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

In the middle of a bleak Nevada desert, Napoleon braves a sandstorm to ask an elderly prospector (J. Pat O’Malley) for directions to a nearby ghost town, which is named, promisingly, Nowhere. Upon reaching Nowhere, Napoleon stumbles across the corpse of a murdered man sprawled on the floor in a deserted saloon. Napoleon searches the saloon and finds a pocket watch with a map hidden inside it. While attempting to contact U.N.C.L.E. headquarters about his discovery, he’s ambushed by horseback-riding THRUSH goons dressed as old-timey gunslingers. He hides the pocket watch and map in a cow skull, then sends a frantic emergency message to U.N.C.L.E.—“I’m taking Capsule B!”—before he’s clubbed over the head and captured.

Back at headquarters, Mr. Waverly briefs Illya on the situation: Napoleon went to Nowhere to meet an undercover U.N.C.L.E. agent—the dead man in the saloon, presumably—who was going to pass along intel about a famous cybernetics specialist, Arum Tertunian (Lou Jacobi), who’s being held captive by THRUSH. Mr. Waverly plays Illya a recording of Napoleon’s message about Capsule B, a drug that induces amnesia for up to three days. “That’s the new capsule the research boys were bragging about in the cafeteria!” Illya exclaims cheerfully. “It’s supposed to be top secret,” Waverly mutters, filled with weary resignation at this latest bit of evidence that his powerful global spy organization is staffed entirely by knuckleheads and blabbermouths.

Illya receives his assignment: Find Napoleon and the map hidden inside the pocket watch. The pocket watch, which is apparently something U.N.C.L.E. agents regularly carry in the field to make them easy to locate in an emergency, is radioactive, so Illya takes a Geiger counter along to help him in his search. Mr. Waverly refers to the Geiger counter as a “beeper”, which makes me feel a bit leery of his scientific knowhow. You know what also makes me leery? The fact that he forces his field agents to carry radioactive pocket watches. Seems like an excellent way to end up with a lot of sick and dying field agents, Waverly.

Napoleon wakes up in THRUSH’s underground desert lair in the clutches of THRUSH villain Walter Longolius (David Sheiner). Capsule B has done its job: Napoleon has no idea who he is. He also claims to have no knowledge of either U.N.C.L.E. or THRUSH. Convinced Napoleon is faking his amnesia, Longolius and his loyal associate, a beautiful blonde scientist named Mara (Diana Hyland), inject him with truth serum and interrogate him.

This proves ineffective, so Longolius and Mara, with the aid of the captive cybernetics expert, Tertunian, brainstorm ways to help Napoleon get his memories back. Mara, who speaks with some ill-defined foreign accent, pages through THRUSH’s official file on Napoleon: “He’s classified here as a swinger. What’s that?” she asks. Longolius quips, “A manic depressive who’s never depressed.” While this is a terribly inadequate definition of “swinger”, it’s a pretty good assessment of Napoleon’s typical mental state. Anyway, Mara, Tertunian, and Longolius comb through Napoleon’s (hefty) file and marvel at his vast and varied sexual exploits.

Inspired by Napoleon’s file, Tertunian comes up with a foolproof method for shocking him out of his amnesiac state: All they need to do is “arouse his whole body chemistry.” Yep. They’re going to make Napoleon horny.

Oh, dear.

(Napoleon's file: Best U.N.C.L.E. prop ever, right?)

Acting on Longolius’s orders, Tertunian has already programmed a super-powerful computer with the lurid details of the love lives of all THRUSH employees. There’s a throwaway line about how this is to uncover ways of increasing worker productivity, but let’s be real: Longolius, like so many THRUSH bosses before him, is a garden-variety pervert.

So Tertunian feeds THRUSH personnel records into the computer to find Napoleon’s “perfect intellectual, emotional, and physical match”. Per the computer, the ideal mate for Napoleon is a glacial, prickly, scientifically-minded blond with a thick foreign accent. And since Illya is currently occupied elsewhere*, the job falls to Mara.

*Oh, I kid, I kid. Even setting my slash goggles aside, however, I’m willing to place a bet that the initial pitch for this episode ran something along these lines: “Napoleon meets his computer-selected ideal woman, and she turns out to be Illya with breasts.” The Mara-Illya comparisons are just too blatant to be unintentional.

Mara is horrified by this result: All THRUSH agents receive comprehensive training in the art of seducing the enemy, but she claims to have missed that semester due to measles: “I meant to make it up, but somehow I got sidetracked with differential calculus.” (See what I mean? See? It’s easy to imagine Illya delivering that exact same line, isn’t it?) Nonetheless, she agrees to take one for the team and shag Napoleon back into his right mind.

She slips into Napoleon’s bedroom, claiming to be an undercover U.N.C.L.E. agent sent by Mr. Waverly to rescue him. Confused and sick from the effects of various drugs and interrogation, Napoleon has no interest in being seduced.

He pushes Mara away and storms out of his room, then collapses from pain and exhaustion. One of the burly THRUSH gunslingers picks him up in his arms, carries him back to bed, and tucks him gently under the covers. It’s ludicrous, and yet not unsexy. The gunslinger, by the way, is the spitting image of Alison’s hapless husband Donnie on Orphan Black, which surely makes Napoleon/Donnie the crossover slash pairing no one knew they wanted until just this moment.

Illya arrives in Nowhere. The Geiger counter leads him to the pocket watch, but the map is missing—the old prospector from the opening scene found it first and absconded with it.

Stranded for most of his time on screen in a superfluous and mostly dialogue-free subplot, David McCallum seems hilariously over this episode.

Back at the THRUSH compound, Operation Shag Napoleon escalates. Mara fixes Napoleon a martini to his specifications (Napoleon takes his with two onions, the savage), regales him with made-up details of their pre-amnesia sexual exploits, then slithers around on top of him.

As it turns out, tricking Napoleon into sex is really not all that difficult.

The map contains lingering traces of radiation from the pocket watch, so Illya follows the Geiger counter’s signal deep into the desert, until he comes across the old prospector. Over the man’s protests, Illya wordlessly ransacks his supplies until he finds the map, which leads to THRUSH’s desert compound. Illya recruits the prospector to help him break into the compound and rescue Napoleon.

Meanwhile, a befuddled but agreeable Napoleon continues to have lots of sex with Mara.

While all this shagging takes place, Longolius and Tertunian observe Napoleon and Mara on hidden cameras. Despite having had his body chemistry aroused multiple times, Napoleon shows no sign of having his memories return. “This whole thing has been a fiasco!” Longolius growls. “Nothing has been accomplished at all, other than that he’s been having a great time!”

Longolius decides to let Napoleon escape, hoping he’ll lead THRUSH directly to the stolen map. So Mara shags Napoleon one final time, then gives him her gun and promises to help sneak him out of the compound. Alas for Mara, as soon as Napoleon holds her gun, all his memories come flooding back. He suddenly realizes he’s been the target of THRUSH’s creepy sexual shenanigans.

He is, quite understandably, not happy about this.

Mara wrestles the gun away from him. Longolius orders her to shoot Napoleon, but she finds herself unable to obey, because, oh yes, she’s fallen in love with him.

Napoleon makes a break for it. Irate, Longolius locks Mara and Tertunian inside a little room filled with flashing lights, which he promises will give them “…a long, long death, with a thousand little flares burning inside you through all eternity!” Huh. It’s not at all clear what that’s about. Sounds bad.

At the secret underground entrance to the THRUSH compound, Illya whips out a tube of exploding toothpaste (…of course Illya has exploding toothpaste) and blasts his way into the building. While the old prospector lines the tunnels with dynamite, Illya finds Napoleon, who is battling the THRUSH gunslingers. “It’s me, Illya! Do you remember?” Illya asks him. Napoleon stares at him in confusion. “Illya?” he asks blankly. Since we’ve seen that Napoleon has his memories back, it’s logical to assume he’s just messing with Illya’s head here. I can respect that.

Illya and Napoleon rescue Mara and Tertunian and make it out of the compound before the old prospector blows the whole place to smithereens. Back in the saloon, Mr. Waverly presents Mara with an opportunity to erase her past life: She can use Capsule B to forget she ever worked for THRUSH. If one pill causes a three-day memory loss, Mr. Waverly figures taking the entire bottle will erase her memories permanently. There’s a lot of faulty and dangerous logic involved in that, but Mara solemnly agrees to give it a try.

She gulps down a whole bottle of pills, which causes her to forget everything about her past life… except for her love for Napoleon. Napoleon and Mara gaze deeply into each other’s eyes, and then the episode ends, presumably right before she slips into an irreversible coma after recklessly overdosing on Capsule B.

A tawdry, sordid, needlessly sensationalistic little episode, start to finish. I have no complaints.


Pierre Comtois said…
Just watched this episode and thought it was downright weird too...especially Waverly getting Mara to take the whole bottle of pills essentially having her suffer a death of personality which might as well be real death so far as her original personality is concerned. Was also struck by the unusually salacious material, nothing in even Star Trek went as far as this one did!
Morgan Richter said…
It's so bizarre, right? Erasing Mara's memories/personality is a really unsettling note to end all the preceding salacious madness upon.

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