The Contenders (1) - Recap

<-- Previous EpisodeNext Episode -->
Jim goes to a boat rental stand to pick up his briefing. After exchanging passwords with the owner, Jim takes a boat out to the middle of a lake and starts the tape. Mobster Charles Buckman is attempting to gain a stranglehold on professional and amateur sports. If he’s successful, the U.S. will be ostracized by the world sporting community, giving their enemies a propaganda victory. Buckman works with Dan Whalen, who controls the Syndicate bookies, and makes most of his money from rigged boxing. The IMF must eliminate Buckman and his plan once and for all.

Jim chooses the usual team as well as boxer Richy Lemoine. He then goes to see Richy at a veteran’s hospital. Jim explains that before he went into the Army, Richy was a top-rated contender. When Richy points out that he burned his hands pulling a pilot out of a plane, Jim assures him that he can have a comeback by having someone else fight posing as Richy. When Jim says that they’ll makes sure their man wins, Richy balks, saying he won’t participate in fixed fighting. Jim gives Richy his word that none of the fights that go into the records will be fixed and Richy agrees.

At the apartment, Rollin assures the team that he can make Barney look like Richy. Jim tells Richy that Barney was the Sixth Fleet boxing champion and can hold his own, and Richy promises to help. Cinnamon has checked out Buckman’s girlfriends and confirmed she’ll now be going to the same hairdresser as one of them. Rollin confirms that Whalen always uses the employee tunnel to get from the parking lot to the arena, and there are steam lines there. Jim figures that since Buckman wants a contender for his boxer, Ernie Straczek, now they can give him one.

Barney begins a rigorous training regimen with Willy and Rollin. Meanwhile, Cinnamon goes to the gym where Straczek spars and soon catches his eye. Buckman and his bodyguard, Wesley, arrive at the gym, and the mobster tells Straczek to open up on his sparring partner. Straczek soon takes the man down and Buckman congratulates him on his killer instinct. As Buckman and Wesley leave, Cinnamon smiles admiringly at Straczek.

Barney continues his training routine.

Later, Buckman comes to see another of his boxers, Artie and tells him that as a bonus he put a bet down for him. When Artie notes that it’s on Driscoll, the man he’s fighting, Buckman assures him that Driscoll will win. Artie protests and Buckman says that they’ll discuss it in his office later and that Artie should come up with Wesley.

Jim and Richy watch as Barney spars with a trainer, Bobby, Once they take a break, Richy gives Barney tips on how to match his style, since Barney will be impersonating him. While Bobby hits Barney the way that Straczek will, Richy warns Jim that Barney will never make it. When Barney leaves himself open, Bobby drops him as a reminder

Artie goes to Buckman’s office and warns that he won’t take a dive, and threatens to go to the boxing commission if any of Buckman’s men threaten him. Buckman responds by tearing up Artie’s contract and telling the boxer that he’s free and clear. He tells Wesley to escort Artie out. Once they’re alone, Wesley triggers a rigged elevator and shoves Artie down the empty shaft to his death.

Rollin makes Barney up as Richy.

Straczek leaves the gym and finds Cinnamon waiting for him. She picks him up and they leave.

Once Rollin finishes making over Barney, Barney shows Jim the pipe cutter that he’s put inside a fake tray of peanut. He warns Jim that it’ll be a long job, but Jim figures that it will get him an easier one with Whalen.

Whalen meets with Buckman and warns him to go easy on the rough stuff. Buckman is undeterred and plans to move into soccer. However, he wants 50% of Whalen’s profits. When Whalen refuses, Buckman reminds him that he’ll control most sporting events and Whalen will have the ultimate edge. Whalen finally agrees but warns Buckman not to get too greedy.

Barney continues to spar with Bobby and soon is up to speed. Jim and Willy head out while Rollin gets Barney ready for that night. That night, Barney goes to a boxing match as Richy, along with Rollin. Whalen and his two bodyguards enter the arena through the employee tunnel and take their seats next to Buckman and Wesley. Whalen spots Straczek with Cinnamon and he and Buckman both figure her for a sports groupie.

In the tunnel below, Jim and Willy go in, posing as a peanut seller and a security guard, respectively. While Willy stands watch, Jim sabotages the steam line with Barney’s pipe cutter.

In the arena, the announcer calls Barney up and introduces him to the audience. The crowd cheers and Buckman and Whalen take notice. Straczek notices that “Richy” looks a little different, but tells Cinnamon that he can take him. Meanwhile, Buckman decides to pay Barney a visit at his gym and recruit him. As the main event begins, Whalen tells his bodyguard Vince to go to the car and get a couple of cigars. Willy tries to stop him, telling him the exit is closed. Vince draws a gun and shoves past him, but Jim has just enough time to hide among the ceiling pipes. Once Vince walks by, Jim goes back to work.

Cinnamon cheers on Vince’s substitute, Johnson, but Straczek tells her she’s cheering for the wrong man. Buckman assures Whalen that Driscoll will win right on schedule.

Jim finishes loosening the steam pipe bracket. He then ties copper wire around it.

Driscoll wins as planned and Whalen comes out $188,000 ahead, with Buckman taking half. As Buckman and Wesley leave, they see reporters talking to Barney and Rollin, his manager. Barney claims that Rollin was a fellow patient, the man he pulled out of the burning airplane. and taught him the meaning of courage. Rollin says that they plan to fight as soon as they can get a match. As they leave, Buckman figures they have an opponent for Straczek.

When Whalen and his men enter the tunnel, Jim yanks on the copper wire, causing a steam leak. He “saves” Whalen and then runs off, and they find Jim’s wallet on the floor. There’s a prison ID inside and Whalen tells his men to pick Jim up in the morning.

The next day at the gym, Buckman and Wesley come to see Straczek. Cinnamon is at ringside and Buckman comes over. She says that she really wanted Buckman and thought the best way to him was through Straczek. Cinnamon explains that she goes to the same hairdresser as Buckman’s girlfriend Connie, and heard her talking about Buckman. Buckman sees Barney sparring and goes over to introduce himself to Rollin. He offers Barney a match but says that he’ll have to prove himself at the gym ring the next day against Stevens before he gets a chance at Straczek. Rollin agrees and Buckman leaves, but Cinnamon invites herself along.

Whalen’s man Vince picks up Jim at his cheap hotel room. Jim is expecting him and lets himself be taken at gunpoint. Vince takes him to Whalen, who returns the wallet and gives Jim $1,000 as thanks for saving him. Jim asks for a job and says that he did accounting work in prison. Whalen immediately calls one of his bookie joints and sends Jim over, but warns him not to forget whose money he’s handling.

Barney continues to practice for his upcoming match with Stevens.

Whalen’s man Stan shows Jim the ropes as a teller while Vince carefully watches the newcomer.

When Richy learns that Barney will be fighting Stevens, he warns that Barney will get killed. Jim says that they’ll dope Stevens with gas, and Barney has a device that will work no matter what corner Stevens is in. When Richy protests, Jim reminds him that it won’t be an official match and the ex-boxer reluctantly agrees. Now they have to plant the gas tank. The trainer, Johnny “Kid” Wilson, sleeps in the gym. While Rollin goes over Wilson’s history with Richy, Cinnamon assures Jim that she can handle Buckman.

That night at the gym, Rollin goes to the gym and knocks at the door. Wilson lets him in and Rollin asks him to let him into Barney’s locker where he left his money clip. Meanwhile, Jim slips in through a back window while Rollin distracts Wilson by talking about his boxing history. Moving carefully, Jim plants the gas tank, disguised as a wooden beam, to the underside of the ring. He then runs tubes to the water hoses at each corner

Everything goes according to plan until Wesley comes in with some men. Wilson tells Rollin to get out while Jim freezes where he’s at. Wesley tells Johnny that they’re going to be using the place to roll craps for a while. They set up a bench as a backstop right next to where Jim is hiding. Rollin steps forward to join the betting and Wesley accepts him. A dice throw goes wild and one of the dice ends up by Jim’s foot, and the man goes to get it while Jim and Rollin look on in horror.