2x28 The Bat Cave 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.

Deep in the Ozarks lives a girl called Clemency McGill, and she's psychic. OR she's a THRUSH agent trying to trick UNCLE into delivering top agents into the hands of evil.

That's the episode, more or less. Unfortunately, it's actually less than more, in this case. The premise sounds silly, but it's initially done really well. UNCLE is summoned by some scientists who believe they've discovered an actual case of extra-sensory perception (ESP), and at first UNCLE is highly skeptical. But they do their due diligence and test her, and they're ultimately baffled. It seems she actually does have an almost supernatural second sight.

I know it was the 60s and all, but the rigorous testing scenes are the first signs of weakness in this episode. The scientists are, for whatever reason, brought in to help administer the test, so right away you're likely to suspect that maybe there's an accomplice. UNCLE doesn't think of that, though, and end up convinced enough to let her hang around, especially because she promptly predicts that Ilya Kuryakin is in great danger. They give him a ring on Channel D, and sure enough, he's in grave danger.


Through a series of psychic tips from Clemency (Joan Freeman), Ilya ends up in Transylvania. A THRUSH franchise owner named Count Zark (Martin Landau) has genetically altered bats so that they're able to jam the RADAR frequencies of planes, and intends to unleash them upon the world just as soon as he gets some important mail. THRUSH is mailing him the special frequencies he needs to call the bats back home, and Ilya Kuryakin managed to intercept those codes.

Count Zark and Kuryakin take jabs at each other while Clemency and Solo pursue romance. At first, Clemency seems guarded against Solo, telling him that her grandmother warned her about big city men like him. Strangely, in their very next scene together she's complaining that he shows no interest in her as a woman, and is using her for her psychic powers. He protests and "reluctantly" starts to court her, and then everything is revealed.

I won't spoil whether Clemency is a THRUSH agent or whether she's actually psychic. I will say that the resolution is both clever but not altogether satisfying. Itis answered definitively. You're not left wondering. It just doesn't quite add up, at least not for me.

Still, the premise is clever. The plot feels like a pretty average THRUSH plot episode, and the introduction of bats and self-styled vampires (he's not really a vampire, he just acts like one) is quirky and a little puzzling. My guess is that they either made the plot silly to appeal to a TV audience that wanted light entertainment, or that this was the closest thing to a Halloween episode they had back in the 60s.

I'd love to see this concept played a little more for suspense, although I admit it' would be a hard trick to pull off. You'd have to set it up more like a Hounds of Baskerville story, where everyone but UNCLE falls for the trickery, or else you'd have to leave it a mystery in the end, and that doesn't seem satisfying.

In the end, I guess I liked this episode in practice more than I like it in theory. Clemency McGill is likable, even though her motivation is all over the place as the story progresses. Martin Landau is, well, Martin Landau. He's easy to watch, and even though he's playing an inexplicably goofy character he comes across as genuine and believable. Why not have a villain in Transylvania who fancies himself a vampire? There are less likable villains in real life with stranger fantasies. Not a great episode, maybe, but good enough.

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

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