On July 27 in 2016, Executive Producer Peter Lenkov posted a picture of himself; shouldering a certain missile prop on the MacGyver Reboot set.
He deleted the picture a few hours later; maybe aware that he had just given a HUGE Easter Egg away – although it was still two months before the Season 1 Premiere. (Even Non-MacGyver-Fans know about the famous missile shot with Richard Dean Anderson that still serves as the probably most famous Promo Picture for the Original Show.)
Interestingly, the online conversation and speculations between fans of the Original Show soon shifted to something that was on the table behind Lenkov – the Yellow Rubber Duckies.
Why? It’s a fact that Original MacGyver Richard Dean Anderson has an affinity for Rubber Duckies. Back when RDA was still active on Twitter, he had posted pictures of him with/or of Yellow Rubber Duckies several times.
In an article about RDA’s Malibu Home from 2009, rubber duckies are mentioned living in the bathroom of Richard’s daughter Wylie.
There is a photo of RDA napping with a yellow duck on his chest. The picture was taken in July 2000, on a trip with Bobby Kennedy for an expedition to Headwall Canyon, a very remarkable wilderness 60 miles outside Vancouver. The 7-day excursion was filmed as part of the “National Geographic Explorer” series and aired in October 2000.
On BtS set pictures of the original show, you can see a single Yellow Rubber Ducky in MacGyver’s kitchen on the Houseboat Set.
Back to the present. (Well, the recent past.)
A few weeks later after Lenkov’s vanishing photo, there was an Instagram Post by one of the set decorators – consisting of a picture with LOTS of stranded Rubber Duckies; waiting for better things to come.
Was it just a coincidence instead of an hommage? One of the set decorators stumbling over these homeless duckies for a bargain, and thinking they would make a great prop?
Fun Fact: Inserting interesting props as a visual signature is nothing new. If you’ve seen RDA’s other longtime-series “Stargate SG-1”, you might have noticed that in almost every episode directed by William Waring, there’s a pineapple in one of the scenes.
Some of these battered-looking Yellow Rubber Duckies had quite the career. On September 23rd last year, the Duckies had their prominent premiere in the Pilot Episode (The Rising). It’s quite the important scene, because the Duckies are present when the Phoenix Foundation is born.
On October 26, Stand-In Briana Lamb posted a close-up of the Duckies “swimming” in the empty bowl.
They made another appearance in Episode 1×03 (Awl), in the scene where Jack gets MacGyver to finally reach out to his father and write a letter.
The “career high” was probably in Episode 1×05 (Toothpick), when the Duckies were featured in a longer scene between Bozer and Riley.
(Is this Rubber Ducky Cruelty, by the way?)
(Note that there is another Easter Egg plainly visible on Bozer’s sweater.)
Interestingly, they used another set of Duckies for Justin Hires and Tristin Mays to hit with the racket. This might have been a decision purely for aesthetic reasons since these Duckies have a richer yellow color and therefore more visibility in the shot. They probably bought them brand new.
In the swimming pool, it was the “old” Duckies having a swim.
Still Photographer Guy D’Alema captured both sets of Duckies in this BtS picture (January 2017).
In Episode 1×08 (Corkscrew), we get to see where the Duckies hibernate: In Bozer’s bedroom.
In Episode 1×11 (Scissors), the Duckies are almost hidden. Look closely!
More cruelty against innocent Rubber Duckies happens in Episode 1×16 (Hook). When Riley is playing “Truth or Dare” with Team Phoenix, Jack lobbs the Duckies at her; trying to disctract her and win the game.
The most secret appearance of one single Ducky probably happens during the Crossover-Episode with Hawaii Five-0. Look on the right side, under the chair. Sneaky!
The last appearance I noticed was in the Season Finale, when MacGyver tells Jack about the letter. During the scene, the Duckies are partially hidden – either by the credits or by the MacGyvered prop on the table.
It’s possible I missed some more appearances, of course. (If you know something I don’t – that’s what the comment section is for.)
It’s still not entirely clear to me what the Yellow Rubber Duckies are about. I do think they might be an hommage to RDA, but who knows. They could be an hommage to CBS and its show “Big Brother” (because a yellow rubber ducky has been a regular in Big Brother houses for several seasons and you can actually buy a yellow rubber duck with the Big Brother logo at the CBS Store).
We might hear about it on the DVD Extras. We might see them again in Season 2. I hope we do, actually. They’re cute.