Alan Arkin stars as real-life Lithuanian seaman Simas Kudirka, a radio operator on a Russian vessel. When his ship docks at Martha's Vineyard in early 1970, Kudirka makes a dramatic leap from the deck, landing on the American coast guard cutter Vigilant. He announces that he wishes to defect, but the rules of maritime law prohibit the Americans from offering him asylum. As the crew of the Vigilant looks on helplessly, the Russian officers board the cutter, beat and bind Kudirka, and drag him back to his own ship. This tinderbox political incident occurs during a Soviet/U.S. conference over fishing rights. The ultimate fate of Simas Kudirka provides the core of Bruce Feldman's script. Directed for television by David Lowell Rich (who won an Emmy), The Defection of Simas Kudirka was first broadcast January 23, 1978.