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With the fourth season, The FBI was firmly established as part of ABC’s Sunday programming schedule. In front of the camera, things were stable. William Reynolds was back as Tom Colby, sidekick to Efrem Zimalist Jr.’s Inspector Lewis Erskine.
Behind the camera, there were shifts. Mark Rodgers, who had been story consultant or associate producer the past two seasons, departed. He would still contribute scripts but he was no longer the in-house writer for the show.
The new associate producer was Mark Weingart, who had written a script for the show in the second season. Weingart would remain aboard the series through the seventh season.
At QM Productions, Adrian Samish took the new title of supervising producer while Arthur Fellows was now the only person listed as being in charge of production. Samish was responsible for pre-production of QM series while Fellows supervised the editing rooms.
Producer Charles Larson returned for his final season with the show. He continued to rewrite and polish scripts. This season, he wrote his first original story since episode 4.
The end titles would mark the final appearance of a Ford mustang convertible. Erskine drove a dark blue model through Washington. There were three shots, starting (as usual) at the courtyard of the FBI building. For the concluding shot, Erskine drove by the U.S. Capitol.
Credits for the season
Executive Producer: Quinn Martin
Producer: Charles Larson
Associate Producer: Mark Weingart
Supervising Producer: Adrian Samish
In Charge of Production: Arthur Fellows
Assistant to the Executive Producer: John Conwell
FBI Theme: Bronislau Kaper (as Bronislaw Kaper)
A QM Production In Association With Warner Bros.-Seven Arts, Inc.
Reviews and text (c) 2015, William J. Koenig
89. Wind It Up and It Betrays You
Teleplay: Charles Larson and Mark Rodgers
Story: Harold Jack Bloom
Director: William Hale
Carl David Schmidt, Colonel Lorenz Tabor et al
The fourth season kicks off with a strong espionage story. Carl Schmidt, a courier for an unnamed Communist nation, is dying of a heart attack while out in public in Washington. A hearing aid falls out of his ear, yet he can still hear what a policeman is saying. After Schmidt’s death, the FBI analyzes the microfilm, finding a coded message.
The message turns out to be difficult to crack. The code itself is relatively simple but the message’s spelling patterns don’t appear to reflect any of “the Earth’s major languages,” narrator Marvin Miller informs us. Meanwhile, Colby goes through Schmidt’s effects and finds he had a ticket to a bus soon to arrive in Connecticut. Despite the short notice, agents have the Connecticut stop under surveillance.
Aboard the bus is Jack Hill (Kaz Garas), an underling for spymaster Col. Lorenz Tabor (Louis Jourdan). Tabor is always thinking ahead. At one point in the episode, he says “this business” is built upon maybes and what ifs.
Tabor’s target is an institute in Connecticut involved with a missile project. There are four scientists. It turns out the message concerns four scientists who work there and which is the best candidate to pressure into providing details about the missile project.
The bureau, even though it hasn’t figured everything out, also decides the institute is involved in the case. Erskine, with the institute’s cooperation, goes undercover as the new assistant security chief.
Tension builds. The FBI manages to decode the message after determining it was written in Persian, a language that Tabor speaks. The spymaster, meanwhile, is ordered to send his girlfriend Ava (Nancy Kovack) to Washington to find out what happened to Schmidt. Colby is there, pretending to be a morgue attendant. Tabor’s nation has picked Paul Virdon (Michael Tolan) as the scientist to pressure. Virdon’s half-brother Julian Young is already in the employ of the Communists.
Like chess players, Tabor and Erskine make their moves. Julian, complete with a woman pretending to be his wife (who has a borrowed a baby, who is supposed to be his son), tells Paul he’ll be killed unless the scientist provides information. Paul refuses. Tabor anticipated that. Julian thinks he’ll only be roughed up as a next step to make Paul give up the information. Jack has other ideas, killing Julian.
Erskine makes a counter-move, telling Colby to make sure Ava sees the agent at the Washington hotel where she’s staying. Sure enough, that intensifies Ava’s anxieties and she starts calling Tabor, something the spymaster told her not to do.
The game plays out. Erskine has one asset that Tabor can’t match — an FBI helicopter. Erskine & Co. apprehend the spy ring. In the epilogue, it’s revealed Paul purposely gave Tabor incomplete information.
Louis Jourdan returns and again plays a sophisticated adversary for the bureau. Tabor never takes anything for granted. He’s undone not because of his tactics, but because Jack and Ava don’t follow his precise instructions. Erskine, meanwhile, comes across as extremely cool in this episode, never really getting anxious.
William W. Spencer, who was the best director of photography at QM, is back this season. He hadn’t photographed an episode of The FBI since early in the second season. Spencer, who won an Emmy on QM’s 12 O’Clock High series, has a way of lighting actors that make them look their best, especially in closeups. He does a particularly good job with profile shots of Jourdan and Nancy Kovack in Act I, where Tabor explains to Ava how loyal scientists can be made into traitors with the correct pressure.
Director William Hale manages to work in one notable shot at the end of Act III, where Paul discovers Julian’s body. Julian had been dead already, but had been placed in a bathtub full of water. Julian’s face is the foreground (as if the camera were somehow in the tub) while Paul’s reaction is the background of the shot.
Harold Jack Bloom was the only writer to have a credit for both The Man From U.N.C.L.E. (The Iowa-Scuba Affair in that show’s first season) and a James Bond movie (“additional story material” for You Only Live Twice). However, whatever he submitted here presumably was found lacking. Producer Charles Larson and former associate producer Mark Rodgers worked it over, sharing the teleplay credit.
Gunplay: Erskine wounds Jack with a single right-handed shot in the climax. It takes the inspector two tries to wound Tabor. The stock score is mostly Richard Markowitz music from multiple previous episodes. The end of the epilogue uses music from Richard LaSalle’s score in Season Three’s Counter Stroke. GRADE: A.
90. Out of Control
Writer: E. Arthur Kean Director: Don Medford
Miguel Ramos Valdez
ASSAULTING A FEDERAL OFFICER, MURDER
James Franciscus is another guest star making a return appearance in the series. Here, he plays Mitchell Flynn, who’s a throwback to the days of oil wildcatters. Flynn, though, also is ruthless. He has engaged in a series of crimes, including a fraudulent bankruptcy and he’s not afraid to kill people to keep them quiet.
The FBI becomes involved because a Border Patrol officer was killed in Texas. The office came across a foreman of Flynn’s, Miguel Valdez, preparing to tap a pipeline. Flynn wants oil from the pipeline to hide from creditors that his main well is producing at their promised volumes.
A fight ensued and the officer was shot with his own gun. By chance, Erskine and Assistant Director Arthur Ward were already nearby. Ward, as the ranking FBI man in the area, takes charge of the case.
As the trail points toward Flynn, Colby is summoned from Washington. This time, he goes undercover, rather than Erskine. The inspector, meanwhile, goes to Flynn’s operations. We see Erskine ride a horse like an expert. The FBI inspector tells Flynn that he “was born in country like this.”
Things begin to fall apart. Flynn decides to explode his main well to destroy evidence, having the foreman perform the deed. Colby, though, watches. Another fight breaks out. Colby looks like he’ll prevail but the foreman strikes the FBI agent with a board. Colby survives and manages to walk some distance away before being found by a truck driver, who takes him to a hospital.
Flynn, increasingly desperate, poisons the foreman and rides off into the desert. Luckily, Erskine finds the foreman still alive and ensures he’ll receive the necessary medicine treatment to survive.
Erskine goes after Flynn on horeseback and prevails in the showdown. In the epilogue, one of Flynn’s conspirators (Simon Scott) is making a statement to the bureau when news arrives that Flynn’s new oil field has struck a gusher.
Ward is in the field for the entire episode, unusual for the series. William Reynolds gets the main hand-to-hand fight scene. Gunplay: in the climax, Erskine is armed only with his revolver while Flynn has a rifle. Erskine misses with his first four shots, but keeps Flynn from using the rifle. The inspector manages to sneak up on Flynn. He orders Flynn to give up. When he doesn’t, Erskine wounds Flynn with his fifth shot. Flynn survives.
The excellent original score by Richard Markowitz also is one of the highlights of the episode. GRADE: B-Plus.
91. The Quarry
Writer: Robert I. Holt Director: Robert Day
Michael Vincent Riley
FUGITIVE, INTERSTATE TRANSPORTATION IN AID OF RACKETEERING
In many ways, this is a typical episode of The FBI.
The plot is basic: Michael Riley, the brother of the owner of a trucking firm, has been running gambling slips for La Cosa Nostra. The FBI is investigating the numbers running operation. Michael Riley gets away before he can be apprehended. Now he’s the quarry of the title, being hunted by the bureau and the mob.
However, the QM gravitas again elevates this beyond the average. The cast, including former child actor Dean Stockwell and Susan Strasberg, daughter of acting teacher Lee Strasberg, deliver convincing performances. Also, director of photography William W. Spencer, who excelled with closeup shots, gets to display his talents.
The episode also provides Efrem Zimbalist Jr. with a very nice scene in Act III. La Cosa Nostra boss Frank Williams (Roy Poole) deliberately addresses Erskine as “Skinner.” Erskine corrects him once, but the mob boss keeps calling him Skinner. As Erskine gets ready to leave he called Williams “Freddie,” getting under his skin.
In the epilogue, Stockewell’s character finds out his brother (John Milford) has died. Earlier, we had seen the brother been given Last Rites but he was holding on, hoping to see Michael Riley give himself up.
Gunplay: Erskine and Colby (William Reynolds) display team work in the climax when confronting a motel manager in employ of La Cosa Nostra. Erskine, holding a flashlight in his left hand, causes the Cosa Nostra thug to fire. Erskine nails him with a right-handed shot and Colby shoots the thug with another right-handed shot.
John Elizalde, the show’s future music supervisor, delivers a fine original score. GRADE: B.
92. The Runaways
Writer: Arthur Heinemann Director: Robert Day
John Graham Evans
PAROLE VIOLATOR, MURDER
This marks one of Ron Howard’s first post-Opie appearances. The Andy Griffith Show ended with the 1967-68 season. When this episode of The FBI series, the future A-list director already was moving beyond his child actor phase.
In this story, John Evans (J.D. Cannon), a criminal out on parole, is seeking his next big score. Evans fools his parole officer into thinking he’s gone straight. In reality, Evans has killed once and is ready to kill again to get what he wants.
Things get complicated when Evans is wounded while catching a ride on a railroad freight train. Jess Orkin (Howard) catches a ride on the same train. The pair bond for a time, though Evans has a target he wants for his own.
Erskine and Colby are on Evans’s trail. Assistant Director Arthur Ward and Erskine are working a typically a late night when word arrives that Evans has killed a man. Ward tells Erskine that Evans will join the Ten Most Wanted Listed shortly.
Besides Howard and Cannon, the cast includes veteran character actor Dabbs Greer as Jess’s uncle. The episode has a stock score. GRADE: B.
93. Death of a Fixer
Writer: Robert Heverly Director: William Hale
Roy Donald Blake
FUGITIVE INTERSTATE TRANSPORTATION IN AID OF RACKETEERING, GAMBLING
The importance of this episode goes beyond the story told here. This was The FBI writing debut of Robert Heverly, who’d become the in-house writer for the show for Seasons Five through Eight. It was also The FBI debut for composer Duane Tatro, who had, over time, replaced Dominic Frontiere as go-to composer for QM Productions.
The Cosa Nostra High Commission has decided a “fixer” in Newark needs to be hit as discipline for bungling a bribe. However, hit man Roy Blake (Daniel J. Travanti, billed here as Dan Travanty) did the deed in front of a witness. The bureau is involved immediately. The killing provides the FBI with a chance to snare Cosa Nostra official John Harris (Joseph Campanella).
Erskine goes undercover at a Florida resort owned by Harris. He concentrates on Harris’s fiancee, talented amateur tennis player Elinor Prior (Jessica Walter). Elinor is a combination of rebellion against her very religious mother while being naive in other ways (she doesn’t believe the Mafia exists, much less that her fiancee is a Mafia member). Colby, meanwhile, leads agents trying to track down the witness.
Erskine befriends Elinor, much to Blake’s chagrin. Erskine and Blake square off, fighting in a pool at the resort. When the FBI man gets the better of the conflict (naturally), he tells onlookers that “the poor fellow must have panicked.”
There are some nice scenes between Efrem Zimbalist Jr. and Philip Abbott as Assistant Director Arthur Ward. Ward calls from Washington. The FBI official, assuming the call isn’t secure, talks to Erskine in code in case unfriendly people are listening in on the call.
Gunplay: in the climax, Erskine wounds Blake with two separate, right-handed shots. Other FBI agents appear to fatally wound Harris (his fate isn’t specifically mentioned in the epilogue, but it sure looks like he dies).
Efrem Zimbalist Jr. gets to display his prowess playing tennis in a scene with Jessica Walter (similar to episode 31 at the end of Season One). In the epilogue, we’re told Blake was sentenced to death. GRADE: B-Plus.
94. The Enemies
Writer: Peter Allan Fields Director: Don Medford
Ralph Gordon Stuart
An “incombustible” fluid, TD-4, that’s vital to the U.S. space program is hijacked by Communist spy Ralph Stuart (Jeffrey Hunter, the lead guest star from the first episode of the series). However, Stuart is wounded by the dying driver who was transporting TD-4. Stuart is working for a “code green” communist country, which has a consulate in Los Angeles.
Ersine and Colby travel from Washington to join forces with the Los Angeles FBI office, led by SAC Bryan Durant. The bureau, in its normal manner, is relentless and sniffs out a collaborator, Jim O’Brien (played by character actor Richard O’Brien, who frequently worked on The FBI and other QM shows). Stuart, meanwhile, cons old friend Al Harmon (Al Freeman Jr.). Harmon and his wife (Cicely Tyson) are in the middle of adopting a baby and she doesn’t appreciate all the drama that Stuart has brought into their house.
This episode was written by Peter Allan Fields, a leading writer for The Man From U.N.C.L.E. series. The story, though, doesn’t include Fields’ trademark humor. One wonders if Fields felt constrained by the seriousness of the QM Gravistas. On the the other hand, director Don Medford had the QM Gravitas down pat by this point so things proceed (mostly) at a quick pace. The one exception is a chase scene where the bureau agents engage in a chase with O’Brien (O’Brien is on a motorcycle, while the FBI men follow in Ford cars). It seems a bit long.
The episode has a stock score that seems to consist mostly of Richard Markowitz music from previous episodes. GRADE: B
95. The Nightmare
Writer: Penrod Smith Director: Jesse Hibbs
Howard Dale Converse
FUGITIVE, BANK EMBEZZLEMENT
Pasadena bank executive Howard Converse has embezzled money because of his gambling habit and his wife’s health problems are so severe she’s in an iron lung.
Converse (William Windom) and his wife (Lee Meriwether) had been planning to flee together but he goes off on his own. Converse, however, in his over his head in dealing with those who provide transportation to criminals. Roy Phipps (Bruce Dern) and his extremely young bride are supposed to drive Converse for one leg of a journey to Canada. But Phipps, during a fuel stop, buys a newspaper and realizes the real identity of his passenger.
Erskine and Colby head up the case for the FBI. As the bureau pieces things together, the FBI men pick up Converse’s trail. The question is now whether the feds can catch up to Converse before Phipps kills the embezzler and takes the money for himself.
In the climax, an FBI helicopter does some precision flying as it chases down Phipps just before he’s apprehended. Carl Barth gets a second unit director credit, presumably because of the helicopter scenes.
Gunplay: Phipps fires his pistol at the helicopter several times. But neither Erskine nor Colby actually draws his weapon in the episode.
The episode has a stock score. GRADE: B.
Behind the scenes: I asked Lee Meriwether at a suburban Detroit collectibles show about her experiences working on The FBI. I inquired about her first-season appearances. She talked up this episode, discussing what it was like to do all her acting in an iron lung. At that point, I hadn’t seen this installment of the series. She did a very good job under the circumstances. The story mostly centers on William Windom’s Converse, but Meriwether does quite a bit with her screen time.
Teleplay: Frank Crow Story: Jim Brynes
Director: Robert Day
Vincent Preston Gray
INTERSTATE TRANSPORTATION IN AID OF RACKETEERING, EXTORTION
Vincent Gray (Peter Mark Richman), a Cosa Nostra enforcer, is about to be freed from federal prison after serving time for an “income tax rap.” In the same prison is Cosa Nostra high commissioner Joe Darwin (Bill Zuckert). A high-ranking syndicate official was killed in his home Darwin blames Gray. After other prisoners work Gray over, Darwin gives him the kiss of death.
In Washington, Erskine presents a plan to Assistant Director Arthur Ward. The inspector believes he can make Gray break his Cosa Nostra oath of silence. When Gray was a young criminal, he talked when his partner tried to pin the whole rap on Gray. Reports from bureau informants indicate Gray wasn’t involved in the killing he’s been blamed for. What’s more, Gray was likely involved when the owner of a Los Angeles night spot was blinded when he refused to sell to another high commissioner, Vic Russell (Edward Andrews). Erskine figures Gray, under a death sentence by La Cosa Nostra, could provide information about both Darwin and Russell.
The scene shifts to Chicago. Gray forces his way into the home of Russell. The mafia bigwig convinces Gray that he knows Gray was blamed unfairly. Russell claims he can turn down the heat if Gray stays quiet. However, it turns out Russell was the one responsible for the killing and he has no intention of letting Gray live.
The next day, a hitman follows Gray. A chase ensues to a remote area north of the city, leading to a quarry. Gray eventually manages to beat up the hitman, throw him down an exterior stairway and kills him with one shot to the chest.
Gray now goes to Milwaukee, where he grew up. He rents a room in the same apartment building he grew up that’s now owned by Irene Minnock (Dorothy Provine). After some fits and starts, an unlikely love story unfolds. But the couple aren’t going to enjoy much time together because La Cosa Nostra is determined to kill Gray.
This episode is unusual in a number of respects. The sudden turn of having a love story is a bit jarring, though Richman and Provine are reasonably convincing. Director of Photography William W. Spencer makes Provine look absolutely radiant in a scene set on the apartment building’s rooftop when Irene finally makes clear her feelings for Gray. Also odd is how Tom Colby doesn’t show up until Act III.
Finally, on the unusual scale, is this episode’s gunplay. While Erskine draws his gun multiple times, he never fires. Meanwhile, Gray kills two men (the hitman and his friend, who shoots Gray first). The Chicago SAC, Kirby Greene (Grant Williams) also wounds a suspect who has opened fire on Erskine and Greene.
Gaffe: In an Act III scene set in Russell’s house, the high commissioner talks to a friend of Gray’s (John P. Ryan, billed here just as John Ryan). The shadow from an overhead microphone can be briefly scene in the upper left corner of the shot. Trivia note: We’re told Erskine has a 4-year-old niece.
In the epilogue, Gray talks, connecting the two high commissioners to the blinding of the night spot owner. But we’re not told about any time Gray will serve for his two murders. Despite the drastic turn in the story line, the episode is watchable. The episode features an effective original score by John Elizalde. GRADE: B.
Trivia: Dorothy Provine married director Robert Day in 1969. She retired from acting. They were married until her death in 2010. Day died March 17, 2017 at the age of 94.
97. The Harvest
Writer: Mark Rodgers Director: William Hale
James Reed, George Wilson, Joseph Troy
INTERSTATE TRANSPORTATION OF STOLEN PROPERTY, MURDER
A very violent episode, beginning with a strangulation and two shootings in a little over three minutes. A trio who had robbed a Delaware bank are attacked in a Pennsylvania cabin and the money stolen.
Only one of the bank robbers survives and, after five days of being on death’s door, he recovers to find Erskine in his hospital room. The inspector obtains enough information to begin trying to track down the attackers.
Two of the criminals, James Reed (Larry Gates) and George Wilson (Burt Brinckerhoff) and partners. The third, Joseph Troy (Robert Duvall) knew the Delaware bank robbers and led Reed and Wilson to the cabin. Troy is a weasel. At one point Wilson, talking to Reed, says of Troy: “How would you like to be mountain climbing and that was on the other end of the rope?”
The bureau is able to track down Troy first. He’s in Charleston and has bought a ticket from a freight ship to get out of the country. Reed and Wilson, meanwhile, are now in California, north of San Francisco. Vineyards near a small town are in the middle of the harvest. Thus, the town bank will be flush with cash — and it’s now the next target for Reed and Wilson.
Things become complicated when Wilson meets Lisa (Diane Baker), the owner of a major vineyard. He gets a job at the vineyard as part of the duo’s efforts to blend in before robbing the bank. However, Wilson and Lisa connect and gradually fall in love. Wilson wants out, but there’s no way Reed will let him.
After questioning Troy, Erskine and Wilson head to San Francisco. With the assistance of SAC Allen Bennett (semi-regular Lew Brown), the agents head to the small town. A fiesta celebrating the harvest is beginning — the event Reed and Wilson will use as a diversion while they rob the bank.
Gunplay: After having an episode off from shooting, Erskine is back in the groove. He and Colby each fire at Troy, and miss. They’re able to apprehend him without further gun fire. In Act IV, Erskine nails Wilson with a single, one-handed shot. We’re told in the epilogue that Wilson died from the wound. Meanwhile, the body count piles up. Besides the two fatalities at the start of the episode, Reed kills bank guards with a shotgun in Act IV.
The criminal-innocent love story in this episode is more gradual and comes across better than the one in the previous installment. Brinckerhoff and Baker do a very good job and sell the viewer. Sidney Cutner provides an excellent original score throughout, but particularly in the love story sequences. GRADE: A.
98. The Intermediary
Writer: John D.F. Black Director: Don Medford
Thomas Waters AKA Thomas Grant, William Mackenzie, Jack Dale
INTERSTATE TRANSPORTATION OF STOLEN PROPERTY, MAJOR THEFT
Engrossing caper story. Thieves steal more than $3 million in precious gems from V.V. Toller & Co. in New York. Instead of fencing the gems, the crooks want the retailer to pay $1.25 million in ransom.
The brains of the outfit is Thomas Waters (Monte Markham). It’s clear he knows all the details of Toller’s security precautions, including when its time-lock vault can be opened and the location of a hidden security camera. Waters, as he conducts the robbery is cool and calm. We see later, however, he’s capable of flying off the handle.
Victor Toller (Maurice Evans) has made the mistake of talking to a newspaper reporter and the theft and ransom demand is public knowledge. Meanwhile, the first ransom letter was postmarked from Connecticut. Having crossed state lines, the FBI is called into the case. Toller has also been contacted by phone. Talking to a man that sounds like the lead thief, Toller says he must have an intermediary confirm the gems are genuine.
Erskine is given some quick lessons by Toller on how to identify gems. The thieves decide to accept the use of an intermediary and send a key to a bus station locker, with instructions for the intermediary to go to the locker at 11 p.m. on a Friday. In the locker, is a bus ticket to Pennsylvania.
Erskine takes the bus and, upon arrival, is approached by Waters from behind. The FBI man must put on sunglasses Waters has rigged so the inspector can’t see anything. When Erskine arrives at a cabin where the thieves are hiding out, one of them, Mackenzie (Michael Strong), recognizes the inspector. He doesn’t immediately identify Erskine because the FBI man was involved in a case where Mackenzie ratted out another criminal. The question is whether Mackenzie will stay quiet.
Markham as the mastermind is in good form. His character is very quirky and clever. Michael Strong, who tended to specialize in playing weasel-like, unsympathetic characters, pretty much does so here. The cast also includes Georg Stanford Brown (he gets co-starring billing in the end titles) as the owner of a photo studio, which figures into the story.
The sequences at the cabin hideout were filmed at the San Bernardino National Forest, which is noted in the end titles. The FBI helicopter makes a return (this time with Colby as a passenger, instead of Erskine, as normally is the case) and figures in the climax in Act IV. The climax also includes a fight scene which includes this shot: Efrem Zimbalist Jr. sends Michael’s strong stunt double flying. The camera follows the stunt double. Then, from the right side of the frame, Zimbalist’s stunt double appears. It’s actually pretty adept staging of mixing actors and stunt doubles.
Gunplay: Because Erskine is posing as the intermediary, he doesn’t have access to a gun, although he and Mackenzie fight over the one the criminal has.
This writer of this episode was John D.F. Black. This same television season, he was also writing some major episodes of the first season of Hawaii Five-O. The episode has a stock score of music from as far back as the first season. GRADE: B-Plus.
99. The Butcher
Writer: Barry Oringer Director: Jesse Hibbs
Helmut Probst, Alias Paul Sieger
UNLAWFUL FLIGHT TO AVOID PROSECUTION, MURDER
Guest Star Charles Korvin must have gotten a case of deja vu filming this episode. Back in Season Two’s List for a Firing Squad, he played a spy on the run who also was having an affair with a much younger woman. Here, he’s an ex-Nazi on the run who’s also having an affair with a much younger woman.
In any case, Korvin plays Helmut Probst, a former Nazi who was found innocent of war crimes (thanks to witnesses with conveniently faulty memories, we’re told). Probst even has an ability to blend in among Jewish people. After the war, he studied Hebrew and even lived in Tel Aviv for a time.
Probst has arrived in New York, but is recognized a Belgian man, whose family members were killed by the Nazi. A fight breaks out. Probst’s skull was grazed by a shot, the Belgian is wounded and a parking garage attendant is killed.
Colby is already in New York and Arthur Ward sends Erskine to join him. Meanwhile, it turns out Probst is working for businessman Mark Dryden (Ralph Bellamy), who has started a Nazi “club” called the Marshals of Freedom. Dryden’s daughter Karen (Anne Helm) met and fell in love with Probst while she was at a Swiss finishing school. Probst makes his way to Dryden’s Connecticut home, where Karen now lives.
Dryden wants Probst gone and tells the ex-Nazi to get out immediately. While alone, Dryden places a call to have a hitman kill Probst after he departs in a station wagon provided by Dryden. But Karen crosses up her father by leaving with Probst. The Nazi doesn’t discourage her, because she’s his insurance policy.
After the hitman fails to kill Probst (the Nazi shoots him fatally instead), he and Karen are without a car after ditching the station wagon, which had crashed. Eventually, the couple hide out in a synagogue. Karen finally begins to grasp how naive she has been toward Probst and her father upon hearing the story of a Holocaust survivor. Erskine and Colby, in the meantime, are on Probst’s trail.
The deja vu extends to the epilogue. Bureau agents are taking away illegal machine guns from Dryden’s home. Sadder-but-wiser Karen, suitcase in hand, is leaving her father. It’s very similar to the end of Season One’s To Free My Enemy where a sadder-but-wiser daughter (Jill Haworth) leaves her criminal father (James Gregory) just before the FBI snaps on the handcuffs.
There is a nice exchange in the epilogue. Dryden complains he can’t get Erskine to see what the businessman has done was for the good of the country. “Yes, that’s hard for me to understand, Mr. Dryden,” Erskine responds.
Despite the deja vu elements, this is another case of the QM Gravitas keeping things afloat. While Karen questionably was naive, her awakening to the truth in Act IV comes across as genuine. Carl Barth gets a second unit director credit, probably for a car chase scene involving Probst and the hitman.
Gunplay: Three shots in the pre-titles sequence. Probst and the hitman hired by Dryden exchange a few shots before Probst kills the hitman. Erskine and Colby exchange a few shots with Probst before the inspector inflicts a chest wound, but the ex-Nazi survives to stand trial.
The stock score contains a fair amount of Richard Markowitz’s score from Season Three’s By Force and Violence. GRADE: B.
100. The Flaw
Writer: Paul Schneider Director: Robert Douglas
Glen Parmenter, et al
A solid episode, but a sign of how the series was starting to get into a rut concerning espionage stories.
Once again, Erskine goes undercover to infiltrate a spy ring. In this case, the ring is after a new rocket propellant. At least in this case, he doesn’t have to adapt an English accent (as in Season One’s The Spy Master and in future episodes). One of the highlights of this episode is Barry Morse as Glen Parmenter, the ring’s mastermind. Morse comes across as appropriately ruthless, executing a traitor who has outlived his usefulness in the pre-titles sequence.
The title has multiple meanings. Parmenter failed to anticipate the traitor suspected he was targeted for elimination. Parmenter attempted to make the death look like a suicide, including a phony note. But the traitor left a note in his apartment in case he didn’t survive a scheduled meeting with Parmenter. Erskine, meantime, has flawed phony propellant data to show the spy ring and it’s only a matter of time before ring members figure it out.
The episode is elevated by actual location shooting. In this case, it’s likely in Southern California, but it’s far enough away from studio exteriors to provide a sense of realism. The story is supposed to take place in Colorado, but we don’t feel anything has been faked.
The cast includes a number of veterans of QM Productions. Barry Morse — Lt. Girard on The Fugitive — is the most prominent as Parmenter. The character is quirky enough to hold the viewer’s interest. Parmenter is deaf and relies on reading lips. That’ used to good effect in the pre-titles sequence and in Act IV, but could have been utilized more. Other QM actors include Victoria Shaw and Donald Herron as members of the spy ring. Herron’s character had suspected Erskine was a plant all along, but the FBI inspector gets to gloat (albeit in a subtle manner) as Herron’s character is hauled away at the end.
Gunplay: The only fatal shooting is Parmenter killing the traitor in the pre-credits sequence. When the FBI confronts the spy ring there’s some shooting, but nobody gets hit.
The episode features an original score by Duane Tatro. Going forward, he’d be a go-to composer for QM Productions. He’d score, among others productions, the made-for-TV movie that would lead to the Dan August series and provide the theme for QM’s short-lived The Manhunter series. GRADE: B.
101. The Hero
Teleplay: Charles Larson Story: John W. Bloch
Director: Gunnar Hellstrom
Daniel Joseph Sayres
ILLEGAL WEARING OF THE UNIFORM, MURDER
Producer Charles Larson once again rewrites a script to earn the writing credit. Here, he provides an antagonist similar to those in Norman Jolley’s “mental health” trilogy in Season One.
Daniel Sayres (Chad Everett) is wound very, very tightly. His father was a decorated U.S. serviceman who was killed in action. Sayres, meanwhile, had been rejected for military duty because of hypertension. In the pre-titles sequence, Sayres, pretending to be an Air Force major, has just married a woman as part of a con job. However, she’s gotten a telegram from her lawyer alerting her that the real major was killed in Vietnam in 1967.
When she calls him a “phony,” Sayres flips out and strangles her. He flees unaware that a 13-year-boy was nearby, witnessing the murder.
Erskine and Colby begin the task of tracking down the killer. The trails begins in San Francisco where Sayres’ tailored uniform was made. As a result, we again see Lew Brown as the SAC in San Francisco. As the FBI men put together the killer’s background, Sayres is in Salt Lake City, seeking another target for a con.
Chad Everett is effective as Sayres, alternating between being cool and agitated. In that regard, he’s similar to Jeffrey Hunter’s mentally disturbed killer in the first episode (part of the aforementioned “mental health” trilogy). The cast also includes Virginia Christie (Mrs. Olson from the old Folgers commercials) as Sayres’ mother.
Gunplay: Erskine nails Sayres with two right-handed shots to the chest. It’s an impressive piece of marksmanship, given how far away Sayres is. We’re told in the epilogue that Sayres died three days later without regaining consciousness.
The episode has a stock score. GRADE: B-Plus
102. The Widow
Writer: Mark Rodgers Director: Don Medford
PAROLE VIOLATOR, MURDER
A more-or-less average episode, where the QM Gravitas keeps things doing and there are aspects that draw a viewer’s attention. Writer Mark Rodgers and director Don Medford, who each had worked on the show since Season One, both had the rhythm of the series down pat by now.
Director of photography William W. Spencer always did good work (he won an Emmy for the first season of QM’s Twelve O’Clock High). Here, particularly in closeup shots, he makes guest star Lynda Day look radiant. You can see how her Joyce Carr character could seduce servicemen as part of a racket to get their insurance money. Assistant Director Arthur Ward seems upset about the racket, one reason why he wants Erskine on the case. Patrick Wayne is in the cast as the gang’s next target.
Gunplay: The gang tries its hand at robbing a bank. It ends badly and there’s a lot of shooting. In the climax, Erskine chases gang leader Cliff Holm (Glenn Corbett). Holm fires several times at Erskine. But Holm falls from the top of a building and Erskine never fires at him. We’re told in the epilogue that Holm died of his injuries.
The episode has an original score by Richard Markowitz, who again delivers a solid effort. GRADE: B
103. Eye of the Storm
Writer: Don Brinkley Director: Jesse Hibbs
Edward Tobin, Nora Tobin
Edward and Nora Tobin (Billy Dee Williams and Denise Nicholas) are a down on their luck couple. He’s looking for work and Nora is in a depression after a miscarriage that has resulted in her being unable to have any more children. When Nora sees a 6-month-old baby girl left alone in a car, she takes it. Her husband can’t bring himself to make her give the child back.
The baby is the daughter of prominent newspaper publisher John Shepard (Moses Gunn). Arthur Ward notes that Shepard’s editorials and speeches have angered people “both black and white.” When Erskine first meets Shephard he asks to see any threatening letters the publisher has received. “How’s your stomach?” Shepard asks.
By now, Nora is taking care of the baby girl as her own. Ed decides to ransom the child to get enough money to be a partner in a friend’s gas station. The Tobins, though, are unaware there’s a strain of the plague being spread in the poor section of town where they live. Nora is sick with the plague, which puts the child in jeopardy while Ed is going for the ransom.
Normally, The FBI was very precise about where stories take place. Here, the city isn’t specified. All we know is Erskine has to fly there and there’s a river that runs through the unnamed city. Shepard is well enough known that the case has drawn the attention of “the Director,” so you know it’s a high priority.
Kidnapping stories usually brought out the best in the series. In this case, the Tobins aren’t the usual villainous types who conduct kidnappings and somewhat sympathetic. Both Williams and Nicholas are convincing.
Gunplay: None. Erskine doesn’t even draw his gun. Ed Tobin is apprehended after a foot chase.
When the baby is rescued, she wants to touch Erskine’s face and play with his necktie. Efrem Zimbalist Jr. manages to recite his lines while holding her just far enough away to avoid ruining the shot.
The episode has a stock score. GRADE: B-Plus.
104. The Fraud
Writer: Michael Fisher Director: Robert Day
David Joseph Miles, Frank William Stocker
INTERSTATE TRANSPORTATION OF STOLEN PROPERTY, EXTORTION
La Cosa Nostra’s West Coast chieftain, Frank Stocker (William Smithers) wants to get the mob into the business of stolen and forged art. One of Stocker’s men, David Miles (Roger Perry), has been threatening to kill the curator of a Houston museum if he doesn’t keep buying forged paintings. The curator attempts to record Miles in the act. Miles kills him.
The bureau, led by Erskine, was already investigating Stocker. The Houston killing intensifies the probe. A European artist who had been supplying Stocker with forgeries has died. Stocker has lined up a new painter, Christopher Simes (Hal Holbrook), a one-time promising artist who has mostly squandered his talent. Simes has gotten a job at a Los Angeles gallery so he can convince its owner (Nan Martin) to buy two forgeries.
The High Commission is skeptical about Stocker’s plan but gives it the OK — but orders Stocker to have Miles hit to ensure his silence. Now, Erskine and Colby try to hunt down Miles while they still can.
The story has an interesting premise, and Stocker tells the High Commissioners it’s possible they could donate forgeries to museum and take the tax breaks for charitable donations.
Holbrook’s artist character tends to draw attention in every scene he’s in but the actor is careful not to go overboard. We first see him in jail after being picked up on drunk and disorderly charges. He had some charcoal with him and has drawn a mural on the wall of the drunk tank. He proclaims how he’s the greatest artist in the world while his cellmates are unimpressed. Smithers, as usual, excels at playing the villain. In a trivia note, character actor Roy Engel (who played President Grant on The Wild, Wild West) plays one of the High Commissioners, just as he did back in Season Three’s The Gold Card.
Gunplay: Miles shoots quite a bit, killing two people (the Houston museum curator and a hitman sent after him). He drowns a third (another hitman) and shoots at FBI agents trying to take him in. Nan Martin’s character even gets into the act, shooting and wounding a hitman who’s attacking Simes at her gallery. Meanwhile, for a second consecutive episode, Erskine doesn’t fire, though this time he does draw his gun.
In the epilogue, Miles is ratting out Stocker (Miles was never a Cosa Nostra member so he’s not bound by the oath of silence). Simes then shows up to admit everything, but narrator Marvin Miller informs us Nan Martin’s character asked authorities not to press charges so he goes free.
The episode has a stock score. GRADE: B-Plus.
105. A Life in the Balance
Writer: Arthur Heinemann Director: Robert Douglas
Eugene David Holt, Elaine Donner, Richard Mills
One of the best episodes of the season. For some reason, The FBI tended to excel at kidnapping stories and this is one of the more engrossing ones of the series.
On Long Island, Eugene Holt, Richard Mills and Elaine Donner kidnap Edward Jansen, the scion of a rich family and heir to a plastics fortune. But the plan goes sour when the kidnap victim fights back. Elaine, who’s engaged to Holt, is wounded severely when the gun Holt is carrying goes off.
Erskine is already on the scene at the start of Act I. Arthur Ward, in between flights in New York, goes out to Long Island to check on the progress of the investigation. The kidnap victim’s parents are out of the country. Even more, the mother has had a heart attack and the father has to tend for her. All of this leaves Elizabeth Jansen (Julie Sommars), Edward’s sister, in the position of having to make the key family decisions in the case.
We again to get view Compassionate Erskine, who displays empathy for the families of kidnap victims while still talking straight to them. Evidence gathered by the bureau points to somebody being seriously wounded. Erskine knows this complicates the case, regardless of who was injured. At one point, there’s a very nice scene where Erskine tries to both reassure Elizabeth and tell her she remains to be strong. Elizabeth tells Erskine he was right about how kidnapping torments the family of the victim.
ELIZABETH: Is there any sicker crime?
ERSKINE: Not many.
The episode features James Caan as Holt. He’s very good, playing the part with a mix intensity and concern for the wounded Elaine (Quentin Dean). At one point, Holt nearly kills a doctor who was treating Elaine but who had called the authorities. The actor sells you on the idea that Holt is fully capable of murdering someone while in a rage. Caan was hardly a rookie actor but had yet to become a star when this episode aired.
Erskine gets bad news when he interviews the injured doctor. He tells the intrepid FBI man that “there isn’t a chance in the world” that Elaine can survive. That’s exactly what happens at the end of Act III, and Holt is determined to exact his revenge on Edward Jansen. Now, Erskine and Colby are in a race to apprehend the kidnappers before another fatality occurs.
Gunplay: In the climax, Holt shoots five times at Erskine. Colby, returning fire, hits Holt in the chest. Holt crawls all the way to where Jansen is before dying (we’re told in the epilogue he didn’t survive the wound).
In the epilogue, Elizabeth is on the phone to her father. We’re told her mother will recover from her heart attack. The mood is, appropriately, mixed — satisfaction that Edward is home safe, but melancholy about Elaine’s death. Narrator Marvin Miller informs us Elaine died 17 days short of her 21st birthday.
The story has an undercurrent of class conflict, with the kidnappers clearly are envious of the rich Jansen family. One suspects if this story were remade in the 21st century, that angle would be played up more.
The cast also includes Murray Hamilton, frequently employed by QM Productions, as Mills. Sidney Cutner provides a very effective original score. It’s nothing fancy, but compliments the episode very well. GRADE: A.
Here’s a preview of the episode, which Warner Archive uploaded to YouTube:
106. Caesar’s Wife
Writer: Warren Duff Director: Robert Day
This episode is very difficult to review. When it aired in early 1969, Harrison Ford was a future star but viewers who saw this when first broadcast had no way to know it. In the 21st century, viewers see The Professor from Gilligan’s Island beating the crap out of Harrison Ford.
Putting all that aside, this is a fine espionage episode. In the pre-titles sequence, a British “soldier of fortune” dies before he can reach the U.S. embassy in Paris. The FBI representative in the embassy alerts bureau headquarters, and Assistant Director Arthur Ward assigns Erskine to the case.
It turns out that an Eastern European country has assigned Danielle Chabrol (Claudine Longet) to seduce a recently retired U.S. diplomat (Michael Rennie). Danielle previously had a relationship with the diplomat’s son (Ford). The operation is being supervised by spy master Jim Kellogg, played by Russell Johnson. Kellogg is quite ruthless, and tries to kill Ford’s character.
The Southern California coastline (along with judicious use of file footage) makes (for the most part) a convincing substitute for Hawaii, where Rennie’s character as a home. Meanwhile, Erskine poses as a writer for a major magazine as his cover. The highlight for 21st century audiences is spymaster Johnson pummeling (complete with the normal television punching sound effects) Harrison F0rd in Act III. Ford’s character was left to drown. An alert Erskine spots how Danielle’s long evening dress is damp (she had followed Johnson’s character out to the beach) and he saves Ford’s character. For the record, Ford didn’t have “guest star” status in the main titles, but gets “co-starring” billing in the end titles.
Gunplay: Erskine shoots Kellogg with a single two-handed shot. In the epilogue, we’re told that Kellogg didn’t survive his wound. The episode has a stock score that includes music from early Season One episodes. GRADE: A.
Behind the Scenes: In real life, FBI Director Hoover wasn’t a fan of Claudine Longet’s. The Muck Rock website HAS A POST about insults of people Hoover wrote in bureau reports. Of Longet, he wrote: “She is not a singer; she just whispers her songs.”
UPDATE: Warner Archive Instant has uploaded a clip of the fight scene to YouTube.
107. The Patriot
Writer: Mark Rodgers Director: Robert Day
Richard William Shaefer, Alias Marvin Smith
Episode with an interesting premise: organized crime gets involved in international intrigue.
A South American dictatorship has hired La Cosa Nostra to kidnap an opponent of the regime who fled to the United States but who continues to publish an opposition newspaper. from Chicago. The Mafia is paid $500,000 down and will receive another $500,000 upon delivery of the newspaperman, Emilo Cruz (Gilbert Roland).
Erskine and Colby are on the case after a bureau informant provides information about a Cosa Nostra front company getting the $500,000 downpayment from the South American country.
Richard Shaefer (James Callahan), the Cosa Nostra’s point man for the operation, blackmails Cruz’s close friend Jose (Ned Romero), by threatening to have his family killed if he doesn’t cooperate with the kidnapping plan. However, that attempt fails when Erskine and Colby, despite Cruz refusing FBI protection, tail the editor. Now, the Cosa Nostra abducts a woman cartoonist who works at Cruz’s newspaper to force the journalist to travel to the South American country.
Very nice episode. Callahan, who often played sympathetic characters (including in The FBI’s Season Two) is very effective as the cool, calculating Cosa Nostra operative. A sub-plot involving Cruz and the cartoonist being in love with each other is fine and doesn’t distract from the main plot. There’s a long sequence where Erskine and Colby are supposed to be on Chicago expressways but the footage clearly was shot in Southern California, including mountains visible in some rear-projection shots. Carl Barth, who got a second unit directing credit, probably was in charge.
Gunplay: After a two-episode hiatus without shooting, Erskine gets busy here. He nails Jose (who fired first) with a single right-handed shot as the first kidnapping attempt is foiled. He nails Shaefer with a single right-handed shot in the climax. Both men survive. Colby wounds another Cosa Nostra thug as well.
Duane Tatro provides an excellent original score. GRADE: A
108. The Maze
Writer: Charles Larson Director: Robert Day
Frank Dixon Welles
TOP TEN FUGITIVE, ASSAULTING A FEDERAL OFFICER
This is producer Charles Larson’s first completely original script since episode 4 and his final writing credit for the series. Larson probably should have gotten a creator’s credit. Long March Up a Steep Hill in Season One looks suspiciously like a pilot. So this is a significant episode for that reason.
Frank Welles (Steve Ihnat) has been on the bureau’s Ten Most Wanted list for five years. He’s been in Mexico, but risks re-entry into the U.S. because his girlfriend (Joan Van Ark) has a dying mother. If anything, it means more to Welles than it does to her. He tells her the mother will be “a long time dead” and that the girlfriend should reconcile if at all possible.
Things don’t go so well when Welles tries to cross the border in Arizona. He shoots a Border Patrol officer. Welles and the girlfriend continue to the San Diego area — that’s where the girlfriend’s mother is dying there and Welles has a friend.
Said friend, Nikos “Nick” Kaprlos (Simon Oakland), is in a bad way. Karlos, who runs a fishing boat, saw his daughter die from a heroin overdose the previous month. Welles tells Nick he’ll get the man who Nick believes gave the daughter the heroin. Welles has a grudge in all this: he was the daughter’s godfather and he’s mad at the Cosa Nostra (the most likely source of heroin), which forced him to flee the country in the first place.
The bureau, however, catches up to Welles before he can act. Nick decides to take things into his own hands. Despite successfully apprehending Welles, Erskine decides his work isn’t done yet.
At times, it almost seems as if the series regulars are making cameo appearances while the story concentrates on Welles and Nick. Both Inhat and Oakland, two old pros, make the best of the opportunity. This is probably one of Oakland’s most sympathetic characters. There’s only a hint of “Compassionate Erskine” in the climax when the FBI inspector talks Nick down from almost killing the wrong man.
Noteable flaw: When Welles first visits Nick (who’s been on a bender) in Act I, the shadow from an overhead microphone is visible.
Gunplay: Erskine nails Welles with a single right-handed shot. We’re told in the epilogue that Welles died as a result.
While Larson, no doubt, did uncredited rewrites for the rest of this season, there’s an “end of an era” feel to the episode. The episode has a stock score but it’s not really noticeable. GRADE: A-Minus.
109. The Attorney
Writer: Robert Heverly Director: Robert Douglas
Arnold Grant Toby
INTERSTATE TRANSPORTATION IN AID OF RACKETEERING, GAMBLING
If the proceeding episode had an “end of an era” feel, this installment was a preview of what was to come.
This was the second script this season by writer Robert Heverly. He’d become the show’s in-house writer for Seasons Five through Eight. Based on this episode, you can understand how he got the job.
The bureau has long investigated Arnold Toby (Linden Chiles), a Cosa Nostra boss in New York. Toby has been smuggling in equipment for illegal gambling. FBI agents, led by Erskine and Colby, conduct a raid as the latest shipment arrives.
The same night, Toby is having a birthday party at the German restaurant he owns. Also present is his lawyer, Richard Bender (Arthur Hill), who is accompanied by his wife (Louise Latham). The bureau arrests Toby, although Bender makes arrangements for the mob boss to be freed quickly on bail.
It turns out that Toby’s girlfriend is the daughter of working stiff Pete Zacharias (Edward Asner). He and his daughter (Dawn Wells) are estranged because he disapproves of Toby. On top of all this, Zacharias’ boss, Dennis Holland (Tim O’Connor), has a grudge against Bender also. The lawyer refused to defend Holland’s son on a murder charge and the son was executed.
The story threads the needle between drama and melodrama and mostly succeeds. There are also a number of nice moments. In Act I, when the FBI shows up at Toby’s restaurant, Erskine once again demonstrates how he speaks German fluently when the head waiter tries to give instructions in German. The FBI inspector replies in German and then says in English there are agents at the back.
Heverly’s story brings various threads together. Holland plans to kill Bender, while planning to frame Zacharias. Toby plans to have Zacharias hit, believing he wants to have Bender killed. Zacharias’ daughter tries to reconcile with her father. In the end, it works.
Gunplay: Quite a lot. Several shots are exchanged in the pre-titles sequence when the bureau conducts its raid on the shipment of gambling supplies. Colby, in particular, shoots a Cosa Nostra thug at close range. Holland wounds Erskine (!) at the end of Act III. This gives Colby more screen time than usual in Act IV, which includes him shooting a hitman that Toby hired to knock off Zacharias. Erskine spends most of Act IV at the hospital.
This episode also indicates how QM’s casting operation, headed by John Conwell, worked. Evidently, Conwell & Co. didn’t worry too much about typecasting. This was the second episode this season where they hired an alumnus of Gilligan’s Island. Also, it’s the second consecutive season of The FBI where Arthur Hill and Louise Latham played man and wife.
The episode has a stock score. GRADE: A.
110. The Catalyst
Writer: Gerald Sanford Director: Jesse Hibbs
DESTRUCTION OF AIRCRAFT, KIDNAPPING
Erskine is in Mexico escorting Maria Sandoval (Pilar Seurat), cousin of a Communist-infiltrated Central American country. She is to testify in Washington about her cousin’s government. However, an operative of that unnamed country, Miguel Torres (Alejandro Rey), has been ordered to prevent the testimony from taking place.
Torres hijacks the small plane carrying the pair, which has run into a severe storm. It crash lands in New Mexico, near the border with Mexico. Maria broke her ankle during the crash. Erskine and a down on his luck gambler who was also on the plane (Norman Fell) carry Maria on a makeshift stretcher (a piece of a wing of the aircraft). Torres would prefer to bring Maria back to her country alive but is prepared to kill her — or anyone else — if it’s necessary.
Erskine gets a chance to show genuine anger at one point where it’s clear Maria can’t go much further in the desert heat. Meanwhile, Colby runs the show from the FBI’s standpoint as he tries to track down the flight and find out what happened to all aboard. The story generally is tight and holds your interest. Erskine is way out of his comfort zone for the episode. The show would have a similar set up in the final episode, Survival, in Season Nine.
Question: Is Assistant Director Arthur Ward married or not? Back in Season One, he mentioned his wife (name not specified) in passing. When he gets a call that the flight with Erskine and Maria is overdue, he’s sleeping in a single bed but wears a wedding ring.
The epilogue is staged in an interesting manner. Erskine, back in his office, looks grim as he scans a newspaper. Then, Maria arrives and he lights up. She has delivered her testimony and she and Erskine are going on a date that night. You sense they’re going to have a really good time. But the final shot shows the headline of the newspaper. Maria has been condemned to death in absentia in her home nation. As a result, it’s not a 100 percent happy ending.
Gunplay: It’s all by Torres, who kills the gambler. Erskine apprehends Torres in a hand-to-hand fight.
We get to see the FBI helicopter quite a bit, and Carl Barth picks up a second unit director credit in the end titles. The episode has a stock score, much of which comes from Richard Markowitz’s score from Season Three’s The Gold Car. GRADE: A.
111. Conspiracy of Silence
Writer: Mark Weingart Director: Jesse Hibbs
Leonard Blanton King, et al
INTERSTATE TRANSPORTATION IN AID OF RACKETEERING, EXTORTION, MURDER
This is our last look at the personal side of Erskine. In the pre-titles sequence, Russell Clay, the dean of Erskine’s law school, is murdered by a Cosa Nostra hitman. We’re told about Clay’s ties to Erskine at the start of Act I. It was Clay who convinced Erskine to join the bureau.
Clearly, Erskine is a man on a mission here. He keeps his emotions in control, but he makes clear that the Cosa Nostra is high on his “to do list.” At one point, he declares that Cosa Nostra “is like a cancer in this country” and needs to be “cut out” where it’s found.
This perhaps explains why much of Erskine’s screen time isn’t with either Colby or Assistant Director Ward. Colby is undercover (off-screen) for much of the episode and Erskine doesn’t have his customary phone call with Ward until late in the episode. Instead, Erskine is with Los Angeles SAC Bryan Durant (Dean Harens) for most of the time until Act IV.
The mob boss who’s supervising things here is Leonard King (veteran character actor Ken Lynch, who only gets end credits billing). One of his operatives is banker James Evans (Kevin McCarthy). King once had a run-in with developer Norman Reese (Don Chastain), who has built up an upscale Southern California development called Paradise Regained. King now wants to ruin Reese personally. There are rumors the High Commission doesn’t approve of the maneuver because there’s too little profit.
Three people (James Daly, Kent Smith and special guest star Gene Tierney) found Clay’s body. But what they don’t tell authorities is they saw the hitman leave Clay’s house just before they arrived. Daly’s character had killed a man in a fight during World War II and there’s still a warrant out for him. King wants the trio eliminated.
Two clips from this episode — both with Efrem Zimbalist Jr. in full “solemn” Erskine mode — were used by ABC in a promo for the series during the 1968-69 season. Zimbalist sells you that Erskine is quite sincere in his desire to break La Cosa Nostra and you don’t give up even if you encounter setbacks.
Gunplay: Erskine and Colby exchange shots with the hitman, who (wisely) gives up. It does him no good. In the epilogue, we’re told the hitman was sentenced to death.
The episode has a stock score, including snippets from Richard LaSalle’s score from Season Three’s Counter-Stroke. It’s used when Gene Tierney’s character has fallen asleep while watching an old movie on television. the charge for James Daly’s character was changed to manslaughter and he got off with probation. GRADE: A-Minus.
112. The Young Warriors
Writer: Albert Aley Director: Robert Douglas
CRIME ON A GOVERNMENT RESERVATION, ARSON, MURDER
This episode revisits territory first explored in Season One’s A Mouthful of Dust, which featured tensions between whites and American Indians. What’s more, writer Albert Aley, back in the 1957-58 season, wrote an episode of Have Gun–Will Travel where injustice visited upon Chinese immigrants was a theme.
In northern Arizona, there’s tension between an Indian tribe and a mining company that plans a factory. William Rockhill (Scott Marlowe), who is among a younger group of Indians opposed to the project, gets into a fight with George Fisher (Lawrence Montaigne), a lawyer who is also a tribe member. As a result of the fight, Fisher drowns. Tribe members suspect John Aldridge (Lin McCarthy), the top-ranking company executive in the area.
Erskine and Colby are dispatched to assume command of the case because emotions are running high. Things get worse when the company sends an insensitive executive (Dana Elcar), who is totally insensitive to the emotions of the tribe.
This is a basic procedural story. It attempts to deal with racial issues, but it’s not always subtle. The epilogue — which takes place after Rockhill has been arrested — is a little preachy. The sentiments are sincere, but 21st century audiences might discount that. The episode is a bit of a letdown after the last few, but it’s still solid.
Trivia: The chief of the tribe is played by Anthony Caruso, who played various nationalities over a long career. Barbara Luna is the special guest star as Fisher’s widow. She normally wore her hair long, but it’s quite short here.
Gunplay: None. Eskine and Colby overcome Rockhill without drawing their weapons.
The episode has a stock score: GRADE: B.
113. The Cober List
Writer: John D.F. Black Director: Jesse Hibbs
Terrence Cober, Ignatius Cober
INTERSTATE TRANSPORTATION IN AID OF RACKETEERING, GAMBLING, MURDER
In Miami, brothers Terry and James Cober have taken over the (Mafia) family business from their father, Ignatius (Harold J. Stone). But their numbers operation, covering Florida and Georgia, is under siege from rival mobster Frank Lanner, who wants to take it over.
Terry wants “to send a message” without actually killing Lanner. The idea is to blow up Lanner’s garage just after the Lanner family leaves for church on a Sunday morning. However, one of Lanner’s bodyguards is crippled. This gives Lanner the excuse to have James Cober hit.
Now, the family patriarch, who has been living in Puerto Rico, returns. He berates Terry, telling his son either you bury your target or seek permission from the Cosa Nostra “council.” Ignatius wants Lanner dead. La Cosa Nostra, meantime, dispatches council member Emmett Stone to calm things down. The council refuses to sanction a hit on Lanner and tells Ignatius he’s retired and has no say in the matter.
The FBI, led by Erskine and Colby, tracks down the hit man responsible for James Colber’s death. The hit man, unwisely, thinks he can shoot it out with Erskine & Co. and ends up dying from his wounds.
The wild card in all this is a third Cober brother, Matthew, who’s a surgeon and never became involved in the family business. Papa Cober — unwilling to take no for an answer from the council — has Lanner hit. Now, the council is ready to kill the Cober patriarch. Erskine hatches a desperate plan which relies on cooperation from Matthew Cober to succeed.
Harold J. Stone rarely turned in subtle performances but the elder Cober role is right in his wheelhouse. He often dominates the scenes he’s in. Alfred Ryder, as Emmett Stone, doesn’t have as big a role but projects the suitable combination of business manner and menace.
In the climax of Act IV, Terry Cober (Don Gordon) is gunned down, but not before he tries to sell his father out. After Erskine overcomes the council thugs who are ready to kill the father, Ignatius actually compliments the thugs. “If this dies,” he says, referring to his wounded son, “bury him face down!” Erskine says nothing but his expression tells you all you need to know about his reaction.
Mark Roberts, who by this time has played a number of FBI agents in the series, appears here as Owen Clark, the SAC in Miami. The Cober matter is important enough that Arthur Ward has Clark fly to Washington at the start of Act I. In the epilogue, we find out Terry survived (though it didn’t look that way at the end of Act IV) and Ignatius died of natural causes before he could be brought to trial.
The episode has a stock score. GRADE: A.
114. Moment of Truth
Writer: Don Brinkley Director: Robert Day
Vincent Roger Tobias, John Beeker
CRIME ON A GOVERNMENT RESERVATION, MURDER
Harold Dewitt (Richard Carlson), a high-ranking executive of a finance company, is running a loan sharking operation without his company’s knowledge. Dewitt has been using his son-in-law, Wally Shanks (Michael Witney), a former pro football player and Vietnam veteran, as a way to attract loan applications from ex-GIs. Those with insufficient credit become targets for the loan sharking operation..
Dewitt’s loan “collectors” seriously injure a GI who’s behind on his payments. The GI (who later dies of his injuries) was a friend of Shanks.
Erskine sends Colby undercover as a former GI with a bad credit rating to apply for a loan. Soon, the FBI man has attracted the interest of the loan shark “collectors.” The collectors fall into a bureau trap and now the FBI is on Dewitt’s trail.
Another basic procedural story to end the season. We again see Los Angeles SAC Bryan Durant (Dean Harens). Marlyn Mason, a previous guest star on the series, is back as the wife of Shanks.
Gunplay: Erskine and another FBI agent open fire on one of the “collectors,” who dies from his wounds. Agents from the bureau, including Erskine and Colby, apprehend Dewitt without having to fire.
The episode has a stock score. GRADE: B.
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