Home > Reviews > MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE (S3) Reviews: “The Cardinal”/”The Elixir”/”The Diplomat” (Spoilers)

MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE (S3) Reviews: “The Cardinal”/”The Elixir”/”The Diplomat” (Spoilers)

“The Cardinal”: The tape is in a closed library (Jim has the key), and the mission is to stop aspiring Eastern European dictator Zepke (Theodore Bikel) from replacing his country’s beloved Cardinal Souchek (Paul Stevens) with an impostor who will endorse Zepke and let him take power.  (Amazing how many of these nameless Eastern European countries in the M:I-verse are able to fend off totalitarianism through the charismatic influence of a single spiritual leader.)  Somehow Zepke has taken over an entire monastery and replaced its nuns and monks with his soldiers in order to hold Souchek prisoner while the impostor, Nagorski, studies him in preparation for the big broadcast.

Barney uses a gizmo that deploys a long metal pipe (flattened and coiled up within it, so IMDb’s trivia notes say) up to Nagorski’s window and sends up mosquitos that will infect him with a bacillus.  Jim and Cinnamon show up as a doctor and nurse with a convenient flat tire, so Zepke will get them to tend to his impostor.  Rollin then shows up as an old friend of Souchek’s and declaims him as an impostor, so that Zepke will want to bump him off.  Conveniently, the team is aware that Zepke’s preferred method of assassination is suffocation, which in this case means sealing Rollin in a crypt downstairs, and of course Rollin’s cross is a gadget for lifting the lid.  He needed to get into the crypt to open the door from the inside so Barney and Willy could get in, since it’s rigged with a deadfall if opened from outside.  But the tunnel caves in behind B & W and they’re in danger of suffocation themselves if Rollin can’t get out in time, though of course he does.  They sneak into the room where Soucheck is held hostage and Rollin puts on a Souchek disguise to serve as a diversion as Zepke watches through the one-way mirror.   Jim and Cinnamon put the impostor in an oxygen tent that mists up, providing concealment as B & W remove stones from the wall, pull out the impostor, and let the real cardinal take his place in the bed, impersonating his own impersonator, so that when Zepke lets him make his speech, he ends up denouncing him and then escaping in the press of reporters.  For a moment, I was afraid that the impostor would get assassinated in the cardinal’s place (now that the real one was no longer needed), but instead Zepke’s major (Barbara Babcock, disguised as a nun) discovers him bound and gagged and rushes to warn Zepke, arriving moments too late.

Overall, an average episode.  The setup is too familiar, and the scheme relies too much on the team being able to predict details with improbable accuracy.  How’d they know which rooms the cardinal and impostor were in?  And how’d they know suffocation-happy Zepke would put Rollin in the crypt instead of just putting a plastic bag over his head or something?  It’s too contrived a scenario.  But there are a couple of positive points.  Paul Stevens is credible as someone Rollin could impersonate, since there’s a strong resemblance.  There’s a nice continuous shot where we see Stevens as Rollin-in-cardinal-guise begin to remove his prosthetics, then the camera pans to Barney & Willy stowing their equipment, then it pans back to Landau pulling off the last bits of makeup, with the two actors no doubt switching places while the camera looked away.  There’s a decent attempt to create a genuine sense of danger for Barney & Willy with the rockslide.  And the episode’s biggest strength is another all-new (or nearly so?) Jerry Fielding score.

“The Elixir”: Okay, now they’re getting lazy — the tape sequence seems to be in the studio’s screening room, where Jim tells the technician that he’s “here for the special showing” (talk about your unsubtle code exchanges).  For the second week in a row, we deal with a wannabe dictator, this time Riva Santel (Ruth Roman), long the power behind the throne of her Latin American country and now on the verge of announcing her full-fledged takeover following the sudden death of her husband (though whether she orchestrated that death is, I think, not established).  And for the second week in a row, the villain’s plan depends on an impending TV broadcast, in this case a broadcast to mobilize her followers to launch a coup and impose martial law, playing on her personality cult.

Now, this being a female antagonist in a ’60s show, naturally she’s vain and preoccupied with her fading looks, and the team’s gambit plays on that.  Cinnamon plays a TV hostess interviewing Riva, and the team lets Riva “discover” that Cinnamon is actually nearly 70 years old and rejuvenated by a revolutionary new technique involving silicone injections, surgical lasers (surprising to hear a mention of laser surgery in 1968), and hormone treatments.  Naturally she wants the procedure done to her, and Dr. Rollin can only do it the morning before the big speech, so as a precaution she pre-records her speech on videotape.  Barney and Willy have managed to tap the camera feed (through the power cord, somehow — I don’t think it works that way) and make their own tape copy of the speech, which Barney edits to make it sound like a farewell address rather than a call to arms (how convenient that she gave him everything he needed).  The assisting doctor of the week does the surgery on Riva, and she’s covered in bandages.  She’s kept sedated long enough that the taped speech has to be used, and Barney has switched the original tape for the edited copy.  Cinnamon impersonates Riva long enough to get word to the premier that she’s crossed the border, and then the speech plays announcing her retirement.  The real Riva, outraged, pulls off the bandages to reveal that she’s now played by a different actress!  Yes, the rejuvenation surgery was a myth, but apparently it is really possible to totally transform someone’s face in just two hours — which makes one wonder why M:I-verse spies and impostors rely so much on masks. Anyway, nobody believes she’s Riva and she gets hauled away as a lunatic.

Another mediocre episode, too much like the previous one and too reliant on the implausible surgical techniques.  Ruth Roman is unconvincing as a woman who’s built a personality cult around her beauty and charisma, since she really doesn’t have much of either.  And the tape-editing trick is unconvincing, since Barney’s splices are somehow able to produce a seamless edit with no image jumps.  There’s never any sense of peril for the mission or the team, except for a bit where Barney’s camera connection is interrupted when someone trips over the cord, and then some random extra plugs it back in a moment later (without even an intervening commercial break).  Everything unfolds too conveniently for the team.  The episode doesn’t even offer any new music.

“The Diplomat”: Jim gets the tape briefing in a park: Agents from the Nameless Enemy Power have stolen the locations of America’s missile command centers, which could enable a pre-emptive strike.  There’s no way to get the information back, so the team has to discredit it, make it look like the real info is fake info planted by American agents.  For once, the dossier sequence serves a purpose, because instead of the usual setup where every mission happens to call on the talents of the regulars (or where the regulars are used even if someone else would logically be a better choice), we get something closer to the original concept of the series, where Jim recruits several new faces specifically for the mission.  Their target is enemy agent Toland (Fernando Lamas), who’s well-connected in Washington, so instead of trying to pass off Cinnamon (who isn’t in this episode, the first time this season that the whole cast hasn’t been used), they recruit a real diplomat’s wife, Susan (Lee Grant), to seduce Toland and set up a situation where he gets to see her important husband’s book of missile data in her safe.  Rollin plays a paparazzo blackmailing Susan, so that Toland will pay him off for the photos, whereupon a “grateful” Susan will open the safe for him so he can steal the codes and verify the information they have.  Meanwhile, Jim pretends to be an enemy agent, but the team makes sure the bad guys discover the fakery so they’ll know he’s an American spy — so when he hands them the real information, they’ll be convinced it’s fake, and that Toland, who’s just brought them the same info, must also be a spy (ergo, as usual, the bad guys off their own agent).

What’s interesting about this is that Toland is known for poisoning the women he woos and uses, so Susan, a civilian, is in genuine danger of her life.  They can’t fake her poisoning because he’d recognize it as such.  So they have to let him genuinely give her a sleeping-pill overdose and have the guest-doctor-of-the-week standing by to resuscitate her after Toland leaves.  (All these guest doctors — I’m beginning to see why, when they later brought in Sam Elliott to replace Peter Lupus as a regular, they made his character a doctor.)  It adds interest to the briefing scene when Jim and the others have to convince an uncertain Susan and her husband to agree to risk her life for the good of the country.  And there was a moment during Susan’s poisoning when I wondered if they might be daring enough to actually have her die.  Although, of course, it ended up being resolved far too easily and neatly.  Still, the unusual setup added some spice to the formula, and Lee Grant was an engaging special guest star.  So this one goes in the above-average column, though it’s less than it could’ve been.  (As is the music.  Gerald Fried gets credit for the score, but he adds only a few brief cues and some diegetic music, the rest being stock.)

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  1. Anita hazel rahayu
    April 9, 2015 at 12:30 am

    Dear Mr Christopher L.Bennet

    Thanks for the reviews ,your blog helping me soo to finish my collage assigntment….

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