An elderly cardinal has been taken prisoner by an Eastern European country because the clergyman is a leader of the political opposition. He is being held in a prison where no escape has ever occurred. Briggs recruits an old flame who is also a trapeze artist. She accompanies Briggs and the IMF, who pose as a small circus. The "circus" has set up in a park that is next to the prison. Rollin, posing as a member of the circus, is arrested after stealing the wallet of an audience member. Rollin is taken to the prison and manages to smuggle in a lock-pick that enables him to exit his cell. The IMF operative manages to get to the cardinal to warn him to expect an escape attempt, with the circus providing a distraction. But, as the escape attempt unfolds, the cardinal is gone from his cell -- he has been taken to solitary confinement and will be executed within a day or two.
- Dan Briggs (Stephen Hill) is assigned to rescue an elderly cardinal (Cyril Delavanti) sympathetic to the west from a prison in a middle European country. He (Dan) rather heartlessly enlists the help of Crystal (Mary Ann Mobley), a former girlfirend who is still in love with him. A trapeze artist, she trains the IMF to impersonate a circus troupe with Dan and Cinnamon (Barbara Bain) as mind-readers, Willie (Peter Lupus) as the strong man and Barney (Greg Morris) as a sometime clown. They plan to set up the show in a park close to the prison from which they are to spring the frail cardinal. Rollin (Martin Landau) poses as a pickpocket to get into the jail, cleverly smuggling his lockpick past the metal detector, so he can move about freely once incarcerated. He explains his mission to the old man and they take a "dry run" to the roof from which they will make their escape. If everything is perfectly timed, he can get the cardinal out while everyone else is distracted by Willie's weightlifting and Crystal's death-defying trapeze spin. But when Rollin arrives at the cardinal's cell, the old man is not there. At the last minute his captors have moved him for one last chance at breaking him before his execution.