MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE (S2) Reviews: “The Photographer”/”The Spy”
“The Photographer”: Jim finds the message by raising the scenery flat at a theater, apparently. Lately I’m noticing that he always spends a lot of time driving up and walking to the place where he finds the message, something that would be far too slow an opening by today’s standards. I find myself going through this pre-tape portion and the dossier scene on fast playback. TV viewers really had a lot more patience in the ’60s, I guess.
Anyway, the mission: Photographer/spy David Redding (Anthony Zerbe, later Admiral Dougherty in Star Trek: Insurrection, and making his first of five M:I appearances) and his partner Alex Morley (ubiquitous character actor John Randolph) have the key to an unbreakable encryption that would reveal the identities of 150 enemy agents who plan to release a plague bacillus across the US. The team must discover the code in time to stop them. It’s an interesting case, because for once it uses Cinnamon’s backstory as a famous cover girl rather than ignoring it. The editor of the magazine Cinnamon modeled for is actually helping out her old model-turned-spy to set Redding up. But Cinnamon is pretending to be instead a model-turned-prominent-biochemist, working on top secret materials.
David is a fashion photographer, first seen in a shoot where he and the model are intimately close, literally straddling each other at times, giving new meaning to “making love to the camera.” Anyway, his session with Cinnamon is more sedate, since she’s pretending to be married (to Jim, surprisingly, instead of Rollin; I guess having artifice imitate life in-story was enough without bringing Bain and Landau’s real marriage into it). His security is incredibly lax for a spy; during the shoot, Barney and Jim sneak around his home and his bomb shelter and replace all his bullets with fake “blood-spatter” wax rounds.
Chemist Cinnamon wants to replace a fake chemical formula on the set with a real one, and “absent-mindedly” writes down a top-secret one she’s had too much on her mind. Later, David and Alex find out from their contacts that it’s the medium for the bacillus; Cinnamon must be working on the antidote. The spies trap Cinnamon and Jim, and David explains his reasons for becoming a spy. He’s bitter because his loyal, honest father was falsely convicted of espionage and executed by the US. It’s an interesting scene, almost playing like a critique of McCarthyism and anti-communist paranoia, but hold that thought.
David and Alex force their captives to confess what they know (a plan involving real torture of Jim, though Cinnamon doesn’t let it go on too long). She says the US is planning to nuke their country out of existence before the bacillus is released. Alex has the idea to tell their people to pre-emptively bomb New York, which the US will blame on Russia or China, forcing them to retaliate on both of those, leaving their nameless country as the only superpower left. (This was 1967, so Carl Sagan hadn’t theorized nuclear winter yet. People were still naive enough to believe that if the US, USSR, and China nuked each other out of existence, the rest of the world would be able to survive. But then, I guess nuclear stockpiles were smaller then than they ended up being in the ’80s.) The spies shoot Cinnamon and Jim, not knowing their bullets have been replaced with blanks, and notify the People’s Republic of Anonymousia to launch the nuke — though of course Barney is jamming the transmission. (This is one hell of a dangerous plan. What if Barney’s equipment had blown a vacuum tube or something?)
When the spies go back to the house for some reason, Rollin and Willy show up as federal agents, placing them under arrest and planning to take them to New York. Knowing that the Big Apple is about to be baked, the spies strike a deal to turn over the code, which is in the shelter. Once in the shelter, they “shoot” Willy, but conveniently leave Rollin alive for later, when someone will have to go out and check the fallout levels. The team uses ground charges and a heat lamp at the shelter’s ventilation shaft to simulate the blast effects from nearby NYC, along with the usual fake radio messages, and set up a panorama of fake devastation around the shelter’s periscope. Then they feed David a fake encrypted message, and for some reason, perhaps figuring it doesn’t matter anymore, David doesn’t prevent Rollin from watching as he writes down his memorized decryption key. He’s puzzled when the message comes out as gibberish, but Rollin’s seen enough. He snatches the key and gets away, unaffected by the wax bullets hitting him. The spies come up to discover they’ve been punked.
And here’s the disappointing part: just before Jim has the spies hauled away, he tells David that Alex was a spy all along and was the one who framed David’s father. Of course, the US of A has to be totally blameless, right?
All in all, a mixed bag. It was nice to see some acknowledgment of a team member’s backstory and a good justification for why that particular person was on this particular mission (who better to entrap a fashion photographer than a supermodel-spy?). But a lot of the story was rather contrived, and it seems there could’ve been a simpler way to get the code than faking a nuclear holocaust (a gambit they would use repeatedly on this show). And the success of the plan was too dependent on predicting that David would let Rollin live and watch the decoding process.
“The Spy”: My, there’s a distinctive name for an episode of a spy show. The tape sequence is a reuse of the footage from “The Survivors,” with new audio, of course. The mission: enemy agent Felicia Vabar (Kate Woodville, Natira from Trek’s “For the World is Hollow and I Have Touched the Sky and My Goodness, This is an Awfully Long Title, Isn’t It?”) has stolen the first of two overlays that, together, reveal NATO’s defense positions in Europe. She’s paying off Captain Cherno (Joseph Campanella, who was in ST: Voyager‘s “Author, Author” but whom I know mainly as the voice of Doc Connors on the ’90s animated Spider-Man series) to help her steal the other overlay. The team must stop her and get the first overlay back.
They do this by using her plan themselves (though how they know her plan is, as usual, unexplained), just ten minutes early. The defense minister of the anonymous country of the week (seriously, even the Voice on Tape just calls it “the country where the meeting is being held” — so how the hell does the team know where to go?) is in on the IMF’s plan, but everyone else in the defense ministry is in the dark, so there’s theoretically real danger for Jim, the one who has to break in and steal the plans. For some reason, he starts by pretending to be Cherno’s fill-in masseur and doing a lousy job. Anyway, he breaks into the vault using an overcomplicated reverse drill of sorts — a motor and belt setup to spin the lock dial while he holds a big stationary bit against it. He takes spy photos of the overlay and shoots the camera out the window in a large projectile, which Rollin picks up outside. Jim is captured and interrogated with drugs, but the team knew this would happen and Rollin hypnotized Jim to forget all about the mission after he fired the projectile. Really. Yet somehow Jim remembers to keep faking a generic Eastern European accent.
Meanwhile, Willy-as-guard shoots at Rollin to keep him from getting to his car. Felicia is idling her car nearby, having arrived to see the theft in progress, so Rollin carjacks her to make his getaway. He keeps the camera long enough for her to see it and recognize what it is, then tosses it out to Cinnamon, who begins developing the photos and creating a fake overlay in their place. Rollin convinces Felicia to take him back to her place, and after some initial tension (and gunplay with her goons — Rollin wins), they begin to do business together, and eventually move on to pleasure (first base only, this being 1967). Lucky Rollin. Kate Woodville looks particularly luscious here. I never realized how hot she was, because in her Trek episode she had an unflattering hairstyle and an excess of eye makeup. Still, I’ve always appreciated that ravishing upper-class British accent of hers.
When they arrange to meet to exchange overlays later, Felicia tries to double-cross Rollin and calls an assassin ally to shoot him so she can steal the film. But Rollin pulls the old dummy-standin-to-draw-fire trick and gets the drop on Felicia and friend. He tells her to meet him on his terms and bring the real overlay, no tricks.
Meanwhile, intercut with the dummy shooting, Cherno is threatening Jim with Russian roulette to try to get him to talk. He wants to get the plans for himself to sell to Felicia at an increased price. But it’s an odd form of intimidation, since he’s using a revolver and Jim can clearly see whether the bullet is going to be in the chamber or not. And when it is, he turns out to be able to knock it aside before it fires — he wasn’t even tied up. So what was the point? Anyway, Rollin’s magic hypnosis has conditioned Jim to snap out of his amnesia and talk if his life is threatened, so he tells Cherno where the exchange will be.
So Cherno and Felicia independently show up where Rollin is waiting, and the defense minister is watching with the rest of the team to see Cherno incriminate himself, or something. Cherno’s men chase Rollin off and he claims the overlay, then trades it for Felicia’s rather large satchel o’ moola. Fat lot of good it does him, though, for she shoots him. And then the defense minister shoots her. Which makes one wonder what the point of creating the fake overlay was. Maybe for once the team didn’t have the psychic ability to anticipate everyone’s decisions and didn’t know Felicia would shoot or get shot. Anyway, Rollin acts a little sad about the sexy spy lying there dead, and that’s the end.
A mediocre and logically flawed episode, then, but worthwhile for Kate Woodville’s sheer hotness.