Series: MacGyver aka: Mac Gyver Lost Treasure Of Atlantis
Mac built that missile out of some PVC pipe, potting soil, and an old sprinkler head.
Barbara Spencer: Blow an opening. With what? Don't tell me you know how to make a bomb out of a stick of chewing gum? MacGyver:Why, you got some?
— Pilot episode
Adventure TV series, running from 1985 to 1992, starring Richard Dean Anderson. The title character didn't like guns (after a friend of his died in a revolver accident when he was a child), preferring to solve problems with his intelligence, resourcefulness and improvised gadgets. He often created some device worthy of Rube Goldberg out of whatever odds and ends were at hand, which is why MacGyvering is named after him.In the first season, he was an agent for the "Department of External Security", after which he left in favor of a philanthropic Heroes R Us organisation called the Phoenix Foundation for Research, an organization that, if not a front for the CIA, is almost certainly on its speed-dial, where his boss was one Pete Thornton (played by Dana Elcar).Mac would travel all over the world performing missions for good ol' Uncle Sam, retrieving spy satellite information and helping defectors from Commie Land get to the United States, but spent most of his time in California. He seems to have had several Busman's Holidays as well.The man seems to have had a plethora of ex-girlfriends and "old friends", who would turn up every so often, usually in need of help, though more often than not they would get killed in the first few minutes of the episode. As the show went on, an increasing percentage of episodes were devoted to Mac's attempts to help an old friend out of trouble.Among the show's cast of recurring characters were Pete Thornton (Dana Elcar), Mac's boss and friend at the Phoenix Foundation, Jack Dalton (played by veteran character actor Bruce McGill), airplane pilot, part time spy, and con artist, who was constantly embroiling Mac in backfiring get-rich-quick schemes, and Murdoc (played by British Rock Singer Michael Des Barres), an assassin for "Homicide International Trust", reputed Master of Disguise, or so we're told. He had a penchant for leaving every episode by falling off of something very high while shouting an enraged "MacGyver!" Mac's most featured love interest was the scatter-brained Penny Parker, played by Teri Hatcher before Lois and Clark or Desperate Housewives.It is however, probably true that later seasons had a few too many Very Special Episodes, an indulgence that likely led to its declining popularity.Still, the show remains hugely memorable in the US (it was heavily referenced in the The Simpsons as a favorite show of Marge's sisters, Patty and Selma, and is parodied in the regular Saturday Night Live skit MacGruber where Richard Dean Anderson once made an appearance). It shows in prime-time in Indonesia and Ukraine. According to TV Cream (which doesn't like the show), it didn't really work in the UK.The Film of the Series was set to be released in 2011, and then 2013, with Dino De Laurentiis as executive producer. Following the death of De Laurentiis in November 2010 it remains to be seen if the production will continue.Not to be confused with Guyver or MacGruber, an Affectionate Parody. Not to be confused with the trope of the same name, either.Trope Codifier of MacGyvering.
This show provides examples of:
Accidental Kidnapping: In "Hearts of Steel", kidnappers accidentally kidnap the housekeeper's daughter rather than the daughter of a business magnate because the two girls have swapped jackets.
Adventures in Comaland: "Passages" had Mac put in a coma by assassins. He found himself on a cruise ship piloted by a guy claiming to be Anubis where he managed to talk one last time to his dead parents and just deceased grandfather before escaping.
All Crimes Are Equal: "Jack in the Box" combines this with the Corrupt Hick trope to create a plot wherein a town in the Deep South uses their "justice" system to recruit workers for a mine said to contain treasure.
The Amazon: In "Trumbo's World", Mac and a wildlife photographer friend must uncover the reason for the strange happenings in the Amazon rainforest. Then, in a story based on "Leiningen Versus the Ants", Mac helps a man in the Amazon jungle defend his plantation against billions of ants.
Amnesia Danger: Occurs in at least three episodes, where Mac loses his memory due to being drugged, shot in the head, etc.
And Some Other Stuff: When describing his solutions, Mac always leaves out some steps when dealing with anything explosive.
Angry Guard Dog: In "Good Knight, MacGyver", Morganna uses an angry guard dog (unconvincingly disguised as a demon) as part of her defences. Mac defeats it by MacGyvering up a dog whistle.
Arch-Enemy: Murdoc qualifies given that he appears the most often out of all the reoccurring villains.
Atlantis: As one might expect, Atlantis features in "Lost Treasure Of Atlantis".
Autopsy Snack Time: "The Enemy Within" has Mac present at an autopsy that has the coroner halting his duties for an eggroll.
Badass: He plays ice hockey and climbs mountains (the latter despite his acrophobia) in his spare time, used to serve in the military as a bomb defuser, used to be a race car driver, regularly faces enemies who do have guns and tends to make them look like chumps, is the key to defeating pretty much every security system conceivable, and is now synonymous with the concept of getting a bunch of random trash and making it do something amazing.
Badass Bookworm: He doesn't look physically imposing, but he's more than capable of handling himself in a fight, whether through quick thinking or a punch to the face.
Bamboo Technology: In the opening of "Legend of the Holy Rose Part 1", MacGyver, with only a few hours, manages to design and build a whole working gyroplane out of bamboo, tarps, and an old cement-mixer engine.
Banana In The Tail Pipe: In "A Prisoner of Conscience", Mac stalls the car of the secret police who are tailing him by sticking a potato in the exhaust pipe.
Banana Republic: Mac found himself in quite a few of these in Latin America as well as Africa. One particular episode had Mac being sequestered by his CIA operative friend Abe into kidnapping a South American dictator. When Abe tells Mac this is because said dictator was on CIA's payroll, only for him to double cross them, we get this priceless exchange:
Mac: I don't believe it. First Noriega, then Iran-Contra now this! Tell me, is there anyone you guys haven't financed yet?
Bitter Almonds: Used to identify a cyanide poisoning attempt on Peter Thorton, in one episode.
Blade Brake: MacGyver once got down from a catwalk by sticking his pocket knife through his wallet (as a guard) and then that through a curtain.
Bloody Handprint: In one episode Mac comes across a deserted ship that's been run ashore and ransacked on the inside. Within he finds a Bloody Handprint several times the size of his own, which obviously could not belong to a human.
A Bloody Mess: In "For Love or Money", Mac uses the condiments from a picnic basket (carefully mixing them to give the consistency of blood) to fake a bloody head wound so he can gain access to a hospital.
Bond Villain Stupidity: It's amazing how often MacGyver finds himself in some form of death trap that always has plenty of "useless" items lying around for him to use for escape. Lampshaded in the episode "The Ten Percent Solution", where a Nazi-lady tries to use a gas chamber on the heroes while a henchman ponders, "Why not just shoot them?"
Booze Flamethrower: In "The Eye of Osiris", Mac throws alcohol in the face of a man holding a torch, setting the man's hat and shirt on fire.
Bottle Episode: When Mac and Harry drop by the Phoenix Foundation to pick up some hockey tickets in "Phoenix Under Siege", they find themselves in the middle of a terrorist attack and the terrorists seal the building.
Breakout Villain: Murdoc became popular enough to have one episode per season after his first appearance, one of them even had him teaming up with Mac to save someone else.
Buffy Speak: Penny Parker tends to lapse into this whenever she shows signs of intelligence.
Bullet Proof Vest: In "The Coltons" we learn that both Frank and Jesse wear these: a fact that saves their lives.
Bulungi: MacGyver featured several of these over the course of the show's run; the episode featuring Kembezi was unusual in that the country was actually indicated on a map (specifically, as being in the vicinity of South Africa).
Burn the Witch!: In "Good Knight, MacGyver'', Sir Duncan attempts to burn Merlin at the stake after framing him for attempting to murder King Arthur.
Chained Heat: MacGyver spends much of the episode "The Lost Amadeus" chained to a very eighties Manic Pixie Dream Girl who also turned out to be a brilliant classical violinist.
Chained to a Railway: In "Deadly Silents", MacGyver and an old man he is protecting are knocked out and tied to a railroad track by the villain; however, the railroad track is just a film studio prop, and the purpose is to scare the old man (who suffers from a heart condition) into having a heart attack.
Characterization Marches On: In the pilot episode, MacGyver actually uses an assault rifle. Also, his first name was originally meant to be "Stace" according to the pilot's script.
Commie Nazis: Played straight in "The Enemy Within" which began with Mac on a mission behind the Iron Curtain narrowly escaping from East German troops dressed in World War Two era Wehrmacht uniforms.
The Commies Made Me Do It: In "Deathlock", the girl of the week turns out to be acting as a mole for the bad guys because they have her brother hostage.
Complaining About Rescues They Don't Like: In one episode, Mac and this other guy are saved from being "processed" on a conveyor belt by being shunted... into a container of fish. The man's response? "Oh no! Fish! I hate fish!"
Courtroom Episode: "The Spoilers" spends much time on MacGyver and the Phoenix Foundation building a case against the villains.
Cowboy Episode: the series has two Wild West dream episodes, "MacGyver's Women", when MacGyver dreams that he's in the Wild West and has to defend three women from outlaws , and "Serenity".
CPR (Clean, Pretty, Reliable): In "The Enemy Within", MacGyver and a friend apply CPR to the victim of an induced heart attack, demonstrating technique that would make a first aid teacher fail them on the spot, and keeping at it only long enough to show they tried before giving up and saying "He's dead" in a suitably dramatic voice. Later in the same episode, there's also a dodgy scene involving a defibrillator.
In another Mac-Gets-Amnesia episode, the writers play around a bit. Since all the flashes of memory (played by clips from other episodes) he gets are of explosions or other violent acts with him in the middle, Mac almost convinces himself that's he's really a Criminal Amnesiac.
Criminal Mind Games: Mac had an escaped criminal foe who went as far as to call him with math equations that would yield a clue when solved.
Cunning Linguist: He is proficient to a greater or lesser extent in Russian, German, French, Italian, Spanish, and American Sign Language, and knows how to use International maritime signal flags and Morse code.
Defector from Commie Land: A common plot in early seasons. Notably in an early episode when Mac smuggles himself out hidden in a casket that transforms into a jet ski.
Destination Defenestration: In "Phoenix Under Siege", the villain of the week happens to be a martial arts expert and makes a jump-kick at our hero in a high-rise building, but misses and ends up crashing through the window instead.
The Diaper Change: Happens when Mac and Jack Dalton have a baby dumped on them in "Rock the Cradle". Mac's solution to a unsatisfactory makeshift diaper is duct tape(obviously).
Dick Dastardly Stops to Cheat: One episode involved a stock car race between the title character and an old rival. The rival had nitrous oxide installed in his car without his permission ("That's illegal"), but even though he was already ahead of MacGyver and would have won had he just kept the course, he decides to use the nitrous oxide he criticized anyway and ends up spinning out on the shoulder.
Die Hard on an X: "Phoenix Under Siege", where the headquarters of the Phoenix Foundation is taken over by criminals, trapping Mac and his grandfather (who had returned to the building to retrieve some hockey tickets) inside. And yes, the hockey tickets play a role in the ultimate resolution.
Diplomatic Impunity: A murderer and jewel thief has diplomatic immunity as a cultural attaché. Mac and his team prove said attaché's criminality to the ambassador, who insists the attaché be returned to their home country to stand trial. The attaché pleads unsuccessfully to be allowed to face American justice instead.
Early Installment Weirdness: In the first few episodes MacGyver charms ladies he happens to end up working with at the rate of James Bond. In the pilot episode he also is shown living in a very nice house surrounded with gardens and fences that would fit right into Beverly Hills. His living conditions were quickly downgraded as well as his intimacy with girl of the week.
Education Mama: Ma Colton when it comes to the education of her youngest son Billy. She seems to have given up on the older two.
Enemy Mine: Murdoc and MacGyver work together to rescue Murdoc's sister in "Halloween Knights"
Enhance Button: Coupled with some superficially realistic-sounding Techno Babble: "Create a bitmap. Now increase the Z-axis while holding the X and Y axis steady." While this sounds ludicrous, it's basically the 1980's equivalent of getting a high resolution image file from a film negative ("Create a bitmap."), and using the zoom function on your computer ("Increase the Z-axis...").
In "The Widowmaker", where Murdoc is hot on his trail in an off-season backwoods cabin location, MacGyver climbs a telephone pole and uses a copper bracelet to tap SOS directly into a phone line to summon help. The owner of the general store who hears the interference is retired military, and knows Morse from his military training.
A more unique example in "Birth Day", Everyone Knows Marine Signal Flags. Mac uses some of these he steals off a docked boat in combination with a makeshift hot-air balloon to spell out "Help". The floating message is seen by a policeman, who is also a Navy veteran.
Evil Laugh: One of the Murdoc-centric episodes ends with MacGyver answering the phone to hear Murdoc's laughter.
Evil Poacher: Mac clashes with evil poachers in "Eagles", "The Endangered", and "Black Rhino".
Exact Time to Failure: In "Nightmares", an interrogator gives MacGyver a slow-acting poison, and tells him that if he doesn't get the antidote within six hours, his death will be inevitable. There is a prominently-displayed countdown timer. MacGyver gets the antidote with two and a half minutes to spare, and makes a full recovery. That's some poison.
Expansion Pack Past: MacGyver has a college degree in physics, comprehensive knowledge of mechanics, chemistry, and any other specialty required by a given plot, worked as a deck hand on a tramp steamer, was a bomb disposal expert for the Special Forces in Vietnam, was a professional racing car driver, played Olympic-calibre ice hockey but had a tragic accident that kept him out of the Olympics, worked as an apprentice and assistant to a noted archaeologist, trained as a pilot, worked as a backwoodsman in the Rockies, a lumberjack and a taxi driver, all before becoming a secret agent. Adding to the confusion, the first and second seasons gave two incompatible versions of his initial meeting with Pete Thornton. Furthermore, the final episode reveals he has a long-lost son.
Explosive Leash: In "Lost Love" part 1, the Russians place an explosive leash around the neck of Mac's ex-girlfriend of the week, to coerce him to steal one of China's national treasures. This plot twist serves as the episode's cliffhanger, unusual since almost all of the adventures were limited to single episodes.
Expospeak Gag: In "Last Stand", Mac is holding some piece of equipment that he's supposedly going to use to fix up a plane so the bad guys can escape. When asked by his guard what the item is, he replies "Lateral... cranial... impact... enhancer", and smacks the guard across the head with it.
In the Season 1 finale, MacGyver is pitted against a master assassin. Confronting him relatively early in the episode, Mac is able to best him in hand-to-hand combat despite his numerous concealed blades. After the assassin is arrested, it is shown that he had many other knives and weapons on his person. And they still missed a poisoned needle he concealed behind a fake scar.
Recurring villain Murdoc is meeting with his superiors at HIT, and has to pass through a metal detector first, which reveals that he's carrying multiple weapons on his person that he has to remove. Being as good as he is, he manages to slip a knife though just to prove that he doesn't play by the rules.
Fake in the Hole: In "For Love or Money", Mac removes the explosive core from a grenade and then tosses it at a group of border guards to distract them while he makes a run across the border.
Fake-Out Make-Out: Mac and his female partner pull this trick when they are caught by a motorcycle cop while scoping out the hospital they are planning to break into in "For Love or Money".
Falling Chandelier of Doom: In "The Coltons", Jesse Colton takes out a gunman who has taken cover behind a table by shooting out the chandelier above him so that it falls on him.
The Farmer and the Viper: In one episode the female antagonist is hanging from a ledge. Mac is all Take My Hand, but the woman stabs him, causing him to drop her to her death. Pete tells Mac the tale of "The Scorpion and The Frog" to calm him when he questions why she would do that.
Fingertip Drug Analysis: Mac tests a suspected drug sample this way, only to find out that it's keratin (powdered rhino horn).
Flock of Wolves: In "Honest Abe", Mac gets shanghaied by his CIA agent friend Abe to take down a South American dictator and a corrupt Army Major supplying the former with weapons. Eventually, one of the Major's lackeys reveals to the other he's a Federal agent... and the other lackey reveals he's one as well. And via background checks they find the real identities of Mac and Abe. Naturally they are dumbfounded at the revelation that they are involved in an operation involving four secret agents of different agencies while they previously thought they were acting alone.
Friend to All Living Things: Shown in "Eagles", when Mac fights some poachers who shot down a mother eagle, than at the end of the episode, saves its three babies still in their eggs.
Fright Death Trap: "Deadly Silents" used the 'Scared Stiff' version. The villains set up several stunts (a suitcase full of snakes, leaving him Chained to a Railway, etc.) to attempt to trigger a fatal heart attack in an elderly silent movie star.
Fun with Acronyms: Murdoc works for the Homocide International Trust... making him a literal "HIT man".
Gadgeteer Genius: mac was one of the most famous gadgeteers of TV, although he was more of a tinkerer. The series that spawned the term "MacGyvering." Usually worked alone, without a sidekick. Oddly enough, though, there was an episode where he teamed up with a classic Gadgeteer Genius girl — an ultra-intelligent schoolgirl who could match him move-for-move.
Ghost Ship: the episode was even titled "Ghost Ship"
Girl of the Week: In the early seasons, Mac seemed to get involved with a different every week. It was toned down in later seasons.
God Guise: In "Walking Dead", Mac pretends to be Baron Samedi (or, more accurately, he takes the place of a Hollywood Voodoo priest who is pretending to be Baron Samedi).
Gosh Dang It to Heck!: MacGyver's clean-cut behaviour extended to sometimes ridiculously mild cussing, including an actual "Gosh dang it!" in the pilot episode. An occasional "damn" or "crap" sometimes slipped through. Other characters were allowed to swear, subject to the limitations of the era's TV language restrictions.
Government Agency of Fiction: The DXS (Department of External Security) was a U.S. intelligence agency where MacGyver and Peter Thornton are employed during the first season.
GPS Evidence: In "Walking Dead", Mac is able to identify that the cult is using an abandoned dam as their base from the mixture of dried river silt and machine oil on a voodoo doll.
Great Escape: In "The Escape", Mac cooks up an elaborate plot to break a medical missionary out of a prison in French North Africa.
Murdoc blinds MacGyver with a handful of dirt during a fight in a mine in the episode "Strictly Business".
Mac himself blinds a bruiser with a bucket of ashes in "The Escape".
Heroes R Us: The Phoenix Foundation, Mac's employer from the second season onward, though the DXS (a government department) also fits the type.
Hidden in Plain Sight: One episode featured some criminals trying to get an East German expatriate to reveal where he had hidden some gold bullion they had him smuggle out when they got him through the Berlin Wall. The gold had been melted down and reshaped as figurines, which were then painted over and prominently displayed in the window of the man's toyshop. Everyone who looked at the painted toy soldiers made of a heavy metal assumed they were lead.
High Heel-Face Turn: Karen in "Deathlock", Sara in "The Escape" and Holly in "Twenty Questions".
Hoist by His Own Petard: The assassin Pierta, whose assassination methods of choice involved sharp poisoned objects. He tries to assassinate a priest, but scuffles with Mac, drops the pin, and ends up getting his hand pricked with it when he falls.
Hollywood Voodoo: Features heavily "Walking Dead". The episode at least pays lip service to voudon being a genuine religion and that what the villains are doing is a perversion of it.
Hungry Jungle: The eponymous place in "Trumbo's World" threatens to be engulfed by army ants.
Hypocritical Humor: Penny Parker in a foreign country: "Oh, you don't know how good it is to see someone from back home. They're all foreigners here".
Identical Grandson: MacGyver's identical ancestor (played by Richard Dean Anderson) in one of the last episodes of the series.
I Have Your Wife: In "Hearts of Steel", disgruntled steel mill workers attempt to kidnap the daughter of the industrialist who put them out of work, but end up abducting his housekeeper's daughter instead.
Incredibly Obvious Bomb: The early episodes have bombs everywhere. The intro sequence for the first season or so has one with a nice big digital timer. The pilot has a missile with a timer inside it. Just about every explosive device (there are lots of them) has a timer, unless Mac made it himself. Of course, those are usually highly visible, but rarely incredibly obvious. One whole episode revolves around bombs actually well-disguised as electrical panels... which are nevertheless quickly identified as bombs by Mac.
Subverted in one of the earlier episodes. Mac spends most of the episode disarming the bomb, and when he finally disarms it a set of blinking LEDs switch off and the apparatus falls silent... but the real bomb is underneath the entire rig (which was merely a detonator) and still ticking.
Inner Monologue: MacGyver, providing linking narration or relating a folksy anecdote about something in his childhood that the onscreen action reminds him of
Intimate Healing: Mac finds himself as a recipient of one from Natalia in "Trail To Doomsday" after he is caught in a poisoned boobytrap and loses consciousness.
Invincible Hero: Subverted, he feels pain from attacks and punches, he expresses fear in perilous situation, and he's caught often, but he always jimmies a non-violent way to solve his problem. Which, admittedly, was the expected and entertaining part.
It's Quiet... Too Quiet: "MacGyver, something's not right. It's a little too quiet out here" - Charles Alden, "Trumbo's World"
Jailbird of Panama: In "The Escape", a woman asks MacGyver to break out her missionary brother who's been unjustly thrown into a harsh prison in North Africa. Partway through the episode, MacGyver discovers he's being played: the woman is a KGB agent, and the "missionary" is a gunrunner whose skills she wishes to make use of.
Joker Immunity: Murdoc "dies" in almost every episode he's in, but he always manages to come back.
Jury Duty: "Rush to Judgement": Mac gets called up for jury duty on a murder case in "Rush to Judgement" and, naturally, can't resist investigating the case on his own - which is illegal.
Killer Cop: Manny Lopez in "Tough Boys", who uses the local youth centre to recruit the eponymous gang to act as vigilantes in destroying crack houses.
King Arthur: In "Good Knight MacGyver", mac gets hit on the head and either dreams he is back in the court of King Arthur, or actually psychically time travels there. (The Or Was It ending means both are fair interpretations.)
Knockout Gas: An instantly sedating knockout gas was one of the weapon systems on the attack helicopter in "Honest Abe".
Mac once finds himself with a foot on a mine, and manages a daring escape, but, in jumping free, he's landed on another mine (which turns out to be a dud). There's also a slight variation in one episode where Mac finds himself having to prop up a rickety shelf that's holding several cases of unstable old dynamite. If he lets go, he'll go boom.
And there was another episode where Murdoc was first introduced: Though the device wasn't explicitly called a mine, it worked on the Bouncing Betty principle. Mac sat down on his bed and that armed the bomb planted in it. Pete told him that it would only detonate when he got off the bed but the blast would be directed mainly upwards so if he jumped away fast enough he'd be safe.
Yet another one took place in a snowy cave in which all Mac had to do was dig the snow out from the side and shove a metal bar into conveniently sized holes to stop the "platform" from springing up.
MacGyvering: The Trope Namer, of course. Special mention has to be made of MacGyver's ability to make aircraft: on separate occasions, he's built a hang glider, a two-seat fan-powered glider, a hot air balloon, and a Fan Man-type parachute-and-fan combo, all basically from scraps and duct tape. All four flew. And he patched the balloon up with a map when it got a hole in it.
Mad Bomber: In "The Prometheus Syndrome", Mac helps the arson squad invesigate a series of fires, all caused by a bomber calling himself Prometheus who thinks he's purifying the world.
Magical Defibrillator: In "The Enemy Within", Mac juryrigs a defibrillator out of two candlesticks, a floor mat, and an electrical power cord. The idea was not to reverse fibrillation, but to counteract some kind of magnetic field that was causing bubbles to form in the victim's blood... somehow. Whatever that meant, it worked.
"Hellfire" does a good job of setting up the sequence — there's a steep gradient, a reason for the brakes to fail just at that moment, and an actual danger from the load of unstable explosives on the back of the truck — but still falls inside the trope because the people in the truck, one of whom is the famously ingenious MacGyver, can't think of anything that might slow the truck down.
"The Enemy Within" has a car with a punctured brake fluid cable accelerate out of control down a gentle slope for several miles while MacGyver climbs out onto the front of the car and does emergency repairs. (The driver does actually think to try the handbrake, but it's not working either.)
Make It Look Like an Accident: The bad guy in "Deadly Silents" goes to great lengths to make his attempts to kill Pinky and MacGyver look like an accident.
Master of Disguise: Murdoc was said to be a master of disguise. But his disguises were so bad that viewers only fell for them because his appearances were spread out enough that the audience had forgotten what he looked like. This was also the M.O. of the eponymous assassin in "The Assassin".
Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: Vacuum cleaner salesman Phil Sternweis in "The Visitor". He gets MacGyver out of trouble several times in very unlikely fashion, and at one point can only be seen by MacGyver. The ending leaves the possibility open that he is a Human Alien.
"The Golden Triangle" features a shot of MacGyver ducking for cover as twin lines of gunfire from a helicopter pass either side of him, which was used in the opening titles.
"The Enemy Within" has a good example of bullets kicking up dust always just behind the running hero.
Needle in a Stack of Needles: In one episode, Mac is carrying a valuable Chinese artifact which he needs to get rid of in a hurry — so he finds a shop selling cheap replicas of the thing and puts it on the back of the shelf.
Never Mess with Granny: In "The Madonna", an elderly bag lady whom Mac and Peter Thornton are helping turns out to be not only a fount of wisdom, but also turns around a troubled youth by hustling him at pool.
In "Hellfire". Mac has to transport old, sweating dynamite cross-country from an abandoned mine to extinguish an oilwell fire on a friend's claim.
In "Hell Week", a college student snaps and builds a bomb intending to blow himself and the school to kingdom come (and just to make it even more dramatic, he happened to place it in the same building as the nuclear physics lab, meaning it would cause radiation to spread). Said bomb has a "mercury switch", which consists of a drop of mercury placed in the very middle of a precariously balanced Petri dish with wires along the edges set to trigger the bomb if the mercury touches them. With no way to get inside the bomb's mechanism without triggering it (at least for the moment), Mac and the kid's emotionally abusive professor father who started the whole mess have to move the bomb very carefully to an elevator so that the explosion is sufficiently contained underground.
No One Should Survive That: His first two presumed deaths (from his first episode) were realistically survivable. His subsequent deaths through the rest of the show... not so much.
No OSHA Compliance: In "Flame's End", there is a room into which radioactive waste is dumped after 10 minutes of activation, with a door that can be pushed shut from the outside and has a timed lock that cannot be opened for 60 minutes after it is shut. And there is no emergency shutoff, handle or opening mechanism inside the room.
One-Dimensional Thinking: "Fire and Ice" almost suggests that there is a mystical force that compels people to run in a straight line in front of oncoming objects. A man hit by a truck at the beginning of the episode would have been perfectly safe if he had not gone out of his way to run in front of the truck.
And again in the Season 7 episode "The Prometheus Syndrome".
Out-of-Character Alert: In "Countdown", Mac cues Pete in on the fact that he needs to speak to him on a private channel by 'reminding' him that they are due to play golf when he gets back. Mac has never played a round of golf in his life.
Parents for a Day: In "Rock the Cradle," Jack Dalton's ex-girlfriend, on the run from criminals, leaves her son "Jack Jr." in Jack's airplane hangar, with a note asking Jack to take care of him. Jack and MacGyver have to look after the kid while trying to track down Mama.
Pilot: Which did air as the first episode of the series, although it contained a couple of elements that were not continued — such as MacGyver actually pointing and firing a gun at an enemy.
Pinocchio Nose: Jack Dalton's left eye twitches whenever he lies. It's mentioned in his first scene with Mac.
Put on a Bus: In a case of Shoo Out the New Guy, Pete Thornton casually comments at the start of one episode that Nikki Carpenter is on assignment in South America. She is never heard from or mentioned again in the show.
Red Scare: in this case, actually called Soviets, but in later episodes, Soviet hardliners.
Remember the New Guy: Many, many episodes involved an old friend or girlfriend showing up in need of MacGyver's help, but it was never someone he saw fit to mention before or ever again.
The Remnant: In "Humanity", MacGyver tangles with the K-Force, a group of Praetorian Guard still loyal to Romania's dead tyrant Ceauşescu.
Rock Bottom: casually averted in "The Gauntlet": the Girl of the Week proclaims that nothing more could go wrong, MacGyver admits she's probably right, and the scene ends without anything happening to either of them
Rouge Angles of Satin: In one Clip Show episode, Murdoc tries to off Mac, Pete, and Jack by luring them to a junkyard. An obituary in the newspaper, which Murdoc planted, reads "In Memorium".
Ruthless Modern Pirates: In "Pirates", an archaeologist is kidnapped by pirates to help them find $60 million in sunken treasure at the bottom of the sea, and Mac must attempt a rescue on the isolated ocean.
"The Heist" has a sequence where MacGyver confronts the villain in a casino in a tuxedo; when he first appears in the tux, the background music starts with the same four notes as the James Bond theme.
In another episode, he introduces himself to a female character with "Bond, James Bond".
"Target MacGyver" has a scene where MacGyver builds a trap out of stuff he finds in the bad guys' kitchen; the first thing he finds is a bag of carrots, from which he carefully selects a single carrot that he then proceeds to not use in the trap in any way — but when the trap is ready, he picks up the carrot again and takes a bite of it Bugs Bunny style.
Skepticism Failure: In "GX-1", MacGyver helps a Russian psychic who is portrayed as real, despite Mac's skepticism.
Songs in the Key of Lock: "The Heist" features an ultra-high-tech (for the time) lock which requires four tones emitted by a remote control. This being MacGyver, he improvises by playing some wineglasses.
Spexico: Take a band of Zapatistas. The more indigenous the better. Then drop them in the Rockies, dress them with the clothes left over by the Sicilian scenes of The Godfather and make them live in wooden barracks with bananas in the porch. According to MacGyver, this is the Basque Country.
Spider-Sense: Frank Colton's eye twitches when something isn't right about a situation.
Stock Footage: many times in many episodes, but particularly noticeable in the following two episodes:
"The Thief of Budapest", in which violent handwaving is applied to justify reusing the entire car chase from The Italian Job.
"Trumbo's World", where maybe a third of the episode consists of footage from The Naked Jungle, both of which were based on the short story Leiningen Versus the Ants.
Also the second season episode "GX-1", which stole the footage for its opening aircraft sequence from another Paramount property: Top Gun. It is never explained why the secret stealth spy plane looks exactly like an F-14.
Can also see it in the episode "Out in the Cold" with a painfully obvious stock-footage avalanche.
Stuffed into the Fridge: early episodes would often kill off the newly introduced old friend to set up the rest of the episode, then never again mention the character in the series
This very thing was lampshaded in the Kid Radd web comic. Bogie is watching what's probably Read or Die, flips the channel to see what else is on — and comes across "Radd", complete with a MacGyver opening parody. "Also starring a bunch of people who are supposedly old friends of the guy yet only ever show up in one episode."
Swamps Are Evil: MacGyver must rescue Pete and his family from a Louisiana swamp in "Family Matter".
Tap on the Head: This happens all the time, what with MacGyver's no-guns policy. The likelihood of knocking a bad guy out with a single blow is inversely proportional to his position on the bad guy ladder. Mac himself has also received enough knocks on the head that he's lucky never to have got anything worse than the occasional bout of Easy Amnesia.
The Teaser: At least initially, each episode began with a mini-episode called the "Opening Gambit", which — unlike the teasers in most series — was unconnected to the rest of the episode, and often created by a different writer and director. Later episodes either had a standard teaser or went straight to the opening credits.
Technical Pacifist: MacGyver vocally and obviously hates guns, but isn't averse to hitting people (with fists, or with a variety of heavy things), and for a "pacifist", he's awfully fond of creating explosives. He also doesn't hesitate to put people in what would, in reality, be very dangerous situations: shocking them with high voltage, suspending them high up in the air by flimsy cords, driving towards them at high speeds, slamming them headfirst into heavy objects, blinding drivers of fast-moving vehicles, hiding unconscious bodies inside heavy machinery, and so on. Probably the most egregious example of this is when he set up a trap that shot a bunch of automatic weapons at cars full of people... but aimed them at the tires.
Television Geography: the show was primarily set in Los Angeles. Production moved to British Columbia from the third through the sixth seasons, then returned to LA. As a result, Southern California looked very much like Canada for four years.
Ten Little Murder Victims: "The Invisible Killer" - Just as Mac determines which of the Phoenix employees on his wilderness stress-relief retreat is an imposter, we find out that not one but two of them are really escaped convicts.
Too Dumb to Live: At the start of "Target MacGyver", MacGyver takes his ski mask off in the middle of a covert raid for no in-story reason, just so the people he's raiding can get a look at his face and spend the rest of the episode trying to kill him.
Toxic, Inc.: In "The Spoilers", Mac and and a hermit from the mountains work to try and stop a group from illegally dumping radioactive and toxic waste into a stream.
Translation Convention: wherever MacGyver goes, everyone apparently speaks English, albeit with a range of funny accents
Trapped in Containment: In "Kill Zone" a scientist creates a chemical for maturing plants. When her dog knocks over the vial, she is trapped with it and ages to death.
Trash Landing: In "The Coltons", Frank and Jesse tackle a pair of bad guys out throw a second storey window and land in a dumpster which is miraculously full of bags of shredded paper.
Tree Buchet: When he needs to throw off some pursuers in the jungle in "The Road Not taken", MacGyver builds a tree-based catapult to throw stones, and puts a light-based fuse on it. First he pulls four flimsy trees together and bends them down to the ground. He routes them under a solid tree branch and ties them together with a thin vine. Then he sets down his friend's rosary to refract sunlight onto the thin vine, creating a fuse. He stakes the thin vine into the ground with a good knot on a pointed stick, and attaches the pockets from his jacket (filled with rocks) to the tree trunks.
Trigger Phrase: In one episode, Pete gets brainwashed into shooting whoever utters the trigger phrase "From the bottom of my heart, I salute you". The villain of the episode wanted to use him to kill a visiting dignitary (who was scheduled to give a speech containing that phrase at a dinner Pete would be attending).
Villain Decay: Played with. Murdoc starts out as a one-dimensional villain who would return once per season, try to kill MacGyver in progressively crazier ways, and fail miserably. However, these repeated failures convince him that he's "over the hill" and that it's time to retire... but his employers won't let him, kicking off his next cycle where he's trying to find a way out first by allying with MacGyver to take down his employers, then by asking them to take him back in exchange for MacGyver's head, and then by seeking another protector/employer.
Voodoo Zombie: The 'living person in a deathlike trance' variety appear in "Walking Dead". The villain attempts to do it to Mac, but he is able to hold the effect at bay long enough to find the antidote.
We Are Everywhere: In "The Ten Percent Solution", MacGyver uncovers a massive Neo-Nazi conspiracy that has infiltrated a sizeable portion of America.
Mac is afraid of heights, more so in the early seasons than than the later ones.
Murdoc himself was afraid of snakes, which became a problem when he and Mac were trapped in a snake pit during the Enemy Mine episode.
Wig, Dress, Accent: Mac in his nerd alias of Dexter Filmore, which simply consists tying his mullet back, throwing on a jacket and some glasses and slightly changing his voice.
The Wildcats: The Wildcats was the name of the Pee Wee Hockey League team MacGyver belonged to as a boy, as seen in the episode "Harry's Will".
The Wild West: The two dream episodes set in the town of Serenity.
Witness Protection: Mac helped get someone into witness protection. Two episodes deal with this character, "The Eraser" and "Back from the Dead".
Writers Cannot Do Math: "Ugly Duckling" shows a pretty accurate example of how triangulation works, with one little problem: the two base points they were taking readings off of were so close together, and the two angles they found were so different, that the third point would have had to be so close they could already see it. To get useful triangulation readings, they would have had to be a significant distance further apart.
Dana Elcar developed glaucoma which led to blindness; Pete Thornton accordingly developed the same condition.
"Every Time She Smiles" had MacGyver's arm in a cast from the start, supposedly due to a skiing accident in Switzerland, rather than have him injured somewhere in the middle of the episode. This was because Richard Dean Anderson had injured that arm and needed to have the cast written in. The same injury re-appeared in the next episode, "To Be A Man", with a different backstory.
You Look Familiar: Dana Elcar played a one-off character in the pilot before being cast as Pete Thornton in the ongoing series. Numerous other actors appeared in multiple roles over the course of seven years.
Zorro Mark: In one episode Murdoc blowtorches "R.I.P. MacGyver" onto the wall of Mac's home.