The Man From U.N.C.L.E.: “The Take Me To Your Leader Affair”

I’ll start this recap with a bit of trivia: This episode was written by Bernie Giler, who penned two other U.N.C.L.E. episodes: “The Foreign Legion Affair”, which is one of the rare episodes to depict Illya as someone who, despite his outwardly frosty demeanor, might enjoy having sex with pretty ladies, and “The Her Master’s Voice Affair”, which features a nubile young woman who is hell-bent on seducing a recalcitrant yet bemused Illya. Just think of this episode as a messy yet entertaining mishmash of “Foreign Legion” and “Her Master’s Voice”, and you’ll be all set.

Napoleon and Illya arrive at an observatory located on a private island in the Caribbean, which is run by astrophysicist Dr. Cool (frequent U.N.C.L.E. guest star Woodrow Parfrey). They’re greeted by Dr. Cool’s daughter, Coco, who is played by the adorable Nancy Sinatra. Coco, who is dressed to kill in a hot pink bikini and matching boots, leads them to her father, who grills his visitors on how much they know about radio astronomy. “Very little,” Napoleon replies, at exactly the same moment that Illya cheerfully says, “A good deal.” Ah, it’s going to be one of those episodes where Napoleon ends up feeling disgruntled and inferior in the face of Illya’s dazzling intellect. Excellent.

Dr. Cool explains the reason for summoning U.N.C.L.E. to the observatory: He’s detected the presence of an unidentified object—most likely some kind of alien spacecraft—heading directly for the earth. To avoid sparking a global panic, he wants U.N.C.L.E. to help him keep the news under wraps for as long as possible.

While they’re discussing this, they hear a scream. Illya and Napoleon rush outside and see two thugs kidnapping Coco at gunpoint. The thugs drag Coco onto a boat; Illya jumps on board to save her and is promptly knocked unconscious. The boat speeds away, leaving Napoleon behind on the dock.

So Napoleon commandeers a helicopter and flies over the ocean, searching for the boat while carrying on a running conversation about the mission with Mr. Waverly. Er… Napoleon? Babe? I know you’re trying to multitask here, but shouldn’t you be using at least one hand to actually, like, fly the helicopter? I’m no expert, but I don’t think it’s going to fly by itself.

From the helicopter, Napoleon spots a yacht docking at Dr. Cool’s island. The yacht is registered to prominent billionaire Simon Sparrow (Paul Lambert), who visits Dr. Cool and gleefully reveals that the purported incoming spacecraft is a hoax: He equipped the observatory with faulty apparatus as a part of his ingenious plan to trick the world into believing an alien invasion is imminent. He arranged Coco’s kidnapping to force Dr. Cool into keeping silent about his scheme. To show Dr. Cool he means business, he shows him a little homemade bondage porn featuring Illya and Coco.

It’s never made explicit that Simon Sparrow is working for THRUSH, though it’s probably a safe bet, for a couple of strong reasons: 1) “Sparrow” is in keeping with THRUSH’s pattern of hiring miscreants with bird names, like Doctor Egret and Emory Partridge, and 2) his very first act upon kidnapping Illya is to subject him to kinky and wholly unnecessary bondage games. These are clear trademarks of THRUSH.

Anyway, Illya and Coco find themselves imprisoned in the attic of Sparrow’s Louisiana mansion, where they’re guarded by thugs. Illya sets about trying to find a way to escape; Coco sets about trying to seduce Illya (“I was just thinking: Wouldn’t it be funny if we fell in love and got married?”). Illya appears to be more amenable than usual to being seduced. He’s actually pretty flirty and frisky in this episode, which is downright strange to see. “Flirty” and “frisky” are not adjectives that are usually used to describe Illya.

As Napoleon tries to land on Dr. Cool’s island, Sparrow shoots his helicopter down. Napoleon is pulled out of the water by Sparrow’s sexy fiancée, Corrine (Whitney Blake), who gives him mouth-to-mouth resuscitation and flirts outrageously with him before hurrying off.

Back at Sparrow’s mansion, it’s more of the same: Illya tries to break out of their prison, and Coco tries to get into Illya’s pants. With the help of a miniature motor hidden in his heel that converts his shoe into a chainsaw (I know, I know. Ignore it. Look, it’s a season three episode, and you’ve got to expect a certain degree of idiocy embedded into the very fabric of season three), Illya saws his way through the barred window and escapes from the attic. Being Illya, i.e. hilarious and charming yet incapable of getting through a mission without botching it horribly, he sets off an alarm while snooping around Sparrow’s office. He hurries back to his prison a step ahead of Sparrow’s thugs. When the thugs check on their captives, they find Illya casually strumming a guitar and singing a duet—the David McCallum-penned ditty “Trouble”—with Coco.

It’s very nice—after all, McCallum and Sinatra are a pair of trained musicians—though it’s no “These Boots Are Made for Walking.”

Nor is it “Bang Bang.” I love you, Nancy Sinatra.

Still searching for Illya and Coco, Napoleon snoops around Sparrow’s company, Sparrow Dynamics. Oh, look, he’s driving the damn U.N.C.L.E. car. This is a custom-outfitted gull-wing sports car that Napoleon and Illya occasionally used in the third and fourth seasons. Because if you’re an undercover secret agent, what you really need is a super-flashy easily-identifiable one-of-a-kind car. Added bonus: It’s got a tiny and cramped front seat, and it’s impossible to climb in and out of it quickly. This episode stops down for a while as Napoleon spends about forty-seven minutes trying to get out of the driver’s side door.

Posing as a singularly unlikely thermodynamics engineer, Napoleon convinces the guard at the gate to lead him to Sparrow. Sparrow recognizes Napoleon on sight and promptly tries to murder him by locking him inside a wind tunnel. Fortunately for Napoleon, Corrine spots him and smuggles him to safety. She confesses to Napoleon that she’s engaged to Sparrow under false pretenses: Sparrow destroyed the man she loved, so she’s biding her time, waiting for the right moment to wreak terrible vengeance on him. Napoleon and Corrine make out for a while (threats of vengeance get Napoleon hot), then head off to Sparrow’s Louisiana mansion to search for Illya and Coco.

At the mansion, Coco tries to convince Illya to team up with her as a musical act: “We could be the biggest thing in showbiz since Herman and the Hermits! Maybe even bigger!” “I have no particular desire to be bigger than Herman and the Hermits,” replies David McCallum, who, back when this episode aired in 1966, was bigger than Herman and the Hermits. Hell, here in 2016, David McCallum is probably still bigger than Herman and the Hermits. That’s not meant to knock Herman and the Hermits (or Herman’s Hermits, as they’re more commonly known), who gave the world a number of catchy hits. “Mrs. Brown You’ve Got a Lovely Daughter” might be the most superb passive-aggressive post-breakup song ever written.

From their attic prison, Coco and Illya spot Sparrow arriving at the mansion. Illya launches into action: “Would you mind turning around while I take the elastic out of my underpants?” he asks Coco. Coco dutifully obliges while Illya, yep, rips the elastic band from his underwear. Bless you, Illya. Herman’s Hermits have nothing on you.

Illya uses the elastic as a slingshot to launch a paperweight out the window and knock out the sole guard. He and Coco climb out the window and make a break for it. They discover a spaceship, which Simon Sparrow has built as part of his scheme to make the world believe aliens are invading. Sparrow’s goons capture them and force them aboard. Meanwhile, Napoleon and Corrine knock out a pair of guards, steal their spacesuits, and board the spaceship before Sparrow launches it into orbit.

A whole lot of exhausting nitwittery then ensues. From the spaceship, Sparrow contacts the people of earth and, claiming to be a representative of an unfathomably powerful alien race, offers to share his superior technology, provided he’s named the leader of the world. I mean, yeah. It’s stupid. This episode is stupid. No getting around that. However, at least until we get to this nonsensical climax, it’s charmingly stupid, and that makes all the difference.

Napoleon and Illya stage an attack, doling out karate chops left and right and chucking all of Sparrow’s goons out of a convenient hatch in the floor of the spacecraft. Corrine, who wasn’t fooling around with her schemes of terrible vengeance, whips out a gun and riddles Sparrow with bullets.

It ends well, with Coco safely reunited with her father and Napoleon and Corrine heading off on a hot date, leaving me torn as to whether to proclaim this episode “idiotically delightful” or “delightfully idiotic”. A little of bit of both, probably.


Illya is just a national treasure. And he can sing. I don't know why David McCallum does all these odd spoken Shatneresque performances when he's proven he can sing. But I digress. He is adorable in this episode, even though for some reason I find Nancy Sinatra rather unpalatable. But although I tend to watch Illya's bits and skim the others (when I'm feeling properly obsessive and just need an Illya fix) I feel guilty for overlooking the Napoleon bits. I find it interesting that Illya is paired with the girlish Coco, and basically spends the episode trying to protect her, while Napoleon has the very much more mature Corinne as his love interest. And she's an interesting character. Someone who has become engaged to a despicable man just so she can see him fail, and not in a Miss Diketon way, but in what seems like a completely rational and understandable way. She's a strong woman who rescues Napoleon at least twice. I like her. I should give her more attention.
Morgan Richter said…
I like Corrine a lot. I also like that Whitney Blake (who, I should've mentioned, is Meredith Baxter's mom--there's a strong mother-daughter resemblance) was six years older than Robert Vaughn. There was a kinda gross tendency on the show to pair Illya and Napoleon up with nubile young things who seem scarcely out of their teens (Clemency in Bat Cave Affair, Pearl in Love Affair, Miki in Her Master's Voice, Sylvia in Pop Art, etcetera); it's refreshing and welcome to see Napoleon romancing a competent, self-reliant woman in her forties (who also happens to be a total knockout).
vintagehoarder said…
There were times watching this I thought it should have been called "The Illya's Fanclub Affair". And how careless of their captors that they took the time to film some gratuitous bondage porn of Coco and Illya, but didn't bother to search them properly for concealed saws!

Also, I love the fact that they left a guitar conveniently lying around in their attic prison.
James Trexler said…
"I'm a thermodynamics engineer specializing in..."
Not with that car, you're not, Napoleon.
Signed, an aerospace engineer.
Charles said…
Nicely put, James Trexler. Also, does anyone else remember that Whitney Blake also played the adorable Mrs. Baxter in the TV series Hazel? Yes, Morgan, Solo needed to be paired with a strong woman like Whitney, who could set him straight when he invariably drifted off-course.

Popular Posts