Mission: Impossible (1969) – The Exchange, and The Mind of Stefan Miklos

The first mission for the IMF team this week is a bit of a different one, and three seasons in, it’s a bit of a surprise that the idea hadn’t been explored before. The Exchange was penned by Laurence Heath, and had an original airdate of 5 January, 1969.

Unlike other episodes, we join the team mid-mission, in what feels like East Germany (or a variation thereof, they are using German phrases). While Phelps (Peter Graves) and Rollin (Martin Landau) wait on the grounds, Cinammon (Barbara Bain) has infiltrated the offices of a foreign government, and is documenting their agent list by camera, when an alarm is set off and she is captured.

Knowing that if any of the team are caught or killed, they will be disavowed, and that everyone breaks, Phelps, Rollin, Barney (Greg Morris) and Willy (Peter Lupus) are on their own.

In order to convince Colonel Strom (John Vernon) to hand Cinammon over to them, they have to offer an agent of equal value, so they break Rudolf Kurtz (Will Kuluva) out of prison to debrief him and then con he and Strom into believing that they are seeing something they aren’t while the team schemes to get Cinammon back to the west.

Through all of it, Strom is working to break Cinnamon, and learns of her fear of isolation and confined spaces.

Of course, everything is pulled off in the nick of time, and they’re even prepared for a final attempted doublecross by Strom. A solid episode, and is a great spy thriller.

The Mind of Stefan Miklos features an appearance by Ed Asner, in this episode that first debuted on 12 January, 1969. Written by Paul Playdon, this episode sees a bit more of a cerebral approach as the team attempts to maneuver and manipulate Stefan Miklos (Steve Ihnat) into reaching a conclusion they want him to reach, but come to it, he believes, on his own.

Miklos works for a foreign government, and is sent to follow-up with a pair of agents, Townsend (Jason Evers) and Simpson (Asner). It seems Townsend has been fed false information, and Simpson knows it, and is trying to show his rival agent up with the correct information.

The team has to slip in false information to get Miklos to believe Townsend’s information is correct, and a long game begins after that.

The episode closes with Miklos wondering about his competition, and admiring the gambit they played out, thinking he saw through it, but actually being completely outwitted by the team. It’s smart, well written, and very enjoyable. There’s a real sense of two spymasters going at it in the forms of Phelps and Miklos, and it’s easy to see that both respect the other, while regretting they are on opposite sides.

There are more missions next week as I explore more of Mission: Impossible – The Complete Series on blu-ray from Paramount Canada!

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