that you start with nothing and can eventually craft and construct supplies and shelter. In particular, some weapon attachments can be improvised using some rather unorthodox materials. For instance, using two tin cans and two cans of cola (cooked over a fire, for some reason), you can make an improvised silencer called the 'Muffler'. Another example is the "Zoomifier", an improvised scope made out of a pair of binoculars and some duct tape which has a fairly high zoom level but no reticule.

    Webcomics 
  • In one 8-Bit Theater strip, Red Mage saves the day using a portable hole, an immovable rod, a bag of holding, and an ice spell. Of course, it all takes place off screen.
  • Agatha in Girl Genius has her moments.
    • Othar wrote in his log about some hardware he built after being marooned.
  • A parody on Ansem Retort: Zexion made a new heart for Riku out of bendy straws and a Hot Pocket.
  • These two pages of Fans! demonstrate MacGyvering in the field. Rico even uses the word MacGyvered to describe what happened.
  • In The Inexplicable Adventures of Bob!, space criminal Fructose Riboflavin has a knack for building alien supertech out of odds and ends. Useful, since he spends so much of his life as a perpetual fugitive.
  • Rick in Blur the Lines makes a fleshlight out of an empty can and some ground chuck (meat). [1]
  • Parodied numerous times in Real Life Comics - among other things, Tony has made a quantum space-time teleportation device and a trans-dimensional portal device out of random materials lying around.
  • One instance of possible Mac Gyvering is found in the webcomic Control-Alt-Delete, where the main character, Ethan, makes a bipedal, sentient robot out of a single Xbox. This robot then develops a taste for gaming and becomes another character in the comic.
  • Subverted in this strip of Housepets!.
  • In Gunnerkrigg Court, Gadgeteer Genius Kat Donlan builds an anti-gravity device out of a thermos and wire clothes hangers. And that thing was only step one of her zero gravity protein crystal growth tank Science Fair project.

    Web Original 
  • In Masks, there's a superpower that allows people to do this.
  • According to Troll Science, it seems there is nothing a Troll cannot achive using only flashlights, magnets, and a complete disregard of the laws of physics. exibt A is this charming little wagon.

    Western Animation 
  • Satirized in the Family Guy episode "Brian: Portrait of a Dog". Peter writes a letter: "Dear MacGyver, Enclosed is a rubber band, a paper clip, and a drinking straw. Please save my dog."
    • MacGyver proceeds to fumble around with the rubber band and the paper clip and accidentally shoot himself in the eye.
  • Subverted in the Futurama episode "Where No Fan Has Gone Before". Fry tries to make a bowstring out of caterpillars, but the first time he uses it the string breaks and leaves him with caterpillars all over his face and clothing.
  • In one of The Simpsons gags, Homer makes a powerful bomb out of a can of soda pop and a packet of pop rocks.
    • In "Kiss Kiss Bang Bangalore", where Richard Dean Anderson guest stars, he starts doing this in real life after Patty and Selma kidnap him from a Stargate SG-1 convention (he gets so much of a kick after escaping them MacGyver-style, he actually keeps coming back for more), such as making "MacGyver-burgers" out of Slim Jims and rubber bands. Also contains this quote:
    Richard Dean Anderson: "I've come up with another escape. I want you to tie me up and lock me in the trunk of your car, under the pier at low tide. All I need are these everyday objects — a toothpick, some liquor, a gun with no bullets, bullets, and three of my MacGyver writers."
    • In "Black Widower," Patty, Selma and Sideshow Bob watch an episode of MacGyver, which concludes with this exchange:
      "Thank you, Senor MacGyver, for saving our village."
      "Don't thank me. Thank the moon's gravitational pull."
  • Subverted in Dave the Barbarian, where Dave makes a megaphone out of "a squirrel, a string, and a megaphone." It was simply a squirrel tied to a megaphone.
    "You might be wondering why I tied a squirrel to a megaphone." (beat) "Well, goodnight."
  • Grampy from the old Betty Boop cartoons usually did this. A prominent example comes from the 1937 cartoon "Christmas Comes But Once a Year", wherein Grampy MacGuyvers together several Christmas toys for a group of downtrodden orphans, using nothing more than common household items.
  • Jenny 10 from Dex Hamilton: Alien Entomologist: "Last week I made a hadron collider from a broken hairdryer and a box of paperclips..."
  • Played with on G.I. Joe: Renegades. Being fugitives on the run, it's a given. Duke manages to diffuse a bomb with a wad of chewing gum, but Roadblock's attempts to jury-rig an engine-cable for the truck don't go as smoothly.
  • Both subverted and played straight in Codename: Kids Next Door: the KND's self-parodying Bamboo Technology equipment mostly consists of random objects, pieces of wood, and duct tape, fondly referred to as '2x4 Technology.'
  • On Beast Wars, Rhinox often had to improvise with whatever spare parts were available to build new useful tech. Lampshaded in "Chain of Command":
    "Make a device to extract physical molecular structure from an alien probe? Man, I gotta be a miracle worker."
    • And it worked, too!
  • My Little Pony: In "The Return Of Tambelon", the ponies are able to break out of Grogan's dungeon by using their gruel ration and Fizzy's bubble-making magic to turn a crack in the ceiling into a gaping hole that they can escape through.
  • Thomas the Tank Engine: In "James and the Coaches", James' rough riding causes the brake pipe on one of his coaches to rupture, bringing the train to a standstill. The crew covers the hole with newspaper and pressures a reluctant passenger to hand over his leather bootlaces to seal it up. It works.
  • Chip 'n' Dale's Rescue Rangers: Gadget Hackwrench has this as her hat. Thanks to Cartoon Physics—not to mention a healthy dose of Rule of Funny—she can build practically anything using what's lying around, including a fully functional rocket ship out of a garbage can.
  • This is a speciality of Ramon Ridley on Dogstar. Amongst other things, he once constructed a functioning radio telescope out of an old satellite and a toaster.

    Real Life 
  • Brazil and Portugal are two nations whose whole philosophy is based on improvisation, and this is taught in schools. They even have a word for it: desenrascanço.
    • That term is probably exclusive to Portugal. In Brazil, the improv way of life is usually called "Jeitinho Brasileiro", or "Brazilian (Little) Way", which is not limited to MacGyvering, but also any sort of problem-solving in non-conventional ways, including amoral ones.
  • In French, MacGyverish translates to débrouillard. And we've got a magazine teaching the virtues of ''la débrouillardise'' to little Quebecers everywhere. Be afraid, be very afraid... Or not, as the case may be.
  • In a similar vein, the Egyptians have a stereotype about themselves that they can always find a way to make what they need. As it turns out, this might be true of Arabs in general, judging by the jury-rigged weapons systems of Hamas and Hezbollah in the Arab-Israeli Conflict, and of the Libyan rebels in their Civil War.
  • Cracked did an article on the subject, here.
  • The website There, I Fixed It archives photos of some of the more amusing attempts at this. Some of them apparently do the job; they just look humorously thrown-together.
  • One of the most useful devices in amateur telecommunications is pretty much only available in MacGyver form. The 'can-tenna' is a directional (meaning it has to be aimed) antenna made out of an ordinary metal can (anything from a soup can all the way up to a metal trash can will work) and some wire. Splice it into a normal antenna and you can pick up wifi from hundreds of yards away. One using a Pringles can to hook up by bluetooth is even featured in an episode of Burn Notice.
    • One episode of The Screen Savers covered making a Pringles can directional antenna.
  • On The Daily Show, Jon Stewart makes reference directly to MacGyvering when interviewing William Kamkwamba, a young man from Malawi who created a functioning windmill for his village during a famine, using only, according to That Other Wiki, "blue gum trees, bicycle parts, and materials collected in a local scrapyard."
  • During the American Civil War, the South was strapped for cash and couldn't stand a protracted Naval Blockade, especially with the North's greater resources for building ironclads. Considering that the South's main resource was cotton, they strapped bales onto the decks of merchant ships and used them to absorb enemy fire. Thus, the Cotton-clad was born.
  • Americans are known for coming up with crazy ideas that just happen to work like using human hair to soak up oil. At the Battle of Midway, the carrier Yorktown had been redeployed after improvised repairs were rushed after taking heavy damage at Coral Sea. The Yorktown was bombed by Zeroes, but the Damage Control units not only kept her afloat, but got her back up to speed, to the point that when the Japanese bombed her again, they thought they had sunk two carriers, rather than hitting the Yorktown twice. She did sink, but not before turning the tide of the battle by means of improvised repairs and sheer endurance.
    • In the Iraq War, American soldiers, lacking suitable armor for their Humvees and trucks, created what came to be called "hillbilly armor" made from scrap metal, kevlar, bulletproof glass and even plywood. The result looks like something out of Mad Max.
  • In the wake of the major oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010, basically everyone and their uncle came up with an idea to either A) get the oil from the water, B) fix the gushing oil pipe or C) clean the oil off the poor helpless animals. Almost all these ideas (well, maybe not the "stop the gushing pipe" one) usually involved simple materials that could be found in either the average home, the average High School, or the average supermarket. And most of them either worked or would have worked, although not on a Gulf-wide scale.
  • The phrases "Yankee ingenuity" and "Kiwi ingenuity" refer to the tendencies of early colonists in, respectively, New England and New Zealand to make do with whatever was available in order to perform the task at hand, such as using a pole saw to cut brush in the absence of a machete.
    • Often called Number 8 Wire here in New Zealand (after the amount of jury-rigging done with the stuff).
  • Nuclear physicist Ted Taylor, while waiting out a delay during a nuclear weapons test, found a parabolic mirror. He placed this outside the observation bunker and used wire to fix a Pall Mall at the mirror's focal point. When the bomb went off, the mirror focused the heat flash on the cigarette, and Ted Taylor became the first person to light a cigarette with an atomic bomb.
  • The British Home Guard was left to fall back upon its own resources in the early days, as priority had to be given to re-equipping the regular Army. Their most deadly anti-tank weapon was a sort of self-igniting Molotov Cocktail, so one especially enterprising Home Guard officer designed and built a mortar from a length of old drainpipe and some black powder to launch one of these further than it could be thrown.
  • Averted probably more times than not in Real Life. Many an ER attending and trauma surgeon has put away some retirement money from homemade MacGyver devices. The tragedy is that most lay people can scrounge together just enough information, skill, and resources to build something that gets themselves really, really hurt. What professionals have is not only the ability to build devices, but do so safely with a low margin of error. As Adam and Jamie would say, don't try this at home. They're what you call professionals.
  • Once the Mythbusters showed the museum of weapons made in prison, including a gun made from the sink pipes. One episode proved that, with enough time and the proper technique, a prisoner could build a functional, lethal crossbow out of newspaper, underwear elastic, and plastic forks and spoons.
  • On the Apollo 13 mission, an oxygen tank explosion left the command module uninhabitable. Using the lunar module as a lifeboat had been discussed earlier, and the crew evacuated into the LM for the rest of the trip to the moon and back to Earth. Among the problems they had to solve was that the carbon dioxide scrubbers were being used up too quickly, being designed for the requirements of two astronauts for 1½ day, not three for four days. There were spare canisters in the command module, but those were cube-shaped and large, not cylindrical and small as in the lunar modulenote . Ground Control put together a team with the objective to find a way to use items available on the spaceship to build something to make the CM canisters usable. Using things like plastic Moon rock bags, cardboard from log book covers, space suit hoses, and duct tapenote , they MacGyvered a working adapter.
  • Self-injurers will often use whatever they can find to harm, if their regular razors or knives are missing.
  • This Cracked article: "9 Regular Objects Turned into Insane Prison Weapons"
  • In the hands of orthopedic surgeon Angus Wallace, a coathanger, knife and fork became surgical tools and five-star brandy became disinfectant when the airplane's first-aid kit proved inadequate to treat a woman for tension pneumothorax.
    • Using duct tape or plastic bags to temporarily seal a sucking chest wound is actually a fairly standard Macguyvering technique for administering first aid to a sucking chest wound, in the absence of proper materials. Likewise, using the outer casing of a pen as tubing for an improvised tracheotomy.
  • Networking New Zealand's four television stations was supposed to be completed by July 1969, in time for Apollo 11, but it was delayed by several months. So for the moon landing, the New Zealand Broadcasting Corporation created a temporary network by using its 100kW high-power transmitters to repeat the footage up and down each of the country's two main islands, and then linking the North and South Islands together via some strategically-placed outside broadcast vans. It worked, once they managed to sort out how to switch the transmitters in order to prevent half the country getting 100kW worth of feedback.
    • Getting the footage across New Zealand was the easy part - getting it into the country was another story. With no international satellite link, the NZBC ended up sending the Royal New Zealand Air Force to Sydney to pick up the film of the moon landing from The ABC and then rush it on an English Electric Canberra to Wellington.


Line-of-Sight NameImprovised IndexMartial Arts and Crafts
Lying In The Dirt TogetherDrama TropesMagical Defibrillator
Injury BookendIndex of SolutionsMundane Solution
Love Makes You EvilPragmatism TropesMight Makes Right
Little Green Man in a CanImageSource/OtherEverything's Better with Plushies
StreetwalkerImageSource/Live-Action TVMalcolm in the Middle

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