The Man From U.N.C.L.E.: “The Deadly Goddess Affair”

Somewhere in North Africa, Napoleon hangs out in a hookah bar and ogles belly dancers while eavesdropping on a conversation between THRUSH boss Colonel Hubris (Victor Buono) and his knife-wielding henchman, Malik (Joseph Sirola). THRUSH Central is sending Colonel Hubris millions of dollars to finance his plot to seize control of all of Africa; the money, along with all of THRUSH’s top-secret plans, will be transported via what Hubris refers to as a “robot plane”, which will drop a satchel containing the cash and plans in Hubris’s backyard before self-destructing. In today’s world, in which unmanned aircraft have become commonplace, I think we all really missed an opportunity by opting to call them “drones”.  “Robot planes” sounds infinitely cooler.

Illya traces the flight path of THRUSH’s robot plane, which is scheduled to fly directly over Odysseus’s (fictional) Isle of Circe on its way to Hubris’s lair. Equipped with a device designed to signal the plane to remotely jettison its precious cargo, Illya meets up with Napoleon on Circe, where they kill time by hanging out in a café and leering at Mia (Brioni Farrell), a pretty young woman who, as their waiter Narouz (Michael Strong) informs them, is unable to get married because her family is too poor to provide her with a dowry. Illya and Napoleon debate the merits of dowries for a while (Napoleon is anti-dowry; Illya is staunchly pro-dowry), then Napoleon makes a weird and faintly tacky pass at Mia. “Who’d want a dowry with a lovely girl like this?” he asks her. “Any American wouldn’t ask for a penny!” Nonplussed, Mia hurries off without responding. Napoleon asks Narouz, “Did I do something wrong?” Yes, Napoleon, you did. You made a weird and faintly tacky pass at her.

Narouz explains that, while Circe’s sole police officer, the stalwart Luca (Hill Street Blues star Daniel J. Travanti), is willing to marry Mia without a dowry, she can’t get married until her older sister Angela finds a husband first. Alas, since Angela, too, has no dowry, her prospects of finding romance on the island are severely limited. Having comprehensively exhausted the topic of dowries, Illya and Napoleon move to their hotel room to hang out while waiting for the robot plane to fly over the island.

Not a whole lot happens in this episode, honestly. Illya and Napoleon hang out in various locations while trying to avoid getting married to random young women. That’s pretty much it.

Napoleon and Illya eventually head to a remote place on the island to wait for the plane. They’re accosted by Mia and Luca, who suspect them of trying to smuggle valuable relics off the island. Before Luca hauls them off in custody, they manage to remotely signal the plane to jettison its cargo. The money and plans land in an unknown location on the island.

Luca provides them with a chance to avoid jail: If either one agrees to marry Angela, he’ll let them go free. Napoleon and Illya are suitably jazzed at this prospect.

So they meet with Angela (Marya Stevens), who is very sweet and lovely. After briefly chatting with them both, Angela decides she’d like to marry Napoleon. Probably a wise choice. Illya is beautiful and brilliant and dazzling, but being married to him would be a nonstop onslaught of enigmatic proclamations, mysterious absences, and lengthy discourses on the flaws of capitalism and/or the merits of jazz.

Illya gives his enthusiastic approval to Angela’s decision. This is an aggressively forgettable episode (really, it’s indistinguishable from season three’s “The It’s All Greek To Me Affair”, only in this episode Illya and Napoleon don't end up in bed together), but the obvious pleasure Illya takes in his partner’s misfortune is delightful.

Colonel Hubris, accompanied by Malik and all his lackeys, arrives in Circe to search for the money and plans. Upon checking into the hotel, they learn from Narouz that a couple of Americans are visiting the island. Malik promptly whips out a pair of glossy photos of Illya and Napoleon: “These Americans, hmm?” he asks.

Oh, THRUSH. I love THRUSH. I love how THRUSH agents routinely carry around wallet-sized photos of Illya and Napoleon. THRUSH is wonderful.

(Also: Why on earth would Narouz assume Illya is an American?)

While wedding preparations get underway, Illya and Napoleon scour the island for the money, but find only an empty pouch. They’re ambushed by Colonel Hubris’s goons; Illya escapes, but the goons haul Napoleon back to the hotel for the usual bout of gratuitous bondage and torture. Napoleon is, as always, pretty nonchalant about all this.

Illya asks Mia and Angela for help rescuing Napoleon from Colonel Hubris’s clutches. They refuse, on the grounds that they can’t possibly believe Illya and Napoleon are actually spies. Which… I can’t really fault their logic. It does seem unlikely. So Illya spins a weird and creepy web of lies about how Napoleon, er, behaved inappropriately with a girl from Taormina, and thus her brothers are now trying to force him to marry her to protect her honor. Upon hearing this, Mia and Angela agree to rescue Napoleon to enable him to marry Angela instead.

…I mean, yeah. If you examine this plot in any detail, it’s pretty gross.

While Malik threatens Napoleon with unspeakable bodily harm, Colonel Hubris stomps around the island in search of the missing money. He encounters Mia and Angela’s doddering old father, Count Corragio (Steven Geray), who asks him for change for a million-lira note. At this, Hubris realizes Corragio found the pouch and absconded with the money.

While Mia and Angela create a distraction, Illya breaks into Colonel Hubris’s hotel room and frees Napoleon from Malik’s sadistic clutches. They track Colonel Hubris to an underwater grotto. While Illya keeps watch outside, Napoleon, Mia, and Angela enter the grotto, where they find Colonel Hubris interrogating Count Corragio about the missing money.

Being quasi-senile, Corragio can’t remember where he hid the cash, so Colonel Hubris ties Napoleon, Mia, Angela, and the Count up in neck-deep water and threatens to let the rising tide drown them.

Meanwhile, Illya cheerfully beats up poor Narouz for no particular reason.

Narouz, who has been using the grotto to stash smuggled goods, leads Illya inside through a secret entrance. Illya rescues Napoleon and the others. The usual mayhem breaks out. At some point, Illya fights off a knife-wielding Malik while splashing around in the water, then lounges on the shore in a soaking-wet and tattered shirt for a while, waiting for Napoleon to come to his rescue. Is this the best part of the episode? Yeah, probably.

The money and papers are discovered where Count Corragio hid them in the grotto. U.N.C.L.E. lets the Count keep the money as a reward, which means Angela now has a dowry, which means Narouz is now willing to marry her. As a defeated Colonel Hubris and Malik are led off by Luca, Napoleon and Illya dine on a monstrous pile of Saltines and model adorable fezzes while smugly congratulating themselves on a job well done.

Before the end credits roll, I have already entirely forgotten everything about this episode.


DKoren said…
Not a whole lot happens in this episode, honestly. Illya and Napoleon hang out in various locations while trying to avoid getting married to random young women. That’s pretty much it.

Totally busted up at that.

I do love Victor Buono, though. He has this weird charisma thing going on. I always find him rather mesmerizing to watch.
High points of this episode: Illya lolling on their (shared?) double bed, leading to thoughts of their snuggling up together later.
Illya and Napoleon hanging out together at the local lover's lane while Napoleon assures Illya 'boys get /everywhere/.'
Napoleon's always wonderful and weird ways of contorting his fingers while holding his hands up in surrender.
Wet, dishevelled Illya.
Napoleon in a fez (have you seen the picture of a grinning McCallum writing something on Vaughn's fez with a pen?)

Low points: Illya's casual approval of dowries (although since he just wants to be with Napoleon maybe he would need to be paid to marry a girl.)
Narouz, the actor of Narouz, at least (I forget his name) who is just one of those people I can't get on with.)
Poor, poor Angela, who will end up married to a pretty hideous man who will only marry her for her money, while no one seems to care that for her at least the story is utterly depressing.
The fact that there is so little plot.
But really, the high points will make me come back again and again. I mean, Illya does get /very/ wet.
montereysnow said…
At the end of this episode, I so wanted Napoleon ( or Illya) to go after Angela and tell her " You now have the money to go anywhere, be anything you want to be. You don't have to settle."

Sadly, we already know that for all his tomcatting around, Napoleon thinks that marriage, even a less than ideal one, is the best place for young ladies at loose ends.

I don'think that is just 2016 talking. I am pretty sure I would have wanted Angela to go to London, NYC, or heck even L.A. in 1965.

vintagehoarder said…
It's interesting how many things that were pure science fiction in the 1960s have become commonplace today. The "robot plane" of this episode is a good example, as is the Ultimate Computer. There are also episodes where Innocents are fascinated by U.N.C.L.E.'s communicators, whereas a mobile phone is in everyone's pockets today.

On the other hand, some of the devices on MFU have not have eventuated, which is probably just as well considering some of THRUSH's loonier inventions. Does anyone want to see murderous fembots on the street, or have a close encounter with deadly bubble bath?
I kind of want to see murderous fembots on the streets. Well, maybe not murderous... Don't you think modern terrorism would have a much more jaunty feel if it were performed via popart gas cans and lots of bubbles and exploding model planes. Drones are so dystopian. Thrush was never dystopian.
vintagehoarder said…
If nothing else, THRUSH had *style*.

I've been wondering lately--if THRUSH survived into the 21st century, what would it be up to now?
Hmm... Getting an orange maniac into the White House? Encouraging social unrest and terrorism?
No, you're right, though. Thrush would be far more wacky and stylish than that.
vintagehoarder said…
Well thinking about it, the Orange Maniac could be part of a THRUSH plot--but it would have to also include mind-control devices and a secret mad science laboratory hidden in an unlikely location. Perhaps that thing he has growing on his head is a key component of the mind control device, and the secret mad science laboratory is hidden in a tanning salon.
I see no reason to believe that isn't exactly what's happening :D
Morgan Richter said…
DKoren: Victor Buono! I'm with you -- there's something fascinating about him.

montereysnow: That would've been a much, much better end to the episode. Poor Angela -- she really gets a raw deal here, with everyone desperate to marry her off to a man, any man, as quickly as possible. As progressive of a show as UNCLE could be, there were too many episodes that suggested that marriage was the best and only reasonable option for women.

vintagehoarder and Aconitum, so many elements about the election, and the election outcome, seem like they could've easily been dreamed up by THRUSH, i.e. they were monstrously stupid and illogical and sort of randomly evil. If THRUSH was really behind this, though, their plan to secure the White House would've been botched through crippling incompetence (and some kind of half-assed intervention by UNCLE) long ago. And yet, here we are...

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