Archive for October 2, 2011

MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE (S5) Reviews: “The Hostage”/”Takeover” (spoilers)

“The Hostage”: We open not in medias res, but in terminus res (or whatever you’d call it) — the mission in a Latin American country is already over, and the US consul who helped the team is giving awkwardly expository congratulations to Paris on his cover, a US hotel magnate.  Paris drives off in a taxi but is gassed by the driver and taken into a van by revolutionary Robert Siomney (Lou Antonio, who co-starred with Nimoy in Star Trek‘s “Let That Be Your Last Battlefield” — he was the guy who was black on the left side and white on the right side), who thinks he’s the actual magnate and has kidnapped him to demand the release of fellow revolutionaries from prison.

Paris is brought to the compound of revolutionary leader Jorge Cabal (Joe De Santis), whose son is one of the prisoners (and whose name is consistently mispronounced as “hor-gay”).  The compound is the same backlot location used for Kefero in “The Rebel,” and in one shot there’s still a “Cafe Kefero” sign visible on a wall.  Paris grabs some berries from a bush outside and eats them once he’s alone in his cell.  We cut to the team (with Doug this week) determining the abduction has nothing to do with their just-completed mission and they can do nothing until Paris makes his move.  Cabal and Siomney watch a TV news report about themselves and — this is hilarious — you can see that one of the pictures on the wall behind the TV reporter is visible beyond the edge of the TV set frame.  Yes, they simulated a TV news report by sticking the facade of a TV set in front of the actor delivering the report, and they didn’t even manage to frame the shot correctly.  The production values are getting shoddy lately.

The berries Paris ate make him sick, and he tells Siomney (who has medical training) that he has Hodgkins’ disease and will be dead soon without special medication that the rebels have to request from the government.  This is how Paris gives the team a way in, by letting them slip a tracker into the vial for the fake medicine (which Siomney has them deliver by helicopter drop).  The team not only tracks down the location of Cabal’s compound but gets a U2 spy plane to take aerial photos.  Paris also records a proof-of-life message with a greeting to his “family” that actually includes oddly specific code words that inform the team where in the compound his cell is.

Jim gets the cooperation of the prison commandant and assumes the role of a ruthless government official who sentences the three prisoners to execution if Paris isn’t released.  But Cabal, although a relatively scrupled and sympathetic figure, is under pressure from the hardcore Siomney and clings to his convictions as a soldier.  The first two prisoners are “executed” on TV, though the team substitutes dummies for the prisoners just before they go before the firing squad.  Meanwhile, Dana appears on TV as the girlfriend of Cabal’s son Luis (Ron Castro), and then drives to the compound in Luis’s impounded car, saying he told her where to come.  She pleads with Cabal to release his hostage, again without success, but Siomney doesn’t trust her.  After Cabal orders her release, Siomney orders his executioner Frederico (Lee Duncan) to kill her surreptitiously.  But she’s saved at the last second by Barney, who snuck in earlier by pretending to climb a tree while the camera panned away and then having his stunt double jump onto a truck — err, I mean, by jumping onto a truck, yeah, that’s the ticket.  Barney uses an insta-mask-making kit to turn himself into Frederico in mere minutes.

Cabal is resigned to watching his son die when US emissary Doug halts the executions and says he’s convinced the government to postpone it for 15 minutes to give Cabal one more chance to release the hostage.  But Siomney has already ordered Barney-as-Frederico to kill Paris, which he does by slipping Paris a curare compound to cause temporary deathishness and dabbing fake blood on his shirt, then firing off a shot.  Struck with remorse and desperation, Cabal radios the folks at the prison and claims Paris was shot trying to escape.  Jim suggests an alternative trade: Luis can live and serve out his sentence if Cabal turns over Siomney and Frederico.  Cabal agrees to the deal and his men enforce it, handcuffing them and letting them be driven away along with Paris’s “corpse.”  Dana thanks Cabal and drives away too.  The truck and Dana’s car rendezvous with Jim, Doug, and the government people, and Siomney gets to watch in bewilderment as Paris and Dana return from the dead, Frederico peels his face off, and they all give him smug looks before driving away.

Not bad, not great.  A workmanlike “things go wrong” episode, and Cabal was a fairly effective character, with good interactions with Dana (though I’m starting to find Lesley Ann Warren a bit limited in range and a bit too broad in her acting).  It’s a bit implausible that Paris could spontaneously develop the “eat poison berries and claim a terminal illness so Barney could slip a tracker into the medicine bottle” plan in a matter of seconds while still drowsy from the knockout gas.  Although Doug did say he’d been talking to Paris about Huntington’s recently, so Paris could’ve just made it up on the fly, using the Huntington’s reference to alert the team and trusting them to figure out what to do about it.  The speed with which Barney makes his Frederico mask also strains credibility, although “credibility” is not a word that really has any relevance to M:I masks.  I also feel they missed an opportunity.  They should’ve made this episode a followup to the actual mission of a previous episode, rather than some new mission we never saw.  It would’ve been a nice bit of stealth continuity that wouldn’t have gotten in the way of the episodes working as standalones.

“Takeover”: A street scene with a prominent “US Mail” box establishes a stateside adventure, and we see a student protest meeting led by Billy Walsh (Richard Kelton, who would later play the Spock-like Ficus on the short-lived sci-fi comedy Quark), who has big plans he won’t tell the others about yet.  We discover he’s working for “Boss” Peck (Ken Swofford), who’s stirring up unrest to undermine the current governor of “his state” and allow his puppet, the weak-willed Mayor Tallman (Lloyd Bochner, practicing for his future gig as the mayor of Gotham City in Batman: The Animated Series), to win the governorship by being tough on unrest.  Jim learns this from the tape in a closed fortuneteller’s shop, and I’m forced to wonder again how the IMF finds out about these things.  Where is the informant in Peck’s organization who went to the government, when there doesn’t seem to be anyone aware of any of this except those at the heart of the plan?  Well, Billy is apparently a “known provocateur,” so perhaps they had his phone tapped and that led them to Peck.  Anyway, as with the other domestic missions this season, there’s no “Secretary will disavow” line.  Cut to titles, and it’s a Doug episode.

Jim’s briefing explains further that Peck’s ties to organized crime are well-known, further justifying why the government might have their eye on him.  That’s why Peck has to organize this scheme — since the public knows it too, and thus leans toward the incumbent governor.  Jim says there’s no way to avoid a confrontation — so their mission is “to control the violence —  so that we’re the only ones in danger.”  Neat line.

Doug runs a red light to get himself arrested so the cops will discover a load of guns in his trunk.  This brings him into contact with corrupt cop Lt. Ross (Todd Martin) so he can offer a deal with his boss, Jim.  Meanwhile, Dana gets herself arrested trying to burn some student records so she’ll also come to Ross’s attention.  Barney plays a state policeman liaising with the Mayor and Peck, and he shows Ross a flier identifying Dana as a known provocateur.  So Ross and Billy bail Dana out and Billy takes her into his confidence, revealing that his plan is to kill a cop and blow up the dean’s office with the students (except him) inside, along with evidence pinning the murder on one of them.  To minimize the danger to civilians, Dana convinces Billy and the protestors that taking over the dean’s office is passe, so they should take over the mayor’s office instead.

Meanwhile, Paris contacts Mayor Tallman and convinces him that Dana is the mayor’s illegitimate daughter, who actually died in childbirth along with her mother.  Tallman pays them blackmail money to keep them quiet.  But Ross has them arrested on Peck’s orders.  Dana is freed because she’s part of the plan with Billy, but Billy is given orders to arrange her death in the explosion.  Barney’s made himself high-profile enough to be chosen as the police target.  Paris lockpicks his way out of jail, while Jim meets with Tallman.  Barney has previously cut a hidden panel into the wall of the mayor’s office, so Doug comes in after Jim leaves (why wait?) and holds the mayor at gunpoint — as does a lookalike mayor, who’s Paris in a Tallman mask.

Jim tells Peck that he was unimpressed with Tallman and thinks Peck should run for governor instead.  They’re interrupted by news that the students have taken over the municipal building — actually the Ernst Lubitsch Building, the same Paramount office building that was used just last week for the US consulate (and next door to the main office building I mentioned being used as the hospital in “My Friend, My Enemy” and the mental institution in last season’s finale).  Dana comes in late and convinces Billy and the others that she was hiding from the cops; Billy wants to shoot her right there, but the students side with her.  So Billy leaves her with them and rigs explosives to trap them inside.  Barney sneaks in to disarm said explosives, and Dana gets on the megaphone, making reasonable demands for the press instead of the violent revolutionary stuff she used on Billy.  Paris-as-Tallman shows up and talks to her in defiance of Peck’s advice, pretending the mayor has grown a spine for love of his daughter.  With more prodding from Jim that he should take power himself rather than being the eminence grise, Peck orders sharpshooter Billy to take out Mayor Paris.  Barney stops him just in time, the shot goes wild, and Paris triggers a squib in his arm to fake a flesh wound.  He then confesses to the press that Peck and Ross put him up to this scheme for political gain.  In a nearby paddywagon, the bound and gagged Tallman watches on TV and Doug assures him that nobody will believe it wasn’t him.  (They’ve also given him an equivalent flesh wound.)   As Peck, Ross, and Billy are carted away, Paris and Jim come in and tell Tallman that if he testifies against Peck, he’ll go free, though of course he’s finished in politics.  Tallman agrees, and asks about his daughter.  “She wasn’t real either,” Doug says.  “That bother you?”  Tallman considers a moment and shakes his head, relieved.

A workmanlike episode, not inspired but with no serious faults.  Its notable points include revisiting the “youth protest” theme somewhat less ineptly than last season’s finale, and featuring a new Lalo Schifrin score in contemporary funk/jazz mode.  The main thing that bugs me about it is that, aside from the need for medical skill to give Tallman his flesh wound and treat it afterward, there’s no reason for this episode to feature Doug instead of Willy.  Most of what he does here is more in Willy’s line.

Also, Jim, Paris, and Barney have all had episodes this season where they bond emotionally or romantically with someone; I’m wondering if Dana will get a turn.  There was a moment here where Billy made out with her, but it didn’t go beyond that and she certainly felt no affinity for him.  She’s had a couple of bonding moments — some borderline sympathy that didn’t last for Dana Elcar’s character in “Flip Side,” some more genuine sympathy for Jorge Cabal in “Hostage” — but otherwise the only “romantic” plots she’s had have involved seducing someone as part of the scheme or being seduced/manipulated by someone (like Anthony Zerbe in “The Amateur”).  Or else having one gratuitous kiss thrown into an interaction that’s otherwise more businesslike, as here or in “Squeeze Play.”

Categories: Reviews Tags: ,
%d bloggers like this: