Home > Reviews > MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE (S7) Reviews: “TOD-5″/”Cocaine” (spoilers)

MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE (S7) Reviews: “TOD-5″/”Cocaine” (spoilers)

“TOD-5”: A government scientist named Morse…  Hey, that sounds like the first line of a limerick.  Ahem:

A government scientist named Morse
Has sold out his country—how coarse!
He stole a nerve toxin,
So he needs outfoxin’
By the Impossible Missions Force!

(Sorry for the meter in the first and last lines.  Best I could do.)  Anyway, Morse (Ross Elliott) is contacted by Holt (Peter Haskell), go-between with a domestic terrorist organization called the Alpha Group, which intends to buy a stolen canister of nerve gas TOD-5 from Morse.  They meet in a hotel in the small Southern or Southwestern town of Woodfield.  But Morse has hidden it and will need a day to retrieve it. Holt calls go-between Davies (Michael Conrad, the third future Hill Street Blues regular to show up lately) who “connects” him with the Alpha Group the old-fashioned way, by holding two telephone handsets against each other speaker-to-receiver.  The Alpha Group is led by Dr. Victor Flory (hey, it’s Ray Walston!), and they’re suspicious of Davies, for good reason, since we see him listening in on the conversation.  Flory orders Davies detained for a few days once he returns, after which it won’t matter.  Cut to Jim in an antique shop, getting the briefing on a vinyl record on an antique phonograph — only the second time in several seasons that something other than a reel-to-reel tape has been used.  The mission is to locate the Alpha Group.  As Jim explains in the apartment scene, it’s not enough just to retrieve the TOD-5, because Alpha has other bioweapons it plans to use in a major strike several days hence.  They have to get to Alpha and shut it down.  This is another Mimi episode; Jim explains that Casey is in Europe monitoring Alpha’s overseas branch.  Mimi’s job is to get close to Holt, and Jim gives her a tracking-device watch and warns her not to let anything happen to it.  What do you want to bet something happens to it?

Jim and Willy effortlessly take Morse out of action and retrieve the TOD-5.  Morse boasts that capturing him won’t stop the attack.  But then, he doesn’t know the plan.  Next morning, Holt arrives at the hotel to be told by a new clerk (who seems sweaty and unwell) that Morse was never there at all. Holt checks in and searches Morse’s room, finding nothing.  He tries calling Alpha, but an operator tells him the long-distance lines out of Woodfield were downed in a storm.  He goes to the garage where his car is parked and finds it won’t start.  Holt accuses mechanic Willy of sabotaging his car, and Sheriff Jim intercedes.  Just then, there’s a bloodcurdling scream from outside.  A man staggers into the street, his face covered in sores.  He collapses and an ambulance promptly arrives.  Jim keeps everyone back from the sick man, including waitress Mimi, who seems close to him.  Holt notices the ambulance crew (including Barney) have military-style khaki pants and boots.  Just as the ambulance drives away, the camera zooms in on a man in the background — it’s Davies!  Hmm, I’d figured he was the fed who notified the government and got the IMF on the case.  Maybe he represents a third party?

In the diner, waitress Mimi flirts with Holt (even though the guy who just “died” in the street was “sort of a boyfriend” of hers), and can’t tell him anything about Morse.  When he leaves, Davies comes in, claiming to have been hunting in the area, and starts asking questions about Morse, making Mimi and Jim suspicious.  Mimi slips Jim his beer glass so he can fingerprint it.  Later, Holt sneaks into the garage and finds Morse’s car under a tarp, with the (dummy) TOD-5 canister just sitting in the back seat.  He takes the car and tries to get out of town, but finds the roads blocked.  Sheriff Jim notices he’s not driving the car he came in, and orders him to take it back where he found it.

Back in town, Holt convinces Mimi to tell him what’s going on.  He’s figured out a lot of it: that there was a TOD-5 leak and the military took over the town, quarantining it to avoid a panic, even if it kills everyone in Woodfield.  He convinces Mimi to let him know the next time they come to take a sick person away.  Later she comes to him in his room and knocks him out long enough for the team to inject him with a drug that will fake the symptoms of the plague (seriously, who designs these perfectly tailored drugs they keep using?), and they set back his watch and rewind the tape player hidden in his hotel-room radio so he’ll think no time has passed when he recovers a few minutes later.  Mimi tells him another sick person is about to be picked up, and he follows the ambulance to a morgue outside of town, where he’s captured and questioned by GI Joe Barney.  (Sorry, I didn’t notice his rank.)  Barney confirms what’s happening, and that only a very few people are immune to the toxin.  And Holt isn’t one of them.  Barney hands him a mirror and lets him see the sores starting to form on his skin.  Panicked, Holt breaks free and rushes back to Mimi.  She tells him she has no symptoms, even though her boyfriend died a couple of days before.  Holt realizes she must be immune, and might be his salvation.  Sheriff Jim shows up at Mimi’s door, but collapses “dead” soon thereafter.  Mimi suggests taking his cop car out of town; with the siren running, it’ll be let through the roadblock.  Once they’re on their way, Mimi activates her signal watch.

But Davies (whom the team has now identified as an Alpha member) follows them out of town, going offroad in his Jeep to get around the roadblock.  He shoots out their tires and pins them down with gunfire.  Turns out he wants the TOD-5 for himself so he can sell it.  The team arrives, but can’t intervene without blowing the mission.  Holt pretends to cave and tosses out the duffel containing the canister and the money he was going to pay for it.  Davies is distracted by the shiny long enough for Holt to recover his gun and shoot Davies in the leg.  But Davies’ gun goes off and hits Mimi in — guess where — the shoulder.  We’re getting to the point where you’re not really an IMF agent until you’ve been shot in the shoulder at least once.  And, predictably, when she falls, she breaks her signal watch.  When Holt takes her away in Davies’s Jeep, the team’s only hope is that Davies is still alive and willing to tell where Alpha HQ is.  He is alive, but they threaten to end that condition by shooting open the (fake) nerve gas canister right next to him.  At the last second, he agrees to talk.

Holt arrives with Mimi at the small-town church housing the Alpha Group, deliberately exposing Flory and the rest to the plague to force them to find a cure.  He tells them not to hurt Mimi, since she’s immune.  Then he appears to drop dead, an effect faked by the drug, and Flory is about to autopsy him when the nurses interrupt him with the discovery of the transmitter in Mimi’s broken watch.  Just then, Holt wakes up, and for some reason the first thing he does is to brush at his facial sores, which are suddenly flaking off harmlessly.  Just then, the team bursts in on the shocked bad guys, and we get a rare instance of direct lethal violence on the team’s part, when Flory pulls a gun and Jim shoots him in self-defense (though Flory dies off-camera).  Cut to Mimi recovering in the hospital, where Jim tells her she’s no doubt happier to recover than Holt was.  (There’s no further mention of Casey’s activities in Europe against the overseas branch of Alpha.)

A reasonably effective episode.   Nice to see bad guys who aren’t mobsters, even if they are domestic.  And it’s an unusual touch that the episode unfolds mostly from Holt’s point of view and we don’t always know in advance what the team is doing or who’s working with them (though it seems pretty much the whole town had to be cooperating with them).  Davies’s agenda is something of a mystery for much of the episode too, adding an unpredictable element.  The location work is good too; wherever they found to shoot the Woodfield scenes was not your typical backlot, and the shootout and confrontation with Davies took place in an interesting mountain-valley location.  So far it’s looking as though a lot of the seventh season’s budget is going into novel location work — the San Francisco-based tape scenes, the earthquake-ruined hospital in “Two Thousand,” the boats and coastal/seagoing locations in “The Deal,” now this.  It’s a nice change from when practically every episode featured the same studio backlots or office buildings.

“Cocaine”: We open at an import company in Rio de Janeiro (judging from the stock footage of its harbor), where… is this a Shatner I see before me?  Yes, William Shatner is back, but he’s not the focus of this scene.  He’s alongside gangster Carl Reid (Stephen McNally), and they’re meeting with Laroca (Gregory Sierra) to view a seahorse sculpture they’re having shipped to America.  The artist Santoro (Miguel Landa) is shocked to discover they’re using it to smuggle drugs — though he must lead a very sheltered life, since he needs it explained to him that the powder is cocaine.  He walks off, naturally getting shot for his trouble while the other bad guys coolly close their deal for the largest cocaine shipment ever smuggled into the US.  We cut to Jim driving up to a bookstore just across the street from San Francisco City Hall — very near the location used in the season premiere’s tape scene.  “Your mission, should you accept,” is to seize the shipment.

The mark for this mission will be Shatner’s character, Reid’s right-hand man Joe Conrad (who probably has some kind of darkness in his heart).  Conrad is vain, arrogant, and fancies himself a swinger (so, totally against type for Shatner, right?).  He’s just joined a Playboy-style club run by men’s cosmetics mogul Frank Fallon, who’s recovering in Europe from a near-fatal plane crash and has had his face totally reconstructed.  Casey, still on maternity leave assignment in Europe, has secured Fallon’s cooperation so Jim can take his place.  Mimi has gotten a job as a “Fun Girl” at the men’s club.  (For some reason, she’s attired in a glamorous evening gown in the tape scene, instead of casual clothes.)

Barney plays a cop whose star is rising due to a huge drug bust he just made.  Reid and Conrad can’t figure out where the drugs came from, since Reid controls all cocaine in the city.  But there seems to be a link to Fallon’s club, so Conrad goes there and Mimi arranges to catch his attention, pretending to be high on the job and getting a rebuke from Jim-as-Fallon.  He convinces her to get together after work, and she invites him to her place.  (This is a reunion for Shatner and Barbara Anderson; she seduced him as Lenore Karidian in Star Trek‘s “The Conscience of the King.”)  He claims interest in getting high, and she’s just let him see the sooper-seekrit compartment where her stash is when Barney and his cops show up to search her place, missing the stash.  Once they’re gone, Conrad takes the stash, and shows only one small bag of it to Reid and his chemist Stanley (Milton Selzer), the latter of whom confirms it’s the purest coke he’s ever seen.  Reid then has Conrad meet with Barney and try to bribe him, but Barney pretends to think that Conrad’s working for Fallon and that he’s not interested in taking Fallon’s money “anymore.”  Between this and some fake financial records Willy plants at the credit union, they’re now convinced that Fallon is the rival drug dealer.

So Conrad bails out Mimi and demands to know where she gets the drugs.  She takes him to see Jim/Fallon, and Conrad offers to go into partnership.  Jim refuses and rebuffs Mimi.  Playing the woman scorned, Mimi tries to shoot him and the gun goes off between them, fake-killing Mimi.  Now Conrad has leverage over Jim, and forces him to take  them to his source.  It’s Willy, cast against type as a genius chemist who’s invented a machine to synthesize cocaine cheaply.  Conrad calls in Stanley to confirm its purity, telling him to keep it between them, but Stanley lets Reid know anyway.  After Stanley confirms the purity of the coke (actually government-seized drugs provided to the team), Barney bursts in and is about to arrest them.  But Conrad Shatners it up and urges Barney to think about the millions he could make from this drug-manufacturing process.  Barney agrees to a partnership, and pretends to kill Stanley (just knocking him out) to be sure he won’t talk.

Conrad arranges with his buyers — presumably the ones who were supposed to buy Laroca’s shipment — to meet him earlier that day at Fallon’s club and buy his coke for less.  But then Jim and Willy get the drop on the buyers (including the late Charles Napier again, though he’s uncredited) and the “dead” Mimi comes out to collect the money.  Barney doesn’t join them; it looks like he’s been set up along with Conrad.  After the others leave with the loot, the buyers discover the “drugs” are sugar.  One of them is about to shoot Barney as a warning to Conrad, but Barney talks his way out, saying Conrad can get them their drugs.  He’s bought Conrad time, but he has to get his hands on that shipment from Rio now.  So Conrad intercepts (then shoots) Reid’s courier and gets the location of the statue.  Reid’s man is tailing him, and the dying courier tells him the location.  Jim and Willy try to pursue, but Conrad nearly runs over a crossing guard leading a bunch of kids across the street, and Jim has to stop to avoid hitting them.  Luckily, the team has tapped Reid’s phone at some point (this was never shown), and Mimi overhears the location.  Conrad reaches the gallery and tries to buy the statue, then Reid and his men get the drop on him, then the cops and the team show up and get the drop on them all.  Conrad smiles ironically as he sees the team all together.

An okay episode — like the last Shatner episode, scripted by future Star Trek: The Motion Picture screenwriter Harold Livingston (from a story by Livingston and Norman Katkov).  Not a great one, though.  All the schemes and double-crosses are maybe a bit too convoluted, and some things are set up that don’t really have any payoff (like a whole scene of Reid and Conrad explaining to the courier about how he’ll be given a phone number in reverse, which sounds like it’ll throw off the team, but it has no effect on the story).  But again, one of its main strengths is an effective use of visually interesting locations beyond the backlot.  A street sign saying “2900 W 6th St.” visible in the last-act car chase let me identify a couple of the distinctive buildings, including the Central Civil West Courthouse and the nearby Church of the Precious Blood — and there actually is a school right next to the place where the schoolchildren were crossing the road.  (Although during the chase it looked like they went through the same intersection several times.)

  1. Steve
    December 18, 2014 at 12:01 pm

    The “Cocaine” episode was just another example of Phelps overcomplicating things. They simply could have put a tail on Conrad and Reid and they would have led them to the stash

  2. John A
    April 12, 2015 at 11:55 pm

    Shatner is on M:I twice, the two episodes feature different characters and even two different eras for Shatner. Ok, that’s what you would expect. What I can’t figure out is why the different episodes both have a “Fallon Club” – now theres a mystery to solve.

  3. hondoharrelson
    April 2, 2020 at 2:07 pm

    Woodfield is played by Piru, California. It’s maybe 30 minutes north of LA, and is where most television series went when they needed a small town location (Quinn Martin shows went there a lot). Piru still looks a lot like it did in M:I, except the bridge is permanently out of service.

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