Tuesday, March 21, 2017

The Man From U.N.C.L.E.: “The Apple-a-Day Affair”

At a newsstand, Illya and Napoleon make contact with a traitorous THRUSH agent, who slips them THRUSH’s latest top-secret project—a bag filled with apples—in exchange for cash. Their transaction is interrupted by a gaggle of armed THRUSH goons, who swoop in and retrieve the apples. In the resulting melee, Napoleon hurls an apple at the newsstand, which explodes on contact.

Back at headquarters, Mr. Waverly explains the assignment: THRUSH has developed a new strain of apples laced with nitroglycerine, which they plan to use to blow up a nuclear stockpile. The apples given to U.N.C.L.E. by the THRUSH turncoat were wrapped in paper bearing the label of an orchard located in what Waverly dismissively refers to as “hillbilly country,” so Illya and Napoleon rent a jeep and, posing as a pair of traveling encyclopedia salesmen, head into the Appalachians to find the orchard. Illya looks at the rustic surroundings and sniffs, “I have a feeling we’re not going to dispose of too many encyclopedias around here.” Here’s what I have learned in the first five minutes of this episode: U.N.C.L.E. is teeming with elitist snobs.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

The Man From U.N.C.L.E.: “The Hot Number Affair”

In Greenwich Village, a villainous THRUSH agent named Buuder (Joe Mantell) harangues a struggling artist, Jay France (Kelton Garwood), who custom-designed a fabric print with a secret THRUSH code embedded in it. The print, which was supposed to be exclusive to THRUSH, popped up in a photograph in a fashion magazine on a dress worn by a model. Under duress, France admits he gave some of the fabric to a friend, a fabric cutter and aspiring designer named Jerry, who works for a struggling design company named Agnes Sue. Buuder and his henchman stab France to death with a pair of scissors, then set his studio on fire. Illya and Napoleon, who are are canvasing the neighborhood in search of France, arrive at the studio just as it explodes into flames. Always two steps behind the plot, gentlemen. You’re off to a good start.

In Mr. Waverly’s office, Illya and Napoleon examine the magazine photo and brainstorm ways to find the dress before it falls back into THRUSH’s hands. Illya flips through the accompanying article and notes that it doesn’t credit either the dress designer or the model in the photograph. “Well, that stops us cold,” Napoleon mutters. Oh, for crying out loud. Do your job, Napoleon! Call the magazine and ask them about the photo. Surely they’d have a release form on file from the model, at the very least.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Friday Roundup

Hello! I’m back in business. Putting the site on hiatus throughout most of February turned out to be exactly what was needed—I got my upcoming Duranalysis book finished, edited, and typeset. Cover's done, everything's good to go. Right now, publication date looks like a pretty firm April 20th. It’s good.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

The Man From U.N.C.L.E.: “The Napoleon’s Tomb Affair”

Pop the champagne! U.N.C.L.E. is back!

We open in Paris, where President Tunick (Kurt Kasznar), ruler of a struggling north African country, is visiting with his trusted advisor, Malanez (Joseph Sirola). A noted Francophile, Tunick worships Napoleon Bonaparte. He’s eager to tour the country, but Malanez cautions him to moderate his expectations: Their country was once under French rule, and Malanez suspects they’ll be regarded with disdain.

At his fancy Parisian hotel, where Illya is posing as a very fetching bellhop, Tunick is greeted respectfully by the staff. All goes well, until an elderly French rabble-rouser starts hurling pointed Gallic insults at him (“You shatter the eardrums of everyone present with your vulgar bellowing!”); the word “nincompoop” is frequently invoked. Tunick shouts insults back at him, and fisticuffs ensue. While trying to protect Tunick, Illya gets accidentally punched in the face, whereupon Napoleon pops out of nowhere to come to his aid, whereupon Napoleon gets knocked out as well, and… well, somehow this happens:

Saturday, February 11, 2017


I'm midway through a big project that I'm trying very hard to finish by the end of the month, and to make that work, I need to chisel out a chunk of extra time. Ergo, U.N.C.L.E. recaps and Friday Roundups are going to be on hold until the end of the month. It's a necessary evil. Duranalysis Facebook page updates may continue, albeit sporadically.

Take good care of yourselves and be kind to each other. Illya, Napoleon, and I will see you back here in March.

Monday, February 6, 2017

The Man From U.N.C.L.E.: “The Yo-Ho-Ho and a Bottle of Rum Affair”

Illya and Napoleon hang out at the docks in Hong Kong, being all delightful and charming while spying on a ship chartered by THRUSH. Illya sneaks on board to search for THRUSH’s latest fiendish device, a contraption that can generate deadly tidal waves. Displaying his usual level of competence, he somehow accidentally ends up locked in the hold. The ship sets sail while Napoleon remains behind on shore. 

This is the last scene Illya and Napoleon will share together until the final seconds of this episode. It’s not a terrible episode or anything—by the grotesquely lowered standards of season three, it’s pretty darn watchable—but it does make the key mistake of keeping Napoleon and Illya separated the whole time, thus depriving viewers of this show’s major strength, i.e. the magnificent chemistry between the leads. This is the first episode Norman Hudis wrote for the series, and, despite some problem areas, he did a decent job of it: The pacing is sluggish, but the characterizations are good, the plot is solid, and the dialogue often has at least a faint echo of the signature snappy banter of early episodes. Alas, Hudis would go on to write a handful of the worst episodes in the show’s history, episodes so relentlessly terrible and tedious that I dread the day when I finally have to get around to recapping them: “The Five Daughters Affair”, “The J Is For Judas Affair”, and, most craptacular of all, “The Seven Wonders of the World Affair.” This episode isn’t strong enough to mitigate that dire legacy.

Friday, February 3, 2017

Friday Roundup

Bear with me. I sliced the pad of my thumb apart on Wednesday in some inexplicable kitchen-related way (I have no idea what I did; I was just in the middle of cooking, then suddenly noticed I was bleeding), and typing is a bit of an ordeal.

I finished the first draft of my forthcoming Duranalysis book today, only three days behind schedule. Which, considering that January threw all the hurdles it could in front of me, isn’t too shabby. The book consists of fifteen essays on the Duran Duran experience, short-ish and sweet. I’m still aiming for a mid-April publication date. I’ll let you know more details as things fall in place.