I’ve often said that while I really, genuinely and sincerely do not like dogs, I can put up with three: Uga, Snoopy, and K9. I’m going to have to add Jack from Tales of the Gold Monkey. He steals this show every week and of course our son just adores him. There’s a running gag that Jake is looking out for his dog’s missing eye. It’s made from opal and sapphire and in the pilot film, Jake lost it – not, apparently, for the first time – in a poker game. This time, they come achingly close to getting it back for good, but of course all hearts are broken in the end.
The rest of the episode is pretty aggravating. Soon-Tek Oh guest stars as a zero pilot with a score to settle with Jake, but the machinations that he employs to force Jake into a trial by combat involve getting Corky married to — and I’ll be blunt, because this is where the episode goes for “humor” — a fat chick. I mean, that’s the level of the comedy: she’s fat and eats a lot and immediately starts crying when Corky says he doesn’t want to be married to her, so they shove more food at her. Bringing her back to her father brings our heroes right into the fighter pilot’s trap.
We paused the show literally in the middle of a fat joke to point out to our son that this precise scenario could have played out with any actress and no stupid jokes about eating everything simply because Corky doesn’t want to get married to anybody. There was a lot of this going around in the media of 1982. I’d like to hope that we’re a little better now.
There’s a great bit in this story that emphasizes how different the business world was in the eighties. MacGyver has a lead on a villain who’d jumped him earlier, thanks to a distinctive wrench used by workers in a shipping yard. Some random security guy in an office that was blown up at the beginning of the episode goes to a computer terminal that really shouldn’t be plugged in at the moment, presses about six buttons, and our hero has the guy’s photo, name, and address in a hilarious screen-filling image. These days, the guy’d have a legitimate complaint with his HR department, wouldn’t he?
Another thing that was different in the eighties: ninjas. Tia Carrere plays a submachine gun-packing ninja with all the requisite crazy ninja weapons and gear and insanely overcomplicated ninja traps, including a birdcage that explodes with poisoned needles, and a cobra just in case that doesn’t work. I’d say the writer’s grandkids really enjoyed playing with GI Joe toys.
The writer, incidentally, was Hollywood veteran Herman Miller, who had earlier created that iconic early seventies show Kung Fu. Keye Luke, who had played in that series, has a small part here, along with some other familiar faces like Soon-Tek Oh and Al Leong. The highlight of the episode is a genuinely great fight scene in a car park about halfway through the proceedings. Our son was a little more thrilled than I was, but, you know kids and ninjas.
That’s all for MacGyver for now, but we’ll select ten episodes from the show’s fourth season and give them a look in August. Stay tuned!