Wednesday, 1 April 2015

Mission: Impossible S5E16 - The Missile

The Missile (16 Jan. 1971) is another of those episodes that leaves you feeling a little wanting, but it does have the plot variation of Dana becoming the target of an escaped homicidal mental patient. The mission is to fool spies into thinking they have the schematics of a missile guidance system when in fact it's a fake one put there to mislead them. Jim has to take the place of Willard, someone from the weapons test place who has been having an affair with his (spy) secretary. Dana takes the place of the secretary who is the spy's liaison and whose job it is to get Jim into a compromising situation so that he can be blackmailed. Paris, Barney, and Willy have sadly little to do, although Willy and Barney had a dramatic scene involving a fire trap.

I don't know if the Mission: Impossible Dossier has anything to say about this episode because I'm in a different house to my book. I will have to remember to check later to see if there are any tidbits.


Well hi, Jim. It’s been a while. And look at you in your suit with your enormous soft-top car that probably takes an entire epoch’s worth of petrol just to travel a mile.
We’re somewhere near the sea. You can hear seagulls. And I just like this shot, where my dvd stalled. It’s arty.
Do you think Jim ever wonders about the cameramen who follow him at these dead drops and hide behind shelves to watch him?
That’s a lot of pork and beans that Jim’s surrounded by.
Jim is intense as he hears about the mission. This gist of this one is, as far as I can make out, that a bad guy, Reed, wants to steal a missile guidance system, and they want to make sure he steals a fake one. Jim can manage that. That sounds right up his alley.
So, stuff is going down at the Weapons Test Center. Jim has given some thought to the growing problem of global warming and peak oil, and brought a smaller but sexier car with him. Seriously, this car has a sexy engine sound.
Jim does his slightly shifty I’m-a-spy look as he goes into an office in the building. Hmm, he must be on spy work, and this must be a mission with a twist, since he hasn’t chosen a team...
Ah yes. He exchanges code phrases with the secretary inside, at which point the entire team burst in and the secretary is put under arrest. She's called 'Doris Gordon,' which is a magical combination of the two most boring female and male names in the English language.
She is not so much caught between a rock and a hard place as caught between a hot guy and another hot guy. She’s fated to be taken away by Paris. Don’t struggle, lady. Go with him. I’d go with him. I’d go with him in a heartbeat.
Jim tells Bob Willard (Barry Coe – seriously, this guy looks like a Barry) whose office it is very seriously that they know that although he has a wife and family he’s been having an affair with his secretary, who is, unfortunately, a spy who was going to blackmail him.
Look at this. These two could be brothers. It’s like a moustache-off. That’s our Bazza on the left.
So, Jim gets to go and look at the nice shiny missile. And look. I know Star Trek gets a lot of kudos for what was, for the 60s, striking racial equality, but look at Mission: Impossible. This guy is a scientist or a lab technician. He’s an educated, intelligent guy. He’s not bringing round drinks on a tray or clipping your hedges. He’s not a big character making a point, either. He’s just there, as part of your viewing, because why shouldn’t he work in a lab instead of a kitchen? There’s a woman working in the background too. A woman!
Look at Jim’s manly stance as he puts a fake bit in the missile and gives them fake plans. A man who can handle a missile is a real man.
So, here we are. Jim is pretending to be Mr Willard, while Dana is Doris, the spy-secretary. Slick. He has to be nice and tender to her, because they’re having an affair.
But, oh dear, Dana’s car has trouble. This isn’t part of the plan. It sounds like a small steam engine trying to go uphill.
Doesn’t Dana look like the typical clueless lady that garages prey on? The guy fixes the car with a temporary part, but she’ll have to come back tomorrow for a proper one...
But hey, look at the second mechanic. Nice. This is the kind of the-bodies-are-in-the-car-pit-under-a-foot-of-bitumen mechanic.
Oh, yeah. He’s clocked on to Dana. He’s calling her Marlene. This isn’t good. If you weren’t sure, you can tell by the music.
Also, he has a little dancing hula lady attached to the bonnet. I mean, who has a little dancing hula lady attached to their bonnet who isn’t a little bit odd in the head?
Yeah, he’s followed her home and is checking the – whatever this is – under the sun visor.
To compound the creepiness, she enters her flat to find her bad-spy contact in there, lighting a cigarette.
Meanwhile, in Willard’s office, Willard’s all-American son is more than happy to help the authorities and pretend that Jim is his adulterer father. The deception and double-dealing is highlighted by this lovely shot through the distortion of some kind of glass trophy.
Look at this kid. In Chandler from Friends’ voice, Could he be any more American? Of course he’ll help Jim. Have they told him his father is banging the secretary?
So Mr Reed, the bad guy, comes in and gets to meet ‘Willard’ and his son Bobby (Could Bobby’s name be any more American?) Dana has assured Reed that Willard would do anything to protect his children.
Dear god, there’s something demonic in this child’s face. (The kid’s actual name is Jimmy Bracken and he’s been in the Brady Bunch. Does this surprise you?)
Jim puts on a touching scene, talking with his son about ‘little league’ and telling Reed wistfully that family is what it’s all about. Ah, what a prime candidate for blackmail.
While Reed and Dana discuss getting compromising pictures of her affair with ‘Willard’ in the outer office, Jim listens through the intercom. Really, even if Jim weren’t on to them, they’re not being the most subtle of spies. But wouldn’t I like to see compromising pictures of Jim? I mean, really compromising. Reed has taken the empty apartment next to Dana’s so that he can get the pictures.
Ahhh. It’s been almost quarter of an hour, but finally Paris is back in the picture as Jim tells him that Reed fell for the empty apartment (do the bad guys do anything that the good guys haven’t manipulated them into?) and that he should keep an eye on Dana. Is is just me, or does Leonard Nimoy have an air of, ‘Not more of this driving around without character development crap,’ in this scene?
Dana is back at the garage to get her car fixed. Paris has followed her and is tired of this shit.
Creepy guy is still there, with a creepy distorted reflection on the side of the car that he’s under. He also spends an inordinate amount of time with his mouth open. He gets even creepier this time by coming over and talking to Dana creepily and staring a lot. I don’t know if it’s a deliberate directorial choice, but the older guy, the man who fixes the car for her (two visits, a temporary condenser, a new condenser, and labour, all for $1.75) looks very concerned the whole way through her visit.
Meanwhile Reed and ‘Spy Windows R Us’ are setting up next door to Dana’s apartment. Wouldn’t their job be so much harder if they had proper brick walls instead of plasterboard and wood?
Dear lord, Dana is nothing but leg in this funky purple combo as she arrives home. I know people have their reservations about her character, Lesley Ann Warren and the other actors among them, but I quite like her character and I think she brings an interesting dynamic to the show. Perhaps if you could have shuffled between her, Cinnamon, and Casey, (and Lee Meriwether, god yes) she would have seemed a better fit.
Not long after Dana gets home, Jim turns up. How does he even fit in this car?
Jim is so good at looking shifty outside doors...
So, Jim comes in pretending to be Willard, coming to visit ‘Doris’ after she practically sent him ‘an SOS.’ Dear god, I’d send an SOS to have him come round and grab my hand like that. He doesn’t look like he fits in this apartment, but I’d find somewhere to put him.
Of course, while he’s fake-canoodling with Dana, Reed and his friend are taking photos...
Look how big his hands are against hers. Wow. Just wow.
So Dana pops round to Reed after Jim has gone to tell that she’s worried that ‘Willard’ is spineless and will talk. Reed assures her he won’t talk. He’ll have a fatal accident. Dana is concerned – or thinking about orphaned puppies. It’s hard to tell.
So, Willy and Barney follow Reed’s associate, who looks a little like Oliver Sacks, to an abandoned photo lab. I think this is pretty much the first time we’ve seen Willy this episode. He and Paris are getting rather a raw deal, more’s the pity.
This is the most secure looking dark room door you’ve ever seen. Shh. You’ll find out why later.
Meanwhile, fucked-up creepy-guy is watching Dana through the window from the fire escape. And I thought Paris was supposed to be keeping an eye on her?
Aha. Here he is in his hot poloneck and leather jacket.
Meanwhile, Reed is confronting ‘Willard’ with the evidence.
This is Jim’s ‘Oh, bugger,’ face, as Reed blackmails him to to let him have a little time alone with the missile.
Here he is with his lovely colour family photos in the foreground, betrayed by those other photos, black and white, scattered across the desk...
Meanwhile, our Oliver-Sacks-alike is busy rigging up the darkroom for all sorts of nasties...
Barney and Willy are in the car again, outside the lab, watching... They’re wearing different clothes. I suppose this is to suggest that a lot of time has passed. I suppose it’s next day, although you don’t really get the sense of that.
Lucky that Barney is a pro with the lockpick.
Meanwhile, ‘Willard’ is still having a crisis of conscience... He’s considering suicide, but Reed talks him round.
Barney and Willy are investigating the lab... Barney is opening that very secure door...
Oh fuck.
Barney is a tad panicked.
Meanwhile, Willy. Willy is awesome.
Push, Willy, push!
It’s not looking good for Barney...
Willy, however, is made of win. Willy is so strong he can bend metal bolts and make them sheer. Willy is the man.
He also has the ability to tell if someone’s all right by pulling their overshirt down a little and looking at their covered-up chest. Barney’s shirted chest is fine, so Willy can attend to the fire. I mean, Barney appears to be unconscious and all that, but hey, what’s a bit of unconsciousness?
Jim is still agonising, this time over whether Reed will give him the negatives. We get to see him looking worried on the phone. Oh, those hands...
Actually it’s Barney calling, none the worse for his near death experience, to warn Jim about the trap and telling him they’ll set up an escape for him.
Oh my god that hand... (Now Reed has left, Jim can talk to Barney freely, and Jim expresses his worry that the fire trap might not be the only thing Reed has waiting for him.)
Luckily when Reed visits Dana she gets the primary plan out of him – to cut out Jim’s brakes on a hairpin turn on the road home. All Dana needs to do now is let Jim know...
Paris is outside in his car, watching. Not a big role for Paris in this episode.
Dana is on the phone to Jim. But just as she is about to tell him what the other plan is – eek! It’s messed-up-mechanic-man!
This guy’s such a gent, chloroforming her in the middle of a phone call.
Paris comes into the apartment, concerned, in his rather fetching green jacket.
Where’s Dana gone? (The cameraman spends a lot of time hiding behind things in this episode.)
The phone rings. It’s Jim. This is an excuse to get another Paris-cap in a low-Paris episode.
Jim doesn’t come off as the sharpest tool in the box here. Paris says Dana isn’t there. Jim replies, ‘But I talked to her less than a minute ago!’ Did he not noticed her being cut off mid-sentence and screaming? (Actually, on rewatching, they were very careful to have her make no sounds of struggle until mechanic-guy had put the receiver down.)
Jim is worried. Paris is worried. This is another excuse for another screen cap.
Paris thinks he’s got a small lead when he finds this scrap of fabric on the floor. Paris, I think that’s a bloody big lead.
Hmm... What could a scrap of fabric with ‘Duke’s Garage’ on it mean?
Meanwhile, Barney and Willy are renovating the photo lab when Paris calls to tell them about Dana.
Paris has found the strain hard to handle and has cracked out McCoy’s special stash of Saurian brandy. Perhaps Bones and Spock will be round later to par-tay.
Spock and Bones make for a rather sober party.
Paris’ lead is so small that he’s managed to find the full address of the garage from the piece of fabric, even though he’s off his face on Saurian brandy.
Oh dear. Dana, unconscious, in strange-garage-mechanic’s place...
And here he is watching her. Nice. I suppose she can be grateful that she’s still got clothes on.
This guy really does do a good line in creepy. (He’s blurred because she’s not focussing properly.) He’s obviously not quite on track because he starts calling her ‘Marlene’ and says how it’s nice to have her back.
This is what the guy has on his wall, in case we’re in any doubt of his credentials. He has some kind of nude calendar, too.
Meanwhile, Paris and Barney are trying to find out about this guy, and not finding the chief mechanic very helpful.
Dana is looking around the place, looking intently at the phone she can’t reach, taking in the detritus of his life. She’s probably thinking how that nice silk scarf bit on her top would be awfully convenient for him strangling her, too. She tries to be cool, to play along with his delusion that she’s Marlene.
This really is a good, creepy scene where we get to see how vulnerable Dana is as he makes her dance with him, but also how she keeps it together and is thinking all the time. She tries to suggest she needs to call her girl friend to tell her they can’t keep their date, but he becomes agitated.
She tries another tack, offering to cook for him, suggesting he go out to get hamburger meat and potatoes...
Of course, he has it all ready in the ice box. That’s probably been in there for five years, waiting for Marlene...
Meanwhile, Reed and Oliver-Sacks-alike are on their way in to get their look at the missile... Oliver-Sacks-alike is going to stand in the US Navy car park and make the modifications to Jim’s car without anyone spotting him and asking him what he’s doing.
Reed comes into Jim’s office. Jim-as-Willard is looking nervous.
So ‘Willard’ brings the guy in and starts to dismantle the missile.
Reed has one of those silly little spy cameras that all spies have.
In a nice segue we move to Barney, who is taking photos of creep-mechanic’s fingerprints with a much better camera.
Paris meanwhile is looking through the guy’s chest for clues, shaking it around as Barney takes his close-ups of those fingerprints on it.
Paris finds ether with a pharmacy address on it. (This shot is so we can get a nice look at his face, which has been too absent from this episode.)
Reed is still doing his spy thang. I think he might have his finger over the lens for a good few shots.
While Dana is sorting out the man’s hamburger and fries, creep-mechanic is fiddling around with a pot of ether identical to the one Paris found and creepily stroking the handkerchief he has with it.
The cameraman is hiding behind stuff again. Things are getting urgent, and the pharmacist, of course, is slow and doddery. When the guy tells him he wouldn’t bother looking through the prescriptions he’s been looking through for the last few minutes because prescriptions sometimes get misplace, Paris puts on a marvellous a ‘I’ve had enough of this shit’ expression.
Meanwhile, Barney has got the info on mechanic-creep. He’s John Hecker, alias John Davis. He’s escaped from the state mental hospital (of course), and is psychotic and homicidal. Lucky Dana.
Meanwhile meanwhile, Jim is acting more and more panicked as time goes on.
Not much to say. He just looks pretty here as he prepares to get into his (rigged) car. ‘Trust me,’ Reed tells him. Ha!
Jim! No! Don’t you know the car is rigged!? (No, he doesn’t, thanks to creep-mechanic.)
Dana is still cooking hamburgers. Mechanic-creep is still playing with his handkerchief, getting creepier still, starting to panic Dana.
While the dithering pharmacist is really ticking Paris and Barney off.
Jim calls up Willy to tell him he’s on his way... (Jim, you shouldn’t be doing that while you’re driving.)
Willy is looking effortlessly hot. ‘Jim, you don’t even know what to look for,’ Willy says rather redundantly. I’m not sure why it doesn’t enter anyone’s head that the car might have been nobbled, especially since Reed’s associate was by the car when Jim got to it, and it has to happen at some point between the base and the photo lab.
Finally the man finds the address. Paris and Barney are gone before the camera even gets to them.
That’s a dynamic duo...
Dana’s almost finished cooking the hamburgers. But she’s not a member of the IMF for nothing. She offers him a taste, he comes over, bends to the fork, and she tips a glass of water into the pan (I think the real effect would be more spectacular.) To be honest, I would have clonked him with a pan of hot fat, but I think her way worked. While he’s distracted, she legs it.
Run, Dana!
Run, mechanic-creep! (actually, don’t run – trip!)
Run, Barney and Paris! Don’t worry about askance-old-fashioned-woman!
That’s it, Dana, run into Paris’s arms! Your skirt is almost around your waist, Dana.
What mechanic-creep needs is a good dose of Barney.
And he needs Paris to press his ass. Dana, being an excellent agent, doesn’t lose her head, but runs straight back up to the apartment to call Jim...
Jim is in immediate danger! Reed has been pressing buttons. Shit is already going down!
Luckily Jim has a car phone.
Jim wastes no time talking once Dana has told him that the car is rigged, but he does try to put the receiver down correctly.
Finally, Reed pushes the button that breaks the steering. To be honest I assume he already had, because why didn’t Jim just cut the engine and steer in to the side of the road? (I was right about the car. There’s not much room for his legs down there.)
Jim prepares to jump from the car!
I feel that this may not be Peter Graves. (Meanwhile the car goes off the cliff. No explosions.)
…but to be fair the guy isn’t far off.
Barney and Paris have hauled mechanic-creep back upstairs. Dana is concerned about Jim...
I spoke too soon. The poor car!
Jim, only a little ruffled, watches Reed and his accomplice as they check on the wreck and then leave the scene of the crime. There’ll be nothing to make them suspect that ‘Willard’ is alive or that the schematics they have got aren’t right. Do you know what I mean when I say that conifer goes with Jim’s jacket?
Satisfied with their work, they all walk out of the weapons test centre like total bosses (sorry Barney’s not in shot.) Good work, people.

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