Mission: Impossible (1970) – The Amateur, and Hunted

Hey look! Sam Elliott is back as Doug (yay!). And Anthony Zerbe returns as a guest star (yet again) in The Amateur. Written by Ed Adamson, this episode first aired on 14 November, 1970.

Working undercover in an East European country, the IMF team have unexpected trouble when a bar owner, Eric Schilling (Zerbe) with dreams of being a spy, tumbles upon their operation. Dana (Lesley Ann Warren) has been working undercover in his club, and it’s being used as a point of connection with one of the IMF’s contacts.

When the contact ends up dead, things begin to spiral out of control, but the team soon figures out Schilling’s interest in the mission, which involves getting a deadly weapon out of the hands of the enemy government, and uses his interest to play him and the government to complete their mission and escape the country.

The rest of the IMF team, Phelps (Peter Graves), Paris (Leonard Nimoy), Barney (Greg Morris) and Doug, are somewhat sidelined in this episode as the cat-and-mouse dance between Dana and Eric play out, each believing they are using the other, and only one of them is right.

There’s a real sense of spy work in this episode, and it plays out really well, making this arguably one of the stronger episodes of a season that has seen some different kinds of stories play out. There’s a real sense of tension and Zerbe delivers a solid performance, in a larger than usual guest role that has some substance to it, and isn’t just the run of the mill bad guy of the week.

Hunted was written by Helen Hoblock Thompson and first debuted on 21 November, 1970. The team find themselves on a mission in an African country to rescue a prominent black leader, intent on establishing an equal government in an apartheid country.

In fact the teaser is all about them getting the man out of a hospital, where he’s recovering from a labor camp he’s been imprisoned in, but things go off the rails pretty quick, and the team is on the run. Unfortunately, Barney has been shot, and is unable to make the escape with the rest of them, and finds himself holed up in a shop, helped by the lovely deaf mute Marianna (Ta-Tanisha).

The pair develop a bit of affection between one another, even as the rest of the team scours the city for him, with Paris posing as the injured doctor Barney was disguised as to mislead the authorities, who are looking for Barney as well.

There’s a couple of very recognizable guest stars, Joe Morton is in this episode, as is Battlestar Galactica’s original Boomer, Herbert Jefferson jr..

This is a solid, and relevant episode, and I love seeing Barney front and center. I honestly feel he needed more to do throughout the series – he’s seriously the best agent Phelps has, he does everything! He remains my favorite character of the series.

The assignments continue next week as I delve deeper into Paramount Canada’s release of Mission: Impossible – The Complete Series on blu-ray.

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