The Man From U.N.C.L.E.: “The Four-Steps Affair”

Well, this is a weird, messy little episode.


This was scripted, at least in part, by U.N.C.L.E.’s very best staff writer, Peter Allan Fields, who brought us a whole slew of this show’s finest episodes, including “The Concrete Overcoat Affair”, “The Foxes and Hounds Affair”, “The Ultimate Computer Affair”, “The Girls of Nazarone Affair”, “The See-Paris-And-Die Affair”, and “The Fiddlesticks Affair”. Alas, even Fields couldn’t work his usual magic with this one, for a very good reason: This episode is pieced together from unused footage shot for two separate theatrically-released Man From U.N.C.L.E. feature films, neither of which were written by Fields: To Trap a Spy, which is the feature-length version of the pilot episode, and The Spy With My Face, the feature-length version of “The Double Affair.” Fields had the unenviable job of bridging together unrelated leftover plotlines into a single semi-cohesive story, with mixed results.

Somewhere in the Hamptons, a badly wounded U.N.C.L.E. agent named Dancer (Miguel Landa) arrives at a mansion. Bleeding profusely, he crawls inside, where he’s greeted by his lover, Angela (Luciana Paluzzi). He calls headquarters and recites a few lines of The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam to a laconic Mr. Waverly, but the call is disconnected midway through. Fearing the house is surrounded by THRUSH agents, Angela urges him to slip out the window and escape in the darkness. As soon as Dancer crosses in front of the window, the duplicitous Angela directs a blazing spotlight at him, making him plainly visible to the THRUSH goons lurking outside. The goons riddle him with bullets.


At headquarters, Mr. Waverly briefs Illya and a British (Australian, maybe? It’s not 100% clear what kind of accent he thinks he’s doing) agent named Kitt Kittridge (no relation to the American Girl doll) on the situation. Dancer was assigned to protect a young boy named Miki (Michel Petit), the reincarnated spiritual leader of a Himalayan country, who is visiting the United States for dental surgery. Waverly figures Dancer’s message means Miki’s life is in danger from THRUSH. Miki is hiding at an U.N.C.L.E. safe house, along with his American nurse and his guardian, Kaza (veteran character actor Malachi Throne). Waverly gives Illya and Kitt an assignment: Retrieve Miki and Kaza and bring them safely to U.N.C.L.E. headquarters.


Dancer and Angela are characters held over from To Trap a Spy, while Kitt Kittridge, who is played by Donald Harron, is held over from The Spy With My Face. His presence in the story makes precious little sense—he gets a good chunk of screen time, but doesn’t do much other than make periodic loud exclamations about the preposterous nature of the assignment (“Sounds like the Arabian Nights, for goodness sakes!”)—but he’s mostly harmless.

At the safe house, Illya and Kitt rendezvous with Miki, who is preternaturally self-possessed and charming, along with Kaza and Miki’s nurse, Kelly Brown (Susan Seaforth).


As they leave the safe house, they’re surrounded by THRUSH assassins, who open fire on them. Kaza is wounded in the skirmish. While Kitt takes Kaza to the hospital, Illya hustles Miki and Kelly into a car and speeds off. THRUSH (somehow) operates Illya’s car by remote control and forces him to drive into the back of a cargo van. They’re taken to a THRUSH stronghold in a mansion and locked up in a prison cell in the basement. Upon capture, Kelly promptly dissolves into sobs. She yammers on about her boyfriend, who is thinking of breaking up with her because he doesn’t like her being a nurse: “He says he wants me warm, and dancing, and feminine—not antiseptically clean!” Hey, he sure sounds like a prize! In the face of Kelly’s breakdown, Illya decides to act like a glowering, glamorous, icy Slavic butthead. He pointedly ignores her, while Miki, who is a cool little dude, gives her a sympathetic pep talk.


Meanwhile, Napoleon finally decides to put in an appearance in this episode. When we first see him, he’s wearing a tuxedo and macking on an unnamed lovely lady, quelle surprise.


His date is interrupted by an urgent assignment from U.N.C.L.E.: find out what happened to Dancer. He heads out to the Hamptons and inspects Dancer’s abandoned vehicle. Upon returning to his own car, he finds Angela stowing away in the backseat. He pulls a gun on her, whereupon they flirt and banter with each other. He searches her for weapons, weirdly and quasi-creepily, by running the muzzle of his gun along her curves. Angela, who is a live wire, seems to dig this.


Angela claims Dancer has been wounded and needs U.N.C.L.E.’s help to get to safety. She invites Napoleon back to her mansion to wait for him. No fool, Napoleon is suspicious of her intentions. He’s fairly certain he has a decent shot at getting lucky with her, though, so he goes along with her plan. They arrive at the mansion, where Napoleon arms himself with a convenient sword and starts poking around in dark corners while regaling her with tales about his aged grandmother in Topeka. “Are you from Kansas?” Angela asks. “Of course. Isn’t everybody?” Napoleon smoothly replies. I’d say we just learned something about Napoleon’s shadowy personal life, but I’m pretty sure he’s spinning a tangled web of lies. Napoleon doesn’t strike me as a native Kansan. There are too few champagne bars and glitzy nightclubs in Topeka, and he’d have precious little idea what to do in a cornfield.


Angela and Napoleon kill some time while waiting for Dancer by canoodling. Napoleon suggests she change into something a little more comfortable, whereupon she asks him what he’d like her to change into. “Anything but a boy,” Napoleon replies smugly. Ugh. Work on your pickup lines a bit, Napoleon.


Meanwhile, Kelly becomes hysterical while locked up in the cell, so Miki feigns tooth pain to distract her from obsessing over her looming fate. “It seems to me Ms. Brown needs something to occupy her mind,” he quietly tells Illya. Illya still can’t be bothered to spare Kelly any sympathy. Throughout this episode, as she goes more and more to pieces, he’ll keep failing to acknowledge her existence. This starts out seeming like mildly dickish behavior, then becomes increasingly cruel and hilarious. At times, Illya is a beautiful and splendid asshole.


At the mansion, Angela keeps trying to steer Napoleon in front of the open windows so the THRUSH agents lurking in the bushes can murder him. She tries to pull her trick with the spotlights again, but Napoleon outmaneuvers her, and she ends up getting riddled with bullets by her cohorts. THRUSH goons burst into the mansion, whereupon Napoleon climbs out the window and flees into the night.

Then there’s kind of a long sequence back at headquarters where Napoleon styles his hair in the mirror while singing happily to himself. This episode is short on plot, but luckily we get treated to some very entertaining filler.


Figuring that Kaza is working for THRUSH, Waverly and Napoleon visit him at the hospital and interrogate him. When Kaza gets lippy with Napoleon, Napoleon whips off his jacket and advances on him, all ready to beat the crap out of him while he lies in a hospital bed, debilitated by a gunshot wound. Whoa, wait! Uncool, Napoleon!


Back at the cell, Illya springs one of his signature improbable traps on the THRUSH goons (this one involves a stolen spoon and a mousetrap). He overpowers the goons, steals their rifle, and escorts Miki and Kelly out of the cell. Kelly goes back for her purse (sigh) and is recaptured. Illya boosts Miki out the window and orders him to run to safety. A THRUSH goon announces his intention to kill Illya and Kelly if Miki doesn’t surrender himself. At this, Kelly huddles against Illya for protection; Illya pointedly refuses to comfort her. Cold! Downright mean! However, Kelly is sort of the worst, so Illya, babe, I get it.


Miki gives himself up, telling the THRUSH guards he couldn’t let his friends sacrifice their lives for him. At this, Illya hisses and snarls at him: “Friends? You have no friends! You are responsible for an entire country!” Heh. I don’t love this episode, but Illya’s caustic the-mission-is-everything damn-it-all dickishness is really working for me.

Back in the hospital, Napoleon and Mr. Waverly bluster around and threaten Kaza with torture. Fed up with this, Kaza swipes Napoleon’s gun, shoots them both, climbs out the window, steals a car, and zips away to safety. As soon as he leaves, Napoleon and Mr. Waverly rouse themselves: To trap Kaza, Napoleon loaded his gun with blanks. He also placed a tracking device in the gun barrel, which enables him to trail Kaza to the mansion where Miki and Illya are being held captive. For no particular reason, Kitt comes along for the ride. Still here, Kitt? Okay. Good to have you around, I guess.


Kaza arrives at the mansion and prepares to kill Miki, who is horrified to realize his guardian is behind the attempts on his life. “So, my little friend, now you learn even more of the ways of men,” Illya tells him in his most world-weary tone, which is probably exactly what a scared ten-year-old kid wants to hear right before he gets murdered by a trusted friend. Man, Illya is brutal.


Before Kaza can give the command to shoot, Kitt and Napoleon stage a dramatic siege on the mansion. Kitt gets shot in the shoulder (...why are you here, Kitt?), but Napoleon manages to rescue Miki, Illya, and Kelly.


At the airport, Miki thanks Napoleon for saving him and gives Kelly a nice speech about how being a nurse is more important than having a dipshit boyfriend who thinks she should focus on being soft and feminine. Then Napoleon puts the moves on Kelly, who seems to be already getting over the aforementioned dipshit boyfriend.


And then Illya proves he isn’t (entirely) a soulless monster by smuggling Miki a package of contraband bubble gum, and this weird and messy (but not displeasing) episode comes to a suitably weird and messy (but not displeasing) close.

Comments

vintagehoarder said…
This episode features not one, but two completely hopeless nurses--Kelly, who fouls up an escape attempt by running back into her cell to get her purse, and a nurse at the hospital who runs out screaming when she thinks Napoleon is dead--and faints where she realises he isn't. I mean, seriously, can you imagine either of these two in an emergency room?
It is a weird, messy episode. I loved this line 'At times, Illya is a beautiful and splendid asshole.' Because he is, at times. At times he is moody and bitchy and glorious. Illya would probably be hell to live with, but it would be a beautiful hell.

I always assumed Kitt was Australian. I feel it's more than his accent but I don't remember what, and I was rather disappointed when he was killed in the film.

But oh, this is a messy episode. I always feel disappointed when TV shows do this, flashback episodes or ones cobbled together from other pieces just to save money.

That stunt with the bubble gum. I've been trying to work out if it were blatant advertising, but I have no idea of American gum manufacturers of the sixties.
Morgan Richter said…
vintagehoarder -- I have no idea why this episode is so rough on nurses. You're right, both nurses are terribly neurotic and useless in emergencies, which is weird; having rock-steady nerves is sort of a job requirement.

Aconitum -- I think you're probably right about Kitt being an Aussie (it seems like they're going for a kind of "rugged explorer" thing with him. Maybe it's the beard), though I really couldn't tell from the accent alone.

Dating Illya would be a nightmare, but he's so glamorous and amazing that it'd almost be worth it. (Have you ever watched Sapphire & Steel? McCallum's Steel is basically Illya as an unfathomably powerful and merciless supernatural being. It's awesome.)
vintagehoarder said…
Sp3aking as an Australian, Kitt's accent is terrible.

(I just finished watching Assignment 2 of Sapphire and Steel this evening. Merciless indeed. Steel basically sacrificed the Innocent in order to complete his mission.)
Morgan Richter said…
Vintagehoarder -- I don't have a great ear for accents, but Kit's just sounded wrong in many ways.

I love Assignment 2 of Sapphire & Steel! So incredibly creepy, and that ending is absolutely brutal. Yeah, it'd be like the most cold-blooded UNCLE mission ever.
FuchsiaRose said…
Napoleon's hair is parted on the right for his first scenes in this episode - these are from To Trap a Spy. In later footage from The Spy with my Face it is parted on the left. Presumably the filler scene when he combs his hair was added to give continuity. I'm less concerned about Napoleon's hair than Kitt's beard though - is it real? There is a quip about it in The Spy with my Face but I'm not sure if that's just a character point (Australian = crazy sense of humour, geddit?) or an in-joke and it really is fake.
Morgan Richter said…
Good observation with Napoleon's hair -- that would make sense about adding the hair-combing scene for continuity!

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