For the first season of The FBI, there was an initial emphasis on the background and personal story of its hero, Insprector Lewis Erskine (Efrem Zimbalist Jr.).
Erskine was a widower, still blaming himself for the death of his wife Ruth. She had perished in an ambush whose intended target was the intrepid FBI man. He now had to raise a daughter, Barbara, on his own.
As the series begins, the Washington-based inspector has a young associate, Jim Rhodes (Stephen Brooks). Rhodes met Barbara Erskine less than six months before and is in love — as is Barbara Erskine with him. She’s a student at American University but wants to marry Rhodes right now.
Erskine is also extremely stubborn, sometimes making things uncomfortable for his boss, Assistant Director Arthur Ward (Philip Abbott). But Erskine, if he thinks he is right, just won’t let go.
This dynamic was mostly established in two episodes: The Monster, the first broadcast, written by Norman Jolley, who was also the associate producer, and Slow March Up a Steep Hill, written by producer Charles Larson. The latter looks as if it were the actual pilot. Both Larson and Jolley either wrote, or rewrote, a number of episodes during The FBI’s initial campaign. Early in the season, two more writers, Robert Leslie Bellem (who had the title of story consultant) and Harry Fried (story editor) , were brought in to help develop scripts. Fried had worked on The Untouchables, where Quinn Martin was executive producer during the first season.
By the midway point of the season, much of the personal angle is cast aside. The series remains a solid “procedural” show, with many guest stars of note. Quinn Martin, at the time, paid something like double the television industry norm for guest stars. That attracted actors, such as Charles Bronson this season, who weren’t doing a lot of episodic television at the time. But the series would never quite be the same.
Credits for the season:
Executive Producer: Quinn Martin
Producer: Charles Larson
Associate Producer: Norman Jolley
Story Consultant: Robert Leslie Bellem (episodes 6-32)
Story Editor: Harry Fried (episodes 6-25, 32)
Assistant to the Executive Producer: Arthur Fellows
Assistant to Producer: John Conwell
Music Conducted by Dominic Frontiere
A QM Production In Association With Warner Bros. Pictures Inc.
Main titles: For the first nine episodes, the words, “a QM production” appeared beneath the title. Starting with episode 10, announcer Hank Simms said, “a Quinn Martin-Warner Bros. production,” while the QM and WB shield logos were shown underneath the title.
End titles: Efrem Zimbalist Jr. drives a black Mustang convertible, with a white interior. He begins his drive from the courtyard of the then-FBI building (now Department of Justice building), goes near the Washington Monument and ends up at a building on Constitution Avenue that’s supposed to be the character’s apartment.
CLICK HERE to view a YouTube video that shows the filming sites of the first-season end titles in detail.
Go to SEASON THREE.
1. The Monster
Writer: Norman Jolley Director: William A. Graham
ESCAPED FEDERAL PRISONER
The series gets off to a fast start as Lewis Erskine and Jim Rhodes are assigned to track down escaped federal prisoner Francis Jerome (Jeffrey Hunter). The FBI men aren’t fully aware of how much of a head case Jerome is. Jerome, who appears to be a ladies’ man, exhibits odd behavior when he sees a woman’s long hair. He goes back and forth between being an extrovert and an introvert. Erskine and Rhodes travel to Castle City, Wisconsin, where Jerome grew up and has a building that looks suspiciously like the Capitol Records building. It turns out that Jerome is a psychotic, whose behavior stems from the way he was raised by his maternal grandmother (Estelle Winwood).
Many good performances, especially from Winwood, who dominates every scene she’s in. We’re briefly told about how Erskine became a widower, which becomes an issue when witness Jean Davis (Dina Merrill) begins to fall in love with Erskine.
When the case is resolved, Erskine still finds himself unable to reciprocate Jean’s affections. “Maybe one day you’ll find out who else died in that ambush,” she tells him as she says good-bye for the last time. In the epilogue, Barbara Erskine asks what happened to her father in Castle City. The FBI inspector responds he has witnessed the destructive power a parent can wield.
Gunplay: Erskine and Rhodes wound Jerome three times in the climatic shootout in Act IV. Both agents employ a two-handed shooting technique.
Excellent score by Leo Arnaud, who incorporates Bronislau Kaper’s outstanding theme a number of times. GRADE: A.
Behind the scenes: J. Edgar Hoover sent Efrem Zimbalist Jr. a telegram on Sept. 19, 1965. The text reads:
“VERY PLEASED WITH FIRST PROGRAM. YOUR PERFORMANCE AND THAT OF OTHER ACTORS WAS EXCELLENT. SINCERE CONGRATULATIONS.”
The telegram is in Zimbalist’s FBI file. The MuckRock website ran a post about the file in 2015.
2. Image in a Cracked Mirror
Writer: Anthony Wilson Director: Don Medford
Charles Emery Gates
FEDERAL RESERVE ACT — EMBEZZLEMENT
Erskine and Rhodes are assigned to an embezzlement case at an Oklahoma bank. Charles Gates (Jack Klugman), a seemingly loyal bank employee for 20 years, has taken $200,000. For Erskine, the case isn’t routine. The FBI man begins to dwell on the similarities between himself and Gates: both Korean War veterans, both widowers, both parents. Rhodes picks up on this and asks Erskine if feels as if he been hunting himself. The junior FBI man observes that one man (Gates) cracked, while the other (Erskine) didn’t.
Of interest: the cast includes a husband and wife (Klugman and Brett Somers) playing a brother and sister. Klugman and Somers don’t really play a scene together. The only time the siblings interact is during a telephone call, where they were probably filmed separately and the exchange is edited together.
Gates has an adopted son,Billy. Gates believes Billy (Pat Cardi) doesn’t know he’s adopted. Gates and his son get separated as Gates makes his run into Mexico and away from FBI jurisdiction. Later, Gates calls his son. The son informs his father that he knows he’s adopted. Before the son can say anything else, Erskine breaks off the connection.
“Lew, that was kind of rough,” Rhodes says. Erskine’s response: “It goes with the territory.” Later, Gates’ son is taking the son back to Oklahoma via train. Erskine has FBI men on the train, certain that Gates will make a try to get the boy back. As Erskine is about to apprehend Gates, the embezzler tosses a briefcase off the train, but it opens, with the money scattering. “Nothing?” Gates says as Erskine snaps on the handcuffs. “All of this was for nothing?”
The payoff comes in the epilogue. Most of the money has been recovered but agents will have to wait for daybreak before searching for the rest of the loot. Erskine is waiting for a call from his daughter. Rhodes asks how Erskine could be so sure Gates would come back for his son. The inspector replies if Rhodes is lucky within “a couple of years….you’ll ask yourself how you could have ever asked such a question.”
The episode also is the debut of a sort-of character: the FBI helicopter, usually piloted by James W. Gavin. QM Productions clearly had a bigger budget for helicopters than other television production companies. In the ninth season, when the main titles were revamped, an image of an FBI helicopter was included.
Gunplay: Billy shoots a rifle at a car with Rhodes and another FBI man. Erskine apprehends Gates without drawing his weapon.
Klugman provides a very intense performance. One highlight is when Gates attempts to explain to his son why he stole the money. Meanwhile, people who only know Brett Somers from her Match Game appearances in the 1970s will likely be surprised by her restrained performance here. Efrem Zimbalist Jr.’s Erskine seems genuinely haunted, knowing he really is hunting down a version — a cracked version, as the title implies — of himself. Bronislau Kaper, composer of The FBI theme, delivers his best score for the series. Overall, an emotional episode. GRADE: A.
Here’s a very brief clip from a Warner Bros. promo:
3. A Mouthful of Dust
Writer: Earl Mack Director: Don Medford
CRIME ON INDIAN RESERVATION
Joe Cloud and his brother Pete, who live on the Apache reservation, are returning home to Joe’s home. As they arrive, Carl Pike, a white man, is attempting to assault Joe’s wife. Joe, in a rage, kills Pike. It turns out that Joe Cloud served as a private in the Army under Erskine during the Korean War. He contacts Erskine. The FBI inspector is scheduled to be in the region and says he’ll try to swing by to help. But a pressing case prevents Erskine from arriving in time.
Joe Cloud, in the meantime, escapes and flees into the desert. Erskine wraps up his case and makes it to the Apache reservation area, determined that Joe be apprehended alive to face trial. The local authorities, led by Sheriff Crowley (R.G. Armstrong) are suspicious why the FBI’s top investigator would take an interest in a “minor case.” Erskine replies it’s not a minor case to him.
Not as good as the first two episodes, but a watchable installment, nevertheless. Robert Blake as Pete Cloud gets top billing among the guest cast, but Alejandro Rey as Pete gets most of the screen time. Another prominent use of a helicopter, this time a sheriff’s department aircraft, rather than an FBI chopper. Nevertheless, there are more aerial shots here than was typical on most mid-1960s series.
Lynn Loring’s Barbara Erskine gets a few minutes of screen time, including making out with Stephen Brooks’ Rhodes at a restaurant. Philip Abbott’s Arthur Ward gets a bit testy with Erskine before finding out the inspector has wrapped up the aforementioned pressing case. This is a preview of what we’d see in more detail in episodes 4 and 8. Bronislau Kaper provides another excellent score. GRADE: B
4. Slow March Up a Steep Hill
Writer: Charles Larson Director: William A. Graham
Wayne Everett Powell
BANK ROBBERY, INTERSTATE TRANSPORTATION OF STOLEN VEHICLE
This episode appears as if it may have been the pilot for the series. Efrem Zimbalist Jr.’s Erskine is at the center of the episode throughout. We’re shown how he’s stubborn (we first see him with a sore neck, the result of being determined to paint his ceiling himself) and is engrossed by his work. In Act I, his daughter Barbara and partner Jim Rhodes tell the inspector they’re getting married, no matter what he thinks.
Some interesting math. Erskine says Barbara is only 19. She replies her father was younger than that when he married his late wife Ruth and was younger than that when Barbara was born (Whoa!).
The title stems from how Erskine faces intense problems at work and with his daughter insisting on getting married immediately. Erskine has been assigned to a help out the investigation of two bank robberies at the same Baltimore-area bank branch. The branch appears to be in the Southern California area of Maryland (you can see a mountain range in the background).
The same bank branch had robberies on the same dates decades earlier. Erskine is convinced initially the original robber re-enacted the crimes. But it turns out that can’t be because the original robber, an alcoholic, was on a bender and couldn’t have committed the new crimes.
The best scene in the episode is when Joanna Laurens, who works in the bureau’s identification division, comes by Erskine’s office after he has broken yet another date. The scene pretty much summarizes the relationship between men and women. She’s trying to tell him she loves him and he’s too engrossed in the case to get it. The girlfriend is played by Lee Meriwether and she’s great in a small role.
Gunplay: The bank robber separately kills a bank guard and an FBI agent during his two robberies while being wounded in the second robbery. A bureau agent (not Erskine or Rhodes) fatally wounds the robber with a chest shot in Act IV.
There are a number of quibbles. When we see one of the bank robberies, we see a farmer in overalls in what’s supposed to be close to Baltimore. In the climax, FBI men, including Erskine, take off their gas masks awfully quickly in a room where tear gas canisters have been fired. And in the end, things get resolved in Erskine’s favor a bit too tidily. But these are minor points. We never see this much of Erskine’s private life again.
Leo Arnaud provides another excellent score. His music for the scene with Efrem Zimbalist Jr. and Lee Meriwether will be reused in stock scores. GRADE: A-Plus.
5. The Insolents
Writer: Theodore Apstein Director: Don Medford
Roger Wilson York
CRIME ON THE HIGH SEAS, MURDER
The one episode where Jim Rhodes (Stephen Brooks) is at the center of the story.
Rhodes takes an unusual amount of interest in an investigation of Roger York, a spoiled rich man who has been linked to crimes but never convicted. It turns out that Rhodes had once been involved with a young woman before he went to college. The woman got pregnant by a son of a rich family. She died in an accident. The young Rhodes, we’re told via Barbara Erskine (Lynn Loring’s best scene in the series) talking to her father, stood at the bottom of a hill, looking up and watching the rich family celebrate.
Erskine is concerned that Rhodes is bringing too much personal baggage into the case. Later, Rhodes interviews York’s mother, who has her own issues and the viewer can see how York went sour. Rhodes is interviewing the mother as she flies from San Diego to Los Angeles in a private plane and she’s seriously considering crashing the aircraft. Rhodes looks convincingly scared. GRADE: B-Plus.
6. To Free My Enemy
Teleplay: Ken Kolb and Norman Jolley
Story: Ken Kolb Director: William A. Graham
Nicholas Roy Kirby, Harry George Bisk, Max Healy
Erskine, trying to build a case against suspected pornographer Bert Anselm (James Gregory), has come up empty after getting a search warrant. Anselm ridicules Erskine’s efforts and is about to take his family to Switzerland for an extended period. Shortly after the FBI man departs Anselm’s office, three men kidnap Anselm and hold him for $100,000 ransom. Anselm’s wife refuses to have anything to do with the bureau but grown daughter Lynn (Jill Haworth) is conflicted. She’s only now discovering the truth about her father. Erskine has a dilemma: if he gets Anselm back from the kidnappers, the pornographer will likely flee the law. Much of the story centers around Lynn’s conflict and Jill Haworth is fine in the role. When Lynn comes to Erskine’s office, Rhodes momentarily mistakes her for Barbara Eskine, which is the only mention that character will receive in this episode. Richard Markowitz delivers a good score and bits from it will be recycled in stock scores later in the season. GRADE: B.
7. The Problem of the Honorable Wife
Writer: Jo Pagano Director: Don Medford
Maurice Raymond Maddock
Erskine and Rhodes are sent to San Francisco to lead the investigation of attempted sabotage of a ship headed to Vietnam to deliver war supplies. The saboteur (Peter Mark Richman, then billed just as Mark Richman) is part of a San Francisco spy ring. He has an Asian wife, who is pregnant and loves him dearly. But he’s tiring of the relationship.
As the bureau’s investigation continues, Rhodes is concerned about how the wife will react when she finds out the truth about her husband. Erskine, however, said that shouldn’t prevent the FBI from following through on the investigation.
Gunplay: Erskine fatally wounds Richman’s characters with two shots (see still at the top of this page). Rhodes and another agent shoot an accomplice of Richman’s character four times. Rhodes then deactivates a bomb the accomplice was carrying.
The episode is mostly routine until the epilogue. At this point, the saboteur is dead (he foolishly thought he could outshoot Erskine). The wife (Miiko Taka) has delivered a healthy baby boy but doesn’t think she can keep the child with her husband gone. Erskine provides some tough love, which rallies her spirits. This may sound glib, but it’s actually an emotional scene, greatly helped by Bronislau Kaper’s score. GRADE: B.
8. Courage of a Conviction
Writer: Oscar Millard Director: Don Medford
Harold Roy Castle
INTERSTATE TRANSPORTATION OF STOLEN PROPERTY
A sequel, of sorts, to episode 4. The focus, once more, is on Erskine and how he is stubborn, even when he’s being pressured by Assistant Director Arthur Ward to close a case.
In this instance, an old friend has provided Erskine a tip enabling the bureau to arrest a check forger. Except, as Erskine probes deeper, the FBI man has doubts whether it’s the same forger the bureau has been looking for. Susan Oliver, as a manipulative junkie, delivers an impressive performance. A special credit in the end titles: “Dance Number Staged by Bob Banas.” It’s related to a disco scene that’s part of the investigation.
Lee Meriwether reprises her role of Joanna Laurens from episode 4. This is the last time we’ll see Lynn Loring’s Barbara Erskine, although she’ll be referenced in some episodes. She gets shoehorned into this episode when Erskine decides to celebrate the initial arrest. Barbara says she’s sorry for the suspect. Erskine initially is annoyed but Barbara’s comments get him to reconsider the case.
We also learn that Erskine has a law degree. As the case goes to hell (with both Ward and “the Director,” J. Edgar Hoover himself, mad at the inspector), Erskine contemplates resignation and getting a job at a law firm — if he can find one to take him. The score is credited to Bronislau Kaper. GRADE: A.
9. The Exiles
Teleplay: Robert Leslie Bellem and David W. Rintels (as Pat Riddle) Story: David W Rintels (as Pat Riddle)
Director: William A. Graham
Rafael Romero, et. al
VIOLATION OF NEUTRALITY ACT
If you can overlook how this episode turns real life on its head, this is an enjoyable episode. This aired four years after the CIA organized the Bay of Pigs, a spectacularly unsuccessful attempt to overthrow Fidel Castro in Cuba. Here, the FBI is trying to prevent a Miami-based group of exiles from overthrowing the government of the fictional country of Balugua in the Carribean. The exiles have a traitor in their midst, which has led to a scouting mission being wiped out. The exile leader, Rafael Romero, is determined to press ahead with plans to invade anyway. The exiles know every FBI man in Miami, so Erskine goes undercover as a mercenary, both trying to stop the invasion and discover who the traitor is. The first of five stories for the series by Emmy-awarding winning writer David W. Rintels, who used the pen name Pat Riddle when writing for The FBI. Richard Markowitz provides a fine score. GRADE: B.
10. The Giant Killer
Writer: Mark Rodgers Director: Don Medford
Joseph Maurice Walker
The Federal Communications Commission alerts the bureau to a series of unusual, and unauthorized, short radio broadcasts. “The giant will die!” Erskine and Rhodes conclude this refers to U.S. missiles named after various gods. It turns out a mentally unbalanced man is behind the broadcasts. Erskine and Rhodes split up, with the junior agent supervising efforts in the southwestern United States to catch the man. The FBI, based on this episode, has a lot of influence with other agencies of the U.S. government, with Erskine catching a ride in a fighter jet to take over supervision of the operation. Robert Duvall, in the first of several appearances on the show, is a major attraction for the viewer. The score is by FBI theme composer Bronislau Kaper. GRADE: B.
11. All the Streets Are Silent
Writer: Mark Rodgers Director: William A. Graham
THEFT OF GOVERNMENT PROPERTY
A San Diego gang led by the Murtaugh brothers branzenly steals a shipment of high-powered U.S. military rifles. Assistant Director Arthur Ward sends Erskine and Rhodes to supervise the FBI’s investigation. Erskine, however, has something else on his mind. He’s been offered an associate partnership at a prestigious Washington law firm, which would pay him far more than his FBI salary. Erskine, with a daughter in college, is tempted to accept. On the flight from Washington to San Diego, Erskine catches a nap while Rhodes watches a movie supposedly titled “Syndicate Girl.” In reality, he’s watching clips from the 1959 Warner Bros. movie The FBI Story. Erskine gambles that informant Frankie Metro (James Farentino) will help when it counts.
Act III includes an intense shootout between the Erskine-led FBI and the Murtaugh gang. This shootout occurs March 24, 1965, according to a courtroom scene later in Act III.
Guest stars Burt Reynolds (as Michael Murtaugh) and Norman Fell (as the SAC of the FBI San Diego office) would be reunited five years later on the QM series Dan August. This is the final episode directed by William A. Graham.
Gunplay: Michael Murtaugh kills two Marines with a shotgun (one instantly, the other dies later in the hospital). Much of the shootout between the Murtaugh gang and the bureau is with machine guns. The FBI men use an earth mover as a shield. Meanwhile, a number of Murtang gang members are mowed down by machine gun fire from the agents. Jess Murtaugh (Joe Mantell) is wounded. Later, Michael Murtaugh wounds Frankie Metro when the gangster is trying to kidnap Metro’s wife (Pilar Seurat) from a Monterey, California, hospital where she’s just had a baby boy. Erskine shoots Michael Murtaugh twice. It’s implied Murtaugh is killed with the second shot.
The stock score is credited to Bronislau Kaper, but includes some of Leo Arnaud’s score from episode 4. GRADE: B.
UPDATE (July 2019): This episode figures prominently in the Quentin Tarantino-directed film Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood. In the movie, set in 1969 (not 1965, when this episode aired), Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio) is depicted as playing Michael Murtaugh instead of Burt Reynolds. You see much of the pre-titles sequence as Rick and his sidekick Cliff (Brad Pitt) watch the show at Rick’s home.
Rick anticipates, “My FBI moment!” just before we get the freeze frame, dramatic Bronislau Kaper theme music, etc. One note: A shot with the episode title is altered from the first season style (letters flush right against a plain blue background) to the fourth-season style (letters centered over an FBI seal).
Warner Archive posted part of the pre-titles sequence of the episode.
12. An Elephant Is Like a Rope
Teleplay: Robert Leslie Bellem and Lee Irwin
Story: Lee Irwin Director: Don Medford
INTERSTATE TRANSPORTATION OF STOLEN PROPERTY
A young man (Beau Bridges) drives up to FBI quarters, suffering a gun shot wound and unable to remember his identity. The car also contains hundreds of thousands of dollars. Erskine and Rhodes must identify the man and determine if he committed a crime. What’s more, two hit men (Ted Knight and Paul Mantee) are trying to kill him.
The bureau must methodically determine where the car came from, all the way back to when it was manufactured (giving sponsor Ford Motor Co. additional exposure than usual). Erskine eventually finds out the young man’s name is Jerry, who recently left an orphanage.
The title stems from the fable of three blind men trying to figure out what elephant looks like without being able to see it. (One of the blind men says an elephant is like a rope when he can only feel its tail.) At the climax of the story, director of photography William W. Spencer pulls a nifty trick. We meet a mobster named Lucky Sandstone. In long shots, he doesn’t seem extraordinary at all. But, in a closeup, Spencer lights his face to make him look as if he just came up from hell. Good performances all around. GRADE: A.
13. How to Murder an Iron Horse
Writer: Don Brinkley Director: Christian Nyby
Howard Spencer Collier Jr.
Troubled youth Howdy Collier, still angry at his now-dead father, takes out his frustration by blowing up a freight train and sending an extortion letter to the railroad. Collier’s late father neglected Howdy and instead played with toy trains. David Macklin, as Howdy, and Louise Latham, as his mother, would play son and mother in the series in each of the next two seasons. Evidently, somebody at QM Productions (perhaps John Conwell, who ran QM’s casting operation) thought they clicked. More interesting is a subplot where we again explore Erskine and his stubbornness. This time out, Erskine suffers a head injury while riding in the cab of a freight train. The FBI man is hesitant to cede the primary role when the FBI is going to make the ransom drop. Erskine isn’t depicted as perfect by any means. GRADE: B
14. Pound of Flesh
Teleplay: Tom Seller and Norman Jolley
Story: Tom Seller Director: Christian Nyby
Janice Fletcher, VICTIM
CRIME ON GOVERNMENT RESERVATION
The wife of an Army chaplain is murdered at a base in Missouri. The leading suspect is Landy, a private. The chaplain (Leslie Nielsen) would not permit Landy go to Vietnam, fearing the private would not be able to control his blood lust. With the death of the chaplain’s death, tensions between the Army and the nearby town are high. Erskine, however, isn’t convinced Landy is guilty and resists pressure to charge the private. As the pressure builds, Erskine confides to Rhodes he’s beginning to question his judgment. The stock music is credited to Bronislau Kaper, but sounds as if it includes music from of Leo Arnaud’s score from episode 4. GRADE: B
15. The Hijackers
Writer: Norman Lessing Director: Don Medford
Harold K. Smith
THEFT FROM INTERSTATE SHIPMENT
The first off-kilter episode. Normally dependable character actors Arthur O’Connell and John McIntire engage in over-acting (O’Connell especially). Smitty, O’Connell’s character, a driver forced to retire early from a trucking company, wants to get his job back. So he talks friends of his to steal Smitty’s old truck. The problem: the truck has a shipment of $500,000 in furs.
Erskine is assigned the case because the bureau has been investigating other robberies involving a similar M.O. It seems this was intended to be a lighter episode but things don’t quite work. The story is hardly a lost cause. A subplot involving Erskine’s lonely widowed uncle Walter (Cecil Kellaway) is more interesting than the main story. Kellaway and Efrem Zimbalist Jr. have a few interesting scenes together. This episode has two connections to the 1965-1971 Hogan’s Heroes series. Hogan’s co-creator Bernard Fein plays an FBI informant while Howard Caine, who’d play a bumbling Gestapo officer, portrays the owner of the trucking company that forced Smitty into retirement. Dabney Coleman, last seen as an FBI man in episode 4, shows up as a Milwaukee-based agent. The score is by Richard Markowitz. GRADE: C.
16. The Forests of the Night
Teleplay: Charles Larson Story: Sy Salkowitz Director: Christian Nyby
Adam MacDonald, et al, VICTIMS
In Oregon, a religious sect, the Jobites, is under siege. Residents of the area blame the Jobites for taking their jobs. The son of the leader of the Jobites says he was beaten by those leaving near the Jobite settlement. What’s more, the region has been hit by a drought that has lasted for almost 100 days. Erskine and Rhodes, as they press forward in their investigation, find there’s more than meets the eye. Michael Burns, as the son of the Jobite leader (John Anderson), would emerge as the go-to actor when television casting directors needed someone to play a troubled youth in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Scripter-producer Charles Larson was born in Portland, Oregon. Did Larson draw upon personal experience in writing this episode? The stock music is credited to Bronislau Kaper. GRADE: B-Minus.
17. The Chameleon
Writer: Norman Jolley Director: Don Medford
Andrew S. Cook Jr. WITH ALIASES
VIOLATION OF FEDERAL RESERVE ACT, INTERSTATE TRANSPORTATION OF STOLEN PROPERTY, MURDER
Writer-associate producer Norman Jolley seemed to have been fascinated this season with creating villains who have psychiatric issues (also see episodes 1 and 25). Andrew S. Cook Jr. (James Daly) is wound especially tightly. He is a con man who doesn’t even know his real name, having grown up in an orphanage. At times, he is the smooth operator, at others — especially when confronted about his identity — he becomes agitated and nervous. Cook also has an elaborate M.O. He: 1) romances rich widows and marries them 2) talks them into letting him build a hidden vault at home 3) takes their money 4) kills them and dumps their bodies in the vault, which he then seals up.
The FBI has been alerted by the executive vice president of a Nebraska bank, who fears a security the con man has pledged as collateral for a loan is forged. (It is.) Cook, under an alias, had married a rich woman, took control of the bank and killed her. But before the bureau can dispatch men to the bank, the executive confronts the con man, who bolts and dispenses with his current identity. Erskine and Rhodes lead the bureau’s hunt for the con man. Meanwhile, the criminal already has a new identity and is beginning another caper, this time in Dallas. For much of the episode, there are parallel tracks. We see the con man seducing his newest victim while the bureau tries to establish the con man’s real identity.
The trail leads to Fort Wayne, Indiana. It turns out the con man was abandoned at an orphanage in 1922 by a well-to-do young woman who got pregnant while unmarried. With the con man’s real identity established, Erskine requests Assistant Director Ward to ask “Mr. Hoover” to put Cook on the Ten Most Wanted List. That generates publicity, spurring Cook to travel to Fort Wayne to view his birth record. The con man gets out of town before the FBI can catch up to him. Now the question is whether the FBI can get him before he kills his current victim.
Based on this episode, the FBI field office in Fort Wayne has at least nine agents. Also, there are apparently palm trees in Dallas (from an exterior shot of what’s supposed to be a Dallas bank). This story takes place in October 1965, based on the date of a fraudulent check Cook writes (a donation to an orphanage, also part of his M.O.). James Daly is particularly good at Cook, the chameleon of the title. Act IV is tense, particularly after Cook finds out his true identity and is getting ready to kill his latest victim. The music is credited to Bronislau Kaper, but sounds like it’s a stock score, rather than original music. GRADE: A
18. The Sacrifice
Writer: Andy Lewis Director: Christian Nyby
The Doriskin Papers
The unusual pre-titles sequence takes place entirely at FBI headquarters. A State Department official brings a defecting Russian diplomat to talk to Assistant Director Arthur Ward. The defector has brought papers detailing a security leak at an important Los Angeles aerospace plant. Erskine and Rhodes both go undercover, Erskine as a lawyer, Rhodes as a newly hired accountant. Nagry (Albert Paulsen), the leader of a spy ring, has two people inside the plant operating on his behalf: an executive assistant (Nancy Wickwire) and a technical writer, Mel Olin (Ed Begley). Nagry plans to sacrifice Olin, so he’ll be killed and the FBI will conclude it has caught the spy responsible. Paulsen, who frequently played oily villains, does so here. The motivations for Begley’s Olin aren’t spelled out until the epilogue, but it’s clear Olin is a weak, dependent man. Negry poses at a projectionist at a revival movie theater. In this episode, it just happens to be playing two Warner Bros. movies directed by Howard Hawks, To Have and Have Not and The Big Sleep. The stock music is credited to Bronislau Kaper. GRADE: B-Plus.
19. Special Delivery
Writer: Samuel Newman Director: Ralph Senensky
Robert Charles Porter
BANK ROBBERY, UNLAWFUL FLIGHT, MURDER
In California, the FBI is after bank robber Robert Charles Porter, who has killed a man while on the run. Porter (Earl Holliman) has been badly wounded and is trying to get out of the country along with his girlfriend (Barbara Luna). Erskine takes charge of the case. The FBI man goes undercover because he’s also trying to find out about a ring that transports fugitives to South America. Erskine ends up on a freight train with Porter and his girlfriend, the start off a cross-country trek. Erskine must contend with a suspicious Porter. The ring’s operation is elaborate, with a number of changes of transportation. Impressive piece of stunt work in Act IV by Efrem Zimbalist Jr.’s double walking atop a semi truck while it travels at what appears to be a good clip. The first of 16 episodes directed by Ralph Senensky who has written about MOST OF THEM on his blog. The stock music is credited to Bronislau Kaper but includes bits from Leo Arnaud’s score from episode 4. GRADE: B
Teleplay: Don Brinkley Story: Ron Bishop
Director: Christian Nyby
DESTRUCTION OF GOVERNMENT PROPERTY
Fans of the Batman television series, which was underway when this episode aired, would instantly recognize the exterior of a Washington building in the pre-credits sequence. It was also used as the exterior of Gotham City Police headquarters and was featured frquently on the Adam West-Burt Ward series. This exterior is on the Warner Bros. lot. Presumably, it was judged better than similar structures at the 20th Century Fox lot where Batman was filmed.
In this FBI episode, the exterior is supposed to the Federal Law Building, where a man has planted a powerful bomb. A guard managed to get the bomb outside before it exploded. The culprit is Willard Smith (Robert Walker Jr.), who’s the cousin of FBI trainee Charlie Hunter (Michael Callan). Smith is disillusion with his country (and is avoiding the draft) and wants to strike back. Pressure is high on Erskine to solve the case because, as Assistant Director Ward puts it, if federal buildings aren’t safe, nothing is.
Character actor Rhys Williams is convincing as a blind man, who’s the only witness to the bomb being planted after he had heard it ticking. When Rhodes is tracking down the witness, we’re shown a demonstration of how Braille works. The Braille Insititute of America also receives a credit in the end titles.
The episode is elevated by a tense Act IV, when Smith plants a second bomb at the law building. A member of the Army bomb disposal unit is played by character actor Robert Phillips, who normally played thugs on television series and movies. In the epilogue, we see an agitated Erskine, who has heard Hunter has resigned. Not to fear, though. Hunter has been in the office of J. Edgar Hoover, who’s talked him into staying with the bureau. (We’ll witness another example of the Director’s powers of persuasion in episode 26.) The stock music is credited to Bronislau Kaper. GRADE: B-Plus.
21. The Spy-Master
Writer: Anthony Spinner Director: Richard Donner (as Richard D. Donner)
The Forsythe Memo, ESPIONAGE
This episode would provide the blueprint for a number of espionage stories in future seasons of the show. In Hong Kong, a U.S. diplomat is approached by a Chinese general. the diplomat opposes U.S. policy in Vietnam and has been recalled from his post. The Chinese make an approach, hoping he will provide intelligence they are seeking. While the diplomat says he’ll cooperate, he really reports the contact to his superiors.
Luckily, the diplomat bears a striking resemblance to Erskine, who goes undercover to assume the man’s identity. As Erskine plays the part, Efrem Zimbalist Jr. adopts his “English voice,” that he used as Dandy Jim Buckley in Maverick and he’d later use as the voice of Alfred the Butler in Batman cartoons starting in the early 1990s. Erskine travels to New York and makes contact with an espionage ring. The leader of the ring (Patrick O’Neal) is under intense pressure from his Chinese superiors to deliver the desired information.
One gaffe: In the climatic sequence, in what’s supposed to be New York, you can see a sign for Interstate 5, which runs through Los Angeles. The guest cast, led by O’Neal and Kevin McCarthy, is good. The music is credited to Bronislau Kaper. GRADE: A.
Warner Archive uploaded a clip from the episode to YouTube when it began marketing the series on DVD.
22. The Baby Sitter
Writer: Leonard Kantor Director: Christian Nyby
Mrs. Amy Doucette, KIDNAPPING
Acting schools should show this episode to their students and tell them to keep a close eye on Colleen Dewhurt. She plays mentally disturbed Mrs. Amy Doucette, who has kidnapped a baby. For much of the episode, Dewhurst, in effect, is doing monologues. She’s either holding the baby or pushing a baby carriage or simply talking to herself. It’s an absorbing performance, setting the audience on edge. Will she snap completely and do harm to the baby? We get an idea of just how disturbed Doucette is when she visits her sister. We see that Amy was responsible for burns that caused the sister to lose her hair, forcing her to wear a wig. Things get worse when Doucette, talking to the baby, says she’s going to exchange the child “for my Katherine.” Erskine and Rhodes lead the FBI’s manhunt, of course. There’s a big payoff in Act IV. The bureau has tracked Doucette to a cemetery near Charlotte, North Carolina. After Rhodes gets the baby away safely, Erskine goes up to Doucette. She has removed a baby coffin but it only contains a doll. Doucette, upon seeing Erskine, mistakes the FBI man for her long-dead father. The look on Efrem Zimbalist Jr.’s face is priceless as Erskine can see for himself the full depth of Doucette’s insanity. The music by Bronislau Kaper is outstanding. GRADE: A-Plus.
23. Flight to Harbin
Teleplay: Gene L. Coon and Charles Larson
Story: Gene L. Coon Director: Don Medford
Charles Wallace King ALIAS ERNEST C. PUTNAM
CRIME ABOARD AIRCRAFT, PIRACY, ATTEMPTED MURDER
There’s something about commercial aircraft in trouble that Hollywood loves. This is The FBI’s equivalent of The High and the Mighty and Airport. A disturbed man hijacks a New York-to-Seattle flight with the intention of eventually reaching Harbin in Communist China. Of course, that means we witness a cross-section of humanity including the Draft Dodger, the Obnoxious Businessman, the Stewardess Who Broke Off Her Engagement and May Really Love Another Man, the Couple With Marital Problems, Etc.
However, Arthur Hill as the hijacker delivers a very good performance. He draws the audience’s attention and keeps the soap opera elements in check. The cast also includes Milton Selzer (who over-acts at first but does better toward the end), Jessica Walter, Nancy Kovack and Jason Evers. The latter was last seen in The FBI as head of the San Francisco field office in The Problem of the Honorable Wife, but appears here as an airline captain hitching a ride on the soon-to-be-hijacked jet.
It turns out Hill’s character is a nuclear theorist who has cracked under pressure. Hill displays a variety of emotions. He’s clearly not a stereotypical villain but is dangerous. One of the highlights is in Act IV, when Erskine (summoned from a vacation in San Francisco) eventually confronts the hijacker in Anchorage. Efrem Zimbalist Jr. provides the appropriate amount of gravitas.
The proceedings of this episode were devised by Gene L. Coon. During part of this television season, he was the producer of The Wild Wild West, and the following season would become producer of Star Trek, midway its first season. Producer Charles Larson rewrote Coon’s script and both share the credit for the teleplay of this episode.
The usual team of art director Richard Y. Haman and set decorator Hoyle Barrett is absent from this episode, replaced by Richard Berger and Claude Carpenter respectively. Presumably that’s because the sets were different, mostly consisting of the inside of an airliner and control towers. Bert Remsen, who plays a tower controller in Seattle, would be back in season two as The FBI’s casting director. The score is by Sidney Cutner, but there’s a snippet from episode 4. GRADE: B, mostly because of the performances of Hill and Zimbalist.
24. The Man Who Went Mad by Mistake
Teleplay: Robert Leslie Bellem Story: Dan Ullman Director: Ralph Senensky
Mark Stephen Tabor
BOND DEFAULT, FRAUD AGAINST THE GOVERNMENT, UNLAWFUL FLIGHT
In Chicago, businessman/mob member Mark Tabor (J.D. Cannon) is on the eve of a court appearance to face federal charges. Tabor is cocky, feeling he can beat the rap. His confederates in the syndicate aren’t nearly as confident and want him to flee the country. When Tabor refuses, there’s an attempted hit that Tabor narrowly escapes.
Tabor is now on the run. Assistant Director Ward assigns the case to Erskine, who gets the call at the end of a typically long day. Before the bureau can track Tabor down, Tabor has himself committed to an overcrowded psychiatric hospital. The FBI is in a box. Tabor has a genuine history of mental illness. Erskine goes undercover and is committed to the same facility to prove that Tabor is faking it.
J.D. Cannon was a favorite of the QM Productions casting department. It’s easy to understand why watching this episode. Tabor on the surface appears to be a sophisticated man. But he has a very dark side. As a result, J.D. Cannon gets plenty of opportunity to use his acting chops.
Harold Gould, who appeared as the head of the FBI’s Baltimore office in episode 4, returns here as the head of the psychiatric facility where Tabor is committed. Sponsor Ford Motor Co. gets more product exposure than usual as Tabor flees from authorities in a truck hauling various Ford models. Director Ralph Senesky utilizes an unusual shot. When Tabor is calling from a phone booth, there’s a shot as if the camera were inside the pay phone. all you see is a tight shot of J.D. Cannon and a black dial. Senensky would use a similar shot in season 2. To read how the director remembers this episode, CLICK HERE. The stock music is credited to Bronislau Kaper. GRADE: B.
25. The Divided Man
Teleplay: Norman Jolley Story: David Duncan Director: Don Medford
Roger Leroy Mason, SABOTAGE
The final installment of writer-associate producer Norman Jolley’s “mental illness” trilogy. Roger Mason is a more sympathetic character compared with the villains in episodes 1 and 17. Mason is a chemist and loves working in a laboratory. But he’s a part owner of a company in shaky financial condition and he’s been forced to do sales calls. He’s also separated from his wife. On top of all that, he served during the Korean War and was brainwashed. In short, Mason (Bradford Dillman) isn’t the most stable person and he’s under a lot of stress. As a result, he has what used to be called a “split personality.” He’s sabotaging chemical facilities that are important suppliers to the U.S. space program and defense network. Erskine and Rhodes are assigned to the case when the bureau initially suspects foreign powers of the sabotage. It takes Erskine some time before he gets on the right track. During this period, Assistant Director Arthur Ward is breathing down Erskine’s neck.
Besides Bradford Dillman, the guest cast includes Jacqueline Scott and Dabbs Greer. All three would return in future seasons. Sidney Cutner turns in a very good score, some of which would be re-used in episode 30. GRADE: B-Plus.
26-27. The Defector Parts I and II
Writer: Norman Lessing Director: Christian Nyby
The Holman Defection, ESPIONAGE
The first two-part story for the series is a doozy. An Eastern Bloc chess champion, Dr. Gregory Holman, is also an operative for an unnamed country. It appears the man has been killed when a bomb explodes at a Washington night club. He was a possible defector. The U.S. is on the verge of an important peace conference and the man’s knowledge is vital for American officials can anticipate moves from the Soviet bloc.
The guest cast is impressive, including Paul Lukas as the cagey ambassador of the unnamed foreign country; John Van Dreelen as an oily chess player who’s playing both sides against the middle; George Voskovec as Holman; and Dana Wynter as Holman’s wife. Future Emmy-award winning director James Frawley also appears as an assassin in the employ of the unnamed country.
Efrem Zimbalist Jr.’s Erskine more than holds his own against the guest stars. Toward the end of Part I’s Act IV, Erskine has outsmarted Van Dreelen’s character.
“Mr. Erskine, I thought you told me you were a very poor chess player,” Van Dreelen’s character says.
“I am, very poor,” Erskine replies.
“Not in my opinion, sir.” It’s one of the best moments for Erskine in the entire series.
Also of note, this two-part story is a bit of a reunion for cast and crew of the 1951 film The Thing From Another World. Director Christian Nyby is the officially credited director of that movie, although it’s generally believed Howard Hawks was the real director. Meanwhile, character actor Robert Cornthwaite (a troublesome scientist in The Thing) shows up as an official of the chess match in Part I.
We also get to see another example of J. Edgar Hoover’s power to persuade people. Erskine has determined that a chess match was thrown as a way to send signals. The FBI needs the cooperation of chess champion Larry Norton (Warren Berlinger), a character that seems to be based on Bobby Fischer. Norton is a chess puritan and isn’t likely to cooperate. But, when he comes out of Hoover’s office, he’s more than willing to play along. It’s another very nice scene in a story full of them.
Part II is a bit padded, including a long segment involving an FBI chase after Frawley’s assassin character is driving madly with the ambassador and Holman’s wife in the back seat. Included in the sequence is an FBI helicopter (probably piloted by James W. Gavin) leading the chase. The stock score is credited to Bronislau Kaper, but it includes some of Sidney Cutner’s music from episode 25. GRADE: A.
28. The Tormentors
Writer: Anthony Spinner Director: Jesse Hibbs
Logan Clyde Dupree, John Carl Brock, Anita James
The young son (Kurt Russell) of an aging millionaire, Marshall Winslow (Lew Ayres), is kidnapped. One of the kidnappers is the sickly and disturbed DuPree (Wayne Rogers). Erskine and Rhodes, leading the FBI’s investigation, must deal with an extremely uncooperative Winslow. Against the bureau’s advice, Winslow publicly offers a reward, which could easily backfire. Very tense, well acted episode, with a cast that also includes Edward Asner as another one of the kidnappers. You know things are bad when Ed Asner’s character is the most stable of the kidnappers. William Reynolds, who will become Erskine’s sidekick Tom Colby in the third season, plays another FBI man here. The music is credited to Bronislau Kaper. GRADE: A.
29. The Animal
Writer: Mark Rodgers Director: Christian Nyby
Earl Clayton, Roy Joe Spencer, et al —
ESCAPED FEDERAL PRSIONERS, KILLING A FEDERAL OFFICER
Charles Bronson dominates the episode as Earl Clayton, a killer who engineers a jailbreak. By the spring of 1966, Bronson was working mostly in movies, having already appeared in The Magnificent Seven and The Great Escape and would shortly be seen the following year in The Dirty Dozen. Clayton, as the title implies, is pretty much an animal and clearly enjoys killing. The FBI, led by Erskine and Rhodes, is tracking down Clayton. But the criminal has hostages, greatly complicating the bureau’s efforts to bring him back to custody. By the climatic sequence, some viewers may be tempted to yell at the television for Erskine to just shoot Clayton as many times as he can.
Gunplay: Too many shots to count. Bronson’s Clayton kills deputies while escaping in the pre-titles sequence. He shoots one of his fellow escapees in the back with a shotgun (when the escapee asked to be let go from any obligation to Clayton). Another one of Clayton’s escapees is killed in a gun battle with authorities. When the FBI tracks Clayton down to a mountain lodge, there’s plenty more gunfire, including a gun fight where both Erskine and Rhodes appear to shoot Clayton.
Philip Abbott’s Assistant Director Arthur Ward doesn’t get the most screen time, but he gets the best line of the episode as his character discovers how Clayton made his escape. “How easy it is to kill somebody in this country. The weapon comes in the morning mail.”
Future Star Trek co-star James Doohan has a small role. This episode title would be re-used in season 9, but has no connection to this story. Much of the story was filmed in the San Bernardino National Forest, which is noted in the end titles. The soundtrack on the DVD seems to be damaged or distorted for the first half of the episode. The score is credited to Bronislau Kaper. GRADE: A.
30. The Plunderers
Writer: William Fay Director: Ralph Senensky
King Hogan, Frank Donald Collins, Otto Hans Breese, Edward Ralph Richards
BANK ROBBERY, MURDER
An episode where Assistant Director Arthur Ward doesn’t appear and actor Philip Abbott isn’t included in the main titles. The bureau investigates an odd bank robbery. It went smoothly and professionally, but a lot more could have been stolen but wasn’t. It turns out the robbery was actually a practice run for a much larger job. The leader of the robbers is King Hogan (Ralph Meeker), who picked up tips from a master bank robber while in prison. Hogan wants to do the “Mount Everest” of bank jobs and even carries around a National Geographic photo of someone who climbed the peak. (National Geographic gets a credit in the end titles.) One of the robbers on the practice run lost a small button, which provides the bureau key clues.
Gunplay: Qutie a lot. A security guard is fatally wounded in the pre-titles sequence. King Hogan executes one of his confederates at the end of Act III. Erskine, other FBI men and police blast away at Hogan in the climax of Act IV.
Director Ralph Senensky, IN AN ENTRY in his blog, summarized the episode: “THE PLUNDERERS was a caper movie, relating in minute detail the plans for a big bank robbery. With so much time devoted to the planning of the crime, the characters of the criminals were by necessity sketched in broader strokes.” The stock score is credited to Bronislau Kaper but the pre-credits sequence includes music composed by Sidney Cutner for episode 25. GRADE: B-Plus.
31. The Bomb Who Walked Like a Man
Teleplay: Richard Neil Morgan and Charles Larson
Story: Richard Neil Morgan Director: Christian Nyby
Dale Vernon Hillman KIDNAPPING, MURDER
The daughter of a police official (Andrew Duggan) in Wilmington, Delaware, has been kidnapped and murdered. The woman wasn’t “criminally assaulted,” according to Assistant Director Arthur Ward. The body was found across a state line, making it a case for the bureau. At the start of Act II, you tell this is an important case the way Assistant Director Arthur Ward looks grim after coming out of J. Edgar Hoover’s office.
In the meantime, killer Dale Hillman (Robert Drivas) has hooked up with a neo-Nazi type group. (That name isn’t specifically used and the group’s uniforms don’t have swastikas.) Erskine, yet again, goes undercover as a misfit to join up with the group as he tries to find the suspect. The stock music is credited to Bronislau Kaper. GRADE: B.
32. The Hiding Place
Writer: Robert Leslie Bellem Director: Don Medford
Kenjiro Fujita, TREASON
Powerful story about the impact of fear and prejudice, utilizing a guest cast of Asian American actors. In Green Haven, Oregon, evidence emerges that Kenjiro Fujita, born in the United States but who joined the Japanese military in World War II, has committed an assault. Erskine and Rhodes are dispatched to the Oregon town, which was founded in 1947. Green Haven is populated by Asian Americans. Its citizens are on edge, suspecting each other of being the notorious traitor, who committed war crimes during the Bataan Death March. The guest cast includes familiar faces such as Philip Ahn, Benson Fong, Victor Sen Young and Keye Luke as well as an uncredited appearance by Mako. Erskine reluctantly seeks the help of Eric Delby (Charles Aidman), a survivor of Fujita’s abuses, who is described as “blind and psychotic,” in a desperate bid to identify the traitor.
Gunplay: None (a rarity for Season One). Erskine and Rhodes do draw their weapons but don’t fire them.
According to the 2003 book Quinn Martin: Producer, this episode didn’t air on ABC because sponsor Ford Motor Co. feared a boycott by Asian Americans. A lawyer, who was interviewed about playing a part, said Japanese-Americans would boycott Ford cars if the episode were made. The episode was included in the DVD set released by Warner Archive.
This episode is the last time Barbara Erskine is even mentioned. The music by Bronislau Kaper is very good. GRADE: A.
Go to SEASON THREE.