Mission: Impossible (1970) – The Innocent, and Homecoming

This week, we have a pair of episodes that feature a couple of recognizable guest stars, who went on to become series regulars on M*A*S*H, and The Innocent features a cool new title music arrangement, and it took me a moment to recognize him, but Sam Elliott as IMF agent Doug.

Written by Marc Norman and Laurence Heath, from a story by Norman, this episode first debuted on 3 October, 1970. We join the team halfway through their mission. In fact, during the teaser, which is set in some fictitious Middle Eastern country, Barney (Greg Morris) and Willy (Peter Lupus) are close to completing it when Barney is exposed to the very chemical, a de-hominid, that they are there to destroy.

Barney is captured, while Willy escapes and reunites with the rest of the team, Phelps (Peter Graves), Paris (Leonard Nimoy), Dana (Lesley Ann Warren, who looks stunning in both episodes) and Doug. They have to find a way into the compound again, and find a computer expert to replace Barney, whom they will rescue if they get the chance, but who knew the risks when he took the assignment.

Lurking around the compound is Colonel Orlov (Larry Linville) and though he’s a baddie, he’s not quite so villainous as he’s been in the past in this show. In fact, I feel he didn’t get a chance to do a lot in this show at all.

Dana and Paris are able to blackmail a computer programmer, Jerome Carlin (Christopher Connelly) into joining their mission, and when he sees what the team is actually up against, he eventually lends a hand, and everything comes off in time to not only destroy the de-hominid but also rescue Barney!

Homecoming is the first real episode that I found myself actively disliking. While I’m all for the series attempting to do different things, I also think they have to get their message sorted, and I feel their profile for the killer, which isn’t shared, but can be deduced from the reveal of the killer at the end of the episode, could have been more sorted.

First airing on 10 October, 1970, this episode was penned by Laurence Heath, and sees Jim Phelps back in the old neighborhood, doing some cleanup of his family’s property and getting ready to donate it as parkland.

He just happens to be home when a killer, who has strangled two women to date, attacks a third, but Jim is able to get to her in time.

As he catches up with old friends (James Sikking is amongst the supporting cast), we see that most of the town is ready to vilify a young Vietnam vet, Seth (Frank Webb), who has had an especially hard time since he got back State-side, most of it caused by his former neighbors who sent him off to fight. Then there’s Joe Keith (Fred Beir) a known philanderer who has had a connection to all the women involved, and then there’s Midge (Loretta Swit), who runs the local watering hole.

None of the characters are particularly trustworthy, and interspersing them with clips of a supposed young Jim Phelps playing with the neighborhood kids just leaves everything about this episode feeling kind of blah.

When Phelps reaches out to his team for help, he first reaches out to Barney only, and I love that! It shows that Barney probably is one of the most important people on the team, though he doesn’t get enough mission or screen time.

Eventually the whole team gets involved and things are put in place to set Dana up as the bait to draw the killer out, whom Phelps figures out the identity of just moments before Dana is killed – speaking of, Dana is an IMF trained agent, she should have no problem with an attacker.

I didn’t really care for this one, the mystery doesn’t feel very well constructed, and it’s more about delivering a twist surprise of who the killer is than actually grounding their psyche and character in a believable arc.

Oh well.

The assignments continue next week as I explore more of Paramount Canada’s Mission: Impossible – The Complete Series on blu-ray, available now!

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