Monday, July 24, 2017

Mission: Impossible -- Episode 32: The Gunslinger

To Watch: Click Here

Synopsis in 3 sentences or less:
A former congressman runs a tourist town in Nevada that takes visitors back to the Old West.  At the same time, he's overseeing an operation that's selling nuclear weapons to terrorists.  When Phelps outcheats him at a game of cards, he challenges Phelps to an old-fashioned gunfight and ends up confessing in the process.

Memorable Quote:
When I want the puppy to bark, I'll yank his chain.  ~Phelps

The poker scene at the end gets my vote for best moment of the series.  The card-changing software idea is brilliant, and the final hand is set up beautifully with McClintock looking at his card in the hole and then Grant changing it on him.  We know exactly what's about to happen, and that makes it all the more satisfying given how much of a jerk McClintock is.  He and his henchman Slade are excellent villains and reminiscent of the duo from Jack in the Box.  I've written before how strong villains make for a better episode, and it's very satisfying to see these two bullies get what's coming to them.  Also a great smile from Grant as he is about to change McClintock's card.

And this is Phelps's finest hour as he reveals himself to be a bit of a bad-ass after verbally sparring with McClintock throughout the episode, standing up to him at the poker table, and then showing off some quick draw skills in the street.

My only quibble with the poker scene is that I wish Phelps wouldn't have told McClintock that he cheated -- it was cooler when McClintock didn't realize what was going on.  And they could have used the evidence they gathered against him to bring him down (i.e. it wasn't necessary to get him to confess to the 7 people who were watching the gunfight).

Other thoughts, observations, and questions I didn’t ask when I was in fourth grade:
  • We could have used a little follow-up or reference to last episode where Nicholas was brainwashed, like if he said, "Great to be back with the good guys" or "Sorry, Shannon, for pushing you down a flight of stairs."
  • Shannon's really good at getting hired for service jobs at criminal organizations -- first she's a nightclub singer in Paris, then she performs at a bar in Ireland, and now she's serving drinks in Nevada.
  • Grant is too much -- he happens to have an "atomic absorption spectrometer" to analyze the soil sample from the mine.
  • The setting feels much like The Last Gunfighter episode of Quantum Leap where they were acting like it was still the 1870s.  But it works better for me here because of the gimmick that it's a tourist town -- it's still ridiculous but makes for a fun story.

Final Analysis:
I didn't think anything was going to top The Pawn, but I loved this episode.  The setting is fun, the villains are tremendous, the plot is compelling, and I was really into it from beginning to end. Interesting how my top two episodes involve a rigged game of some kind.  It's really too bad that this series didn't make it to a third season because they were starting to find their footing in Season 2.  Ranking it 1 out of 32.


  1. I got a kick out of this one too. I'm not gonna rate it as high as you because it felt off to have Phelps emotionlessly gun down two people and leave them lying in the street at the end in the same way that I couldn't buy into Sam Beckett going all Charles Bronson at the end of that one "Quantum Leap" episode whose title escapes me, but the set-up and payoff to the story was otherwise strong. Did I miss something or was there a point to setting up Grant as this ranch hand worker whose skills were doubted by McClintock and his henchmen (but they didn't doubt Max or Nick?)....or was it exclusively to set up the scene of Grant riding the bronc? That portion of the story didn't really jive with the rest unless I missed some context. Anyway, I liked the lame con that Shannon and Max played on Carter and the way Phelps was baiting McClintock by doubting whether he was as tough as he pretended to be. As for the final card game, once again unthinkable luck was on the side of those setting up the "sting" as McClintock for some reason agreed to surrender the deck of cards he was using for the "fresh deck" Phelps wanted to use. They'd have quite a problem on their hands if he had refused. I'll rank it between "Target Earth" and "Deadly Harvest".

    As you said, the Old West setting was well done and it's kind of interesting they had an Old West set and a rodeo culture in Australia where this was filmed. The faux Old West town reminds me of Deadwood, South Dakota...where just like "Pontiac, Nevada" they have simulated shootings in the street. And interestingly, there's a Congressman from California serving currently with the last name "McClintock". As for the photo image you used, the shot of Anthony Hamilton is his cowboy hat looks like it came from his original series...the 1984-85 action show "Cover Up" where he played a cowboy-style action hero.

    1. I've been to Deadwood -- don't remember too much about it but I've always had a soft spot for Hickok after doing a 5th grade report on him. I don't have any recollection of that Quantum Leap episode you're talking about -- is there anything else you remember about the episode? Despite this being my #1 episode, I don't remember it well enough to comment on the scene with Grant.

    2. I knew it was a "Quantum Leap" episode you really liked and that I liked as well except for the odd scene towards the end where Sam emotionlessly guns down two bad guys in cold blood. The episode was "M.I.A.", where Al dances with his wife at the end.