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Ironside: The Fourteenth Runner

Our look back on the debut season of Ironside continues.

Episode: The Fourteenth Runner

Airdate: 28 December 1967

Plot: During a marathon race in the hills above San Francisco, Yuri Azneyeff, a prominent Russian runner and "hero to the Soviet people" disappears. Ironside is put on special assignment to find out what happened to the missing marathoner.

Guest stars: Steve Ihnat (who?), John Van Dreelen (huh?) and Edward Asner (yes!)

Is it me, or did it just get a little chilly in here? After Peter Zarkov, the security officer in charge of the Russian track team, makes a snide remark about the ineptness of the San Francisco police department, Ironside snaps back with, "In your country of course, police work is far more efficient. When a person drops out of his environment, I'm sure you know exactly how to put your finger on him." A staring contest commences between Ironside and his Soviet counterpart.

When in Chinatown . . . : Speaking as the politically incorrect former military man that he his, Ironside dates himself when he gives Mark the following driving instruction: "Try not to make a Chinese landing when you park this bucket." Mark promptly runs into the curb.

And like a good borscht, the plot thickens: It doesn't take long before Chief Ironside is up to his eyebrows in international intrigue. As if the Russian officials breathing down his neck weren't enough of a hindrance, it turns out Yuri is working for a U.S. government agency called the CIA, oopsie, I mean the SIA.

Really? The S-IA? As in Serbian Intelligence Agency? Staten Island Academy? Ah, no, it must be the Society for Industrial Archeology.

Ohhhhhh Mr. Graaaant: Three years before he'd helm the WJM newsroom, Ed Asner appears here as Marlon Davis, the regional head of the SIA. He's sporting a look Lou Grant would never have been caught dead in - a bow tie.

The fate of the free world hangs in the balance: During their top-secret meeting in the back of Ironside's paddy wagon, Marlon tells Ironside to use "extreme caution . . . our whole defense posture is involved." Ironside is clearly not happy that he has to preserve Yuri's cover as a secret agent while trying to play along with the Soviets to find their missing comrade.

You call it filler, they call it building tension: To the dramatic rhythms of Quincy Jones' score, Marlon and Ironside conclude their super-secret stealth meeting with a 25-second-long montage of Ironside's van driving in traffic and pulling up to the drop-off point, where Marlon's badass spy mobile (a wood-paneled station wagon) is waiting.

Hazard pay: As a weary Eve drops a stack of newspaper clippings on Ironside's desk, she says, "This will cost you the price of a manicure. I don't think I'll ever get the newsprint out from under my fingernails." Police work is a dirty business.

Interview with the vampire: Hammer Horror vampiress Ingrid Pitt appears as Yuri's former flame, Irene Novas, a Hungarian runner who's already defected to the U.S. Hmmm, interesting that she mostly appears in scenes set at night.

A woman detective's work is never done: Back at the office Eve is - you guessed it - pouring coffee.

Set the Way Back Machine for 1967 and pull up a bar stool: A draught beer costs a quarter! A QUARTER!

You want what? That could take hours! Or at least a 15-minute stop at the nearest newsstand! Eve looks absolutely dumbfounded when Ironside orders her to pick up a copy of "every newspaper and throwaway published in the past week." It's such a demanding job that he assigns Ed to help her out.

Do kids even do paper mache anymore? Ah, yes, that magical era when the fine arts of macrame and paper mache hit their artistic peak. When Mark asks the boss what he should do with all the leftover newspaper, Ironside suggests he take up "the satisfying hobby" of paper mache.

Get hep to the lingo: We expect street-smart Mark to be the one throwing out the slang. In this episode alone we get a "that's it, baby," "this cat," "the fuzz," and "it's your scene, man," so when straight-laced Eve is the one to say, "I dig" it really sounds laughable.

Have whiskey, will travel: Ironside pours a couple of shots for himself and Marlon while they tour around the city in the back of Ironside's van, waiting for the payoff on Ed's tailing of Zarkov and his henchmen. They joke about California's open container law.

It sounds like a lovely place to visit, but I wouldn't want to live there: When the Russians capture Yuri, they enlist the help of their South American allies, the fictional country of Costa Libra. In an unusually convoluted twist to the plot, they stage a Costa Libran funeral, with Yuri as the body of a diplomat shipping home in a coffin.

I didn't hear anything: What's that sound? Oh, you mean that sound? Oh, that's nothing, just the sound of a body being cremated.

Oopsie! My bad: Zarkov's plan to smuggle Yuri home to the motherland goes terribly wrong when it seems the coffin has been accidentally cremated. Ironside confronts Zarkov and Yuri's manager Nico Varinyi, with the fact that he knows of their plan, but Zarkov puts up a good front, feigning ignorance and claiming he's there, like Ironside, to observe an interesting foreign funeral right. Ironside barks, "I think you're lying. Maybe you can keep that from showing but look at Varinyi. That was Yuri Azneyeff in that casket!" Varinyi stands behind Zarkov, with absolutely no expression on his face.

Let's hear it for good old Uncle Sam: Irene expresses amazement that Ironside, a police official, would help a pair of strangers, something unheard of in her homeland. Ironside puts down the whiskey bottle and dons his red, white and blue suit to say, "I'm not only a police official. I'm one man, one of 200 million Americans. Most of us are strangers to each other. We do our best to remember that fact when a hand's outstretched for help." Squint and you can almost see the American flag waving in the background.

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Previously:
* A Cop and His Chair
* Message From Beyond
* The Leaf in the Forest
* Dead Man's Tale
* Eat, Drink and Be Buried
* The Taker
* An Inside Job
* Tagged For Murder
* Let My Brother Go
* Light at the End of the Journey
* The Monster of Comus Towers.
* The Man Who Believed
* A Very Cool Hot Car
* The Past Is Prologue
* Girl In The Night

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Comments welcome.

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COMMENTS

1. From Barbara Peterson:

I just found your blog entry on "The Fourteenth Runner" today, as I have Google alerts set for any mention of Steve Ihnat.

Don't know if you'd care to go back in and revise your comment about Steve Ihnat, (who? indeed!), but just thought I'd let you know:

Ihnat was a Czechoslovakian-born Canadian actor working in the U.S. from 1963 or so to 1972 . . . when he died at the tragically early age of 37 from a heart attack. He had just completed directing The Honkers starring Lois Nettleton and James Coburn.

Edward Asner and Ihnat were pretty good friends. Asner would go on to co-star in Ihnat's lost film, Do Not Throw Cushions in the Ring, and at the 1972 Emmy Awards, he actually spoke in tribute to Ihnat, who had just died.

If you know Ihnat from anything it's probably his portrayal of Garth in Star Trek's "Whom Gods Destroy." However, his best work (IMHO) was as Sam Keller in the Mannix episode "End Game." Others will say it was his Stefan Miklos in the Mission Impossible episode, "The Mind of Stefan Miklos."

Unfortunately, Ihnat never had a series of his own, so he garners new fans only if they're lucky enough to catch one of his Bonanza or The Virginian episodes on the Western Channel.

If his classic Outer Limits episode(s) "The Inheritors" had only been a Twilight Zone two-parter instead, he'd get new fans everytime a Sci Fi channel marathon aired that episode.

So that's it. That's the story.

A fan (cough, cough) has also created a website for him . . . although adding new material to it is in abeyance at the moment, thanks to the intrusion of this rotten economy into my free time.

Thanks.




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Posted on January 25, 2010


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