MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE Reviews: “The Legacy”/”The Reluctant Dragon”
“The Legacy”: This is the first episode to have Willy in it since “The Carriers” — that’s four episodes in a row without him.
And he’s just in time for Nazis! The IMF takes on the sons of four former Nazi muckamucks who hid away a fortune of Nazi treasure, and now the sons are getting together to claim the treasure and fund a Fourth Reich. Only one, von Schneer, has been identified before the meeting, and none of them have ever met, so the IMF does a little airport switcheroo and has Rollin take von Schneer’s place.
The tricky part is, the four men have their own secrets that Rollin isn’t privy to. The IMF team collectively deciphers the postcard in their captive’s belongings that tells him where and when to meet the others. They identify themselves by each drawing part of a shape in chalk — one draws a circle, the next two draw crossed lines. It’s kind of a no-brainer that what Rollin has to do is complete the swastika. Not the greatest security system there. There’s a nice shot of the three men standing in deep shadow under an arch while waiting for Rollin to draw his bit, but I couldn’t help thinking, “Will the real Nazi war criminal please stand up?” To Tell the Truth had already been on the air for a decade at this point, so I’m probably not the first person to react that way.
Rollin hits his first major snag when it turns out each of the four men has three digits of a Swiss bank account number, and Rollin doesn’t know the digits. He has to stall, refusing to divulge them to anyone but the bank manager, and he butts heads with the imperious Graff, self-appointed Fuhrer-in-training. Dan’s team must orchestrate a scheme to get the numbers before their bank appointment the next day. Oddly, instead of grilling the real von Schneer, they go after the bank manager — played by Lee Bergere, Star Trek‘s Abraham Lincoln. Wow, first Surak, now Lincoln! It’s becoming increasingly obvious, even without reading the credits, that ST and M:I had the same casting director, Joseph D’Agosta.
Anyway, Dan tells Cinnamon “You’ve just become royalty,” to which she responds with a charming “But of course” tilt of her head. As a princess planning to move to Zurich (prompting Bergere to give the charming response, “I congratulate Zurich”), she lures the bank manager to a party, where a medical colleague of Dan’s drugs the guy and hypnotizes him into giving up the number on what he believes to be his deathbed — and then to forget the whole thing afterward. Barney manages to slip Rollin the number on a matchbook just before the meeting.
(You know, I have to say — as loathsome a habit as smoking is, the cultural ubiquity of cigarettes did afford some conveniences back in the ’60s. Matchbooks were a handy way to pass information, and lighting up was a handy way to read that information without anyone noticing. And as Cinnamon has demonstrated more than once, getting out a cigarette and waiting for a man to light it was a handy way for a woman to signal interest and for the man to break the ice. All very ritualized and developed as a social mechanism. Still, I can’t imagine how awful it must’ve smelled around these people. And given that Willy was the only nonsmoker on this team, I’m amazed that all of them except for Greg Morris are still alive.)
Although the plan to get the numbers is convoluted, it’s nice to see the team hit a snag that doesn’t get resolved in the first 20 seconds of the next act, but requires them to adapt as they go. I don’t think we’ve ever seen them quite so far behind their enemies, forced to improvise and in danger of blundering due to their lack of information.
So anyway, the bank account contains nothing but a pittance of useless Nazi-era currency, as a way of hiding it from the postwar seizure of Nazi assets. The real value is in the microdot on the envelope. It’s the first part of a map, and each of the four men has another part on a piece of microfilm in his pocketwatch. (Oddly, the microdot’s image is on the same scale as the other pieces, even though the other pieces are an inch or so across and legible with the naked eye.) But wait! When the time comes for Rollin to produce his piece, he can’t find his watch! Oh, no! Has he been caught flatfooted again? Did he fail to get the watch when they captured von Schneer? Has he finally pushed Graff’s patience too far?
But when “hotel manager” Dan escorts Rollin and one of the Neo-Nazis (ironically Patrick Horgan, who played a resistance member on the Nazi planet in ST’s “Patterns of Force”) to search the lost and found, Rollin “discovers” he had the watch in his pocket all the time, and Dan punches out the Nazi. This was nicely played — since they’d set up Rollin’s earlier lack of info, we were led to believe it was happening again, but the script faked us out. Rollie was only pretending not to have the watch because he didn’t want the bad guys to get the whole map. But he has 4/5 of it memorized and draws it for the team, using his final piece to fill it in. It’s a map of a cemetery, with four grave markers forming an X to mark the spot.
But Graff and the remaining Neo-Nazi have enough of the puzzle to reason out the rest, so they’re not far behind the team. Dan and the others find that their target is a crypt labeled “Braun,” as in Eva. They don’t find anything in the crypt except two corpses (whose, I wonder?). As they head outside to search, they’re ambushed by Graff and his pal, and a gunfight ensues in which Dan is shot in the right chest. The Nazis are defeated, and the bullet hits on the crypt reveal that it’s made of solid gold (though it looks more like a thin sheet of gold leaf stuck onto the stone). The crypt is the treasure.
And it just kind of fizzles out there. We don’t know what happens next. Do they dismantle the crypt? Do they leave it there and fix the damage so the gold remains hidden? And what about Dan’s injury? He looks pretty badly hit. I wonder if that was done as a way to justify reducing Steven Hill’s presence in the series, but I wouldn’t expect that kind of continuity in this show.
Overall, a fairly clever and tense episode, though anything would be an anticlimax after “The Short Tail Spy.” And it has kind of a weak ending, degenerating into gunplay and having an overly abrupt conclusion. But I have to savor the irony of a scene where truth serum is administered to Abe Lincoln.
By the way, I noticed an interesting bit of film craft during the shootout at the end. Some of the fake bullet hits on the stone or concrete walls in the cemetery looked to me as if they weren’t standard explosive squibs, but some kind of soft projectiles hitting the wall and splashing/spattering it — maybe old-style wax bullets of the sort that were used in movies before squibs were developed, except it looked more like some kind of powder than wax. I’ve read about wax bullets in the past — they came up with all sorts of clever variations to simulate different effects on different surfaces, such as a red-tinged one for “blood” and even a kind that splattered in a way that resembled cracks in a pane of glass. I would’ve figured they were no longer in use by ’66. But given that they seemed to be using an actual cemetery as a location, they probably couldn’t use anything that would damage the scenery, so they couldn’t drill holes in the wall for squibs.
“The Reluctant Dragon”: Well, naturally, Dan’s fully recovered from his life-threatening injury last week. In fact, he’s literally back to his old self, since the tape and dossier sequences here (just like the past two episodes) are stock footage from earlier episodes. The mission is to get out an implicitly Polish scientist, Cherlotov (Joseph Campanella), who was left behind when his wife defected a year before. Dan, Rollin, and Barney consult with the wife, Karen, before Rollin and Barney slip behind the Iron Curtain to give Cherlotov a way out. Only for Rollin to discover that he’s a loyalist who had no intention of defecting! Oopsie! However, they can’t just leave him there; he’s developed an anti-ballistic missile system which could upset the global balance of power if it’s “in the wrong hands.” (Meaning that if the imbalance of power is in America’s favor, that’s okay, huh?)
So the new mission is to convince him to leave, which entails smuggling Karen into the country to win him over. Again we get a mid-episode scene in Dan’s apartment, where he confronts Karen about her failure to reveal that Cherlotov didn’t really want to defect. I get the impression they’re deliberately writing Dan’s apartment into the episodes more so they can save money by making greater use of their primary standing set. (Though not their only one. The same elevator-and-hallway set has been in practically every episode since at least “The Carriers,” and every episode from “Memory” to at least “Old Man Out” used a redress of the same prison set.)
Luckily, Rollin, in his cover as an East Berlin deputy chief of police (surprising use of real place names), has befriended the local security commissioner Jankowski, played by the charmingly villainous John Colicos. He convinces Jankowski to use an iron fist on Cherlotov, his ulterior motive being to force the scientist to see the ugly side of his country and rethink his loyalties. However, there’s a devious security measure involving passport authorization certificates printed on a magnetic paper that Barney can’t forge. So Rollin has to throw a party to get an excuse to swipe his “colleagues”‘ passports under cover of performing magic tricks, only to find they’ve already been swiped by a waitress he invited to the party. Luckily, he’s able to romance her into giving him the passports.
But Commander Kor’s aide Apollo — err, sorry, Jankowski’s aide played by Michael Forest — has discovered that Rollin’s cover identity is a fraud. Their stunt doubles have a fight (honestly, Landau’s stunt double looks nothing like him) and Rollie’s double beats Apollo’s double. Rollin thinks all is well and is persuaded to have a friendly drink with Jankowski before slipping out of the country. But Jankowski’s a few moves ahead in their chess game, and he ends up knocking out Barney and getting Rollin and the Cherlotovs at gunpoint. Rollin tries to reason with him — you hate it here, why stay? They’ve genuinely bonded. But Jankowski’s comfortable where he is and has no interest in defecting. Rollin manages to get the drop on him and they fight while the others get away. Then cliche takes over — the gun goes off between them, there’s a long pause, it looks like Rollin’s staggering, but he’s just moving away to reveal that Jankowski’s been shot. But the cliche is subverted because Jankowski isn’t dead, and Rollin gives him a handkerchief to press against the wound before he leaves, theoretically saving his life, at least by TV logic. They exchange one last look of mutual respect, and then the heroes make their getaway.
Not bad, and Colicos’ role and his relationship with Landau is enjoyable. But I have to wonder: if Cherlotov hadn’t told anyone about the missile plans he was developing, then how the hell did the IMF know about it? Sometimes the Voice on Tape seems to be clairvoyant, giving the team assignments based on information that should be unattainable.
And you know something? Given how dominant a role Rollin Hand has had in much of this season, and how many episodes have focused primarily on him with the others either absent or in secondary roles, I’m kind of surprised they brought in Peter Graves at all in the second season rather than just promoting Landau to the lead role that he already effectively had.