MANNIX. “The Many Deaths of Saint Christopher.” CBS, 07 October 1967 (Season One, Episode 4.) Mike Connors (Joe Mannix), Joseph Campanella. Guest stars: Linda Marsh, John Marley, David Hurst, Neil Diamond. Created by Richard Levinson and William Link. Developed by Bruce Geller. Screenplay: Barry Oringer. Director: John Meredyth Lucas.

   In its first season, Mannix seemed to have something of an identity crisis. Joe Mannix (Mike Connors) was presented as a tough guy detective who had very little use for the computer systems that his employer, Intertect, relied on to solve crimes. Many seem to credit the show’s lasting success to its ditching the man vs. computer concept and allowing Mannix to have his own firm – and Black secretary (a rarity those days) – beginning in season two.

   To me, there remains something very stilted about the first few episodes of the first season. It’s not exactly easy to pinpoint what doesn’t work. Perhaps it’s the pacing which often seems quite arbitrary. Either things happen very slowly or so quickly that plot lines are seemingly reshaped in a matter of minutes.

   Such is the case for “The Many Deaths of St. Christopher,” the show’s fourth episode. There’s a quite confusing sequence before the initial credits. Then the episode begins with Mannix’s boss Lew Wickersham (Joseph Campanella), telling him about a new case. Three German businessmen are looking for a former work colleague who has allegedly absconded with a trade secret and is threatening blackmail.

   They want to hire Mannix to find the man in question and suggest using the man’s daughter as bait. Here’s where things get confusing. Why don’t the men just do the job themselves? They seem capable and well financed. Well, that’s never really explained.

   Soon it is revealed, however, that the men are Serbian nationals on a vengeance mission against a Nazi war criminal responsible for the man who massacred civilians in their village. But are the men even being honest about that? That’s where things get a little topsy turvy and Mannix must figure things out.

   All told, it’s not a particularly convincing bit of storytelling. One would think Joe Mannix of all people would be savvier than he ends up being in much of this episode.

   Final point. Although this first season episode of Mannix is nominally about Nazi war crimes in Serbia during World War II and the long shadow of the Second World War, what ends up being far more memorable is the appearance of a youthful Neil Diamond as a nightclub singer. It’s a nice little slice of 1960s LA that nonetheless seems oddly out of place in an episode nominally concerning heavy subject matter.