Thursday, July 20, 2017

Mission: Impossible -- Episode 30: Cargo Cult


To Watch: Click Here

Synopsis in 3 sentences or less:
The IMF team heads to the Pacific island of New Belgium where the commissioner of the territory is using cyanide in an illegal gold-mining operation.  The cyanide is killing a large portion of the indigenous population, and the team aims to protect the natives and get them on their side.

Memorable Quote:
What about our bringing Otagi and Regehr to justice?   ~Shannon
This is the Kontu Jungle, Shannon.  They'll be judged by the same kind of justice they handed out.  ~Jim

Highlight:
All three of the antagonists (the lead commissioner, his abrasive lieutenant, and the guy pretending to be a god) were strong characters and well-acted.

Lowlight:
The depiction of the "simple hill people" seemed insulting to primitive people in general given how gullible and wishy-washy they were.  Just because they're primitive doesn't mean they're stupid.

Other thoughts, observations, and questions I didn’t ask when I was in fourth grade:
  • The scene where the natives capture Nicholas, Shannon, and Max has an Ewok/Return of the Jedi feel to it.
  • Ridiculous moment when Jim waves his arms and the natives wake up at exactly the same time.

Final Analysis:
I like this one despite not having many comments.  The plot is fast moving and action oriented, the villains are strong, and the Pacific island makes for a good setting.  Ranking it 7 out of 30.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Mission: Impossible -- Episode 29: Deadly Harvest


To Watch: Click Here

Synopsis in 3 sentences or less:
A Middle Eastern country's science minister and top scientist are working to create a genetic virus which they plan to use to attack America's wheat crop.  When the scientist gets badly burned in a radiation accident, the team seizes the opening and replaces him with Nicholas.  He and Shannon go to the country in order to destroy the bad seeds and the research.

Memorable Quote:
What are you to him, are you his lover?  ~Ishmahan
That's my business.  ~Shannon
12 months ago it was my business.  Possibly it will be again.  ~Ishmahan

Highlight:
The scene where Shannon gets trapped in the radiation chamber is some good drama.

Poor Shannon, she's assuming a lot of the risk this season.  And if it was part of the plan for Nicholas to get caught and go on trial, he should have opened the chamber door right away to save Shannon even if he was seen.  Instead he burns some wiring which shorts out the lab, but that was a risky play with less than 20 seconds left on the radiation timer.

Lowlight:
The ending with Nicholas's trial is breathtakingly preposterous.  Jim walks in the courtroom off the street and interrupts the proceedings by claiming that he's a lawyer for Amnesty International. The ruling general of this Middle Eastern dictatorship is presiding over the trial, and he allows Jim to represent Nicholas and start cross-examining his science minister!  We've seen a few crazy things lately, but this might be the unbelievable moment from the series thus far.

And I haven't even gotten to the part where after the minister is arrested, the five team members walk out of the courtroom completely unsupervised and free as birds (much like the end of War Games).

Other thoughts, observations, and questions I didn’t ask when I was in fourth grade:
  • I'm still waiting for the episode where Nicholas goes bad -- one of the few I remember (albeit vaguely) from when I was a kid.  Each time the last few episodes have started, I've been waiting to see if it will be the episode.  Now there's only 5 episodes left so it'll come up sooner rather than later.
  • The entire opening is well filmed and relatively intense as far as this show goes.
  • Amazing that the Middle Eastern scientist survives the radiation blast, and even more amazing that his name is Jared.
  • The radiation accident occurs in Kansas, but he's taken to a hospital in Washington DC -- apparently no good hospitals between those two spots.
  • 8:23 mark -- "We've got 30 minutes before the real surgeon makes his rounds," Jim says.  So they're doing this whole switcheroo at the hospital without anyone on the staff knowing or discovering what's going on?
  • I don't see how Nicholas could get away with pretending to be Jared for too long -- even if he looked the same (and I wonder why they couldn't have just put a mask on him), wouldn't he reveal himself at some point by his lack of knowledge, or wouldn't the science minister quiz him to make sure he was the real guy?  And how did Nicholas know that they were going to check the teacup for fingerprints as opposed to checking something else?
  • How does Grant know where they're keeping the personnel disk?
  • Just as in The Golden Serpent, the explosions and pyrotechnics are quite impressive.

Final Analysis:
This one's ok but not great.  The production value was pretty good and the story held my attention, but there were some plot issues throughout and then it totally went off the rails at the end. Ranking it 16 out of 29.

Mission: Impossible -- Episode 28: For Art's Sake


To Watch: Click Here

Synopsis in 3 sentences or less:
The team heads to NYC to recover a stolen painting and bring down a wealthy art thief.

Memorable Quote:
She just cost me six hundred thousand dollars...but I like those eyes.  ~Travers

Highlight:
I generally enjoy auction scenes, even if they're often predictable.

Lowlight:
The Princess had a crazy bit of technology that I gave as my highlight, but in this episode I'm giving the crazy bit of technology as the lowlight.  Don't try too hard to figure me out.

The bit I'm referring to is Grant's painting gadget.  Enter some data about Degas into the computer, push a few buttons, and watch the machine print out an original painting in 10 seconds based on Degas's style.  Shannon using her jet pack to propel back to the space shuttle in Target Earth was more realistic.

Other thoughts, observations, and questions I didn’t ask when I was in fourth grade:
  • This is the only MI episode written by MacGyver writer/producer John Whelpley.
  • Travers owns Travers Towers in Manhattan, which makes me wonder if he's based on a certain someone who also owns an eponymous tower. There's even a fake Time Magazine cover involved (5:29 mark).
  • Phelps lets Shannon hang out to dry a couple times, first in the museum and later in the bathtub (if it's possible to hang out to dry in a bathtub). Why is she even in the tub to begin with? Her fake death doesn't accomplish anything, and she's extremely lucky that Travers didn't try to kill her another way where her reinforced vest wouldn't have helped, like if he held her underwater or stabbed her in the head.
  • Why couldn't Nick and Jim knock out the culture minister in his office instead of waiting until he gets to Grant who's undercover as a hot dog vendor?  The answer is that this episode is low on drama and so they needed an extra bit to add interest.
  • The ridiculous technology theme continues at the end with some fake, hologram fire, complete with smoke.  Does it feel hot, also? 

Final Analysis:
Season 2 had gotten off to a decent start, but we've now had two straight weak episodes.  This one was dull and uninspired, and I had to rack my brain to find a highlight. Ranking it 21 out of 28.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Mission: Impossible -- Episode 27: Banshee


To Watch: Click Here

Synopsis in 3 sentences or less:
An arms dealer in Ireland blows up a van full of people in order to foment angst among the locals and have a market to sell guns.  The IMF team scares him with some banshee special effects and gets him to admit to the heads of the two warring factions that he was responsible for the crime.

Memorable Quote:
What the hell was that?  ~Grant
Just makin' it look good, bud.  ~Max
How does this look?  ~Grant

Highlight:
The production team does a good job of recreating Ireland (especially considering the show is filmed in Australia), even if it looks like the Ireland of the 1920's.

Lowlight:
How does the team know to set up the old guy, that he's even involved with the arms dealer and that he's superstitious?  And then how did they get tape of the "old people" singing in the van?

Other thoughts, observations, and questions I didn’t ask when I was in fourth grade:
  • Shannon does some good work as an Irish folk singer.  We also saw her as a French nightclub singer in The Plague, and apparently actress Jane Badler is a singer who has released three albums.
  • Wouldn't the Irish in the small-town bar wonder where all these Americans and Aussies came from?
  • 24:40 mark - Jim demonstrates to McCarron that his weapons are defective, but why doesn't McCarron ask how he comes to know this?  Speaking of McCarron, he's a weak and small-time crook compared to the other villains we've seen in season 2.
  • This episode revisits one of the common 1st season tropes which I didn't care for: staging effects to scare people or to drive them crazy.  It's one thing to have Shannon dress up as a banshee, but how would they have the technology to move her as a well-lit hologram image through the darkness of night?  And Phelps's appearance at the end as some kind of all-knowing spirit was weird and met with a surprising lack of surprise on the part of the younger Irish guys.

Final Analysis:
Our first Season 2 dud.  I like the setting, but the plot and its execution left a lot to be desired. Seemed like someone had an idea to do a "banshee" episode in Ireland and then the details were hastily thrown together.  Ranking it 19 out of 27.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Mission: Impossible -- Episode 26: The Fuehrer's Children


To Watch: Click Here

Synopsis in 3 sentences or less:
The team aims to bring down Richard Kester, an American Neo Nazi leader who is in Germany to meet with world Nazi leaders.  Kester reveals his secret weapon to his peers: a group of about 25 kids who have been kidnapped and brainwashed into believing in Nazism and that Hitler is alive. The team gets to the kids and deprograms them just in time for Kester's big reveal.

Memorable Quote:
They know only what I want them to know.  It's living proof of what I can achieve.  Not for the future, Fruger.  Now!  Now!   ~Kester

Highlight:
Great acting from Thaao Penghlis when he discovers the boys on the sub.  Even without saying anything, his face says it all.

Lowlight:
I have several questions about the ending:
  • How does Jim get away from the Nazis once Kester's plan goes up in smoke?  He's sitting in the middle of table with about 30 Nazis all around him, and somehow he just walks out.
  • Speaking of walking out, we later see Nicholas (pretending to be Vogel) exiting stage left without any resistance.
  • The team is happy to have brought down Kester, but why settle for one Nazi when they could have taken down all the Nazis that were there?
  • And what about the boys?  Do they just leave them there?
    • Actually I just rewatched the last few minutes and apparently they're sending a plane for the boys and are arranging for doctors to meet them once they arrive in the USA, and Grant's going to ride with them.  But who's taking them to the airport, and once they get to the USA where are they going to live?

Other thoughts, observations, and questions I didn’t ask when I was in fourth grade:
  • Our second Nazi episode in the series.  The first, The Legacy, currently sits at 2nd in my rankings.  In that episode's review (which had what I referred to as a "bonkers plot"), reader Mark wrote in the comments:  "Also, if you think this Nazi plot is bonkers, wait till season 2's infinitely more out there Nazi plot."  He's right -- this one is out there.
  • Max and Grant somehow know to enter Kester's hotel room right when his lady friend is in the shower.  And after Kester catches Grant, why didn't he think to sweep the room for bugs or other devices?
  • Despite the title, the revelation of the brainwashed children was not one that I was expecting.
  • Shannon uses technology that projects what the subject of a photo will look like in the future.  Maybe she left the software in Germany for MacGyver to use a year later in The Wall.
  • The Nazis aren't messing around at the end when they strangle Kester once the boys start singing Abraham, Martin, and John without giving him a chance to explain. 

Final Analysis:
Our second straight completely off-the-wall episode, but once again it was creative and held my attention. And as Joe Passman said on my Indiana Jones podcast, Nazis are hard to beat when it comes to villainry.  Ranking it 5 out of 26.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Mission: Impossible -- Episode 25: Target Earth


To Watch: Click Here

Synopsis in 3 sentences or less:
A pilot at a private space company is murdered, and the IMF team goes undercover at the base to try and figure out what happened.  Shannon is pretending to be an astronaut in training, but the shuttle she is in during a training exercise unexpectedly goes into orbit.  The base is taken over by a group of terrorists, and the team has to gain control of the base and bring Shannon back down to earth. 

Memorable Quote:
Keep calm!  ~Grant

Highlight:
I mean...can it be anything other than Shannon floating away into space?  This scene is one of the few from the series that I remembered from watching as a kid.  What a moment!  Shannon is literally floating away into the abyss of space!  Hard to think of too many commercial breaks with more of a cliffhanger than that one.

Once we return from the break, we're treated to Grant's "Keep calm," which for me is the Memorable Quote of the Series (and the only one that I actually remembered before watching, although I thought it was "Stay calm"). "Keep calm! It's not like you're heading into the depths of outer space!"

As for Shannon's return to the shuttle, take MacGyver's most miraculous escape (from the pendulum in Legend of the Holy Rose) and multiply the miraculous factor by 1000 and you have the odds of Shannon using her air supply as a jet pack and propelling herself back to the shuttle. And funny how she triumphantly says "It works!" as she is floating back -- might want to wait until you're back on the shuttle, Shannon, before celebrating.   

Lowlight:
As long as we're suspending all disbelief for this episode, it feels a little strange to nitpick.  But I have to pick something and so I can't help but mention how they gloss over Shannon's ability to reenter Earth's orbit and land the space shuttle perfectly by herself!  With no training or experience!

Other thoughts, observations, and questions I didn’t ask when I was in fourth grade:
  • It's a Stephen Kandel episode!  You may remember him as a first-ballot MacGyver hall-of-famer, and he's also one of my favorite interviewees ever.  No wonder this was a memorable episode.
  • The theme of the team getting easy access to wherever they want continues here with all 5 of them easily becoming embedded in the private space company.
  • Given that Grant knows exactly what buttons to push all the time, maybe they should have just made him the astronaut.
  • Whoa, it's Eli Danker!  MacGyver fans know him from Cease Fire, and he also appeared on the latest installment of 24: Legacy.
  • Great moment when the space shuttle takes off to the complete surprise of everyone on the team, although it's hard to imagine a shuttle taking off just from a tech pushing a few keystrokes.  And why were they doing a simulation in a fully fueled shuttle?
  • Why does the IMF team get their own private room?
  • It would have been interesting to learn more about what is motivating Danker and his group.  All we learn is that they want the US government to turn over a satellite so that they can "protect themselves."  And if Danker could launch a space shuttle, couldn't he launch his own satellite?
  • 31:40 mark -- Shannon says, "My God, it's beautiful," but I could have used more from her along these lines like, "OMG, I can't believe I'm actually in m---f---- space!!"
  • Why can the bad astronaut not hear Grant anymore just because Shannon is untethered?

Conversation:
Stephen Kandel, episode writer

My God, you're indefatigable!  You're running thru the TV M's? FYI, I wrote and/or produced Marcus Welby, Medical Center, Malmsy Rose (in the UK), MacGyver, Mannix. The Magician, Mod Squad, Mike Hammer, A Man Called Sloane, Mystery Show, Murder Squad, The Magnificent Roughnecks, one independent Mumblecore Flick, Miller's War, Mousetrap (UK again)-- as I remember Mi Diablo (for Universal in Latin America) - and, of course -- Mission Impossible.  Which I'd never seen when I went in to pitch, so I grabbed an old script off somebody's desk, scanned in hastily, for the character names, went in - and pitched my story.  They were baffled -- said "That's so far from what we usually do....really interesting..." and somebody else said "You must've really been watching the show - to want to give us a new direction...I like it!"  Exited with assignment - grabbed three more old scripts to get an idea of what the show actually was -- and off we went.  It's a dancer's biz - fast on your feet or dead.

I realized later that I didn't specify that I was watching the 80's version of the show, and he actually wrote some episodes for the 60's version too, so I'm not 100% which one he was referring to in his comments.

Final Analysis:
Despite the sheer lunacy (or should I say lunar-a-cy) of this one, I gotta give my man Kandel major props for creativity, and it certainly held my attention.  In a series that so far has lacked for milestone moments, this was quite a memorable and ambitious episode.  I liked Danker and the bad astronaut as actors, and the filming of the space scenes weren't bad for an 80's network show.  Ranking it 3 out of 25.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Mission: Impossible -- Episode 24: War Games


To Watch: Click Here

Synopsis in 3 sentences or less:
A militaristic general in a "middle European" country plans to attack a neighboring country under the guise of military exercises, aka war games.  He has a bent toward astrology, so Shannon pretends to be a royal astrologist and gets him to admit where the missiles are kept.  As Max and Nicholas defuse the missiles, Grant hacks into the war games computer system and overrides the attack.  

Memorable Quote:
Missed a couple of bumps back there.  ~Max

Highlight:
Max's capture and escape in the trunk was dramatic and compelling.  Always interesting when something goes wrong with the initial plan and the team has to adapt. 

Lowlight:
It's silly at the end how much latitude the team has to move around the base.  Once the general starts flipping out, Grant climbs down unnoticed from behind the map and leaves the bunker with Nicholas and Jim.  Then they meet Max and Shannon in a car out front without a word from the many soldiers in the area.

Other thoughts, observations, and questions I didn’t ask when I was in fourth grade:
  • At first I thought the chauffeur who Jim exchanges coded phrases with in the beginning was the soldier who MacGyver spares in To Be a Man, but I checked IMDB and that's not the case.
  • Our third straight episode involving an overly ambitious military leader!
  • You'd think the general would be suspicious of Jim and Nicholas (pretending to be UN representatives) considering that his men captured a spy (Max) on the same day that they showed up.  Wouldn't he at least ask to see some papers?  And it's surprising that the rogue general would spend time accommodating the UN to begin with.
  • And how does Shannon sell herself as a member of the royal family that no one's ever heard of?  Perhaps this spycraft thing is easier than we think.
  • I like how Grant hides behind the giant map, even if it's unclear how he is able to hack so easily into the controls. 
  • How did the country's leader get to the base so fast after seeing the news report?

Final Analysis:
Like the last two episodes, this one was not spectacular but better than most of Season 1.  The general was a little too goofy for my liking, but there were some good moments and I wasn't pining for it to be over (there's a ringing endorsement!).  I'm ranking it 7 out of 24, right in the same area as the other Season 2 episodes thus far.