Mission: Impossible (1966) – Elena, and The Short Tail Spy

IMF agent, Rollin Hand (Martin Landau) gets to fly solo in this mission, that sees him investigating the titular Elana, played by BarBara Luna in this episode that was written by Ellis Marcus and first aired on 10 December, 1966.

Dan (Steven Hill) selects Rollin and a psychiatrist, Carlos Enero (Barry Atwater) to travel to a Central/South American country to check on Elena, one of their agents, who seems to have become unstable, and is under an execution order if Rollin can’t figure out what, if anything, is wrong with her.

There’s a bit of a relationship developing between Rollin and Elena, and he soon realises that she’s been ‘brainwashed’ and, consequently, is not only endangering her own life, but the lives of her family, and the stable government of the country they live in.

It’s not the strongest episode, although it’s great to see Landau get an episode to himself to shine (though Greg Morris’ Barney is overdue as far as I’m concerned), but the way they portray Elena’s conditioning is interesting if not necessarily science based.

There are some action beats, and Rollin not only has to make sure that the execution order on Elena doesn’t go through (if it doesn’t need to) and that she also doesn’t take her own life, something else she’s been conditioned to do; all to ancient Incan symbolism and history.

The episode shows that Landau can carry a show himself, but the stories work best when there’s a team effort, so perhaps the next mission will pay off a little better.

The Short Tail Spy lets Barbara Bain’s Cinnamon have a bit of the limelight in this episode that first aired on 17 December, 1966 and was written by Julian Barry.

While Dan and Barney work to oust an ageing assassin before he can take out a defector who is making a public appearance, Cinnamon serves as bait for a younger killer from a competitive agency with the same mission. She is to pretend to fall in love with Andrei (Eric Braiden) who is a literal lady killer. He is also completely aware of who she is, an IMF agent, assigned to protect the defector, Professor Napolsky (Edward Colmans).

As the episode plays out, there are romantic moments aplent for Andrei and Cinnamon, and it’s easy to believe that perhaps she is falling for him. But, of course, she’s a professional, even if it seems that Dan doubts her momentarily. Honestly, why would he assign her to the mission if he had any doubts?

She’s a spy, and she’s aware of what she is doing. These questions wouldn’t have come up if it had been Barney or Rollin in the same situation, but because she’s a woman…

Still, it’s nice to see Bain get the lion’s share of the episode and that she can carry it easily.

There will be more missions next week as I choose to accept more of them from Paramount Canada’s Mission: Impossible – The Complete Series on blu-ray, available now.

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