Home > Reviews > MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE (S2) Reviews: “Recovery”

MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE (S2) Reviews: “Recovery”

“Recovery” is the finale of the 25-episode second season, and it finally does something that should’ve been done much sooner: ditching the dossier scene.  With a few rare exceptions, Jim’s team has consistently been Rollin, Cinnamon, Barney, and Willy, rendering the scenes of Jim going through dossiers and picking his team entirely redundant.  Finally, in the last episode of the season, we go directly from the (stock) tape sequence to the briefing scene in Jim’s apartment, with the episode credits then being shown over the next scene.  This becomes pretty much standard for the series in subsequent seasons.

The mission: An American bomber has gone down behind the Iron Curtain, and its fail-safe device has failed (imagine that) to self-destruct, putting it in enemy hands.  It’s not explained what a fail-safe device is, perhaps for deliberate vagueness, or perhaps because it was a familiar concept in the ’60s.  If I recall from Dr. Strangelove and the like, a fail-safe device in a bomber would be a way for the crew to confirm that orders were authentic.  So if the enemy got hold of such a device and analyzed it, they could send false commands to bombers, which would be Bad.

Anyway, the device is designed to blow up if it isn’t disassembled in exactly the right way.  But the enemy has an asset on their side, a brilliant American defector named Dr. Paul Shipherd, played by Bradford Dillman with an effective, hesitant delivery suggesting a keen intellect carefully deliberating every word and thought, but with an undercurrent of boyish petulance.  The team’s mission is not only to prevent Shipherd from disarming and analyzing the device, but to retrieve it intact (so the US can evaluate why the self-destruct failed) and to bring Shipherd back to the States.

Rollin and Cinnamon go in as a married couple touring central Europe, a wheelchair-bound scientist and his M.D. wife.   Meeting Shipherd at a reception, they let slip that they’re from Minnesota and that Rollin works on a top-secret government project.  It’s a tense exchange.  Later, back at the institute, Shipherd deduces a way to open the first layer of security on the device; the computer suggests a certain, logical procedure, but Shipherd knows the Americans will have anticipated that, and orders the use of an alternate procedure, which is simply using a set of waldo arms (I wonder where they got the props) and a microphone to crack the combination, so I don’t see what the big deal was.  Shipherd knows that the next stage will require slow and complex analysis, so he’s pleased when it’s learned that the bomber pilot has been captured and brought to his office for an interview before being released to the US Embassy.  When the pilot gives his name, rank, and serial number, we recognize the voice, and the camera reveals it’s Jim, with black, puffed-up hair and a swarthier complexion.  He’s hardly recognizable except for the voice.  Jim insists he doesn’t know how to disassemble the device, and Shipherd might as well send a letter to the folks in Duluth who made it.  Shipherd remembers his US geography and makes the connection: the fail-safe must be the secret project Rollin was working on!

Of course, it’s all very convenient the way they’ve let this information slip, and Shipherd wonders if he’s been deliberately put onto this lead.  This excited me.  Were we finally going to get an episode with an adversary smart enough to see through the manipulation and cause the plan to fail, generating real danger and requiring improvisation?  Alas, though, his suspicion that he’s being manipulated is never referred to again.

The episode manages to generate effective tension in another way, though.  Shipherd arranges to have Rollin invited to the institute, accompanied by a State Department representative from the embassy (Barney in a very snazzy brown suit) while his wife Cinnamon is touring the national art museum (Rollin is careful to let Shipherd know where she is).   At the institute, Shipherd reveals that he has the fail-safe and needs Rollin’s help to disassemble it without blowing it up.  Rollin refuses to help — until Shipherd shows him that Cinnamon has been captured and is seated right next to the device.

So Rollin has no choice but to disassemble the device with Cinnamon as hostage.  This was genuinely tense, because this was no fake peril.  The device was real, the bomb inside it was real — but Rollin was a fake and so was his expertise.  Would he be able to do this without killing Cinnamon?  Sure, the IMF is always as super-prepared as Batman on his best day;  Jim said in the briefing that he and Rollin had been over the fail-safe device’s manual a hundred times.  But come on, the dude’s an actor pretending to be an expert in this system, and he’s had barely two days to learn this procedure.  What if he screws it up?  You can really believe that the sheer terror on Rollin’s face as he holds Cinnamon’s life in his hands is absolutely genuine, as is the more muted fear on her face.

Meanwhile, Barney is waiting in Shipherd’s office, supposedly unaware of what’s going on below.  He stages a distraction allowing him to drop a metal thingy down the garbage chute, jamming the central shredder that all discarded documents are sent to for security.  The repairmen are called in, and Jim (now looking like himself again) and Willy waylay them and go in their place.  Jim goes inside and begins crawling up the disposal chutes, wearing a mike and leaving a speaker behind so he can convince the guard with Willy that he’s still at the bottom working on the shredder.  Once he reaches the chamber where Rollin is disassembling the device, Jim sticks a wire through the chute door to let them know it’s time.  Rollin fakes a heart attack and Cinnamon insists that as his doctor, she’s the only one who can save him.  So everyone leaves the room, letting Jim come in and finish disarming the device.  He’s briefly interrupted by a returning scientist, but luckily he lives in the ’60s TV universe where any opponent can be rendered thoroughly unconscious by a single karate chop to anywhere in the vicinity of the neck, shoulders, or (in this case) upper back.

Meanwhile, in the infirmary, Rollin “dies” under Cinnamon’s care.  I felt sorry for the poor nurse who showed compassion for Cinnamon’s grief, unaware that it was all an act.  Anyway, Barney asks to speak to Shipherd alone.  Once everyone’s left but Shipherd and the IMF agents, Barney knocks Shipherd out (going for a blow to the gut and a neck chop) and Cinnamon drugs him.  While Rollin pulls out a pair of masks to disguise Shipherd as himself and vice-versa, Barney lowers a line to Jim and uses it to retrieve the device, which he secures underneath Rollin’s (now Shipherd’s) wheelchair.  Rollin-as-Shipherd (Dillman with his voice electronically lowered, sounding a lot like Landau) convinces the other bad guys that it will avoid an international incident if Rollin’s demise is said to have taken place elsewhere, so he escorts the “corpse,” Cinnamon, and Barney away while repairmen Jim and Willy leave in their truck.

All in all, a fairly routine episode that could’ve been really something if they’d followed up on Shipherd’s hint of awareness that he was being played.  Still, it achieved moments of genuine and effective tension.

Season overview to follow.

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  1. Catarina
    March 21, 2012 at 8:37 pm

    OK, we just watched this episode tonight. Can’t help but comment on how Jim managed to get released from his role as the bogus pilot so he could play the shredder repairman? When he couldn’t help them open the failsafe mechanism, they just said, “Oh, well, let’s just let him go.” ?? This seemed kind of like a blooper to me.

    • March 21, 2012 at 9:04 pm

      As I recall, “pilot” Jim’s release was addressed. The US was putting pressure on the enemy government to release the pilot, or maybe they offered a prisoner exchange the government couldn’t refuse, so Shipherd was only allowed a brief window to question him before he had to release him.

  2. Catarina
    March 22, 2012 at 2:34 pm

    O my goodness, you have the answer for everything! 🙂 Thank you so much… I guess MI was pretty well done, as we have watched a lot of old tv shows and are enjoying it very much. Even thought it was done in the 60s, we don’t find it hokey or comical at all and not objectionable or overdone, like some of today’s shows. We also like Hawaii Five-O.

    Thank you again,.

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