Thursday, 12 September 2013

Mission: Impossible S2E09 The Seal

The Seal has to be one of the most perfect Mission: Impossible episodes there is. It's all there. The team is the best there ever was – Jim, Rollin, Cinnamon, Barney, and Willy. There's a trained cat, reputedly the same cat that starred with Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany's (and that's the highest kudos a cat could have!). There are gadgets, Barney-in-a-box, Jim doing things in lift shafts, pretences at the supernatural, and a guy who believes he's unbeatable. This is Mission: Impossible in every way.

Capping this one proves a little problematic because my dvd is damaged. Luckily it's mostly damaged during Rollin's attempts to pass himself off as a mystic, and as Willy takes a replacement computer unit into the building, rather than during Jim's attempts to pass himself off as a jolly rivet maker. It does make me want to rebuy the dvds, though...

Today Jim is picking up his mission from an artist's studio. He has been before, or will be again. He looks pretty amongst the paintings, but I do wish there were an individual mission pick up for each episode! 

*Note, Jim has pretty wrists.

This screencap is unnecessary except to note that Jim still has pretty wrists. And hands. And fingers. And face.

Jim is just looking pretty today, and there's nothing we can do about it. Meanwhile, he's listening to the mission briefing. A priceless jade seal belonging to the small nation of Kuala Rokat has fallen into the hands of a collector. There's no legality about the mission. Jim and his team just need to steal it, pure and simple, to keep good relations between the country and the US and keep Kuala Rokat from (le gasp) the Communist camp.

We'll have another moment to appreciate those hands, shall we? Those are the kind of hands that could play a jazz clarinet raw, or capably chop up wood to keep the home fires burning, or take on a grizzly bear, or – well – other things that a man's hands are naturally meant to do.

Sometimes I wonder if the Mission: Impossible production team were dedicated to making Jim look as sexy as possible in these first few minutes, to make all female viewers incapable of leaving the couch for the next hour for fear of fainting.

I mean, look. Look at those unbuttoned, rolled up cuffs. The unbuttoned collar. The high-waisted trousers. Jesus.

Jim has picked his team. But this is here to ask, What the hell is that Jim has on his desk? An exotic cosh? A very prickly head of a walking stick? Huh?

Now, here's the real star of the episode. Introducing Rusty, aka Rhubarb, or Orangey (apparently he was credited under various names, but uncredited here) who starred with Audrey Hepburn and some bloke in Breakfast at Tiffany's. What a pedigree! The MI Dossier has, '“The Seal” may be the only Mission ever built around a specific star: Rhubarb, a remarkable feline owned by animal trainer Frank Inn.' ...director Alex Singer relates, “I observed that it would take at least one day of work with the cat. It took three days of second unit work and four cats, who were very very hungry! It was the hardest thing that I was ever involved in shooting. The scene was pasted together with some sequences that were one second long.”' (White, Patrick J. The Complete Mission: Impossible Dossier. (London: Boxtree, 1996) p. 129)

Barney has a look of adoration.

Jim has a look of adoration.

Cinnamon has a look of (suave) adoration, and even says, 'He's adorable.'

Look at that. Everyone's grinning goofily. This is the power of the cat. On a side note, look out of the window there and tell me that's not meant to look like New York outside Jim's apartment. Surely the city across the body of water there is too close for it to be San Francisco looking over to Oakland?

Rollin's looking pretty adorable here, too, and all through this episode. How lucky we are to have a series with so many hot men in it. He's telling Jim how his ring, watch, shoes, and a capacitor in his belt are all built to take 1000 volts. That's because that's the charge of the sexual magnetism around here, baby.

The cat has made everyone so happy and relaxed that Jim is feeling flirty.

And so's Rollin. What a happy bunch!

Jim is so flirty that I want to eat him.

Rusty too. Let's get a room with Jim and Rollin and Rusty in it, light a big log fire, and see what ensues. That would be nice.

To demonstrate Rusty's skills Jim wants him to take a string of pearls from Cinnamon's bag. That was one of Orangey's tricks.

'Fetch,' Barney urges him.

'Fuck off, I'm not a dog,' Rusty replies. But he does it anyway, because he wants to, not because someone's telling him to.

Rusty fetches the pearls and drops them in Barney's hands, but he's really more interested in the food that Barney's holding in his other hands. You know, the spare pair he keeps under his jacket. Everyone is delighted. Rusty is a star.

Jim is so buoyed up by Rusty that he continues to be flirty and jaunty as he strides into the Taggart Aircraft Corporation under the guise of 'George Wilkins, Wilkins Tool and Die, Cleveland Ohio.'

He signs in in a pleasingly left-handed way, crossing his Ts backwards and dotting his Is backwards. Yum.

Next on the scene, Cinnamon and Barney are signing in as a reporter and her cameraman, to see J. Richard Taggart. I like the way they highlight Taggart's association with art by shooting them through this sculpture.

Here's Mr Taggart and his penthouse. He's played by Darren McGavin, who was also in an episode of The Man From U.N.C.L.E., three of Gunsmoke, and played Johnny Copa in Route 66's The Opponent. He's a good example of a stressed, pressured executive, with his red cheeks and loose tie. He has a very nice view, though.

He's thorough. He knows the full history of the jade and is quick to stress he bought it. He didn't steal it. 'The seal has always been fair game,' he says. It's that statement from him that makes this whole dubious business more acceptable. He practically invites anyone who is able to steal it – but he has such tight security that he doesn't believe that's possible. Now, there's a challenge for someone like Jim.

Meanwhile, Jim is being charmingly bouncy and a little provincial seeming as he meets Miss Putnam, who is in charge of the accounting department.

He likes to show his rivets to women he's only just met. He's convincing Miss Putnam that Taggart is overpaying him by ten times for every rivet he makes, all due to her newfangled automated accounting system.

Cinnamon is being quite gorgeous as she continues to interview Taggart.

Taggart is going to show Cinnamon and Barney the jade. This alarm board shows just how well protected it is.

Jim continues to be pretty as Miss Putman goes off to look into the matter.

While she's gone he (or someone with hairier hands and a different jacket) neatly switches the punchcard with the number for computer services on it in her phone-number-holder-thing. He has the look of a naughty boy who thinks he won't be found out.

And here's the seal in Taggart's gallery, which is protected by a 500 volt electrified door, sound sensors, and pressure sensors that can sense as little as a four ounce force.

Miss Putnam comes back to tell Jim that she can find no records of his company. Jim launches into full and joyous irritated-mode. I think he possibly even says, 'That ties it.'

So he presents her with Taggart automated invoices, order forms, and, most importantly, an automated cheque. Jim is nothing if not thorough.

Jim isn't about to shake hands and leave. He's going to go with her to make sure she puts his cheque in her machine. And no, that's not a euphemism.

Miss Putnam is ruffled. Jim is pleasingly – something. I'm not sure how to encapsulate his jaunty-but-irritated, slightly country-bumpkin, satisfied expression.

How pleased Jim is in his guise of George Wilkins.

Now he's ready to shake her hand. 'You're all right, Putnam. Thank you very much,' he tells her as he cheque goes into the machine, before leaving exclaiming, 'Those machines!' in a kind of wondering country-mouse way. I wonder if he feels guilty for the trouble he's about to make for her?

Cinnamon takes a final look around the gallery to fix the locations of the paintings in her mind so she can impart the info to Rollin later, when he does his psychic trick. Which begs the question, why doesn't Rollin just watch the film of the place that Barney's just shot?

This is what Jim's cheque did to the machines...

Meanwhile, Jim is in the lift. He's dropped his identity badge into the ashtray for later, and then it's just a sonata of buttocks, thighs, muscles, as he climbs up onto the top of the lift.

Feet! Sorry, wasting screencaps here, but I couldn't resist.

Well, this looks like a fun place to be, Jim. This is looking up, at least, but of course it's all going to be down in a minute. He's on his way to the penthouse, the unconventional way.

So Jim rides the lift all the way up, and has to hop off at the top as the lift starts to descend.

That's the 'bugger me, it's a long way down,' look.

Doesn't Barney look marvellously happy in his den of electronics and cigarette smoke? Miss Putnam is phoning him, via the switched phone number card, to fix the computers... Rusty is probably purring near him. That would make me smile.

Meanwhile, Cinnamon has told Taggart their made up myth, that anyone who keeps the seal 'from its holy place in Kuala Rokat will die within a fortnight.' Taggart has about six hours to live. Taggart doesn't believe in the legend at all, but he's the type of man to take on a challenge. So he agrees to let Cinnamon stay with him for the next six hours.

Cinnamon wants to bring in a lecturer from the university, a man from Kuala Rokat, who is an expert on the seal. This is Cinnamon's best persuasive look. Who'd turn her down?

Hey, look, it's Willy! Guess what he has in his box!

Jim is still toiling sweatily at the top of a lift shaft, trying to get through a solid wall.

Unsurprisingly he's got the 'bugger me, it's a long way down' look on again.

Willy is in the lift underneath Jim, retrieving Jim's badge and transferring the number to his own rigged badge so he can make it look later as if Jim has left the building... Incidentally, Willy's hands are quite pleasant too.

Rollin enters as 'Indus Jalpan,' looking oriental and mysterious... And this is where my dvd starts having damage issues, so some of his presence will stay mysterious...

Meanwhile, Willy is delivering his very large box to Miss Putnam. It's too late to install it now. He'll just have to leave it there...

Rollin is, I have to say, looking quite beautiful in this persona.

Willy is also looking rather lovely as he signs out.

He's cunningly got a stamp attached to his other hand so he can make it look as if George Wilkins, aka Jim, has also signed out. His modified badge has Jim's badge under it with a timer, so the badges will separate after he's left. Clever things.

But what's this?

Why, it's Barney-in-a-box! And Rusty, too! Barney is probably thanking all the gods there are that Rusty didn't need the toilet while they were in transit. Also, if you picture what happens most of the time when you try to put a cat in a travelling box, it's a testament to Rusty that Barney didn't come out in shreds.

Rusty's all like, 'I don't know what the f*** is going on, but – whatever...'

The security guard has noticed there's a card missing from the board... Conway (Taggart's right hand man) orders a full security search. Even the elevator shafts...

Just as they're going through all the security cameras, the cards separate. The security man is fired. Poor guy.

Meanwhile, Barney, Jim, and Rusty at the top of the elevator shaft, as if it's the most natural thing in the world.

Rollin is just looking beautiful. He asks if he can see the seal, but Taggart and Conway won't allow it – so he's 'seeing' into the other room from where he is. Taggart almost laughs but manages to stifle it in a lovely bit of acting.

Rollin has quite beautiful eyes. Or I should say, Martin Landau has quite beautiful eyes. I could fall in love with him for those eyes. This whole scene has a lot of nice eyes. Taggart's very brown eyes in a freckled face, Conway's very blue ones, and Martin Landau's that look like they may be related to opals.

Cinnamon is looking very beautiful and immaculate too, as she gives Rollin covert signals to tell him what paintings are where Taggart is asking about.

I just want to get in a shot of Taggart and his freckles and eyes. I'm not really a big fan of freckles, and I can't say I find this man hugely attractive, but there's just something about his face. This filming in this episode is quite lovely.

Meanwhile, even in the most tense of situations, even with Jim's face jammed up against Barney's ass, even though Rusty himself could, I think, vie with Grumpy Cat for grumpy-cat status, Rusty still has the power to make people smile.

Taggart has a lovely fish tank in his wall, between his room and this little utility space behind. Jim has some rather nice light on his face as he looks through the glass.

This is what Jim is seeing.

Rollin is trying to further convince Taggart of his mysticism by appearing to boil water with the power of his mind. Cinnamon dropped a capsule into it as she gave it to him.

Jim continues to look pretty as Barney sets up magnets on the steel wall to catch the drill residue. He watches through the fish tank as Rollin prepares to show Taggart that he can levitate.

Rollin, of course, can't levitate. He's used a helium-filled plastic bag...

Jim (prettily) tells Barney to get ready to drill...

Rollin does a passable impression of having sex with the electrified door, protected by his ring and watch, so that the alarms have to be turned off.

Barney has about a minute to drill through the wall with his big foam-covered drill.

Rollin is being given some kind of pre-CPR attention, while Taggart calls an ambulance...

Barney did it in time! (of course) and has beaten the sonic alarm with something involving a helium balloon and a petri dish with circuitry in it. Go Barney! Jim and Barney are pleased.

Barney is intent on cutting a cat sized hole in the wall now, and Jim is intent on watching him. 'Enough of the f***ing around,' Rusty says. 'Imma gonna get me some fishies.'

Jim has an 'oh fuck,' moment as he realises what Rusty's doing...

Taggart has noticed the fish getting the wind up them...

Jim has his gun in one hand and his cat in another, waiting for trouble as Taggart comes round to check the aerator. But Cinnamon convinces him just in time that one of the fish was annoying another... Phew.

Barney has devised a telescopic cat walkway with a suction cup on the end. I've said it before. Barney is an effing genius.

Even though Rusty has been a bad boy, he still has the power to make people smile.

Time to play 'post the cat.'

We get a lot of anxious-Jim and anxious-Barney looking through the hole...

It's good to see Rusty is fully intact and ready to propagate the next generation of Rustettes.

Anxious-Jim... This has to be pretty much the tensest scene in all eight seasons, as Barney talks Rusty through his moves.

Rusty has opened the door on the case.

Good thing that jade seal has a gold rope attached...

Rusty loves the seal so much he almost knocks it off the walkway...

'Don't drop it!'

All the time here, as Barney is patiently talking to Rusty, Jim is almost miming his own exhortations, not quite speaking aloud, but plainly frustrated that he's powerless.

Pretty cat. He reminds me of my sister's as we were growing up. Same unabashed knowledge that he was the best cat in the world, and everyone else better just lump it.

Jim looks like he doesn't really think this little lump of stone was worth all that stress.

He can see, through the fish tank, Rollin being prepared on a stretcher to be taken away. (He also has teeth.)

'Let's get out of here,' he says with some relief.

Barney should be very, very pleased with himself for this one.


It's Jim on top of the lift, and Barney, and the cat. Wow.

Cinnamon is so fricking cool. Taggart is confident that he's won, and the curse is a myth.

'Are you sure of that?' Cinnamon asks.

'Well, I've have the jade for fourteen days and fourteen nights and I'm still alive,' Taggart says impatiently.

'Are you sure the jade is still in your possession?' Cinnamon asks coolly.

Exit Taggart, stage left, quickly...

Jim and Rollin are posing as milkmen. Ahem, excuse me. Ambulance men. There's a tense moment as the guard asks for Rollin's ID badge, but apparently he doesn't notice these are different men. Barney, it seems, is under the sheet on the stretcher. I wonder if he's chloroformed Rusty?

Exit, stage right.

This is Taggart's 'Oh fuck' moment.

Cinnamon is so cool that there should be frost wherever she steps. Alarms are sounding, tannoys are speaking, the guard tells her she can't leave. But she just hands in her badge and walks out, cool as anything.

Everyone is happy! Happy, happy, happy! Although I think Barney is a little afraid that if they go over a bump Rusty may take his ear off.

Jim thinks that Rollin and Cinnamon are starting to believe their own story when Cinnamon offers the suggestion that they are now the spiritual rulers of Kuala Rokat.

'What do you think, Rusty?' Jim asks the cat.

The cat miaows.

Peter Graves may be having a flash back to Fury as they all laugh merrily.

Rusty thinks, 'I am awesome, more awesome than all of you, and I am going to have the last word.'


  1. When he went up through that elevator thing, sigh! PG was gorgeous!