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

Outside U.N.C.L.E. headquarters, Illya is ambushed by a pair of miniature robots*, who shoot explosive darts at him. He deflects their attack with a garbage-can lid, then whips out his gun and blasts them into bits. He seems relatively unfazed by all this, like being ambushed at his workplace by lethal-yet-adorable little robots is just a daily part of life for Illya Kuryakin, amazing super-spy and noted turtleneck aficionado.

Over at THRUSH headquarters, THRUSH unveils its current fiendish scheme: They’ve given one of their agents extensive plastic surgery to turn him into a Napoleon doppelganger. Oh, lordy, THRUSH, why would you do that? One Napoleon in this world is plenty. For the first stage of their plan, they’re going to kidnap the real Napoleon and replace him with the duplicate, hence the attempt on Illya’s life. As the fake Napoleon explains, “Illya Kuryakin knows Mr. Solo too well and therefore represents a danger.” Well, you’d think so, wouldn’t you?

Since the attempt to kill Illya was a bust, Fake Napoleon shrugs and decides not to bother with trying to get him out of the way. “But I must stay particularly alert in his presence,” he muses aloud.

Spoiler alert: Fake Napoleon will not need to stay particularly alert in Illya’s presence.

*You know what? I didn’t want to put this as the lead image for this recap, but I think you all need to see a photo of those mini-robots that attack Illya, because they’re pretty darn spiffy. And I think you need to see them in glorious Technicolor™. You deserve no less. This is a shot from The Spy With My Face, a feature-length version of this episode, which received a worldwide theatrical release:

Cute little guys, aren’t they? And so terribly convincing!

The real Napoleon goes on a date at a fancy restaurant with a flight attendant named Sandy (Sharon Farrell, who’ll later pop up as the female lead in both “The Pieces of Fate Affair” and “The Minus-X Affair”). While Napoleon and Sandy swill champagne and giggle, they’re covertly observed by the fake Napoleon, who lurks in the booth behind them, his face swaddled in bandages.

Napoleon is waylaid in the coatroom by a gorgeous THRUSH vixen named Serena (Senta Berger), who engages him in some flirtatious banter. Serena, who claims to be fishing for information about a top-secret U.N.C.L.E. assignment known as the August Affair, suggests continuing their conversation somewhere private. Napoleon declines on the grounds that: a) it’d be tacky to abandon his date to run off with another woman, and b) whenever he runs off with gorgeous THRUSH vixens, he ends up getting bonked over the head.

When Sandy catches a glimpse of him chatting with Serena, she dumps a platter of spaghetti on him and storms off in a huff. A spaghetti-soaked and newly-dateless Napoleon decides to make the best of a bad situation and heads off to Serena’s pad to pick her brain and/or shag her senseless.

At Serena’s pad, they drink and flirt and nuzzle a bit, and then Fake Napoleon waltzes into the room. Before the real Napoleon can figure out what’s happening, Serena knocks him out.

Serena and Fake Napoleon proceed to mash their faces together over Napoleon’s unconscious form. A THRUSH henchman giddily observes that Fake Napoleon is an absolutely perfect replica of the original. Serena breaks off the kiss, visibly disappointed. “Not really,” she sighs glumly.

We shift scenes to, as the title card helpfully informs us, “SOMEWHERE IN THE AUSTRIAN ALPS”.

Yeah. That’s… yeah. No. Guys, come on, that’s the Griffith Park Observatory. It’s a very famous, very iconic structure that most U.S. television viewers can easily identify on sight. And it’s most definitely not located in the Austrian Alps. This is a fun game, Man From U.N.C.L.E. Can I play?

Makes about as much sense.

Napoleon—the real Napoleon—regains consciousness to find himself chained to a wall in THRUSH’s alpine lair. He tries to make a break for it, but gets punched back into unconsciousness by a beautiful brawny blonde named Nina (Donna Michelle).

Meanwhile, Fake Napoleon waltzes through U.N.C.L.E. headquarters and joins Illya in Mr. Waverly’s office for a briefing on the August Affair. Waverly kicks off the meeting with this hilariously cruel non-sequitur: “I don’t want to seem fatalistic, Mr. Solo, but every now and then I have a feeling that your days on this earth are numbered.” Wow! Who says that kind of thing? “Well, you’re pretty terrible at your job, Mr. Solo, so I’m sending Mr. Kuryakin here to shadow you on this assignment, because I imagine you’ll get yourself killed in the line of duty soonerish rather than laterish.” Mr. Waverly is often kind of a jerk.

Does Illya notice that his partner and closest (only?) friend has been replaced by an enemy agent? No. No, he does not.

Illya and Fake Napoleon fly to Washington, DC. On the plane, Napoleon ignores the pretty flight attendant passing out magazines. From his expression, Illya seems to think this is mildly weird behavior for his partner—“Hey, Napoleon never ignores pretty ladies or passes up a free magazine!”—but he shrugs and forgets it. Illya will spend this entire episode oblivious to the fact that he’s dealing with an imposter. While undeniably cute, Illya is as observant as a block of government cheese.

In Washington, Fake Napoleon and Illya meet up with two additional U.N.C.L.E. agents, Sicilian agent Coria (handsome Fabrizio Mioni, who will show up again minus his nice head of hair in “The Dippy Blonde Affair”) and Liberian agent Namana (Bill Gunn). With much pomp and ceremony, they’re given a locked briefcase containing three vials, each of which contains one part of a combination to a top-security vault located in Austria. The combination is changed in August every year; Napoleon, Coria, and Namana have been entrusted to deliver the briefcase safely to the vault. (For his part, Illya is just sort of along for the ride, ready to pinch-hit in case Napoleon drops dead mid-mission, as per Waverly’s dire prognostication.)

Amid strict warnings that the contents will be destroyed by acid if the briefcase is opened improperly, the case is handcuffed to Fake Napoleon’s wrist. The four agents jet off to Austria. Napoleon’s jilted date Sandy is working as a flight attendant on the plane; when she attempts to flirt with Fake Napoleon, he ignores her. Irate, she dumps coffee in his lap and storms off.

Oh, Sandy. Girl, let’s talk. Dumping spaghetti on Napoleon back at the restaurant was uncool, but he was sort of flirting with that pretty THRUSH lady, so I’ll cut you some slack on that. Having dumped spaghetti on him, though, you can’t possibly be surprised or offended to find he doesn’t want anything more to do with you. Cut your losses and ignore him right back.

The briefcase still chained to his wrist, Fake Napoleon heads off to the loo to change his pants. Namana and Coria insist on keeping an eye on the briefcase. We’re treated to some extensive, elaborate pageantry with the briefcase: With the secret aid of a fellow THRUSH henchman, Fake Napoleon gives Namana and Coria a duplicate briefcase while he holes up in the bathroom with the real one, which he breaks into and photographs the three parts of the secret code hidden inside. Because Fake Napoleon is every bit as competent as Authentic Napoleon, he loses one of his coat buttons inside the briefcase.

Meanwhile, back at the THRUSH lair in the Alps, terrible things are happening to the real Napoleon.

See, THRUSH is keeping him alive for the time being because they’re planning on killing him at a specific moment when they need his fresh corpse to be discovered, so they’re taking very good care of him. This includes sending Nina in to give him free massages. That’s their official explanation, but… look, it’s no secret that THRUSH is crawling with voyeurs and creeps. So all the THRUSH goons stand around and watch while Napoleon is strapped down to a bed to receive a massage from Nina.

In the Alps, Fake Napoleon, Illya, Namana, and Coria are escorted to a top-secret laboratory located inside a mountain. There’s a whole lot of high-security rigmarole along the way involving secret passcodes and special keys; it’s very impressive, but I lost all faith in U.N.C.L.E.’s security measures around the time Fake Napoleon unlocked his handcuffs and passed the briefcase to Coria and Namana while traveling on a crowded commercial flight.

They’re met by an officious unnamed woman (Paula Raymond); it’s never specified who she is or what she does, but IMDB credits her as “The Director”, so let’s call her that. The Director explains the contents of the vault: Scientist have made a discovery of “…such awesome power that nuclear weapons would be literally negated by the use of this power!” Lately, astronomers have picked up radio waves from space that indicate a possible attack from “visitors beyond the stars”. To protect against an alien invasion, scientists have built a super-powerful weapon, codenamed Project EarthSave, which is stored in the vault.

Yep. The Man From U.N.C.L.E. just casually introduced the possibility of an imminent hostile alien attack. No big deal. Let’s move on.

The Director instructs the U.N.C.L.E. agents to don baggy coveralls and protective goggles before leading them to the vault, which is built inside a cave deep in the earth.

At least it’s supposed to be a cave, I guess. It’s not the set department’s best work, but I understand. This is a television episode, after all, and sometimes TV budgets are kind of tight, so you have to compromise and do things like paint stalagmites and stalactites on the walls of a soundstage and hope audiences get the idea that it’s a cave. I mean, it’s not like this was a theatrically-released feature fil…

Oh. Right. Awkward.

The Director opens the briefcase and feeds the three components of the new vault combination into a computer, which looks like one of those contraptions used to pick lottery numbers. As the vault begins to open, the Director spews out a rapid word salad of science-y terms—“vacuum”, “electromagnetic radiation”, “high-energy gamma rays”, “hypnotic effect”—to caution the agents against looking into it without goggles on.

Namana notices Fake Napoleon’s button lying in the now-opened briefcase. Before he has time to warn anyone, Fake Napoleon rips off Namana’s goggles and shoves him toward the vault. Hypnotized by the vault’s mysteriously glowing contents, Namana stumbles into it. “You can’t save a man who no longer exists,” the Director says sadly as she shuts the vault.

The glum party of agents, minus poor dead Namana, check into an alpine lodge for the night. At the bar, Fake Napoleon meets with Serena to discuss the next phase of their plan: He’ll go mountain climbing and pretend to fall, whereupon the body of Authentic Napoleon will be found at the base of a cliff. In a couple of months, THRUSH will be ready to invade the mountain hideout and, using the stolen combination, steal Project EarthSave. Their plotting is interrupted by Sandy, who plops herself in Fake Napoleon’s lap, covers him with kisses, and hisses insults at Serena. Serena suggests she accompany them on their hiking trip, figuring she can easily shove her off a cliff. This idea has merit. Sandy’s a pill.

Using a hairpin swiped from Nina, Authentic Napoleon unlocks his shackles and breaks out of his cell. He gets into a gunfight with a THRUSH agent, who, with his dying breath, sets the Griffith Park Observatory THRUSH alpine lair to self-destruct. Napoleon casually resets the self-destruct clock to give himself an extra thirty minutes of escape time (which he does by literally moving the clock hands back half an hour), then has himself a fine old time breaking out of the building. He climbs up walls and karate-chops THRUSH goons and steals hand grenades, then jumps onto a convenient motorcycle and zips away to freedom.

Back at the lodge, Fake Napoleon and Serena, having been alerted to Napoleon’s escape, assault and kidnap Sandy. Illya, who seems to think it’s weird that his partner is inexplicably punching out cute blonde flight attendants, chases after them. Fake Napoleon finds Authentic Napoleon and tackles him. They engage in vigorous fisticuffs on the edge of a cliff. Many karate chops are exchanged.

And then Serena adds a fun random element by whipping out a gun and killing Fake Napoleon. Authentic Napoleon collapses in Serena’s arms while the THRUSH lair explodes in the background. “THRUSH is going to be very disappointed in you, Serena,” Napoleon gasps out. Meanwhile, Illya hovers around, having absolutely no clue as to what’s going on.

I adore you madly, Illya, but you're slightly worse than useless in this episode.

Back at the lodge, Serena and Napoleon flirt with each other some more. And then Sandy and Napoleon make out, after Napoleon, the waggish prankster, tries to make her believe he’s still the fake Napoleon, the one that bonked her over the head and kidnapped her and plotted to kill her. Those two crazy kids. I sure hope they can make it work.


Illesdan said…
I sincerely hope the movie made more sense than this. This episode dragged on so painfully, and, oh yeah, Illya...

Wouldn't this episode have made more sense if Illya wasn't in it? As in, he should have been incapacitated when the opportunity was there. Granted, I've only watched this episode once, but I'm pretty sure McCallum has ZERO lines of dialogue in this show after Fake Napoleon lands on the scene. It blew my mind. The only people who took Napoleon and Illya's friendship seriously was THRUSH, and I think that's a problem when the characters in your story have a better grasp on things work in their reality than the people filming this nonsense. There weren't many turkeys in the first season, but lordy, this one just cries fowl.
Morgan Richter said…
I know -- it's so weird having THRUSH give lip service to how Illya knows Napoleon so well... and then the episode totally drops that ball by having Illya be completely nonessential to uncovering Fake Napoleon. Such a missed opportunity.
MrsSpooky said…
I know I'm very late to the party on this episode, I just found the recap. :D

I thought Illya was pretty useless too, he should have known there was something wrong and called altNapoleon out on it. So I thought until I watched it again.

Think about it though - who would ever EVER suspect that someone was replaced by an exact lookalike? AltNapoleon pretty much kept his mouth shut around Illya and he WAS acting out of character, and Illya absolutely did notice that Napoleon was different. You could tell by the strange looks he was giving him, alternately confused and maybe a little hurt.

Smart move on altNapoleon's part though, clamming up with Illya, particularly when they were alone. What was going through Illya's mind? Did he wonder if there was something on Napoleon's mind that he couldn't talk about? Maybe he thought his friend had something happen in his personal life that was bothering him and didn't want to talk about.

As outside observers who know what's going on, I'm thinking it's easy to think Illya should have made the connection with the assassination attempt followed by strange-acting Napoleon. Having someone (or some THING) trying to kill him was probably not much of a precedent and we really don't have much idea of the passage of time between the assassination attempt and strange Napoleon.

Well, my thoughts at least. :)
Morgan Richter said…
Sorry, Mrs. Spooky -- I didn't see your comment until just now! I always find this episode a bit frustrating, what with the assassination attempt on Illya at the beginning, which Illya and UNCLE don't seem to concerned with following up on, followed by Illya not putting the pieces together about Fake Napoleon. But you're right, of course -- it's not like Illya had any reason to conclude that his partner had been replaced by an enemy double. Still... it'd really be nice if we saw more indication that Illya and Napoleon are, in fact, much smarter and better than the average run-of-the-mill spy.
M'lady said…
I was watching the film version the other day. You only realise how much of a walking sexual harassment suit napoleon is once you see his doutlets not chasing every bit of skirt. Lol!
Love your synopsis BTW. Stumbled upon your blog by accident when looking for some inspiration images for my female illya cosplay I'm putting together. Now I'm working my way through random chuckling to myself on the bus.
Morgan Richter said…
Glad you've been enjoying the recaps, M'lady, and I'm delighted by the idea of your female Illya cosplay! You're going to have to post photos when you're all done.
M'lady said…
Will do. So far I've done casual illya with a black dress and white turtleneck inspired by his the virtue affair outfit.
I've got plans to do sneaky illya with black trousers, turtleneck and holster.
Then when I can track down the right vintage pattern. I'm doing office illya with a suit and some tinted sunglasses.
Still debating how to represent his lovely hair bouffant or sharp bob? Can you tell I've thought about this far too much.

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