Pop the champagne! U.N.C.L.E. is back!
We open in Paris, where President Tunick (Kurt Kasznar), ruler of a struggling north African country, is visiting with his trusted advisor, Malanez (Joseph Sirola). A noted Francophile, Tunick worships Napoleon Bonaparte. He’s eager to tour the country, but Malanez cautions him to moderate his expectations: Their country was once under French rule, and Malanez suspects they’ll be regarded with disdain.
At his fancy Parisian hotel, where Illya is posing as a very fetching bellhop, Tunick is greeted respectfully by the staff. All goes well, until an elderly French rabble-rouser starts hurling pointed Gallic insults at him (“You shatter the eardrums of everyone present with your vulgar bellowing!”); the word “nincompoop” is frequently invoked. Tunick shouts insults back at him, and fisticuffs ensue. While trying to protect Tunick, Illya gets accidentally punched in the face, whereupon Napoleon pops out of nowhere to come to his aid, whereupon Napoleon gets knocked out as well, and… well, somehow this happens:
Never change, U.N.C.L.E.
Napoleon and Illya meet with Waverly at U.N.C.L.E.’s Paris headquarters to drink excellent French wine and take a token stab at discussing their mission. In this episode, the scenes where Illya and Napoleon sit around and drink wine are SO MUCH BETTER than the scenes in which actual plot-type stuff happens, trust me.
U.N.C.L.E. suspects Malanez is trying to embarrass Tunick and undermine his authority by ensuring his visit to France goes as disastrously as possible—the heckler in the hotel lobby, for instance, was working under orders from Malanez. It’s kind of a dumb mission—it’s hard to see why it was necessary to fly U.N.C.L.E.’s top North American operatives overseas to protect a visiting dignitary from some mild public ridicule—but Illya and Napoleon seem to be having a good time drinking wine on the job and goofing off, so I don’t suppose they have any complaints.
Anyway, Illya and Napoleon accompany Tunick on a visit to Napoleon Bonaparte’s tomb. “I trust you won’t make any jokes about my name,” Napoleon tells Illya sternly. There’s a whole lot of plot going on involving Malanez and Tunick, but it’s all boring as snot, so I’m going to skip over the great bulk of it and just focus on the parts where Illya and Napoleon exchange snappy banter and act adorable together.
Malanez’s hulking and sinister accomplice, Edgar (Ted Cassidy, The Addams Family’s Lurch), spots Napoleon in the hotel lobby and instantly identifies him as an U.N.C.L.E. agent. Mind you, Malanez and Edgar aren’t connected to THRUSH in any way—Malanez is just an overly ambitious presidential aide who wants to overthrow his boss and rise to power—and yet they recognize Napoleon, by both name and identity, on sight. It’s a losing battle with this show, but every once in a while I’m overcome with the urge to point out the obvious: You are useless as a spy if everyone in the world, including random passersby in hotel lobbies, knows you’re a spy. Anyway, Edgar breaks into Napoleon’s hotel room and rigs up his shower to spew corrosive acid.
Malanez secretly organizes another group of rabble-rousers to pose as protestors (sample protest sign: “Napoleon Yes! Tunick No!”) and pelt Tunick with vegetables outside the hotel. Napoleon and Illya come to Tunick’s aid and end up pelted with tomatoes and lettuce themselves. “You know, I don’t think I really like this,” Napoleon tells his partner sadly. “Yes, it is getting monotonous,” Illya agrees solemnly.
Malanez discovers that the hotel’s front desk clerk, a lovely young woman named Candyce (Mercédès Molinar), is a ringer for Tunick’s dead wife. Suspecting he can somehow use this to his advantage, he introduces Candyce to Tunick. Tunick immediately falls madly in love with Candyce; Candyce agrees to join him for dinner.
Napoleon prepares to take a shower. While the water runs, he chats with Illya for a while on his communicator and thus manages to avoid being killed by Edgar’s acid. I’m just going to quickly point out that Napoleon, ever fashion-forward, wears a red satin bathrobe paired with wooden clogs while hanging out alone in his hotel room.
Edgar kidnaps Candyce before she can meet Tunick for dinner. Illya trails Candyce and Edgar to a wine warehouse, where he’s ambushed and captured. Napoleon tries to come to his rescue and is apprehended as well. The usual kinky bondage games ensue.
Like this. That’s Napoleon bound to the floor beneath the dripping wine keg in the foreground. And check out Illya dangling from the ceiling in the background.
Illya sets about trying to annoy Edgar (“Nothing personal, but you really are the ugliest man I’ve ever seen. … What do you use for food, tin tacks?”). Edgar unties Illya, flings him over his shoulder, and carries him around for a while, which is sort of weirdly quasi-erotic. Illya and Edgar get into a brawl, during which Edgar tries to clobber Illya with a bung-starter, which is a word I just learned in this episode, because television can sometimes be very educational.
With the perfectly-timed assistance of Candyce, who turns out to wield a mean bung-starter, Illya and Napoleon defeat Edgar. Candyce and Illya head to the hotel to meet with Tunick, while Napoleon interrogates Edgar by dunking him in a wine cask to get him to divulge everything he knows about Malanez’s plans.
At the hotel, Candyce and Illya find Tunick gone. Enraged that Candyce stood him up on their date, Tunick allowed Malanez to talk him into a scheme to embarrass the people of France: Via an elaborate system of hydraulics, he’s going to steal Napoleon’s tomb. Malanez sends members of the press to the tomb to catch Tunick mid-theft.
Napoleon, Illya, and Candyce rush to Napoleon’s tomb, whereupon Candyce convinces Tunick that she didn’t stand him up on purpose. Malanez’s treachery is revealed, and all ends well, with Napoleon and Illya hanging out in tuxedos drinking champagne.
A ridiculous and moderately terrible episode, but Illya and Napoleon are plenty cute and charming throughout it, and I did learn a lot about bung-starters, so I’m putting this one in the win column.