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The MacGyver F.A.Q.

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The MacGyver F.A.Q.

Version 1.1

(last updated 08 February 1995)

1. Introduction

1.1) So what's it all about?

The television show "MacGyver" debuted on ABC-TV in September 1985 and ran continuously until the middle of the 1991-1992 TV season. Since the show's cancellation, there have also been two made-for-television movies. The program follows the adventures of MacGyver, troubleshooter extraordinaire. He carries no weapons, relying instead on his wits, his knowledge, and objects at hand to get himself out of trouble.

1.2) Where can I watch MacGyver?

As of February 1995, reruns of "MacGyver" air regularly in the U.S. They are broadcast each weekday at 9:00 AM and 4:00 PM Eastern Standard Time on the USA Cable Network. Most, if not all, of the episodes USA shows have been cut to allow for more advertising time by local cable operators. "MacGyver" can also be seen on a multitude of international television networks across the globe.

2. Characters

2.1) MacGyver (Richard Dean Anderson)

Born March 23, 1950 (or January 23, 1951), and raised in Mission City, Minnesota, Angus MacGyver (who prefers to be called just MacGyver) moved to California after graduating from Western Tech. He worked several odd jobs before meeting Department of External Services (DXS) agent Pete Thornton. Thornton was impressed with MacGyver's ingenuity - after all, he'd used a paper clip, a wrench, and shoelaces to help them escape two men armed with bazookas. MacGyver then went to work at the DXS for Pete. Over the years, their friendship became so strong that he moved to the Phoenix Foundation when Pete was appointed Director of Operations.

MacGyver, or "Mac," as his friends call him, is a master of on-the-spot improvisation. He can use ordinary household objects to get himself and his companions out of trouble. All he carries with him is a Swiss Army knife and, occasionally, a roll of duct tape. He carries no gun, having forsaken firearms after a traumatic childhood incident, and tries to avoid violence. He is fiercely loyal to his friends; his enemies will find him a clever, resourceful, and uncooperative opponent.

Mac's most unusual trait is his fear of romantic commitment. This fear, which has stifled many a relationship, stems from his previous experiences. His father and his grandmother were killed in a car accident when he was twelve years old; his mother died of complications from a stroke when MacGyver was on assignment overseas. He worries that whomever he becomes close to will die, just like his parents and his grandmother did.

Despite his misgivings about commitment, MacGyver remains the eternal optimist. He firmly believes that the world can and will change for the better - one person at a time.

2.2) Pete Thornton (Dana Elcar)

MacGyver's boss and best friend, Pete Thornton worked for many years as an operative of the Department of External Services (see section 3.2). It was during this time that he met MacGyver while tracking the international assassin Murdoc. Seven years later, Pete took the position of Director of Operations at the Phoenix Foundation, which he now holds.

He has a son, Michael (see section 2.8), from a previous marriage. In the sixth season of the show, Pete began to show symptoms of glaucoma, a degenerative condition of the eyes that causes the victim to lose his sight. He is now legally blind and needs special computer equipment to read printed text.

2.3) Jack Dalton (Bruce McGill)

Whenever Jack Dalton enters MacGyver's life, things always seem to get more complicated. He's always got something up his sleeve, and it's usually a get-rich-quick plan that backfires. The son of a (posthumously) decorated Air Force pilot, Jack was put up for adoption shortly after he was born. He grew up with MacGyver in Mission City, Minnesota, and moved to California, where he ran a short-lived taxi service before setting up a private airline, Fly-By-Night. Subsequent enterprises include Jack-Be-Quick Messenger Service and his current business, Dalton Air.

MacGyver has learned to avoid Jack Dalton like the plague, for when Jack appears on the scene, trouble is sure to follow. He can tell when Jack's lying when his left eye twitches. Despite his numerous business failures, Jack remains optimistic that he'll someday make the big score.

2.4) Murdoc (Michael Des Barres)

Little is known about the international assassin Murdoc. He is, and has been, the best in his line of work; his methods are, in his own words, "quick, neat, untraceable." His mastery of makeup and costuming have made him difficult to identify, and he never leaves loose ends - except, of course, in the case of MacGyver and his friends.

Murdoc had been known to the DXS for about five years prior to 1980, when he attempted to kill Peter Thornton and MacGyver. This 1980 encounter resulted in Murdoc's apparent death in a collapsing building. He did not return until seven years later, when he nearly succeeded in blowing Mac and Pete up. Murdoc "died" in this confrontation, too, after being careless with dynamite. But somehow, he escaped the explosion, and he reappeared about a year later, to the surprise of a grieving MacGyver and Nikki Carpenter; again, he took a "fatal" dive off the mountain known as the Widowmaker after cutting his own climbing rope. The next time he tried to kill MacGyver, he staged an elaborate musical, "Cleo Rocks," using MacGyver's friend Penny Parker as a pawn. Posing as crippled director Jacques La Rue, he came very close to realizing his goal - only to be defeated, once again, by MacGyver's ingenuity. For his "death" this time, he plunged into a fiery pool after being electrocuted. Murdoc laid to rest his vendetta, albeit temporarily, against MacGyver when he realized that MacGyver was the only one who could help him rescue his sister, Ashton Cooke, from his vengeful ex-employer at HIT, Homicide International Trust. This spirit of cooperation between the two, however, did not last; after another of Murdoc's "deaths," he and MacGyver resumed their deadly game of cat-and-mouse...with Murdoc, yet again, plummeting into a flooded mine shaft. Murdoc's final regular-series appearance was as the right-hand man of a deposed Central American dictator who intended to regain power; Murdoc made his exit by driving a Jeep off of a cliff after a failed attempt to run MacGyver down.

Despite his nasty homicidal tendencies and twisted sense of honor, there are facets of Murdoc's personality that are quite likeable. The assassin is a photography buff; to assure his employers of a successful hit, he sends them a picture of the moment of the victim's death. He showed his talent for musical composition when he wrote the score for "Cleo Rocks," and he even fell in love with Penny Parker as he worked with her on the production. He secretly supported his sister, Ashton, without revealing to her his identity. If he hadn't become a hired killer, he probably would have chosen a career as a photographer or a musician.

If Murdoc survived his last encounter with MacGyver (and it's very likely that he did), then it is certain that he will try to kill MacGyver again. MacGyver is, after all, the only blemish on Murdoc's otherwise spotless record. He's the one man Murdoc has failed to kill.

2.5) Penny Parker (Teri Hatcher)

MacGyver's scatterbrained friend. An aspiring singer and actress, Penny is one of those people, according to MacGyver, who needs "looking after."

She met MacGyver at a Bulgarian airport, but not under the best of circumstances; both were detained after police found Penny's jewels (which were later revealed to be the stolen crown jewels) in MacGyver's pocket. After a happy ending, Penny appeared again in Los Angeles, having "borrowed" Mac's apartment while she earned a living as a singing telegram. She enlisted MacGyver's help in solving the mystery of her aunt Betty's house and, presumably, is still trying to make it as an actress.

2.6) Harry Jackson (John Anderson)

Mac's grandfather. He became MacGyver's father-figure after Mac's father and grandmother were killed in a car accident December 14, 1962 (see the episode "Phoenix Under Siege"). Harry taught the young MacGyver much about life, including the value of fair play (see "Harry's Will").

But seven years later he left the MacGyver household without saying goodbye. Another sixteen years passed before he and MacGyver reconciled, and Harry would show up in town occasionally for holidays and Mac's birthday. In the fifth-season episode "Passages," he shared one final adventure with his grandson before succumbing to complications from a heart attack.

(Note: Sadly, John Anderson, owner of an impressive list of film and television credits, passed away in 1992.)

2.7) Sean A. "SAM" Malloy (Dalton James)

Although SAM appeared in only one episode, the series finale "The Stringer," his introduction had a profound effect on MacGyver's life. He is the son of MacGyver and Kate Malloy, a photojournalist MacGyver was involved with in his post-college years. After Kate was murdered by Chinese soldiers, SAM vowed revenge on Chan, the general who executed her. His chance for vengeance came when he and his father confronted Chan on a freighter, but MacGyver talked SAM out of killing Chan. SAM and MacGyver set off on a motorcycle journey together at the end of the series' seven-year run.

2.8) Other memorable characters

DEXTER FILLMORE (Richard Dean Anderson): MacGyver's favorite alias. He used this computer-geek identity to help bring down a money launderer, to stop a plot to steal top-secret Phoenix equipment, and to shut down a counterfeit baseball memorabilia operation.

THE COLTONS (Cleavon Little, Richard Lawson, Cuba Gooding, Jr., Della Reese): Frank, Jesse, and Billy Colton are brothers in the bounty-hunting business. Their mother, affectionately known as Mama Colton, is the brains behind the operation. A recent addition to the family has been Frog, a dog who was left behind when his previous owner was forced to assume a new identity.

NIKKI CARPENTER (Elyssa Davalos): Joined the Phoenix Foundation in the third season of "MacGyver." She and MacGyver met when she was investigating her brother's murder. Her husband was killed in a mafia car-bombing that was meant for her; as a result, she's afraid of becoming too involved with anyone (including MacGyver) for fear that she'll "jinx" him like she "jinxed" her husband.

MAMA LORRAINE (Kimberly Scott): Owner of Haitian Creations Botanical Shango, a shop down the street from MacGyver's seventh-season apartment. She practices the Vodoun religion (more commonly known as voodoo) and has quickly developed a friendship with MacGyver.

KATE MURPHY (Kim Zimmer): Head of the Los Angeles police narcotics squad. She played an instrumental role in the initial arrest and conviction of serial killer Dr. Zito (see next listing) and, as a result, earned Zito's eternal hatred.

DR. ZITO (W. Morgan Sheppard): One of the truly memorable villains of "MacGyver." He was a serial killer before Lt. Kate Murphy stopped him and testified against him during his trial. From his cell at the state mental hospital in Alameda, Zito carefully plotted his revenge, using fellow prisoner Eric Cross as his weapon. MacGyver was able to stop Cross after figuring out Zito's elaborate plan. Two years later, Zito targeted MacGyver, attempting to teach him a "lesson in evil." Murphy was seriously injured, but MacGyver bested Zito in a battle of wits.

MICHELLE "MIKE" FORESTER (Patricia McPherson/Lisa Bayliss): A botanist who attended college with MacGyver and Jack Dalton. Jack, with MacGyver's reluctant help, rescued her from a ruthless drug dealer in the Central American country of Dinoto. Unfortunately, she was later killed on the mountain known as "The Widowmaker" when her climbing equipment failed. MacGyver, who had been climbing with her, mistakenly blamed himself for her death; moments before she fell, he had hurt her by telling her that he wasn't ready for commitment.

LISA WOODMAN (Mayim Bialik): The daughter of a wealthy industrialist, Lisa came to MacGyver's aid after he was framed for the attempted assassination of a nation's president. She was kidnapped by one of her father's ex-employees and later developed a drinking problem, for which she has sought counseling.

DEBORAH (Kristian Alfonso): Known as "The Negotiator," Deborah was hired by Knapp, a land developer. Her goal: to get close to and influence MacGyver, who was delaying one of Knapp's projects by voicing his concerns over the impact the project would have on the local environment. She failed to sway him, and she also failed to kill MacGyver. Two years later, after serving a reduced sentence, Deborah again tried to kill MacGyver. With his friends' help, MacGyver outwitted her, but she fell to her death after one last attempt to kill him.

JIMMY KENDALL (Joe Santos): Formerly known as "The Eraser," Jimmy Kendall gave up his life as a professional hitman (with MacGyver's help) and assumed a new identity as the coach of a minor-league baseball team.

MICHAEL THORNTON (T. Scott Coffey/Hank Stratton): Pete Thornton's son. Pete came to his and his mother's aid when a former DXS agent kidnapped them, seeking revenge on Pete. Michael later became involved in a plot to steal top-secret blueprints from the Phoenix Foundation. After being caught, Michael cooperated with federal agents to expose the rest of the theft ring.

CONNIE THORNTON (Penelope Windust/Linda Darlow): Pete Thornton's ex-wife. She divorced Pete twenty years ago when she realized that his work was taking up more of his time than she was. Connie returned to help Pete through his eye operation.

JENNIFER REINER (Holly Fields/Traci Lords): Jennifer, whose street name was Crystal, became a prostitute after years of abuse by her father, a policeman. MacGyver, Cynthia Wilson, and Kate Murphy helped to reform her.

MARIA ROMBURG (Brigitte Sternberg): A prospective love interest for MacGyver, Maria was reunited with her grandfather when the Berlin Wall fell. She joined the Phoenix Foundation, became romantically involved with MacGyver, and then left for Brazil on assignment. (***Note: She actually left the show after the producers received loads of angry mail from female viewers, who wanted Mac to remain single and uncommitted.)

CYNTHIA WILSON (Roxanne Reese): Head of the Challengers Club. Her husband, Booker, was murdered when he angered a member of the city council who was a white supremacist. She performed a moving tribute to her husband in "The Madonna."

BREEZE (Charles Andrew Payne): A former gang member, Breeze has become a valued member of the Challengers Club.

MEI JAN (Michele B. Chan): A member of the Chinese student movement. She arrived in the States as Sue Ling, MacGyver's Chinese "foster daughter," and later revealed that the real Sue Ling had been killed at the Tiananmen Square uprising in 1989. MacGyver helped her to complete her mission in the U.S.

WILT BOZER (Robin Mossley): MacGyver's neighbor at the marina.

MILT BOZER (Robert Donner): Brother of Wilt Bozer. Curiously, he appears only in the two Western "dream" episodes, but not in regular "MacGyver" continuity.

EARL DENT (Dick Butkus): An ex-convict, Dent has since gone straight. Dent has tried to support his daughter, Veronica, with winnings from prize-fights.

WILLIS (Bruce Harwood): A Phoenix Foundation scientist whose work appears to deal mainly with environmental studies.

The VON LEER BROTHERS, ERICH (Christopher Neame) and NICOLAS (Kai Wulff): Two wealthy, dastardly treasure-hunting brothers. Erich used MacGyver and his friend Zoe Ryan in a plot to recover the Holy Grail and met his end instead. Nicolas, seeking revenge on MacGyver for his brother's death, met his own demise in the search for the Eye of Osiris.

MIKE KILEY (Jackson Davies): If Mac needed to deal with the police, Kiley was his man. Kiley apparently (either through script inconsistencies or just plain hard work on his part) advanced quickly through the ranks of the police department, going from Detective (in "Twenty Questions") to Lieutenant (in "The Wall") to Captain (in "Lesson in Evil").


The MacGyver FAQ previously appeared at which has closed: many thanks to Melissa for giving me permission to re-post it here. Many, many thanks also to the people who wrote the information in this FAQ and put it together.

  The MacGyver F.A.Q.       Part 1       Part 2       Part 3       Part 4    

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