2x22 The Foreign Legion Affair

Rewatching the Man from UNCLE

blog review uncle

I'm rewatching every episode of the Man from UNCLE series from start to finish. This review contains spoilers.

Quick summary: Ilya Kuryakin and an airline attendant get stranded in the Sahara and stumble into the clutches of a captain who believes he's commanding a regiment of the Foreign Legion. Obviously there's other stuff that happens. THRUSH gets involved, Napoleon Solo attempts to come to the rescue, disrobed skydiving, betrayal, reunions, and more.

The plot doesn't really matter, because this is a concept episode. I believe this episode is about the many sides of fantasy, from repression to passion to enchantment. Of course, in a show about spies it could be argued that nearly every show is about a kind of fantasy, because spies necessarily deceive people, spinning fantastic illusions for people in order to whatever it is they want. But in this episode, the concept of fantasy is expressed in several different ways.

Captain and Corporal

First, there's the delusional captain himself, who believes he's fighting in the Foreign Legion. He actually was in the Foreign Legion, but the country they were fighting in was liberated and so the Legion retreated. Well, everyone retreated but Captain Calhoun, anyway. He claimed and remained in the Fort, which was far away enough from civilisation that people just let him stay. The Captain lives a docile life, often gazing lovingly at a photograph of a woman from his past.

He has a faithful Corporal who has stayed with him. The Corporal knows the Legion has gone, and that the Captain is delusional, but he enjoys his regimented subservient life and so helps persist the illusion.

Make of that what you will.

The reason the Captain is delusional surfaces later, during a fever dream he has while recovering from a gunshot wound. It turns out that he was branded a coward while serving in the Irish army, and was forced into exile, when he joined the Foreign Legion. He calls out the name "Terence" several times, but it's unclear who that is.

One last fling

Ilya Kuryakin's companion throughout the episode is Barbara, a French airline attendant. She says she's engaged, but it's hard to miss the chemistry between her and Ilya. OK, so Ilya is pretty stoic throughout, but she's devoted to him. I don't think the implication is that she's cheating on her fiance, but you might get the sense that this is her one-last-fling fantasy, even if the fling in question is just a lot of flirting.

It's with Barbara that Ilya Kuryakin, dressed only in his underclothes, skydives into the Sahara desert. She ends up fashioning him a thawb out of the parachute for Ilya to wear, and from then on they're inseparable, and it's really really charming.

Captive of love

Napoleon is also caught up in an unlikely situation. He's captured pretty quickly, of course, on his way to rescue Ilya. Conveniently for him, one of his captors is the alluring Aisha, a lonely housewife looking for a little excitement. This isn't just a sense you get through the episode. Aisha makes it very clear what she wants ("Another night spent alone." and "You want to put on clothes?" are two particularly direct quotes).


She's as coy about Napoleon's impending beheading as she is about her lust for him, and she's simultaneously aggressive and obedient. She's dressed in sheer cloth and veils, and she eventually, presumably, gets what she wants before freeing Solo.


There's a lot more in this episode, including the lies Terence told Macushla O'Shea about Captain Calhoun, and her reunion with Calhoun at the last minute, there's some spy stuff and shoot-outs, and more.

Barbara and Ilya and Calhoun and Corporal Remy.

And there's funny stuff, too. The Captain mistakes Barbara for a Lieutenant based on her airline uniform. Corporal Remy is just fun.

Captain Calhoun and Corporal Remy.

An excellent episode, and surprisingly artistic in some puzzling ways. I'd watch it again.

Lead image by Anthony DELANOIX under the terms of the Unsplash License. Modified by Seth in Inkscape.

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