Home > Reviews > MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE (S2) Reviews: “The Astrologer”/”Echo of Yesterday”

MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE (S2) Reviews: “The Astrologer”/”Echo of Yesterday”

“The Astrologer”: The tape is in the booth at a parking lot, and it’s one of those that says “please destroy in the usual manner” yet is destroyed in a manner we’ve never seen before (spontaneously immolating when placed in an ashtray).  The mission: An exiled leader, Curzon (I’m guessing on the spelling), has been captured by the junta that overthrew him, along with a microfilm holding the names of his resistance contacts back home.  He’s being held captive in an unknown location prior to being taken back home for interrogation.  Even though the team doesn’t know where he is, they must rescue him and prevent the exposure of the agents on the microfilm.

They do this by getting themselves invited aboard the plane that deputy premier Grigov (David Hurst, Hodin from Star Trek‘s “The Mark of Gideon”) will be taking back home.  Cinnamon gets herself invited by posing as a world-famous astrologer (gee, these plans would never work in the age of Google) who predicts a plot against the premier back home.  Odd that they’d take this tack, since Grigov is a skeptic; but he knows the premier is a believer, and a little pushy questioning from Jim as a reporter makes Grigov unwilling to risk not warning the premier and thereby earning his wrath.  Conveniently, the never-seen premier sounds exactly like Martin Landau with a gruff Slavic accent, so Rollin will impersonate him over the phone.  Their plan almost hits a snag when the real premier calls Grigov, but Barney disconnects him and cuts in Rollin, whereupon they stage a little audio play of a hapless aide falling victim to a trap that would’ve killed the premier if not for Cinnamon’s warning.  Premier Rollie orders Grigov to invite Cinnamon on the plane before stopping to pick up Curzon at the hidden location.  (They’re at the Paris airport, yet the phone box Barney taps into is labeled in English on the inside.)

After Cinnamon’s steamer trunks are pre-checked by Grigov’s man, Willy switches them out with duplicate trunks hiding Barney and Rollin inside.  They think they’ll have enough air in the luggage compartment to do their work, but as the plane rises above the clouds (and transforms into a completely different aircraft on grainier stock footage), they discover the air supply is cut off.  So they must hasten to drill an air hole into the conference room overhead to survive — about 30 seconds sooner than they would’ve cut a hole into the same compartment anyway.  Well, that was anticlimactic.

While Barney wires the conference room radio to transmit only to his rig in the luggage compartment, Cinnamon convinces Grigov that there’s a Scorpio out to destroy him.  When they land, they pick up the drugged Curzon and his captor Col. Stahl (Steve Ihnat, Garth of Izar from Trek’s “Whom Gods Destroy”).  Stahl doesn’t by Grigov’s story about Cinnamon saving the premier’s life, since he just talked to the premier and found he’d sustained an injury that made the story impossible.  By all rights, this should’ve blown the IMF’s plan wide open, yet Stahl is inexplicably persuaded by a call to fake-premier Rollin.  At least Grigov’s continued credulity makes sense, because he and Stahl hate each other and Grigov assumes Stahl is just trying to screw him over.  And it just so happens that Stahl is a Scorpio…

Stahl and Grigov place the microfilm in the plane’s safe; conveniently for the IMF, the premier has ordered it to remain sealed until he gets his own hands on it.  Rollin switches it for a fake microfilm naming Grigov as a traitor.  Cinnamon tips them both off one by one; Grigov sees the forgery and blames it on Stahl, and Stahl catches him in the act of trying to burn the microfilm with his name on it.  Stahl arrests Grigov, along with his aide who’s also named on the forged film, leaving Curzon unguarded.

This lets Barney and Rollin bring in the main gimmick, a lifelike automaton of Curzon — actually actor Robert Tiedemann holding very, very still.  (Oddly, Tiedemann was billed as “Automaton” rather than “Curzon.”  Probably because the automaton got more screen time and more action.)  This, err, Life Model Decoy can only do one thing, move its left arm downward.  We were told at the start that this was all it would need to do.  After rescuing the real Curzon, they set up the dummy with its hand on the emergency hatch release and set off the alarm, bringing Stahl just in time to see “Curzon” pull the lever and eject from the plane, falling to his “death.”

So once the team disembarks, they’ve arranged things so that Stahl will be blamed for forging the microfilm and losing Curzon.  I think.  Maybe Stahl will be blamed for losing Curzon and Grigov will be charged with treason.  Either way, the bad guys are doomed and the day is saved, and as usual, none of the obstacles the team faced at the act breaks troubled them for more than a minute or two thereafter.

——

“Echo of Yesterday”: Jim gets the message on an 8-track tape in a car on the street.  It’s Nazis again: this time Col. von Frank (Eric Braeden, last seen as Cinnamon’s love interest in “The Short Tail Spy”) is the leader of the neo-Nazi movement in Germany.  He has the support of Otto Kelmann (Wilfrid Hyde-White), the latest of three generations of munitions developers who’ve backed various German war efforts, including the Nazis.  Kelmann is about to hand over his munitions factories and wealth to von Frank, giving the latter the base he’ll need to become the next Hitler.  The mission, naturally, is to stop them.

Now, at first I was a bit surprised to see the perennially adorable Wilfrid Hyde-White cast as a villain.  But it turned out that wasn’t really his role.  Kelmann is more misguided than evil; he believes that Nazism represents a set of noble principles and that the orchestrators of the Holocaust corrupted it.  Even though Hitler personally murdered Kelmann’s wife for opposing him, Kelmann let Hitler convince him that it was necessary, and has repressed his anger for decades in support of what he believed to be a greater purpose.  The team’s goal is to reawaken his sense of moral outrage by reminding him of his tragedy.  As it happens, his late wife bore a resemblance to Cinnamon (though not the usual exact resemblance).  So she takes the role of a young photographer (his wife’s profession as well) and arranges a meet-cute with Kelmann, although it’s more of a meet-rude that’s actually pretty fun.  After a fair amount of acerbic banter, Cinnamon arranges to tear her skirt, so that Kelmann, charming Hyde-Whitish gentleman that he is, feels obligated to escort her home to protect her dignity.   Once there, she gets threatening calls from an abusive boyfriend, so Kelmann invites her to his home for her peace of mind, as well as offering her a job as photographer for his memoirs.  Throughout their interaction, Kelmann sees split-second flashes of his wife in place of Cinnamon, a deftly executed directorial touch.

Meanwhile, Jim is pretending to be an American Neo-Nazi seeking to learn from the master, von Frank.  He has to win vF’s trust so he can control the situation when vF meets Cinnamon at Kelmann’s home (a mansion that’s been used in multiple earlier episodes; meanwhile, vF’s office is the same one used by Borca in “The Slave”).  Von Frank is a paranoid psychotic with a violent temper, and he reacts with outrage and suspicion to Cinnamon’s presence, afraid her photos will expose his connection to Kelmann and give his enemies fuel against him.  Jim claims to be suspicious of Cinnamon and takes vF to her place to investigate.

While Jim thus keeps vF occupied, Cinnamon drugs Kelmann’s tea to put him to sleep while the team redresses Kelmann’s study to look like it did in 1932, when his wife was killed.  This is courtesy of the photos Jim collected from Cinnamon during his visit, both the new ones of his current study and the ’30s-vintage ones she stole from his albums (though why he’d have photos of his own study is unexplained).  With Kelmann in a trancelike “twilight” state, so that he’ll perceive it as a vivid dream, the team stages the murder of his wife before his eyes, with Rollin playing Hitler himself.  (I was wrong in my review of “The Legend,” where Rollin played Martin Bormann; this makes two real people that Rollin has impersonated, both of them top Nazis.)

Meanwhile, Jim and vF have uncovered evidence that Cinnamon is a spy, and they arrive in Kelmann’s home just after it’s been restored to normal and Kelmann has awakened.  Cinnamon and Jim ensure that the confrontation is staged exactly as in the “dream” the others just acted out, and Jim hands vF a gun loaded with blanks, which he uses to “kill” Cinnamon, just as Fuhrer Rollin “killed” her fifteen minutes earlier.   Von Frank pleads the necessity of the killing to Kelmann just as Rollin did.  But this time, Kelmann has been pushed too far.  This time he takes the revenge he wanted to take 35 years earlier.  Then, as von Frank lies dead before him, he moves with quiet dignity to the phone, notifies the police there’s been a shooting, and goes silently upstairs to wait for them.

I’m actually getting a little teary-eyed writing this.  “Echo of Yesterday” is definitely the high point of the season so far.  Of course Hyde-White’s charm is a major part of it, but it’s an engaging, thoughtful story, unusually nuanced for this show.  The scenes between Cinnamon and Kelmann are clever and effective, and the direction is excellent — not just the effective flashes of Kelmann’s memory, just a few frames each in sepia tone, but the overall style of the episode as well.  In the briefing, Jim is silhouetted against the window, an unusual setup, but the purpose becomes clear at the end when he stands in profile and fakes a Nazi salute, a chilling image even knowing that Jim is only pretending.

This is the first episode of the season without Barney in it, and only the fourth of the series overall.  It features some music that I’m fairly certain is new, but no composer is credited beyond Schifrin for the theme.  That might mean Schifrin did the music but they got the credit wrong.  Hard to say; I don’t know Schifrin’s style well enough to recognize it unambiguously as I can with, say, Gerald Fried or Jerry Fielding.

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