Archive for October 30, 2011

MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE (S6) Reviews: “Image”/”Committed” (spoilers)

October 30, 2011 2 comments

“Image”: Aging gangster Emil Gadsen (George Voskovec) and his son Tony (future Hill Street Blues star Daniel J. Travanti) are visiting Emil’s partner, a gangster with the unlikely name of Thor Coffin (Warren Stevens).  They’re partners in what the Voice on Tape later calls the biggest “vice operation” in the Northeast, but Emil’s fleeing to Tangiers (no extradition treaty) to escape prosecution, leaving Thor to run the business.  However, he’s keeping the list of corrupt officials that’s the source of his power.  It’s an uneasy partnership; Thor badly wants to possess Emil’s list, while Emil wants to use Thor’s multimillion-dollar stamp collection to launder his money, but neither man will give up his prize possession.  Jim’s mission, as he’s told by the tape in a pipe room somewhere, is to get the list.

Jim distracts Thor by trying to sell him some stamps while Willy breaks into Thor’s wine cellar through the sewer and makes his way to the room behind Thor’s safe, breaking into it from the rear and stealing Thor’s stamp collection.  Willy gets caught by a guard on the way out but soon knocks him out, and this doesn’t materially affect the plot since the theft was supposed to be discovered.  Meanwhile, Barney adopts the identity of Caribbean psychic Revalier (with the real one’s cooperation) and pretends to give Emil a tarot reading, claiming that someone “closer than a brother” will be a source of danger to him.  Once getting the skeptical Tony out of the room, Barney drugs Emil and hypnotizes him with a series of post-hypnotic suggestions that will be triggered by showing him the Death tarot card.

Anyway, a guest impersonator named Dave Scott (Paul Marin) masks up to look like Emil, but instead of replacing Emil, his job is to convince Emil that he’s a long-lost twin brother.  They meet by chance in a restaurant, and Dave claims to be a professor from the old country with Casey as his daughter.  Remembering Barney’s warnings, Emil invites them over for cocktails later, but the “professor” is kidnapped by masked gunmen who are actually Jim, Willy, and guest muscle Tom Hawkins (George McCallister Jr.).  The posthypnotic suggestions are used to make Emil think he’s feeling what the professor feels as he’s knocked out, beaten, and tortured, and a doctor working with the team, Charles Berk (David M. Frank), teams with Barney in convincing Emil that the professor is actually a Siamese twin he never knew he had (conveniently Emil has a scar from an accident in infancy) and that they’re joined by a “Corsican Brothers”-style psychic link, so that Emil will die if the professor dies.  Barney’s psychic readings suggest that Thor is the kidnapper, and even though Tony’s still a skeptic, he agrees when Emil tells him to go investigate at Thor’s.  Tony forces one of Thor’s guards to take him to the wine cellar and he finds the professor there being worked over by Willy and Tom.  Callously, he leaves the professor there and comes back to report to daddy.

Meanwhile, Jim has tried to sell Thor’s stamps to a dealer with ties to Emil, so Emil finds out that there’s a way past Thor’s awesome security system and pays Jim to take him in.  They find the professor “dead” and then Jim uses the tarot card to trigger Emil’s final attack.  Now skeptic Tony is convinced his father’s dying and he insists that Emil give him the secret list (oh, what a saint).  Emil reveals it’s hidden in his watch, and Tony runs off with it, leaving Emil there.  But as soon as he gets outside with Jim, he finds the police waiting.  As does Emil a minute later when Willy revives him and leads him out.

Wow, just reading through all that again prior to posting made me shake my head in bewilderment at how thoroughly ludicrous this episode’s premise was.  What a mess.  I have the same problem here as in “The Miracle” — if Barney has such amazing hypnotic powers, why not just hypnotize Emil into revealing where the list is?  Why go through all this convoluted deception to convince the guy of something entirely bizarre?  Making a guy think he’s psychically linked with a long-lost Siamese twin has got to be the weirdest way yet of getting to the bad guys in this show.  It’s just so silly.  And it’s hard to believe you can hypnotically manipulate a guy into having the fake physical reactions Emil has here.  All in all, this is the worst one of the season so far.

“Committed”: Nora Dawson (Susan Howard) is in a cell at the state mental hospital, babbling incoherently.  (She must’ve seen the last episode.  Or maybe written it.)  Turns out she’s being drugged into that state by the evil and extremely rotund Dr. Carrick (Robert Miller Driscoll) on orders from the crooked lieutenant governor Harrison (Alan Bergmann), in order to keep her from testifying against Harrison’s boss Chandler (Bert Freed).  At a Western-themed kiddie park, Jim retrieves what’s supposedly his nephew’s lost lunchbox from an employee, and the tape inside tells him to rescue Nora and deliver her to court the next day in a coherent state.  In the apartment scene, it’s explained that Nora can’t be released because her husband (Jack Donner) is in Harrison’s pocket.  Joining the team is Wilson (James B. Sikking, our second future Hill Street Blues star in as many weeks), the prosecutor on Chandler’s case; he promises the full cooperation of the DA’s office.  Jim explains that the mental hospital is a converted prison basically controlled by Harrison, and they’ll face the same problems they would with breaking someone out of prison, especially since it’s on an island.

The first step is to get Casey committed.  Jim plays her uncle who’s eager to get rid of her, and Casey pretends to be insanely jealous of the women in his life, including the women he photographs for fashion spreads (though she insinuates something less respectable).  Carrick calls in the hatchet-faced but kindly-voiced Nurse Brophy (Anne Francine), part of the criminal clique, to take Casey for evaluation (and Lynda Day George gets the chew the scenery something fierce, and looks kinda hot playing crazy).  Meanwhile, we cut to a painfully expository scene between Harrison and Chandler — at one point Harrison actually says “As lieutenant governor of this state…”.  Beyond stiltedly recapping what we already know, the scene explains why they didn’t just kill Nora as Chandler wants: she’s already testified against Harrison and he needs to discredit her.  Harrison mentions Mr. Dawson’s cooperation, and afterward Chandler has his goon Lusk (Geoffrey Lewis) kill Dawson (lest he talks), then orders him to kill Nora.

Willy comes near the prison island in a boat, using a megaphone to tell the tower guard that his engine’s broken down, while Barney scubas ashore and climbs in through the sewer, rigging the boiler with a radio-controlled device.  Casey freaks out and attacks a Rorschach-blot screen with a knife to get herself thrown in isolation, conveniently in the cell right next to Nora’s (are there only the two?).  On hearing of this, Jim fakes a fainting spell so he’ll be placed in a room to recover, then disguises himself as a hospital employee and makes his way to isolation, where he helps Casey don a Nora mask and inflate a Casey blow-up doll in her bed (not that kind of blow-up doll — the camera angle clearly shows it’s not anatomically correct), then blasts a hole in the wall between cells (concealed by the padding).  When Nora is brought back from her last crazymaking treatment (which leaves her muttering random nouns one after the other, one of the stranger depictions of psychosis I’ve seen on TV), they knock out Nurse Brophy and sneak Nora out, while Casey stays behind so the bad guys won’t know Nora’s gone.  Barney’s gadget triggers a boiler overload so Maintenance Man Jim can sneak Nora out through the boiler room, where Barney came in.  (And I think it’s the same location where the previous episode’s tape scene was filmed.)  He’s given Nora an antidote shot to restore her sanity, but she breaks down crying and Barney has to comfort her.  Jim then knocks out the tower guard so Willy’s boat can come back and retrieve them.

But Lusk comes after Casey/Nora, who signals Jim with a beeper in her hospital bracelet.  She fights off Lusk as best she can, but this is 1972 TV so of course she needs Jim to arrive in the nick of time and save her.  They hide Lusk and the evidence of the fight before Carrick and Brophy arrive to collect Casey/Nora.

In court, when Nora is called to the stand, she acts rather crazy, and the defense smugly insists that she’s insane.  But ADA Wilson shockingly reveals that it’s not Nora, pulling off the mask to reveal Casey, and accusing Carrick of the crazymaking.  He then has the real Nora come in and testify that Chandler murdered a senator while Harrison watched (though the way she phrases the latter might constitute hearsay).

All in all, a decent but uneven episode.  The unmasking in court seemed a bit gratuitous, but I guess the idea was that it was the only way to ensure Nora reached the stand safely, so I can live with it.  And aside from the theatrics, the courtroom procedure felt fairly authentic to me — though it was weird to see an M:I episode turn into a courtroom drama for the last five minutes.  I guess the main appeal of the episode is Lynda Day George’s scenery-chewing.  Susan Howard (who played the first female Klingon we met in Star Trek) is pretty much wasted as the mostly incoherent Nora.  And the episode loses points for the ultra-stilted exposition between the bad guys.  So it’s watchable, but mediocre overall.

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