Mission: Impossible: Season 4, Episode 24

Death Squad (15 Mar. 1970)

TV Episode  -   -  Action | Adventure | Crime
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Jim and Barney vacation together in a Latin American country. While there, Barney falls in love with artist Alma Ross. But the brother of the local police chief obsesses over Alma and is ... See full summary »

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Title: Death Squad (15 Mar 1970)

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Cast

Episode cast overview:
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Chief Manuel Corba
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Alma Ross
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Riva
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Lieutenant Jocaro
Richard Angarola ...
Tolima
Valentin de Vargas ...
Luis Corba (as Val de Vargas)
Natividad Vacío ...
Flower Man (as Natividad Vacio)
Luanne Roberts ...
Louisa
Trish Mahoney ...
Maria
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Storyline

Jim and Barney vacation together in a Latin American country. While there, Barney falls in love with artist Alma Ross. But the brother of the local police chief obsesses over Alma and is enraged that she and Barney are dating. He goes into her room with a knife. Barney defends Alma but in the process sidesteps the jealous man, who lunges through the window, landing on the knife. Barney is now arrested and ticketed for execution by the police chief, who is operating a secret death squad. Phelps summons Paris and Willy and the IMF must act fast before Barney becomes the death squad's latest victim. Written by Bill Koenig

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15 March 1970 (USA)  »

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1.33 : 1
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Trivia

One of the few episodes that did not begin with an assigned mission. There was no self-destructing recorded message at the beginning. See more »

Goofs

The vat of liquid Jim identified as sulfuric acid was fuming and caused Willy to cough. In fact sulfuric acid looks like water and does not release mist or release irritating vapors. See more »

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Tense Situation with Fine Guest Stars Makes for Excellent "Off-Duty" Episode
15 June 2008 | by (Ukiah, California) – See all my reviews

The "off duty" episodes (those that didn't use the standard tape/dossier/apartment scenes, and instead grew out of some personal calamity for one of the team members) were, somewhat ironically, often among the best of this series (e.g., "The Condemned," "The Town," and "Homecoming") and "Death Squad," the first to focus on the character of Barney Collier, also belongs in that pantheon. Because these situations usually arose unexpectedly (here, Barney is marked for death because he accidentally kills the brother of a corrupt police chief), the IMF is forced to make its plans "on the fly." This is especially true in this episode, with Barney in great danger and Jim Phelps urgently needing to summon the rest of the team from the States to save him.

Indeed, the focus on Barney highlights both why he was so valuable to the team and how Greg Morris' stoic portrayal of the character added to what characterization there was in the role. His near-escape from the death squad cell, with nothing more than a spoon, a pencil, the light bulb in his cell, and some wire salvaged from the underside of his bedding was a more realistic technical solution than most, and the Riva character, played marvelously by Leon Askin, makes some telling observations about how well Barney concentrates -- saying out loud what those who had watched the team for years always understood.

An amusing touch is the scene where the Great Paris (Leonard Nimoy) is arriving at home, apparently from some kind of performance (complete with cape!) when he gets the call from Jim. If one looks carefully, however, this is almost certainly a redress of the apartment set where the team normally gathered to go over the plan before putting it into play. Even for a series that fans would have seen only once a week in those days, the apartment set would have been quite recognizable, and so they took pains to hide, e.g., the corner fireplace behind a flamboyant piece of sculpture next to the couch where Paris takes the phone call. Otherwise, the implication might have been that Paris and Jim lived together!

Pernell Roberts, in the third of his four "Mission" appearances, as always projects both strength and menace, making him an excellent adversary as the thoroughly detestable Police Chief Corba. His reasons for wanting to "get" Barney are purely personal, and Barney therefore doesn't have a chance -- unless Jim and the others can work their usual magic. Cicely Tyson plays Barney's love interest, Alma, as an unusually emotional and realistic character for "Mission"; her warm chemistry with Greg Morris and her well-founded fears about Barney's likely fate help to raise the emotional stakes even more than the situation alone would have done. Mention also must be made again of Askin's delightful portrayal of Riva. He gives Barney someone to play against when he's in his cell, and provides Barney with the crucial information that this is the "death cell." Askin does wonders with his few scenes, whether in Corba's office or the jail, and when he and Barney are on the gallows -- despite drawing strength from Barney's stoicism -- he still plays the execution scene with just the right touch of eye-bulging fear. Barney, by contrast, never betrays the slightest emotion, either because he believes that Jim Phelps will somehow pull things off or, failing that, accepts that if this is how he's going to die, so be it.

The episode isn't without its flaws -- despite operating out of a small Latin American town, Corba certainly seems to have the most up-to-date gadgetry, including electronic cells and two-way-mirrored visiting cubicles! Corba allows Phelps an awful lot of freedom of movement even though Corba has been led to believe that Phelps is involved with a notorious emerald theft. There's also the implication that they've worked Barney over -- both Phelps and Alma comment on this when they meet him in the jail -- and by suggesting to Corba that Barney was a jewel thief, Phelps might have inadvertently exposed Barney to more abuse than he would otherwise have faced (although, of course, it's intended to buy Barney more time). And then, despite initially biting at the phony emerald story, Corba seems in quite a rush to get Barney to the gallows anyway, even though he's obviously not gotten the information from him. But these are small quibbles about an otherwise well-crafted and enjoyable episode.


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