Home > Reviews > MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE Reviews: “Zubrovnik’s Ghost”/”Fakeout”

MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE Reviews: “Zubrovnik’s Ghost”/”Fakeout”

“Zubrovnik’s Ghost”: The mission briefing this week is in a doctor’s office, with the recording on some kind of dictaphone disk — something like a small phonograph record, but on a thin, flexible sheet of plastic-ish material. It’s a format I’ve never seen the likes of, I guess a short-lived technology. The photos were transparencies for the doctor’s backlit thingy for viewing x-rays.

At first I thought this would be an interesting change of pace. The mission: An important American scientist lost her husband a year ago, and an enemy agent has been exploiting her belief in the supernatural to convince her that her husband’s ghost wants her to defect. Rollin and Barney are assigned to fake their own ghost and convince her not to.

The third team member is Ariana Domi, played by Martine Bartlett (who’s kind of like a slightly shriller Louise Fletcher). She purports to be a real medium, and though Dan knows she’s actually a charlatan, he tries to convince Rollin and Barney otherwise.

So I was interested in where this was going to go. For one thing, it had the potential to be an inversion of the formula: instead of pulling a scam, they’d be confronting an enemy agent pulling his own scam and trying to figure it out. There was some of that going on, up to a point. For another thing, I was intrigued by the question of why Dan would want one of his operatives deceiving the other two.

Unfortunately, the episode turned out to be a jumble of mystical hogwash. Even though both mediums were fakes, there were mysterious things happening all through the episode with bees and wolf-dogs and thunderstorms and stuff. One of the bad guys was driven out a window to his death by a swarm of bees, and at the end, the spirit of the beekeeper who was murdered in order to fake Zubrovnik’s death (long story) apparently used smoke to herd the main bad guy into the room where he was attacked and killed by a swarm of bees (simulated ridiculously with strings of fake bees hanging down from the ceiling intercut with stock footage). Rollin and Barney never got to pull their fake seance because the power went out. Ariana finally admitted to them that her channeling of Zubrovnik had been faked, although it wasn’t explained how she pulled it off, and the rest of the stuff with the bees and smoke was pretty much presented as genuine supernatural activity, though the fake medium Ariana didn’t seem at all affected by that revelation. And we never got any explanation for why Dan didn’t want them to know she was a fake. Ultimately, the whole thing was rather incoherent. I would’ve rather seen the story I was expecting to see, the role-reversal piece where the bad guys are pulling the scam and the good guys are penetrating and countering it.

Another bizarre touch was that Rollin, Barney, and Ariana used their real names, even though they were playing roles! I could sort of understand them doing that with the American scientist, who was technically one of the good guys, but there were enemy agents there as well, so why wouldn’t the team be undercover as usual? But it’s interesting as, I believe, the first time we hear Martin Landau actually speak the name “Rollin Hand.”

There are a couple of good points here. One, there’s actually an explanation this time for why Dan isn’t along on the mission: the scientist has met him before and would recognize him. Clearly they’re already beginning to diminish Steven Hill’s role to accommodate his availability issues (i.e. he wouldn’t work on the Sabbath because of his Orthodox Judaism). Two, there’s a nice bit where the hench-agent locks Barney and Rollin in a storeroom and Barney whips up an electromagnet out of spare parts to pull the bolt from the inside. MacGyver was a latecomer.

No new music in this one, I think. So far we’ve had complete or partial original scores in the first 10 episodes and a stock score in the 11th. Meanwhile, Star Trek had original music in the first 8 episodes (discounting the two pilots), though it used more stock music in them. ST did have original music in three more episodes in the first season, the 11th, 16th, and 27th (again not counting the pilots), so that’s 11 in all. I wonder if M:I’s music budget was similar. So far it’s had four composers, while ST’s first 11 episodes used three, with the season as a whole using five.

Gee, it’d be too bad if the music were all stock for the rest of the season. Up to now, the music’s been one of the greatest strengths of the series.

By the way, I described the dictation-machine thingy from “Zubrovnik’s Ghost” to my father, who was in broadcasting for decades and thus pretty knowledgeable about recording technologies of the past, and he couldn’t remember ever encountering anything like it. Maybe it was a special design for doctors and others who needed to do dictation, or maybe it was a flash-in-the-pan technology that either didn’t work out or was quickly supplanted by something better — most likely cassette tape recorders, which came into use for dictation in the late ’60s, according to Wikipedia. (It took a few more years before their quality became good enough for music recording.)

Hmm — come to think of it, it’s odd that for the entire run of M:I, the tape-recorded messages were delivered on reel-to-reel devices, never cassettes as far as I’ve seen (unless you count the 8-track tape in episode 3 or 4, I think it was). There are plenty of episodes I haven’t seen yet, but they seemed to use the tape pretty consistently from the third season onward, without the variety of mission-delivery options seen in season 1. I wonder why they didn’t use cassettes. Was it just because the reel-to-reel player became such a trademark of the show?

On the 1988 revival, the briefings came on miniature CDs of a sort that were an invention of the show; minidiscs were not yet available in real life. So they pretty much skipped right over cassettes.

——–

“Fakeout”: A standard tape this time, delivered to Dan by a pigeon-keeper. He disposes of it in a fire afterward. The mission: Lloyd Bridges is an international drug kingpin, living in a country with no extradition to the US. Barney finds and swipes his heroin shipment, fighting and killing henchman Sid Haig (not yet bearded, almost unrecognizable) along the way. (The stunt doubles look nothing like them.) Cinnamon seduces him, Dan shows up as the jealous husband, turns out to be blackmail that Bridges catches onto. Barney hides the heroin in his room and calls the cops. Dan and Cinnamon strike, tie up the cops, steal the heroin. Cinnamon pretends to be delayed long enough to get caught by Bridges while Dan abandons her. She leads Bridges to Dan and the drugs, a chase ensues, and they switch road signs to trick Bridges into crossing the border into a friendly country, where he’s arrested promptly and the extradition papers are handed over.

Not much to say. Another small team, for once without Rollin. Interesting how they get Rollie to play people who are lovey-dovey with Cinnamon’s character, but when the guy needs to be confrontational with her, they get someone else.

Bridges’ character is cold and unlikeable, which makes it easy to root for his capture but not easy to enjoy the scenes of seduction between him and Cinnamon. She was also playing it a lot less vampy and sexy, more sharp-edged like Bridges, which wasn’t as fun to watch.

Still no new music, as far as I could tell. Lots of stock Walter Scharf music, though, which was nice.

I keep wondering about the other agent photos in the dossier scene, the people who never get picked. These are members of the production staff and their families, but in-universe I wonder who they are. Does Dan (or Jim Phelps) ever pick them for missions we don’t see on TV? Are they maybe used by other IMF teams? Does the IMF provide the list of candidates with Dan or Jim choosing their preferences, or is it Dan/Jim who assembles the dossier? (The fact that Phelps takes over Briggs’ entire team rather than using his own people argues for the former, I think.)

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