I'm rewatching every episode of the Man from UNCLE series from start to finish. These reviews contain spoilers.
They keep the surprises coming. From the title, I was sure that this was destined to be the inevitable The Deadliest Game episode, but as it turns out it's got nothing to do with that trope. I'm not saying that UNCLE won't ever go to that well, but not yet. Instead, this is a story about World War II intrigue, but the full breadth of the plot doesn't become clear until Act 3 or 4. I'm learning quickly that finely convoluted plots, the art of the slow reveal, must come naturally to UNCLE.
It all begins with stamp collecting. Rare German stamps. UNCLE and THRUSH both need a stamp as a clue, which leads them to a university chemistry class.
A young couple, Buzz and Terry (played by Burt Brinckerhoff and Brooke Bundy) are attending university together. They're looking to acquire a lump sum so they can afford to get married. It seems that a rare stamp that Buzz owns is worth a lot ($6,500 with an advance of $650. I guess this was a lot of money then.)
There's some back and forth between UNCLE and THRUSH as they each hurry toward the same goal, until the goal suddenly changes for everyone. It's a lofty plot twist, but it works well, and I was fully invested in the story for every beat.
As secret agenties go, I'm gathering that UNCLE's only level of secrecy is that they don't wear badges with UNCLE written on them, because basically everyone seems to know that UNCLE exists, and many people know that Solo and Kuryakin are agents. They also have a surprisingly casual relationship with many THRUSH agents, not the least of whom is Angelique.
Angelique is played by guest star Janine Gray, who openly has an on-again off-again romance with Solo. She's something of a rogue agent, or maybe all THRUSH agents are, because her loyalties shift throughout the episode. But the storytelling appeal of rogues like her are obvious. The viewers can't ever tell when she's being sincere and when she's putting on an act, and so I honestly still have no idea what to make of her.
I like the character, though, and I'd be interested in seeing more of her, although I don't recall her as a character so if she does make a reappearance it must have been very occasional.
Two quirks stand out to me in this episode.
First, there's painfully obvious ADR when Buzz addresses a specific character who's concealing a secret identity. The viewer knows the true identity of this character, but Buzz doesn't, and for some reason the producers felt it necessary to retroctively give the character a fake name by looping the name in at the end of several sentences during the episode. My guess is that they either filmed an end scene in which the name was mentioned, only to realise later that nobody had said his name in the show up to that point, or that they were afraid that people wouldn't understand that the character was using a false identity.
Secondly, UNCLE gifts a bunch of money to Buzz and Terry at the end so they could get a head start on their marriage. I don't know how things worked back in the 60s, but today I can't imagine anyone looking that gift horse in the mouth. However, Buzz and Terry decide that they'd rather pinch pennies as newly weds than take the money. It's a stupid moment of middle-class American morality, whereby you have to pull yourself up by your bootstraps or else you just don't deserve your happiness (doesn't apply to those already wealthy), and it seemed particularly odd after all they'd been through just because they accidentally had an old postage stamp to sell.
Anyway, this was a good episode.
Lead image by Anthony DELANOIX under the terms of the Unsplash License. Modified by Seth in Inkscape.