Thief of Budapest

Episode:  003

Production No.: 40191-004

Airdate:   13 October 1985

Director:  John Patterson

Writer:    Joe Viola

Gambit Director:  Lee H. Katzin

Gambit Writer:  Terry Nation & Stephen Downing

Nielsen Ratings:  13.0 rating / 19 share / 3rd (47th overall)




MacGyver is sent to Northern Africa to retrieve a stolen horse. While getting to the horse is easy enough, escaping the horse’s thieves proves somewhat more difficult as the alarm is soon raised and MacGyver finds himself in a jousting duel as he waits for the chopper to arrive to airlift both him and the horse to safety.



MacGyver travels to Budapest to pick up secret information from his old spy friend, Nikolai Grodsky; But the pickup is foiled when his friend is killed and the pocket watch containing the information is pick-pocketed from the dead agent by a young Gypsy thief.

The Gypsy girl is soon tracked down by the agents who had Grodsky killed and her family are thrown in jail. MacGyver then embarks on a mission to free her family, not only from the prison they’re being held in, but from the country itself.




Richard Dean AndersonMacGyver
Michael ConstantineInspector Jan Messic
Bruce AbbottNikolaj Kossov
Kelly McClainJana
Sue KielReena
E.M. MargoleseAlex
Charles RaymondStephan
Robert HallakBruno
John PrudhontPeter
Sid HaigKhan
Nicholas KadiNikolaj Grodsky
Charles Joseph Martin… Cernik
T. Lee Griffin… Lanko
Magda Harout… Women
Jim Gosa… Grosz
Tony Epper… Bartender (uncredited)



Placed light bulbs between boards and slid under a truck to be run over to simulate a tire blowout.

Used salt, sugar, weed killer, and battery acid to make an explosive.

Undid steering wheel and snapped off the key of the tractor so it couldn’t be stopped or steered

Tied razor wire to the back of the tractor to stop guards

Unknown powder thrown in the air ignites with a match to make a distracting explosion.

Made a magnifying glass using a hairpin and white wine

Messed up the traffic signal with slices of a credit card.

Taped radio and police walkie-talkie together to jam police communications with music.

Tied MacGyvered radio jammer to helium balloons to lift them up high enough to reach all police cars.


  • The opening gambit stunt of lifting a galloping horse by helicopter earned an award for “Best Specialist stunt” in the 1986 Stuntman Awards.
  • The horse lifting stunt is regarded by stuntman Norman Howell as one of his favorite stunts which he says was so much fun to do that it’s one of the few stunts he wanted to do a second take but was turned down by the director because it went perfectly in the first take.
  • Much of the racing footage of the Mini Coopers through Budapest used stock footage from the 1969 movie “The Italian Job.”
  • MacGyver states that he doesn’t drink.
  • This is the first episode we see MacGyver’s brown “bomber” jacket.
  • Although spelled differently, it’s speculated that we see the same Major Nikolaj Kossov in the season 3 episode Lost Love (part 1 & 2) where Kossov seeks revenge for MacGyver’s escape in this episode.
  • In an interview, Kelly McClain explained that her voice was dubbed over because no-one told her she was supposed to be speaking with a gypsy accent, so she spoke all her lines in her every-day American accent.



  • Typical. Just when you’re getting ahead, somebody always changes the odds.  – MacGyver
  • I see the beautiful people just stopped in to have a quick cocktail before the ballet.  – MacGyver
  • “I’m with you pal, I hate heights.”  – MacGyver
  • “Some people are scared of anybody who runs free.”  – MacGyver
  • The man who said life is just a bowl of cherries had it wrong. It’s a bowl of Hungarian goulash– hot and sticky. And I’m not that hungry.  – MacGyver
  • My mom had a chili recipe that would just about blow your socks off. A shake of this, a pinch of that, and just let it cook. I changed the ingredients a little; Salt, sugar, weed killer. I wouldn’t want to eat it, but the end result should be dynamite.  – MacGyver



  • Yanna asks why the police brought her family to the prison and she asks MacGyver if it has something to do with the watch. When the camera is behind MacGyver and Yanna, you can see MacGyver lower his binoculars down to just in front of his chin. When the camera moves to MacGyver’s right side, the binoculars that should be right in front of him are nowhere in sight.
  • Whan MacGyver encounters Yanna for the 2nd time & asks her to return his swiss army knife and the watch she stole from him. After a bit of haggling the tells him “OK MacGyver, I’ll get you your watch” The problem here is that at NO point during their 1st or 2nd encounter did MacGyver tell Yanna his name.
  • While trying to get across the border, MacGyver and Yanna’s family are driving through buildings and outdoor restaurants. In one scene a grey security car pulls up to block the 3 cars and a guy in a white shirt and black pants can be seen slowly moving out of the way. Then, when the camera switches to the other side of the security car, the guy is gone even though he should be visible towards the center of the screen.
  • At the end of the car chase scene, when the bad guys come out of the pipe and go into the river, the car passes by the camera from right to left. At that moment, you can see that the two people inside the car are, in fact, crash test dummies.
  • If you look at the number plates on the police cars, before MacGyver messes with the traffic lights, then you’ll see that their Hungarian plates, but when they go to the stolen scenes from the Italian Job, the number plates become Italian, then at the border they’re back to being Hungarian again!


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