The Man From U.N.C.L.E.: "The It's All Greek To Me Affair"

Illya arrives at the Parthenon, ready to hand over a briefcase containing some top-secret files to a fellow U.N.C.L.E. agent. First, though, he places an emergency call to Napoleon: He’s forgotten the secret code phrase he must recite to his contact to validate his identity. Oh, Illya. We’re maybe thirty seconds into this episode, and you’ve already screwed up your assignment. Even by your increasingly lax standards, that’s pretty bad. Napoleon takes a break from his very important task (i.e. putting the moves on a foxy lady in a ritzy hotel room somewhere in Athens) to look up the correct code phrase.

Illya meets his contact and, following an exchange of the appropriate code words, gives the briefcase to her. They’re immediately ambushed by an escaped convict named Manolakas (George Keymas), who knocks out (or possibly kills) the female agent, sprays Illya in the face with some kind of incapacitating gas, and absconds with the briefcase.

When Illya fails to report to headquarters at the scheduled time, Mr. Waverly alerts Napoleon, who, having shagged his way across Greece, is now occupied with ordering corsages and bouquets of roses to be delivered to various women. Per Waverly, U.N.C.L.E. intercepted a message from THRUSH indicating that Manolakas now has possession of the briefcase. Manolakas has arranged a rendezvous at a local taverna with a representative from THRUSH Central, the fabulously-named Emile Sauvignon, in the hopes of selling him the secret files. Waverly orders Napoleon to head to the taverna and recover the briefcase.

Briefcase in hand, Manolakas calls his estranged wife, Kyra (Linda Marsh), who runs the taverna, and warns her to prepare for the arrival of Sauvignon. Distraught at the return of her violent lout of a husband, Kyra immediately makes plans to murder Manolakas when he arrives. She’s talked out of it by her father, a legendary bandit named Stavros (Harold K. Stone), and her new lover, Nico, a mild-mannered schoolteacher. Stavros volunteers to kill Manolakas himself, then heads out to set up an ambush on the road approaching the taverna.

Here’s an interesting fact: Mild-mannered, bespectacled Nico is played by Belgian-born actor Ted Roter, who grew up in a French refugee camp while his mother was imprisoned at Auschwitz during World War II; he made multiple appearances on U.N.C.L.E., then later went on to found the distinguished Santa Monica Playhouse. Here’s another interesting fact: Under the name Peter Balakoff, Roter also had a lengthy career writing, directing, and starring in such hardcore porn flicks as Wild Nurses In Lust, Scandalous Simone, Endless Lust, and Porno Screentests. The more you know!

Back at the Parthenon, Illya regains consciousness and immediately contacts Napoleon. Hey, what happened to the female agent? Did Manolakas kill her? Is her corpse lying nearby? Did she wake up and see Illya lying unconscious, then shrug and go about her business without rousing him? She’ll never be mentioned again, so we’ll never know her fate, which is a little troubling; U.N.C.L.E., you don’t have nearly enough female field agents to be this careless with them. Napoleon advises Illya to head to the taverna to recover the briefcase from Manolakas.

So Illya zips along the Aegean coast in a sporty convertible. He somehow ends up directly behind Manolakas—chasing him, in fact—which is maybe a little confusing. Granted, the chronology of this episode is a bit imprecise anyway, but it seems like Illya was out of commission for a day or more—long enough for Manolakas to contact THRUSH Central and set up the rendezvous at the taverna, and long enough for Napoleon to fly into a tizzy about his missing partner—so it seems fishy that Illya was able to catch up to Manolakas that quickly. Eh, no big deal. We’ll just assume Illya drew upon all his skills as a world-class secret agent and managed to quickly close the gap between him and his attacker.

Ha, ha, no, we won't assume anything of the kind. We'll assume Illya somehow lucked into ending up right behind his target.

Stavros hides on a rocky hillside, lying in wait for Manolakas. Upon seeing the approaching car, he causes a landslide that barricades the road, trapping both Illya and Manolakas in place. Illya opens fire on Manolakas, forcing Manolakas to ditch the briefcase and flee on foot. Illya retrieves the briefcase, only to be bonked on the noggin with a rock chucked by Stavros, who mistakes him for Manolakas.

Hey, how’s your tolerance for wacky shenanigans? How about preposterous mix-ups? Zany misunderstandings? Good? Good. This episode is teeming with all of the above. It comes from the dank and murky bowels of season three, which is ground zero for wacky shenanigans. I probably didn’t even have to mention that, did I? You probably realized this was a season-three episode right around the time Stavros mistook Illya for his daughter’s felonious husband.

Stavros rifles through the contents of the briefcase. Disgusted at finding nothing of value, he tosses the top-secret papers away, then hauls Illya off to his lair in a seaside cave to kill him.

Back at the taverna, a young shepherd named Kostas (Michael Davis) brings a message to Kyra from Stavros: Stavros has captured Manolakas and will soon kill him. As Kyra and Nico rejoice at this news, Manolakas bursts into the taverna, enraged about losing the briefcase. Not wanting to face the wrath of THRUSH Central, he threatens to murder Nico unless Kyra convinces Stavros to give him enough money to skip town before the arrival of Emile Sauvignon.

Still assuming Illya is Manolakas, Stavros announces his plan to kill him. Illya tries to explain the situation, then gives up, humorless and exasperated. Discussion question: In this scene, are we witnessing Illya losing his patience with all the ridiculous buffoonery he has to deal with, or are we witnessing David McCallum losing his patience with all the ridiculous scripts he’s forced to perform? McCallum is a superb actor (holy hell, have you seen him in Sapphire and Steel)?, but as anyone who witnessed his open misery during the bottom-scraping whimsical hijinks of “The Jingle Bell Affair” knows, he has a demonstrably low tolerance for wacky shenanigans.

Kyra arrives at the cave and convinces Stavros that Illya is not, in fact, her no-good husband. After Kyra fills him in on the threat to Nico, Stavros gets the idea to hold Illya for ransom to get the cash to pay off Manolakas.

So Illya calls Mr. Waverly to see if U.N.C.L.E. will pay his ransom. Thanks to the favorable exchange rate, the requested amount works out to $209, which Waverly, bless his cold, withered heart, refuses to pay. “Well, we could pay the ransom money, of course,” he tells Illya. “But we won’t. You’ll just have to use your wits to escape.” Oh, that’s amazing. Wow. Mr. Waverly, I’ve never loved you more.

Illya offers Stavros an alternate suggestion: As the THRUSH Central representative will be bringing lots of cash to the meeting at the taverna, Stavros could mug him, then give that money to Manolakas in exchange for Nico’s life. Illya suggests using Kyra to lull Emile Sauvignon into a false sense of complacency: "Your daughter is an attractive woman. That's a weak point with THRUSH agents. They pride themselves on their masculinity." Oh, yuck.

The plan is all set: Manolakas and Nico hide in the cellar, Illya and Stavros lurk in the bushes, and Kyra remains inside the taverna, awaiting the arrival of Emile Sauvignon. Napoleon arrives at the taverna first; assuming he’s the THRUSH representative, Kyra warmly greets him as “Mr. Sauvignon” and invites him in. Napoleon seems a little weirded out by all this, but he opts to go with the flow.

Kyra attempts to seduce Napoleon by dancing provocatively for him, while Napoleon chomps on apples and swills retsina and looks like he wants to be anywhere else in the world.

It’s not just McCallum. Robert Vaughn doesn’t appear to be having a great time in this episode, either. I've never seen anyone eat an apple that sadly before.

After Napoleon retires upstairs to his room for the night (Kyra takes a token stab at propositioning him; in turn, Napoleon takes a token stab at looking vaguely interested), Stavros and Illya sneak into the taverna. Even though they’re ostensibly working together, Stavros subjects Illya to the usual gratuitous bondage. "Why am I being all tied up?" Illya asks, because he's apparently never watched this show before.

Stavros and Kyra burst into Napoleon's room, club him over the head, and dump him on the bed, intending to rob him. Illya breaks free of his bonds and rushes upstairs to investigate the ruckus. He’s quickly overpowered by Stavros, and… well, look, it was pretty much inevitable that, at some point, Illya and Napoleon would end up in bed together.

Fan service, 1967-style.

Meanwhile, young Kostas comes across the top-secret U.N.C.L.E. papers, which Stavros had scattered to the wind. Eager to practice his English, he reads them aloud: “There’s a word here I can’t make out. Uncly?” Uncly! Yes! Perfect! What with all the madcap shenanigans and zany misunderstandings, this whole episode seems like a drunken parody, like this is an improvised episode of The Man From U.N.C.L.Y., as performed in a musty gym basement by Bushwick’s third-best comedy troupe (adults only, two-drink minimum; audience members are encouraged to shout out suggestions for increasingly preposterous ways Illya can get tied up and tortured).

Here’s a close-up of the top-secret papers, which appear to be some kid’s physics homework with an U.N.C.L.E. logo added to the header. Odd choice, prop department.

Napoleon, Illya, Stavros, and Kyra all head out to the hillside to set up an ambush for the real Emile Sauvignon. Upon seeing an approaching car, Stavros rolls more stones down the hill and causes another roadblock. The new arrival turns out to be none other than Mr. Waverly, who is making an unscheduled visit to the Greek countryside, because this episode needed more shenanigans and misunderstandings.

As a helicopter bearing Sauvignon arrives at the taverna, Stavros waves around his gun and threatens to shoot everybody. Annoyed, Illya and Napoleon finally just start beating him up, which they probably should’ve done much earlier in this episode. Kyra tries to defend her father, but Waverly holds her back. "With you in there, the odds would hardly be even," he tells her, figuring (correctly) that his two highly-trained top agents would be hopelessly outmatched in a fair fight with a paunchy old guy and a petite barmaid.

And then all this nonsense comes to an appropriately ludicrous conclusion at the taverna, where Napoleon, Illya, and Stavros ambush Emile Sauvignon. Punches are thrown, Illya leaps from countertops, Napoleon karate-chops everyone in sight, Waverly smashes retsina bottles over the heads of thugs, stunt doubles go flying, and somehow Sauvignon manages to accidentally murder Manolakas, so all ends well.

Kyra and Nico celebrate their marriage in the taverna. Mr. Waverly and Stavros compare fond notes about how they once shagged the same woman, while McCallum and Vaughn hole up in a corner with a bottle of retsina, desperately waiting for someone to call it a wrap so they can get on with their lives.

An utterly slapdash and moronic episode. Still, I’m firmly of the opinion that any episode where Napoleon and Illya loll around in bed together can’t possibly be bad, and therefore I have no choice but to adore it.

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villanelle said…
The bed-sharing scene, although sadly brief, is the clear highlight of this episode, with Waverly's hilarious refusal to pay $209 for Illya coming in a distant second.

This episode is a good example of that weird third season thing where Mr. Waverly randomly shows up at the end of basically every episode, no matter where they are. There's usually some sort of goofy tag. It's very sitcom-y and forced. Shouldn't the head of UNCLE New York, you know, NOT be randomly jetting off all over the globe to get shot at and such?
Morgan Richter said…
Yeah -- between the bed-sharing scene and Mr. Waverly refusing to pay Illya's ransom, I think kindly of this episode, even though it's really quite terrible. And you're exactly right about that weird habit of having Mr. Waverly unexpectedly show up at the end for absolutely no reason. "Sitcom-y" sums it up pretty well.
vintagehoarder said…
About halfway through this episode I found myself muttering, "Well, no wonder their ratings went into the toilet in season three!" This was painful - apart from the all-too-brief bed scene, that is! And since Napoleon and Illya were split up for most of the episode, we didn't even get our usual quota of witty banter to liven things up.

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