The Man From U.N.C.L.E.: “The Come With Me To The Casbah Affair”

Hey, it’s a tawdry little sex farce, U.N.C.L.E.-style!

In Algiers, Illya arrives at a bistro to meet with a THRUSH underling named Pierrot La Mouche (Pat Harrington, Jr., once again), who wants to sell him a book of top-secret codes swiped from his boss, Colonel Hamid (Jacques Aubuchon). Meanwhile, Hamid receives a coded message from his superiors at THRUSH Central. Upon discovering the theft of the codebook, Hamid bursts into the bistro and ambushes Illya and Pierrot before they can complete their transaction. Pierrot escapes with the codes, but Illya is knocked unconscious. Because a gigantic earthenware crock of olive oil falls from the ceiling and cracks apart over his head. It’s zany! This is a season three episode, could you guess? The zaniness is high in season three. This episode is chock full of madcap shenanigans.

Napoleon visits Illya in the hospital, where he’s recovering from his olive oil-related injuries. “It’s too bad they didn’t put you in a cast. I could’ve autographed it,” Napoleon purrs at his wounded partner. Robert Vaughn, being Robert Vaughn (i.e. wonderful and dazzling and deeply strange), manages to put so much lascivious innuendo into his delivery of that line that it comes out sounding absolutely filthy, like “autographing a cast” is a euphemism for some kind of unspeakably kinky behavior. I hope Robert Vaughn lives forever, because the world needs him.

One of Hamid’s henchmen, Ali (Peter Baron), poses as a doctor and listens in as Napoleon and Illya field a call from Mr. Waverly. Pierrot, who is still looking to sell the codebook, is holed up in the Casbah, an historic walled city inside Algiers. Waverly orders Napoleon to head into the Casbah and make contact with Pierrot. Pierrot, however, has made one significant alteration to the deal: In exchange for the book, in addition to a large cash payment, he wants the, ahem, “guaranteed companionship” of a pretty young waitress named Janine (Danielle de Metz, last seen dallying in the Sahara with a pants-free Illya in “The Foreign Legion Affair”). Oh, yuck. Waverly sternly informs Napoleon that U.N.C.L.E. will not be accommodating Pierrot in this unsavory business. “U.N.C.L.E. is not a lonely hearts bureau, you know,” he says. When used in this context, I will assume “lonely hearts bureau” is an old-timey way of saying “sex trafficker”.

So Napoleon heads into the dark and dangerous corridors of the Casbah. (At the entrance, a helpful policeman tries to warn him away, claiming, “The Casbah is not a place for a well-dressed stranger.” “This is my oldest suit,” Napoleon assures him cheerfully.) Napoleon meets with Pierrot to negotiate for the book. When Napoleon tells him of U.N.C.L.E.’s refusal to procure Janine for him (U.N.C.L.E. is, at times, a thoroughly despicable organization, but it’s nice to see they draw the line at forcing waitresses into prostitution), Pierrot pulls a gun and announces his intention to keep Napoleon imprisoned in the Casbah until someone gives him Janine.

(In Pierrot’s defense, he insists his intentions are honorable: He only wants to give U.N.C.L.E.’s reward money to Janine so she can build a better life for herself. However, since Janine seems downright indifferent to Pierrot, and since the phrase “guaranteed companionship” was used to describe the arrangement, it still comes across as pretty foul.)

At the hospital, a naked Illya receives a massage from a sexy nurse. “How do you keep your skin so soft?” she purrs at him, because everyone in this episode is super horny.

The massage is interrupted by a call from Napoleon, who fills Illya in on his predicament and orders him to bring Janine to the Casbah immediately. (“Napoleon, my pores are still open,” Illya complains). The nurse refuses to give Illya his clothes so he can check himself out of the hospital; rolling with the punches, Illya strolls around naked until she relents. It’s been a while since we’ve seen some gratuitous David McCallum skin, hasn’t it? Ratings must’ve started to slide.

Illya pops by the bistro to wheedle Janine into prostituting herself to Pierrot. She’s pretty meh on the prospect. While Illya slathers her in inscrutable Slavic charm, Colonel Hamid and his goons burst in, intending to kidnap Janine to get the codebook back from Pierrot.

Janine and Illya flee into the hotel next door, where they bribe the front desk clerk into hiding them from Hamid. Assuming Illya and Janine are carrying on an illicit affair (“That was your husband, eh? No wonder you prefer the blond one”), the clerk offers them a room for the night.

At a nightclub, Colonel Hamid whips himself into a frenzy about the missing codebook. His slinky belly-dancing girlfriend, Ayesha (Abbe Lane), consoles him. She offers to seduce Pierrot to get the book away from him.

Ayesha shows up at the Casbah looking for Pierrot. While Napoleon and Pierrot ogle her from the balcony, Ayesha flashes her breasts at them. “Nice vantage point,” Napoleon murmurs as he stares down into her cleavage. Ah, the sophisticated, urbane wit of U.N.C.L.E.’s third season.

So Napoleon swaps clothes with Pierrot, dons a fez and glasses, and poses as Pierrot to greet Ayesha.

Ayesha heaves her spangle-clad cleavage at Napoleon, who adopts a fake Algerian Arabic accent that’s even more ridiculous and bizarre and amazing than his fake French accent. Ayesha breathes heavily and pants about how Napoleon/Pierrot is so much more handsome than she’d been led to believe, while unbeknownst to her, Hamid and Ali listen in on the whole sordid affair via a listening device hidden in her girdle. Still posing as Pierrot, Napoleon cheerfully allows himself to be seduced. Back in his lair, Hamid eavesdrops glumly as his girlfriend shags his sworn enemy.

In the morning, Illya and Janine wake up in bed together, having spent a (chaste) night hiding from THRUSH goons. Janine confesses that she finds herself developing feelings for Pierrot for going to such lengths to win her affections. Oh, Janine. You just spent the night in close proximity to the quietly devastating sexual magnetism of Illya Kuryakin, and now you’re hot for Pierrot? I don’t get you, girl.

Ayesha slinks back to Hamid’s lair and triumphantly tells him she managed to get the codebook away from Pierrot. It’s the wrong book—Napoleon gave her a fake one, of course—and Hamid flies into a violent rage at her infidelity. Hey, Man From U.N.C.L.E.? Could we not have any slapstick-infused scenes in which angry dudes manhandle their girlfriends and try to strangle them while denouncing them as whores? Kinda damages the effervescent charm of this delightfully frothy series, that’s all. Thanks muchly.

In the middle of this unpleasantness, Hamid happens to overhear a conversation between Illya and Napoleon: Ayesha left her girdle, along with the hidden listening device, behind in Napoleon’s bed. Hamid listens in as Illya contacts Napoleon to tell him he and Janine are heading to the Casbah. Hamid races to the hotel and captures Janine and Illya before they can leave.

Time for some gratuitous bondage and torture! Hamid chains Illya to the ceiling and menaces him with hot pokers while Janine pleads with him to stop. “I would far rather be doing this to you, believe me,” Hamid tells her lecherously, thus making this show’s recurring torture-is-shorthand-for-nonconsensual-sex subtext rather more overt than usual.

Inside the Casbah, Napoleon grows increasingly concerned when Illya and Janine fail to show up. Pierrot begins to panic, convinced (correctly) Janine has fallen into THRUSH hands. Napoleon does his best to reassure him. “Mr. Kuryakin is a very competent operative,” he lies.

Back in Hamid’s lair, Illya frees himself by nimbly flipping himself upside down and sticking his bound hands into the lit fireplace. Janine squawks in horror at this. “Theoretically, these ropes should burn through before I do,” Illya tells her. Good plan, Illya. Solid reasoning. I’m sure U.N.C.L.E.’s insurance will pay for the skin grafts.

Once free, Illya unties Janine. Everyone—Illya, Janine, Napoleon, Pierrot, Hamid, Ali, Ayesha—converges at the Casbah and starts shooting haphazardly at each other. Hamid and Ali are killed; Pierrot takes a bullet to the chest. As a distraught Janine proclaims her love for him, it becomes clear he’s not going to die—Ayesha’s girdle, which he was keeping close to his heart for some damn fool reason, stopped the bullet.

In all the confusion, the codebook vanishes. Illya and Napoleon take Mr. Waverly out for drinks at a nightclub to break the news that, yet again, they’ve managed to thoroughly botch their assignment. Ayesha sails in to save the day—she swiped the codebook in the chaos and offers to sell it back to U.N.C.L.E. Waverly uses the book to decode the top-secret message from THRUSH Central that Hamid had received, which turns out to be only a notice of Hamid’s dismissal for gross incompetence. Ayesha and Waverly bat their eyes each other, Illya chows down on snacks, Napoleon ogles scantily-clad dancers, and all is more or less well.

A very silly little episode—close to stupid, really—but I secretly kind of dig it when this show gets sleazy and sensationalistic, so I approve.


FuchsiaRose said…
Vaguely remember seeing this episode as a thirteen year old and thinking it very silly. Curious to see it again now - I'm with you on the sleaze!
Morgan Richter said…
It's a monstrously silly episode, FuchsiaRose--your thirteen-year-old self was entirely accurate. I sort of appreciate how incredibly tawdry it is, though...
I would watch this episode any time to see Illya holding a teacup so exquisitely. And, of course, threatening to walk out of the hospital stark naked. And Napoleon pretending to be Pierrot, which is just - well - dazzling, like everything else Robert Vaughn does.
Morgan Richter said…
Aconitum, any episode where Napoleon dons a fake accent automatically makes it high on my list, just because... Robert Vaughn. "Dazzling" is exactly the right word for him.
vintagehoarder said…
Silly it undeniably is, but someone on the writing staff must have been a fan of classic Hollywood movies, because there are references to two of them in the script. Firstly, Illya gets to utter Charles Boyer's "Come with me to the Casbah" line from "Algiers". Secondly the scene where Janine and Illya divide the hotel room with a rope and blanket harks back to a similar scene between Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert in "It Happened One Night". I'm not sure if this has any significance or not, but it was fun spotting these little touches!
Morgan Richter said…
vintagehoarder -- more great catches from you! Both of those went over my head.

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