Mission: Impossible (1971) – Mindbend, and Shape-Up

Barney (Greg Morris) gets a fair dose of the spotlight in this episode, and that’s a good thing. Where he may not have been used enough in earlier seasons it’s very nice to see him doing more and more as the series progresses.

In Mindbend, an episode written by James D. Buchanan and Ronald Austin with an original airdate of 9 October, 1971, Barney goes undercover as a recently escaped convict. He allows himself to be picked up by Dr. Burke (Leonard Frey).

Burke has been hinting to those in prison that should they escape he can provide them with new identities, and facilitate their flight from the country. This is a lie. He’s actually working for The Syndicate and Alex Pierson (Donald Moffat!).

Pierson has Burke brainwash the convicts and use them as suicidal assassins. And Barney may be in more trouble than he realizes when he is unable to withstand Burke’s techniques.

The rest of the time work to convince that Burke is going to use Barney to take out Pierson, but will they be able to stop Barney before he goes after his real target and then takes his own life?

This one is a crisp, fast-paced thriller of an episode that shows Morris can easily carry an episode and should do so more often, and that even six seasons in there can be well-executed ideas and scripts.

Despite the repetitive nature of the series, there are sometimes when it really gets to shine, and this episode is up there.

Shape-Up was one of those episodes that I just couldn’t get into. Written by Ed Adamson and Norman Katkov, it was first broadcast on 16 October, 1971.

Phelps (Peter Graves), Barney, Willy (Peter Lupus), and Casey (Lynda Day George) are set to take down a crime boss who is running and ruining a local wharf.

The best way to do that is by making him seem like he’s losing his mind, making his higher-ups worry about him, and perhaps getting him to finally admit to his involvement in a murder.

Each of the team plays their part, Casey takes on the role of the daughter of the murdered man who shows up to cause the crime boss, Delaney (Gerald S. O’Loughlin) to stir up problems. Phelps poses as a Norwegian captain of the very ship the man died on, though it’s been rechristened since, Willy is a thug meant to be keeping an eye on Delaney, and Barney is a stevedore on the docks.

It’s not as streamlined and as enjoyable as it could have been, and I feel George hasn’t quite found her character yet or her way into the series.

This one feels like a bit of a letdown considering the previous episode, but they aren’t all going to be winners. There’s still more to come, however, as I explore more of Paramount Picture’s Mission: Impossible – The Complete Series on Blu-ray, available now.

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