Archive for November 20, 2011

MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE (S7) Reviews: “The Fountain”/”The Fighter” (spoilers)

“The Fountain”: Matthew Drake (Cameron Mitchell) is in a computer center — no, wait, it’s a crime computer center, maintaining the syndicate’s records in a state-of-the-art way (keeping in mind that in 1973, state-of-the-art computers meant big wall banks with spinning tape reels).  On behalf of the organization, he’s auditing the activities of Tom Bachman, an aging rival gangster who’s not happy about the scrutiny.  Bachman is played by George Maharis in blatantly fake makeup to make him appear middle-aged, so it’s a safe bet that this caper will somehow involve the team temporarily de-aging him somehow as they did with William Shatner in “Encore” (so we can guess what fountain the title is referring to).  But that’s getting ahead of the story.  Bachman and his men pull guns on Drake and the techs, and Bachman steals two reels of incriminating computer records (after helpfully giving exposition to the audience about what’s on them), locks everyone in the back room, then sets off a bomb (while his henchmen are still in the room).  Later, in one of the many novelty shops where Jim has received tape briefings (this one featuring a lot of tall, slender cat statues), Jim is told that Drake was only injured and is hunting for Bachman and the records.  The team must get the records before Drake does.

This is the third episode this season to be set outside the US, though just barely, in Northern Mexico.  The team has tracked Bachman there and they intercept the pilot hired to fly him back to the US, with Barney taking the pilot’s place and meeting Bachman in a local bar.  In a rather contrived setup for later, Bachman asks what kind of plane Barney has and Barney describes it right down to the color, while the barman listens in.  They fly off and Barney fakes engine trouble, then knockout-needles Bachman; upon landing, they partially rouse him and play a tape of plane-crash sounds.

Drake, whose left hand has been crippled and covered by a black glove, follows Bachman’s trail to the bar and pays the barman to tell what he heard, though Drake’s henchman Dawson (Luke Askew) would rather beat it out of him.  The barman tells all about the yellow single-engine plane that Barney so contrivedly described earlier.  Drake clenches his single gloved hand and professes his desire to hunt down Bachman and take revenge.  “He tasks me, and I shall have him!”  Well, no, he doesn’t actually say that, but with the one glove it is kind of a Khan-like moment.

Bachman awakens near the simulated wreckage of the plane and sees Barney bandaging a simulated broken leg and making a crutch from a (not-simulated) branch.  They limp through the woods and Barney leads them to a mansion where the rest of the team (and at least one extra) are pretending to be members of some sort of religious retreat.  Jim and Casey tell Bachman that Barney’s being tended to, but they don’t need doctors.  They say they’re members of the Fellowship of the Golden Circle, which is actually a “Moebius circle” with no end — though Lynda Day George pronounces it as a “Mowaybus circle.”  After Bachman comments on Casey’s old-fashioned name (she’s going by Charity) and she says it was common when she was a girl, Willy comes in with a “wounded” raccoon (actually drugged) and Casey feeds it some special water locked in a cabinet (actually injecting it with an antidote out of Bachman’s sight), and the raccoon has a miraculous recovery.  After they leave, Bachman checks a dusty old book Casey was holding (they’re in a rather lovely library set that I don’t recall them using before, perhaps borrowed from some other series) and finds a picture of her in it; the copyright date is 1861.

Bachman confronts Casey about this, but she’s evasive.  Everyone here is evasive, but very bad at it, since they keep leaving proof of their miracles lying around.  Willy has a photo of himself as a WWII pilot (though it’s an obvious cut-and-paste job, and I mean that in the literal pre-Photoshop sense), and when pilot Barney shows up with his broken leg healed, Jim tries to claim his leg was never broken.  Eventually Bachman spies on Casey going through a secret panel and follows her down to a grotto containing a spring.  He gets her to confess that the water gives healing and immortality provided she drinks every 48 hours, otherwise she swiftly reverts to old age and dies.  So she has to stay here, but she would like to leave with Bachman if they take some special water with them.  Jim shows up and, seeing that he’s onto the secret, lets him drink the water (after warning him that it’s a complex chemical compound with side effects).  Plus a knockout pill (the side effects) so they can dye his hair and inject paraffin into his wrinkles to make him look younger for a week.  And Casey puts on a mask of extreme mummification (probably a reuse of the makeup from “alien” Casey in last season’s “The Visitors”) under a mask of her normal face.

Meanwhile, Drake’s men have found the plane wreck and tracked down the mansion, and shortly after Bachman awakes and sees his new youth, the henchmen barge in and hold them all at gunpoint.  But this isn’t actually a disruption of the plan, since Bachman’s intention is to mend fences with Drake by offering him the water to cure his hand.  He goes with them and brings Casey and a sample of the water as proof.  Even though an earlier scene had Drake implicitly giving the bloodthirsty Dawson permission to kill everyone but Bachman, the goons simply leave without harming anyone, making the whole thing a fakeout.  The team follows them to Drake’s place.  Drake disbelieves Bachman’s story, but Bachman proves it by denying Casey the water.  While no one’s looking, she sprays her outer mask with a chemical that dissolves it and exposes the mummy mask beneath, and takes a pill to feign death.  Convinced, Drake agrees to mend fences, and Bachman agrees to hand over the records.  They go to where the records are hidden, but the team has followed and Jim and Barney come in with the cops.

This was the second episode in a row written by Stephen Kandel, and it’s bewildering that he’d go from the brilliant “The Question” to this mediocre caper.  The story doesn’t make a lot of sense.  How did they know that Bachman would be willing to make amends with Drake once he found a way to heal Drake’s hand?  I mean, this is the same guy who recently tried to kill Drake and sacrificed two of his own henchmen to do so.  I guess the idea is that it’s to get Drake to call off his vendetta, but still, how could they really have known he’d go for it?  It just seems like a ridiculously convoluted way to find Bachman’s hiding place.  And the subplot of Drake’s men hunting down the team felt like a cheat, because it ultimately played right into the plan as though Jim had intended it all along, and the threat of the bloodthirsty Dawson turned out to be toothless.  Overall, it’s rather disappointing, and coming right after the best episode of the season — by the same writer, no less — makes it even more of a letdown.

“The Fighter”: Boxer Gunner Loomis (Herbert Jefferson, Jr.) is unhappy with the mobsters who control his contract, the ruthless Braddock (Joe Maross) and his weak-willed partner Mitchell (William Windom), and foolishly tells them he’ll talk to the feds if they don’t release him from his contract.  Unluckily for him, Braddock has already called in a hitman to take care of him.  (He tells the hitter to “make it look like a hit-and-run,” which is odd, given that Loomis is killed in the shower.)  Jim goes into a big white Greco-Roman building to get the tape in an office; it might be San Francisco City Hall again, but I’m not sure.  And wouldn’t a government building be a strange place for a secret government agent to get a secret message?  Anyway, the mission is to get the goods on Braddock and Mitchell.  Mitchell is the weak link, a formerly honest promoter whom Braddock corrupted.  And his daughter Susan (Jenifer Shaw) is in love with one of Braddock’s boxers, Pete Novick (Geoffrey Deuel).  Jim plans to take advantage of that relationship, while protecting the two young innocents.

While sweet, innocent Susan gleefully watches her boyfriend and another man inflict cumulative, incurable neurological impairment on one another, Jim and Barney rip off the syndicate’s payroll.  Later, Barney shows up in Braddock’s office with an offer to buy out Pete’s contract, and the amount he offers is the exact amount just stolen.  Yes, he’s moving in on Braddock’s operation and is aggressive about it.  (And, bizarrely, he’s using the alias “Spanner.”)  Meanwhile, Casey plays reporter to interview Pete, and while he may be an “innocent,” he’s kind of a jerk, blowing off a date with sweet, innocent Susan to take the seductive blonde reporter up to his pad for an, err, interview.  (Also he’s got a “look the other way” policy toward his promoters’ corruption.)  But Willy’s rigged Pete’s car with remote servos and given Casey the controller, and she sticks him with a drug that makes him woozy for exactly 2 minutes and then knocks him out (oh, come on!), just long enough to see motorcyclist Willy speeding headlong toward him and then passing out as Casey remote-steers the car out of Willy’s way.  They stage an accident scene which Casey photos, and then she comes to him the next day to tell him he killed the guy and she’s blackmailing him on Barney/Spanner’s behalf.  He goes to Braddock and Mitchell for help and they say they’ll take care of it.  Then Willy shows up as a federal agent who warns them about Spanner’s aggressive new organization and wants them to testify against him, turning to them as the lesser of two evils.  Braddock will have none of it, but Mitchell is curious.  (And Braddock needs a better secretary.  Both Barney and Willy were able to barge into his office after he refused to see them.)

Later, Susan comes to Pete, angry at him for missing their date, but he confides in her about the “dead” biker and she’s devastated.  (Nasty thing for the team to do to these innocents.)  She goes to her father Mitchell for help, but Mitchell doesn’t want her dating this tainted boxer and demands she leave him.  After she leaves, he asks Braddock to go ahead and let “Spanner” have Pete’s contract, but Braddock decides he’d rather kill Pete, a decision Mitchell’s uneasy with.

The team has Braddock’s phone lines tapped, so when he tries to call someone whom I guess you’d call a talent agent for hitmen, they intercept the call — and we see the return of voice artist Walker Edmiston to the team.  And though he’s credited as “Rawls,” Jim calls him “Dave,” which is the same name he used back in “Movie” (where he was credited as Dave Waley).  So I think we can count Dave as a recurring team member, the first since Mimi.  Dave says Braddock’s preferred hitman is on vacation or something, and sends in Jim as a substitute.  As if bringing Edmiston back weren’t enough, we get another bit of the continuity that’s unique to this season: the alias Jim uses, hitman Dave Riker (another Dave), is the same identity he used back in “Boomerang.”

Jim agrees to kill Pete, and Braddock wants to come and watch just to make sure of the new guy, insisting the reluctant Mitchell come as well.  Jim arranges to blow Pete’s house up with a bomb.  But elsewhere, Willy and Barney intercept Susan and take her in for “questioning,” and Casey dons a Susan mask and goes to Pete’s house, to the horror of the watching Mitchell.  Casey knocks Pete out and Willy carries him to safety just before the bomb blows, but as far as Mitchell knows, Braddock’s hit has claimed his daughter’s life.  (By the way, isn’t it rather rude of the team to save Pete’s life by destroying all his worldly possessions?  I hope the government compensates him.)

You’d think this would be enough to get the devastated Mitchell to testify, and Willy comes to make the offer, but he still won’t do it.  Not until Jim shows up for his payment from Braddock and drops a comment about another hit he was asked to do.  Braddock thinks it’s just a mixup, but Mitchell thinks the hit was meant for him.  To prove otherwise, Braddock promises to kill Jim and asks Mitchell to go get him.  But Jim intercepts Mitchell at gunpoint and takes him into the empty boxing arena, telling him Braddock did hire Jim to kill Mitchell.  But Braddock comes in and almost spoils things by shooting Jim; Willy intercepts him just in time and the shot goes wild, and then Willy comes in so it seems to Mitchell that Willy fired the shot.  With Willy holding hitman Jim at gunpoint, Mitchell promises to testify.  So his daughter’s death didn’t do it, but a threat to his own life did?  Some loving father.  (Did I mention he smacked her when they argued earlier?)  Anyway, we wrap up with the team explaining things to the young couple, saying that Mitchell will still need to do time but it’ll be easier for him if he gets to see his daughter.

Another routine episode, but a reasonably well-written one.  It’s yet another Stephen Kandel script (this time in collaboration with Nicholas E. Baehr), and it’s certainly an improvement over last week’s, though nowhere near the level of “The Question.”  Still, it’s a solid outing overall.

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