QM Productions was in a quandary about The FBI.
Entering its eighth season, the show was still popular, still a fixture on ABC’s Sunday night schedule. Quinn Martin evidently was hesitant to tamper too much with the show’s format. Since the middle of the first season, the series mostly avoided “personal” episodes about its regular cast, which often happened on other dramas.
QM did tinker with the show, at least on a superficial level, this season. The pre-titles sequence was gone. Instead, a series of clips from an episode would be shown, along with an even more shortened main titles. At the start of Act I, the viewer would see the episode’s crime being committed. The screen would freeze and we’d see the name of the suspects and his or her crimes. Only then, would Erskine and Colby (Efrem Zimbalist Jr. and William Reynolds) make an appearance.
There were some, but not many, shifts behind the camera. While producer Philip Saltzman remained, his deputy, Mark Weingart, departed. Robert Heverly was promoted to the associate producer slot while still writing many episodes. Weingart also contributed some scripts, even though he was no longer part of the crew.
There was also a change in the end titles. With the death of J. Edgar Hoover in May 1972, the “appreciation” title card simply extends thanks the the bureau, with no director mentioned. At the time production began for the eighth season, there wasn’t a permanent director in place.
Also, there was a change at QM. Howard Alston was named executive production manager, overseeing that task for all QM series. Alston had been the production manager in previous seasons of The FBI, which involved devising the shooting schedule for each episode. The company’s hot streak, began the previous year when it sold Cannon to CBS, continued. QM Productions also had The Streets of San Francisco on ABC’s schedule this season. And, midway through the season, it added Barnaby Jones on CBS. The latter would run eight seasons, the second-longest running QM show except for The FBI.
Credits for the season
Executive Producer: Quinn Martin
Producer: Philip Saltzman
Associate Producer: Robert Heverly
Story Consultant: Gerald Sanford
Supervising Producer: Adrian Samish
In Charge of Production: Arthur Fellows
Executive Production Manager: Howard Alston
Assistant to the Executive Producer: John Conwell
FBI Theme: Bronislau Kaper (as Bronislaw Kaper)
A QM Production In Association With Warner Bros. Television
Text and reviews (c) 2015-2016 William J. Koenig
193. The Runner
Writer: Jack Turley Director: Lawrence Dobkin
BANK ROBBERY, ESCAPED FEDERAL PRISONER
Cliff Wade (David Soul), a former college football player turned bank robber, escapes from a prison work detail in Oregon. Erskine and Colby are already in the state on a case, so the inspector takes command of the bureau’s search for Wade.
Wade is seeking his old girlfriend, Margo Bengston (Belinda Montgomery). He catches up with his old coach (Lou Frizzell) but bolts when the coach tries to call the FBI. Wade then reaches her father, Ellis Bengston (Jim Davis), who owns a major ranch.
It turns out Ellis Bengston paid $5,000 under the table to Wade, a violation of a conference rule, causing Wade to be thrown off his college team. It was this incident that spurred Wade to try to rob a bank because he wanted to keep seeing Margo. Ellis Bengston paid for Wade’s lawyer, but the attorney’s main interest was keeping the elder Bengston’s name away from publicity.
Eventually, Wade finally gets to Margo, who’s now dating Davie Stroud (Robert Urich), the quarterback on Wade’s old team. Wade beats up Stroud and takes Margo with him into a remote area. The bureau is in pursuit. At one point, Erskine and another agent make a parachute jump to try to head off Wade. The ex-player keeps running, refusing to believe Margo doesn’t love him anymore.
For a 21st century audience, one of the attractions of this episode are all the cast members who’d play prominent roles in notable 1970s shows such as Starsky and Hutch (Soul), SWAT (Urich), Vega$ (Urich again) and Dallas (Davis). In terms of this episode, the aforementioned actors are fine, but nothing particularly special. Davis, of course, was the most experienced and he plays a variation of his typical gruff character.
One of the main assets of the episode is the extensive location photography. There appears to be very little studio work, with even many of the interiors filmed out on location.
Gunplay: There’s a lot of threatening people with guns but not much firing. Erskine and the bureau agents apprehend Wade without shooting at him.
With the new title format, we don’t see the name of the suspect and the charges until well into Act I. It loses a bit of its power. Under the previous format, we’d see the name and charges at the end of the pre-titles sequence and the theme would kick in.
Richard Markowitz supplies his first original score for the series since Season Five. (Given how extensively his scores were used in stock scores it’s almost as if he never left. The score here sounds more ’70ish than his previous work but it’s a plus. GRADE: B.
Here’s a preview of the episode, which Warner Archive uploaded to YouTube:
194. Edge of Desperation
Writer: Mark Weingart Director: Arnold Laven
Alan Graves (Michael Tolan), an insurance adjustor in Detroit, is evidently having a mid-life crisis. He stages his own kidnapping. He and his wife Joan (Jacqueline Scott) are middle class. But Joan’s father (Kent Smith) is wealthy. So Alan makes it appear he’s been kidnapped — even running Joan ragged during the ransom drop — so he can collect the $200,000 ransom.
Alan intends to run off with Dana Evans (Karen Carlson). After collecting the money, Alan and Dana fly separately to New York. After the ransom drop, Joan’s father calls in the FBI, which assigns Erskine and Colby to the case.
In New York, Alan proves himself to be an amateur. He gets mugged by the guy he thought he had arranged to buy phony passports from. That spurs Dana to contact old flame Lee Payne (Anthony Costello), who was shady even when in college. Payne still is quite taken with Dana. He demands $10,000 for two fake passports but lays a trap.
The bureau, meanwhile, has been following up clues and now suspects Alan and Dana of being complicit in the so-called kidnapping. Alan sends Dana to pick up the fake passports. But instead of meeting them himself, Alan pays another man $50 to impersonate him. Erkine, Colby and other agents converge on the scene. The only one who gets away is Alan, who decides to fly back to Detroit.
Back home, Alan tries to reconcile with Joan. But Erskine & Co. are on the trail, finally apprehending Alan.
Clearly, Alan is out of his depth through much of the story but finally comes to his senses that he should never have left Joan in the first place. We again see traces of Compassionate Erskine in a kidnapping case. While subtle, it’s implied he feels sorry for Joan but that won’t stop him from cracking the case.
Trivia: At the start of Act II, there’s an acknowledgement of the death of J. Edgar Hoover in May 1972. Assistant Director Arthur Ward comes out of the Director’s office. The sign on the door now reads, “L. Patrick Gray, III, Acting Director, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Entrance.”
Gunplay: Payne fires at Erskine. The inspector returns fire, wounding Payne with a single right-handed shot. Erskine and Colby arrest Alan without gun fire.
The episode has a stock score, including a few snippets of Richard Markowitz’s score for The Runner. GRADE: B.
195. The Fatal Showdown
Writer: Ed Waters Director: Virgil W. Vogel
Kenneth Meade, Earl Gainey, Et Al
INTERSTATE TRANSPORTATION OF STOLEN PROPERTY, INTERSTATE TRANSPORTATION OF STOLEN VEHICLE
A rare episode featuring twists with a story that’s more heavily plotted than normal.
In New York, a gang steals a sculpture just before it is to be auctioned. During the robbery, one of the gang members, Johnny Canute (Karl Held) is seriously wounded. The gang leader, Kenneth Meade (Joseph Campanella) keeps driving because stopping for medical assistance would mean they’d all be apprehended.
Canute is dumped and left for dead. Meade and the gang make a rendezvous with shady art dealer Otto Strasser (Edward Mulhare), who’s working on behalf of a client. The gang is now heading to the Atlanta area, where it has another job planned.
The vehicle containing the gang is found in New Jersey. Having crossed state lines, it’s now a federal case with Erskine and Colby leading the investigation.
Once in Atlanta, Meade and another gang member, Earl Gainey (Wayne Maunder), are fired upon in separate incidents. They initially suspect each other but shift their attention to the final surviving gang member, Darcie Hill (Marlyn Mason). She was in love with Canute and has voiced resentment that her fellow gang members never stopped to give him medical attention.
Before Erskine solves the case, twists involving Strasser’s client as well as the gang itself will surface.
Trivia: In the end titles, we’re told that Mark Dana’s New York SAC is named Clayton MacGregor. But in the preceding episode, Dana’s character was listed as Clayton McGregor.
The cast includes a number of actors (Campanella, Mason and Maunder among them) who had appeared in the series before. Kurt Kasznar gets guest star billing as a sculptor but he’s only in one scene.
Robert Drasnin provides an excellent original score. Apparently, QM had cut back on the music budget because both here and in The Runner it sounds as if fewer musical instruments are being used compared with previous seasons. Drasnin was very adept at making a lot out of few resources, a talent he displayed during Seasons Two and Three of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. GRADE: A-Minus.
196. The Franklin Papers
Writer: Ben Masselink Director: Virgil W. Vogel
Harry Cando, Alice Hobbs
INTERSTATE TRANSPORTATION OF STOLEN PROPERTY, INTERSTATE TRANSPORTATION OF STOLEN MOTOR VEHICLE
Alice Hobbs (Dina Merrill) and Harry Cando (Daniel J. Travani, still being billed as Dan Travanty) run cons on widowed rich men, with Alice posing as a widow herself to reel them in. Harry is the muscle (and really not that bright) but is a talented forger, which sometimes plays into their cons. They take $85,000 in jewels from the owner a large Arizona ranch, with Harry acting as the thief and Alice as his supposed hostage.
Their stolen car turns up in California, making this an interstate case. Erskine and Colby quickly determine the theft was part of a con. Meanwhile, Alice and Harry are only able to obtain $30,000 from a fence. So they’re making plans for their next con: rich, widowed Dan Wheaton (Richard Anderson), who lives in Santa Barbara. He has a major interest in the Revolutionary War and the bait will be forged letters supposedly written by Benjamin Franklin.
As Erskine’s investigation proceeds, the bureau finds Alice passed a bad check to the owner an antique store. Alice and Harry used the Franklin papers ruse on him. The FBI’s lab verifies they are forgeries. While written on old paper, it’s still about 100 years different than the Revolutionary War period.
Alice gradually gets her hooks into Dan, but she’s also falling in love with him. Things get more complicated when Harry’s estranged wife shows up; she wants Harry to be more assertive and she wants to take over from Alice.
Dina Merrill, of course, was one of the guest stars of The Monster, the very episode broadcast, while Richard Anderson had appeared in several installments of the series. They’re both fine. Daniel J. Travanti’s Harry really does come across as someone who lets himself get manipulated by Alice and his wife. This also marks one of the final appearances of Dean Harens as the Los Angeles SAC. It’s very brief but Harens still gets co-starring billing in the end titles.
Gunplay: Harry fires at Erskine. It uncharacteristically takes Erskine three tries to wound Harry.
Willard Wood-Jones provides an original score. GRADE: B-Minus.
197. The Gopher
Writer: Calvin Clements Director: Virgil W. Vogel
Lester Sutton, Edgar Stanley Robson
EXTORTIONATE CREDIT TRANSACTIONS
The bureau is in the midst of an investigation of the Organization’s loan sharking activities in New York. The operation is headed up by Johnny Sutton (Peter Mark Richman), who is preparing to move its offices.
During the middle of all this, Sutton “gopher” (as in “go fer”) Harry Scheller (Reni Santoni) comes into the office asking Johnny for $2,000 so his mother can have an operation. Johnny turns him down flat. While nobody is looking an angry Harry grabs a bag — which turns out to contain a key record book listing all of the loan sharking operation’s borrowers and the high interest rates they’re paying to the mob. Harry leaves just before, Erskine, Colby and New York SAC Clayton McGregor lead a raid.
Johnny is in big trouble. His superior in the Organization, Robson (David Opatoshu) had told Johnny to move the record book the previous evening because he had a premonition. Harry contacts Johnny, saying he’s sorry but he needed the $2,000. Johnny sets up a meeting but sends henchman Victor (Jonathan Goldsmith, then billed as Jonathan Lippe) to kill Harry and get the book back.
Harry turns out to have more gumption than the mobsters expect. When Victor raises his gun, Harry attacks him. They fight for Victor’s gun, and the hoodlum is wounded. Harry takes the $2,000 and the record book. He contacts Johnny again and ups his price to $100,000.
Erskine and Colby run down leads throughout all this. The FBI men are on Harry’s trail after studying surveillance footage taken before the raid. Robson also decides Johnny has bungled things, instructing Victor (whose wound was relatively slight) to kill Johnny and Harry.
For the second consecutive episode, John Conwell’s QM casting department brings in actors who had appeared in the earliest days of the series. Both Goldsmith and Paul Sorensen (who has a small role here as a friend of Harry’s) were in the first episode. Richman first appeared in Season One’s The Problem of the Honorable Wife and had a guest star appearance in every season except Season Seven (when he was a regular on Longstreet).
Reni Santoni’s Harry is interesting. After his fight with Victor, Harry’s self confidence builds but he proves not to be as smart as he thinks he is. It’s amusing to watch Harry taunt Johnny after the tables get turned. Richman, as usual, is top notch as a villain.
Gunplay: Victor isn’t having a good day. In addition to being wounded by Harry, he later is wounded by Erskine (a single shot).
The episode has a stock score, which includes what sounds like Season One music in Act IV. It certainly sounds as if it were performed by more musicians than the original scores so far this season. For this episode, music editor Ken Wilhoit assumes the music supervisor duties from John Elizalde. Wilhoit would perform the job full time for the series in Season Nine. GRADE: B-Plus.
198. End of a Nightmare
Writer: Gerald Sanford Director: Earl Bellamy
Darryl Thomas Ryder, Henry Charles Elkins
ESCAPED FEDERAL PRISONERS
The first half of this episode is a change-of-pace as a creepy guy (Dean Stockwell) terrorizes people for no apparent reason. The second half is a more typical procedural.
Stockwell plays Darryl Ryder, a recent federal prison escapee. First, he follows an elderly retired lawyer in Los Angeles. The lawyer offers up his wallet but Ryder continues to stare at him. The lawyer suffers a heart attack. Ryder takes his cane to write “Till Death Do Us Part” in the dirt nearby. Next, in Tampa, he terrorizes a woman in Tampa, whose father recently died. When she tells him her father’s dead, he gives her a note with the same message.
Erskine and Colby are on the case. The bureau turns up a connection. The lawyer originally practiced law in Scranton, Pennsylvania, and the deceased father was a judge there. Further checks reveal that Ryder had a marriage that was annulled by the judge. The agents arrive in Scranton immediately after Ryder unsuccessfully tried to harm the mother of his former wife.
Erskine and Colby also travel to Pittsburgh, where they apprehend a prisoner who escaped with Ryder. He tells them how the woman (Darlene Carr) came to prison to tell Ryder in person she no longer loved him and wouldn’t wait for him.
Ryder’s one-time bride now lives in Peru, Indiana, where she’s happily married. But Ryder is determined to take her back, no matter the cost.
In the story’s first half, the focus is on Ryder’s creepiness and menace. He walks with a limp (the result of an injury of his escape from prison). There are a few point-of-view shots, which weren’t often used in the series. In Act III, the bureau has things figured out, so now it’s a matter of getting to Ryder before anybody else gets hurt. Residents of north-central Indiana (where Peru is located and a flat place) might find the mountains in the background.
Gunplay: None. Ryder is apprehended without bureau agents firing a shot.
Duane Tatro provides a good original score, especially with the “creepy” scenes of Ryder stalking his victims. Tatro also engages in some ’70s funk in a sequence where Erskine, Colby and other FBI agents apprehend the other escaped prisoner. GRADE: B.
199. The Engineer
Writer: Norman Lessing Director: Philip Abbott
Walter Swenson, Vernon Speer
In Portland, Oregon, a bank is robbed. One of the men, Vernon Speer (Robert Yuro) is on the bureau’s Ten Most Wanted the List. The other is an amateur who, after they’ve fled the bank, is double crossed by his more experienced accomplice. Speer gets away with the entire $38,000 haul while the other man has nothing.
Erskine and Colby already are in the Pacific Northwest investigating a series of bank robberies. Information at the scene of the Portland robbery points to Speer. But the other man doesn’t show up on any criminal databases.
That’s because the other man is Walter Swenson (Ed Nelson), an electrical engineering who’s been laid off from a Seattle aerospace company for more than a year. He was in Portland job hunting when he participated in the robbery.
While Erskine and Colby concentrate their efforts on Speer, Swenson gets ideas about pulling his own caper. He recruits his former assistant Miles Currier (Michael Strong), who’s been working at a gas station since he was laid off. Swenson’s target is the vault of a jewelry company, which contains gold and platinum.
Speer’s trail leads to Reno, where Erskine and Colby apprehend him. Now, the FBI agents are hunting for Swenson as his robbery is taking place.
Ed Nelson may have felt a touch of deja vu. Both Swenson and his Season Seven character were formerly successful men who turned to crime out of desperation. Meanwhile, the casting department once again hired actors from Season One episodes, including Patricia Smith as Mrs. Swenson, Roy Engel (playing a retired police officer who witnesses the Portland robbery and gives chase to provide authorities with a description of the robbers) and Paul Bryar as a guard at the jewelry company. Smith was in The Giant Killer as the wife of Robert Duval’s disturbed character. Engel was a mob boss in The Man Who Went Mad by Mistake. Bryar was one of the bank robbers in The Plunderers. Both Engel and Bryar had been in a number of episodes of the series by this time.
Much of the story focuses on Swenson, whose pride prevents him from seeking lower-paying work than the engineering job he had held. His former assistant Miles goes along because he’s married to a free-spending woman and Miles is afraid of losing her. In the epilogue, Erskine looks as if he feels sorry for Swenson after he’s led away.
Gunplay: Erskine wounds Speer after the fugitive fires at the inspector. Erskine and Colby wound Swenson after he fires at the FBI men.
Music supervisor John Elizalde assembles a mash-up stock score originally composed for episodes from the various seasons. GRADE: B.
200. A Game of Chess
Teleplay: Warren Duff
Story: Mark Weingart Director: Philip Leacock
Stirling Grant, Howard Raymond, Nickolaus Kessler
The 200th episode of the series also is its final espionage tale. Spy stories had been a staple for the series, especially in Seasons Two and Three. By this time, however, relations between the United States and both the Soviet Union and China were warming. Also, truth be told, the espionage episodes had gotten in a rut.
A “symposium of world-class scientists” is held in Baltimore. Stirling Grant, an electronics expert who’s working as a freelance spy (he’s been blackmailed because of gambling debts). Grant has managed to obtain security clearance for the gathering. He steals plans for the recognition circuit of Project Silverfish, an underwater missile. The recognition circuit is “the key to the entire project.”
Grant has stolen the plans for Howard Raymond (Patrick O’Neal), a dealer in international secrets. Raymond intends to sell the plans to the “code green” country in the “eastern zone.” Kessler (Alfred Ryder), the “code green” representative, will only buy the plans if they can be authenticated by an independent source.
The source is Dr. Alex Rydell (George Nader), a blind scientist currently working in the West because an “eastern zone” grant. What the eastern zone doesn’t realize is that Rydell wants to defect to the U.S. and volunteers to work as a double agent. Before Rydell can begin his mission, he’s injured in a lab accident.
Assistant Director Ward assigns Erskine to go undercover as Rydell. Erskine already knows braille because of a previous case. Rydell agrees to give the inspector a crash course so the FBI man can pass for a scientist. Erskine meets Raymond on a train for Virginia. However, Rydell also is an expert chess player. Erskine arouses Raymond’s suspicions during a game of chess on the train.
Raymond hires Helen Simms (Charlotte Stewart), a blind woman who transcribes material into braille. She hears more than what’s good for her and is in danger of losing her life. Grant also double crosses Raymond and makes a deal with Kessler, informing him where Raymond is as well as the location of the plans.
For one last time, Erskine goes undercover during a spy case. At least this time, circumstances force him to go undercover (it’s usually Erskine’s idea). Efrem Zimbalist Jr. again speaks in an English accent (or his Alfred the Butler voice, if you prefer) while undercover. All the double crossing also enlivens the proceedings.
This episode’s director, Philip Leacock, was new to The FBI, but was a veteran director and producer. At this point, he was a former producer of Gunsmoke and in a few years he’d do a two-year stint as the lead producer on Hawaii Five-O. He’d also direct a few episodes of the latter series. His directing style isn’t fancy but effective here.
Yet again, the casting department brings back first-season performers. O’Neal was part of a spy ring in The Spy-Master. Charlotte Stewart was in The Bomb that Walked Like a Man as the murder victim in the pre-credits sequence.
Gunplay: Colby and another FBI agent wound Raymond after he fires at them.
The episode has a stock score, which includes some of Duane Tatro’s music from End of a Nightmare. GRADE: B-Plus.
201. The Wizard
Writer: Robert W. Lenski Director: Walter Grauman
George Stanton Barrows
This is possibly one of the greatest assembly of character actors for Baby Boomers who grew up on television in the 1960s.
George Barrows (Ross Martin), a top executive at a Minneapolis bank, conducts a daring embezzlement. But Barrows is only gather seed money for an even bigger caper.
Barrows, much like Jack Klugman’s character in Season One’s Image in a Cracked Mirror, has been a loyal bank employee for many years. Like Klugman’s character in the first season, Barrows years for much bigger things.
Erskine and Colby are on the trail of Barrows. While the investigation proceeds, Barrows put together his team to attack a target in St. Louis. Barrows has led a double life and has underworld contacts. His confederates are impressed with his plans but still have doubts whether Barrows can successfully complete the heist. Barrows has been planning the caper for a decade and convinces the gang to go along.
Besides Ross Martin (making his only appearance in the series), the cast includes character actors Norman Alden, Bill Zuckert (seen in Season Three’s The Gold Card), Robert Hogan (a friend of writer-producer Albert S. Ruddy, who co-created Hogan’s Heroes and produced The Godather; actor Hogan was Ruddy’s inspiration for the character name of Col Robert Hogan, played by Bob Crane), Marj Dusay (a guest star in Season Four of The Wild Wild West as well as a first-season episode of Hawaii Five-O), Del Monroe (who was in both the movie and TV series versions of Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea), John Hillerman, one of the sidekicks of Magnum, PI, and Noam Pitlik (a veteran character actor who appeared in Season One’s A Mouthful of Dust as an FBI agent.
Director Walter Grauman, along with Don Medford, was one of the masters of the QM Gravitas (Grauman was also producer of the first QM series, The New Breed). In Act IV, Grauman uses some fish-eye lens shots to provide some personal style to the proceedings.
Gunplay: In Act IV, Barrows panics and Alden’s character shoots, wounding him. Erskine and Colby wound one of the gang members.
Trivia: Efrem Zimbalist Jr. switched the part of his hair in the middle of the season. This episode is the first where it changes from his right to his left (matching the first three seasons). For the next several episodes it goes back and forth because the episodes weren’t shown in production order.
Richard Markowitz provides his second original score of the season. Markowitz was the original composer for The Wild Wild West (where Ross Martin was the co-star), so this is very appropriate. GRADE: A-Minus.
202. The Loner
Writer: Mark Rodgers Director: Virgil W. Vogel
John Lee Morgan
BANK ROBBERY, INTERSTATE TRANSPORTATION OF STOLEN MOTOR VEHICLE, INTERSTATE TRANSPORTATION OF STOLEN PROPERTY
This was Mark Rodgers‘ only script for Season Eight, but it kept his streak alive for writing at least one episode for every season of the series.
John Morgan (Billy Green Bush) has committed a series of bank robberies and other holdups. Erskine and Colby are assigned to the case. After his latest robbery, Morgan heads home to rural Georgia, only to find out his sister Emily has died. Morgan has been sending her some of the money he has stolen but she has always refused to take it.
Morgan heads to Macon, Georgia, and is drinking heavily at a bar. He doesn’t realize the bar owner, Bill Bollin (John Anderson), is a criminal who runs his operation from the business. Bollin has a waitress, Laura Ann Milpark (Lane Bradbury) serve Morgan dinner while Bollin’s thugs check out Morgan’s rental car.
Morgan and Laura Ann fall for each other. She takes him to a hotel to sleep it off and refuses his offer of money. Morgan, a loner almost his entire life, realizes how lonely he really is. Laura also has a shady past (she passed a lot of bad checks and went to work for Bollin after he paid them off) and is looking for a new start.
The bureau, in its usual methodical fashion, moves to track down Morgan. Meanwhile, Bollin tries to move in after Morgan robs $50,000 from a dog track in Jacksonville, Florida.
The bulk of the tale is the Morgan-Laura Ann love story, which is told reasonably well. In Act II, however, the two are supposed to be walking down a sidewalk in Macon but there are palm trees seen throughout. John Anderson (another performer originally seen in Season One) is a suitably slimy criminal.
Gunplay: Erskine, Colby and another FBI agent trade shots with Jack Wiley (Les Lannom), who had helped take care of Morgan’s sister and is looking to steal some of Morgan’s money. Wiley injures himself. Morgan wounds one of Bollin’s thugs but is wounded in return. When FBI agents led by Erskine finally confront Morgan, he collapses from blood loss and the agents fire no shots.
Duane Tatro provides an original score that is enlivened by extensive use of strings to evoke a Southern feel of the story’s setting. GRADE: B-Plus.
203. Canyon of No Return
Writer: Robert Heverly Director: Virgil W. Vogel
Albert Francis Lozano, Clifton Taggot, Fayton Edward Keene
INTERSTATE TRANSPORTATION OF STOLEN MOTOR VEHICLE
The biggest star of this episode is the scenery and the U.S. Interior Department gets a shoutout in the end titles.
A Northern California resort hotel is robbed of $200,000 in cash and jewelry. The thieves make their getaway in a private aircraft. When it flies into Oregon, it becomes a federal case and the bureau becomes involved. Erskine and Colby are already in Portland on another matter and the inspector takes command.
The plane breaks down and the thieves are forced to land in remote territory. Lozano (Henry Darrow) and Taggot (Albert Salmi) head toward the coast while pilot Keene (Jack Ging) heads inland.
The case evidently is big enough that Erskine has a lot of resources at his command. The bureau has helicopters and aircraft on the look for the thieves. Meanwhile, Lozano and Taggot come across a married couple (Frank Converse and Louise Sorel) who are on a camping trip in a bid to try to save their failing marriage. The thieves force them to take their raft down a river that goes through multiple canyons. The river will end up at a waterfall called the Widowmaker but Lozano refuses to believe it.
The on-location photography is a major plus. Director Virgil W. Vogel in some shots utilizes fisheye lenses to emphasize the scope of the scenery. Presumably stunt performers did the long shots, but there are enough close up shots to indicate the discomfort of the guest stars on the raft was likely quite real.
Albert Harris, who did orchestrations on the Robert Altman film Kiss Me Deadly, provides an effective original score. Harris’ music may have been better if more musicians could have performed it. GRADE: B-Plus, mostly because of the location photography.
204. Holiday With Terror
Writer: Robert Malcolm Young Director: Carl Barth
Alexander VanHeusen, Jennie Lee Nelson, Frank Comingore
Another kidnapping story where the victim doesn’t realize she has been kidnapped. The episode is off-kilter through Act III but rallies in Act IV.
Karen Collins (Patricia Mattick) is shy the daughter of a socially prominent Phoenix couple (June Dayton and Mark Miller). Karen has made friends with Jennie Lee Nelson (Lynne Marta). But it’s all a con. Jennie and her boy friend Alex VanHeusen (Christopher Stone) fool Karen into going off to Southern California. In reality, they’re kidnapping her and plan to hold her for a $200,000 ransom.
Erskine and Colby are on the case. The inspector quickly suspects the live-in housekeeper of Mr. and Mrs. Collins. Naturally, Erskine’s hunch pays off. Jennie Lee Nelson is the housekeeper’s daughter.
South of Los Angeles, Karen still isn’t aware she’s been kidnapped. VanHeusen openly wonders whether it’d be safer to kill Karen but Jennie keeps reminding him he promised not to harm her. We learn VanHeusen has Daddy issues with his rich father. One of his motivations is to show his father (who’s off living in Europe) he’s his own man.
Things come to a head when Jennie finally realizes VanHeusen and Jennie aren’t just friends and she puts the pieces together.
For much of the episode, Karen seems too slow on the uptake. Also, through Act III, we don’t get to see the Compassionate Erskine persona we usually saw in kidnapping episodes, which diminishes the proceedings.
Once things come to a head in Act IV, however, the story improves. VanHeusen takes Karen off to a massive building full of vintage cars (we’re told VanHeusen used to play there as a kid). It’s a bit of a spooky scene, helped by William W. Spencer’s photography. After VanHeusen is apprehended, we finally get to see Compassionate Erskine as her comforts Karen that she’s finally safe.
Gunplay: A third member of the kidnap ring, who has been assigned the task of picking up the ransom, wounds a security guard. Erskine and Colby wound him. VanHeusen is wounded by the bureau agents before he can kill Karen. VanHeusen pretends to surrender to the FBI men and fires. He misses and Colby wounds him. This is a bit rare. Both Erskine and Colby draw their weapons, but only Colby fires.
Trivia: June Dayton played Erskine’s secretary in the earliest episodes. Los Angeles SAC Durant is in the episode but is played by a different actor than semi-regular Dean Harens.
Willard Wood-Jones provides a good original score, which would have been better with more musicians performing it. GRADE: B-Minus.
205. The Jug-Marker
Writer: Robert Heverly Director: Virgil W. Vogel
Arthur St. Clair Murzie, Martin Clay Bibbs, Victor Stark, Henry Tabor, Leonard Cooney
BANK ROBBERY, THEFT FROM INTERSTATE SHIPMENT
William Windom returns to the series as a heavy, and a fairly memorable one at that. His Elias Devon is the “Jug-Marker” of the title, a mastermind behind a series of robberies. Devon doesn’t take part in the robberies themselves, but he sets them up, including finding an employee at the target company who’s vulnerable to blackmail or persuasion by other means to provide details Devon uses in his plans.
The leader of the actual robbers is Arthur Murzie (Tom Troupe), who is wound way too tight for his own good. “It’s not the money, it’s the action,” Murzie says about why he’s anxious to pull jobs. Murzie is described as psychotic. He hates Devon with a passion, but the two need each other. It’s also established in Act I that he’s a Black Belt as he practices with another Black Belt.
The episode begins with a robbery of almost $150,000 from a New Orleans bank. The M.O. matches a series of crimes in the southeastern United States and the bureau intensifies its investigation after the latest crime.
The other robbers also begin to doubt Murzie’s stability. Martin Bibbs (Victor Holchak) wants to kill Murzie as soon as he can.
With the New Orleans job, Hank Tabor (Robert Doyle) was left behind and is in the hospital. Erskine interviews Tabor there and this is the first time the bureau gets a solid lead on the Jug-Marker. Tabor had a business card for Devon and the bureau begins investigating him.
Devon, meanwhile, emerges as a complex character. He has a wife (Katherine Helmond) in a psychiatric hospital and a 14-year-old son at a boarding school. He veers back and forth through his double life. While he visits both his wife and son, he doesn’t really connect with either.
The FBI’s pursuit of the criminals gradually gets results. Erskine and Colby find the employee of the New Orleans bank who provided key information. Devon enticed her, promising a “full share” of the robbery but he double crossed her. Also, an attempted robbery of industrial diamonds near Mobile, Alabama, goes bad. Now the paranoid Murzie suspects Devon deliberately set him up.
Erskine and Colby continue their investigation while the case becomes more volatile. The question is whether Murzie will kill Devon or whether the other robbers will kill Murzie.
This episode is similar to Season Seven’s The Mastermind (also written by Robert Heverly and directed by Virgil W. Vogel), where the planner of a massive robbery also led a double life. Windom’s Devon seems to be enjoying himself except when he has uncomfortable visits to his wife and son.
Question: In Act I, the Black Belt who practices with Murzie looks very similar to Chuck Norris (think how he appeared as a thug in the Matt Helm film The Wrecking Crew, but with longer hair.) But after playing the scene a few times, I can’t tell for sure. Norris isn’t referenced in the end titles list of supporting players.
Gunplay: The robbers shoot at a police car during the New Orleans robbery. Bibbs and Murzie wound one another during a gunfight. Devon and Colby exchange several shots but neither wounds the other. Erskine doesn’t fire his weapon but has to take down Murzie the Black Belt in a hand-to-hand fight. Not to give too much away, but having a Black Belt isn’t everything.
The episode has a stock score, including some Robert Drasnin music at the start of the epilogue. GRADE: B.
206. The Outcast
Writer: Howard Dimsdale (as Arthur Dales)
Director: Virgil W. Vogel
Edward Henry White, Matthew Martin Wilnor, John William Prentiss
THEFT FROM INTERSTATE SHIPMENT, INTERSTATE TRANSPORTATION OF STOLEN MOTOR VEHICLE
Season Eight’s reunion tour of first season guest performers continues with Michael Callan and veteran character actor Val Avery.
Callan’s John Prentiss supervises a hijacking of a shipment of whisky in New Jersey. The truck driver is in critical condition about being injured. Because the whisky was part of an interstate shipment, it’s a federal case. Erskine and Colby head up the bureau’s investigation.
Prentiss is an up-and-coming figure in the mob and a favorite of mob boss Jules Harmon (John Larch). Harmon, though, does not like how the driver was injured. “It wasn’t a clean job,” Harmon tells Prentiss. Harmon is going to have to explain to “the board” (presumably this is the same body referred to as the High Commission in earlier seasons) what happened.
Prentiss also is in love with Ellen Conway (Katherine Justice). Prentiss takes her to a party hosted by Harmon. Ellen appears to pass muster with the mob boss. But as the couple are getting ready to leave, Harmon tells Prentiss he can’t marry Ellen because she’s too independent.
“The board” also vetoed another planned hijacking, this one involving automatic weapons. Prentiss wants to run off with Ellen but also knows he needs money. As a result, Prentiss decides to carry out the automatic weapons job on his own, using local “talent” in Pittsburgh, where the weapons are manufactured. (Val Avery plays Tony Hendricks, one of the men recruited by Prentiss.)
The bureau, in the interim, is making progress. Erskine, Colby and other FBI agents apprehend Edward White, one of the participants in the whisky hijacking. White talks, putting the FBI men on the trail of Prentiss.
After the automatic weapons are hijacked, Harmon orders right hand man Wilnor (Alex Rocco) to kill Prentiss. Now the race is on as the bureau and the mob are closing in on Prentiss.
A good procedural episode, with the usual caveat of the WASP version of the Mafia seen throughout the series. John Larch as the mob boss steals the scenes he’s in. Not as many Erskine moments as I’d like, although his low-key but relentless interrogation technique is always interesting to watch. (Today, we expect obvious emoting, but Erskine is more patient and reels in his prey.)
Trivia: In Act IV, there’s a U-Haul truck (containing the hijacked weapons) but the U-Haul logo has been stripped off. Presumably, this was for trademark/copyright reasons.
Gunplay: White shoots at two cars of FBI agents while fleeing. While climbing up the side of a building, White (foolishly) fires at Erskine. The inspector returns fire, wounding White with a single right-handed shot, causing White to fall from a second-story window. During the attempted hijacking of the automatic weapons, one of the hoods recruited by Prentiss is wounded by a security guard. In the climatic scene in Act IV, a lot of weapons get drawn but nobody fires. Also, by this point, Colby now carries a noticeably larger gun than Erskine.
The episode has a stock score. GRADE: B.
207. Dark Christmas
Writer: Robert Heverly Director: Virgil W. Vogel
Stuart Walker Tilden
UNLAWFUL FLIGHT TO AVOID CONFINEMENT, ATTEMPTED MURDER
In its eighth season, The FBI finally did a Christmas-themed episode. Given the style of the show, however, sentimentality is avoided until near the end.
Mobster William Schrack (Eugene Peterson) has put out a contract on a former associate, Richard Ghormley (John Lupton) who has separated himself from criminal activity.
Hit man Stuart Tilden (Don Gordon) has been employed to hunt Ghormley down. In Chicago, he interrogates an investment counselor who knows Ghormley. A fight breaks out and Tilden shoots the man. The bureau enters the case, with Erskine and Colby put in charge. The bureau has determined Tilden is tracking down a target but doesn’t know who that is.
The case is so important, Assistant Director Arthur Ward will even make an arrest of a Shrack confederate. The veteran official, despite all his years behind a desk, shows he can still engage in the force necessary when a suspect resists arrest.
Ghormley, meanwhile, is working on a job in San Francisco, but vows to his wife (Marianne McAndrew) that he’ll return to their Denver-area home by Christmas Eve. While Tilden is trying to track down Ghormley, he becomes involved with lonely Regina Mason (Sondra Locke), who lives with her domineering mother.
Tilden gets word of Ghormley’s whereabouts and tricks his wife into letting him in the house. He’s now waiting for his target to arrive. Erskine and the bureau are on his trail but have to proceed cautiously to ensure the safety of Ghormley’s wife and two children.
For about 80 percent of the episode, this is mostly routine stuff. When we get into Act IV, however, Ghormley’s family is in genuine peril. Tilden tells Mrs. Ghormley that she and her children aren’t in danger but who can take the word of a hit man?
Unlike what we often get in popular entertainment now, Erskine devises a plan that actually gets some innocents (the children) out of harm’s way when Colby and another agent sneak into their bedroom and quietly get them out. It’s a nice scene watching Colby reassure the kids.
Agents have already gotten to Ghormley before he can reach the house. That leaves it to Erskine to try to bring Tilden in.
In the epilogue, Ghormley finally gets to see his family. Erskine and the other agents depart in a Lone Ranger, “our job here is done” fashion, that’s without dialogue. Being a Christmas episode, this is where the sentiment comes in but it’s entirely appropriate.
It’s also appropriate the task of a Christmas episode fell to two of the most frequent contributors, writer-associate producer Robert Heverly and director Virgil W. Vogel. The FBI helicopter also makes an appearance as Erskine and Colby track down a burglary suspect who figures into the case. In this sequence, 21st Century audiences might mistake director Vogel for J.J. Abrams with all the “lens flares.”
Gunplay: The burglary suspect fires at Erskine and Colby when they first try to bring him in. No gunfire from Erskine or the other agents in this episode.
The episode has a stock score, some of which goes back to Season One. As I write this, it’s almost Christmas. GRADE: B-Plus, mostly because of Act IV and the epilogue.
208. The Rap Taker
Writer: Dick Nelson Director: Virgil W. Vogel
Casey Morton, Casey Morton, Jr.
EXTORTIONATE CREDIT TRANSACTIONS, ASSAULTING A FEDERAL OFFICER
The cast of this episode includes Robert Drivas (his final of seven episodes) and Scott Marlowe (his ninth of 10 episodes), both of whom were favorites of QM’s casting department overseen by John Conwell.
Casey Morton Jr. (Drivas) roughs up a delinquent borrower in a mob loan sharking scheme. The bureau is on the case immediately. Erskine and Colby apprehend Morton Jr. before he can board a flight in Denver headed back to his home base in Kansas City. Morton Jr. executes a back handed slap on Colby but the bureau agents quickly overcome him and take him in.
Junior’s mob boss father (Stephen McNally) moves to get him off the hook. Morton Sr. approaches Bob Stern (Marlowe), his one-time, sort-of-adoptive son. Stern, with a wife and kid, is struggling to make ends meet. Morton Sr. offers $25,000 up front while saying he and his family will be taken care of while he takes the rap for Morton Jr.
Stern accepts the deal but Erskine immediately is suspicious. Eventually, the man beaten up by Morton Jr. suffers from a heart attack. Now, Stern faces the possibility of getting charged with murder. Mrs. Stern (Brooke Bundy) confronts Morton Jr. She resists his advances and slaps him. Morton Jr. also moves to eliminate a witness who saw him assault the man in the hospital.
Drivas, once again, delivers a reliable performance as a heavy who’s wound too tight. Scott Marlowe actually plays a somewhat sympathetic character, who is sacrificing himself for the benefit of his family.
Trivia: Writer Dick Nelson wrote the fifth episode of The Man From U.N.C.L.E., The Deadly Games Affair, where Brooke Bundy was one of the guest performers. Here, she appears as a brunette, while in the U.N.C.L.E. episode she was a blonde.
Gunplay: Morton Jr. fires at Erskine with a handgun equipped with a silencer. Erskine wounds Morton Jr. (uncharacteristically requiring two right-handed shots).
The episode has a stock score. GRADE: B.
209. A Gathering of Sharks
Writer: Mark Weingart Director: Earl Bellamy
Scott Jordan, Carla Payne
INTERSTATE TRANSPORTATION OF STOLEN PROPERTY
Another installment of The FBI’s reunion tour, with Jessica Walter (her final of six guest appearances, the first taking place in Season One’s Flight to Harbin) and Jill Haworth (not seen here since Season One’s To Free My Enemy).
A famous diamond has been stolen from retired millionaire Jacob Crane (Ford Rainey) by daring thief Scott Jordan (David Hedison). The diamond is now being held for ransom. Crane recently suffered a stroke and isn’t up to delivering the ransom himself. Erskine goes undercover, posing as a close associate of Crane.
There’s not a lot we haven’t seen before. Despite this, writer Mark Weingart manages a few twists. Much of the story takes place at Pebble Beach, south of San Francisco. We know from the near the end of Season One (The Bomb That Walked Like a Man) that tennis was Erskine’s primary game. Here he displays his prowess at golf. It’s all part of the job, of course.
Gunplay: Jordan wounds a security guard in Act I. The bureau agents apprehend their prey without firing their weapons.
The stock score assembled by music supervisor John Elizalde relies heavily on Richard Markowitz music from Season Three’s The Gold Card and By Force and Violence and Season Five’s Scapegoat. GRADE: B.
210. The Disinherited
Writer: Robert Heverly Director: Virgil W. Vogel
Neil Edward Harland
EXTORTION, ASSAULTING A FEDERAL OFFICER
Rex Lynn (Jerry Douglas), an FBI special agent in Dallas, is critically wounded while investigating an extortion threat against a mine company order. With an agent down, Erskine and Colby take charge of the case.
A retired business executive in Houston receives a nearly identical threat. In both cases, the target receives a demand for money. If the money isn’t paid, the man’s family will be harmed.
The perpetrator is Neil Harland (Martin Sheen). Harland’s father (John McLiam) is a paraplegic, the result of injuries working for mining companies. Harland’s extortion demands are a mere ruse. He’s actually intending to kill the executives.
The bureau proceeds in its usual relentless way. The trail leads to Kansas City, where yet another executive has been contacted. This time, Harland is more dramatic. He enters the mining company office and shoots a water cooler. He later telephones the owner with his demand. This time, Erskine takes the man’s place for a final showdown with Harland. Meanwhile, Colby tracks down a kidnapped receptionist who had become suspicious of Harland.
The story is fine for the most part but there are a few demerits. In Act IV, Martin Sheen, who has been mostly cool and calm, freaks out and overacts. Earlier, the scene with Harland and the receptionist comes across as a bit awkward. When Erskine and Harland fight in Act IV, the stunt doubles for Efrem Zimbalist Jr. and Martin Sheen don’t look that close to the actors.
On the plus side, we get to see Erskine coldly face down Harland.
“Do you want to die?” Harland asks.
“Not especially,” Erskine replies.
Gunplay: Besides agent Lynn, Harland wounds the Houston retired executive in the leg. None of the FBI agents fire their weapons.
In the epilogue, Lynn is still hospitalized but is on the mend. His young son acts resentful of Harland (who’s going to be held for trial). Lynn tells his son not to hate because hate is what started all this. Erskine looks on approvingly. It’s a little corny, but it’s still a lesson worth learning in the 21st century.
The episode has a stock score, which includes Richard Markowitz music from Season Five’s Scapegoat and Albert Harris music from Canyon of No Return. GRADE: B-Minus.
211. Desperate Journey
Writer: Calvin Clements Director: Earl Bellamy
John Omar Stahl
MURDER OF A FEDERAL OFFICER, BANK ROBBERY, TEN MOST WANTED FUGITIVE
Nothing brings out Stubborn Erskine like a struggle against the elements in pursuit of a desperate criminal.
Erskine and Colby are on an Mexican aircraft flight to San Francisco with John Omar Stahl (Vic Morrow), who’s being extradited from Latin America to face charges of murder and bank robbery. But the plane is forced to crash land in a heavily wooded area. Stahl escapes. Colby has a badly injured legs and Erskine has injured ribs.
Despite Colby’s warning that Stahl isn’t a man to try to take alone. Erskine is in pursuit. The pilot of the downed plane provides a heavy jacket. Colby remai
Stahl manages to get to a ranger’s station, where he calls his brother Dan (Burr DeBenning). Dan Stahl is to contact another confederate who has a helicopter and rendezvous in a relatively flat area of the wooded terrain. Dan Stahl complies even though he’s now the boyfriend of the woman who had been John Stahl’s girlfriend.
Erskine after conferring with the ranger John Stahl had slugged, resumes his pursuit. The ranger provides an extra pair of boots, which gives Erskine an edge as he tracks Stahl.
The FBI man eventually catches up to Stahl and takes him prisoner again. But they’re a long way from the nearest town, there’s not much daylight and it’s getting colder. Erskine opts to keep going in the direction Stahl was heading, to see who was going to meet Stahl. Dan Stahl and his group are waiting, ready to pounce.
We get to see a few nice Erskine bits. After the inspector has recaptured Stahl, the fugitive tries to taunt Erskine. Stahl asks at what point would Erskine use his gun. Erskine refuses to answer.
“You lay everything on the line for a paycheck,” Stahl says. “It doesn’t make any sense.”
“No, it wouldn’t to you,” Erkine replies. The scene is helped by the fact that Vic Morrow, as usual, makes a convincing heavy.
This is another episode where the on-location photography is a big plus. While it never appears as cold as it’s supposed to be, the terrain is suitably rugged for the purposes of the story. Under the useful coincidence department, Assistant Director Arthur Ward already is in San Francisco to give a speech. This gives him an opportunity to go out into the field to lead the bureau’s search for Erskine and Stahl. Ward even gets to draw his weapon when the FBI moves in to arrest Stahl’s confederates.
Gunplay: Dan Stahl fires at Erskine. The inspector wounds Dan Stahl with a single right-handed shot.
Trivia: Val de Vargas, as the pilot of the plane that crash lands, also played the pilot of an aircraft that crashes in Season Four’s The Catalyst. Here, his character survives.
The stock score is a mix of music from Season One and Season Eight. GRADE A-Minus.
212. The Double Play
Writer: Ed Waters Director: Seymour Robbie
Rex Benning, Toby Thomson, Vanessa Ferelle
INSTATE TRANSPORTATION OF STOLEN PROPERTY
Rex Benning (Stuart Whitman) and Toby Thomson aka Tobias (Robert Foxworth) have pulled off cons in a number of states. Their M.O. involves teaming up with a different woman with each con. “Another Girl Friday, who won’t be back Saturday,” Erskine says.
The next target for Benning and Thomson is Nashville music mogul Mal Ogden (Tim McIntire), who has a major weakness for gambling on the horses. However, their latest “Girl Friday” is Doe Riley (Mariette Hartley), who’s smarter and more ruthless than their usual accomplices. She’s setting the duo off against each other as the con proceeds. A number of double crosses ensue.
Meanwhile, Erskine and Colby investigate a number of angles, including tracking down the most recently ditched “Girl Friday” and a fence who’s purchased a $40,000 ring from the con men. As those parts of the case are solved, the agents close in on Benning and Thomson.
One suspects Robert Foxworth had a lot of fun filming this episode. Foxworth often played rigid, uptight characters. Here, he’s flamboyant and gets some of the best lines of the episode. Doe tries to pull one last double cross with the help of two big thugs, who Doe refers to as her “best friends.: The con men outfight the thugs, take $75,000 from Doe, with Thomson saying to Doe, “As you got friends, you’re rich!” Foxworth is amusing to watch and tends to steal the scenes he’s in.
Overall, there are just enough twists to keep the proceedings interesting without going overboard. The production crew, though, select a number of outdoor locations where Southern California palm trees are visible in what’s supposed to be Middle Tennessee.
Gunplay: Erskine separately wounds the fence and Benning. He only needs one shot for each man. Earlier in the episode, the agents arrest a counterfeiter who was the boyfriend of the first “Girl Friday” we see. Colby fires shots to cover Erskine. The inspector gets the drop on the counterfeiter, who surrenders without further incident.
The episode has a stock score. GRADE: B.
213. The Wedding Gift
Writer: Dick Nelson Director: Arnold Laven
David Michael Kelly, Edward Ramsey Talbert
Penny Fuller is this episode’s lead guest star. She had appeared in Season Seven’s The Deadly Species. The two episodes have a number of parallels and both were written by Dick Nelson. In both episodes, Fuller plays a criminal who yearns to reunite with a child.
In this story, Fuller’s character, Della Marot, appears to be the owner of a respectable bar and restaurant in New Orleans. She also is the mastermind who has planned various crimes. She is tiring of the criminal life and wants to be with her daughter (Erin Moran), who goes to boarding school.
The story opens with a bank robbery in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. One of the robbers, Edward Talbert, is strictly small time. The other, David Kelly (Dewey Martin), is a Della’s lieutenant. Erskine, having just wrapped up a case in Baton Rouge, takes command of the bureau’s investigation.
The FBI tracks down Talbert, who had been grazed in the side during the bank robbery. Erskine, Colby and other agents apprehend him, putting the FBI its first break.
Della, in the meantime, becomes involved with Craig Walden (John Ericson), who says he’s a divorced father of a daughter. Della is more anxious than ever to exit the criminal life and go off with Walden. Della, though, is about to find out the criminal life won’t let her go that easily.
Like The Deadly Species, this episode very much revolves around Fuller’s performance. In Season Seven, her Jean Margaret Scott was wound very, very tight. In this episode, Della is weary, tired of dealing with two-bit punks who think they’re big men because they can handle a gun. Fuller’s Della is more sympathetic than “Scotty,” but ultimately both won’t achieve the happiness they seek.
This season’s guest star reunion tour continues with an appearance by Milton Selzer (a guest star during Season One and Two) as Della’s bookkeeper. Selzer, however, doesn’t get guest star billing here, but guests co-starring billing in the end titles.
Gunplay: During the Baton Rouge bank heist, the robbers wound a bank guard. The guard, in turn, wounds Talbert. Erskine wounds Walden (revealed to be a criminal looking to take over Della’s operation and kill her) with a single left-handed shot.
The episode has a stock score. Not quite as good as The Deadly Species, but a very solid episode thanks to Fuller. GRADE: B-Plus.
214. The Detonator
Writer: Calvin Clements Director: Semour Robbie
Alex Wilbur Tanner
CRIME ON A GOVERNMENT RESERVATION, ATTEMPTED MURDER
This episode is a tour de force for Richard Jordan (who is listed only third among the guest stars in the main title) as the title character.
Alex Tanner (Jordan) is wound very, very tightly. He constantly eats nuts, even cracking walnuts with his teeth. He attempts to kill the prosecutor of a Pennsylvania county, William Sanders (Roger Perry), with a bomb in a boat. But a friend of the prosecutor takes the boat instead when the bomb goes off.
The incident occurred in a national forest, bringing the FBI into the case, with Erskine and Colby leading the investigation. Tanner was hired by Albert Dirks (Tim O’Connor), who’s running a gambling racket for the Organization. For Dirks, this was a personal matter. Sanders prosecuted Dirks, whose wife died around the same time.
After the botched attempt, the Organization tells Dirks to end attempts to kill Sanders because such publicity is bad for business. Tanner, however, refuses to do so. For him, getting Sanders is a matter of professional pride. He doesn’t give up on a job until it’s done.
At this point, Richard Jordan was a few years away from his breakout role in the television miniseries Captains and the Kings. Anytime he draws the viewer’s attention any time he’s on screen, which is a fair amount here.
In Act IV, Joran’s Tanner been apprehended by bureau agents. When Erskine asks where his latest bomb is, Tanner responds with a big smile. Efrem Zimbalist Jr.’s Erskine looks, for a moment, as if he’s going to pop a suspect for a change. It’s a nice exchange, even without dialogue.
Later, Sanders tries to get rid of the bomb (which is in a briefcase) but runs into a “Some says you can’t get rid of a bomb!” moment. Erskine and Colby end up having to try to deactivate the bomb.
The episode has a stock score. GRADE: A-Minus, mostly because of Jordan’s performance. His Tanner is a contender for Top 10 villains of the series.
215. Sweet Evil
Writer: Mark Weingart Director: Philip Leacock
Beau Parker, Cass Linden, Mary Ann Linden
BANK ROBBERY, INTERSTATE TRANSPORTATION OF STOLEN PROPERTY, INTERSTATE TRANSPORTATION OF STOLEN MOTOR VEHICLE
In Pine Bluff, Arkansas, Beau Parker (Andrew Prine) and Cass Linden (Melissa Murphy) rob a night club owner (Dabbs Greer) of $20,000 of weekend receipts.
They take the night club owner’s car and cross state lines. It’s now a federal case, plus Parker is a Ten Most Wanted fugitive for a bank robbery in Dallas. Thus, Erskine and Colby head up the bureau’s investigation.
Beau and Cass steal another car and are in Tennessee. Cass gets Beau to go to her hometown so she can visit her aunt and kid sister Mary Ann (Jo Ann Harris). Mary Ann is only 20 but more than ready for other things. If anything, she proves a more adept criminal than her big sister.
The fugitives reach Chicago. There, they pull off another robbery, this time of furs. Beau takes them to a fence that Cass dated previously. Now, Beau has his sights on a major jewelry exhibition at a hotel. What he doesn’t know is that Mary Ann has her own ideas of how to proceed.
Jo Ann Harris is convincing as Mary Ann. What she lacks in experience she more than makes up for in malice and manipulation. A few years later, Harris would be a supporting player (along with Shelly Novack, who’d play Erskine’s partner Chris Daniels in Season Nine) in another QM crime drama, Most Wanted, that starred Robert Stack.
A nice Erskine moment in the epilogue. While all concerned have been apprehended, Mary Ann tries to manipulate the FBI inspector.
“It’s been awful, a nightmare,” Mary Ann says, trying to act innocent. “How can I ever thank you?”
“You’ll think of something,” Erskine responds sarcastically.
Gunplay: Parker wounds the night club owner during the robbery in Arkansas. Erskine and Colby wound the fence and Beau in separate confrontations.
The episode has a stock score. GRADE: B
216. Memory of a Legend
Writer: Calvin Clements Director: Seymour Robbie
Gustav Allen Benderson, Lorne Joseph Staley, Pete Maller
INTERSTATE TRANSPORTATION OF STOLEN PROPERTY, INTERSTATE TRANSPORTATION OF STOLEN MOTOR VEHICLE
In Milwaukee, a burglary goes bad. Veteran safe cracker Gus Benderson (Pat Hingle), recently freed after spending 15 years in prison in Illinois, spent an hour working on the safe of a jewelry store. Despite disabling two alarm systems, Benderson pauses, his instinct telling him the safe isn’t ready to be opened. His confederates can’t wait and, sure enough, another alarm goes off.
A security guard arrives as the trio is exiting. In the shootout that ensures, one of the men is wounded. Benderson and Lorne Staley (Lawrence Dane) successfully flee. It turns out they shared a cell in Illinois. Staley says he regrets ever bringing Benderson (who had boasted he could open any safe in 20 minutes) into the job.
With evidence the thieves crossed state lines, it becomes a matter for the bureau, with Erskine and Colby at the helm. The FBI methodically puts things together, starting with Pete Maller, the third man in the burglary, who is in the hospital. The trail leads to San Antonio, where Staley has found a fence.
That leaves Benderson, who shows up in San Pedro, California, where his son Bob (Geoffrey Deuel) lives, with his wife Vera (Gwynne Guilford). Bob, as it turns out, has been doing minor criminal jobs but years to “move up.” Bob wants to knock off a store owned by Seito (Keye Luke), which house precious stones.
Gus Benderson is torn. He genuinely wants to make up for lost time with his son. He tries to talk Bob out of the job but agrees to study the layout. It doesn’t take long for Gus to determine the job can be done, and he poses as a potential buyer of an emerald to study the store’s layout.
Erskine and Colby establish Gus is the third man in the Milwaukee job. They meet Gus’ ex-wife (Brett Somers) in Salt Lake City. Gus had approached her about running off with him to Hawaii but she refused. But she provides them with Bob’s address and the agents are now on their way to Los Angeles.
Despite Gus’ work, the latest burglary goes bad. Gus abandons a wounded Bob at a motel. Before leaving Bob confesses he has always been nothing but “hot air.” He intends to meet his boat to Hawaii because it’s his last chance.
This is another episode built around a villain, in this case Pat Hingle’s Gus. He is at times flamboyant (on some jobs he wears a three-piece suit with a carnation), at times witty and charming (“The word is sesame,” he says when he has completed his work on the safe in the Milwaukee job) and at times actually concerned about Bob and wanting him to not follow in his footsteps.
Season Eight’s reunion tour of guest stars continues with Brett Somers (billed as Brett Somers Klugman). She’s mentioned as a guest star in the main titles but has only one scene. Gwynne Guilford, as Bob’s wife, has more screen time, but she gets co-starring billing in the end titles.
This is also the final of 18 episodes with Dean Harens as Los Angeles SAC Durant. His appearance is brief.
Gunplay: Maller is wounded by a security guard outside the Milwaukee jewelry store. Bob is wounded by Seito during the botched job at Seito’s store. Gus thinks about shooting at Erskine on the Hawaii-bound boat. But Erskine gets his weapon out so quickly that Gus wisely doesn’t try.
The episode has a stock score. GRADE: B-Plus, mostly because of Pat Hingle’s performance.
217. Night of the Long Knives
Writer: Robert Heverly Director: Robert Douglas
Edward Peery Haynes, Gerald Arlington Sessions, Stanley Kyler, Roland Cardwell
INTERSTATE TRANSPORTATION OF STOLEN PROPERTY
For Batman fans, this episode is the best chance to witness Efrem Zimbalist Jr. doing a live-action performance as Alfred the Butler. Erskine goes under cover as a maitre’d. Not exactly a butler, but close. What’s more, the exteriors were filmed at the “Batman Mansion” in Pasadena, California.
In this story, there’s a fight for control of the “Criminal Organization” (what the show referred to as the Cosa Nostra in previous seasons). Young turks want to seize control from “soft” old men. The bureau gets an opening when a legitimate caterer is hired to serve a mob wedding instead of a mob front company. Erskine uses his English accent (aka Efrem Zimbalist Jr.’s Dandy Jim Buckley/Alfred voice) to carry out the deception.
Writer Robert Heverly, in his last scripting credit for the series, spins an engrossing tale. In the second half of the story, there are some continuity problems. The wedding party appears to extend into the night. The Counselor loyal to the Boss, who’s targeted for assassination, hurriedly takes off in the evening. But we see him next during the day. Meanwhile, a mob figure Erskine previously apprehended shows up, greatly complicating the inspector’s mission.
Frank DeKova, as the targeted boss, turns in a good performance. He didn’t even rate “guest star” billing, instead getting his credit in the end titles. He remains cool, even as the young turks try to take over. In the climax, Erskine once again hits the target with a left-handed shot. The episode utilizes a stock score. GRADE: B-Plus (A for Batman fans).
218. The Loper Gambit
Writer: Robert Malcolm Young Director: Philip Abbott
Ronald Loper, Elgin Ring, Virginia Wyatt
The season concludes with a bit of a letdown. Ronald Loper (Robert F. Lyons) has masterminded the kidnapping of the grown son (Tom Lowell) of wealth Fort Lauderdale contractor Edward Ticerman (Larry Gates). Loper demands $350,000.
Loper is holding the son, nicknamed Tice, in an old Spanish fortress. Loper’s girlfriend, Virginia Wyatt (Leslie Charleson), will keep watch over him there.
Despite being instructed not to notify the law, Ticerman calls in the FBI and Erskine and Colby take command of the case.
The agents seems to get lucky during a ransom drop. A motorcyclist drives up to a bag with the ransom. He examines the contents and takes off. Erskine and Colby apprehend him after the motorcyclist has an accident while trying to flee. However, the motorcyclist isn’t part of the gang. He just tried to grab the money when he saw how much was there.
While another ransom drop is set up, Tice eventually convinces Virginia to let him go. While a third member of the gang, Elgin Ring (Elliott Street) collects the ransom, Loper is on his way to kill Tice.
The problem with this episode is while Loper is a decent enough villain, his confederates are strictly amateurs. That’s not necessarily a surprise, but while Virginia is supposed to be naive, she comes across as a complete dolt at times.
Elgin Ring, described as a “perpetual college student,” isn’t much better. Loper tells Ring to steal a car to get the money from the second ransom drop. Ring apparently has never stolen a car before. We’re shown Ring trying to steal a car where the driver left her keys in the ignition. But he can’t even pull that off (the driver comes back to her car). So he drives Loper’s car to the ransom drop. This enables bureau agents, who are monitoring the drop, to get the license plate and get Loper’s name and address.
The episode isn’t a lost cause. Larry Gates, who appeared in several episodes going all the way back to Season One, delivers his usual professional performance. Tom Lowell as Tice also sympathetic. Tice, for the most part, keeps a cool head. We also get to see the FBI helicopter (along with pilot James W. Gavin) in Act IV.
Gunplay: Loper fires several times at agents in the climatic scene. Erskine manages to get behind him and get the drop on him. Loper wisely gives up.
The episode has a stock score, which includes Albert Harris music from this season’s Canyon of No Return. GRADE: C-Plus, as the off-kilter elements drag down the story.