Archive for March 25, 2010

MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE Reviews (S2): “Operation ‘Heart'”/”The Money Machine”

“Operation ‘Heart'”: Driving through the Culver City backlot, Jim takes advantage of the old self-destructing-briefing-tape-in-the-photo-booth trick.  The mission he chooses to accept: William Bennett (not the conservative pundit, but a professor played by Aaron Fletcher) has been arrested and interrogated on (incorrect) suspicion of espionage by Stephan Gomalk (Michael Strong, previously seen in “The Trial” and as Dr. Korby in Star Trek: “What Are Little Girls Made Of?”), the security chief of an Eastern European country ruled by the benevolent President Rurich (Pernell Roberts).  Gomalk plans to assassinate Rurich and install a Communist government, and is afraid Bennett knows of the plan.  The interrogation has caused Bennett’s weak heart to fail and he’s on the brink of death.  The team must simultaneously prevent Gomalk’s coup and get Bennett out alive.

Jim goes in under his own name as a reporter covering Rurich, saving his life from an “assassination attempt” staged by Barney.  Barney’s marksmanship is apparently so good that he can safely graze Jim’s shoulder with a bullet to make it look authentic.  This is an excuse to go to the state hospital where Bennett is being held and the rest of the team is gathering.  Rollin sneaks into the hospital as a very loud, irritable old patient, the main bit of humor in the episode.  Cinnamon pretends to be Bennett’s wife, demanding to see him.  Rurich overrides Gomalk’s objections.  Gomalk has already become convinced that Bennett wasn’t a spy after all, but Cinnamon’s job is to make it look like he is, first by getting “caught” trying to poison him, then by planting a handkerchief with a secret message about “Anniversary,” the code name for Gomalk’s coup.  With Rurich now made suspicious, Gomalk (who had been willing to let Bennett die) now finds it imperative to allow the surgery that can save Bennett, conducted by the IMF team’s doctor of the week along with Gomalk’s hench-doctor, so that he can dispel Rurich’s suspicions.

Meanwhile, Barney’s put together a fake bomb in an oxygen tank and Willy smuggles it into the OR.  With the surgery underway, Rollin (now switched to a doctor disguise) “discovers” the bomb and calls in the bomb squad (Barney and Willy).  It’s a pretext to get the hospital evacuated so the team can hold the hench-doctor at gunpoint and arrange to take him out of the hospital, an attempt that allegedly brings him to the brink of death.  The “bomb squad” smuggles the real Bennett out in a hidden compartment while Rollin disguises himself as Bennett long enough to make a deathbed utterance implicating Gomalk in Rurich’s presence.  Rurich undermines his good-guy cred by shooting Gomalk right there without a trial.

This is an awkward plot, because it depends on the team knowing that certain chance factors will turn out the way they want.  Bennett’s ability to survive the dangerous conditions they subject him to is convenient.  Most of all, though, how did they know that Gomalk would already have satisfied himself that Bennett wasn’t an agent?  At first, it looked like maybe Gomalk had gotten ahead of them, that he was seeing through their plans and would become an obstacle.  But the whole plan actually depended on Gomalk knowing that the evidence against Bennett was faked, so that he’d have an incentive to allow the life-saving procedure.  What if he’d been more paranoid than they’d expected and refused to accept Bennett’s innocence no matter what?  It’s improbable that they could’ve anticipated his reactions so perfectly.

The music here is credited to Gerald Fried, but there are hardly any new cues as far as I could tell; the score is mostly stock cues from Fried’s earlier two scores this season (including some Latin-styled music from “Trek” incongruously accompanying the Eastern European leader Rurich) and from one of Scharf’s episodes.  All in all, not an impressive episode musically or otherwise.


“The Money Machine”: An “Empty” button on a cigarette vending machine provides Jim with a miniature tape (or wire) player and miniature photos.  The mini-mission: in the fictitious African country of Ghalea, banker/counterfeiter Walter DuBruis (Brock Peters) has stolen a bunch of paper from the mint and plans to use it to make perfect counterfeits and ruin the economy and do other bad stuff.  The team has to stop him and retrieve the stolen paper.  They have the cooperation of Ghalea’s deputy finance minister Giroux (Rockne Tarkington), probably the highest-ranking person to participate in one of the apartment briefing scenes.  Otherwise, the team is the usual suspects minus Willy, his second absence this season.  (Jim is asked to destroy the mini-tape “in the usual manner,” a bit of a blast from the past; but it simply involves tossing it into a nearby metal barrel, whereupon the usual burst of smoke emerges.  The mechanism of its destruction is unclear.)

Rollin plays a bank patron who gives DuBruis a lot of money to open an account and then has a convenient epileptic fit, allowing DuBruis to go through his pockets and find a bank statement revealing he doesn’t have that much money.  He checks with his engraver and is told that, except for the paper, they’re perfect counterfeits of a series that came out only three weeks earlier, an impossibly fast operation.  DuBruis takes Rollin home with the help of Doctor Barney, who treats Rollin’s “temporary amnesia” with sodium pentothal and then conveniently leaves so DuB. can question him about the counterfeits.  Rollie reveals to Dubby (I’ll call him Dubby now, it’s easier to type) that the bills were created with a computer.

Meanwhile, Cinnamon has spent a few days establishing herself as an investor following copper stocks.  She contacts Dubby and hints that she has insider information; when pressed, she reveals that her husband has made a big strike that hasn’t yet been reported.  Dubby has a chance to clean up, if he buys up all possible stock in the company before the news breaks.  But to buy it all, he needs more money than he has, and fast.  If only he had a miraculous computer to print counterfeit money for him instantly!

So he makes Rollin take him to his partner Jim and show him the machine, played by Barney.   That is, Barney’s the man behind the curtain faking the machine’s operation from within it.  Dubby watches in awe as the machine does its work and offers a sheet of the stolen paper as a test.  The bills come out flawlessly (since they were actually pre-printed by the Ghalean mint at Giroux’s orders and switched for the blank paper by Barney inside the machine).  Dubby’s men storm the place; he plans to take the machine for himself.  Commercial time!

Here’s where the logic of the story falls apart.  The act-break crisis is resolved when a bulletproof-vested and masked Barney comes out of the back of the truck with a rifle and shoots one of Dubby’s goons, convincing the others to retreat.  Now, moments before, Dubby had been in the back of that truck and seen it empty save for himself, Jim, and the computer.  There was no way in or out of the back of the truck except the rear door Jim had locked behind him and now unlocked.  And suddenly there’s a guy in there with a gun.  The only place that guy could’ve been was in hiding within the computer.  So this should’ve exposed the scam and ruined the plan.  But Dubby never questions how this man got into the back of the truck.  (Not to mention, how did they know to equip the back of the truck with a bulletproof vest and a mask?)  I wonder if maybe this was originally written with Willy being the gunman (emerging from somewhere else in the room) and was sloppily rewritten when it was decided Willy’s part was small enough to eliminate altogether.

Anyway, the next day, Dubby brings all his stolen paper to Jim so he can computify it into funny money.  Jim inserts the paper into the machine and Barney swaps it out for the pre-printed bills.  In this way, they recover the stolen paper.  As for the phony bills — well, actually real bills, since the mint printed them, so I guess that makes them counterfeit counterfeits — hey, two wrongs do make a right! — where was I?  Deep breath… As for the bills Dubby is now racing to the bank to pay for his accumulated stock, they’ve been printed with a special ink.  When Cinnamon uses her lighter to trigger some sonic gizmos Jim slipped in with the bills, it liquefies the ink.  Dubby is left with two satchels full of wet, inky paper, totally worthless, and has no way to pay for his attempted stock speculation.  He’s ruined, the paper is recovered, and once again the day is saved.

Aside from the logic hole with Barney in the truck, not a bad episode.  The fake computer is a cute gimmick.  Barney gets to stretch himself, doing role-play as the doctor in the first half and serving as firepower later on.  Brock Peters is his usual sonorous self.  The music is all stock, but reuses some good bits.

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