My wife picked this episode because she figured our son would enjoy a story about a horde of billions of soldier ants. He did, but liked it best for MacGyver’s makeshift flamethrower, and gave it two thumbs up while jumping up and down. Sounds like a winner to me.
Now, when she picked it, I was immediately reminded of a famous short story called “Leningen Versus the Ants.” Well, I remember the name, and that I read it in high school, but I don’t remember anything else about it. Earlier this week, when I bemoaned the pilfering of footage from The Italian Job for the climax of another MacGyver tale, one of our readers, Donald, gave us the heads-up that this episode uses footage from a Charlton Heston movie called The Naked Jungle, which is in fact an adaptation of “Leningen Versus the Ants.”
I totally understand the necessity for stock footage for establishing shots or a visual effect here and there. I mean, you drive a white Jaguar into a quarry and blow it up, you might as well stick a marked-for-death supporting character into a white Jaguar in the next program you make. Since tonight’s episode was set in Brazil, with ants, I expected some stock shots of tropical birds, trees, and insects. But this looks like writer Stephen Kandel and the set dressers were given copies of The Naked Jungle and were told “Do that, only have MacGyver build a couple of crazy things too.” It was actually a pretty fascinating experience, watching the new material and the old fit together almost seamlessly, and far more naturally than in “Thief of Budapest.” Even without the stock footage to beef up the action, this hour was a remarkable undertaking. This can’t have been easy to make.
Speaking of marked for death, that’s Peter Jurasik above as MacGyver’s old friend Charlie. Right around the time this aired, Jurasik’s occasional character on Hill Street Blues, Sid the Snitch, was becoming a semi-regular. Trumbo, the Leningen character, is played by familiar eighties guest star Peter Ackroyd. MacGyver’s Calgary Flames hat doesn’t seem to make it out of this episode in one piece, but he’ll have others. My wife mentioned that Anderson was a hockey fan back when we were dating and we went to a Gwinnett Gladiators game, but I honestly don’t remember whether Col. Jack O’Neill on Stargate SG-1 was also a Flames fan. Teal’c, I believe, favored Vancouver.