The impossible mission force (IMF) team was not above using dirty tricks to nab or liquidate the bad guys. You could say the IMF team were sanctioned government vigilantes. Throughout the television series, the IMF team frequently employed very elaborate ruses, akin to con games and scams to effectively deceive targeted individual or individuals of crime organizations or unfriendly nations, manipulating the targets to turn against their own organizations.
Common among the IMF complex ruses were schemes to deceive the target into thinking he was mysteriously pulled into the past or future. SPOILERS*****SPOILERS
In episode, "Two Thousand", Vic Morrow is an unscrupulous free-lance arms merchant-type who has come into possession of nuclear bomb triggers, which he intends presumably to sell on the black market. The IMF team must stop Morrow from spreading the nuclear triggers at all costs. This plot is very relevant to today given the fears of terrorist black market nuclear weapons possibilities.
The problem is, apprehending Morrow won't work. He has hidden the nuclear triggers.
The IMF team kidnaps Morrow and drugs him unconscious. They deceive Morrow into thinking 18 years have gone by and he has somehow lost his memory of those 18 years. The IMF team convinces Morrow that in those 18 years, conflict has broken out in the Middle East and spread into global war. The United States is now engaged in World War III on several fronts. Morrow is deceived into thinking the long global war has drained the United States, economically, financially, environmentally, and politically, as has the rest of the world war's combatants.
The IMF team disguised Morrow as an old man and this is the unbelievable part of the episode, where Morrow does not realize he is wearing Hollywood old man makeup.
The ever-so-useful and versatile Barney is employed in the scam as a black Middle-Eastern prisoner-of-war brought over to the ravaged U.S. to work as slave labor in military-run food and armament factories. Barney, using Arabic-accented English, helps convince Morrow that what is going on around him is true. More, the collars each prisoner wears around their necks has an 'expiration date'. In the futuristic, war-drained United States, very elderly people are a liability on the remaining scarce resources and therefore are euthanized upon reaching a certain age, which looks to be very old. To make the scam realistic, the IMF team brought in some very elderly people as actors and Morrow was 'accidentally allowed' to view a gas chamber where several elderly POWs wearing the collars are supposedly gassed to death.
At the beginning of the scam scheme, Morrow awoke from his drugged unconsciousness, in his old-man make-up and dirty POW uniform sitting in an underground food factory that is producing cans of wheat crackers. Jim Phelps, another versatile actor on the IMF team when need be, is disguised as a U.S. Army colonel.
Morrow is 'accidentally allowed' to eavesdrop on a conversation between supposed military and civilian government officials discussing how badly things are going for the U.S. war effort now that the war has dragged on for so long and national resources are drained to the point that a forced stalemate is prevalent on the war fronts. And the enemy nations are supposedly in the same bad shape as well. The officials and military talk on, wishing aloud that they had a few atomic weapons that could break open the stalemate and perhaps force the enemy to sue for peace. The U.S. has the raw fissionable bomb material but lacks the sophisticated nuclear bomb triggers to manufacture more atomic and nuclear weapons.
Morrow, thinking that his collar shows but a short time for him to live, thinks he has a bargaining chip. He prevails upon 'Colonel Phelps' and the government officials to let him live if he gives them the nuclear bomb triggers.
A fake bombing raid on the facility allows Morrow to 'escape' and lead the IMF team to the nuclear triggers.
At the show's end, when the IMF team has tricked Morrow out of the dangerous nuclear triggers, they abandon him at the fake facility. It wasn't necessary to kill him, only to retrieve the nuclear triggers. Morrow stumbles around, slowly realizing everything was a Hollywood grand show set-up. For example, people supposedly killed in the bombing raid are not on the debris-strewn floor anymore. The place is empty and silent as if it were never occupied. He starts peeling off the latex makeup on his face. The truth hits him hard. Like several IMF scam victims, who managed to survive through the elaborate ruse, he suffers a mental breakdown and is shown laughing hysterically at the show's end.
This elaborate ruse was one of the better Mission Impossible episodes. Another episode featuring an aging mobster, played by William Shatner, scams him into thinking he has gone back in time some 15 years and is youthful again. Another episode, cons a mobster into thinking an exposed undercover government law enforcement agent who he subsequently helped assassinate and bury secretly - is somehow back from the dead and is walking around. There was another episode that conned a mobster into thinking he woke up from a coma into the year 1992, again, way in the future. The mobster looks out his hospital window from the 3rd story and sees two, futuristic, tear-drop-shaped cars parked below, helping to convince him that he is indeed in the future of 1992. For those of us watching this episode back in 1972, the year 1992 did seem like way in the future as if it were the 21st century itself. It even seemed plausible that the tear-drop shaped cars could actually exist 20 years into the future.