Mission: Impossible

Season 1 Episode 21

Snowball in Hell

Aired Saturday 9:00 PM Feb 18, 1967 on CBS
out of 10
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Episode Summary

A former prison guard, Sefra, has acquired a supply of cesium 138, which explodes at temperatures above 70 degrees. Sefra plans to sell the sample and the formula from the closed-down prison base where he once worked. Rollin and Barney go in as a photographer and model respectively, and Sefra "learns" that Barney is a former prisoner returning for revenge.moreless

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  • Quite a chilling episode (pun intended). Ricardo Montalban makes a fine villain.

    Perhaps someone felt that the audience had seen enough of Barney and Willie to know what their talents were; rather than using the flyer for Barney's electronics firm and Willie's record-breaking weight-lifting photo, Dan pulled out standard portraits of them.

    Barney's pretty much at the center of this episode, and for a change, he doesn't make too much use of gadgetry. They have the little refrigerated mini-tank, of course, and the compact electro-magnet to lead Dan and Willy to the tunnel, but for Barney's own use...a little wire lockpick.

    Quite often the villains in Mission end up getting killed one way or another, but in this episode, the team knows it going in. Rollin asks how they are going to deal with Sefra's memorization of the formula for Cesium 138. Dan gives a little smile. That smile made his statement "There's only one way," rather redundant.

    Sefra's character swings in all directions. He's alternately rude, amused, charming, and frighteningly sadistic. He also appears to be completely disinterested in his surroundings. His office is filled with clutter. And why would he have a basket of filthy prison garb in there...when the prison has been closed for five years?

    They really cut it fine down in the solitary cell, with Barney in the tunnel and Sefra showing up unexpectedly. I didn't understand why Barney didn't just leave the magnet in the tunnel; after all, he'd be going back in there.

    I liked how they built up the tension by repeatedly going back to Dan and Willie in the tunnel, waiting for the magnetic signal which would show them which way to dig, and growing more anxious with the delay. However--I do not regard Willie Armitage as a stupid man. His suggestion that he start digging was a silly thing to say, and Dan's sarcastic response to "Go ahead. Pick a direction. Any direction," was uncalled for. They could have come up with another way to underscore Willie's fidgeting desire to get started.

    Visiting the "discipline area" (a torture chamber of the old school) Sefra is obviously pleased and excited showing it off. You can see Rollin's and Barney's growing distaste, as well. When Sefra rips open Barney's shirt for an "appropriate" photograph of him about to beat Barney, he is taken aback at the "scars" on Barney's back, but then he becomes ghoulishly excited by it. I suppose that it was from his realization that Barney must be a former prisoner, but I felt a little squeamish watching him.

    Barney is sent back to the solitary cell, ostensibly to pick up a missing strobe light while Rollin rushes off to start developing his pictures. Having finally deposited the magnet where it needed to go (to Dan and Willie's relief), he was confronted by Sefra--and it was darned lucky that Sefra didn't hear him scraping the blocks back into the wall, because there was no telling how long he had been lounging outside the cell. I was rather surprised that Barney didn't have a strobe light in his pocket to show Sefra. I don't think that at that point it would have made any difference to Sefra if Barney had had a "legitimate" reason for being there.

    I would like to know how Rollin, a complete stranger, managed to stroll into the hospital and into the freezer room without anyone noticing him. For his exit, he had on a white lab coat, which made him look official, but he didn't have it to begin with.

    When Dan and Willie came through the tunnel and into the cell, why was the cell door closed and bolted? What was the point?

    Willie gets to demonstrate his usefulness to the team, first holding Dan up as he breaks through a window into the generator room, and later, as he heaves up three big cement blocks from inside the tunnel, being able to use only the strength in his arms and shoulders.

    No fancy gadgets for disabling the generator--just a bottle of molasses. The IMF accountants must have been pleased with that one, although it probably didn't make up for the cost of the mini-tank.

    The scene of Barney being beaten was rather horrifying to watch--because you could tell that Sefra was enjoying himself. He wanted answers from Barney...but he didn't want them too soon. He must have been holding back somewhat, however; Barney didn't have a mark on his face or chest.

    Sefra was actually rather slow on the uptake. The generator had been blown; his Cesium was in danger of overheating and blowing up; and he was prepared to run off and let it blow. Barney had to repeat the words "sick", "doctor", and "hospital" several times before Sefra finally got the idea.

    One wrong note: at the hospital, the doctor in charge was going to refuse Sefra access to his freezer room. Cinnamon--who was playing a nurse--came over and essentially ordered the doctor to do as Sefra wished, using an authority she did not have. Sefra, understandably, gave her an odd look, but neither he nor the doctor followed up on it. It would have been better if she had been a little more tentative, such as "Doctor, I think you should do what he wants...."

    Once the cesium was in the freezer room, the rest of the plan unrolled neatly. Rollin transferred the stuff to the mini-tank, and he and Cinnamon left the hospital shortly after Sefra. (One might hope that IMF was courteous enough to replace the donated plasma that should have been in those boxes. Small enough payment for the hospital's assistance with their plot.) Having found out that the generator had been sabotaged, Sefra put two and two together (apparently he can be quick on the uptake occasionally) got the "truth" out of Barney, and rushed off to find the cesium, leaving Barney to pick his way out of his cell.

    I would love to know just what went through Sefra's mind when he saw the mini-tank trundling towards him...and smiled. Didn't he realize that something was way off kilter here? Slow on the uptake again?

    Unlike the remake, original "Mission" didn't fuss around with closing statements--they got the job done and that was that. However, this ending was a bit abrupt even for their standards. The cesium explodes, a second or two later Barney has arrived, vaults into the jeep, and off they go.moreless
Steven Hill

Steven Hill

Daniel Briggs

Barbara Bain

Barbara Bain

Cinnamon Carter

Greg Morris

Greg Morris

Barney Collier

Martin Landau

Martin Landau

Rollin Hand

Peter Lupus

Peter Lupus

Willy Armitage

Bob Johnson

Bob Johnson

IMF Voice on Tape (uncredited)

Trivia, Notes, Quotes and Allusions