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

Well, huh. This is a fourth-season episode, and yet it’s actually sort of good. What are the odds?

In the basement of a Chinese restaurant in London, a THRUSH agent named Commander Krohler (“The See-Paris-And-Die Affair”’s Alfred Ryder) holds Napoleon captive, along with an agent from U.N.C.L.E.’s London office, Brian Morton (Peter Bromilow). Krohler has in his possession stolen blueprints for a powerful new nuclear submarine, which he plans to sell to a sinister Chinese gangster, Mr. Yu.

Mr. Yu arrives at the restaurant, and negotiations begin. Oh, lordy. Despite my brave earlier claims, this isn’t good. This is mortifying. See, Illya Kuryakin, Man of a Thousand Faces, has managed to take the place of the real Mr. Yu, which means he’s glued a Fu Manchu mustache onto his lip and is speaking with what I suppose he thinks is a Chinese accent. Mortifying and racist! I can’t watch this. Let’s get through this scene as quickly as possible.

Anyway, Commander Krohler, who is completely taken in by Illya’s ingenious disguise, offers to sell him Napoleon and Brian along with the submarine plans. He’s asking a million pounds for each, which seems kind of pricey, frankly. I mean, I adore Napoleon, and if I were an evil mastermind, it’d be pretty great to keep him on hand as my personal manservant or dance instructor or whatever, but a million pounds? That’s a bad investment. Krohler describes Napoleon as the “top U.N.C.L.E. agent in North America”, which is a sentiment that makes me weep quiet tears for the future of the organization. Illya tosses a strobe light onto the table, then swipes the blueprints and frees Napoleon and Brian while Krohler is distracted. As they zip away to safety in a getaway car, a smugger-than-usual Napoleon beams at Illya: “Did you know that I was the top U.N.C.L.E. agent in America?”

Hooray! A fourth-season episode in which the writers haven’t managed to drain Napoleon and Illya of every drop of their signature wit and effervescent charm! I never thought I’d see the day!

Back at U.N.C.L.E.’s London headquarters, Brian, who is engaged to be married, attempts to tender his official resignation to a visiting Mr. Waverly. Waverly refuses to accept it, insisting that Brian remain on active duty until the nuclear submarine completes a successful trial run without interference from THRUSH. While Waverly and Brian bicker, Napoleon and Illya wordlessly lurk in the background, grinning at each other like drunken loons. Lord only knows what these two are so giddy about, but after a season of unrelenting dourness, it’s lovely to see them enjoying themselves.

At a dance club, Brian meets with his fiancée, Laura Adams (Diana Van der Vlis). Brian broods and frets that Mr. Waverly is going to pressure him into staying with U.N.C.L.E. Brian is right to be worried: At Waverly’s behest, Illya breaks into the heavily-guarded shipyard where the nuclear submarine is being held and causes a noisy ruckus to get the attention of the guards. Then he contacts Brian at the club to alert him that a security breach is in progress. Brian reluctantly leaves Laura and heads off to join Illya at the shipyard. As soon as Brian leaves, a groovier-than-usual Napoleon swoops in and sidles up to Laura.

He whisks her off to have a thoroughly inappropriate and downright pushy chat with Mr. Waverly about how it’s a terrible idea to marry an U.N.C.L.E. agent. Using Napoleon as an example of a typical agent, Waverly describes him as “…the kind of man most women would find very attractive”, but nonetheless claims he’s “the worst possible candidate for marriage.” At first, I naturally assumed this was because Napoleon is a feckless and randy libertine with a love-‘em-and-leave-‘em ethos hard-coded into his brain, but nope, it’s because womenfolk bog U.N.C.L.E. agents down. As Waverly explains it, with maximum period-appropriate sexism, “Once married, they become dull from missing the excitement, the adventure.” Ah, women. The old ball-and-chain, am I right?

At the shipyard, Brian and Illya question the sailors guarding the submarine about the mysterious intruder. One of the guards pointedly mentions that the intruder looked a whole hell of a lot like Illya: “In fact, if I didn’t know better, I’d say it was him.” Illya deadpans, “Well, that doesn’t give us much to go on.” HA! Thank you, Illya, that was marvelous. Your glorious dry wit has been in short supply throughout all these interminably dull recent episodes, so it’s lovely to see you back in top form.

Seething at the way U.N.C.L.E. is blatantly interfering with his personal life, Brian storms off, only to find Krohler and a couple of THRUSH goons lying in wait for him. Krohler announces his intention to hold Laura hostage until Brian steals the blueprints for him.

Mr. Waverly, meanwhile, orders Illya and Napoleon to run a thorough background check on Laura. Napoleon and Illya strenuously object to this, on the grounds that Waverly is being weird and snoopy about Brian’s personal life. Napoleon in particular has the look of a man who strongly suspects his own personal life wouldn’t hold up well under this level of scrutiny.

They’re interrupted by an alert from headquarters: Someone has tripped an alarm in the building where the blueprints are being held. Illya and Napoleon head off to investigate.

The culprit is Brian, who has broken into the vault containing the blueprints to photograph them for Krohler. When Illya and Napoleon arrive, Brian ducks behind a file cabinet. Upon finding the vault open, Napoleon and Illya wander into it, whereupon Brian slams the door, locks them inside, and floods it with knockout gas.

Outstanding work, both of you. This is the level of spycraft we expect from the top U.N.C.L.E. agent in North America.

After a suitable interval, Brian frees them from the vault, claiming he chased off their unknown attacker. Suspicious, Napoleon slips a tracking device into Brian’s coat pocket. When Brian returns to Krohler’s estate to trade the photographs of the blueprints for Laura, Illya and Napoleon trail him at a safe distance. I get it, Napoleon. Illya’s hair is awfully pretty. If I were tooling around the English countryside in a convertible with Illya, I’d probably try to discreetly entwine my fingers in his silky locks, too.

Seriously, though, what’s going on here? Is the front seat really that small and cramped? Napoleon is practically sitting in Illya’s lap. This is an observation, not a complaint.

Brian gives Krohler the photographs. Like any self-respecting villain, Krohler changes the terms of their agreement and refuses to release Diana unless Brian helps him steal the actual submarine. Under duress, Brian calls Mr. Waverly and claims that an unknown member of the submarine crew is a spy for THRUSH. Waverly agrees to meet Brian on the submarine to ferret out the culprit.

Brian returns to headquarters and forges U.N.C.L.E. identification cards for Krohler and his henchmen to give them access to the submarine. When Illya and Napoleon confront him about his recent acts of high treason, Brian explains that he’s trying to protect Laura.

So Brian, Napoleon, and Illya raid Krohler’s estate to rescue Laura. Laura, who turns out to be a deep-cover THRUSH spy, pulls a dramatic double-cross and holds Illya at gunpoint, forcing Napoleon and Brian to surrender.

With the aid of the phony U.N.C.L.E. ID cards, Laura and Krohler board the submarine and hijack it, taking Brian, Illya, Napoleon, and Mr. Waverly along for the ride. They tie up their prisoners and lock them in a storage room.

Napoleon and Illya are busy being decorative yet useless, so it falls to plucky old Mr. Waverly to save them all. He uses his teeth to yank a metal file out of his boutonnière, which they use to saw through their bonds.

A less-coherent-than-usual climactic battle breaks out, during which the submarine pitches wildly from side to side while Napoleon vigorously karate-chops everyone in sight. Eventually, Krohler and Laura are apprehended, and the submarine is safely in U.N.C.L.E.’s hands.

Back in New York, Brian once again tries to hand in his resignation, and once again Waverly refuses to accept it. Instead, he reassigns him to a remote outpost in Antarctica. You know, because of all the treason. I know, I know, Brian was only trying to protect his true love, but he did help THRUSH steal a nuclear submarine, which strikes me as a fireable offense under any circumstances.

With that out of the way, Mr. Waverly swans off to Paris to serve as the best man at another agent’s wedding. On his way out the door, he tells Illya and Napoleon, “I’m still convinced that UNCLE agents make terrible husbands, and I shall continue to tell that to any girl who’s foolish enough to fall in love with any of you.” Left alone in Waverly’s office, Napoleon and Illya stare at each other glumly, realizing their employer has doomed them to lives of eternal bachelorhood. “We have each other,” Illya says at last.

After this, the series limped along for one more episode (the execrable “Seven Wonders of the World Affair”) before being ignominiously canceled in the middle of the season. For my money, it should’ve ended right here, with Napoleon and Illya finally realizing their partnership is as close to a serious romantic relationship as either one is ever going to get.


Paper_Crane_Song said…
I loved how in the submarine fight scene, as the sub pitches wildly from side to side, Illya spends the whole time holding on to Mr. Waverly and making sure he doesn't fall over. He's been brought up well, that boy!
Morgan Richter said…
Paper_Crane_Song -- Illya is indeed a very well behaved young man! In Robert Vaughn's memoir, he mentions that both he and McCallum were very solicitous of Leo G. Carroll, who was in his seventies and in somewhat frail condition at the time UNCLE was made. Both Vaughn and McCallum appear to have absolutely adored him.

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