The MI team must exonerate an American businessman framed for the murder of his wife and marked for death in Japan. Undercover in the guise of various masters of Japanese art forms they dupe the true killer into confessing.



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Episode cast overview:
Dana Lambert (as Lesley Warren)
Khigh Dhiegh ...
Toshio Masaki
Inspector Akita
Mioshi Kellem
Helen Funai ...
Nobu Kellem
Harry Kellem
Dale Ishimoto ...
Fuji ...
Leonard Pronko ...
Specialty Dancer


The MI team must exonerate an American businessman framed for the murder of his wife and marked for death in Japan. Undercover in the guise of various masters of Japanese art forms they dupe the true killer into confessing.

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis




Release Date:

31 October 1970 (USA)  »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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Did You Know?


At the 1970 exchange rate, the prize of 3,600,000 yen for Willie's bout against Masaki's champion was $10,000 dollars. Adjusted for inflation, that represents $58322.88 in 2013 dollars. See more »


When a guard brings Harry Kellem a food tray, he slides it across the floor through a hole in to bottom of the cell door. There are very rough saw cuts at the corners of the hole, chips in the silver paint and visible wood grain revealing that the door is painted wood, and was never meant to be photographed at close range from inside the "cell". See more »


[first lines]
Toshio Masaki: Are you enjoying the fight?
Mioshi Kellem: You know I have never shared your passion for violence. Why did you ask us here today?
Toshio Masaki: A brother and sister should not be enemies.
Mioshi Kellem: I've been your enemy since I married an American. Have you changed your mind about all that?
Toshio Masaki: That's all in the past now, Mioshi. Come, I want to show you something.
See more »


Featured in For the Love of Spock (2016) See more »

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User Reviews

Real-Life Setting Enhances one of the Few Superior Fifth Season Episodes
18 October 2008 | by (Ukiah, California) – See all my reviews

There was much that was wrong with the fifth season of "Mission: Impossible," but "Butterfly" nevertheless managed to rise above those frequent problems. The title is an apparent reference to a symbol on the robe worn by anti-American industrialist Masaki (Khigh Dhiegh) when he kills his sister, which he does in order to frame her American husband (Russ Conway). Exonerating someone accused of murder was actually one of the lesser tasks the IMF took on over the years (and this was hardly the first time they did so), but here they pursued their goal with style and patience, and a minimum of their usual trickery.

The Japanese setting marks one of the few times that the series was set in a real-life location (only the previous season's "Lover's Knot," set in England, had a similarly genuine locale), and as Patrick White points out in "The Mission: Impossible Dossier," the result was perhaps the series' most visually charming segment. Unfortunately, most of the "Japanese" exteriors of Masaki's estate were all-too-painfully indoor sets (although some sequences were shot in an outdoor Japanese village in Buena Park, near Los Angeles). The episode also provided Lesley Ann Warren, who usually looked completely out of place, with a rare realistic function, as a youthful photographer-turned-blackmailer who may have captured the murder on film.

Less successful is Leonard Nimoy's portrayal of a Kabuki performer — Nimoy is a fine actor, but the large planes and pronounced physiognomy of his face made his occasional forays into Oriental makeup utterly unrealistic. This would have been a good episode for the team (for once in these later seasons) to have added a guest star who could have authentically passed as a Japanese character instead. It's also a shame that the always-excellent James Shigeta has only a minor role as one of Masaki's henchmen, with little to do except stand around looking nasty.

Still, "Butterfly" remains a successful episode. Benson Fong does a steady job as an incorruptible police officer, and Khigh Dheigh projects a quiet menace as Masaki, taking on a role quite similar to his frequent guest shots during these years as arch villain Wo Fat on "Hawaii: Five-O." Helen Funai handles her role as the murdered woman's (and accused murderer's) daughter with touching vulnerability. But perhaps most notably, Willy (Peter Lupus) finally is given a central role in an episode, taking on Masaki's jujitsu champion as a distraction while Barney and the other members of the team make use of a different part of Masaki's estate. Willy isn't allowed to win the match, of course, but — this being 1970s American television — he's given his revenge later on.

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