The Man From U.N.C.L.E.: “The Candidate’s Wife Affair”

In San Francisco, Napoleon provides bodyguard services for Miranda Bryant (Diana Hyland), wife of presidential candidate Senator Bryant (Richard Anderson) and rumored target of a THRUSH kidnapping plot. Posing as a press photographer, Napoleon chaperones Miranda to her appointment at a beauty salon. While he waits in the foyer, she’s ambushed by THRUSH operatives, who whisk her to their hidden lair beneath the salon and replace her with a woman who’s been surgically altered to be her duplicate. When Fake Miranda rejoins Napoleon, he fails to notice the switch.

Later, Napoleon saunters into U.N.C.L.E.’s San Francisco headquarters, where Mr. Waverly and Illya greet him with bad news: According to the electronic voice print U.N.C.L.E. has on file for Miranda, Napoleon has been escorting around an unknown enemy spy. Illya gets in a few cutting digs about his partner’s ineptitude in failing to prevent THRUSH from making the switch right under his nose. Hey, Illya? Not that you don’t have a point, but remember back in season one when you spent an entire episode unaware THRUSH had replaced Napoleon with an evil doppelgänger? Glass houses, my dear.

Napoleon heads to campaign headquarters to inform Senator Bryant of his grievous blunder (to Napoleon’s credit, this is one of those rare occasions where he appears to actually feel very, very badly about hopelessly mucking up his assignment). When Bryant’s campaign manager, Arnold Fairbanks (Larry D. Mann), tries to prevent him from entering the senator’s office, Napoleon angrily whips out his U.N.C.L.E. badge and browbeats him into letting him pass.

Er… Napoleon? You’re holding your badge upside down, babe.

At the news that: a) the woman he assumed was his wife is actually a lookalike spy, and b) the whereabouts and condition of his real wife are presently unknown, Senator Bryant rages and fumes. He threatens to destroy U.N.C.L.E. and wreak terrible personal vengeance against Napoleon if Miranda is harmed, which is a fairly reasonable reaction under the circumstances. Bryant is leaving for a short trip to D.C. to meet with the President; Napoleon promises to have Miranda back safely by the time he returns to San Francisco.

Napoleon hustles Fake Miranda into a car and offers to escort her to her hotel. The car is being driven by Illya, who has donned an adorable chauffer’s cap for the occasion. Napoleon manhandles Fake Miranda into guzzling some truth serum and interrogates her as to her true identity. The serum has no effect—Fake Miranda passionately insists she’s the real deal—so Illya advises Napoleon to give her a second dose: “There was a girl in Honduras. I had to give her three pills before she’d tell her right age.”

…I’m going to give this show the benefit of the doubt and assume that bit of dialogue was just dashed off carelessly by the screenwriter, and thus wasn’t intended to indicate any deeply creepy and inappropriate past behavior on Illya’s part. 

Moving on.

Even with a second dose of serum, Fake Miranda’s façade doesn’t crack. The serum makes her: a) sleepy, and b) amorous, so Napoleon brushes off her advances, then takes her back to her hotel room and forces her to drink some coffee. 

While Fake Miranda tries to revive herself with a splash of cold water to the face, a THRUSH assassin bursts into her hotel room and attacks Napoleon. Fake Miranda comes out of the bathroom and spots the assassin trying to drop Napoleon off of her balcony. Whipping out some formidable judo moves, she chucks the assassin over the railing to his death.

Visibly confused and aghast at her actions, Fake Miranda claims to have no idea where her expert judo skills came from—she simply saw Napoleon in mortal danger and reacted on instinct. Stunned and grateful, Napoleon promises to support her, no matter what side she turns out to be working for.

Meanwhile, Illya breaks into the beauty salon at night in an attempt to find the real Miranda. He wanders around in the darkness, taking some time to admire his hair in the mirror. Fair enough. You do have nice hair, Illya. 

While primping, he stumbles across an entrance to the secret THRUSH lair hidden in the building. He’s spotted on hidden camera by gin-swilling THRUSH doctor Osvald Caxton (Than Wyenn), who has been trying to brainwash the real Miranda into becoming a secret THRUSH ally. Caxton sends his hulking henchman Etienne (James Daris) to capture Illya: “But be gentle. We may have some use for him.” I’ll bet you do, Caxton. You and a million other THRUSH ne’er-do-wells.

So Etienne walks up behind Illya and bonks him over the head and takes him to Caxton, who ties Illya up and drunkenly quotes a little Jabberwocky at him, then announces his plan to use him as a guinea pig to test out his iconoclastic brainwashing drugs.

While all this is going on, Napoleon and the Fake Miranda are off falling in love, which is very sweet and very tedious, so let’s focus on Illya, who is getting groped by the drunk and creepy Dr. Caxton, who is too occupied with stroking Illya’s hair to ever get around to testing out his drugs on him.

No, seriously. Dr. Caxton will spend this whole scene fondling Illya’s hair for absolutely no plot-related reason. “You have a fascinating head, Mr. Kuryakin,” he tells Illya lasciviously in between swigs of gin from a fancy coupe glass.

In an attempt to trigger Fake Miranda’s memories of her true identity, Napoleon takes her to Fairbanks’s home, where Real Miranda used to work as Fairbanks’s assistant, to see if anything looks familiar and also to maybe neck a little.

They’re surrounded by THRUSH goons, led by Fairbanks, who reveals himself as the mastermind behind the plot to kidnap Miranda. He takes Napoleon and Fake Miranda to the beauty salon and orders Dr. Caxton to stop molesting Illya and speed up the brainwashing efforts on Real Miranda. Dr. Caxton is sort of bummed about this.

Fake Miranda whips out her judo skills again, beats the crap out of Dr. Caxton, and frees Illya and Napoleon, whereupon everyone heads over to the in-progress political convention. Real Miranda, now under THRUSH control, is waylaid by Fairbanks, who gives her a gun and orders her to kill Illya and Napoleon. Real Miranda shoots Fairbanks in the gut instead, then calmly waltzes out onto the stage to join her husband.

A dying Fairbanks wonders why the brainwashing failed to work. Illya and Napoleon cheerfully inform him that they injected Miranda with a brainwashing-reversing serum in some part of the episode we didn’t get to see.

And Fake Miranda is revealed to actually be a groovy beatnik chick/judo instructor named Irina, who’d been brainwashed by THRUSH into believing she was Miranda Bryant. Out of gratitude for her part in the mission, Mr. Waverly buys her a judo studio of her very own and gives Illya and Napoleon lifetime memberships. And then the episode ends awkwardly with Illya and Napoleon facing off against a couple of comely Asian judo experts, and everyone sort of forgets about how Napoleon and Fake Miranda/Irina proclaimed their love for each other a handful of scenes ago.

Well! Nothing about that episode made a lick of sense.


DKoren said…
Hee! That makes no sense but sounds so much more delightful than the last episode. Fake Miranda is a nice surprise, the way she suddenly defeats assassins.
vintagehoarder said…
I thought some of the scenes between Fake Miranda and Napoleon had quite a Season One feeling to them, probably because they were more serious in tone than most of Season Three. They even touched on the "dirtier" aspects of Napoleon's profession, which is usually ignored in favour of hijinks in this era. Still, I'm not surprised that the powers behind the scenes brushed over the "love" subplot in the end - 1) because they can't give Napoleon an ongoing relationship with the Girl of the Week, and 2) Irina is nothing like Fake Miranda (with whom Napoleon was falling in love!)

(Illya's hair, btw--wouldn't we all like to stroke Illya's hair? They could have made an episode about it: "The Illya's Hair Affair"!)
montereysnow said…
When I started watching Uncle again after all those years, I cautioned myself not to judge it by modern standards, but some episodes have such tonal jerks it would have been annoying fifty years ago.

This is opposite of last week's episode where Margo and Napoleon are presented in a playful, frisky relationship and then Margo is suddenly blown away.

Here Napoleon and Irina are in an intriguing, adult relationship and then suddenly forget all about each other. I realize that Napoleon could not have a serious relationship, but a wistful sigh about what might have been would not have been out of step with the times or the show I think.

Given Irina's judo skills and that she saved Napoleon and Illya's butts, Mr. Waverly would have been better off recruiting her as an agent than buying her a judo studio. Heavens knows Uncle could use a competent agent and sorely needs to up their quota of female agents.

Illesdan said…
Don't you love it when things conveniently happen off-screen just to try and make things look clean? I think it's funny how the bad guys forget their nefarious schemes as soon as they have Illya tied up and can play with him. The disappointment visible when the doctor is told to do his job is great. In all, seems like a thoroughly nonsensical episode.
Morgan Richter said…
I love Miranda/Irina whipping out her judo skills, and yes, absolutely, she'd be a great addition to U.N.C.L.E. There's an interesting story in there somewhere about Napoleon falling in love with Fake Miranda, and vice-versa, and then both of them coming to realize Napoleon is in love with someone who doesn't exist, i.e. Irina brainwashed into behaving like Miranda, only with mad judo skills, and Irina realizing she doesn't actually love Napoleon--she only fell in love with him when she thought she was Miranda. That whole aspect really isn't addressed at all with the episode (hard to fault the show for that; it's probably too tricky of an idea for such a fun, frothy, escapist show to bother with), and instead it just seems a little abrupt that this great love affair is abandoned in the final scene.

I find it hard to blame the creepy drunk THRUSH doctor for wanting to touch Illya's hair. Illya has wonderful hair.
This is one of those episodes I overlook but actually rather like. Illya schooling Napoleon over his spy skills. Banter. Mad scientists playing with Illya’s hair. I loved the scene where Napoleon is trying to sober up Miranda so much I had to write a story about Napoleon trying to sober Illya up.
That whole dodgy business with the pill; perhaps Illya was anxious he didn’t do anything with an underage Illya fan, and that's why he gave her all the pills?
Morgan Richter said…
A friend has a theory that Fake Miranda/Irina is actually Mara, the THRUSH scientist who was ordered to seduce Napoleon in "The Nowhere Affair", who was also played by Diana Hyland and who ended up with her memory erased by UNCLE at the end of the episode. I like this theory a lot -- it makes sense* that, after she established a new life as a judo instructor named Irina, THRUSH would track her down, brainwash her, and send her after Napoleon again.

*I mean, obviously it makes absolutely no sense at all, but within the boundaries of this weird, delightful series, it would totally work.
Oh, that could work! The funny thing is that the woman Napoleon kind of fell for didn't really exist. She wasn't Miranda but she really wasn't Irina either. And if she were Mara it would be a third kind of weird palimpsest, or fourth or more since Mara was taken as a child, brainwashed by Thrush, created herself again for Napoleon, then willingly re-brainwashed by Uncle.
Anonymous said…
Would love to have seen the judo match between the two comely female judo experts and our boys!

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