"No man is free who works for a living . . . but I am available." (-- Illya Kuryakin, "The Bow-Wow Affair")

These reviews/commentaries on the show's 105 episodes originally appeared in slightly different form on the Yahoo! Groups website Channel_D, from 2008 to 2010. If you're new to MfU fandom, these may give you some idea of the flavor of the series, which is still famous and beloved more than 50 (!) years after its premiere in 1964. Enjoy!

News: Decades Channel is running a "Weekend Binge" of MfU episodes on July 2, 2017. Check the schedule here.

(Except where otherwise noted, images are used with permission of the exhaustive site Lisa's Video Frame Capture Library. Thanks to Lisa for all her work!)

Thursday, January 21, 2010

"The Bow-Wow Affair" (ep. 1/20)

This Alan Caillou script is justly famous among Kuryakin fans as the first Illya-centric story. It works well, if you accept the idea that gypsies have "an uncanny power over animals." This one is also Waverly's "personal" story. However, the difference here is that the personal favor uncovers a criminal plot that falls within the scope of the Command; in "Terbuf" and "Secret Sceptre," Solo and Illya operate on their own. Beyond that, it's a good mystery; and we see what we've suspected since "Terbuf," that Illya is not merely a sidekick to Solo but an excellent agent and detective in his own right. (Illya: "It establishes a pattern. Like Sherlock Holmes, I like patterns.")

The other neat thing here is that we see how Solo, Illya, and Waverly are backed by a global information network with speedy data access that rivals our own Internet.  Sarah's quick search of license plates, and the data which establishes the pattern of Delgrovia's scheme, are examples.

Music can make or break a scene.  When Delgrovia creeps in his Dracula-like cape into Lester's home, comic "Batman" music would have made it a joke.  With the music here, however, the scene walks the line toward, but never becomes, parody.

"He tripped over the office cat": This is the first episode to show Solo as less than super-competent.  As a Solo-phile, of course, I'd prefer his knee had indeed been sprained in a battle with, as Illya puts it, "the Mafia, Thrush, [or] the narcotics mob."  I guess an office cat is no harder to accept than the idea that staffers could keep a pet close by while on a long shift, as we saw with Heather and her dachshund in "Neptune."   I imagine Lisa Rogers, when she becomes Waverly's assistant three years hence, may well find her duties include cleaning a litterbox.  No wonder she doesn't smile much.

Leo G.'s performance as Lester Baldwin, Waverly's cousin, is neatly done.  He's quite unlike the businesslike Waverly -- cheerful and "jolly good, what?", rather like a character out of Somerset Maugham.

I don't think any small birds have their eyes at the front of the head, as the little skull does.  And the skull has tiny teeth!  But it is a neat way to explain the trick, and to show Illya's range of knowledge.

Illya seems as impressed with Alice Baldwin as he will be with Tavia in "Birds and the Bees."  Something about petite, feline-eyed blondes, I guess.  Their dialogue together really zings.

Solo quotes the medical report's conclusion that Lester's Great Dane isn't rabid.  I thought the only ways, then and now, to determine whether an animal was rabid was by quarantine, to see if it develops the symptoms, or by killing it and examining its brain?

Illya uses the British term "conjurer" to refer to a stage illusionist, rather than the American "magician," and pronounces "VIGH-ta-min" as "VITT-a-min."  I'd guess his English teachers were British.  Weren't we told, later, that he attended Cambridge, in England?

Illya's scene with the elderly lady at the hospital (who refers to her "S.A." -- sex appeal?) is charming.
"Young man -- are you married?"  "Had I but world enough and time!"  A glimpse of a day when TV audiences were assumed to be somewhat familiar with classic poetry like Marvell's, and when male TV characters could quote said poetry without seeming like nerds or pantywaists!

Somewhere on the 'Net I've seen a copy of the TV Guide Close-up on this episode's rerun.  It points out that Pat Harrington Jr.'s Italian dog expert, Panzini, is an in-joke, a reprise of a character he created on "The Jack Paar Show" some years before.  (Otherwise they'd probably have cast Vito Scotti!)  You'll remember Harrington as Schneider, the chatty super on the "One Day at a Time" series about nine years later.

Verdict: Featuring clever dialogue that repays a second viewing, this one is loads of fun.

Great Lines:
Solo: "Are you free?"
Illya: "No man is free who has to work for a living.  But I'm available."
(The quintessential Illya line, as you see above!)

Illya (to Alice): "My name is Illya Kuryakin."
Alice: "And I'll bet you're the only man around here who could make that statement honestly."

Alice: "Do you believe in gypsies?"
Illya (deadpan): "No, of course not.  They're just a figment of the imagination."

Lester: "Remind me to commend you to my cousin Alexander for your great devotion to duty."
Illya (glancing, amused, at Alice): "It's almost my only weakness."

Solo (to Waverly): "One of the first things you taught me was never to trust coincidence."

Alice (playfully): "You are people, aren't you?"
Illya: "In a vague sort of way, I am."

Illya (exasperated that Solo has made him a target by announcing that he, Illya, now owns Baldwin's stock): "I'll have his teeth for cufflinks."

Panzini: "I teach you a few things about dogs.  Is a good idea, maybe, no?"
Illya: "I think it's a good idea, maybe, yes."

Alice: "Why don't you just fold your tents and steal silently away?"
Delgrovia (miffed): "That was the Arabs, not the gypsies!"

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