Monday, July 24, 2017

Mission: Impossible -- Episode 32: The Gunslinger


To Watch: Click Here

Synopsis in 3 sentences or less:
A former congressman runs a tourist town in Nevada that takes visitors back to the Old West.  At the same time, he's overseeing an operation that's selling nuclear weapons to terrorists.  When Phelps outcheats him at a game of cards, he challenges Phelps to an old-fashioned gunfight and ends up confessing in the process.

Memorable Quote:
When I want the puppy to bark, I'll yank his chain.  ~Phelps

Highlight:
The poker scene at the end gets my vote for best moment of the series.  The card-changing software idea is brilliant, and the final hand is set up beautifully with McClintock looking at his card in the hole and then Grant changing it on him.  We know exactly what's about to happen, and that makes it all the more satisfying given how much of a jerk McClintock is.  He and his henchman Slade are excellent villains and reminiscent of the duo from Jack in the Box.  I've written before how strong villains make for a better episode, and it's very satisfying to see these two bullies get what's coming to them.  Also a great smile from Grant as he is about to change McClintock's card.


And this is Phelps's finest hour as he reveals himself to be a bit of a bad-ass after verbally sparring with McClintock throughout the episode, standing up to him at the poker table, and then showing off some quick draw skills in the street.

Lowlight:
My only quibble with the poker scene is that I wish Phelps wouldn't have told McClintock that he cheated -- it was cooler when McClintock didn't realize what was going on.  And they could have used the evidence they gathered against him to bring him down (i.e. it wasn't necessary to get him to confess to the 7 people who were watching the gunfight).

Other thoughts, observations, and questions I didn’t ask when I was in fourth grade:
  • We could have used a little follow-up or reference to last episode where Nicholas was brainwashed, like if he said, "Great to be back with the good guys" or "Sorry, Shannon, for pushing you down a flight of stairs."
  • Shannon's really good at getting hired for service jobs at criminal organizations -- first she's a nightclub singer in Paris, then she performs at a bar in Ireland, and now she's serving drinks in Nevada.
  • Grant is too much -- he happens to have an "atomic absorption spectrometer" to analyze the soil sample from the mine.
  • The setting feels much like The Last Gunfighter episode of Quantum Leap where they were acting like it was still the 1870s.  But it works better for me here because of the gimmick that it's a tourist town -- it's still ridiculous but makes for a fun story.

Final Analysis:
I didn't think anything was going to top The Pawn, but I loved this episode.  The setting is fun, the villains are tremendous, the plot is compelling, and I was really into it from beginning to end. Interesting how my top two episodes involve a rigged game of some kind.  It's really too bad that this series didn't make it to a third season because they were starting to find their footing in Season 2.  Ranking it 1 out of 32.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Mission: Impossible -- Episode 31: The Assassin


To Watch: Click Here

Synopsis in 3 sentences or less:
A doctor is brainwashing people and using them to assassinate world leaders.  When Nicholas goes undercover in the doctor's clinic, the doctor gets the upper hand and brainwashes him. Nicholas goes to a zoo to assassinate an African ruler, and the IMF team must stop him before it's too late.

Memorable Quote:
Have I missed something?   ~Nicholas
Welcome home, Nicholas.  ~Jim

Highlight:
The scene by the pool is really good when Max and Shannon begin to realize the extent of Nicholas's brainwashing.

Lowlight:
For a villain who's described as having a genius-level IQ, Westerly is pretty stupid in a lot of ways, but primarily for showing up personally at the scene of each of his assassins' crimes. Wouldn't someone from law enforcement other than Grant have noticed him on video and charged him by now?  Some of his other tactics are also questionable, such as why he doesn't question Max and Shannon when they confront Nicholas by the pool, or why he sets up a decoy to draw out the IMF team but then doesn't take any action against them.

Other thoughts, observations, and questions I didn’t ask when I was in fourth grade:
  • This is our second MI episode with an identical title to a MacGyver episode and includes elements of Brainwashed and DOA MacGyver
  • I've said before that this is one of the few episodes that I vaguely remembered: "an episode where Nick goes bad (and I vaguely remember a lion being involved?)".  
  • They didn't establish how Westerly knows Shannon's cover when she goes up to him at the racetrack and starts talking to him.
  • 19:21 mark: There's the lion -- I knew it!  I like the little drum beat that's played every time the lion is shown stalking its prey.
  • 31:40 - Why do they have Max shadowing Westerly considering that Westerly knows what Max looks like?  No matter, Westerly doesn't spot him even though they're about 20 feet apart.
  • Why wouldn't they tie Nicholas up after sedating him?  Or at least take off his watch that Westerly is using to manipulate him?
  • Pretty convenient that both the OPEC leader and the president of West Africa happen to be in Boston.

Final Analysis:
Great episode!  In a series where many of the episodes are formulaic and somewhat dull (especially in the first season), this one stands out as being original and character-driven.  I've said before how I generally prefer more of an emphasis on plot over character, but this series takes the plot emphasis to an extreme to the point where we don't know hardly anything about the characters' personal lives, histories, motivations, and feelings.  This episode by itself doesn't fill in those gaps, but at least it's a step in the right direction.  And despite the story being a little clunky and not always making sense, it's exciting and action-oriented.  Ranking it 2 out of 31.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Mission: Impossible -- Episode 30: Cargo Cult


To Watch: Click Here

Synopsis in 3 sentences or less:
The IMF team heads to the Pacific island of New Belgium where the commissioner of the territory is using cyanide in an illegal gold-mining operation.  The cyanide is killing a large portion of the indigenous population, and the team aims to protect the natives and get them on their side.

Memorable Quote:
What about our bringing Otagi and Regehr to justice?   ~Shannon
This is the Kontu Jungle, Shannon.  They'll be judged by the same kind of justice they handed out.  ~Jim

Highlight:
All three of the antagonists (the lead commissioner, his abrasive lieutenant, and the guy pretending to be a god) were strong characters and well-acted.

Lowlight:
The depiction of the "simple hill people" seemed insulting to primitive people in general given how gullible and wishy-washy they were.  Just because they're primitive doesn't mean they're stupid.

Other thoughts, observations, and questions I didn’t ask when I was in fourth grade:
  • The scene where the natives capture Nicholas, Shannon, and Max has an Ewok/Return of the Jedi feel to it.
  • Ridiculous moment when Jim waves his arms and the natives wake up at exactly the same time.

Final Analysis:
I like this one despite not having many comments.  The plot is fast moving and action oriented, the villains are strong, and the Pacific island makes for a good setting.  Ranking it 7 out of 30.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Mission: Impossible -- Episode 29: Deadly Harvest


To Watch: Click Here

Synopsis in 3 sentences or less:
A Middle Eastern country's science minister and top scientist are working to create a genetic virus which they plan to use to attack America's wheat crop.  When the scientist gets badly burned in a radiation accident, the team seizes the opening and replaces him with Nicholas.  He and Shannon go to the country in order to destroy the bad seeds and the research.

Memorable Quote:
What are you to him, are you his lover?  ~Ishmahan
That's my business.  ~Shannon
12 months ago it was my business.  Possibly it will be again.  ~Ishmahan

Highlight:
The scene where Shannon gets trapped in the radiation chamber is some good drama.

Poor Shannon, she's assuming a lot of the risk this season.  And if it was part of the plan for Nicholas to get caught and go on trial, he should have opened the chamber door right away to save Shannon even if he was seen.  Instead he burns some wiring which shorts out the lab, but that was a risky play with less than 20 seconds left on the radiation timer.

Lowlight:
The ending with Nicholas's trial is breathtakingly preposterous.  Jim walks in the courtroom off the street and interrupts the proceedings by claiming that he's a lawyer for Amnesty International. The ruling general of this Middle Eastern dictatorship is presiding over the trial, and he allows Jim to represent Nicholas and start cross-examining his science minister!  We've seen a few crazy things lately, but this might be the unbelievable moment from the series thus far.

And I haven't even gotten to the part where after the minister is arrested, the five team members walk out of the courtroom completely unsupervised and free as birds (much like the end of War Games).

Other thoughts, observations, and questions I didn’t ask when I was in fourth grade:
  • I'm still waiting for the episode where Nicholas goes bad -- one of the few I remember (albeit vaguely) from when I was a kid.  Each time the last few episodes have started, I've been waiting to see if it will be the episode.  Now there's only 5 episodes left so it'll come up sooner rather than later.
  • The entire opening is well filmed and relatively intense as far as this show goes.
  • Amazing that the Middle Eastern scientist survives the radiation blast, and even more amazing that his name is Jared.
  • The radiation accident occurs in Kansas, but he's taken to a hospital in Washington DC -- apparently no good hospitals between those two spots.
  • 8:23 mark -- "We've got 30 minutes before the real surgeon makes his rounds," Jim says.  So they're doing this whole switcheroo at the hospital without anyone on the staff knowing or discovering what's going on?
  • I don't see how Nicholas could get away with pretending to be Jared for too long -- even if he looked the same (and I wonder why they couldn't have just put a mask on him), wouldn't he reveal himself at some point by his lack of knowledge, or wouldn't the science minister quiz him to make sure he was the real guy?  And how did Nicholas know that they were going to check the teacup for fingerprints as opposed to checking something else?
  • How does Grant know where they're keeping the personnel disk?
  • Just as in The Golden Serpent, the explosions and pyrotechnics are quite impressive.

Final Analysis:
This one's ok but not great.  The production value was pretty good and the story held my attention, but there were some plot issues throughout and then it totally went off the rails at the end. Ranking it 16 out of 29.

Mission: Impossible -- Episode 28: For Art's Sake


To Watch: Click Here

Synopsis in 3 sentences or less:
The team heads to NYC to recover a stolen painting and bring down a wealthy art thief.

Memorable Quote:
She just cost me six hundred thousand dollars...but I like those eyes.  ~Travers

Highlight:
I generally enjoy auction scenes, even if they're often predictable.

Lowlight:
The Princess had a crazy bit of technology that I gave as my highlight, but in this episode I'm giving the crazy bit of technology as the lowlight.  Don't try too hard to figure me out.

The bit I'm referring to is Grant's painting gadget.  Enter some data about Degas into the computer, push a few buttons, and watch the machine print out an original painting in 10 seconds based on Degas's style.  Shannon using her jet pack to propel back to the space shuttle in Target Earth was more realistic.

Other thoughts, observations, and questions I didn’t ask when I was in fourth grade:
  • This is the only MI episode written by MacGyver writer/producer John Whelpley.
  • Travers owns Travers Towers in Manhattan, which makes me wonder if he's based on a certain someone who also owns an eponymous tower. There's even a fake Time Magazine cover involved (5:29 mark).
  • Phelps lets Shannon hang out to dry a couple times, first in the museum and later in the bathtub (if it's possible to hang out to dry in a bathtub). Why is she even in the tub to begin with? Her fake death doesn't accomplish anything, and she's extremely lucky that Travers didn't try to kill her another way where her reinforced vest wouldn't have helped, like if he held her underwater or stabbed her in the head.
  • Why couldn't Nick and Jim knock out the culture minister in his office instead of waiting until he gets to Grant who's undercover as a hot dog vendor?  The answer is that this episode is low on drama and so they needed an extra bit to add interest.
  • The ridiculous technology theme continues at the end with some fake, hologram fire, complete with smoke.  Does it feel hot, also? 

Final Analysis:
Season 2 had gotten off to a decent start, but we've now had two straight weak episodes.  This one was dull and uninspired, and I had to rack my brain to find a highlight. Ranking it 21 out of 28.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Mission: Impossible -- Episode 27: Banshee


To Watch: Click Here

Synopsis in 3 sentences or less:
An arms dealer in Ireland blows up a van full of people in order to foment angst among the locals and have a market to sell guns.  The IMF team scares him with some banshee special effects and gets him to admit to the heads of the two warring factions that he was responsible for the crime.

Memorable Quote:
What the hell was that?  ~Grant
Just makin' it look good, bud.  ~Max
How does this look?  ~Grant

Highlight:
The production team does a good job of recreating Ireland (especially considering the show is filmed in Australia), even if it looks like the Ireland of the 1920's.

Lowlight:
How does the team know to set up the old guy, that he's even involved with the arms dealer and that he's superstitious?  And then how did they get tape of the "old people" singing in the van?

Other thoughts, observations, and questions I didn’t ask when I was in fourth grade:
  • Shannon does some good work as an Irish folk singer.  We also saw her as a French nightclub singer in The Plague, and apparently actress Jane Badler is a singer who has released three albums.
  • Wouldn't the Irish in the small-town bar wonder where all these Americans and Aussies came from?
  • 24:40 mark - Jim demonstrates to McCarron that his weapons are defective, but why doesn't McCarron ask how he comes to know this?  Speaking of McCarron, he's a weak and small-time crook compared to the other villains we've seen in season 2.
  • This episode revisits one of the common 1st season tropes which I didn't care for: staging effects to scare people or to drive them crazy.  It's one thing to have Shannon dress up as a banshee, but how would they have the technology to move her as a well-lit hologram image through the darkness of night?  And Phelps's appearance at the end as some kind of all-knowing spirit was weird and met with a surprising lack of surprise on the part of the younger Irish guys.

Final Analysis:
Our first Season 2 dud.  I like the setting, but the plot and its execution left a lot to be desired. Seemed like someone had an idea to do a "banshee" episode in Ireland and then the details were hastily thrown together.  Ranking it 19 out of 27.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Mission: Impossible -- Episode 26: The Fuehrer's Children


To Watch: Click Here

Synopsis in 3 sentences or less:
The team aims to bring down Richard Kester, an American Neo Nazi leader who is in Germany to meet with world Nazi leaders.  Kester reveals his secret weapon to his peers: a group of about 25 kids who have been kidnapped and brainwashed into believing in Nazism and that Hitler is alive. The team gets to the kids and deprograms them just in time for Kester's big reveal.

Memorable Quote:
They know only what I want them to know.  It's living proof of what I can achieve.  Not for the future, Fruger.  Now!  Now!   ~Kester

Highlight:
Great acting from Thaao Penghlis when he discovers the boys on the sub.  Even without saying anything, his face says it all.

Lowlight:
I have several questions about the ending:
  • How does Jim get away from the Nazis once Kester's plan goes up in smoke?  He's sitting in the middle of table with about 30 Nazis all around him, and somehow he just walks out.
  • Speaking of walking out, we later see Nicholas (pretending to be Vogel) exiting stage left without any resistance.
  • The team is happy to have brought down Kester, but why settle for one Nazi when they could have taken down all the Nazis that were there?
  • And what about the boys?  Do they just leave them there?
    • Actually I just rewatched the last few minutes and apparently they're sending a plane for the boys and are arranging for doctors to meet them once they arrive in the USA, and Grant's going to ride with them.  But who's taking them to the airport, and once they get to the USA where are they going to live?

Other thoughts, observations, and questions I didn’t ask when I was in fourth grade:
  • Our second Nazi episode in the series.  The first, The Legacy, currently sits at 2nd in my rankings.  In that episode's review (which had what I referred to as a "bonkers plot"), reader Mark wrote in the comments:  "Also, if you think this Nazi plot is bonkers, wait till season 2's infinitely more out there Nazi plot."  He's right -- this one is out there.
  • Max and Grant somehow know to enter Kester's hotel room right when his lady friend is in the shower.  And after Kester catches Grant, why didn't he think to sweep the room for bugs or other devices?
  • Despite the title, the revelation of the brainwashed children was not one that I was expecting.
  • Shannon uses technology that projects what the subject of a photo will look like in the future.  Maybe she left the software in Germany for MacGyver to use a year later in The Wall.
  • The Nazis aren't messing around at the end when they strangle Kester once the boys start singing Abraham, Martin, and John without giving him a chance to explain. 

Final Analysis:
Our second straight completely off-the-wall episode, but once again it was creative and held my attention. And as Joe Passman said on my Indiana Jones podcast, Nazis are hard to beat when it comes to villainry.  Ranking it 5 out of 26.