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Series / MacGyver (1985)

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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!", only to show up later down the line having survived his accident. Mac's most featured love interest was the scatter-brained Penny Parker, played by Teri Hatcher before Lois & 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. It initially ran on The BBC in the UK before moving to ITV.


The show has had its fair share of spin-offs and other productions. Following the end of the series a few television movies were made continuing his adventures. In the early 2000's a pilot episode was shot called Young MacGyver featuring Mac's nephew Claynote  joining the Phoenix Foundation, starring Jared Padalecki, but was not picked up. A Film Of The Series was in consideration for years but never materialized. In 2015, in partnership with the National Academy of Engineering the original series creator invited people to submit ideas in remaking the show.

The series was a production of Paramount. One of the show's producers was Henry Winkler, a veteran of Paramount's Happy Days, also on ABC.

As an ABC program, MacGyver led into the network's presentation of National Football League games, Monday Night Football, from 1986 to 1991, covering six seasons, which was longer than any other ABC program that did the same, including several Paramount productions that went one-and-done as an MNF lead-in.

In 2016 (with no overt connection to the prior project), a new series pilot starring Lucas Till was picked up. A complete remake, this time MacGyver is paired with two other agents to form a Power Trio as they handle high risk cases.

Not to be confused with Guyver or MacGruber, an Affectionate Parody. Not to be confused with the trope of the same name, either.

Trope Namer and 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.
  • The Ace: 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.
  • Action Prologue: Most of the time, as can be expected from a show like this. Self-parodied in "Children Of Light", which opens with the implication that Mac is defusing a bomb that's set to go off in a minute with Pete present...but it turns out he's just fixing Pete's alarm clock radio with the alarm set to go off in a minute, which is why he's rushing Mac.
  • 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.
  • Affectionate Pickpocket: In "Runners", teenage runaway Crystal hugs Mac when he drops her off at a shelter. Later on, he is filling up his Jeep and discovers that she has stolen his wallet.
  • Aggressive Negotiations: One episode features the very careful aversion of this trope: Mac acts as a go-between for two groups who recognize the need for peace, but can't be together for more than a few minutes without hurling insults, at the very least. He keeps them apart by putting them in comfortable suites at opposite ends of a skytram, and relays only written materials.
  • A.I. Is a Crapshoot: "The Human Factor" features a sentient computer AI, which is in charge of securing a top-secret research facility, that suddenly went haywire and turned against the AI's creator. Mac was originally sent to the facility to improve the security system by exposing apparent weaknesses (like what a white-hat hacker does), and eventually outsmarts the AI.
  • Alien Episode: "The Visitor" has our hero dealing with mysterious happenings involving apparent flying saucers. At the end, after proving that the flying saucers were a hoax, he sees another, apparently real, UFO and it's implied that one of the people helping him out was actually an alien.
  • 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.
  • All Just a Dream: With a touch of '...or was it?' in the two-part episode "Good Knight, MacGyver".
  • Alliterative Name: Penny Parker, Lampshaded.
  • Amicable Exes: Mac has a lot of ex-girlfriends, but they all still seem to regard him as a quintessentially Nice Guy and good friend.
  • 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.
  • Ant Assault: In "Trumbo's World", deep in the Amazon jungle, a horde of killer ants is destroying everything in its path. MacGyver helps his entomologist friend and the plantation owner to battle the ants before the plantation is destroyed.
  • Asian Babymama: The origin of Mac's long-unknown-to-exist son Sam, introduced on the final episode.
  • Arch-Enemy: Murdoc qualifies given that he appears the most often out of all the reoccurring villains. Also given that they make nice thematic opposites. Mac doesn't use guns, never kills and improvises from anything he can find. Stands to reason that his worst nightmare would be a man whose entire career and lifestyle comes down to using a wide variety of weapons to kill people and is Crazy-Prepared.
    • A subversion in the first season finale, where MacGyver matches wits with an assassin who proves to be almost as resourceful as he is. He is killed at the end, landing on his own poison needle, and Mac laments he never got a definitive victory over him.
  • Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: The title sequence adds a single shot of MacGyver standing on a street corner enjoying an icecream to a montage otherwise composed of him risking his life performing dangerous action stunts.
  • Ascended Extra: Pete Thornton appeared in a few season one episodes as Mac's friend and agency handler, one of several for a deliberately vague organization, before he become a regular cast member in season two as his boss at the Phoenix Foundation (his actor, Dana Elcar, had a small role in the pilot as an unrelated character).
  • A-Team Montage: Episodes would often feature a montage of Mac assembling his gadget of the week.
  • Atlantis: As one might expect, Atlantis features in "Lost Treasure Of Atlantis".
  • Auction: In "The Odd Triple", Pete deliberately drives up the bidding at a wine auction in an attempt to stall for time.
  • Author Tract: Multiple episodes. The most glaring was probably the one that opened with a warning about a graphic portrayal of a de-horned rhinoceros, then spent about half its running time explaining the poaching in Africa and ended with Richard Dean Anderson as himself narrating about what can be done about it. Very Special Episode, indeed.
  • Autopsy Snack Time: "The Enemy Within" has Mac present at an autopsy that has the coroner halting his duties for an eggroll.
  • Axes at School: The climax of "Hell Week" has a genius student, driven insane with despair (and being black-out drunk) after failing the final test of said hazing period at his college (turns out that the other guy cheated) and apparently disappointing his hard-ass father (a professor at said college and Mac's mentor) creating a very advanced bomb using the gear of the college's lab. The situation becomes Worse with Context when the professor mentions that the lab where the bomb is placed is underneath the college's nuclear studies lab, meaning that if the bomb goes off, the whole campus will be irradiated.
  • Back for the Dead: MacGyver's female friend Mike from "Jack Of Lies" returns in the first scene of "The Widowmaker"... just long enough for her to have a climbing accident, and for the rope to break before Mac can save her.
  • 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.
  • Badass Pacifist: Mac, of course:
    Hines: For a man that doesn't like violence, you certainly know a lot about it.
    MacGyver: Exactly...
  • Bad Guys Play Pool:
    • Nicholas Helman in "Halloween Knights".
    • Also mooks in "The Wasteland".
  • Bad Habits: In "The Assassin", the (male) assassin Piedra dresses up as a nun to try and assassinate an archbishop. It's a double whammy since Mac has dressed up as the archbishop.
  • Balloonacy: In "The Thief of Budapest", Mac uses a big bunch of balloons tied to a police radio and a tape player and sets them free to jam the police communications and enable a family of Roma to defect to the west from Hungary.
  • 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?
      Abe: [as if stating the incredibly obvious] The Democrats!
    • Sambaka from "Early Retirement" seems to be this given the name of its president, but the episode also hints that it may be either Qurac or Bulungi.
  • Baseball Episode: In "Squeeze Play", MacGyver helps take down counterfeiters who are making fake baseball collectors items.
  • Batman Cold Open: The "opening gambits" of some episodes, that usually don't have any relevance to the main plot.
  • Bavarian Fire Drill: Especially when operating undercover.
  • Bear Trap: There is an episode where Mac steps in a bear trap while hiking and is freed by two elderly sisters named Faith and Hope.
  • Beautiful All Along: "Twice Stung" references the cliché: for his next trick, Mac needs a woman's glasses, her hairpins and the top three buttons of her shirt (upper cleavage level). She complies and it turns out to be part of the con that they're pulling.
  • Bedlam House: In "A Prisoner of Conscience", Mac fakes insanity so he can infiltrate a Russian mental hospital to break out a political dissident.
  • Bedsheet Ladder: In "Nightmares", Mac lowers a fire hose through a window in order to fool the bad guys into thinking he has escaped down it. He was actually hiding under an old turned over couch.
  • Belligerent Sexual Tension: The writers attempted to set this up between Mac and Nikki Carpenter. However, Nikki was not popular with fans and she was quickly Put on a Bus, never to be heard from again.
  • Berlin Wall: "Deathlock" features Mac trying to sneak out of East Berlin (in a coffin) via what looks like it's meant to be the Glienicke bridge. He ends up turning said coffin into a speedboat as the East Germans demonstrate that the Border Troops clearly attended the Imperial Stormtrooper Marksmanship Academy. As a side note, much of the sequence is actually Stock Footage from Funeral in Berlin.
  • Bigfoot, Sasquatch and Yeti: "Ghost Ship" features a Sasquatch that turns out to be a guy in a rubber suit... or does it?
  • Big Word Shout: Murdoc's recurring scream of "MACGYVEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEER!!!!"
  • Bitter Almonds: Used to identify a cyanide poisoning attempt on Peter Thorton, in "Fraternity of Thieves".
  • Bizarre Beverage Use:
    • In "The Heist", Mac uses crystal wine glasses filled with different levels of wine to recreate musical tones to open the vault.
    • In "The Prodigal", he mixes soda and popping candy with dry ice to simulate fire smoke through air vents.
    • In "Countdown", he injects a mixture of low fat milk and oven cleaner via a pastry tube to neutralize an acid mixture inside the bomb.
    • In "Slow Death", he sprays carbonated water into a bowl of salt, causing it to splash into bad guys' eyes.
    • In "For Love or Money", he makes fake bloodstains from red wine and ketchup.
    • In "The Odd Triple", he uses wine to help him wriggle out of ropes.
    • In "The Endangered", he asks some people at a bar for matches in order to light some rum to create a fireball to create a diversion. But he can't find any matches and is nearly shot.
    • In "Gold Rush", he uses high proof vodka as the fuel in a in a fire bomb to blow away some the snow surrounding the pane they are buried in.
    • In "Serenity", he tosses whisky and a cigar butt down Wilt's pants as a distraction.
    • In "Rush to Judgement", makes a soft drink dispenser spit out cans for distraction.
    • In "MacGyver's Women", he pours alcohol on pine nuts in a stove, which mimics gunshots.
    • In "Gunz 'n' Boyz", he uses whisky-soaked kindling in a wastebasket to light a fire.
  • Blade Brake: MacGyver, in "Deadly Silents", got down from a catwalk by sticking his pocket knife through his wallet (as a guard) and then that through a curtain.
  • Blind Driving: "Blind Faith" features Mac's hands being injured and Pete being temporarily blinded. So they cooperate to escape from a sticky situation with Pete's hands on the wheel and Mac telling him where to go.
  • Bloodless Carnage: In "The Assassin", a woman gets stabbed by an assassin and has no blood on her whatsoever. This kind of thing seems to happen in most episodes where someone is shot or stabbed. People die within seconds without doing much bleeding.
  • Bloody Handprint: In "Ghost Ship" 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.
  • Bounty Hunter: Mac frequently crossed paths with the Coltons, an entire family of bounty hunters. They only all appeared together in the Poorly Disguised Pilot for an aborted Spin-Off.
  • The Boxing Episode: In "Split Decision", Earl Dent is out of money and wants go to boxing as a pro. He enlists Mac as his coach.
  • Brainless Beauty: Penny Parker. Penny isn't exactly stupid, but she tends to act without thinking things through, and has only a shaky grasp of how the world works.
  • Brainwashed and Crazy: Jack is made into an unwilling assassin and programmed to kill mac at an awards ceremony in "Brainwashed". It's later revealed they got to Pete Thornton too.
  • 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, his sister, whom Murdoc tried to hide all relations to so she wouldn't be dragged into the mix of his deadly profession.
  • Bridal Carry: Used as a distraction in "The Gauntlet". Mac approaches a two-soldier patrol carrying the journalist (who is playing injured or unconscious) he is working with. He tosses her at one of the soldiers, after which the two subdue their respective opponents.
  • Buffy Speak: Penny Parker tends to lapse into this whenever she shows signs of intelligence.
  • Building is Welding: The credits montage includes a shot of Mac welding (a scene taken from the first season episode "Trumbo's World").
  • Bulletproof Vest: In "The Coltons" we learn that both Frank and Jesse wear these all the time on the instruction of their mother: a fact that saves their lives.
  • Bulungi:
    • The episode featuring Kambezi was unusual in that the country was actually indicated on a map (specifically, as being in the vicinity of South Africa).
    • The name Sambaka from "Early Retirement" suggests this, but a line of dialogue implies it to be Qurac. Making matters worse, there's evidence it may be a Banana Republic.
  • 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.
  • But Not Too Black: In one episode of the first season, a Jerk with a Heart of Gold makes a sarcastic comment about a woman's race ("Yes, I am a cripple. And you, madam, are black") to help establish his initial Jerkass tendencies. The actress playing the woman in question, however, is so light-skinned as to appear white.
  • But You Were There, and You, and You: The Old West dream episodes: "Serenity" and "MacGyver's Women", and the King Arthur/Camelot episode "Good Knight, MacGyver".
  • By Wall That Is Holey: Done on purpose when Mac and the old movie guy he was with use a prop wall to take out some armed assailants, in conjunction with a fake surrender in "Deadly Silents".
  • Cable-Car Action Sequence: "Cease Fire" has MacGyver dispose of a bomb on a gondola.
  • Camera Fiend: One of Murdoc's little sadistic quirks was trying to have a camera set whenever possible to take a picture of one of his kills as it happened.
  • The Caper: In "The Heist", a Virgin Islands casino owner steals $60 million in diamonds. Mac and an American senator's daughter plot to steal them back from the casino's impregnable vault.
  • Captain Obvious: Dear Damsel of the Week, I'm sure Mac knows what he's doing. There's no need to remind him.
  • Car Cushion: In "Passages," MacGyver falls two or three stories onto the roof of a car, putting him into a coma. He fell out of a car park, meaning that there wasn't a lot of sidewalk for him to hit. Since he's the hero, he gets better.
  • Carrying the Antidote: In "Nightmares", the villain tries to get out some information from Mac by injecting a poison in him that kills him in 6 hours. Mac tries to steal back the antidote instead.
  • Cars Without Tires Are Trains:
    • In "Bushmaster", MacGyver breaks Henderson out of his cell with the help of a local contact, and they head toward the border in a broken-down jeep riding on train tracks.
    • In "Inferno", the climactic part of the scheme to close a runaway fire on an oil well by blowing it up includes improvising a cart to deliver the explosives with some rail tracks and a burnt-out jeep.
  • Cast as a Mask: When MacGyver is disguised as Lucky Charlie in "Jenny's Chance", unrevealed to the viewer, he is played by Ed Trotta.
  • Catchphrase: "When I was a kid..."
  • Cattle Baron: Pete Thornton in "Serenity".
  • Ceiling Cling: Piedra does this in "The Assassin". After escaping from his cell in the safehouse, he avoids one guard by clinging to the ceiling before dropping down behind the guard and killing him.
  • 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.
    • His first encounter with Penny Parker had them handcuffed for a good portion of the episode. It largely justified why they couldn't split up.
  • 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.
  • Chainsaw Good: The chief bad guy tries to kill Mac with a chainsaw during a fight in a sawmill in "Log Jam".
  • Characterization Marches On: The pilot episode has quite a few, MacGyver actually uses an assault rifle once, returning fire. He also had to do extensive rock climbing to get to that perch and made a parachute escape, which doesn't mention his fear of heights either time. He later has a woman standing on his shoulders at one point (to fix an acid leak) and appears to look up her skirt, contrasting his more gentlemanly behavior later on. Also, his first name was originally meant to be "Stace" according to the pilot's script.
  • The Charmer: MacGyver.
  • Chase Scene: Too many to list. The most extreme example is probably "Thief of Budapest", where about half the episode is taken up with a chase scene (mostly consisting of recycled footage from The Italian Job).
  • Cheaters Never Prosper: In "Collison Course", a race car driver tries to use an illegal Nitro Boost, which causes him to lose control of his car and spin out on the shoulder.
  • Checkpoint Charlie: "Deathlock" has a Cold Open in which Mac is attempting to get out of an Iron Curtain country concealed inside a coffin.
  • Chekhov's Armory: Just take a look around the room, remember what he has in his pockets, oh, and that tennis racket you were holding for your son. Yeah, now let's go disarm a nuclear warhead.
  • Chewing the Scenery: Murdoc again. In his second episode, he smashes through a window with a flamethrower manically yelling "time to die, MacGyver!"
  • Christmas Episode: "The Madonna". The plot revolves around a church's statue that was stolen before Christmas Eve, as well as the Challengers Club facing dire financial straits just as it was organizing a Christmas party.
  • Clip Show: "Friends", "Unfinished Business", "Hind-Sight" (which focuses on Pete Thornton).
  • Clothesline Stealing: In "The Gauntlet", Mac makes a pea shooter out of the map so he can steal clothes from a clothesline.
  • Clothing Combat: In "To Be a Man", Mac uses a scarf and a stone as a sling to drop a bad guy off of his horse.
  • Cold War (including episodes set in Afghanistan, East Germany and Czechoslovakia)
  • Collapsing Lair: At the end of "Legend of the Holy Rose", the Temple of the Holy Rose collapses, burying all of Ambrose's miraculous artifacts (although Mac and the Girl of the Week are outside at the time and so do not have to flee through the collapsing temple). Mac speculates that Ambrose had intended this to occur all along.
  • 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 "The Black Corsage", 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!"
  • Complexity Addiction: Karl, the bad guy in "Deadly Silents", seems to suffer from this; concocting several elaborate death traps to kill Mac and Pinky, even as his partner keeps urging him to just shoot them.
  • The Con:
    • In "Twice Stung", a friend of Mac's becomes suicidal after being swindled out of his life savings. Mac orchestrates a reverse scam to get the money back.
    • In "Jenny's Chance", Mac organizes a gambling sting operation in order to catch the murderer of a horse trainer, a money launderer for a Cuban drug lord.
  • Consulting Mister Puppet: In "Rush to Judgement", a crazy old woman witnessed a murder, but acts like her pet parakeet is the only one who saw it. They bring her into court and ask her what the bird knows.
  • Convection Schmonvection: Subverted. In the episode "Flame's End", the villain has locked him and a companion in a room at a nuclear power plant and he plans to flood it with the reactor's coolant water. Mac's companion points out that convection alone is going to kill them long before they have a chance to drown, scald, or be irradiated to death.
  • Conveyor Belt o' Doom: In "The Black Corsage", Mac and Frank Colton are captured in a fish processing plant, tied up and placed on a conveyor belt that will feed them into a fish grinder.
  • Cool Car: Mac's 1957 Chevy Nomad, left to him by his grandfather. Also his Jeep.
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: One of the stock villain types employed by the series, Corrupt Corporate Executives appeared in multiple stories.
  • Corrupt Hick: In "Jack in the Box", Mac and Jack Dalton are arrested in Arkansas by a corrupt sheriff who puts the convicts to work in the nearby zinc mine.
  • Costumer:
    • Had several dream episodes set in The Wild West town of Serenity. Cue chuckles from Firefly fans.
    • The two part episode "Good Knight, MacGyver" where Mac found himself back in a pseudo medieval Scotland, primarily to set up The Reveal of Mac's first name. It's Angus.
  • Couldn't Find a Lighter: In "Pilot", Mac lights a cigarette off a hidden laser, then uses the smoke from the cigarette to expose the laser beam and discover the laser's location.
  • Counterfeit Cash: "Three for the Road", "Rock the Cradle"
  • 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 an improvised defibrillator.
  • Crazy Enough to Work: Pretty much every single episode. Crazy Enough To Work is the driving principle behind MacGyvering.
  • Crazy-Prepared: In "The Assassin", Piedra goes through an Extended Disarming when he is captured. After that, it is revealed that his moustache is fake and contains wires that he uses first as lockpicks to remove his handcuffs, and then as a dart to kill his guard. And it is then revealed that he still has a poisoned needle hidden behind a fake scar.
  • Criminal Amnesiac: In "D.O.A. MacGyver", the Villain of the Week takes advantage of MacGyver's amnesia to convince him that Peter Thornton is actually a terrorist to be apprehended, and even supplies him with a gun to do the job. Since Mac's memory has started to come back, though, and since he and Pete are such good friends, it doesn't take long for Pete to talk him out of it.
    • In that same 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 in "Lesson in Evil", who went as far as to call him with math equations that would yield a clue when solved.
  • Cryptid Episode: In "Ghost Ship", Mac encounters Bigfoot.
  • 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.
  • Cut the Safety Rope: A character does this in "Two Times Trouble".
  • Daddy Had a Good Reason for Abandoning You: A variation in "Ma Dalton": Jack Dalton's mother gave him up for adoption to protect him from a mobster that was targeting her.
  • A Day in the Limelight: "Early Retirement" for Pete Thornton.
  • Dead Person Impersonation:
  • Death Course: The show features several death courses, some linear, some (implicitly) not, typically they are associated with his arch-nemesis Murdoc. One particularly blatant episode, "Halloween Knights" (which has a rather The Man with the Golden Gun feel) involved a reformed Murdoc enlisting Mac's help to save Murdoc's sister, and being forced to traverse a linear Death Course by Murdoc's former mentor appropriately called "Death Row".
  • Death of a Thousand Cuts: Two characters are eaten alive by ants in "Trumbo's World".
  • Death Trap: Murdoc is entirely too fond of these.
  • Deep Cover Agent: Ingrid Bannister in "The Enemy Within". She hypnotises her husband into telling her secrets on a frequent basis. Played by Lynn Holly Johnson, in case you're interested.
  • Defeat Catchphrase: Murdoc's trademark MACGYVERRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR!
  • 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.
  • Delivery Guy: In "Birth Day", MacGyver becomes trapped in an abandoned factory with a pregnant woman fleeing a murderous husband, with her delivery imminent. The trope is only played with, however, because Mac readily admits he's not qualified to deliver a baby, and spends the entire episode trying to summon medical assistance. He succeeds, and the mother gives birth in an ambulance while he waits outside.
  • Demolitions Expert: Mac served in a bomb disposal unit in Vietnam War.
  • 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.
  • Devoured by the Horde: In "Trumbo's World", Trumbo's native assistant is devoured by the swarm of army ants that overwhelm the plantation.
  • 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: "Collision Course" 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: In "Fire and Ice", 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.
  • Dirty Communists: quite a few (see Cold War above). The very first of Mac's missions in the series had him rescuing an American pilot and destroying a sensitive piece of equipment right under the noses of the Soviet troops that shot them down, and the last episode involves him and his son trying to expose a gulag where the Chinese Communist government exploits political prisoners for slave labor. However, it's noteworthy that the show doesn't stick to a one-dimensional portrayal of the communists. You get your fill of Secret Police thugs and General Ripper types, but also plenty of cases of Worthy Opponent, Enemy Mine, Punch-Clock Villain, Sympathetic Inspector Antagonist, and even - more than once - Dating Catwoman. (Not to mention of course the defectors and reformers).
  • Disability Immunity: In "Jenny's Chance", a deaf racehorse is key to a race-fixing scam involving a high-frequency tone generator due to his immunity to it, as a result of his deafness.
  • Disney Villain Death: Murdoc, repeatedly.
    • In "Black Rhino", the Evil Poacher Ladysmith attempts to tip Mac over the edge of a dam only to end up going off the edge himself and plunging to his death atop his boat full of stolen rhino horn.
  • Distressed Dude: Especially in the later seasons; however, Mac usually freed himself, often with a Conveniently Placed Sharp Thing.
  • Dodge the Bullet: Mac does this at times. He dives between lines of bullets shot by a helicopter in the early season intros. He's blocked a crossbow bolt with a 2x2 board. Practically nobody who shoots at him can hit him—if they do, they graze him (and cause amnesia). It's played off as luck, though, rather than skill, and he has a healthy respect for people pointing guns at him.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: Is invoked in "The Heist." After infiltrating a casino in order to get a glimpse at its safe, the girl of the week says:
    Catlin: It was terrific! Last night, I mean! I was scared and excited and it was like all the frustration let go!
    MacGyver: Felt good, did it?
  • Doesn't Like Guns: Mac doesn't like guns to a childhood friend being accidentally killed by one.
  • Doomed Appointment: In "Three for the Road", Mac is supposed to meeting a smuggler at a motel in the middle of nowhere. However, The Syndicate catch up with Mac's friend just as he arrives at the motel, giving him just enough time to hide the MacGuffin before being shot dead.
  • Doom Magnet: MacGyver's family have all died on him in unfortunate circumstances. He lost his mother, then his father and grandmother, and then finally his grandfather.
  • Doorstop Baby: In "Rock the Cradle", Jack Dalton finds a baby, allegedly his son, in the cockpit of his plane.
  • Down in the Dumps: The Batman Cold Open of an early episode takes place in a junk yard, complete with big magnet.
  • Dreaming of Things to Come: "Silent World" involves Carrie Linden, a teacher for the deaf and one of Mac's old friends, having strange recurring nightmares of her and Mac. These nightmares hold the key to foiling a plot by ex-CIA agent David Crane that involves stealing parts of a voice-activated missile and then smuggling the reassembled missiles in the black market.
  • Dream Within a Dream: One of the more unintentionally funny moments was in the brainwashing episode. Jack Dalton was having nightmares surrounding his brainwashing on a nightly basis, usually waking up in a cold sweat. One of those times he woke up, he was just having a normal morning with MacGyver. He was waving his hand around to make a point when he then noticed he was holding a gun. "Hey, where did that come from?" He then notices the symbol on MacGyver's pitcher is the same as his trigger, shoots it (with the show suggesting that MacGyver also got shot even though he was holding it away from his body), and then wakes up.
  • Drill Sergeant Nasty: R.T. Hines (played by Richard Roundtree) from the episode "Tough Boys".
  • Driving a Desk: Unfortunately painfully obvious in "Three for the Road" where much of the plot involves mac being in a car with the two guest stars.
  • Drowning Pit: At least twice crooks trap make in a flooding vessel in an attempt to kill him: a submarine in "Deep Cover" and a fishing boat in "Pirates". In each case he juryrigs a different means of escape.
  • Duct Tape for Everything: Many of Mac's little creations involve the use of duct tape.
  • Dumbwaiter Ride: In "Fire & Ice", Mac sneaks into a consulate pretending to be a kitchen hand carrying a box of vegetables, then climbs into the kitchen's dumbwaiter to reach the upper level.
  • Early Installment Weirdness:
    • The first few episodes have something of a millionaire-playboy-adventurer feel to the character of MacGyver himself. He is shown living in a very nice house that borders on a mansion, and every episode has him working closely with a different woman who becomes smitten with him and they may share a Big Damn Kiss. His living conditions shifted to a more rugged (but waterfront) apartment and later a house boat, as well as his intimacy with girl of the week was phased out.
    • Pete Thornton doesn't appear until later in the first season (though Dana Elcar did play a different character in the pilot) and MacGyver's Handler was ill defined, he was more of an on-call agent for a CIA analog called the DXO, Department of External Security. The second season introduces the Phoenix Foundation that deals with all manner of issues from international espionage to scientific studies, Pete is in charge and brought MacGyver with him as an all-purpose field agent.
  • Easy Amnesia: Mac became an amnesiac several times as a result of blows to the head. Given that he's knocked unconscious at least once an episode, he's lucky that's the worst he ever got.
  • 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.
  • '80s Hair: MacGyver himself.
  • Electrified Bathtub: In "Lesson in Evil", the Hannibal Lecter-esque Dr. Zito sets a trap for Mac by restraining a hapless victim (his own therapist, who he had succeeded in convincing he was "cured") in a bathtub, attaching an electric heater on top and leaving the water running.
  • Elevator Floor Announcement: Jack Dalton issues one of these in the season two episode, "Dalton, Jack of Spies", when showing Mac where he runs his business.
  • Embarrassing First Name: MacGyver is not very happy with his first name, Angus. He always introduces himself as just MacGyver and it took four seasons for it to be told. One sixth season episode reveals that his name isn't even mentioned in his grandfather's will.
  • Embarrassing Password: "Ugly Duckling" revolves around a teenage computer hacker; at one point, MacGyver has to guess her computer password, and it turns out to be "uglyduckling".
  • Enemy Mine: Murdoc and MacGyver work together to rescue Murdoc's sister in "Halloween Knights"
  • Energy Weapon: In "The Legend of the Holy Rose", Mac realises that Ambrose's artifacts can be assembled together into an optical pump: a device that captures and amplifies the sun's rays into a laser beam. Just like a Slow Laser, the laser beam is visible and red. The episode's villain dies when he steps in front of the optical pump just as the sun comes out from behind a cloud.
  • 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...").
  • Every Car Is a Pinto: and some boats, too.
  • Everyone Knows Morse:
    • 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 Makes You Ugly: Played straight with Murdoc; although his ugliness isn't caused by the use of any evil power it is a direct result of his own actions, as the near-deaths he's suffered at the hands of MacGyver and Pete gradually render him more scarred and hideous over the course of the series. He even gets his looks back after retiring, thanks to reconstructive surgery... and then when he turns evil again he gets some new scars to go with it.
  • 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.
  • Explain, Explain... Oh, Crap!: in "The Odd Triple," Pete tells Jack the plan to rescue MacGyver, which involves Pete masquerading of a buyer of stolen gems and slowing down the auction to give a disguised Jack time to find Mac. Then Pete realises that it means he has to trust... Jack Dalton.
  • Explosive Instrumentation: The bad guy in "Slow Death" is killed when he ignores Mac's advice and attempts to start the train again. The sabotaged control panel explodes and kills him.
  • 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.
  • Extended Disarming:
    • In the Season 1 finale, "The Assassin", 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, in "Strictly Business", 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.
  • Fakeout Escape: In "Nightmares", Mac lowers a fire hose through a window in order to fool the bad guys into thinking he has escaped down it. He was actually hiding under an old turned over couch.
  • 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.
  • Fantasy Keepsake: At the end of the cowboy dream episode "Serenity", Mac wakes up and finds an antique Swiss Army Knife, like the one in his dream, on the floor next to him. This doubles as a kind of Aluminum Christmas Trees moment, since the dream was set just after the Civil War and featured a Swiss character giving him the knife. While such multitool pocket knives did exist before 1865 (they're even mentioned in Moby Dick, published in 1851), they were not manufactured in Switzerland (or issued to the Swiss infantry) until decades later.
  • 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 in "Black Rhino", only to find out that it's keratin (powdered rhino horn).
  • Fire Hose Cannon:
    • In "Last Stand", Mac uses the hose on the fire truck to knock a bad guy off of a motorcycle.
    • In "Deathlock", Mac uses a high pressure water outlet as a water cannon to push Quayle against overloaded fuse box to electrocute and stun him, before finishing him off with a punch.
    • In "Tough Boys", Mac weaves a fire hose through the rungs of a ladder, which enables him to aim the hose at the roof of building before turning on the hose and blasting the thug on the roof.
  • Flashed-Badge Hijack: Done in "The Prodigal".
  • 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.
  • Forklift Fu: An early episode's Batman Cold Open shows villains trying to put Angus out of action with a forklift. In the end he turns the tables and returns the favor. Though at least all he does is lift their car up so they can't escape and calls his superiors to pick them up. Well, let them down and then pick them up...
  • 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".
  • Fur and Loathing: When he helps a runaway turned hooker, she wears a rabbit fur jacket, until she's saved.
  • 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.
  • Gas-Cylinder Rocket:
    • In "To Be a Man", Mac uses a butane tank as torpedo to knock down a bad guy.
    • In "The Odd Triple", Mac is locked up in the cellar of a winery. Needing to escape, he attaches several oxygen tanks to a large wheeled wine cask. Knocking the heads off the cylinders, he turns them into juryrigged rockets that propel the cask through the wall like a battering ram.
  • Ghost Ship: The episode was even titled "Ghost Ship"
  • Gilligan Cut: "The Gauntlet", when the Girl of the Week declares she's not going to eat the lizard MacGyver is cooking for dinner
  • 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.
  • Glasses and Ponytail Coverup: Mac would don glasses and pull his hair back in a (rather short) ponytail when he went undercover as computer nerd Dexter.
  • 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 a very close, "Gosh darn 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.
  • Grand Finale: "The Stringer" (who happens to be a photojournalist, as well as MacGyver's son, born to a woman killed in China. In the final scene Mac leaves the Phoenix Foundation and he and his son go Walking the Earth - on motorbikes).
  • Gratuitous German: Invoked and lampshaded whenever German is spoken; it's the one language MacGyver could never get the hang of. Sometimes Played for Laughs:
    MacGyver: [translated, speaking to Secret Police] We were picking apples in the forest. And this [pointing to Jack] this is my wife!
  • Great Escape: In "The Escape", Mac cooks up an elaborate plot to break a medical missionary out of a prison in French North Africa.
  • The Great Repair: In "Final Approach", MacGyver and four young people are stranded in the wilderness by a plane crash, and Mac must figure a way to repair the plane and get it airborne again.
  • The Gunslinger: Murdoc appears a stereotypical black clad gunslinger (seemingly a Type D) in the Western All Just a Dream episode "Serenity".
  • Hack the Traffic Lights: In "The Thief of Budapest", Mac "hacks" the stoplights in a town in Europe to help him make his getaway, by putting fragments of a credit card in a timing gear.
  • Hair Pin Lockpick: In "Lost Love, Part 2", Mac frees himself from handcuff captivity with a bobby pin that he got from Lisa, a soviet double-agent and one of his many girlfriends. When he was free from the handcuffs, he can't use the pin to open the door of the room he is trapped in, so he uses the handcuffs to pick the lock the same way he did to free himself from the handcuffs.
  • Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow: In "Hell Week" a picture is shown of Mac as a physics grad student. He still had the mullet, but also had a nifty Porn Stache.
  • Half the Man He Used to Be: "The Legend of the Holy Rose" uses the trope name verbatim... In the series' first two-part episode, Mac is strapped into a fiendish torture device vaguely inspired by The Pit and the Pendulum, and told by the Big Bad that he's about to be half the man he used to be.
  • Hall of Mirrors: When Mac is chased by a brainwashed friend, he uses this to trick the friend into running out of ammo so he can approach and subdue him.
  • Halloween Episode: "The Secret of Parker House". The premiere of season 4, actually aired on Halloween 1988, has an opening scene with kids trick-or-treating, and a plot that involves a somewhat spooky mansion? All checked.
  • A Handful for an Eye:
    • 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".
  • Handy Helper: "Blind Faith" has Mac and his boss, Pete, working together. Pete has been temporarily blinded and Mac can't use his hands. Together... they can operate a golf cart!
  • The Hashshashin: In "The Legend of the Holy Rose", the Brotherhood of the Hashshashin is one of the villainous groups after the Elixir of Life supposed to be stored in the Temple of the Holy Rose. They betray their partner in crime and shot him as he is not a true believer and therefore does not deserve eternal life.
  • Heist Episode: In "The Heist", MacGyver helps a politician's daughter steal back $60 million in diamonds that were stolen.
  • 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: "The Wall" 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 Hacking: In "Ugly Duckling", Kate somehow hacks a building's systems and makes elevators go to the wrong floor, alarms go off, printers start printing out things people haven't sent to the printer, photocopiers shoot paper out all over place, etc. Then she turns the lights off and escapes.
  • Hollywood Spelling: Somehow, MacGyver apparently knows the correct letter case for and space in the password in "Ugly Duckling", though this may be justified thanks to the particulars of the system in question (Mac canonically knows his way around computers) and basic logic regarding English, respectively.
  • 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. Also, in "The Hood", a character mimics many of the Hollywood aspects, but when the villain of the week gives in to his superstitious fear, she remarks, "Voudon is my religion. That was Saturday morning cartoons."
  • Homemade Flamethrower: In "Trumbo's World", MacGyver creates a flamethrower with a garden hose, some metal piping, a tin can, duct tape, and a large can of "kitchen magic" to thicken the gasoline to that it burns instead of exploding. When the ants approach the complex, Trumbo pumps gasoline into the flamethrower, allowing MacGyver to rain fire on the ants and brush surrounding the complex, stopping them temporarily.
  • Honest Corporate Executive: In "Murderers' Sky", Adam Chung, the Chinese CEO of a large shipping company, refuses to have his business taken over by a Hong Kong criminal cartel. This leads to two assassination attempts on him... with the second being the one to end his life.
  • Houseboat Hero: MacGyver lived on a houseboat for several seasons.
  • 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".
  • Ice Breaker: In "Last Stand", Mac is Locked in a Freezer. He escapes by melting ice and pouring the water into the lock. When the water refreezes, it expands and shatters the lock.
  • Identical Grandson: MacGyver's identical ancestor (played by Richard Dean Anderson) in "Good Knight MacGyver".
  • Ignored Confession: In "Slow Death", MacGyver confesses his secret mission to a needling passenger on the train he just jumped. She assumes he was being sarcastic and feels bad enough to stop asking.
    Woman: I work for the state department. Courier. I know "urgent" when I see it.
    Mac: Alright, the truth. I just hijacked proof of an illegal arms-oil deal. If I can get it out of the country in time I might be able to stop a little war.
    Woman: ...okay, I deserved that.
  • 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.
  • I Just Shot Marvin in the Face: In a flashback during the "Blood Brothers" episode, MacGyver accidentally kills Jesse, a childhood friend, when he drops his father's pistol and it goes off. This why Mac Does Not Like Guns.note 
  • I Let Gwen Stacy Die: In "The Widowmaker", Mike dies after falling off a cliff while rock-climbing with Mac. Mac believes he blames himself for her death and is in a depressive funk for the first half of the episode as a result, and it will take both Nikki's convincing and the return of Murdoc to get him back into shape.
  • Imperial Stormtrooper Marksmanship Academy: Mac is often shot at. The few times they hit is for plot purposes.
  • Improbable Antidote: "Fraternity of Thieves" had Pete poisoned by prussic acid (hydrogen cyanide) gas in a mall. Mac recognizes the poison by its distinctive almond smell and dashes toward a photo developer booth, whose printing machine contains sodium thiosulfate, an antidote for cyanide poisoning.
  • Improvised Lockpick: In one episode, Mac needs to open a door with a palm-print reader as the lock. He uses toner from a copier to adhere to the residue of the previous palm print, then carefully blows away the rest and lays a blank page on the scanner. Pressing his palm on the paper activated the scanner, which read the residual palm print of an authorized user, and grants Mac access.
  • Improvised Screwdriver:
    • In "Last Stand", Mac and the Girl of the Week are literally Locked in a Freezer. Mac uses the tip of a meat hook as a screwdriver as part of his escape plan.
    • In "Nightmares", Mac—having been stripped of his Swiss army knife—uses his belt buckle as an improvised screwdriver to remove the face plate on an electrical socket to get access to the wires.
  • Improvised Zipline:
    • In "The Prodigal", Mac and another guy have barricaded themselves in an attic by piling up furniture against the door as bad guys with guns try to catch them. Using cleaning fluid, a telescope, moth balls, rope, some handle bars and a pulley that all happen to be lying around the attic, Mac creates a spear gun that fires a rope to a tree outside. Then he and his sidekick zipline over vicious dogs and a tall fence to safety.
    • In "Back from the Dead", Mac escapes from two mafia hit men using a fire hose to slide down a metal wire. First cut off with his Swiss army knife of course.
    • In "Children of Light", MacGyver creates a zip line to escape from the roof of a building using a steel shaft from a large TV antenna and a large rope. He ties one end of the rope to the building and throws the other end to Pete Thornton who ties it to the bumper of his van. Pete then gets the driver to move the van forward in order to tighten the line. Meanwhile MacGyver bends the shaft of the TV antenna into the shape of a hook and uses his jacket to protect his hand from the friction, and proceeds to slide down the line with another person (whom he was trying to free from the building).
  • 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.
  • Indy Hat Roll: The show has one moment of the hat roll when they are trapped in an Ancient Indian Death Trap and Dalton reaches back to grab his pilot hat, much to Mac's irritation.
  • I Never Said It Was Poison: MacGyver catches a cheating contestant in a physics competition. The object of the competition is to create a barricade to a room with some unorthodox way to "unlock" the door. The good guy creates an optical illusion using a periscope to make the door look locked when it's really unlocked and vice versa. The villain eavesdrops on a conversation between his rival and a friend, and thus "wins" the competition... but he never actually looks into the room to see the periscope. Naturally, our hero notices this and...
    Jeffrey: You all saw it. The door was opened; it was an optical illusion. He used that periscope.
    MacGyver: That's right, he did. That's exactly what he did. But you had no way of knowing that. Jeffrey, you opened the door, but you never looked inside. You never saw a periscope - at least, not this afternoon.
  • 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 consciouness.
  • Involuntary Battle to the Death: In "Humanity", Mac is captured in Romania by a member of the K-Force, a Praetorian Guard still loyal to Romania's dead tyrant Ceauşescu. After seeing Mac fishing, he becomes upset and later reveals that the K-Force's Training from Hell (which begins in early childhood) forbids any sort of friendship. When he and another kid he had befriended went fishing with some rods stolen from the base, they were caught and forced to have a knife fight to the death. Naturally, he won but he still feels guilty to this day.
  • Instant Sedation: the gas sprayed by the helicopter in "Honest Abe" has this effect.
  • Instrumental Theme Tune: Composed by Randy Edelman.
  • 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"
  • It Works Better with Bullets: Murdoc removes the shells from a shotgun and takes the person who later tries to use it on him hostage.
  • 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.
    • Which is very much lampshaded by the episode, to be clear.
  • Karmic Death: Sandra in "Kill Zone" dies because of the research project she flagrantly violated protocol for.
  • 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.
  • Killed Off for Real: MacGyver's grandfather passed away in Season 5.
  • Klingon Promotion: Anyone who screws up their duties in the highly competitive and murderous assassin's guild of H.I.T. (Homicide International Trust) is subject to be killed by someone more adept at doing their job then they were.
  • Knockout Gas: An instantly sedating knockout gas was one of the weapon systems on the attack helicopter in "Honest Abe".
  • Landing Gear Shot: MacGyver did this one when a villain went to Paris.
  • Land Mine Goes "Click!":
    • 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. Somewhat justified by the fact that the people who set it up were the survivors of a plane crash with little resources and on the verge of freezing to death and the trap was specifically set up for the person who betrayed them for the gold they were carrying and planned to get his hands on it later.
  • Large Ham:
    • The coach in "Legend of the Holy Rose". "RYAN!!! I WANT TO TALK TO YOU!!!"
    • Murdoc, in pretty much every appearance.
  • Laser Hallway: deadly version in the pilot; detector version in "The Heist"
  • Last Disrespects: In "D.O.A: MacGyver", MacGyver discovers a bomb planted at a funeral, only to lose the memory after a head injury.
  • Later Installment Weirdness: A mild example is the last seasons: while it remained a show about a Science Hero (and the Trope Namer for MacGyvering), situations where he had to use his skills included defusing a "Scooby-Doo" Hoax regarding Bigfoot, a Time Travel Or Was It a Dream? episode where he went back to the Middle Ages and had to adventure alongside Merlin, an adventure that took place in the afterlife...
  • Latex Perfection: In "Jenny's Chance", Mac impersonates the Cuban drug lord, Lucky Charlie, with a realistic latex mask. He had to pull off this stunt after news broke out regarding the real Lucky Charlie that threw a wrench into the elaborately-designed sting operation, which included Jack impersonating Lucky Charlie.
  • The Lava Caves of New York: "Good Knight, MacGyver" features a Literal Cliffhanger where Mac and Merlin end up dangling above a Lava Pit in a cave in Scotland (a region not exactly famous for its volcanic activity).
  • Lava Pit: Mac escaped from many variations of this, including an incinerator ("Jerico Games"), a nuclear reactor ("Flames End"), and even an actual pit of lava ("Good Knight, MacGyver"). Also, Murdoc threatens Pete with one (actually a vat of boiling water, but the same basic principle) in "Cleo Rocks."
  • Lawyer-Friendly Cameo: In "Murderers' Sky", what is the game Luke is playing on the computer at his grandfather's house? Totally not Space Invaders!
  • Lemming Cops: The cops who chase Mac through Budapest in "The Thief of Budapest". A lot of police cars get totalled as a result.
  • Literal Cliff Hanger: Happens at the end of the first part of the "Good Knight, MacGyver", where Mac and Merlin are left dangling above a lava pit (in Scotland!).
  • Little Stowaway: In "Bushmaster", MacGyver goes to Central America to rescue a pilot accused of being a spy, only to find the pilot's daughter has stowed away.
  • Load-Bearing Boss: Erich von Leer in "Legend of the Holy Rose, Part 2". When von Leer is killed, he stumbles backwards into the entrance of the Temple of the Holy Rose, which proceeds to collapse on top of him, burying the temple. (Properly the collapse is the result of a secondary explosion caused by the Frickin' Laser Beams that kill von Leer, and Mac speculates that the original designer of the temple intended for his work to be buried.)
  • Locked in a Freezer: Happens to Mac and a lady in "Last Stand". They get out when he manages to freeze and shatter the lock on the door.
  • Locking MacGyver in the Store Cupboard: the Trope Namer
  • Luke, You Are My Father: MacGyver's illegitimate and previously unknown son Sam shows up in the last episode, and demonstrates that Lamarck Was Right.
  • Lumber Mill Mayhem: "Log Jam" climaxes in a fight between Mac and the bad guys in a sawmill, with the chief villain trying to kill Mac with a chainsaw.
  • Luxury Prison Suite: Khan lives in one in "The Escape".
  • A MacGuffin Full of Money: In "Three for the Road", the MacGuffin is a satchel full of Counterfeit Cash that the crooks are attempting to retrieve. Any kind of valuable contraband could have served the same purpose.
  • 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.
  • Madwoman in the Attic: "The Secret of Parker House" had one of these. He turned out to be a nice guy.
  • 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 an absorbed plastic in the victim's blood to expand, causing an embolism. It worked.
  • Magic Brakes:
    • "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.
  • Make the Dog Testify: In "Rush to Judgement", Mac arranges to put a parakeet on the stand, with the elderly women who owned it acting as interpreter. In reality, the woman was the one who had witnessed the crime, but was too nervous to testify without using the bird as an intermediary.
  • Manchurian Agent: Done twice in "Brainwashed". Jack Dalton and Pete Thornton are both programmed with different code phrases buried in the speech to be given by the president of a fictional African country they're programmed to assassinate. The simultaneous missing weekend over which they were programmed is covered by Fake Memories.
  • Martial Pacifist: Mac is somewhere between this and Actual Pacifist. He will never kill, no matter what. However, beating the crap out of people is fair game when called for, even if it's a last resort. He also has no problem setting bombs when all they cause is property destruction.
  • 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.
    • Paul, the titular character in "The Wish Child" is initially shown to be just a scammer who's just pretending to be a reincarnation of a legendary child who can supposedly bring good fortune to people and receives gifts in return and if someone links their soul with him, they'll become immortal. However, there's a number of things that match up with the original legend that surprise both Paul and Stone, who's setting up elaborate displays of his alleged Wish Child power: his background story is more or less identical to the legend complete with his skunk stripe that he somehow got after an accident, his face and handprint are a perfect match to those of the original Wish Child, and when he escapes the old businessman who was planning to enslave him for the rest of his life to gain the previously described immortality and said businessman suddenly falls dead from a Hollywood Heart Attack while trying to catch him despite being in good health up until that point, Paul is confused and thinks he somehow caused it.
    • "The Madonna" features a homeless woman who shows up on Christmas Eve, Carol, and helps solve all the problems facing the Challenger Club, including donating the exact amount of money they need to pay their rent. But that >$700 donation comes out of a change purse that the audience earlier saw only contained a $5 bill. Oh, and the titular Madonna figurine that was stolen from a local church reappears on Christmas day, with a scratch on its hand in the exact place that Carol hurt her hand.
  • Mental Time Travel: This might be what happens to Mac in "Good Knight, MacGyver". Or it might be All Just a Dream.
  • Midair Repair:
    • In the "opening Gambit" of one episode Mac uses a map to patch a hole in his hot air balloon after it is shot.
    • In another episode Mac is forced to fix the landing gear of Jack's plane when it malfunctions as the plane is on its (because of plot reasons unstoppable) final approach. The impromptu skydive that happened when the gear finally works (Mac was thoughtful enough to strap on a parachute beforehand) became part of the show's opening credits montage.
  • Might as Well Not Be in Prison at All: Jack Dalton is moving around relatively freely in his barrack in prison in "Jack in the Box", is plotting his schemes, and is eating decent food.
  • The Mole: In "The Enemy Within", Mac must discover the identity of a mole within the DXS who has caused the death of four agents.
  • Morality Chain: Murdoch's sister is this to Murdoch in "Halloween Knights". Learning he had a sister causes Murdoch to attempt to go straight and quit the Murder, Inc. organisation he worked for. They respond by kidnapping the sister, forcing Murdoch into an Enemy Mine situation with MacGyver to rescue her. However, she dies before Murdoch's next appearance, causing him to revert to his villainous ways.
  • Motor Mouth: Recurring character Penny Parker frequently delivers a nonstop stream of consciousness monologue that does not allow anyone else to get a word in edgeways. Perhaps best demonstrated in "The Secret of Parker House" where Mac's opening voiceover is delivered over Penny's constant babble and ends with "Wait. I think she's getting to the point..."
  • Mountain Man: Earthquake from "The Spoilers" is a modern day version of this.
  • Mugged for Disguise:
    • In "The Assassin", Piedra drags a nun into a closet and steals her habit in order to get close his target, the archbishop.
    • In "halloween Knights", MacGyver and Murdoc knock out a HIT board member and steal his costume so MacGyver can infiltrate a HIT board meeting that is taking place during a costume party.
  • Mugging the Monster: A bunch of thugs try to mug the Woobie of the Week, a mentally unstable veteran with a wrestler's physique. Lampshaded by the would-be victim: "Are you crazy? I could have torn your head off!"
  • Mundane Solution: Pretty rare with Mac, but still there. Kicking down doors was the most common example.
  • Murder, Inc.: Homicide International Trust - H.I.T.
  • Musical Pastiche: A pastiche of the James Bond theme is used when Mac donned a tuxedo and went into the villain's private casino in "The Heist".
  • Near Misses:
    • "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 "Lost Love", 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 Found the Body: Murdoc just can't. Stay. Dead. Not even after being blown up sky-high, falling down cliffs, into boiling water, and snake pits.
  • 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.
  • New Old Flame: "Flame's End", "The Endangered", "Jerico Games"
  • Newspaper-Thin Disguise: "Thief of Budapest" has a scene in which McGyver hacks a stoplight control box standing in the middle of main street. His cover? People on both sides with newspapers spread out wide.
  • Nitro Boost: In "Collision Course", Mac is up against a corrupt stock car racing driver who resorts to using nitrous oxide (as well as sabotage) to fix the race.
  • Nitro Express:
    • 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 Animals Were Harmed: "Black Rhino" features an explicit message before the episode gets fully underway with its anti-poaching plot indicating that there is a scene depicting injury to an animal and that the injury and the animal have been simulated. The scene happens to be immensely heartbreaking, where a rhino had its whole horn shredded off by a chainsaw, is groaning as it bleeds out slowly, and it had to be put down.
  • No Full Name Given: MacGyver spends almost the entire series being known only as "MacGyver"; his Embarrassing First Name is eventually revealed in the final season. It's Angus.
  • No Good Deed Goes Unpunished: Before becoming a secret agent, MacGyver first encounters his future nemesis Murdoc like this. Murdoc is dressed as a woman and on the run from Pete Thornton. Mac sees this and interferes by saving the apparent damsel; he soon learns who Murdoc really is and tracks him down alongside Pete. When Murdoc catches them and puts them in a Death Trap, Mac tries to appeal to his gratitude:
    MacGyver: Murdoc, remember, I did try to help you.
    Murdoc: Yes, you did. It's a little unfair that an innocent bystander has to become a simple pawn in this game. [...] But we live in difficult times, and Good Samaritans die young!
  • Noodle Implements: This is how every episode works, hence the parodies. Though we do get to see how he puts it all together, he can make anything out of anything. So if you've got Noodle Implements, he can get it done. Duct tape usually helps, though. Word of God states that the reason for this was to prevent children watching the show from trying to duplicate the experiments themselves and possibly getting injured.
  • No One Could Survive That!: Murdoc
    • 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.
  • Not the Intended Use: The entire premise of the series.
  • Obfuscating Disability: One of the many tricks of "The Assassin".
  • Oktoberfest: In "The Wall", a bar in East (Eastern at the time of the airing) Berlin has Bavarian music playing and waitresses in traditional Bavarian dresses.
  • The Old Convict: Francois Villars in "The Escape".
  • 1-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.
  • Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping: English actress June Chadwick fights a losing battle with an American accent as Dr. Ludlum in "The Human Factor."
  • Operation Game of Doom: Attempting to move the bomb with the mercury switch in "Hell Week".
    • And again in the Season 7 episode "The Prometheus Syndrome".
  • Outfit Decoy: In "The Endangered", Mac makes an assault using a decoy using rope, matches and a coat on a vine to set a time-delayed simulated "approach". When the hunters start shooting at the decoy, Mac shoots one of them using a slingshot made of a flashlight barrel and elastic cords from the jacket to shoot yet another tranquilizer dart.
  • 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.
  • Paper Key-Retrieval Trick: In "The Guantlet", MacGyver is able to retrieve a key which is in the lock but on the other side of the door by sliding a map under the door and pushing the key with his pen knife through the keyhole. The key falls on the map and MacGyver is able to slide it underneath the door and exit the room before he is apprehended.
  • 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.
  • Pendulum of Death: The Cliffhanger at the end of the first part of the two-part "Legend of the Holy Rose" has Mac strapped beneath a descending blade on a pendulum in a torture chamber exhibit.
  • Percussive Maintenance: In one episode, starting a car this way becomes a running gag.
    • In "Split Decision", Ronnie is able to hit a vending machine in such a way to get it to give her a free candy bar.
  • 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.
  • Pistol-Whipping: In "The Assassin", Pete uses the butt of his pistol to knock out Piedra as he is about to stab the prone MacGyver.
  • Playing Gertrude: Henry Gibson, who played an aged veteran of silent movies in "Deadly Silents", set in present-day 1991, was born in 1935. His character was shown to be in his 20s during that time.
  • Plot-Demanded Manual Mode: In "Rock the Cradle", Mac has to juryrig a way to manually lower the landing gear on a plane as Jack Dalton is bringing it in for a landing. He succeeds, but falls out the plane (he is wearing a parachute).
  • Poorly Disguised Pilot: "The Coltons", showcasing the whole family of bounty hunters that Mac had met individually throughout the show on a case that (only very barely) involved Mac.
  • Powder Trail: Mac improvises a powder trail - using the black powder charge from an antique grenade - to blow up an arms shipment in "The Escape".
  • Praetorian Guard: In "Humanity", MacGyver tangles with the K-Force, a group of Praetorian Guard still loyal to Romania's dead tyrant.
  • The Precious, Precious Car: In "Three for the Road", Guy Roberts owns an immaculate red '57 Cadillac. Over the course of the episode, the car is gradually trashed due a combination of damage inflicted by the bad guys, and Mac stripping parts off the car to turn into makeshift weaponry (with the Running Gag of Mac apologizing and saying he will get it fixed later). True to his word, Mac has it fully restored for him at the episode.
  • Prison Episode:
    • In "Jack in the Box", Jack Dalton is sent to a prison farm by a Corrupt Hick who is using the prisoners as a workforce for his mine. Mac ends up in the same prison when he goes looking for Jack.
    • In "The Escape", mac infiltrates a prison in French North Africa in order to break out an unjustly imprisoned missonary.
  • Protagonist Title
  • Pulling the Rug Out: In "Three for the Money", Mac tries to talk down a belligerent drunk who is spoiling for a fight. When it becomes obvious, he cannot get away from the fight, Mac tales off his leather jacket and lays it on the ground; saying he doesn't want it to get damaged in the fight. Predictably, the drunk immediately stands on the jacket. Mac then yanks it out from under his feet, dropping the drunk and stopping the fight before it starts.
  • Pungeon Master: Mac
    MacGyver: I've never been to Leningrad before. I hear it's a real... Party town.
  • Pushy Gun-Toting Villain: More often than not, MacGyver and anyone else he's with on the adventure-of-the-week would be staring down the barrel of a pistol carried by the exploiting, dictatorial, vengeful, or just plain nasty hot-headed villain-of-the-week. Sometimes, just to be a jerkass, they would also put their victims in a slowly-advancing trap, or just make them suffer through an agonizing torture.
  • 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.
  • Qurac: Sambaka from "Early Retirement" is implied to be this in a line spoken by Webber, though otherwise it seems like a Banana Republic. Making matters worse, its name suggests a Bulungi.
  • Race Against the Clock: See Exact Time to Failure above.
  • Ransacked Room:
    • Subverted in the TV-movie "Lost Treasure of Atlantis". When MacGyver and co. enter Prof. Atticus's study, they think that this has happened. Then Atticus notes that it has always looked like that.
    • Played straight in the subsequent film "Trail to Doomsday" when MacGyver and Natalia find the door to her apartment busted open, and the whole place ransacked.
  • Real After All: Seen in "Ghost Ship", and strongly implied in "The Visitors".
  • Reckless Gun Usage: This caused the death of one of MacGyver's childhood friends, as shown during a flashback in "Blood Brothers".
  • Recycled IN SPACE!:
    • Doctor Who ON 80's EARTH! Both feature a dashing anti-Establishment Technical Pacifist hero who gets into scrapes because of his big bleeding heart and gets out of them with his courage, quick wits, and scientific acumen. As if that wasn't enough, influential Doctor Who writer Terry Nation, creator of the Daleks, worked on some of MacGyver's very first episodes.
    • "Thief of Budapest" is The Italian Job in Budapest with a list of KGB spies as the MacGuffin, and the plot of "Trumbo's World" is Leiningen Versus the Ants on a cocoa plantation.
  • Red Scare: in this case, actually called Soviets, but in later episodes, Soviet hardliners.
  • Reed Snorkel: Invoked in "Target MacGyver". Mac uses hollow reeds stuck into a piece of bark and sets it afloat in the water to make the bad guys think they are still in the water.
  • Relocating the Explosion: In "Hell Week", Mac is confronted with a bomb in a sealed case. Unable to defuse the bomb because the tamperproof screws on the case are wired to the detonator, Mac decides to move the bomb to the basement where it will do the least damage. He is then faced with the challenge of moving the bomb without tripping the mercury switches inside.
  • 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.
    • And in the second TV movie, with a hard-left remnant of KGB alumni hoping to bring back the Soviet Union.
  • Reports of My Death Were Greatly Exaggerated: This is Murdoc's main gimmick. In his very first appearance we're told he was assumed dead after having been chased into a demolition site years ago by Thornton and MacGyver, and he pulls the trick again repeatedly throughout the series.
  • 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.
  • Rock Star Parking: Mac is also always able to find a parking spot directly in front of whatever building he needs to visit, which are always on suspiciously empty streets.
  • Roguish Romani: The third episode kicks into gear when a young Romani girl pickpockets MacGyver's MacGuffin. She's a thief with a heart of gold, however, and MacGyver ends up helping her family escape Soviet Hungary before giving her his Swiss Army Knife as a farewell present.
  • Rouge Angles of Satin: In his first 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".
  • Rube Goldberg Hates Your Guts: In "Strictly Business", Murdoc rigs a Death Trap in which metal clamps spring out of a chair to hold him place, a statue of Cupid spins around automatically, and a candle burns through a string to launch a cyanide-coated dart from Cupid's bow at Mac's heart.
  • Running Gag: It's subtle, but almost any time MacGyver punches someone, his immediate response is cringe and shake his hand in pain.
  • 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.
  • Saved by the Coffin: In the episode "Deathlock", Mac uses this ploy to be carried out of East Germany (with stolen microfilm). Of course in this case the coffin is also a fully functional motorized water vehicle.
  • Sawed-Off Shotgun: Jesse Colton's Weapon of Choice.
  • Scary Black Man: Axminster, the hit man from "Target MacGyver, can come off as this.
  • Scary Surprise Party: Taking this to rather an extreme level, in "friends" Mac gets taken at knife-point by a disguised Jack Dalton to a birthday party.
  • Science Hero: MacGyver, despite the jury-rigged nature of his devices, qualifies. After all, to accomplish all those things, Mac needs a great working knowledge of chemistry, physics, biology, and botany at the very least.
  • Sequel Episode: "Unfinished Business" is this to "The Negotiator."
  • Shackle Seat Trap: In "Strictly Business", Murdoc rigs a Death Trap in which metal clamps spring out of a chair to hold him place, a statue of Cupid spins around automatically, and a candle burns through a string to launch a cyanide-coated dart from Cupid's bow at Mac's heart.
  • Shooting Gallery: "Halloween Knights" featured a shooting gallery called 'Death Row' used by Murder, Inc. organisation H.I.T. to test new recruits.
  • Shout-Out:
    • "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.
    • In "Family Matter," Mac meets a man named Obedaiah Marsh.
  • Skepticism Failure: In "GX-1", MacGyver helps a Russian psychic who is portrayed as real, despite Mac's skepticism.
  • Sky Heist: In the opening gambit to "Thief of Budapest", MacGyver's mission is to retrieve a very valuable horse from Arabian tribesmen who stole it. After a wild horse chase along a beach, a helicopter airlifts him and the horse away to safety.
  • Sleeping Dummy: In "Jack in the Box", MacGyver and Jack hide chickens and pillows in their beds so it looks like they were still there when people were looking for them.
  • The Snack Is More Interesting: The Bugs Bunny Shout Out in "Target MacGyver".
  • Soft Glass: People crashing through windows happened on a regular basis on the show; always without any ill effects.
  • Solar-Powered Magnifying Glass: In "The Wish Child", Mac lights a fuse without a match by concentrating sunlight on the fuse with his watch crystal. He removes the crystal with his Swiss army knife and holds it so a fine point of light is focused at the fuse's end.
  • 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.
  • Spell My Name with an "S": "Phoenix Under Siege" is called "Phoenix Under Seige" in the actual episode credits. Oopsie.
  • 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.
  • Spiritual Antithesis: MacGyver is almost the polar opposite of most action heroes. He isn't a gritty hardass, doesn't drink, not fond of Bond One Liners, Does Not Like Guns, competent at fisticuffs but often outmatched by musclebound brutes or martial artists, has a "good ole boy" midwest personality, spends time doing charity work, has several degrees in chemistry and physics and, of course, relies on improvised traps and constantly thinks his way through situations rather than just relying on being a badass.
  • Stalker with a Crush: "Cleo Rocks" is a riff on The Phantom of the Opera, with Penny Parker and Murdoc(!) in the lead roles.
  • Standard Hollywood Strafing Procedure: Demonstrated in "The Golden Triangle", in a shot that was also used in the opening titles.
  • Starter Villain: Carl Steubens caused the explosion in the pilot.
  • Stating the Simple Solution: In "Deadly Silents", Karl's partner Neil keeps urging to just shoot Mac and Pinky and dump their bodies somewhere. After multiple attempts to Make It Look Like an Accident fail, Karl gives in and agrees to just shoot them. It fails.
  • Stock Footage: Many times in many episodes, but particularly noticeable in the following 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.
    • You can also see it in the episode "Out in the Cold" with a painfully obvious stock-footage avalanche.
  • Storybook Episode: "Good Knight, MacGyver" transports Mac back to the court of King Arthur.
  • Streetwalker: In "Runners", a teenage prostitute is trying to leave her pimp and return to her family. As MacGyver helps her to do this, it is revealed that she is also being abused by her father who blames her for the death of his wife.
  • Surprisingly Good Foreign Language: Several episodes set in East Germany.
  • 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 Tape Knew You Would Say That: Mac does this to Pete in "The Odd Triple" via a message he left on his answering machine:
    Tape Mac: Hi, Pete. Listen, you might wanna sit down.
    Pete: [pauses for a second, then sits down]
    TM: Thanks. Listen, I had to help Jack out with a thing...
    Pete: [stands back up] You what?! You should know by know that Jack is nothing but trouble!
    TM: Listen and sit back down. I know you're gonna say that he's nothing but trouble but...
  • 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.
  • Technicolor Toxin: "The Spoilers" starts off showing us a tanker full of toxic waste, which happens to be hot pink in color.
  • 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.
  • Temporary Blindness: "The Negotiator", "Blind Faith."
  • 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.
  • The Thing That Would Not Leave: Jack Dalton is this to MacGyver on occasion.
  • This Is My Boomstick: In "Good Knight, MacGyver", Mac convinces King Arthur's court that he is a powerful wizard by lighting a match.
  • Those Wacky Nazis: In "The Ten Percent Solution", a massive neo-Nazi movement within the American political system is uncovered by MacGyver after investigating the claims by a Holocaust survivor.
  • Throwing the Distraction: In "Slow Death", MacGyver takes his shoe off and throws it on top of the train to make the bad guy think that he was up there when in reality he came up the stairs after him. It didn't work as he is hit with a gun and knocked down.
  • Throwing the Fight: In "Split Decision", Earl Dent agrees to throw his comeback fight so he can get enough money to regain custody of his daughter. When he changes his mind (at Mac's urging), the bookies kidnap his daughter to force him to go through with the fix.
  • Thrown from the Zeppelin: In "Legend of the Holy Rose", the bad guy has his advisor with a niggling conscience thrown from a helicopter when he is of no further use.
  • Title Drop:
    • "Every Time She Smiles":
    Penny Parker: [to border guard asking for passports] Constantine. Is it you?
    Border Guard: Penny? Penny Parker?
    Penny Parker: Hi.
    Border Guard: [smiling and hugging Penny] Penny Parker!
    Stepan Frolov: Every time she smiles.
    MacGyver: We should have known.
    MacGyver: No, actually I think you're to blame.
    Jake Baron: I beg your pardon?
    MacGyver: People like you who rush to judgement or make snap accusations before you get all the facts.
  • Tomboyish Name: Mike Forrester in "Jack of Lies" and "The Widowmaker". Mike is short for Michelle and she is a tomboyish botanist with a passion for mountain climbing.
  • 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.
  • Training Montage: Earl Dent goes through one when he is being trained by his 14 year old daughter Ronnie is preparation for his comeback fight in The Boxing Episode "Split Decision". Lots of running on a beach is involved.
  • Training the Peaceful Villagers: Mac has to train a peaceful village in a Republica del Platano to fight their drug lord oppressors, in the episode "The Golden Triangle."
  • Translation Convention: wherever MacGyver goes, everyone apparently speaks English, albeit with a range of funny accents.
  • Trap Door: In "Halloween Knights", Murdoc uses a trap door to drop Mac into a cage.
  • 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.
  • Tribal Carry: Mac is carried back to the village like this after being captured by the drug producers in "The Golden Triangle".
  • 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).
  • Uncanny Family Resemblance: Jack Dalton and his father, Jack Sr., in "Ma Dalton".
  • Unconventional Food Usage:
    • Mac plugs a sulfuric acid leak with chocolate. He states that chocolate contains sucrose and glucose. The acid reacts with the sugars to form elemental carbon and a thick gummy residue. ("Pilot")
    • Mac uses salt combined with sugar and a small amount of chemical enhanced weed killer to create dynamite with a battery acid, or sulfuric acid, trigger. ("Thief of Budapest")
    • Soda, fizzies (candy), and dry ice used to created simulated smoke. ("The Prodigal")
    • Mac uses a baking soda and vinegar concoction to create a smoke screen. ("Deadlock")
    • Mac pours salt in a bowl and uses a seltzer spray bottle to spray the salt into the face of the bad guy. ("Slow Death")
    • Mac uses the condiments from a picnic basket to fake a head wound. ("For Love or Money")
    • While shopping for groceries, Mac concocts home-made tear-gas out of a some selected spices (cayenne pepper), vinegar and baking soda. ("Blow Out")
    • Trapped in a bed and breakfast with only two elderly women to help him, MacGyver fights off the attacking mobsters by blinding one by hitting him with a mop dusted with cayenne pepper, and spraying hot blueberry preserves through a vacuum cleaner into the other man's face.
  • Underside Ride: Mac clings underneath a truck to escape the cops in the episode "Jerico Games".
  • Unnecessary Combat Roll: One of the assassins in "Target MacGyver", entering the house where Mac is staying—and very silly he looks, too.
  • Unwilling Suspension: Happens to Frank and Jesse in "The Coltons."
  • Vehicle Vanish: In "For Love or Money", Mac and Pete are watching a pair of defectors at the zoo who disappear when a crowd of pedestrians temporarily obscures their view.
  • Vehicular Assault: In "Three for the Road", the bad guys after the Counterfeit Cash start by using their own car in an attempt to ram the '57 Cadillac Guy, June and Mac are travelling in off the road.
  • Vehicular Sabotage: One episode of MacGyver featured the tampering with brakes version as an excuse for the title character to repair a moving vehicle.
  • Very Special Episode: Every other episode from around the third or fourth season onwards was one, dealing with issues such as animal poaching, parental abuse, runaways, and so on. Some even included Public Service Announcements.
  • The Vietnam Vet: MacGyver served as a bomb disposal engineer in The Vietnam War.
  • Viking Funeral: In "Deadly Dreams", Dr. Zito convinces one of his clients to give himself a Viking funeral... And he takes a friend of Mac's to play the part of the slave.
  • 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.
  • Vision Quest: Mac experiences one while being cared for by an old Indian after being Left for Dead in "Trail of Tears".
  • 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.
  • The Walls Are Closing In: In "Eye of Osiris", Mac and the father-daughter archaeologist duo try to escape the walls that close in in Alexander the Great's real tomb (not the fake one located in the room before that was designed to trap tomb looters) once they and Nicolas von Leer (the brother of Erich von Leer, who acted as a villain in another treasure hunt episode, "Legend of the Holy Rose") get their hands on the jewel held by Alexander's mummified remains. The key to escaping lies in where the sunlight strikes after it's been refracted by the jewel.
  • Wardens Are Evil: In "Jack in the Box", the warden of a prison farm is a Corrupt Hick in cahoots with the local sheriff to jail people on trumped-up charges where they are used as a slave labor force to search an abandoned mine for hidden millions of dollars.
  • We Are Everywhere: In "The Ten Percent Solution", MacGyver uncovers a massive Neo-Nazi conspiracy that has infiltrated a sizeable portion of America.
  • We Help the Helpless: The Phoenix Foundation (and thus Mac) does, when they are not playing spy.
  • When She Smiles: Penny Parker made her debut in an episode called... "Every Time She Smiles."
  • When the Planets Align: "Lost Treasure Of Atlantis" features this. For some reason, the planets are visible, to the point where they would actually collide with each other.
  • Whole Plot Reference: Several episodes are either rare examples of a Whole Plot Reference played entirely straight, or a cynical attempt to rip off the plot of a film most of MacGyver's audience wouldn't have seen — these include "Countdown" (Juggernaut), "Trumbo's World" (The Naked Jungle, which as noted above it even uses actual footage from), "Thief of Budapest" (The Italian Job (1969), also using footage from the film), "Kill Zone" (The Andromeda Strain) and "Hellfire" (Sorcerer).
  • Why Did It Have to Be Snakes?:
    • Mac is afraid of heights, more so in the early seasons than the later ones. It's rarely crippling, but he has had bouts of vertigo at times.
    • 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".
  • Wounded Hero, Weaker Helper: In the episode "To Be a Man", MacGyver, who can always work his way out of anything on his own, is bedridden and helped by a lady and her son.
  • 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.
  • Zorro Mark: In one episode, Murdoc blowtorches "R.I.P. MacGyver" onto the wall of Mac's home.


Video Example(s):



MacGyver's nemesis Murdoc's defeats, all accompanied by the same yell.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (6 votes)

Example of:

Main / DefeatCatchphrase

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