Season Seven (1971-72)

Erskine, still shooting true, in Season Seven of The FBI

Erskine, his aim still true, makes perhaps his most impressive shot in the series in the first part of Season Seven’s The Mastermind.

The FBI remained in a holding pattern going into its seventh season.

Erskine and Colby fought their relentless war against evil doers, with little or no depictions of a personal life. Arthur Ward, for the most part, stayed at bureau headquarters, on the phone with Erskine or checking with the FBI crime lab about its progress with evidence.

Behind the camera, the same main players, led by producer Philip Saltzman, stayed in place. The only change in the playbook was having a two-part story, the first since Season Three. It would be the last for the series. Tellingly, it was written by Robert Heverly, still doing the heaviest lifting among series writers, and directed by Virgil W. Vogel. This would also be the final season produced while FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover was alive. He died in May 1972, after the first new episode of the season had been broadcast on ABC.

Quinn Martin meanwhile, sold his first series not for ABC — Cannon, the private eye drama with William Conrad (who, once upon a time, had been the narrator of QM’s The Fugitive), that aired on CBS. That series was popular with viewers and would run for five seasons. It was beginning of a hot streak for QM Productions, which had relied on The FBI as its flagship.

Credits for the season

Executive Producer: Quinn Martin

Producer: Philip Saltzman

Associate Producer: Mark Weingart

Story Consultant: Robert Heverly

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. Inc.

Text and reviews (c) 2015, William J. Koenig

167. Death on Sunday

Writer: Mark Weingart  Director: Virgil W. Vogel

Irwin Lynch, Zach Parker

Paul Talbot — VICTIM

EXTORTION

A professional football quarterback is the subject of an extortion scheme. The team is in the San Francisco Bay area but not identified beyond that (likely for copyright/trademark reasons). Lew Brown returns as San Francisco SAC Allen Bennett.

The quarterback, Paul Talbot (Frank Converse) hesitates to seek help from the bureau but does so because his wife (Linda Marsh) is concerned. The episode is average for the series and amounts to a basic procedural story.

Because the quarterback is so prominent, Erskine and Colby are assigned to the case by Assistant Director Arthur Wart. Writer-associate producer Mark Weingart provides a few slight twists on the now-established formula. Colby interviews a woman witness who clearly likes him a lot. But given  how the real life FBI monitored the show, this is only a brief change from the norm. Also, Colby gets a turn at being compassionate when talking to Mrs. Talbot.

Trivia: Talbot and his wife sleep in single beds. This probably has to be one of the last depictions of a married couple with children not sleeping in a double bed.

Talbot’s team dresses in uniforms similar to the University of South California Trojans. There’s some stock footage of USC games. The lead extortionist (Andrew Prine) decides to kill Talbot and it’s up to Erskine to prevent the killing in the middle of a playoff game.

Gunplay: Erskine wounds one of the extortionists with a single shot. The inspector tackles the lead extortionist (Andrew Prine) after the latter has smuggled a rifle into the football stadium.

The episode has a stock score that includes some Richard Markowitz music from Season Three’s By Force and Violence. In the epilogue, we’re reminded that Erskine likes to go fishing when he talks to Talbot’s son after the case is solved. GRADE: B.

168. Recurring Nightmare

Writer: Robert Lewin  Director: Virgil W. Vogel

Dale Fisher, Graham Newcomb

Gwendolyn Rankin — Victim

KIDNAPPING

A young woman (Belinda Montgomery) is kidnapped in Colorado. Her biological father was involved in the theft of $400,000. Her abductors, Fisher and Newcomb (Tim McIntire and Ralph Meeker) want to use her to find where the money is buried in a U.S. National Forest.

Erskine and Colby spearhead the bureau’s investigation. The FBI agents must track Fisher and Newcomb deep into the forest. The woman, meanwhile tries to pit the criminals against each other, hoping she can make a break for it.

Another basic procedural. The location shooting is a big plus and the Forest Service gets an acknowledgment in the end titles. There’s a missed opportunity when Erskine and Colby talk to the woman’s adoptive parents. We don’t get to see the Compassionate Erskine we saw in earlier kidnap stories.

Gunplay: Newcomb fires at bureau agents with a rifle. Erskine wounds Newcomb with a single, right-handed shot.

Duane Tatro provides an effective original score, which is particularly good in Act IV. At one point, Colby calls Erskine “Lewis” when he normally called him “Lew.” Barbara Billingsley plays the adoptive mother of the kidnapped woman. Veteran character actor Kenneth Tobey also shows up as a forest ranger. Interestingly, McTire’s parents (John McTire and Jeanette Nolan) would appear in the next episode. GRADE: B-Minus.

169. The Last Job

Writer: Robert Heverly  Director: Virgil W. Vogel

Michael “Doc” Lacy, Jerrold Rivers

UNLAWFUL FLIGHT TO AVOID CONFINEMENT, ARMED ROBBERY, INTERSTATE TRANSPORTATION OF STOLEN VEHICLE

This is an episode that clicks on all levels, perfectly balancing a character study of a veteran criminal along with the procedural elements.

Standing above all is guest star John McIntire as Doc Lacey, who has been a criminal since he was 16, earned a fearsome reputation and who has spent the last 27 years at a prison in Louisiana.

Lacy is has been sprung from a work detail at that Louisiana prison by Jerry Rivers (Guy Stockwell) to help rob an Army payroll in Washington state. In the breakout, Lacy shoots, but reluctantly, a prison guard trying to prevent the escape. Lacy has lost some of his once bloodthirsty edge, but still is more than willing to shoot to remain at large.

After  Lacy and Rivers cross state lines, the bureau is called into the case. Erskine and Colby travel to the prison to interview inmates. One, knowing Erskine wouldn’t be permitted to carry his weapon, grabs the inspector by the throat, figuring he can use the FBI man as a way out. Erskine subdues him and resumes the questioning. (Erskine’s hair also seems to straighten up a bit easily.)

Lacy and Rivers meet up with Eugene Bradshaw (David Canary). Bradshaw and Rivers want to blow up a bridge as part of stealing the payroll. But the cagey Lacy figures out a tunnel along the route the payroll is traveling is a better spot.

Meanwhile, Lacy is using his freedom to try to reconcile separately with his long-estranged son and dying wife. The latter is played by McIntire’s real-life wife of more than 50 years, the excellent character actress Jeanette Nolan. She doesn’t appear until Act IV, but she’s worth the wait. In a very nice moment, she claims to have forgotten Lacy long ago, yet we see she’s wearing a locket with both of their pictures in it. (The photos appear to be of the real-life couple at a much-younger age.) McIntire and Nolan are wonderful together and squeeze the proper amount of emotion from the scene.

The episode, meanwhile is not all emotion. Lacy has a recurrent heart problem (not unlike Jack Klugman’s veteran, but less violent, criminal in Season Five’s The Diamond Millstone). Also, Erskine & Co. keep efficiently plugging away. The bureau men narrowly miss the conspirators after they’ve stolen explosives intended for the payroll robbery. The bureau scenes proceed at a quick pace.

Gunplay: Lacy, besides shooting the prison guard, separately wounds a policeman who has stopped the criminal after one of his heart episodes. Following the payroll robbery, Bradshaw shoots at Erskine. The inspector returns fire, wounding Bradshaw with a single, right-handed shot.

Trivia: With all this, the FBI helicopter also makes an appearance. Meanwhile, the cast also includes Paul Sorensen as the security chief of the plant where the explosives are stolen. This was his seventh appearance in the series, going all the way back to episode 1. He’d return for two more.

Music supervisor John Elizalde steps in to provide a very effective original score. GRADE: A

 

170. The Deadly Gift

Writer: Ben Masselink  Director: Philip Abbott

Charles Ridgeway, Julie Rhodes

INTERSTATE TRANSPORTATION OF STOLEN PROPERTY

Charles Ridgeway (Fritz Weaver) and Julie Rhodes (Joan Van Ark) have come up with a new con where Ridgeway passes himself off as a psychic to rich people who desperately want to believe they can contact departed loved ones.

Their latest con in New Orleans goes bad and Ridgeway injures the mark while getting away with a substantial amount of jewels. Ridgeway crosses state lines, bringing the bureau into the case. Erskine and Colby are assigned to take the lead in the investigation.

The con artists flee to Connecticut, where their next target is Carol Stanford (Dana Wynter), a rich widow whose son drowned while skin diving in the Bahamas. Julie gains her confidence, feeding key information to Ridgeway so he can pass himself off as a convincing psychic.

Meanwhile, Erskine and Colby zigzag across the country, discovering how Ridgeway and Julie passed themselves off as a psychic act. The relentless FBI men press forward. The question is whether they can put the pieces together in time to prevent Mrs. Stanford from being taken by the con artists.

This episode is Old Home Week. Besides Weaver, Wynter and Van Ark (all of whom appeared on the show previously), the cast also includes John Lasell, making his sixth appearance in the series. Also, there’s a young Ed Begley Jr. as a witness, following in the footsteps of his father, who was a guest star in Season One’s The Sacrifice. Meanwhile, director of photography William W. Spencer makes Wynter look radiant in closeups.

Trivia: The cast also includes Nora Marlowe, who had a small role in North by Northwest, where her character almost ruins things for Cary Grant’s Roger O. Thornhill in the climatic sequence. In this episode, she plays a theatrical booking agent interviewed by Erskine and Colby.

Gunplay: In Act IV, Ridgeway raises a shotgun but Erskine and Colby wound him before the con man can pull the trigger. Ridgeway appears to be shot in either the stomach or chest, but survives.

The episode has a stock score. Director Abbott uses some interesting camera angles in the pre-titles sequence. After that, things are steady as she goes. GRADE: B.

171. Dynasty of Hate

Writer: Robert Heverly  Director: Virgil W. Vogel

Lee Everett Chard

James Faron — Victim

KIDNAPPING

As a writer, there’s a sure fire method to add gravitas to your tale. You can either cite Shakespeare or the Bible.

Writer-story consultant Robert Heverly takes the latter route in this tale, which adds a Cain and Able subtext to the proceedings. In this case, a powerful, but ailing rancher (Jim Davis) favors his youngest son Jimmy (Bryan Montgomery) over his oldest, Drake (Earl Holliman).

As a result, Drake Faron, through a middleman (Dabbs Greer), hires Lee Chard (Henry Silva) to kill his brother and make it look like a robbery. But once Chard realizes who his target is, he decides to keep the younger Faron alive and play his own game.

Because it’s officially a kidnapping case, the bureau is involved immediately, with Erskine supervising the investigation. We only get a few glimpses of Erskine going beyond his normal professional job. One of the best is when stares intensely at an initially reluctant witness. The witness, a waitress who works for the middleman, quickly realizes the inspector means business and gives up the information.

The episode is heightened by location shooting. The FBI helicopter shows up in Act IV and we get a pretty good look at pilot James W. Gavin. The episode also is full of old pros. Besides the aforementioned actors, one of Drake Faron’s confederates is played by character actor L.Q. Jones.

Gunplay: Chard wounds Jimmy Faron with a rifle. Drake Faron wounds Chard with a rifle. Drake Faron tries to open fire on Erskine, who wounds Faron with a single right-handed pistol shot.

Music supervisor John Elizalde dips into Season One and Season Two for some of the stock score, along music from more recent episodes. Not a particularly innovative episode, but it’s suitably tense, particularly in Act IV. GRADE: B.

172.-173. The Mastermind

Writer: Robert Heverly  Director: Virgil W. Vogel

Curtis Breer, Howard Douglas Rademaker, Clenard Massey, Lewis Lyle Chernik

INTERSTATE TRANSPORTATION OF STOLEN PROPERTY, INTERSTATE TRANSPORTATION OF STOLEN MOTOR VEHICLE

The show’s final two-part story is a highlight for the season.

Four men disguised as entertainers conduct a “brazen” robbery at a Louisville, Kentucky, amusement park, getting away with $1.8 million. They cross the state line into Indiana, bringing the bureau into the case. The case is so high priority that Assistant Director Arthur Ward accompanies Erskine in the early stages of the investigation.

When the four men gather to split the money, the mastermind of the caper, Curtis Breer (Bradford Dillman) double crosses his confederates at gunpoint. He takes all the money for himself, with the other three vowing to track him down. They don’t know the true identity of the mastermind, but refer to him as “the salesman,” for the way he recruited them.

Erskine and Colby criss-cross the country following up leads. The first robber they identify is Howard Rademaker (Steve Ihnat) who didn’t wear gloves while in the armored car containing the money. His fingerprints turn up and the FBI men press forward with their search for Rademaker.

It turns out Breer leads a double life — he’s an actual salesman in San Diego. Breer plotted the caper to get out of his rat race life and so he can live high with his wife and daughter.

Meanwhile, Rademaker and other two robbers, Massey (Scott Marlowe) and Chernik (Clu Gulager), are in St. Louis, where they’ve discovered “the salesman” organizer of the robbery spent some time. Erskine and Colby apprehend Rademaker in the middle of robbing a grocery store to raise additional money. The FBI men now have the names of three of the four robbers but still have few clues about the mastermind.

Massey has gotten friendly with the St. Louis girlfriend. She points him in the direction of San Diego, saying she saw him call there and it seemed to be home. Massey relays this to Chernik, who wants to head to the California city. But the bureau catches up to Massey while he’s still in St. Louis and after Chernik has left.

In San Diego, it comes down to a vengeful Chernik wanting to even the score with Breer. The bureau is on the trail as well and Erskine and Colby try to reach Breer first.

The cast is full of actors who’ve appeared previously in The FBI as well as other QM Productions shows. This is The FBI finale for Steve Ihnat, who died in May 1972 at age 37. In the first part, when the bureau men apprehend Rademaker at the grocery store, Ihnat does his own stunts, crashing into stacks of cans and displays trying to evade Erskine.

Scott Marlowe once again plays a bad guy, but gets to show his tender side as he falls in love with the St. Louis woman. Bradford Dillman is at times calm and collected and a nervous wreck. Dillman is convincing as someone whose ambition has overtaken his common sense.

Clu Gulager makes his only appearance on The FBI but would show up on other QM series. His Chernik comes across as genuinely dangerous. He also makes an impression visually with messy hair and thick glasses (Chernik is almost blind in one eye).

Trivia: This case takes a long time to solve. The robbery took place on June 14, according to narrator Marvin Miller at the start of the second installment. Later, we’re shown that Breer is moving the money around various banks and can see there’s a deposit slip dated late October. Also, Breer looks at a list of banks he’s using. One is named after production manager Dick Gallegly.

QM had changed the two-part format since The FBI’s last multi-part story in Season Three. Both parts are just called The Mastermind, with no Part I or Part II. The pre-titles sequence in the second part is a recap. In previous series two-parters, the story continued without a recap. Finally, in the second part, it’s Act V, Act VI, Act VII and Act VIII. In previous two-parters, the second installment was still Act I, Act II, Act III and Act IV.

Gunplay: Breer wounds a security guard at the amusement park and later shoots Chernik in the arm while taking all the money. Erskine shoots Rademaker through a side of beef at the grocery store. When nothing happens initially, Erskine has a brief look of disbelief before Rademaker falls to the floor. Chernik shoots at Breer in San Diego while the latter is riding up an exterior elevator. Breer shoots at Erskine, who returns fire and wounds the mastermind with a single shot. Rademaker needed hospitalization at a jail, as seen at the start of Act V. But Breer seems none too worse for the wear in the epilogue of the second part.

The episode has a stock score, using multiple sources. Act VIII in the second part uses some of Richard Markowitz’s music from Season Five’s The Scapegoat. Some action sequences in both parts seem a little padded, but overall a tense story. GRADE: A-Minus.

174. The Watch-Dog

Writer: Gerald Sanford  Director: Allen Reisner

Luther Shawn, Damian Howards, Ralph Kurland

and Kate Waller

ESPIONAGE

A Communist spy ring operating out of Boston is after a “remote observation” spacecraft. A scientist working on the project has provided the plans for only the first stage. The scientist demands additional money to supply another key part of the plans, the BZ-24, the system which transmits pictures.

The scientist tries to bluff spymaster Luther Shawn (Ivor Barry) that he knows more about the spy’s real identity. Shawn calls the bluff by having his Rottweiler dog maul the scientist. The scientist, in trying to evade the dog, falls from a cliff and is injured severely.

The bureau enters the case when high-speed transmissions are intercepted from a Communist ship off Massachusetts. The messages refer to the code name Watch-Dog, referring to the BZ-24. Of course, Shawn’s dog gives the episode title a double meaning. Erskine and Colby are assigned to investigate.

Shawn orders his No. 2 man Damian Howards (Stuart Whitman) to resume a relationship with an administrative assistant (Sharon Acker) at the contractor that’s developing the system. Howards had previously dated her before the spy ring made a deal with the now-injured scientist. So Howards commences to try to seduce the lonely woman.

Things get complicated. Shawn doesn’t trust Howards, imagines the No. 2 man covets his job. Another intercepted message from the ship indicates Shawn has permission to have Howards returned to “the Eastern zone” once the plans are acquired — and to have Howards liquidated if he resists.

By this point, espionage stories evidently were falling out of favor with the production team. This was one of only three this season. Whitman and Acker are OK but there’s some oompf missing. Acker’s character, Kate Waller, reminds me somewhat of Dina Merrill’s Jean Davis in episode 1. Both are a bit older and both have searched a long time for love without finding it.  The parents of both characters died, leaving both characters to raise a younger sister. The two characters even resemble each other physically. Meanwhile, Erskine is on total cruise control in this episode, without a glimpse of any quirks whatsoever.

Gunplay: Kate’s sister has a boyfriend who checks out Damian. Shawn has the Rottweiler maul him *and* shoots the guy in the shoulder. He’s interrupted before he can kill the boyfriend. Erskine nails Shawn with a single right-handed shot. Shawn falls and looks like he won’t get up. But he survived because we’re told in the epilogue that Shawn was among those convicted of espionage.

This episode has a stock score. GRADE: C-Plus.

175. The Game of Terror

Writer: Robert Malcolm Young  Director: Ralph Senensky

John “Chill” Chilton, Bryan Welles

EXTORTION

The production team tries to shake things up a bit. We have what amounts to a kidnapping story — a staple of the series — but this time the perpetrators are two young men, “Chill” Chilton (Richard Thomas) and Bryan Welles (Jerry Houser), students at an Arizona boarding school.

Their victim is the nerdy son of a rich man, George Kingerman (Gary Tigerman). Bryan thinks the abduction is “just a gag” while Chilton is entirely serious. Chilton has his issues (including a father who left him) and this is his way of becoming a “big man.”

Chilton and Welles trick George into going down into an old mine, where they lock him in a storage room. The duo aren’t really a match for Erskine, who apprehends them in Act III. The main complication is a construction project has started, which will result in the hills above the mine being plowed flat for a landing strip. Now things become a race to save George before he runs out of air.

We get to see glimpses of “Compassionate Erskine,” though not as much as with previous kidnapping stories. However, in Act IV, when Erskine rescues George, the FBI inspector demonstrates genuine joy that he wasn’t too late. Richard Thomas, had already filmed the TV movie that would spawn The Waltons television series, gets to come across as genuinely creepy.

Returning was director Ralph Senensky, who hadn’t directed an episode of the series since Season Two’s The Courier.

” My return to THE FBI occurred in the middle of their seventh season,” Senensky wrote in AN ENTRY ON HIS BLOG. “THE FBI had an advantage. It was really an anthology with a new cast of characters each week (except for the bureau’s agents) and the anthology was a form that had unfortunately disappeared from our television screens.”

Senensky comes up with some interesting camera angles here and there, and a scene with Erkine in a tunnel trying to get to the kidnapped boy is appropriately claustrophobic. The cast includes Dabney Coleman as the administrator of the boarding school.

Gunplay: None.

Michel Mention provides a serviceable original score. It’s lower key than the bigger Bronislau Kaper/Richard Markowitz sound of the early seasons. GRADE: B.

176. End of a Hero

Writer: Ed Waters  Director: Ralph Senensky

Del Keller, Victor Hines, Et Al.

INTERSTATE TRANSPORTATION OF STOLEN PROPERTY, INTERSTATE TRANSPORTATION OF STOLEN MOTOR VEHICLE

You want helicopters? This episode has got helicopters.

In the pre-titles sequence, Del Keller (Kaz Garas) and Victor Hines (Joseph Hindy) pull off a jewel heist in St. Louis. They drive across the state line into Illinois where a confederate is waiting with a helicopter to whisk them away.

The bureau is called in because it’s now an interstate case and Erskine takes charge. The crooks, in the meantime, sell the jewels to a fence and get $45,000. The intent is for this to be seed money for a bigger haul in Colorado. But the pilot, unsatisfied with his split, takes a full third and drives off. Now, Keller and Hines need to find themselves a new pilot.

That pilot ends up being Vincent Paquette (Ed Nelson), a down-on-his luck former military pilot. Pacquette has been lying to his wife (Lee Meriwhether) and himself for years. For example, he has framed a set of medals he claims to have been awarded. In reality, he won them in a poker game.

Paquette initially refuses Keller and Hines but ends up going along. Mrs. Paquette determines something is wrong but can’t stop her husband from going.

While this is transpiring, Erskine and Colby are following up leads. They apprehend the first pilot at a motel in Albuquerque. In a nice piece of stunt work by Efrem Zimbalist Jr.’s stunt double, Erskine dives off steps, forcing the pilot into a swimming pool. Two punches later, the pilot is arrested.

In Act IV, as the Colorado heist unfolds, we see not one (the helicopter with the crooks), not two (the helicopter with Erskine and Colby), but three helicopters (another bureau aircraft). There are shots of guest star Ed Nelson inside an actual flying helicopter to see you on the illusion he’s actually piloting the aircraft. Plus, there’s a good deal of aerial photography. Appropriately, the final shot in the helicopter is taken by a rising helicopter.

“I had filmed scenes with helicopters before, but never as extensively as in this production, and I was always on the ground with the choppers flying above me,” director Ralph Senensky wrote in THIS ENTRY IN HIS BLOG. “(T)his would be my first time flying in the helicopter with the cameraman as he filmed.”

Efrem Zimbalist Jr. has a short, but very nice, scene with Lee Meriwether as we see a bit of “Compassionate Erskine” talking Mrs. Paquette into cooperating. Ed Nelson, meantime, goes from loud mouth (when he’s lying to himself) to grimly realizing what he’s become and what he’s gotten into.

Gunplay: After the bad guys’ helicopter has been forced down, Keller and Hines try to make a run for it in a car. They (foolishly) open fire on Erskine and Colby. The FBI men return firing, wounding Hines.

The episode has a stock score. The proceedings are a little padded in Act IV, but not horribly so. GRADE: B-Minus.

177. Superstition Rock
Writer: 
Mark Rodgers  Director: Seymour Robbie

Arlen Parent

ASSAULT ON A FEDERAL OFFICER

George Harris  VICTIM

This episode is an interesting mix. It has familiar plot elements with some stylistic flourishes.

The latter is immediately evident in the pre-titles sequence. QM Productions prided itself on actually filming night scenes at night. But in this episode, the entire pre-titles sequence and the start of Act I is filmed as “day for night” — actually filmed during the day while using camera filters to simulate night.

“Day for night” really isn’t anything like actually filming at night. In this case, you can even contrast the technique with Act III, where there’s a short sequence actually filmed at night. My guess is director Seymour Robbie wanted to take advantage of the spectacular California scenery. If you actually film at night, lights give you a limited field of vision.

The story concerns a California mine plagued by accidents and “bad luck.” The local American Indian population believes it’s because the mine is too close to an Indian burial ground. An office of the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs has been assaulted and is in a coma. That brings the FBI into the case. Assistant Director Arthur Ward assigns Erskine to the case immediately. Colby is wrapping up a case and is to be sent soon afterward.

It turns out the accidents are anything but. Seemingly solid citizen Ewing Carter (Dana Elcar) is conspiring with mine foreman Jim Wade (Wayne Rogers) to halt operations at the mine. The idea is that the company that owns the mine will be forced to sell and Carter already has a bid in. Wade owes money to Carter and can’t keep up with the expenses generated by his free-spending wife (Marj Dusay).

After Colby arrives, he goes undercover as a new mine employee with an arrest record. Meanwhile, Erskine takes the lead on the investigation. There’s an amusing scene where Erskine interviews Mrs. Wade. With just a raised eyebrow or two, Efrem Zimbalist Jr.’s Erskine lets the audience know he doesn’t think much of Mrs. Wade’s spending habits. Also, in Act IV, Erskine seems genuine concerned when Colby is in peril.

There are also a few oddities. In Act I, things are set up as a bit of a whodunnit. Arlen Parent, who actually assaulted the Bureau of Indian Affairs agent, is beaten up by somebody we can’t see. But, in Act II, everything is spelled out. There’s also an oddity in the end titles. All of the actors with guest star billing are listed with “co-starring” billing. The guest stars were last listed in the end titles of Season Two. Why they get repeated here isn’t clear.

Gunplay: None.

Overall, however, this is a very solid episode, greatly helped by the location scenery. The U.S. Forest Service even gets a thank you in the end titles.

The episode has a stock score. GRADE: A-Minus.

178. The Minerva Tapes

Writer: Warren Duff  Director: Michael O’Herlihy

Lucas Vale, Henri Dulac, George Damian, Et Al

ESPIONAGE

Another reworking of Season Three’s Counter-Stroke. A Communist spy is incapacitated (here a sleeper agent suffers a heart attack). Erskine takes his place, speaking in his Alfred/Dandy Jim Buckley voice while undercover. In this instance, Erskine doesn’t wear fake glasses or have a fake mustache.

As in the earlier episode, the bureau has an incomplete intercepted message. There’s a key piece of information that must be gotten to Erskine from bureau agents (here it’s how “Zebra” is a dummy code, in the Season Three episode it was how the agent Erskine was impersonating was a recovering alcoholic).

Lucas Vale, a sleeper agent “long known to the FBI,” has been activated. Vale is under surveillance but suffers a heart attack before he can act on his new assignment.

The FBI’s target is a Communist operative known by the code name Minerva (Louis Jourdan). Like Counter-Stroke’s Alexander, Minerva is under siege from within his own government. Minerva, however, has been recording a series of tapes as a means of protection. If he’s threatened too much, he’ll send the tapes to the U.S. authorities.

Minerva’s real identity is Henri Dulac, an antiques dealer in Pittsburgh. He has a college age daughter (Lynne Marta). Minerva’s life is complicated when the daughter abruptly comes home from college following a demonstration that got out of hand. Meanwhile, Minerva’s second-in-command (Donald Harron) aspires to the top job in the espionage ring and he’s more than willing to do whatever necessary to obtain that goal. At the same time, Erskine wants to get the tapes for the bureau.

Trivia: Erskine shows his fluency in French extends beyond restaurant menus (as he demonstrated in episode 4 while talking to Lee Meriwhether’s Joanna Lauren). He engages in a few lines in French with Dulac/Minerva. In Act IV, Erskine flashes his FBI identification at Dulac/Minerva along with a note that the conversation may be monitored. We learn that Erskine’s middle initial is T. We can also see J. Edgar Hoover’s signature that’s rather prominent on the ID.

This is very much a “spy reunion” of the guest cast, with Jourdan and Harron having appeared in previous espionage episodes. Jourdan is delightful in Act I when Minerva’s daughter comes back from college, describing the protest. Director Michael O’Herlihy demonstrates some of his trademark camera angles (anyone who’s seen O’Herlihy-directed episodes of Hawaii Five-O will recognize such shots).

Gunplay: Colby wounds a thug of the spy ring in Act IV. The thug survives, we see him being taken to an ambulance in the epilogue.

The episode has a stock score, and Act IV includes some snippets from Richard Markowitz’s music from Season Three’s The Gold Card. Despite the familiar elements, the episode isn’t a ripoff of earlier episodes. GRADE: B-Plus.

179. Bitter Harbor

Teleplay: Robert Heverly and Ron Bishop

Story: Ron Bishop  Director: Virgil W. Vogel

John Norcross, Charles Kale, Arly Carter

EXTORTIONATE CREDIT TRANSACTIONS

In Northern California, the mob is stepping up its loan sharking operations, under the supervision of John Norcross (Cameron Mitchell). A shipbuilder (Fred Beir) is beaten and blinded after he fails to make scheduled payments. Now, Norcross and his goons are targeting an association of operators of fishing boats who are in a labor dispute with cannery operators.

Erskine leads the bureau’s investigation, assisted by others agents including San Francisco SAC Allen Bennett (Lew Brown). When Colby comes off a case, he joins the probe and goes undercover as a crew member of the one of the fishing boats.

The fishing boat operators look to and respect association head Julio (Joseph Wiseman). But Julio is playing a losing hand. He accepts a $100,000 loan from Norcross. The money enables the association to reach an agreement with the cannery owners. Norcross, though, refuses to give Julio any time to make payments and calls in the loan immediately. This is so the mob can seize control of the fishing boats and obtain a steady stream of income.

Julio’s son, “Little Julio” (James Luisi) learns what has happened and vows to free the fishing boat owners from mob control. Norcross orders the wife of Little Julio kidnapped.

A pretty basic plot, but it’s enlivened by a cast of stellar character actors, especially Wiseman. It’s also a chance for James Luisi to play a sympathetic character. For much of his career, Luisi played either thugs or cops who leaned on private detective heroes, as in The Rockford Files. Also, the location shooting is a major plus.

Gunplay: When the bureau comes to free Little Julio’s wife, Erskine wounds one of the thugs with a single shot.

The episode has a stock score. Music supervisor John Elizalde mostly uses selections from later seasons. But in the epilogue, he digs back for Sidney Cutner music from Season Two’s The Escape. The scene also gives us a glimpse of Compassionate Erskine as the inspector helps smooth over tension between Julio and Little Julio. GRADE: B.

180. The Recruiter

Writer: Robert C. Dennis  Director: Virgil W. Vogel

James Robert Devlin, George Shawn

BANK ROBBERY

James Devlin (Monte Markham) robs a bank in Lincoln, Nebraska. But his accomplice George Shawn (Jesse Vint) is wounded. They get away but Devlin leaves Shawn at an old farm house. Devlin also lies to Shawn about how much they got from the bank. He tells Shawn it was $8,000 and he gives the wounded man $4,000. In reality, they stole $12,000. This is just one example of how slick Devlin operates and can con people.

Erskine and Colby catch up to Shawn. By now, Devlin is in New York. He reignites a relationship with Gillian Norberry (Jessica Walter), who he met months earlier at a Colorado ski resort. Using his share of the bank robbery, he comes on as a high roller.

Devlin is also using the loot as “seed money” for a bigger robbery — a major New York department store. He’s the recruiter of the title, assembling his team to knock off the store. But Devlin has to overcome a major setback when his “inside man” at the store (Arthur Franz) has to go to the hospital because of his appendix.

A basic procedural. Writer Robert C. Dennis was a veteran and wrote for all sorts of shows, produced by QM and others (Dragnet and Hawaii Five-O among them). He also plotted Season Two’s The Courier, which was rewritten by Charles Larson. Dennis was a pro at writing episodic television. This isn’t his best effort but it’s solid.

Gunplay: Shawn is wounded in the bank robbery in the pre-titles sequence when a messenger armed with a pistol comes into the bank. Devlin wounds the messenger. Erskine & Co. apprehend Devlin without having to draw their weapons.

The episode has a stock score. GRADE: B

181. The Buyer

Writer: Ed Waters  Director: Carl Barth

Maynard Gage, Louis Forrester, Connie Sherill, Et Al.

THEFT FROM INTERSTATE SHIPMENT

Almost $1 million in platinum is stolen from a freight shipment at O’Hare airport in Chicago. Because the shipment had already traveled across state lines, the bureau is on the case immediately.

The heist was masterminded by veteran criminal Maynard Gage (Tim O’Connor) and carried out by Gage and Lou Forrester (David Hedison). The duo, plus Connie Sherill (Stefanie Powers) are driving cross country to San Francisco where they’re to meet with a buyer from a European fence (Leon Askin).

The FBI manages to learn of the buyer’s plans. The buyer, Jud Hobey (Mark Dana), had flown to Mexico City, then to La Paz and caught a boat heading up the California coast. Erskine and Colby reach San Diego, where Hobey’s boat is docking. Hobey was injured during a storm and apprehended with a fake passport.

Erskine hatches a plan where, once again, he’ll go undercover. (Assistant Director Arthur Ward says he’ll “speak with the Director,” but we know’s a formality by now. (As an aside, you have to think Colby must wonder why he only gets the undercover work when manual labor is involved.) Erskine dons a fake mustache, takes the boat to San Francisco and goes forward with the meeting Hobey had scheduled.

A cat-and-mouse game ensues as Erskine and Connie engage in negotiations. Meanwhile, Gage’s “inside man” at the freight company has continued looking for another fence. Gage plans to kill Erskine/Hobey, take his money and do a deal with the other fence.

Basic, solid episode, with the guest cast enlivening the proceedings. On top of everything else, Forrester and Connie have ideas about running off with each other but Gage is wise to it. Meanwhile, for the first time in some time, Ward gets out of the office and even helps arrest the inside man in Chicago. Philip Abbott has an appropriately grim expression when Ward is told by the inside man the conspirators plan to knock off Erskine/Hobey.

Tim O’Connor was an established “QM Player” by the time  this episode aired. This was David Hedison’s first appearance on The FBI, but he’d soon make appearances on other QM shows. This was also Stefanie Powers’ only guest star appearance on this series but she, too, would show up on other QM shows in the 1970s. Finally, Mark Dana, who plays the real buyer, would return in a few episodes as the new SAC in New York. He’d hold that role for the rest of the series.

Gunplay: Gage and Forrester shoot several times at Erskine without hitting him. Erskine gets off a few shots before nailing Gage with a left-handed shot.

The episode has a stock score, including some music from Season One. In Act IV, there’s some music yet again from Richard Markowitz’s score from Season Three’s By Force and Violence. GRADE: B.

182. A Second Life

Writer: Dick Nelson  Director: Ralph Senensky

Steve Elliot Chandler

INTERSTATE TRANSPORTATION OF STOLEN MOTOR VEHICLE, UNLAWFUL FLIGHT TO AVOID PROSECUTION, ATTEMPTED MURDER

Warren Michaels (Frank Aletter), a city commissioner in Portland, Oregon, has been making trouble for organized crime (the Cosa Nostra name had been phased out by the time of this episode). So “the board” has authorized a hit. Steve Chandler (Martin Sheen) is assigned to carry it out.

Chandler catches up to Michaels after the city official has returned from fishing. He severely wounds Michaels but doesn’t kill him, in part because the city official was able to cut Chandler with a large hook. Chandler flees and his stolen car turns up in California. The interstate flight makes it a case for the bureau, with Erskine and Colby heading up the investigation.

Chandler was virtually raised by Oregon-based mob boss Lee Thompson (John Sylvester White). “The board” isn’t happy Michaels survived. When it becomes clear that Michaels — still hospitalized — will pull through, Thompson brings in an out-of-town hit man. But Erskine and Colby prevent the hit from taking place. Thompson now orders his crony Bruno Reiker (Zooey Hall) to hit Chandler to placate “the board.”

At the same time, Chandler has met and fallen in love with Marcy Brown (Meg Foster), artist and pregnant single woman. They both are in danger as Reiker prepares to eliminate Chandler.

Much of the episode is taken up by the unfolding relationship between Chandler and Marcy. Sheen and Foster are both pretty good and the relationship doesn’t seemed rushed.

Director Ralph Senensky, IN AN ENTRY ON HIS BLOG, complimented the actors, saying in one scene Sheen stumbled on a line but stayed in character.

“Sometimes when actors make mistakes with their dialogue, the results end up on one of the famous blooper reels that eventually find their way to an airing on You Tube. But many more times good actors stay in character and incorporate the mistake in dialogue into the scene. As scripted Martin was supposed to say: ‘Yeah – I’ll start asking around about an — Obstetrician.’

“Instead he said, ‘Yeah, you know what – yeah I’m going to ask around town – I’m gong to find out who the – who the best – uh — pediatrician is – you know …’

“Meg giggled and said, ‘You mean obstetrician?’

“Martin without missing a beat said, ‘Obstetrician, right.’

“… and they continued with the rest of the scene. I thought it was charming.”

The epilogue features the two characters one last time. It’s a good ending as Chandler insists to Marcy that she not wait for him, that she deserves more than “a lifetime of waiting.”

Director Senensky, in the same blog entry, described how he staged the scene, which took place in an ambulance.

“Quinn Martin had been a sound editor before he rose to the rank of producer. He was an absolute fanatic about sound overlaps when scenes were covered in close-ups. To avoid overlaps, the actor off camera had to stop talking before the actor on camera said his lines. When filming an emotional scene like this last one between Martin and Meg, I always filmed over-the-shoulder shots in preference to close-ups. As long as both actors were on camera, they could speak over each other’s lines like people do in real life.”

Gunplay: Chandler shoots Michaels. The out-of-town hit man fires at Erskine and Colby. Erskine wounds the hit man with a single right-handed shot. Reiker wounds Chandler. Reiker wisely gives up and doesn’t fire at Erskine, Colby and other FBI men.

The episode has a stock score. GRADE: B.

183. The Break-Up

Writer: Ed Waters  Director: Virgil W. Vogel

Todd Rawson, Bernice Rawson

BANK ROBBERY

After playing a “nice girl” in Season Six, Donna Mills returns as a schemer in what amounts to a preview of the type of character she’d play on Knots Landing several years later.

Todd Rawson (Jerry Ayres) and Bernice Rawon (Mills) pull off a bank robbery in Norfolk, Virginia, that yields $27,000. Bernice dresses as if she were a man, which initially misleads the authorities. Erskine and Colby quickly join the case. A big help for the FBI men: the stolen money was freshly printed and have consecutive serial numbers.

Bernice has Todd wrapped around her little finger. She wants to live high, while Todd would like to buy a dump truck and go into business. But he also adores Bernice and indulges her.

The couple nearly get caught while Todd is spending the loot on Bernice, when store employees call the police. Eventually, they travel to Atlanta where they encounter high living major fence/criminal Verne Dupre (Charles Cioffi). He gives them $12,000 for their remaining $16,000 in hot money.

Dupre also has a proposition for the Rawsons. He has planned a robbery of an upscale jewelry store and needs people who can pull it off. Todd wants nothing to do with it but Bernice is all for it and the Rawsons are in. Meanwhile, Bernice is looking to dump Todd and live the high life full time.

The script by Ed Waters basically is a showcase for the scheming Bernice and Mills runs with it. Bernice thinks she knows all the angles but learns a lesson when the caper goes wrong and Dupre isn’t all what he seems.

Gunplay: Todd wounds a bank guard in the Norfolk robbery in the pre-credits sequence. Todd is wounded by a policeman after the jewelry caper. Erskine gets style points. He jumps and comes up firing while chasing Dupre’s henchman. The inspector wounds the henchman with a single right-handed shot.

The episode has a stock score. GRADE: B.

184. Judas Goat

Writer: Robert Malcolm Young  Director: Virgil W. Vogel

Paul Wadsworth, Michael Ribble, Stacy Bannister Et Al

ORGANIZED CRIME, EXTORTIONATE CREDIT TRANSACTIONS

Paul Wadsworth (Linden Chiles) is the point man for the Organization (the series had phased out the La Cosa Nostra name by this point) to infiltrate the music business. The mob is getting its hooks into up-and-coming music acts, getting them under contract while tricking them to signing loans with interest rates that ensure they can’t repay.

Keno Donnelly (Richard O’Brien) is the talent agent for a singer (John Davidson) who is trouble breaking out into the big time. Keno owes mob loan sharks and Wadsworth has him beaten up when Keno won’t sell the singer’s contract.

Keno, after landing in the hospital, sells off the contract and Wadsworth takes over. The bureau has received information from informants about the incident and Erskine and Colby are assigned to the case. Eventually, the singer figures out the truth but already is so deep into the mob he can’t pay off his loan despite his career advancing under the mob’s entertainment management company.

The FBI arrests Wadsworth’s enforcer but he refuses to talk. Wadsworth abducts the singer’s girlfriend (Katherine Justice) just before the singer is to perform at a major concert.

Decent episode, which makes use off Davidson’s singing. The ’70s fashions worn by the performers are a bit jarring (normally the series had a more classic clothing look that doesn’t date so specifically). Davidson, while not a great actor, is fine enough. Having the more experienced Katherine Justice in a lot of scenes with him is a help. Chiles and O’Brien can be considered members of “the QM Players and they’re a plus as well.

Amusing moment: Erskine, Colby and other agents arrest Wadsworth’s enforcer at a car wash. After he’s been arrested the enforcer asks about what’s going to happen to his car. That’s followed by a closeup of a grim Erskine (who the enforcer had doused with a hand held sprayer), who we can tell doesn’t much care for the guy.

Gunplay: The enforcer shoots at Erskine while spraying him with water. Despite this, Erskine nails the enforcer with a single right-handed shot. Wadsworth later takes a shot at Erskine. The inspector again returns fire and he nails Wadsworth, again with a single right-handed shot.

The episode has a stock score, which includes some snippets from Richard Markowitz’s music from Season Three’s By Force and Violence. GRADE: B.

185. The Hunters

Writer: Mark Rodgers  Director: Virgil W. Vogel

Frederic Oliver Scott, Ernest Malloy, Karole Schumann, George Havelik Et Al

ESPIONAGE

A stellar guest cast and a taut story make this episode one of the best of the season. It’s also the third, and final, espionage story for Season Seven and the next-to-last such story for the series.

Prominent American scientist Frederic Oliver Scott (Richard Kiley) has been leaking information to a Communist spy ring overseen by George Havelik (George Voskovec). Havelik has played on Scott’s ego, rather than resorting to traditional recruitment methods such as money and blackmail.

Scott is supposed to meet Havelik and another ring operative, Karole Schumann (Hurd Hatfield). But Scott finds a note from his wife (Marian McCargo) who left home, saying she is going with another man. He also finds another piece of paper listing a flight to New York. Scott cancels the meeting (much to the dismay of the Communist spikes) and goes off after his wife — not out of love but out wounded pride that something belonging to him has been taken.

The bureau, meanwhile, already is on the trail of the spy ring. Erskine, Colby and other agents arrest Ernest Malloy (Mark Roberts), who works at Scott’s lab. The FBI had established Malloy’s espionage activities (he has been traveling regularly to Montreal to meet with an “Eastern zone” contact). The bureau wasn’t aware, until now, that Scott himself was involved.

It’s now a race between the FBI and the spy ring to catch up with Scott as the scientist, in turn, is tracking down his wife. Essentially the title refers to the bureau, the spy ring and the scientist trying to find his wife.

Kiley’s scientist character is the flip side of the traitor scientist he played in Season Three’s Homecoming. There, he had defected to the Soviet Bloc, had his fill and tried to come home. Here, his character still is in the early stages of his involvement. Havelik intends to force Scott to “defect” and will use the scientist’s wife as leverage.

Kiley is superb in the role, turning what would normally be a very unsympathetic character into a three-dimensional person.

Meanwhile, other cast members get to play much different characters that they had earlier in the series. Back in Season One’s The Defector, Voskovec was a sympathetic character. Here, he’s an ice cold spymaster. Mark Roberts heretofore had played stalwart FBI agents (usually special agents in charge of field offices) while here he gets to play a traitor. This is also Mark Dana’s debut as New York SAC Clayton McGregor (sometimes spelled MacGregor).

You know it’s a serious case when the FBI helicopter is put into service. Here, it’s used to great effect, with some genuine daredevil flying as Erskine and Colby are chasing down a car with the spymaster and the scientist and his wife. Presumably, it’s this sequence that gets Carl Barth a second unit directing credit.

Gunplay: Scott (who has a gun he intends to use on his wife) gets into a tussle with Schumann, which results in the latter being wounded. This lands Schumann in the hospital, where Erskine tricks him into giving up more information than the spy realizes. In the climax, Havelik fires at Erskine. The inspector returns fire, nailing Havelik with a single, right-handed shot. It doesn’t look like Havelik is ever going to get up again but we’re told in the epilogue he survived.

This episode has a stock score. This is definitely one of the highlights of Season Seven. GRADE: A.

186. Arrangement With Terror

Writer: Ed Waters  Director: Ralph Senensky

James Laner, Patricia Laner

INTERSTATE TRANSPORTATION OF STOLEN PROPERTY

The plot to this episode is very similar to Season Five’s Tug-Of-War: the mob gets its hooks into people, forcing them to steal stock certificates of companies. The mob then uses the stock as collateral for legitimate business loans. In both episodes, shares of National Wheel and Brake are stolen.

What makes this episode different from the earlier story is the motivation of the primary characters. James Laner (Roger Perry) is a struggling, self-employed architect who has become a heroin junkie. Because of his habit and financial troubles, his wife Pat (Diana Hyland) steals the stocks from the house account of the Chicago brokerage where she works.

Both actors turn in strong performances, especially Hyland (which is always a given with her). Director Ralph Senensky worked with both Hyland and Perry previously and discusses each IN A POST IN HIS BLOG about this episode.

The stock theft goes bad because the bureau already is conducting an investigation into the scheme. The mob representative trying to use the stolen stock is arrested immediately after coming out of a bank in Cleveland. Erskine briefs Assistant Director Ward afterward. The FBI now knows where this batch of stolen stock came from. So Erskine goes undercover (after Ward yet again has a talk with the Director to make sure it’s OK) as a consultant in employ of the brokerage firm.

Under the scheme’s setup, the thieves aren’t paid until the stock has been successfully used to secure the loans. So, the Laners aren’t paid because of the FBI arrest Now, James Laner is really starting to become undone. He loses out on an important contract. Pat Laner desperately wants to get him off the heroin but is unable to do so.

Mobster Phil Derrane (Robert Loggia) wants to speed up the pace of the stock thefts. It will take time to find new people who can be pressured to steal the stock. So he instructs flunky Eddie Locke (Reni Santoni) to squeeze previous accomplices. The Laners are at the top of his list. Locke cuts off James Laner’s supply of heroin to force him to get his wife to steal more stock. She goes along after her husband hits rock bottom, searching through purses at a friend’s party trying to steal money.

By this time, Erskine is narrowing the field of brokerage employees who may been involved. When the inspector finds out Pat Laner spilled coffee on a guard, causing him to leave her alone in the vault for a minute, Erskine discovers her latest theft.

James Laner decides to try to bargain with Derrane directly. When the mobster learns that Mrs. Laner is now wanted by the law, he decides to have the couple hit.

Loggia over his long career played many heavies. He makes this episode’s mobster a bit quirky in one scene. At one point, he meets with Locke at a barber shop. Derrane is sitting in a barber’s chair, has Eddie turn him in the direction of a mirror. As Derrane talks, he takes a comb and touches his hair here and there. The viewer can see how vain the mobster is without any of the dialogue referencing this. It’s a nice little touch.

Trivia: Derrane meets James Laner at a movie theater featuring a Humphrey Bogart film festival. The film being shown is Cain Lightning, which naturally was a Warner Bros. release. At one point, a guard correctly says stock trading would become electronic (although he refers to “punch cards”). For 21st century audiences, the physical stock certificates seen here and in Tug-Of-War must seem quaint. Robert Dowdell, who was a regular on Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, is in the cast as a classmate of James Laner’s who has become much more successful.

Gunplay: Erskine wounds one of Derrane’s enforces with a single left-handed shot. James Laner and Locke fight over Locke’s gun. It goes off in the struggle, wounding Laner.

The episode has a stock score. The performances of Hyland and other guest stars gives this familiar story a bump up. GRADE: B-Plus.

187. The Set-Up

Writer: Robert Heverly  Director: Semour Robbie

Lawrence Kulhane, Douglas Perry Waters, George Barrister

BANK ROBBERY, INTERSTATE TRANSPORTATION OF STOLEN VEHICLE

Erskine crosses much of the country in pursuit of a gang wanted for bank robbery after the gang wounds two Nebraska police officers. The gang, led by Larry Kulhane (Gerald S. O’Loughlin) has a bigger and deadlier caper in mind. The target is Ardyth Nolan (Jessica Tandy), a wealthy woman who has $200,000 in cash in her home. They intend to rob and kill her, leaving no witnesses.

Erskine turns up evidence about what the gang intends to do but no information about the target. Erskine and Colby are now in a race to reach the gang before it can kill Nolan. Meanwhile, the gang has managed to get one of its members hired by Nolan as a servant. Another gang member strikes up a relationship with Nolan’s granddaughter to use her to pressure Nolan for cooperation.

There’s an interesting scene early in Act II when Erskine visits Davy (Don “Red” Barry), one of Kulhane’s former associates, who’s now very sick and ailing. He and Erskine have met before. Referring to his last arrest, when he grabbed at a gun intending to go out shooting, Davey asks Erskine, “Why didn’t you kill me?”

“Because I had the chance not to,” Erskine responds.

Davey initially resists providing Erskine information on Kulhane but changes his mind when the inspector tells him murder will be involved this time. It’s not very long, but we don’t get this type of scene very much in the later seasons. Both Efrem Zimbalist Jr. and Barry sell you on the idea they’re old adversaries. We also see a bit of Compassionate Erskine in the epilogue, when he hands the phone to Nolan with her granddaughter on the other end of the line.

Speaking of Nolan, Jessica Tandy is quite good as the eccentric, tough woman. She won’t go down meekly and at one point shoves a lit flare toward Kulhane’s face.

Gunplay: The two police officers are wounded in the pre-titles sequence. Kulhane shoots one of his confederates as he’s counting the money. Because this is a later season, the confederates survives.

The episode has a stock score. Another episode that’s one of the highlights of the season. GRADE: A

188. The Test

Writer: Mark Weingart  Director: Michael O’Herlihy

John Marion Logan

KIDNAPPING, EXTORTION

John Logan (John Colicos) kidnaps prominent businessman George Hale (Harold Gould). Logan used to own a lumber yard that was put out of business and absorbed into Hale’s business empire. Logan has put Hale in the hold of an abandoned ship

What Logan doesn’t know is that Hale has suffered his own business reversals. Logan demands a ransom of $250,000. But Hale’s bank will only lend $70,000. This comes as a shock to Hale’s grown son, Paul (Robert Foxworth). The crisis also is causing Paul Hale to unravel. Paul has always felt overwhelmed by his father’s business success. Paul, who has problems with alcohol, may unravel. The title refers to Paul Hale and whether he can overcome his problems and emotions.

Erskine and Colby spearhead the bureau’s investigation. Paul pulls himself together enough to deliver the ransom (the bureau packs the $70,000 to make it look like $250,000). When Logan discovers he’s been duped, he chases after Paul. But a stack of crates falls on Logan, rendering him unconscious. Now, it’s up to Erskine, with not many clues to work with, to find the older Hale before it’s too late. That’s going to happen sooner than later. Hale, in an attempt to free himself, causes the compartment where he’s being held to be flooded.

This could not be a comfortable acting job for Harold Gould. First, he and Colicos fight in the pre-titles when Logan is kidnapping, which includes some splashing about. Then, Gould spends much of the episode in the flooding ship compartment, with rats for company.

Also of note is a scene where Hale’s grown daughter Mary (Barbara Babcock) explains the dynamic between George and Paul Hale. Erskine looks uncomfortable. I’m guessing the inspector hasn’t been very impressed with Paul’s behavior up to this point. But it’s not the usual Compassionate Erskine we get during kidnapping cases.

Director Michael O’Herlihy again demonstrates his like of unusual camera angles in some sequences, including when Logan enters the ship, revealing to the audience where he’s keeping Hale.

Gunplay: Logan shoots at Paul Hale, but misses. Erskine and the FBI men don’t fire their weapons.

The episode has a stock score. GRADE: B.

189. The Corruptor

Writer: Robert Heverly  Director: Virgil W. Vogel

Dree Foster

INTERSTATE TRANSPORTATION OF STOLEN MOTOR VEHICLE, UNLAWFUL FLIGHT TO AVOID PROSECUTION, MURDER

This episode is of interest to 21st century audiences because of the presence of Mark Hamill as part of a group of runaways who can resist the title character and try to pull a robbery.

Actually, the main attraction is guest star Robert Drivas, once again playing a character who’s wound a little too tight. In fact, Drivas’ performance as Dree Foster is very similar to his turn as Paul Clamenti/Cupid in Season Two’s The Executioners. In both cases, the Drivas character comes undone as the story progresses. And both Clamenti and Foster had tooth problems causing them severe pain.

Foster is traveling across the country, pulling various robberies. His ultimate plan is to spring his kid brother, who has been convicted of a robbery that Dree was in on. The brother also has been convicted of a murder that occurred during the job that Dree actually committed.

Foster has picked up runaway George Arbor (Rick Kelman) in the middle of a diner robbery. Kelman knows two more runaways (including Hamill as Michael Nabors). They’re mesmerized by Foster, who suggests they pull a job as a sort of initiation before a bigger caper he has in mind.

Foster’s tooth problems flare up and Arbor takes him to a dentist while the other runaways try to rob a theater. (Naturally, it’s playing a Warner Bros. movie, in this case Dirty Harry.) The bureau, led by Erskine and Colby has been on Foster’s trail and is waiting at the theater. They apprehend the runaways with no gunfire, although Nabors tries to make a run for it before Colby catches him from behind.

At the office of the dentist (veteran character actor Jason Wingreen), things aren’t going much better. The receptionist has a flyer about the FBI wanting Foster (his actual name isn’t yet known as this point but the flyer has an artist’s drawing). The dentist is about to put Foster under when Arbor intervenes and the fugitives escape.

Later, after reading a newspaper account of the arrests at the theater, Foster forces Arbor out of his parked car and drives off. Arbor tries to pull a job on his own, is injured and is arrested by Erskine and Colby at a doctor’s office.

The FBI men put the final pieces of the puzzle together and head to Arizona, where Foster’s brother is to be sentenced. But the heavily armed criminal has a grenade and is holding hostages. Erskine gambles with his own life and offers himself up as a substitute.

Robert Drivas really holds the episode together. His Foster character is quirky, can sound smooth and confident one moment and on the verge of going out of control the next.

Gunplay: Foster wounds a New York state policeman in the pre-titles sequence and later wounds a truck driver during the diner robbery. Arbor gets into a shootout with a liquor store owner, though neither gets hit by a shot. (Arbor is injured while fleeing when he’s struck by a motorcycle.) Erskine doesn’t draw his weapon, but makes up for it by struggling with Foster for the grenade, which, by this point, Foster has pulled the pin.

Trivia: Drivas and Kelman get star billing in the main titles. Mark Hamill, though, is the first name listed in a long list of actors getting “with” billing in the end titles.

The episode has a stock score. Drivas’ performance elevates the proceedings. GRADE: B-Plus.

Here’s a preview of the episode Warner Archive uploaded to YouTube. Naturally, it includes Mark Hamill and consists of the attempted robbery at the movie theater:

190. The Deadly Species

Writer: Dick Nelson  Director: Ralph Senensky

Jean Margaret Scott

UNLAWFUL FLIGHT TO AVOID CONFINEMENT, ARMED ROBBERY

Penny Fuller is outstanding as armed robber Jean Margaret Scott, who is smart, brave and able to manipulate men. In the pre-titles sequence she and her partner rob a swank New Orleans restaurant. We see Jean trick the restaurant staff into thinking she’s fallen ill, which is just part of her plan for the robbery. Jean is an escaped fugitive and already has the interest of the bureau.

It turns out Jean is pulling jobs to save enough money to take her son away from her ex-husband, now living in Lincoln, Nebraska. Scott dumps her partner on the New Orleans job (James Hampton) but later hooks up with another, Bill Leonard (Tom Skerritt), a sometimes race driver, sometimes crook. The new duo first rob a gun store in Des Moines, Iowa, to get weapons and ammunition. Their next job is a race track, where they steal $30,000 during a race. Race scenes are stock footage from an Indy-car race at the now-defunct Ontario Motor Speedway. But other scenes were filmed at the facility.

Until now, Jean maintains her tough persona. But when she gets to Lincoln, her son rejects her. Jean’s tough front begins to crumble. Then, Leonard leaves her, not wanting to stay any longer with a mental case. Now, Jean really begins to break down mentally. Erskine, Colby and other FBI agents arrest Leonard as he is checking out of the hotel where he and Jean are staying.

Back in her room, Jean has opened the window and is looking out. As Erskine enters, it’s clear the breakdown is complete. She calls Erskine “Bill” and talks about the great life they’ll have together. Erskine says nothing, but guides her out of the room. Erskine and Colby quietly lead her away. In Marvin Miller’s end narration, we’re told Jean was remanded to authorities in Texas, where she was to receive psychiatric treatment until she was able to resume her prison sentence.

Jean’s path from tough criminal to basket case sounds abrupt, but Penny Fuller is very convincing throughout. As originally scripted, Jean attempted to suicide but was stopped by Erskine. But the ending of Act IV was re-written by producer Philip Saltzman and the catalyst was star Efrem Zimbalist Jr., ACCORDING TO DIRECTOR RALPH SENENSKY.

“Efrem Zimbalist was a charming and accommodating performer. I never had any problem with Zimmy objecting to any of my staging or any objections he might have to the script. I’m positive that producers Charles Larson and Philip Saltzman could make the same statement. I was surprised when Zimmy came to me on the first day of filming and asked me what I thought of the final three-page scene in Act IV. I told him I had severe reservations about the scene as to content and the difficulty I foresaw in filming it.

(snip)

“Zimmy told me he too was unhappy with the scene, and he was going to meet with producer Phil Saltzman. I don’t know what went on during that meeting. I do know that four days later I received three yellow pages of revised script, and I was relieved and pleased. Phil had rewritten the scene, and his was the version we filmed on our seventh and final day.

(snip)
“With the new ending that Phil had written for Scotty’s scene in the hotel room, I decided I would use Blanche’s final exit in A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE as the template for Scotty’s final exit.”

The changes actually meant Zimbalist had no lines. Normally, actors don’t like it when they lose lines. However, the way Zimbalist plays the scene, we can see Erskine’s concern as he witnesses the result of Jean’s breakdown. In the epilogue, he looks genuinely pained as it’s clear Jean has totally lost it. If you click on the link to Senenesky’s page, the last video is the epilogue.

The score has a stock score, which meant that music supervisor John Elizalde had to find music from previous episodes to enhance the story. For the scenes with Jean’s breakdown, he finds a slow version of Bronislau Kaper’s FBI theme (probably from Season One) that works well. GRADE: A

191. Dark Journey

Writer: Gerald Sanford  Director: Philip Abbott

Jason and Laurie Peale, Henry (Shuway) Yorkin

INTERSTATE TRANSPORTATION OF STOLEN PROPERTY, KIDNAPPING, INTERSTATE CAR THEFT

Jason and Laurie Peale (Claude Aikens and Lindsay Wagner) are father and daughter and very adept at pulling cons. Their latest caper, in Boston, goes awry when their confederate Yorkin gets too enthuastic beating up the mark, a stockbroker, who got wise to the con. Jason instructs Yorkin to take the stockbroker and leave him somewhere far away.

That somewhere turns out to be Providence, Rhode Island, turning the matter into a federal case. The M.O. – Peale convinces his victims he’s an important businessman – has caught Erskine’s attention. Assistant Director Ward agrees to assign Erskine and Colby to the case.

The Peales are en route to Arizona, site of their next con. Peale poses as a a businessman featured in a magazine story as an “invisible” executive who usually stays out of the public eye. The Peales pretend they’re going to construct a large industrial and retail development, which attracts the attention of local businessmen who want to get in on the action.

Erskine and Colby track down and apprehend Yorkin. The one-time confederate doesn’t know much about the new caper but provides some additional clues about Jason Peale’s habits, including how he likes to put ginseng in his tea.

Jason Peale is having a fine old time slowly reeling in the “suckers.” But he makes a misstep when he buys a $15,000 ring from the owner of a jewelry store. It turns out the shop owner borrowed money from a loan shark (Vic Tayback). He’s checked out Peale and knows his story doesn’t check out. He pressures Peale to accept a gambling invitation by a prominent local businessman so the loan shark’s gang can rob the gathering. Erskine and Colby are also on their way as events reach a crescendo.

Claude Aikens often played either brutish or buffoonish characters. One suspects he had a fun time playing Jason Peale, a slick, educated character. In the epilogue, Peale tells Erskine it wasn’t the money but the enjoyment of playing a part that appealed to him. When Peale refers to his marks as “suckers,” Erskine raises his eyebrows. “Suckers?” the inspector says to the man who has already been arrested and read his rights.

This was an early acting appearance by Lindsay Wagner. She was 22 when this was first broadcast but already comes across as a polished performer.

Gunplay: Erskine and Colby wound two henchmen employed by the loan sharks in separate incidents. They fire more or less simultaneously, so you can’t be sure which FBI man’s shot hit each henchman. Yorkin fires at Erskine but is taken into custody with the bureau agents not having to fire their weapons.

The episode has a stock score, some of which goes back to Season One. GRADE: B-Plus.

192. Escape to Nowhere

Writer: Ed Waters  Director: Virgil W. Vogel

Michael Durgom, Raymond Everett Lockhart

UNLAWFUL FLIGHT TO AVOID CONFINEMENT, INTERSTATE TRANSPORTATION OF STOLEN VEHICLE, KIDNAPPING

Michael Durgom (John Vernon) and Raymond Lockhart (Joe Perry) escape from prison. They cross state lines, bringing the bureau into the case, led by Erskine. The escaped cons take refuge in a house in Maine, taking a widowed mother and her son (Diana Maldaur and Lee Harcourt Montgomery) hostage.

Durgom also was set to be a witness against an organized crime figure (Gene Lyons) who has many legitimate business fronts. As a result, both the bureau and the mob are after Durgom.

Durgom has a criminal friend nickhamed “Buck” (Ron Feinberg). Buck tries to pull off a bank robbery in Manhattan to provide Durgom enough money to get away. Buck, though, is unaware he’s being tailed by mob “soldiers.” Buck is wounded in the robbery and abducted afterward by the thugs. Erskine, Colby and other FBI agents close in, but not before the organized crime figure knows where Durgom is. Meanwhile, Lockhart, after recovering a wound he suffered during the escape has his own ideas about killing Durgom to collect the contract the mob has put on Durgom.

Solid, basic procedural episode. The portion featuring Diana Maldaur and Lee Montgomery is a bit soap operish at times (her character has shut herself off from people since her husband’s death) but it doesn’t distract from the primary proceedings. John Vernon, as usual, is dependable as Durgom. Montgomery, at this point, was a frequent guest star on shows requiring a child character. If you’ve seen his other 1970s appearances, that’s more of less what you get here.

Gunplay: A three-shooting episode for Erskine. He wounds a)one of the thugs who kidnapped Buck b) the hit man (Michael Pataki) assigned to kill Durgom (and kill everybody else in the house) and c) Durgom just before he’s ready to shoot the Muldaur and Montgomery characters. On each occasion, Erskine employs a single right-handed shot.

The episode has a stock score, which includes Richard Markowitz music from Season Two’s The Price of Death and Season Three’s The Gold Card. Some Season One music also is used when Erskine and Colby arrive at Portland, Maine, in Act IV. GRADE: B.

 

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