MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE (S6) Reviews: “Bag Woman”/”Double Dead” (spoilers)
“Bag Woman”: We see mob “button man” Luke Jenkins (Georg Stanford Brown) make a contact with a courier — a “bag man” — to deliver a payoff. He notices the courier is being tailed by an undercover agent, whom he then intercepts and kills as Jenkins’s dog looks on. Jim asks for directions at a garage and gets the tape, informing him that the mob controls a major politician in “a western state.” The mission is to identify the politician, known only as “C6,” and gather evidence to bring him down. We’re informed that Jenkins works for mobster Harry Fife (Robert Colbert of The Time Tunnel, but with Gabe Kaplan hair and moustache).
With the aforementioned bag man burned, Fife needs a new one, and Jenkins recruits a woman he knows to deliver the next payoff to C6. The team arrests the woman so Casey can take her place, delivering the money to C6 so that she can secretly photograph and ID him. Then they cooperate with Jenkins’s veterinarian Dr. Bob Miller (Lew Brown) to lure Jenkins into his office, knock him out, and cage his vicious dog so that Barney can take his place (Jenkins’s place, not the dog’s). That way Barney-as-Jenkins can vouch for Casey and also empty Fife’s safe. But unknown to him, before this happened, Fife confided in Jenkins that he put a bomb in the money case since C6 was getting too greedy. When Barney vouches for Casey and sends her off — chained to the case at Fife’s insistence — he’s unwittingly signing her death sentence. (Casey drives to LA to make the payoff, which suggests that the “western state” must be California.)
Barney’s almost tripped up when he doesn’t know about a bottle of rare scotch that Jenkins brought Fife as a gift before the substitution, but he barely manages to cover. As Fife boasts about his plans over the drink, Barney pieces together that Casey’s life is in danger, and he says he has to go try to spring his dog from the vet. It’s an ironic excuse, since the vet’s assistant left the dog’s cage unlocked and he’s broken free. Barney opens Fife’s front door to see the dog barrelling toward him. The dog attacks him, and his mask comes loose in the struggle. Fife and his henchman question Barney, but he makes a break for it. He gets away, but not before he sustains a bullet graze to the temple. Concussed, he wanders the streets until he reaches the office of Dr. Walter Manning (Russ Conway) and gives him Jim’s number, warning him lives are at stake, before passing out. Jim arrives to learn that Barney’s been taken to the hospital, and he convinces Manning to go there with him.
Meanwhile, Casey meets her contact and drives off with him, and Willy attempts to follow. But he gets in a car accident that destroys his tracking receiver. Casey’s on her own. And Jim’s away from his radio phone so he doesn’t get the message.
At the hospital, Barney forces himself to consciousness and manages to tell Jim about the bomb. Jim calls Willy and learns what’s happened. So Jim needs to improvise a new plan if he wants to save Casey. There’s an interesting scene where Jim is in the room with the unconscious, tied-up Jenkins, thinking to himself about how to proceed. He begins to loosen Jenkins’s ropes, then has another idea, breaking a bottle on the floor, then injecting Jenkins with a stimulant and leaving him to free himself with the glass shards so that he’ll think he got away on his own. Jim then calls on Fife as a senior gangster whose visit he’s been expecting (this was mentioned in the apartment scene, even though they didn’t know it would come into play), and drops hints that C6 is irreplaceable to the syndicate, so that Fife will have Jenkins go to a pay phone and call C6′s office (so the call can’t be traced to him). Jim uses binoculars to get the phone number as Jenkins dials, then gets the address from the police and calls Willy. But in the meantime, Casey is still in danger. Alerting C6 and his man to the bomb also means alerting them that Casey’s working for law enforcement. When she resists interrogation, C6′s man is about to shoot her when Willy bursts in and takes him down, arresting C6 in the process. Finally, we cut to a shot of Barney emerging from the Paramount office building, which is once again being used as a hospital facade. There’s a rather nice 360-degree camera move around the team as they read the news of C6′s indictment and Barney says he’s feeling fine.
This is a refreshing episode, co-written (with Norman Katkov) by Ed Adamson, who wrote the fifth-season high point “The Amateur.” It’s a return to the fifth-season form where anything could go wrong with a mission and often did. There’s a palpable sense of danger throughout, and it’s intriguing to watch Jim’s thought process at work as he ad-libs a new plan. The one significant problem is the contrivance of Casey being chained to the case, something that various characters react to as an unusual modification of the plan. If this isn’t the way it’s usually done, then it’s uncertain why Fife does it this time. Maybe it’s a way to ensure that only C6 opens the bag, but that isn’t made sufficiently clear, so it feels like it’s contrived just to place Casey in danger. Aside from that, though, this is one of the season’s strongest.
“Double Dead”: Aah big scary purple dog cyclops thing!! Oh, it’s just a closeup of a rather ugly stuffed toy at a carnival. Unusually for this season, we’re opening with Jim getting the mission tape. Rudy Blake (Lou Antonio) and Ollie Shanks (Paul Koslo) are close friends who lead the loan-sharking operation on “the Islands” (presumably the Hawaiian ones) for the syndicate, and the mission is to relieve them of their 10 million dollars’ worth of profits to put them out of business and prevent the syndicate from getting a tighter hold. We cut right to the mission in progress as the team knocks out a guard and uses a faked voice on the phone to pass Willy off as his prearranged replacement. This lets Willy get into Blake & Shanks’s office, where he uses a latex glove with Shanks’s palmprint to open its safe and begin hiding the money in his jacket lining. But Shanks chooses that moment to bring a horny ladyfriend up to his office, and Willy is discovered. He tries to fight his way out of the building, but knocks himself out during an overzealous tackle. Oh noes! Cue titles!
The team — including guest member Steve Wells (Hank Brandt) — meets in an airport lounge to devise a new plan. Of course Jim is all about completing the mission first and doing what they can to save Willy while they’re at it. Plan B involves a baby leopard (called “Kitty”) that’s trained to run into Shanks’s house on cue, with its “owner” Casey following behind to arrange a meet-cute with the womanizing Shanks. It’s funny watching Kitty steal the scene, going wild on her leash and quite literally chewing the scenery, while the actors do their best to carry on with their dialogue.
Jim takes the place of Mulvaney, one of two mobsters working for mainland syndicate head Mr. Bolt, the man expecting to get paid that $10 mil. He says the other, Travis, had to stay behind. After Blake and Jim meet Shanks and Casey and arrange a business dinner, Steve calls up Shanks and tells him a private plane he ordered has arrived. Casey goes with him to pick it up, and when they celebrate with some champagne, it knocks Shanks out. Barney and Jim arrive and take Shanks with them, breaking into his office (represented in the exteriors by the side of the Paramount office building) and using his hand to open the palmprint lock. They have perennially bad timing this week; they’re interrupted by a guard (Wesley Lau in his last and smallest M:I role) who comes in to pilfer some of Blake & Shanks’s booze, but they manage to go undetected this time and complete the theft. At this point, the nominal mission goal is complete; the rest of the scheme is all about finding Willy, though it takes a while to get there.
Jim then goes to the planned dinner with Blake, but Shanks is missing. Blake has his man call the air service and Steve tells him there’s been an accident. This leads them to the hospital, where Casey claims their plane crashed in the sea and she saw the sharks get Shanks before she swam to the seashore (where she sold seashells?). But business comes first, and when they go to the office, Blake and Jim find the money is gone. Jim suggests that Shanks may have faked his death to abscond with the loot, and Blake sends his man to watch Casey while he calls Mr. Bolt, who catches the next plane out.
Meanwhile, Blake has brought in Dr. Matier (Maurice Marsac) to interrogate Willy using a dangerous and painful truth serum. Matier’s nurse, Penyo (Irene Tsu), is clearly distressed by the torture, and when they’re alone, Willy pleads with her to help him. She says she owes Matier a debt of honor for saving her father from political imprisonment, and feels she must obey him even though she knows it’s wrong. She pleads with Willy to cooperate before it’s too late.
Blake’s man follows Casey from the hospital to the air service, where she wakes up Shanks and takes him home, making sure she says as much while in earshot of the watcher. So when they get home, they find Blake and Jim waiting for them and demanding to know where the money is. Casey acts all guilty, but Shanks is confused. He accuses Blake of being the thief, and Jim admits it’s a possibility. Just then, Barney comes in and mock-shoots Jim and Casey to death, saying he’s Travis (the partner of the guy Jim’s impersonating) and that the others were cops. Then Bolt (Vincent Beck) arrives, seeing the “corpses,” and says that Shanks’s parties are getting wilder.
Willy is still resisting the drug, and when Matier orders another dose dangerously soon, Penyo protests, earning a rebuke. She complies with his order to prepare a syringe — but fills it with saline rather than the drug. Willy’s pleas have begun to reach her conscience.
Bolt demands to know what happened to the money, and Blake & Shanks realize the only one left who might know is the guard they captured, i.e. Willy. This lets the team follow them to where Willy’s being held. Blake & Shanks order another dose of the drug, but Penyo’s had enough, and surreptitiously cuts Willy’s bonds with a scalpel. He breaks free and flees with her to where the rest of the team is waiting with a getaway car. (Why were they waiting outside instead of bursting in? They couldn’t have known she’d free him.) The mobsters have lost the loot and the prisoner, but Blake says to Bolt that at least he knows neither Blake nor Shanks stole the money. ”Do I?” Bolt asks, pointing his gun at them.
This was a good one, written by Jackson Gillis and Laurence Heath. For the second week in a row we’re seeing the return of the fifth season’s Murphy’s Law approach, stories built around the plans going wrong and the team facing genuine danger. It’s also like the fifth season in its more character-driven approach, giving Willy his first real dramatic focus of the series. There was that subplot with Brooke Bundy in “The Controllers” in season 4, but he didn’t have any actual dialogue there. This is the first time we’ve seen a story with Willy engaging someone with words, making a personal connection as a key part of the plot. It’s long overdue. And between his dialogue with Penyo and his reactions to the drugs and duress, it’s the most acting that Peter Lupus has been called on to do in the entire series, and he handles it well.
There’s a bit of new music here, in the form of some Hawaiian-styled source music and some slightly new arrangements of stock cues with ukulele riffs added. There’s no composer credited; perhaps the show’s music supervisor Kenyon Hopkins handled the new cues.