A U.S. bomber crashes behind the Iron Curtain. Its Fail-Safe device, however, failed to self destruct. A brilliant U.S. scientist who defected to the unnamed country is supervising efforts ... See full summary »



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Episode cast overview:
Paul Shipherd
Émile Genest ...
Technician (as Emile Genest)
Peter Hellman ...
Minister (as Gregory Gay)
Judy Levitt ...
Art Stewart ...


A U.S. bomber crashes behind the Iron Curtain. Its Fail-Safe device, however, failed to self destruct. A brilliant U.S. scientist who defected to the unnamed country is supervising efforts to take the device apart, which will yield valuable information about the entire U.S. defense system. The IMF must recover the Fail-Safe device and abduct the scientist. As part of the plan devised by Phelps, Rollin and Cinnamon will pose as U.S. scientists on a tour. Written by Bill Koenig

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis




Release Date:

17 March 1968 (USA)  »

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Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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Did You Know?


This appears to be the first episode in the series which has a "Your mission, should you decide to accept it" scene that is not followed by the usual Jim-selects-his-team-from-his-photo-dossier scene. The story moves directly from the flaming tape in the ash tray to the standard "final briefing" scene, where Jim and the usual team members (no guest stars on the good guys' side in this one) review the overall mission and the last details are confirmed. See more »


When Jim starts the mission tape, there is almost no tape on the supply reel. During playback there is quite a bit of tape on the supply reel. See more »


[first lines]
Person on Tape: [voice on tape] Good morning, Mr. Phelps. Last night, one of our SAC bombers crashed behind the Iron Curtain. The plane's fail-safe mechanism did not destruct and has been taken to the Vatzia Institute, which is headed by the brilliant American physicist Paul Shipherd, who defected several years ago. If Shipherd succeeds in disassembling the mechanism, he will learn the key to our entire fail-safe system. Your mission, Jim, should you decide to accept it, is to recover the fail-safe...
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Featured in Pioneers of Television: Crime Dramas (2011) See more »

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User Reviews

Not the Best of the Second Season -- but Close
30 March 2008 | by (Ukiah, California) – See all my reviews

"Recovery" provides one of the classic Iron Curtain "Mission: Impossible" stories and, in its final episode, probably one of the best offerings of the series' second season -- it is perhaps exceeded only by, ironically, "The Town," one of the "off duty" episodes in which Jim Phelps stumbles on a nest of spies out in the desert. Here, the team is going after more traditional foes: an Eastern European nation that has captured the "fail safe" unit from a crashed B-52. The twist is that the unit is in danger of being disassembled -- and its secrets therefore falling into the "wrong hands" -- by American defector Paul Shipherd, nicely underplayed throughout by Bradford Dillman.

The show starts with a surprising transition at the end of the "tape scene." Instead of going to the "dossier scene" where Phelps normally would select the (same) four agents to assist him, the tape does not "self-destruct" -- he's told to destroy it "in the usual manner," which means setting fire to it in an ashtray. Then there's a quick-cut from the flames consuming the tape to flames in Jim Phelps' fireplace, and we're already in the "apartment scene" as the team makes final preparations. Writers William Woodfield and Allan Balter must have realized -- having written more episodes at this point than anyone else -- that the trio of opening scenes had already become too static, and that the dossier scene in particular was largely a waste of time since the audience likely knew who the team members would be. So, they saved a few minutes for story exposition and also allowed the clever transition between scenes -- which would be borrowed the following season in "The Cardinal," when the smoke from the self-destructing tape becomes smoke pouring from one of Barney's devices in the apartment.

This episode is more blatantly political than most, with part of the team's "recovery" to be defector Shipherd himself. The politics become overt in an early scene when Shipherd is being introduced to a "typical" American couple for whom Cinnamon and Rollin have substituted themselves. When he asks how things are in the States, Cinnamon tartly replies, "I wouldn't have thought you cared, Paul." Shipherd retreats and mumbles a few words about how happy he is to be working in his new country -- albeit on matters that are classified. Of course, even in Cold War-era 1968, it would have been hard to justify forcibly repatriating someone as apparently inoffensive -- even timid -- as Shipherd appears to be; it was a cardinal rule on "Mission" that the adversary cannot be sympathetic. So, Shipherd, having been led to believe that Rollin is the manufacturer of the fail-safe device, kidnaps Cinnamon and then forces him to work on the device while Cinnamon sits where the blast from the device will kill her if he makes a mistake. Once he's been shown to be so ruthless, Shipherd obviously will deserve whatever fate the IMF has in store for him.

The most curious part of the plot is having Jim and Willy be the two who infiltrate the building after posing as repairmen who are supposed to fix the over-sized shredder that Barney has sabotaged. Normally, climbing through the man-sized paper chutes that lead to the offices in the building would have been Barney's job -- including some technical feats that Jim must perform when he reaches the fail-safe device. The likely explanation is that Woodfield and Balter thought that the audience wouldn't believe that a black man would be taken as an "ordinary citizen" like a repairman in an Eastern European country (even though he did so in other episodes -- even playing military officers). But at this relatively early stage in the show, that must have caused them to hesitate, and allowed Barney to play an "inside" character (as Rollin's U.S. Embassy escort) for once while Phelps went tunnel-crawling.

If there's a weakness in the plot, it's that Shipherd's cohorts so readily accept his suggestion to let Cinnamon and Barney leave with "Rollin's body" (a tranquilized Shipherd in a Rollin mask) at the end. Or perhaps not -- after all, Shipherd has already shown that part of his success in his scientific work comes from his willingness to make unorthodox choices. So perhaps his East Bloc comrades will also accept an equally-unorthodox proposal from someone so brilliant -- such as letting most of the team walk out unmolested.

As already mentioned, Dillman does a fine job underplaying Shipherd -- soft-voiced, slightly hesitant in his delivery, mild-mannered -- but harboring a dark, cold-blooded side. There's an interesting but unexplored psychological story in there about why someone like that would betray his country -- what slights, real or imagined, would have led Shipherd to where he's found at the opening of the story? Woodfield and Balter only hint at it in the script, but Dillman makes Shipherd more than just a cipher with his curious combination of verbal tics and mildness offset by occasional outbursts of both physical violence (as when he slaps the American pilot -- Phelps again, with black hair!) and threatened violence, as when he makes Rollin work on the bomb. The combination of the challenging mission, Cinnamon being in real peril while Rollin works on the bomb and, especially, Dillman's menacing portrayal make this one of the best of the second season's offerings.

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