Wednesday, March 30, 2016

The Man From U.N.C.L.E.: “The Pieces of Fate Affair”


Napoleon and Illya attend a taping of a talk show, where best-selling author Jacqueline Midcult (repeat guest star Sharon Farrell) is discussing her racy new spy novel, Pieces of Fate. The sensationalistic host refers to it as a “dirty book”, then goes on to label it a “naked obscenity” and “blatant, outright filth.” Hey, put me down for a copy! That sounds awesome. This is 1966, so Jacqueline Midcult is, of course, a thinly-disguised version of novelist Jacqueline Susann, and Pieces of Fate is Susann’s gleefully trashy bestseller Valley of the Dolls, only with spies. I can dig it. Not that Valley of the Dolls isn’t dishy and fun, but think of how irresistible it’d be if Jennifer, Anne, and Neely were glamorous and incompetent secret agents, instead of glamorous and incompetent career women navigating their way through life and love in the big city. See? It’s better already.

“Everybody knows that real secret agents don’t get involved in this kind of intrigue, in this kind of sex,” the host sneers at Jacqueline. From the audience, Napoleon leans over to Illya and murmurs, “Everybody knows we don’t get mixed up in things like that.”

This kind of sex. Hey, what kind of sex, exactly, are Jacqueline’s fictionalized spies having? Why is this host so hot and bothered about it? Asking for a friend.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

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


A group of young boys find the body of an elderly Nazi in an oil barrel dumped beside a river. Well! We’re already off to a bleak start, aren’t we? The remainder of this episode will vacillate between sexy shenanigans and campy B-movie plot twists that come out of nowhere, but this opening sequence is a bit of a tough sell. U.N.C.L.E. is able to identify the man from his old SS tattoo: He’s a former guard named Neubel, who was assigned to protect a Nazi scientist named Wolfgang Volpe. Both Volpe and Neubel disappeared following a laboratory explosion in the final days of the war and were presumed dead. The appearance of Neubel’s fresh corpse leads U.N.C.L.E. to suspect Volpe may still be alive.

Lending more credence to this theory: Items from Volpe’s priceless stamp collection, long assumed destroyed, have been put up for auction, suggesting Volpe might be secretly trying to raise some quick cash. So Napoleon and Illya brush off their tuxes and skulk around the stamp auction in search of clues. Napoleon finds Illya hanging out at the punch bowl, looking characteristically moody and uncharacteristically flustered. Napoleon asks if he’s been recognized by someone. “Not recognized. Greeted like a long-lost brother,” a still-unsettled Illya replies, his tone filled with blistering contempt.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

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


Hey, I’ve got a nutty idea: After spending last week mucking about in the unsatisfyingly murky waters of season three, how about we tackle a good episode this week?

Somewhere in the Atlantic, a merchant vessel (which, just as a quick FYI, is helmed by Star Trek’s Scotty, the great James Doohan) is attacked by a heavily-armed WWII-era ship, which is captained by the gentlemanly Captain Shark (I Spy star Robert Culp). Captain Shark boards the ship and loots it, then begins to make enquiries of the passengers: “Are there any amongst you who can tune a piano?”

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

The Man From U.N.C.L.E.: “The Pop Art Affair”


Napoleon and Mr. Waverly, resplendent in their finest athleisure wear, play a few holes on a golf course while Illya, clad in his usual cheap black suit, grimly caddies for them. They’re killing time while waiting to meet with a beatnik artist-cum-THRUSH scientist named Coplin (Tommy Farrell), who wants to sell his latest fiendish device to U.N.C.L.E.

Coplin arrives and shows off his invention: It’s an aerosolized gas that causes lethal hiccups. THRUSH is ready to begin mass-producing the gas, but Coplin, who has yet to be paid for his work, is willing to double-cross his employers if U.N.C.L.E. ponies up enough cash. As negotiations begin, an explosives-laced golf ball lands nearby, which sends everyone diving for cover. Two shaggy-haired counterculture THRUSH agents (who are unconvincingly costumed as beatniks in newsboy caps and brightly patterned shirts; the costume department has nothing to feel especially proud about here) zip up in a golf cart and open fire; Illya whips out his golf bag, which doubles as a cannon, and kills them both. In the melee, a bullet punctures the aerosol can containing the gas; Coplin accidentally inhales the contents and hiccups himself to death.

Hmm. Murderous beatniks, fatal hiccups, exploding golf balls, a golf bag that can be used as a cannon... Hey, just for fun, can you guess which season this episode hails from? Did you guess season three? You did, didn’t you?

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

The Man From U.N.C.L.E.: “The Minus-X Affair"


Once again, THRUSH has been wreaking its usual brand of malicious yet nonsensical havoc: After capturing a hapless U.N.C.L.E. agent named Louis (Robert Doyle), THRUSH scientists shoot him up with an experimental serum and release him. Back at U.N.C.L.E. headquarters, Mr. Waverly, Illya, and Napoleon stand behind a glass partition and grimly observe Louis, who is now experiencing both super-charged senses and wild fits of anger due to the serum. After hurling insults at Mr. Waverly (“You in the middle—you smoke pipe? It’s a pretty foul tobacco you got!”), Louis turns his attention to Napoleon: “You on the right, you been out with a blonde? I see a blonde hair on your coat.” Everyone looks amazed by Louis’s newly souped-up eyesight and sense of smell, but come on, it really doesn’t take superpowers to predict that Waverly has been smoking his beloved pipe, or that Napoleon has been nuzzling with a blonde. Nuzzling with blondes is what Napoleon does.

To find out what THRUSH has been up to, Illya and Napoleon visit Professor Stemmler (Eve Arden), a brilliant chemist who’s been working on a senses-heightening drug known as Plus-X. Stemmler denies any knowledge of THRUSH, though she admits her laboratory was recently ransacked. While questioning Stemmler, Napoleon and Illya discover THRUSH agents in the process of raiding her lab. Illya gets into a gunfight with them while Napoleon races to cover the back exit.