Home > Reviews > MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE (S6) Reviews: “The Bride”/”Stone Pillow” (spoilers)

MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE (S6) Reviews: “The Bride”/”Stone Pillow” (spoilers)

“The Bride”: We meet Joe Corvin (James Gregory), a very angry mobster who specializes in funneling mob money to Swiss banks, but who’s accusing his intended diplomatic courier of ripping him off.  The courier gets tossed down an elevator shaft by Corvin’s enforcer Richie (Charles Dierkop, who played a minor member of Butch’s gang in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid even though he looked far, far more like the real Butch Cassidy than Paul Newman did), so now Corvin has to find another way of getting millions of mob money to Switzerland.  That sounds like an opening for the IMF; Jim gets the assignment to put Corvin out of business when he retrieves the tape from a locker in a college swimming pool’s office.

Once again, Casey substitutes herself for someone the mark hasn’t met, namely Corvin’s Irish mail-order bride; he wants a nice, demure, convent-trained girl from the old country, and he treats her like his property, expecting complete obedience. But she shows signs of “illness” and erratic moods.

Meanwhile, Barney is meeting with Corvin’s mob contact Mellinger (Brad Dexter), pretending to be the boss of the murdered diplomatic courier and offering to move the mob’s money for less than Corvin charges — and sooner, because Corvin is still searching for a new way to do it.  This gets him questioned/threatened by Corvin, but he has some “in the event of my death” evidence locked away to keep him alive.

While Corvin’s off dealing with Barney, Richie follows Casey to a clandestine meeting with Jim, where he finds him giving her heroin.  Joe is outraged to find she’s a junkie and wants nothing more to do with her.  But he’s intrigued to find that Jim is a smuggler who uses his airline job to get stuff through customs.  Now Mellinger won’t need Barney.  Corvin makes arrangements with Jim.

But Casey takes a pill to fake her death from a drug overdose.  Corvin sends her to the funeral home run by Collins (Woodrow Parfrey), who disposes of the occasional corpse for him.  But Jim calls to let him know that security’s tightened at the airport (due to fear of terrorists, 30 years before 9/11) and their plan won’t work because even Jim’s luggage would be searched.  But the team arranges for Corvin to see a coffin with a diplomatic seal being loaded without inspection.  Corvin calls Collins to stop him from cremating Casey, ordering her embalmed instead.

Of course, Casey’s still alive, so Barney keeps Collins busy on the phone as an overly inquisitive customer while Willy knocks out Collins’s assistant Harris, who’s replaced by his near-lookalike, guest team member Bob Roberts (both are played by Gwil Richards).  Hey, I’m noticing a pattern.  The last guest impersonator was named Bill Williams.  (Although both surnames are only in the credits; only the first names are used onscreen.)  They revive Casey and swap her out with a dummy.  Barney also sabotages their hearse so a new one rigged by the team can take its place.  Once Corvin (with a nervous Mellinger watching) loads the money into the coffin’s pillow (under the “dummy” of the dead Casey, whose eyes are visibly moving, which is problematical on two levels) and the coffin is loaded into the hearse, Bob knocks out Collins.  In the back of the hearse, Barney emerges from a secret compartment, takes the money out of the coffin, and replaces the diplomatic seal he broke with a new one, then slips out of the bottom of the hearse.

The coffin is rigged to fall off the conveyor and break open, revealing the dummy of Casey and the lack of the money, which makes Mellinger suspicious of the bewildered Corvin.  Jim says Corvin asked him for two tickets to Miami, creating more suspicion.  Mellinger takes Corvin and Richie home — and finds a very much alive Casey holding two tickets to Miami.  Mellinger sends Casey away, then holds Corvin over the same elevator shaft seen in the beginning, demanding to know where the money is.  Corvin is… understandably confused.

I was expecting more from this episode, since it was scripted by Jackson Gillis.  But it’s a fairly average episode.  There are some decent bits of writing and characterization, particularly Collins’s slow burn when Barney won’t let him off the phone, but it doesn’t add up to anything exceptional.  Also, this is another episode that credits a composer (Richard Hazard) but that doesn’t have any new music as far as I noticed.

One good thing about the lack of a regular male “master of disguise” character this season — the way they’re bringing in a different impersonator each time based on their resemblance to the desired target makes a lot more sense than having just one guy do all the impersonations, or having a lot of the impersonation subjects just happen to resemble the team’s usual makeup guy (or gal, in Casey’s case).

“Stone Pillow”: Crooked PI Larry Edison (Bradford Dillman) is blackmailing Vincent Vochek (Robert Ellenstein), the biggest gangster west of Chicago, with a film that places him at the site of a murder.  He’s going to prison for some unrelated crime, but before he does, he wants to ensure he’ll get 5 grand a month for the rest of his life — promising that the film will stay buried as long as nothing happens to him.  He tells Vochek they should both wish Edison outlives him.  Cut to Jim getting the tape from a forest ranger and being offered the mission of getting the film from Edison so the perenially stymied Conventional Law Enforcement Agencies can prosecute Vochek.

The IMF’s plan hinges on Larry’s secret girlfriend Leona, who has just died in an auto accident (self-inflicted, no foul play) but confessed on her deathbed to be Larry’s accomplice (though died before she could reveal the film’s location).  They’ve kept her death secret so that Casey can impersonate her.  But that’s a later stage of the plan.  First, they get the cooperation of the governor’s office and the Department of Corrections to let Barney take over as temporary warden (with frosted temples to make him look older) along with Willy as a guard and Casey as a prison psychiatrist.  But Vochek probably has people on the inside so they can’t reveal their true identities to the prison staff.  Barney rejects the attempts of guard Fort (Arthur Batanides) to get Larry placed in protective custody against unspecified enemies, and it’s pretty easy to guess that Fort is Vochek’s inside man even before it’s confirmed.  Instead, Willy puts Larry in a cell with inmate Jim, who’s playing a loquacious, philosophical, chess-playing sort called the Professor.  It’s a nicely written scene, one of several provided here by scripter Howard Browne.  Professor Jim says he’s in stir for breaking a window — going on to elaborate that “the window was in an armored car containing 84 thousand dollars.”  He and Larry bond, but Jim lets Larry discover that he’s hiding some sort of plans inside the foot of his bed.

Willy rigs a squib to make it look like someone took a shot at Larry, but Warden Barney and Dr. Casey still rebuff Fort’s insistence that he be put in protective custody (since Casey argues that isolation would be harmful to his tenuous mental state).  Larry feels he has to get out, and he confronts Jim about the escape map he’s been drawing.  When Jim refuses to cut him in, Larry angrily sweeps his chessmen to the floor, discovering the tiny gun and bullets hidden within them.  Larry threatens to expose Jim’s plans if he isn’t cut in, so Jim agrees.  (There’s no way Jim could’ve predicted that Larry would trash the chessmen at that point.  How did he intend to get Larry to this point without it?)

At Casey’s group-therapy session the next day, Jim and Larry pull the gun on Casey and escape after knocking out a guard.  (Whom they leave unconscious in a room containing several hardened inmates, which doesn’t strike me as a good idea.)  Willy has arranged to be at the guard post overlooking their escape route and fires some token shots to make it look good.  When the three get to a waiting car, Larry is about to force Casey into the car, but Jim knocks him out and sends her off to stall their pursuers (though she doesn’t actually appear to do anything that slows them down significantly).  Jim drives them to a second car, moves the unconscious Larry into it, then douses the first car in gasoline, sends it over a hill, and triggers a charge to blow it up.  He then injects Larry with a syringe that says “live virus vaccine,” which made me wonder if part of the plot was to make Larry sick — but apparently it’s just a sedative and the label is  a prop-department glitch.

So Larry awakens to find it’s the next day and his death has been faked.  He’s eager to call Leona to find out if she sent the film to the DA, but there’s no answer.  Casey isn’t at her place yet, but it is being searched by Vochek’s men, because Larry smuggled out a letter that Fort intercepted and delivered to Vochek (who then resealed it and sent it to its proper address).  Later, Casey does arrive in a Leona mask (and for the duration she’s played by Brooke Mills, who has an oddly stiff and robotic way of moving), finds the letter, and is confronted by Vochek’s men, who warn her to give up the film.  She contacts Barney to alert him to the complication, but they proceed with the plan.  When Larry reaches Casey/Leona, she tells him she already sent the film to the DA — but Professor Jim is suspicious and calls a “friend” in the DA’s office (actually just calling Willy in the van), “learning” that the DA has never heard of any such film.  Leona must want the blackmail money for herself!  Larry goes to confront Casey/Leona, who’s ready with a blank-filled gun.  When she tries to shoot Larry, Jim fake-kills her, though she calls some imaginary accomplice on the phone before “dying” to convince Larry that Jim isn’t her accomplice.  Still, Larry grabs her gun and forces Jim to stay behind once he retrieves the key to where the film is hidden.  Barney and Willy drive off after him, but can’t do anything about Vochek’s men who are in closer pursuit.  Larry gets the film from a warehouse and gets into a shootout with Vochek’s men, whom the IMF takes down.  Larry tries to shoot Jim but discovers his gun is full of blanks.  He has no choice but to hand over the film.  Conveniently, Vochek has personally accompanied his men on this pursuit, which seems like a pretty stupid way of giving himself deniability, and is done only so we can see him arrested at the end.

Well, the story here has some weak points, but the dialogue is lively and clever, making this a very enjoyable episode.  In other news, Casey is a redhead now, which can’t be related to her impersonation of the redheaded Leona, because in that role she wears a full wig over her own nearly identical hairstyle.  Huh?

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