I'm rewatching every episode of the Man from UNCLE series from start to finish. This review may contain spoilers.
An evil, eccentric, and embarrassingly wealthy English gentleman who was wronged by UNCLE in the past decides to kidnap Kuryakin, and then Solo, and ultimately Waverly. For the duration of the episode, I assumed this villain was from a previous episode. He seems like he would have been. He "had a country in South America" for a while, he got abandoned in a rainforest, and he seems to know Kuryakin and Solo on sight. I spent a lot of time scouring through the previous episodes trying to place him, so save yourself the trouble. He's not any of the past villains we've seen, and his past with UNCLE happened entirely off-screen.
And to be fair, I think we'd remember him if we had encountered him. Or more accurately, we'd remember his criminally deranged wife. In her first appearance, she seems unaware that her husband's houseguest (Kuryakin) is a prisoner (despite him being in handcuffs.) She shows up later and again seems to be entirely oblivious to the gun Solo is wielding, and persistently invites him to dinner. I'm don't think I'm going too far out on a limb in saying that I detected a subtext of subduction that probably was left undeveloped to account for 1960s TV.
After she shows Solo a secret passage, we stay with her as she starts her record player and proceeds to dance the rhumba. Conclusion: she's batty, but harmless. She's obviously blocked out the horrible things her husband does and leads a lonely but pleasant life.
The next time she shows up is one of the most terrifying experiences I've had during UNCLE so far. I'll admit that my slow realisation of the direction I thought we were heading ended up being worse than the actual implementation, but I again blame that on 1960s TV sensitivity and not on the script. It becomes clear, when she's called into the literal dungeon holding Solo and Kuryakin and Peggy, this episode's recruit, that her blissful obliviousness is just a displacement of her sadism. As it turns out, while her husband enjoys asserting dominance over countries and organizations, her hobby is torturing people. She places Solo on a rack and proceeds to attempt to rip his limbs from his body, and then threatens to jab her own maid, Peggy, with a hot iron until she's stopped by her husband after Solo agrees to work with them.
This scene plays out to be pretty tepid in the end. Solo grunts a little but we never feel like he's in serious danger or pain, and Peggy doesn't get even a hair singed. I do feel like the producers played it a little safe, here. I'm not saying Solo should have started bleeding from his joints or that Peggy should have lost an eye, but I do think Peggy could have gotten burned, maybe just on the shoulder or something. After all, Peggy's been complicit with the villains for who-knows-how-long, which is at least justification for a little punishment. And Solo looked like he was more seriously injured from the wrist restraint escape in the previous episode than he was from the torture rack. Even so, Edith Partridge (played by Jeanette Nolan) is an excellently written character, and the writers reveal her true nature with the most perfect pacing.
My praise for Edith aside, I have to admit this episode isn't terribly outstanding. In places, it's frustrating because Solo literally walks right into the trap, and he does so while knowing that there's a trap. To make matters worse, he lures Waverly toward the same trap. The UNCLE agents seem especially impotent in this episode, the townsfolk have literally no lines and are all complicit in the local evil overlord's activities, and the plot is pretty straight-forward. It's not a bad episode, but if you watch it then you'll watch it for Edith.