"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 14, 2010

"The Green Opal Affair" (ep. 1/6)

I never saw this one until CBN aired it in the mid-'80s.  It's not the best ep of Season One by any means, but it deserves a tip of the James Bondian hat for capturing that weird flavor of the Fleming books set in the tropics like "Live and Let Die" and "Doctor No."  It also, with the sizzle-death of Chuke, anticipated Bond's execution of Oddjob in the film version of "Goldfinger" -- which didn't premiere in the U.S. until several months after this MfU story ran.

Carroll O'Connor startles the heck out of me whenever I see him play something other than Archie Bunker.  Despite that classically trained voice -- he studied in Ireland and at Juilliard -- I always, unfairly, expect him to break out in the Brooklynese of ol' Archie.  His Walter Brach, with his habits of pinching pennies and saving string, reminds me of the oddball industrialists that Ellery Queen was always dealing with in the mystery novels.  However, Walter baby, I gotta point out that the word "intractable" means exactly the opposite!  You’d want to render Solo "tractable"!

Nice detail at HQ, when the young Section II guy is firing his pistol; we hear the spent shells hitting the floor.  Though you have to wonder what damage those slugs were doing to the ceiling, and/or to the room above; and if HQ's walls are truly sheathed in steel, then we should have seen the bullets ricocheting.

I give Solo and Illya full marks for researching their target before diving into an investigation . . . and Heather is not just a console operator/coffee fetcher here.  She has good contributions to make, and the Enforcement guys listen to her.

Undercover Solo again, this time as a prissy male secretary.  And Illya seems quite amused by it all.

The business of the innocent, the housewife, seems kind of hauled in from left field.  Yes, it gets explained as being part of Brach's plot, and rather ingeniously, i.e., rather than kidnapping and reprogramming the scientist husband, they plan to reprogram *her* to act as a spur to his ambition.  However, Brach's security is lousy if she manages to go wandering all over the island.  Or was it that they let her free so Solo would find her?  I wasn’t sure.

Solo’s use of his shirt to keep Chuke away, flicking it at him like a wet towel in a locker room, is clever – and it *would* be a deterrent.  (“It’s all fun and games until somebody loses an eye --!”)  Nice touch, that his T-shirt is darker, still wet, at that point, but lighter and drier when they get up to Brach’s house.

Just when did Brach or any of his confederates have a chance to jigger Solo's U.N.C.L.E. Special so that it wouldn't fire?  He has it with him all along, both in disguise and then tucked into the small of his back as he prowls the island.  True, they knew who he was despite his disguise.  Could someone have picked his holster, so to speak, tinkered with the gun, and replaced it?  Hard to believe.

Good observation by Solo, when he guesses that Mrs. Stallmacher has not had the tractability treatment.  When Brach mentions that everyone on the island has been treated, the doctor can't help glancing at Mrs. S., and Solo notices.  (By the way, is it just me, or does she have a little of that Tina Louise-as-Ginger Grant look about her?)

Personally I liked the story (cut by CBN?) that Solo tells the housewife about his grandfather the small-town lawyer.  (Remember Jimmy Stewart in "Anatomy of a Murder"?)  Too bad he was making it up. . . . 

Great Line:

Solo:  "Thrush is an organization that believes in the two-party system . . . the masters and the slaves."


Unknown said...

Just discovered your site, and have thoroughly enjoyed reading (re-reading) your reviews. I don't often comment (I hate the term "lurking" -- I prefer to consider myself keeping sites like these under surveillance :-)

Many thanks for your time, talents, and sharing with readers like me.


Unknown said...

Re-watched this one last night and, though a lot of folks don't seem to agree, I really do like this episode.

No, it's not the best of Season 1, but Solo here has such an... unflappability undercut with dangerousness. His sarcastic nonchalance around Brach, knowing the man's plans for him, really shows Napoleon's "walk-right-into-the-lion's-den-and-spit-in-the-beast's-eye" attitude. Yes, this is evident many times in the series as a whole, but that attitude is wonderfully highlighted here.

We also get some great insight into the workings of U.N.C.L.E. at HQ in this one as well. As well as the initial revelation during the series that Napoleon was considered the likely successor to Waverly's chair.

The question about how and why the housewife is wandering all about the island, Paul, Brach does answer when he says to Napoleon that she was "sent as an escort" to get him to the compound. That says to me she was allowed to get free so that she could encounter Napoleon in the jungle.

As to the bit with how they rigged Napoleon's gun: my guess would be some fancy sleight-of-hand while he was asleep on the boat since apparently it would have been trip of more than just a day. Still not too likely with a trained U.N.C.L.E. agent, but then again Brach was not exactly an amateur either.

You know during the first season, the writers didn't seem as wary about giving insight into Solo's past. We had TERBUF and SECRET SCEPTRE and here we learn a bit of his family background. And despite what others forward because of that one line Napoleon says in BRAIN-KILLER about knowing what it was like to live with hardship, the fact one of his grandfathers was an admiral and another an ambassador does say to me that Napoleon was of privileged birth and always has. I always took the line in BRAIN-KILLER being delivered so believably as having more to do with Vaughn's real life past, than with that of Solo.

And of course we have that famous "two party system" quote, a single line that completely encapsulates the whole idea of Thrush.

So again, I really like this one.

Oh, and from a strictly feminine perspective, it's rather difficult to not like the guy in a tee-shirt that showed off his biceps so well. [wink]

nephew-from-france said...

A very contrived and rather unconvincing story, is mainly the opportunity for Napoleon (and for Robert Vaughn acting as Napoleon) to demonstrate the versatility of his/their talents : comedy as the secretary, bravado when he is bluffing on the "1/64th of an inch" sabotage of his gun (nice touch)empathy when he tells the story of his (fictional) grand-father, well-meaning deceit in the same scene., cunning when he guesses that Mrs Karda is less than enslaved, and actually quite angry with her captor... (by the way with that sole occasion to demonstrate her strong character, the beautiful Dovima easily eclipses the rather bland and easily forgettable "plain heroine" of this episode).

Two very brief moments remain in memories : Napoleon's fleeting mock-saddened and disgusted smile when the cheetah is guessed to be jumping at the throat of Chuke (rather cruel from him - though we couldn't know it then but Chuke survives with just some scars...); and the way Napoleon starts methodically mock-shooting everybody around, including viewers he turns full-frontally to, when he understands his gun has indeed been sabotaged.

When a story is hard to take seriously, let it at least be some fun...

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