The second season of The FBI kept in place two key members of the creative team: producer Charles Larson and associate producer Norman Jolley. Larson would rewrite a number of second-season scripts, just as he had in the first season. Jolley would also be busy, including the season’s two-part episode, The Executioners.
There was a new story consultant, Mark Rodgers, who had written three first-season episodes. He’d be busy with a number of scripts of his own in the second season.
The one major change in the show was the addition of Marvin Miller as narrator. Miller added a “voice of God” gravitas to the proceedings. He’d stay on for the rest of the series.
At QM Productions, there was a new face: former ABC executive Adrian Samish. He and Arthur Fellows would share a new title, “In Charge of Production,” shown near the conclusion of the end titles. Fellows and Samish would alternate who got top billing. John Conwell took over Fellows’ old title of assistant to the executive producer.
Barbara Erskine was long forgotten and wouldn’t come up again. From here on out, we mostly see Efrem Zimbalist Jr.’s Inspector Lewis Erskine at work, with almost no personal scenes. Stephen Brooks remained in place as Erskine’s sidekick, Jim Rhodes. The closest we have to a personal story for the regular cast is The Camel’s Nose, which gave Philip Abbott more to do than usual as Assistant Director Arthur Ward.
Meanwhile, guest stars continued to get good parts, with Robert Blake, Fritz Weaver, Suzanne Pleschette, Jack Lord, Walter Pidgeon, Telly Savalas and Celeste Holm among others as guest stars.
Main titles: Essentially the same as the first season, except there’s a darker shade of blue in the background. The QM and Warner Bros. logo are shown below the title while announcer Hank Simms says, “A Quinn Martin-Warner Bros. production.”
End titles: For the first episode of the season, the same first-season end title footage of Erskine driving the black Ford Mustang convertible with white interior is used. In all other episodes for he season, there’s new footage. The same Washington, D.C., locations (although shot from slightly different angles) are utilized, plus an additional shot of Erskine driving toward the U.S. Capitol. He now has a black Mustang convertible with a red interior. If you look closely, you can see an FBI employee coming to a window at the then-FBI building, watching Efrem Zimbalist Jr. get ready to drive off.
Credits for the season:
Executive Producer: Quinn Martin
Producer: Charles Larson
Associate Producer: Norman Jolley
Story Consultant: Mark Rodgers
In Charge of Production: Arthur Fellows and Adrian Samish.
Assistant to the Executive Producer: John Conwell
FBI Theme: Bronislau Kaper (as Bronislaw Kaper)
Music Conducted by Dominic Frontiere
A QM Production In Association With Warner Bros. Pictures Inc.
All text (c) 2014-2015, William J. Koenig
33. The Price of Death
Writer: David W. Rintels (as Pat Riddle)
Director: Paul Wendkos
Arnold George Casey
The second season gets off to a strong start centering on the kidnapping of middle-class teenagers. A gang operating of Reno is on the lookout for gamblers who score big, then swoop in to abduct their kids. In the pre-credits sequence, one kidnap victim is within minutes of the deadline for delivery of the ransom. Even when news arrives the ransom was paid, Arnold “Case” Casey (Scott Marlowe) wants to kill the boy anyway but is talked about of it by his developmentally challenged brother Junior. This time, Case complies and the kidnappers deliver the boy back to his family. We’re told Case has killed some of his victims before.
The FBI is alerted when San Francisco SAC Allen Bennett gets an anonymous tip. The family, though, won’t cooperate. Erskine and Rhodes are dispatched from Washington as signs point to this not being an isolated case. The kidnapping ring already is lining up another victim, as another San Francisco man has just won big gambling. The kidnappers again strike. This time the kidnap victim is a diabetic who will die soon if he doesn’t receive insulin. Erskine again goes back to the first family, desperately trying to find clues that could lead the bureau to the kidnappers before its too late.
Robert Blake, as Junior, is particularly good among the guest cast. Scott Marlowe, who played heavies on many series, comes across as appropriately dangerous. His Case is thrown a curve when other members of the kidnapping ring want him to kill Junior, seeing him as too big a risk. Marlowe seems genuinely tormented by the prospect but is prepared to do it. The fathers of the two families we see in the episode, John Larch and Milton Selzer, made many appearances on episodic television. Amusingly, Louise Latham and David Macklin, who played mother and son in a first-season episode, do so again here and would do so again in the third season. Marvin Miller’s debut as narrator sets the gravely serious tone at the start of Act I. In the epilogue, Miller informs the audience the ultimate fate of the kidnappers, including how Case got the death sentence. Richard Markowitz provides a strong score, one that will be utilized later in the season for stock scores. GRADE: A.
34. The Escape
Writer: Mark Rodgers Director: Ralph Senensky
Edward Warren Drake, et. Al.
UNLAWFUL FLIGHT TO AVOID PROSECUTION, MURDER
This episode has a hint of the personal issues Erskine confronted in season one. A friend of Erskine’s, Sheriff Scott Abbott, is killed along with two other police officials when convicted murderer Larry Drake (Roy Thinnes) is freed during a brazen attack just before he was to be flown to prison. When the criminals cross state lines, it becomes a case for the FBI. Larry Drake is the youngest of three criminal brothers but is hardly feeling gratitude. He covets the wife (Marlyn Mason) of his oldest brother Steve (William Bramley). Meanwhile, Erskine tries to comfort Sheriff Abbott’s widow but she won’t rest until the killers and their accomplices are all caught.
The best scene is saved for the epilogue. Those responsible for Sheriff Abbott’s death have been caught or killed, just three days after the attack. But Abbott’s widow realizes she’ll never feel better. The widow says she feels like she’s in a cage and she’ll never get out. Erskine provides some tough love. While very sympathetic, he tells the widow there is no cage except for the one she builds for herself.
Director Ralph Senensky repeats an unusual camera shot (the point of view of the camera is from “inside” a pay phone when Larry Drake calls the law to rat out his brothers. Senensky also has AN ENTRY IN HIS BLOG about this episode. In it, the director says, “I thought the original script for THE ESCAPE was a mess, with disconnected scenes that pulled in all directions. (Producer) Charles Larson did some remarkable work to shape it and to give the plot an intelligent progression.” The score is by Sidney Cutner, but some of Bronislau Kaper’s first-season music is used at the start of Act I. Grade: B
35. The Assassin
Teleplay: John McGreevey Story: Anthony Spinner
Director: Ralph Senensky
Anton Andre Christopher
INTERNAL SECURITY, COMMUNIST
A Manila police officer is killed on his way to the U.S. embassy. He lives long enough to tell an FBI man stationed at the embassy that Communist assassin Anton Christopher plans to kill Bishop John Attwood, a noted peace activist. Christopher has never been photographed or caught. Erskine and Rhodes lead the FBI’s manhunt, but the killer’s plan already is well underway. Bishop refuses to alter his schedule, which calls for a speech at Solder’s Field in Chicago. What’s more, a long-time friend of Attwood’s, a dean at a Chicago-area university, is part of the conspiracy.
Director Ralph Senenesky, who wrote a blog about his career, has a detailed ENTRY ABOUT THIS EPISODE. Senenesky wrote that producer Charles Larson’s “fine handprints (were) all over THE ASSASSIN, the best script I had yet been handed on THE FBI and eventually the best one of the series I would ever direct.”
According to the director, guest star Dean Jagger as the bishop had been away from acting for a bit before filming began on the episode. “He was like a young colt prancing to get out of the starting gate. He was excited, anxious and I think a little nervous.” Here’s an excerpt from Senenesky’s blog:
“The very first scene on the first day of filming was between Efrem Zimbalist and Dean Jagger. This was Dean’s first time in front of a camera in a couple of years and as I wrote before, he was as nervous as a young actor facing his first job. As we began rehearsing and then filming, that nervousness was very much in evidence, but not for long. It was amusing that it only took a couple of takes and Dean, confidence now restored, in his enthusiasm was kindly making suggestions to Efrem about his role. Efrem looked at me with a knowing smile. It was great to welcome this Academy Award winner back to where he belonged — in front of the camera.”
Senesky’s first choice for the assassin Christopher was David Wayne who was unavailable. John Conwell, who ran the QM casting operation, suggested Fritz Weaver (who’d end up as a guest star later in the season). William Windom eventually was cast. One of the main ideas of the script was Christopher wouldn’t be a tall, dark handsome movie spy type.
In the end, everything came together well. The episode utilized a stock score. GRADE: A-Minus.
36. The Cave-In
Writer: Andy Lewis Director: Paul Wendkos
Thomas George Rule
In New Mexico, veteran miner Tom Rule is determined to shut down the Tungsten ore mine he works at. Rule’s son died in a mining accident and he wants his grandson, Ed, to go to college. But when Tom sabotages a ventilator at the mine, a watchman is killed. Meanwhile, unknown to Tom, a large vein of Tungsten ore has been discovered nearby. Because Tungsten is vital to U.S. aerospace and defense, the FBI has been called into the case. The bureau, led by Erskine, doesn’t need much time to link Tom Rule to the sabotage. However, Tom has already planted a bomb. It detonates before a crew, including Tom, can get out because a hoist has been having mechanical difficulties. Rhodes, ready to arrest Tom Rule, is trapped with the work crew.
The guest cast is full of veteran character actors, though only John McIntire as Tom Rule gets guest star billing. Others in the case include Tim McIntire, John’s son, Val Avery, John McLiam and Richard O’Brien. Stephen Brooks gets a bit more screen time than usual while Efrem Zimbalist Jr.’s Erskine is powerless to do much on the surface. Buck Taylor plays as Rule’s grandson whose destined for a tragic fate, This was a year before he’d join the cast of Gunsmoke as a regular. Part of the episode was filmed at Bronson Canyon in Los Angeles. The episode has a stock score that utilizes Richard Markowitz’s score from episode 33. GRADE: B.
37. The Scourge
Writer: Norman Jolley Director: Paul Wendkos
John V. Albin
INTERSTATE TRANSPORTATION IN AID OF RACKETEERING, MURDER
Writer-associate producer Norman Jolley, after exploring mental illness in the first season, apparently wanted to examine organized crime this season. This is the first of three Jolley-written episodes (including a two-parter) featuring the Mafia or La Cosa Nostra as the villains.
This being the 1960s, Italian names and terms mostly are avoided. In Act I, we see a diagram of a La Cosa Nostra family. Instead of “Godfather,” we see “Boss,” instead of “Capo,” we see “Underboss” and so on. The Cosa Nostra boss in this episode (Will Kuluva) is named Mark Vincent. The Cosa Nostra is using “juicers” to gain a controlling interest in legitimate businesses. The juicers find a weak spot, get those involved on the hook. They owe so much, they’re forced to sell chunks of their business to the Cosa Nostra.
John Albin (Robert Duvall) is one of the juicers in the employ of Vincent. Albin is a candidate for membership in the Cosa Nostra. In the pre-credits sequence, he unintentionally killed the co-owner of a business (who had a heart condition) that Vincent’s family has taken control of. Albin gets another chance from Vincent. This time, the target is an aerospace business. Vincent wants to destroy the owner (Lin McCarthy) of the business after he refused Vincent’s financing in a bid to get back control.
In real life, J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI was criticized for being slow to address organized crime. In this episode, La Cosa Nostra is depicted as a top bureau priority. Assistant Director Arthur Ward even accompanies Erskine to pay a visit to the surviving brother of the business that Albin helped take over for the Cosa Nostra.
We see a stock shot of a hotel in Act I and Act II. That same stock shot would show up in Part I and Part II of The Executioners, the other Jolley-written organized crime story this season. Albin is eventually accepted for membership in the Cosa Nostra. Some lines of the initiation ceremony would be repeated in Part II of The Executioners.
One strategy of the Feds is to grant immunity from prosecution when La Costra Nostra officials are brought before a grand jury. As a result, they can’t use their Fifth Amendment rights against self incrimination. Thus, either the Cosa Nostra officials either violate “the code” or have to go to prison for refusing to testify. This figures into the climax of this episode as well as the The Executioners.
Having Robert Duvall as a villain is a major plus. William W. Spencer, the director of photography, makes Duvall’s Albin even more sinister in a couple of close up shots in Act IV. The score is by Sidney Cutner. GRADE: A.
38. The Plague Merchant
Writer: Barre Lyndon Director: Lewis Allen
The Doomsday Plague Theft
INTERSTATE TRANSPORTATION OF STOLEN PROPERTY
Chemist Edward Lennan (Arthur Hill) is desperate for cash. His daughter was injured and could lose her leg without an expensive operation. Lennan been approached by the unsavory Jago (Michael Strong) who’s willing to pay money for what’s supposed to be a new hand lotion. In reality, it’s a plague culture that could wipe out millions if it’s not kept refrigerated. Jago then intends to sell the culture to an unnamed country that’s unfriendly to the United States.
You know it’s a big case when the first time we see Erskine and Rhodes they’re being summoned to go to J. Edgar Hoover’s office, along with Assistant Director Arthur Ward. The notion of germ warfare gone amok has been popular since at least 1965’s The Satan Bug, and this episode is The FBI’s take on that theme.
This is an OK episode. Arthur Hill is very good as Lennan. Michael Strong is suitably oily as Jago. Lennan is apprehended pretty quickly, but by the time Erskine and Rhodes catch up to him, the plague samples have been passed on to Jago. There’s a close call for the U.S. population when one of two vials containing the plague is broken. Luckily, it occurs when Jago is at a romote gas station and was in the process of buying some dry ice to keep the samples cold. Jago douses the broken sample in gasoline and lights a fire (only high temperatures can kill the plague).
Jago mails the remaining vial to himself at a Philadelphia-area post office. We see a sequence that appears to have been filmed at a real post office. The viewer gets a primer on mail is handled (and doesn’t give you confidence that your valuable parcel will be treated all that well). It gets a little tense but Erskine and Rhodes (with the help of Postal Service employees) manage to find it.
Director of photography William W. Spencer does get to light some closeups of bad guy Strong so he looks more creepy than normal in the scene where the first vial breaks. The stock score includes some Richard Markowitz music from The Price of Death as well as some Bronislau Kaper music from Season One. GRADE: C-Plus.
Writer: Robert Bloomfield Director: Ralph Senensky
The Magna Theft
INTERSTATE TRANSPORTATION OF STOLEN PROPERTY, MURDER
Tense story involving the theft of experimental nitro and its transportation by truck. The nitro (called Nitro XH2) was stolen from an explosives company and a guard killed. The first driver hired for the job refuses to go through and he’s murdered also. To get the explosive transported, the criminals eventually hire down-on-his-luck truck driver Carl Munger. Munger (Gerald S. O’Loughlin) isn’t fooled and knows something illegal is going on when he’s offered $5,000 for a relatively short haul. But his wife (Jaqueline Scott) is about to have a baby and he’s broke.
The FBI eventually puts things together and Erskine and Rhodes stake out a truck stop Munger is known to frequent. Munger is exhausted, with only part of the trip completed. Rhodes, posing as a hitchhiker, strikes up a conversation. When Munger offers Rhodes a day’s pay to be relief driver, the G-man goes for it to keep tabs on Munger. All Erskine can do is follow from a distance with another FBI agent.
As the drive continues, the weather and road conditions worsen. Munger tells Rhodes they’re hauling nitro. The explosive is in a case, suspended with a series of slings to provide give in case of bumps or sudden stops. On a 20-mile stretch of bad roads, Rhodes goes in the back, sits under the nitro and braces it in case any of the slings give way. Meanwhile, along the way, we learn the nitro is to be used in a Beijing-backed coup of a South American country.
Director Ralph Senensky IN THIS ARTICLE says he wanted to make the killing of the guard more dramatic than another cold-blooded murder in Season One’s The Plunderers. He describes how the depiction of the shooting of the guard through a window was the idea of art director Richard Y. Haman.
It’s nice that Stephen Brooks gets more screen time than normal and he makes use of the opportunity. The cast includes veteran character actor Olan Soule, who did everything from a small part in North by Northwest to being the voice of Batman in cartoons. Also present is Vivi Janiss as a landlady in Act II. She was the real-life wife of actor John Larch, a guest start in The Price of Death. The episode has an original score by Richard Markowitz that greatly enhances the proceedings. There’s a snippet of first-season Bronislau Kaper music at the start of the epilogue. GRADE: B
40. Collision Course
Teleplay: Leonard Kantor and Charles Larson
Story: Leonard Kantor Director: Christian Nyby
Frank Andreas Shroeder
UNLAWFUL FLIGHT TO AVOID PROSECUTION, BANK ROBBERY, MURDER
Jack Lord (1920-1998) is so closely identified with lawman Steve McGarrett in the original Hawaii Five-O series, it’s easy to forget he played bad guys. LOTS of bad guys, before he found the role that defined his career. And he played such villains with as much intensity as he portrayed McGarrett. He dominates this episode as bank robber Frank Shroeder.
In the pre-titles sequence, we see Lord’s Shroeder, shoot a man in the back in cold blood. In Act I, we’re told Shroder has killed three people in two months. Erskine calls him a throwback to the murderous hoodlums of the 1930s. Erskine lobbies Assistant Director Arthur Ward to put Shroeder on the Ten Most Wanted List. Ward initially declines but as details pile up, he relents.
However, Lord’s character isn’t a cartoon. Lord’s Schroeder displays a range of emotions. Over the course of the episode, we learn his widowed father beat him senseless. The father (played by Malcolm Attebury (1907-1992) hasn’t even seen his son since 1948. Lord’s character first befriends, and then falls in love with, a deaf Mexican woman (Pilar Seurat). As a young man, Schroeder went with his father on woodworking jobs. One involved a miserly woman (Ellen Corby) who was said to have hidden $250,000 in diamonds in her San Antonio home.
For Shroeder, everything goes wrong. He robs a pawnbroker. Shroeder shoots, but not before the pawnbroker returns fire, which will eventually kill Shroeder. Before he dies, Shroeder briefly gets a chance to talk to his father via a pay phone. By the time Erskine and Rhodes catch up to him, Shroeder is dead.
This would be Lord’s only appearance on The FBI. But QM Productions utilized his services on other series, including 12 O’Clock High (twice as different characters), The Invaders and The Fugitive.
A weak point: Palm trees are clearly visibble in a a number of outdoor scenes, supposedly taking place in San Antonio.
Richard Markowitz provides another excellent original score. The best scene for Efrem Zimbalist Jr. and Stephen Brooks is when they pay a visit on the disbelieving miserly woman. GRADE: A, mostly on the strength of Lord’s performance.
Writer: Franklin Barton Director: Paul Wendkos
Karl Friedrich Schindler
Alfred Ryder, who normally played villains on 1960s and ’70s television series, is a sympathetic Nazi hunter in this story. His target is ex-Nazi, now Communist spy spy. Karl Schindler (John Van Dreelan). Ryder’s Otto Mann received training from the FBI and one of his instructors was Erskine.
Despite their personal ties, Erskine isn’t sure whether Mann will murder Schindler if gets the opportunity. Schindler ran a concentration camp during World War II. One of his victims was Mann’s wife.
By this time, because of the limitations in portraying FBI agents, QM Productions gave guest stars more acting leeway. Guest stars Ryder, Van Dreelan, Lois Nettleton and David Opatoshu all take advantage of this and get plenty of screen time.
The primary tension is whether Mann will be content to apprehend Schindler or take a personal revenge. Despite his doubts, Erskine knows Mann can spot Schindler on sight. For example, Mann is aware of Schindler’s fetish for constantly shining his shoes.
In a number of episodes this season, we’re told that a villain received the death penalty. In this episode’s epilogue, we’re told Schindler *was executed*. Actor Ryder takes advantage of an opportunity to play something other than a villain. Van Dreelan, meanwhile, delivers his typically oily performance. Zimbalist’s Erkine is more nuanced than other episodes this season, especially as he grapples with whether to trust Mann or not. Sidney Cutner provides an effective original score. SCORE: B-Plus.
42. Anatomy of a Prison Break
Teleplay: Herman Groves and Robert J. Shaw
Story: Herman Groves Director: Ralph Senensky
CRIME ON A GOVERNMENT RESERVATION, MURDER
An OK story, but not much more than that. At a federal prisoner, one of the inmates is killed during a tug of war match in the exercise yard. The inmate (Vic Perrin) knew details of an upcoming prison break but the organizers didn’t think he could be trusted. With his dying breath, the inmate tells the warden a break is coming but isn’t able to provide additional details.
Erskine comes in to lead the FBI’s investigation and, naturally, goes undercover as a newly arrived inmate. His disguise is a little different this time, including a phony facial scar. William Reynolds, making his second appearance in the series, again plays an FBI man. When we see him next, he’ll play yet another agent, Tom Colby, who will have taken over as Erskine’s sidekick.
According to director RALPH SENENESKY’S WEBSITE, portions of the episode were filmed at an actual federal corrections facility.
“Our third day of filming was at a federal correctional institution, where after we hung our MASONRIDGE FEDERAL PENITENTIARY sign on their fence, we filmed the exterior establishing shots of the front entrance to the prison, the arrivals there, the recreational area where the murder took place and the interior sign-in desk at the front entrance. Shades of ROUTE 66, a location like this gave the production a true documentary feeling of reality.”
Senenesky says filming this episode wasn’t as enjoyable as earlier installments of the show. Previously, he worked with director of photography William W. Spencer. Spencer had moved on to other projects, although he’d be back for The FBI’s fourth season. Senenesky’s website doesn’t identify the replacement (it was Andrew J. McIntrye) but says there was “tension, a lack of communication.” GRADE: C.
43. The Contaminator
Writer: Dan Ullman Director: Paul Wendkos
Lawrence Turner Underwood
Underwood has stolen plans for “a small atomic engines for space probes” from an Idaho facility. Given that, almost a half-century later, no such engine has ever been developed that suggests the plans were likely worthless. In committing the theft, Underwood set off an atomic reaction. Underwood himself is contaminated and giving off radiation.
Eventually, Underwood is hiking into the wilderness to make contact with a member of a spy ring. The problem this story makes it look like radiation poisoning occurs like a cold or the flu. (CLICK HERE to view a Mayo Clinic description of how radiation poisoning actually works.) At one point, the dying Underwood lies down by a stream and douses himself with water. Later, as Erskine tracks him, the FBI inspector spots dead fish in the steam.
Erskine initially had set out with another agent and another law enforcement official. But Underwood shot at the trio. Erskine’s radio was shot and the other agent has to take the other law enforcement official, wounded by Underwood, back. It’s up to Rhodes to reach Erskine in time to try to warn him of the radiation danger Underwood presents.
As usual, there’s good location filming. Director Paul Wendkos stages action effectively. All involved take things seriously. Still, a little research was needed. GRADE: C-Minus.
44. The Camel’s Nose
Teleplay: Mark Rodgers Story: Gerald Sanford
Director: Joseph Sargent
Steven Jerome Colton, Michael Arnold Kessler, William Ray Milton
DESTRUCTION OF AIRCRAFT, MURDER
One of the best episodes of the season. A major defense contractor has a deadly secret: it has provided defective parts for U.S. aircraft to be used in the Vietnam War. One of the officers of the company refused to stay quiet and was flying in a company aircraft to Washington. A bomb aboard the plane explodes, killing all aboard.
FBI Assistant Director Arthur Ward (Philip Abbott) has a personal connection. He’s a long-time friend of the family of Elyse Colton, wife of the company’s CEO. Because Colton Industries is an important U.S. contractor, Ward wants the investigation to be thorough. The title of the episode is explained when Elyse visits Ward at his Washington office. There’s this exchange:
ELYSE: You have a lot of power.
WARD: A lot of responsibility.
ELYSE: Aren’t they the same thing?
WARD: No they’re not.
At one time, the assistant director explains, the FBI had “power without responsibility” and various people asked for favors. Ward tells Elyse it “took a long time” to get the figurative camel out of the bureau’s tent.
Meanwhile, Erskine and Rhodes press ahead with their investigation. Steven Colton is racked with guilt and is drinking extremely heavily. Colton is on the verge of cracking but Kessler, his surviving partner, is determined to maintain the conspiracy. Kessler even murders William Milton, the man he hired to plant the bomb. As the FBI closes in, Colton and Kessler have it out. Ward flies to Detroit to meet Erskine and Rhodes for the final arrest but the FBI men are surprised by the outcome. In the epilogue, Ward is still agonizing over the events of the case.
“Long night, Arthur?” Erskine asks.
“The longest,” the assistant director replies.
This would be the only episode of the series directed by Joseph Sargent, who died in late 2014. Amusing trivia: in the pre-titles sequence, which takes place at the Detroit airport, a “Daniel Craig” is paged. It’s just a coincidence given that the future James Bond actor wasn’t born until 1968. The music is by Richard Markowitz. GRADE: A.
45. List for a Firing Squad
Writer: Mark Rodgers Director: Jesse Hibbs
One of my favorite episodes, largely because of an excellent performance by Suzanne Pleschette.
In New York, Istvan Sladek (Charles Korvin), an intelligence operative for an unnamed Soviet Bloc country, is seeking a list of names of people in the underground movement of his home nation. As he obtains the list from an informant, a member of the underground movement confronts him. A fight ensues. The informant and the underground member are both killed but Sladek is on the move.
Erskine and Rhodes are immediately assigned to the case and the bureau’s New York office, under the direction of SAC Chet Randolph (Anthony Eisley) is mobilized to intercept Sladek. The agent tries to board a flight to Washington but is intercepted by airport police. He shoots his way out of it (one of the airport policemen is wounded as well) but has been shot himself in the arm. Erskine and Rhodes, meanwhile, try to develop leads from the year Sladek has been living in New York.
It turns out Sladek has been having a love affair with Marya Pazmany (Pleschette), who emigrated to the U.S. from Sladek’s home nation shortly after World War II. She’s a loyal American, but is deeply in love with Sladek, who she has only known for a few months. Marya is conflicted about what to do once the airport incident has hit the newspapers.
Sladek is now being hunted by the FBI and his own nation. Sladek calls the consulate of his home country to set up a drop to turn over the list. But Sladek suspects he’s being set up. Instead, Sladek watches. Sladek sees how close the FBI is to him as bureau agents apprehend the operative who’s been assigned to kill him.
Sladek contacts Marya. Erskine and Rhodes have gotten there first and convince her to help. A meeting is set up. But it ends with a shootout as Sladek refuses to be taken alive. What elevates this sequence is what happens after. Marya looks accusingly at Erskine. The inspector’s expression shows this is not how he wanted the case to end. Marya, upset, runs off. Excellent acting from both Pleschette and Efrem Zimbalist Jr. , as no dialogue is exchanged.
In the epilogue, presumably the next day, Erskine is still melancholy. Rhodes initiates a conversation but the two talk around the results of the case until Rhodes finally says Marya will be OK. Erskine says he knows, but it’s clear he’ll remain upset for some time.
Trivia: The New York Dispatch, the fictional newspaper we see with headlines about the case, has been in business a relatively short time. The front page is from an edition that’s “Vol. XXXI, No. 2,” meaning it didn’t begin publishing until 1935. By contrast, the real life New York Post was founded in 1801 (by founding father Alexander Hamilton) and The New York Times was founded in 1851. The episode has a stock score, which includes some of Bronislau Kaper’s music from the first season. GRADE: A.
46. The Death Wind
Teleplay: Robert Leslie Bellem and Mark Rodgers
Story: Bellem Director: Ralph Senensky
Captain Benjamin Jennerson, Theodore Darrel Hammond
CRIME ON THE HIGH SEAS, MURDER
Captain Jennerson (Ralph Bellamy), in command of a merchant marine ship, has conspired with the sleazy Hammond (Peter Mark Richman, then billed just as Mark Richman) to sink his vessel and collect the insurance money. Jennerson has a much younger wife who spends a lot of money. What the captain doesn’t know is Mrs. Jennerson (Elizabeth Allen) is having an affair with Hammond.
Jennerson is initially cleared by a U.S. Coast Guard board of inquiry. However, the case has drawn the attention of the FBI. Erskine and Rhodes are dispatched to Honolulu to check things out. Meanwhile, the case gets more serious by the minute. The doomed ship was hauling a load of containers of chlorine. If those containers leak and mix with water, deadly chlorine gas will be produced. On top of everything else, a tsunami is headed to Hawaii. If the chlorine on the ship isn’t recovered in time, the tsunami will tear the ship apart and chlorine gas will be relased.
While QM Productions had higher production values than most 1960s and 1970s series, there was no way Quinn Martin was going to send a unit to Hawaii. As a result, the episode utilizes a lot of stock footage, most likely from Warner Bros. movies. Viewers in the 21st century tend to be less forgiving when they spot such footage.
Nevertheless, the episode has several high points. Director Ralph Senensky has a nice shot at the end of Act II. Captain Jennerson is downing a lot of drinks at Hammond’s bar, unaware his wife is with Hammond in his office. Mrs. Jennerson tries to taunt Hammond by saying her husband is a much better man. Hammond acknowledges that but she still shuts the door to avoid seeing her husband and then proceeds to make out with Hammond.
Jennerson’s ship was sunk by a Japanese World War II mine. But the ever-reliable FBI lab determines that the third layer of pain on the mine was manufactured by a U.S. company no sooner than the late 1950s. Erskine decides to question Mrs. Jennerson to rattle her cage. Rhodes wonders whether this is such a good idea, because she’ll tell either her husband or Hammond. Erskine replies it will be interesting to see who she tells first. Rhodes’ face lights up, similar to Luke Skywalker realizing he’s just received wisdom from Obi-Wan Kenobi.
At one point, Erskine and Rhodes don scuba equipment and dive down to the sunken ship. Director Ralph Senensky, ON HIS WEBSITE, says he didn’t direct the underwater sequences. The director also says the initial script “was a series of disjointed short scenes hopscotching through the plot.” Senenesky also says Ford Motor Co. sent what amounted to a “mock up” car (which looked like a 1967 model coming out in the fall) for actress Elizabeth Allen to drive. The car door “almost came off its hinges” when Allen opened it.
Actor Mark Roberts plays the SAC in charge of the bureau’s Honolulu office. He’ll be back in several episodes, usually playing FBI agents in various field offices. Bellamy, being a pro’s pro when it comes to acting, is worth watching. Elizabeth Allen is also good. Peter Mark Richman, by now, has perfected his Smarmy Villain persona that would get him invited back to play future villains on the series. This isn’t Senensky’s favorite episode. The director writes the script could never be fixed totally.
The U.S. Coast Guard gets a thank you in the end titles for its cooperation in filming. The stock score includes some Bronislau Kaper music from Season One. GRADE: C.
47. The Raid
Writer: Mark Rodgers Director: Ralph Senensky
Scott Lee Martin, Ralph Daiker
BANK ROBBERY, MURDER
In Los Angeles, the FBI gets a tip about the whereabouts of wanted bank robber Scott Martin. Erskine and Rhodes are getting ready to depart LA from a case they’re called in to apprehend Martin. Erskiine takes charge of a raid of a Los Angeles apartment complex where Martin is hiding out, planning another bank job. The bureau’s planned raid soon gets complicated. Martin has a girlfriend who is also a single mother.
Martin is played by Ralph Meeker and his character is similar to the bank robber he played in Season One’s The Plunderers. Martin does not want members of his gang to give up. He shoots one member of the gang (Ken Lynch) as he’s trying to surrender to the FBI. Efrem Zimbalist Jr. is suitably grim as the Erskine’s plans suffer setbacks. Rhodes is dispatched to a drive-in nearby to try to get a rifle shot at another gang member who is on the roof of the complex with the girlfriend’s son.
Director Ralph Senensky, ON HIS WEBSITE, says The Raid “was one of my lesser productions for the series.” The locations had been difficult to find and it was a challenge to get the episode filmed on time. The director writes that production manager Dick Gallegly had been threatened with firing if the show ran over schedule. Senenseky says Gallegly didn’t tell him that until after three days of location filming were completed. “He had not put the pressure he was under onto me,” Senensky writes. “Dick Gallegly was a class act.”
Overall, the episode is tense. Having the story set in Los Angeles helps and avoids problems that crop up when having LA double for locations elsewhere in the United States. The story takes place on Oct. 14, 1966, and the bureau’s involvement lasts 97 minutes, according to Marvin Miller’s closing narration. Martin was given the death penalty but the sentence was stayed until the results of his appeal. The episode has a stock score. GRADE: B.
48. Passage Into Fear
Writer: Andy Lewis Director: Christian Nyby
Hanna Jolene Crandall et al
OBSTRUCTION OF JUSTICE, ESPIONAGE
Hanna Crandall panics before she’s scheduled to testify in New York in an espionage case involving her boss. The U.S. attorney’s office initially believed she was a minor witness. It turns out she was used as a courier and is one of the few people in the world who has met a key Communist bloc operative.
This additional information comes from a defector who’s being grilled by the FBI. But Hanna boards a train for Quebec just as the bureau relays the data to the U.S. attorney’s office. Erskine and Rhodes have already been dispatched to New York because of the new information. Now, the agents lead the manhunt for the missing witness. Meanwhile, the spy ring has assigned three people to track down Hanna as well. They’ve been assigned to kill her.
Collin Wilcox plays Hanna as appropriately nervous, unable to trust anyone. James Callahan is fine as a man on the train who is sympathetic to Hanna. The spy ring hit team is played by character actors Ford Rainey, Virginia Christie (Mrs. Olsen on Folgers coffee commercials of the era) and Henry Corden (the second voice of Fred Flintstone, who took over that role after the death of Alan Reed). The train car sets look similar to those in Season One’s Image in a Cracked Mirror. The episode has a stock score. GRADE: B.
49. The Courier
Teleplay: Charles Larson Story: Robert C. Dennis
Director: Ralph Senensky
Juliet Anne Sinclair
An excellent episode with strains of “what could have been.” Juliet Sinclair is a famous humanitarian who runs an orphanage in China. In reality, she’s a spy for the Chinese government. She’s about to take one of the girls at her orphanage to be adopted by a couple in Los Angeles. But all of this is actually a cover to transfer plans for a U.S. “cobalt bomb” back to China.
Director Ralph Senenesky IN AN ARTICLE ON HIS WEBSITE describes how QM Productions wanted Bette Davis to play Juliet Sinclair. In the first season, the FBI had vetoed Davis as a guest star. At that time, QM had offered the actress a part but she wasn’t available. This time around, the production team opted to try again. No go. The bureau provided no explanation for the veto.
As a result, Ruth Roman got the part. She’s very good and gets ample opportunity to make Sinclair a real person as opposed to a two-dimensional heavy. Still, a viewer in the 21st century can’t help but wonder how Davis would have fared in the part, especially given how one of her confederates is played by Gene Hackman. One can only imagine some interaction between Davis and Hackman. In Act IV, Hackman’s character becomes increasingly cold blooded. He’s ready to murder the girl he’s supposedly adopting because she knows too much about the espionage operation.
Producer Charles Larson gets the sole teleplay credit, producing a script based on a plot by Robert C. Dennis. With Larson at the typewriter, “Stubborn Erskine” is back in his full glory. The inspector is suspicious early on of Sinclair. But she’s crafty and doesn’t make it easy for him. Even Rhodes questions Erskine’s suspicions. Efrem Zimbalist Jr.’s scenes with Ruth Roman are somewhat similar to an episode of Columbo.
Director Senensky may have been getting a bit burned out by The FBI. “I think it was on this series that I became aware that the caliber of the scripts I was being assigned was on the decline,” he writes on his website. In this case, I think he’s being a little harsh. The Larson-Senensky combo is a winning one. The stock score includes music that Richard Markowitz and Sidney Cutner composed earlier in the season. GRADE: A.
50. A Question of Guilt
Writer: Mark Weingart Director: Ralph Senensky
Joseph Spooner, VICTIM
CIVIL RIGHTS VIOLATION
An OK outing. Harris (Andrew Duggan), a police narcotics detective, questions a junkie informant named Spooner. After he’s done, two pushers (Don Dubbins and Paul Mantee) beat up Spooner, killing him. Harris, who has a reputation for being a tough cop, is suspected of causing the death. The FBI becomes involved when a civil rights violation charge is filed.
The episode is mostly straightforward. Erskine and Rhodes try to get to the truth. A crusading newspaper columnist (Larry Gates) is critical of Harris. Erskine is under to wrap up his investigation because anti-police riots may break out. Viewers can see Harris clearly is innocent, so it’s mostly a matter of time before the bureau clears him. The cast does the best it can, but the actors don’t really seem stretched that much.
Mark Weingart, the episode’s writer, would return. He’d be brought on as associate producer for Seasons Four through Seven. The episode has a stock score. GRADE: C.
51. The Gray Passenger
Writer: Jerry Ludwig Director: Christian Nyby
Carlos Avila et al
CRIME ON THE HIGH SEAS,
The Gray Passenger is death and it visits a freighter with a handful of passengers headed to South America. Avila, the brother of the leader of a Castro-friendly guerrilla movement, kills the former president of his nation who’s aboard the ship. The murder takes place after the former president finds Avila, posing as the ship’s steward, going through his cabin. The ship departed from Norfolk, Virginia, and the killing took place off the Carolina coast.
The bureau is summoned and the case has high priority because of the prominence of the victim. The ship docks in Charleston. Erskine and an FBI from the Charleston office board. Rhodes does as well, except he’s posing as a new crew member, who’s replacing another man who broke his leg in an unrelated incident. Once aboard, Rhodes discovers the crew is full of Yankee-hating South Americans. Avila’s plan is to hijack the ship and take it to his home country. The vessel is loaded with medicine and food, just what the guerrilla movement needs.
Solid effort overall. The guest cast includes Barbara Luna, who plays the secretary/companion of the slain former president. She witnessed the slaying but tells Avila (Alejandro Rey) she’ll stay quiet. She’s had a tough life and is a survivor and will do whatever’s necessary. The ship’s captain is played by Henry Wilcoxon, an actor-producer who worked a lot with Cecille B. DeMille.
The stunt crew gets more to do than usual. Two stuntmen fall overboard and others get a workout from various depiction of mayhem during Avila’s mutiny. Erskine fires three shots and has two kills, including one of the mutineers who’s about to shoot Rhodes. In the epilogue, Avila smugly tells Erskine he knows the secretary won’t provide the evidence needed to convict him. But narrator Marvin Miller informs us she did testify and Avila was convicted of murder. The episode has a stock score of music from both Season One and Season Two. GRADE: B
52. The Conspirators
Teleplay: Robert J. Shaw and Norman Jolley
Story: Edward V. Monaghan and Robert J. Shaw
Director: Christian Nyby
Conrad M. Letterman
INTERNAL SECURITY, MURDER
The family that spies together, stays together. Meet the Caldwells: John and Viv and their daughter Betty. They’re part of a Communist cell in the San Francisco Bay Area. John’s brother, a former Communist who left the party and turned informant, pays a visit, unaware his sibling is still associated with the Communists. After the brother leaves, he’s followed by Conrad Letterman (Michael Rennie), a high-ranking Communist, who kills him. He later tells John about the murder. “I killed a toad — to prevent him from croaking.”
The stakes are high. Letterman is supervising a plan where a U.S. transport ship bringing war supplies will be blown up. What war isn’t mentioned, but presumably this is a vague reference to the Vietnam War. Meanwhile, there are other complications, Betty Caldwell (Julie Sommars) has fallen in love with a Naval doctor (Dabney Coleman).
The acting is a mixed bag. Rennie is an appropriately cold, calculating villain. Arthur Franz and Julie Sommars come across as genuinely conflicted. But Phyllis Thaxter’s Viv comes across as a female Snidely Whiplash. All she needs is a top hat and cape. Meanwhile, in the 21st century, with its sharply divided politics, viewer reaction would vary greatly. Then again, when this originally aired in early 1967, America was polarized by the Vietnam War. Anyway, it also doesn’t help most of the members of the Communist cell come across as one-dimensional. With three credited writers, including associate producer Norman Jolley, it appears the script underwent more revisions than normal. Erskine nails Letterman with a single shot. In the epilogue, we find out Letterman died of the wound. The Caldwells all ended up being convicted.
John Lupton appears as San Francisco SAC Allen Bennett, the third actor to play the character since the start of the series. We also again see New York SAC Chet Randolph (Anthony Eisley). Dabney Coleman gets to drive a snappy red Mustang convertible. The episode has a stock music score. GRADE: C.
53. Rope of Gold
Teleplay: Mark Rodgers Story: Norman Borisoff
Director: Jesse Hibbs
Victor Kearney et al
THEFT FROM INTERSTATE SHIPMENT,
Excellent episode, thanks to the guest cast. Leading the way is Louis Jourdan, who gets “special guest star” billing, as Andre Versalian, mastermind of a hijacking ring that steals goods and re-sells them in Communist bloc nations. Jourdan is his typically sophisticated, yet oily, heavy. But in Act III, he’s given a scene where his back story is told. As a 12-year-old in Beirut, he killed his father after he had brutally beaten his mother. He took seven gold coins so it would appear to be a robbery. Jourdan expertly squeezes every bit out of the scene that he can, providing an extra dimension for the villain.
Also present as Peter Graves as Manning Fryes, an executive who Versalian has manipulated into providing valuable information for the hijackings; William Smithers as Victor Kearney, Versalian’s key lieutenant; Jessica Walter as Kearney’s ex-wife and Versalian’s current squeeze; and Joanne Linville as Dorene, who’s had an affair with Manning, providing Versalian leverage to get information from Fryes. All get scenes to showcase their talent. Graves’ best scene comes in Act IV as Erskine pressures the executive to come clean. Both Graves and Efrem Zimbalist Jr. comes off well in the scene. On top of everything else, the FBI helicopter returns for the climatic scene as the bureau foils Versalian’s biggest job, a theft of $7 million in gold from a transport plane.
The episode has a stock score including music by Richard Markowitz and Sidney Cutner from earlier in the season. GRADE: A.
54. The Hostage
Teleplay: Mark Rodgers and Robert Leslie Bellem
Story: Bellem Director: Christian Nyby
Major Damian Sava, Dr. Marie-Luise Karn,
CRIME ON A GOVERNMENT RESERVATION,
A three-person team led by Major Damian Sava comes ashore in Virginia. However, the landing site is U.S. property patrolled by the U.S. Navy. Sava, working on an unnamed Eastern Bloc nation, kills a sailor. The target of Sava’s team is Anton Dieter, a staunch anti-Communist official of the Eastern Bloc country, who was granted asylum by the United States. The plan is to kidnap Dieter and exchange him for a spy current imprisoned at a federal facility in Atlanta.
Edward Mulhare as Sava is pretty entertaining. Sava had fought the Nazis in his country and he specializes in commando-type missions, having never quite gotten over the adrenaline rush he experienced during World War II. He’s also quite ruthless, which he demonstrates multiple times during the episode. Diana Hyland, a pro’s pro, plays a physician who’s part of the team. That’s because the elderly Dieter (Paul Lukas) has a weak heart and needs attention.
We get a few hints of “Stubborn Erskine.” The FBI inspector arrested the imprisoned spy that Sava wants to see freed. Erskine is determined the exchange not take place, but also wants to ensure Dieter makes it back alive.
The episode has an original score by Sidney Cutner. GRADE: B
55. Sky on Fire
Teleplay: Don Brinkley and Charles Larson
Story: Brinkley Director: Jesse Hibbs
CRIME ON A GOVERNMENT RESERVATION,
Interesting episode on a number of levels, including how QM Productions, under casting chief John Conwell, liked bringing actors back on its shows.
Much of this episode’s cast were returnees from earlier installments of The FBI: Bradford Dillman, as George Bellamy, who makes a serious mistake and digs himself ever deeper; Davey Davison as Bellamy’s wife; Noam Pitlik, as a U.S. forest ranger; Nelson Olmsted (he was the diplomat Erskine was impersonating in Season One’s The Spy Master, though you didn’t get a good look at him) as a physician; and Barbara Baldavin (she was a the widow of an FBI agent in Slow March Up a Steep Hill) as the doctor’s receptionist. One new face for the series was Lynda Day, but she’d soon be a QM regular guest star.
In Colorado, George Bellamy drives deep into a national forest to meet in a cabin with Carl Platt (Charles Grodin). Bellamy got Platt’s sister (Lynda Day) pregnant. Bellamy has been married for three months. He’s offered to help pay for the baby but Platt has other ideas. He wants $10,000 for a start. Bellamy, who has an assistant cashier’s job, doesn’t have that kind of money. But Platt has other ideas, including having Bellamy use his position to obtain the money. A fight breaks out and Platt dies when he hits his head.
Bellamy decides to make things worse by starting a fire, trying to hide evidence of the killing. But the whole area is a fire zone and a massive blaze breaks out. Additional fatalities occur when a helicopter involved in the fire fighting effort crashes (this is mentioned but not shown) and the inferno spreads.
Because this happened on federal land, the bureau is called in, with Erskine and Rhodes heading up the investigation. The FBI, without much to go on initially, builds out its evidence, with the lab in Washington providing some leads from the meager evidence available. Meanwhile, Bellamy gradually becomes unhinged. Mindy Platt has an accident and loses the baby. Bellamy arranges for her to be taken to the hospital. She dies there, and Bellamy’s anguish intensifies. What’s more, while Bellamy hoped for the fire to be seen as arson, nobody believes that story.
Bellamy, who gets drunk after Mindy’s death, tries a desperate (and not particularly well thought out) plan: he’s going to start additional fires in the national fores so the authorities will have to believe it’s arson. By this time, however, Erskine and Rhodes are on his trail. They catch Bellamy. In the end narration, we’re told 10,000 acres of forest were destroyed and Bellamy is serving time in Leavenworth.
You can see why Bradford Dillman was one of QM’s go-to actors to play villains or unsympathetic characters. Bellamy clearly isn’t a mastermind, though Dillman would get to play that time of villain in Season Seven. He’s convincing as Bellamy crumbles. Lynda Day, while getting guest star billing, doesn’t have that big a part. But she’s even more convincing when Mindy calls Bellamy. She’s crying, with her nostrils flaring. It’s no wonder John Conwell put her on his “go-to” list for actresses.
The episode has location shooting in the Angeles National Forest, which is noted in the end titles. The episode has a stock music score. GRADE: B-Plus.
56. Flight Plan
Writer: Francis Cockrell Director: William Hale
Robert Howard Dewey
INTERSTATE TRANSPORTATION OF STOLEN PROPERTY
Robert Dewey steals a valuable painting from a Washington gallery run by Webb Andrews, a former public servant who served under two presidents (which presidents aren’t specified). Dewey seriously injures Andrews in the course of the robbery. He still gets away and flies to Los Angeles. Upon arrival, Dewey goes to extreme lengths to establish an alibi, including renting a motorcycle. He plans to ditch it and drive another vehicle that he has parked in another location.
Things go awry when Dewey is in a minor accident with a car driven by Helen Meade (Antoinette Bower), who recently moved to the area from Connecticut. Dewey says he’s unhurt and drives off. But his wallet fell out of his back pocket in the accident. Helen takes it to his house. Dewey, not too alarmed, asks her out to dinner.
The case has gotten top FBI priority because of the value of the painting and the prominence of Andrews. Erskine and Rhodes fly to LA, where they’re assisted by SAC Bryan Durant (Dean Harens). The bureau agents methodically build their evidence and also investigate collectors with the resources to acquire such a painting. Their investigation leads them to Henry Dodd (Murray Matheson). Dodd is also Dewey’s potential customer; they’ve done business before.
Dewey and Helen spend time together. She’s definitely falling for him and he’s intrigued by her. But after Erskine and Rhodes interview Dodd, he’s rattled and Dewey knows he’s not going to settle down with Helen. At her home, Dewey drugs her drink and turns on the gas burners in her stove to kill her. After he leaves, he has second thoughts. But the FBI has already made it to her house and save her. Dewey arrives but flees at the sight of the agents. A chase ensues, and Erskine and Rhodes arrest Dewey.
J.D. Cannon was also on John Conwell’s list of go-to actors (he’d appear in the final two-part episode of The Fugitive, for example). He’s dependable and makes for an interesting villain. Antoinette Bower, though, is the standout among the guest cast. In series such as the Boris Karloff Thriller anthology or The Man From U.N.C.L.E., she played exotic women. Here, she sells you as a lonely, shy woman trying to break out of her shell.
This episode has a couple of style changes. In the pre-credits sequence, after Dewey injures Andrews, director William Hale tilts the camera as a way to show the stakes have increased for Dewer. Also, the epilogue — normally where everything gets wrapped up — is turned into an action sequence where Erskine and Rhodes chase down Dewey. One mistake: Dewey tries to steal a boat and shoves its owner into the water. But the FBI men nab him before he can get away. Erskine and Rhodes arrest Dewey but never check back on the boat owner! I hope he was a good swimmer.
Future Mod Squad star Peggy Lipton has a small role in the pre-credits sequence. The episode has a stock music score. GRADE: B, taking into account the flub in the epilogue.
57.-58. The Executioners Parts I and II
Writer: Norman Jolley Director: Don Medford
Paul Clementi, Edward Clementi, Leo Roland
OBSTRUCTION OF JUSTICE, MURDER
La Cosa Nostra has its back against the wall as the U.S. conducts a grand jury investigation in New York. Leo Roland (Walter Pidgeon), one of the chiefs of the Cosa Nostra, repeatedly pleads the Fifth Amendment to a series of questions. But, after the session, he’s advised by his lawyer that the U.S. has a witness, barber Al Norris, who heard mobsters talking business. Norris volunteered the information and “you can’t bribe a crusader,” the lawyer says.
Roland calls for a vote of La Cosa Nostra’s “commission,” whose other members are vacationing in Florida. Ed Clementi (Telly Savalas), the other chief, urges caution but is overruled. Roland summons a hitman known only as “Cupid” to kill the witness. What Ed Clementi doesn’t know is that Cupid is his own nephew, Paul, a graduate student at Fulton University. Cupid’s name derives from his M.O. — shooting his victims twice in the heart.
Erskine and Rhodes are already in New York because of the grand jury. Erkine wants the Norris case and is determined to link the killing to Roland. The mobster smugly tells Erskine and Rhodes they’re wasting taxpayer money on the investigation. Meanwhile, various personal issues are coming to a head. Paul Clementi (Robert Drivas) has stayed in New York and is getting reacquainted with Chris Roland (Susan Strasberg), Leo Roland’s estranged daughter. She’s become a nurse and living with Flo Clementi, Ed Clementi’s estranged wife. Finally, Ed Clementi is wearying of the rackets and would like to retire and reconcile with Flo.
The FBI gets a break in the case when it discovers and raids a Cosa Nostra “gun drop” hidden in a men’s clothing store. Erskine & Co. arrest Ernie Milden (Robert Duvall), another hitman, who has just gotten a contract to murder another grand jury witness. As the bureau interrogates Milden, Cupid is called back to go forward with the hit on the grand jury witness. He succeeds but not before part of a tooth is knocked out by the witness.
There’s now enough evidence to supoeona Ed Clementi, who is beginning to crack from under the pressure. Roland now wants to put out contracts on virtually anybody who could finger Clementi — including Flo, who Clementi still loves. The Clementi-Roland partnership ruptures and Roland summons Cupid once more. Erskine and Rhodes have determined that Paul Clementi is Cupid and are searching for the contract killer as a crescendo approaches.
Whew. The two-part episode features one of the largest guest casts in the series. It was released as a movie outside the United States and, as a result, appears to have a larger budget than normal. The casting of Pidgeon and Savalas is interesting. You’d expect that it’d be Pidgeon (69 when this episode aired) who’d be the weary criminal and Savalas (45 at the time) to be the bloodthirsty one. The counter-intuitive casting works, however. Pidgeon often played sympathetic character and here he gets to be utterly without mercy. Celeste Holm as Flo draws attention in every scene he’s in while Robert Drivas, who often played characters who wound too tight, is appropriately unstable.
Gunplay: In Part I, we see Cupid kill two victims with his two-shots-through-the-heart M.O. Erskine kills Milo, the head of the Cosa Nostra’s New York gun drop, with a single left-handed shot.
In Part II: Cupid kills Leo Roland, but it takes four shots. Erskine and other FBI men shoot Cupid about a half-dozen times but it’s difficult to come up with a precise count.
La Cosa Nostra members must have watched The Man From U.N.C.L.E. The gun drop works similarly to U.N.C.L.E.’s disguised entrace (which was a tailor shop). Director Don Medford had helmed the U.N.C.L.E. pilot, so this may not be coincidence. Erskine, normally right-handed, drops Milo (Ted Knight), the supervisor of the gun drop, with one left-handed shot. Some quibbles: In Part I’s pre-credits sequence, Paul Clamenti hot wires his intended victim’s car to draw him out from his home. Clamenti isn’t wearing gloves and makes no efforts to wipe his prints. But we’re told no fingerprints were recovered and only “one tiny fiber” was found. Part II, meanwhile, is a little padded with lots of Erskine and Rhodes in a helicopter.
Still, it’s an engrossing episode. It has a stock score, which utilizes some of Richard Markowitz’s music from episode 33. GRADE: A
Here’s an excerpt Warner Bros. uploaded to YouTube:
59. The Satellite
Writer: David W. Rintels (as Pat Riddle)
Director: Jesse Hibbs
Jack Donald Hauser, Lorraine Chapman
Kidnapping cases often brought out our hero’s Compassionate Erskine persona and it’s especially true in this episode.
Jack Hauser (Tim McIntire, back for his second appearance this season) and Lorraine Chapman (Karen Black) kidnap Tom Enfield (Tom Lowell), son of a wealthy New England industrialist. Things don’t go as planned, however, Tom Enfield deviates from his normal routine to go to the home of Tom and Elizabeth Page.
Elizabeth (Ellen Corby, also making a repeat appearance this season) used to work for the Enfields. She’s been altering a dress for Tom’s mother. She comes out of her house, screaming after witnessing the kidnapping. She gets clipped as Lorraine drives the car with the kidnap victim inside. She’s not fatally injured but the Enfields offer for her to say in her old room in their house.
No ransom note arrives immediately, and Erskine and Rhodes arrive to take charge of the case. Our first experience with Compassionate Erskine comes as he questions Elizabeth Page. She wants to help, but didn’t see that much so she embellishes what she saw. Erskine patiently walks Elizabeth back from the limb she’s gotten onto. Elizabeth then describes what she actually saw, which turns out to be more useful than she thought.
Meanwhile, Earl Page decides to take advantage of the situation. He writes his own ransom note, even though he had nothing to do with the kidnapping. That’s the satellite of the title — someone making an extortion demand on top of actual kidnappers. At the same, things aren’t going well for Jack and Lorraine. He’s coming apart, guzzling booze and we see he worked over Tom pretty well, including a broken nose and a black eye.
The Compassionate Erskine persona surfaces many times. When Erskine and the Boston SAC first visit Tom’s father (Tim O’Connor), the older Enfield snaps at Erskine. The FBI inspector takes it in stride. Mr. Enfield comments Erskine must be patient. The FBI man replies he’s not the one with a son in jeopardy. In the same scene, the Boston SAC wonders why Tom plans to join the Marines (something Mr. Enfield had told them, while saying he was worried about that decision). Erskine, holding a picture of Mr. Enfield when he was in the Marines, replies, “Don’t you?”
Two ransom notes come in at the same time — one from Hauser and one from Earl Page. The bureau covers both ransom drops. Erskine has guessed correctly which is genuine, but there’s not way to be sure. Hauser sends Lorraine to get the ransom he demanded. While she’s away, he puts one cartridge in a revolver, spins the chamber and pulls the trigger repeatedly. The bureau intercepts Lorraine on her way back. She confesses and says she’s afraid her boyfriend will kill tom regardless. Erskine is in the backseat of her car as it returns to the cabin where the kidnappers have stayed. Erskine nails Hauser with old shot, but it’s not a fatal wound. At the same time, other FBI agents nab Earl Page.
We get one more look at Compassionate Erskine in the epilogue. Tom is back home, safely, and his father is talking to reporters. As the interview ends, Mrs. Page is up on her feet, overjoyed to see Tom. “Where’s Earl? she asks, indicating her husband will so happy to hear the news.
Rhodes looks at Erskine. “I’ll tell her says,” pausing for a second. He then almost sighs his next line. “In a few minutes.” We can tell it’s not a conversation the FBI inspector wants to have but knows he must.
The episode’s stock score is music from Richard Markowitz, including The Price of Death. GRADE: A
60. Force of Nature
Writer: Mark Rodgers Director: Jesse Hibbs
Charles Francis Burnett, Allen Cole
James Franciscus is best remembered for sympathetic roles such as the teacher Mr. Novak or the blind insurance investigator Longstreet in series that aired before and after this episode. Here, he’s very effective as a driven and ruthless villain. Charles Burnett (Franciscus) and Allen Cole plan a kidnapping, including killing their victim almost immediately. However, Burnett couldn’t resist seeing his ex-wife Gloria (Anne Helm), who went to the FBI. Burnett and Cole are arrested shortly before the kidnapping was to occur.
Complications soon arise. Gloria panics and bolts. At the same time, the lawyer for Burnett and Cole manages to get his clients out on bail. Now, the bureau, led by Erskine, must catch up to Gloria before her ex-husband does. Gloria drives to the Florida Keys, where her estranged grandfather lived. She doesn’t know until she arrives that he died about a month earlier. Both the bureau and Burnett are on the trail of Gloria. On top of all that, a hurricane is hitting the Keys. Erskine and Rhodes must make a stand at the home of Gloria’s grandfather, with no prospects of any help arriving soon.
The tension of the episode builds gradually. Art director Richard Y. Haman and set decorator Hoyle Barrett do a good job (certainly by 1967 standards) of making Warner Bros. back lots substitute for the Florida Keys during a hurricane. Glen Campbell has a small role as a singer who’s friends with Gloria. The episode has a stock music score. GRADE: A-Minus.
61. The Extortionist
Teleplay: Norman Jolley Story: Mann Rubin
Director: Gene Nelson
Tyler A. Cray
Tyler Cray (Wayne Rogers) is the son of the foreman of a ranch in Texas owned by Ray Avila. Tyler has always resented Ray’s success and that his father (R.G. Armstrong) works for Avila. Tyler travels a few miles south of the Mexican border and obtains a blood sample of a bull infected with hoof and mouth disease. Tyler injects some of the blood into one of Avila’s bulls and demands $200,000. Tyler, who owns a drug store near the Avila ranch, mostly wants to ruin Avila.
The FBI is called in because, we’re told, there had not been an outbreak of hoof and mouth disease in the United States since 1929. Erskine arranges for an FBI agent of Hispanic descent to work as a hand at the Avila ranch to investigate further. The bureau pieces things together just as Avila is ready to deliver the $200,000. But Tyler is ready to infect other Avila cattle regardless.
This is the last script for the series for associate producer Norman Jolley, one of the show’s most important contributors during the first two seasons. Jolley would still be on the crew at the start of the third season but depart shortly thereafter. He would get “story by” credits on episodes in the third and sixth seasons. The cast includes Barbara Luna (making her second appearance this season), as a waitress who works for Tyler and who is in love with him. Also in the cast is Ned Romero, who would be part of the cast of QM’s Dan August series in the 1970-71 season.
The episode has a stock score. GRADE: B
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