"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 28, 2010

"The Tigers Are Coming Affair" (ep. 2/8)

A rather grim story, Alan Caillou's last script for the series is well done overall.  Having the "World Congress for Undeveloped Countries" bring U.N.C.L.E. in to investigate Prince Panat is smart. Obviously there would be other worldwide entities, not just Waverly's judgment, that would call our men into action, and not only in response to Thrush threats.

Strangely for a Caillou script, Illya is given very short shrift.  He has action scenes but very little dialogue, and no exchanges worth mentioning with Solo, who is clearly the boss.  It goes so far that another Enforcement agent character could have been substituted for Illya.  His absence from the first scene in Act I sets up a strange vibe that is reinforced by the lack of any dialogue at all between Illya and Suzanne.  (I suspect this was when David and Jill were divorcing?)  The Illya we know would have fired back a retort to Solo's "Try and look busy, all right?" kidding in Act II, or would have found a way to get his own back later.

The teaser is startling and effective, though I question whether a Chrysler Imperial convertible would make a good shooting brake, or would even be able to get around the country; we saw very few roads.  That faded Plymouth station wagon would work better.

Solo's floppy straw fedora (which he discards, thankfully, after one scene) and that neckerchief are a bit over the top.  You'd expect Panat to be hot; Illya's lightweight shirt and trousers seem much better suited to a subtropical climate than Solo's buttoned-up bush jacket.

The prince's plot, to use his own desperate people to mine his rubies, is devilish -- and efficient, too.  Why expend your resources rounding up unwilling workers (read: slaves) when you can get them to come to you, begging for work?  Lee Bergere's prince is a fascinatingly urbane sociopath.  To him, other people are not human, but merely tools, cheap robots, or obstacles in his path.

Baron Cosimo is really developing a meaningful relationship with his rifle.  Do we even need him and Drusilla in this story?

There's 10.5 hours' difference between New York and most of India.  If Solo calls Waverly in Act II at, say, 6:30 p.m. local time, that's 8 a.m. in New York; certainly the old warhorse would be at his desk.  In Act III, Waverly calls Solo in the middle of the Indian night, say about 4:30 p.m. NY time.  Then in Act IV, Solo calls him at a little past local dawn, say 6:30 a.m. Waverly is still there at 8 p.m. on the same day?  He's wearing a different suit in Act IV; perhaps he ducked home for an hour, napped, and changed.  (Still, I want some of whatever he smokes in those pipes of his!)

Speaking of calls, how do we account for the return of the cig-case boxes, when Solo and Illya have been using the new pen for the last few episodes?  Well, don't most new inventions have bugs in the early releases?  What we saw before was field testing, and now Section Four has yanked the pens back for "tweaking."

When the Prince and Col. Quillon (who seems a fine example of our modern term "useful idiot") have Solo, Illya, and Suzanne captive, we see Solo's heroism.  He doesn't hesitate to accede to the Prince's demand in order to save the lives of innocents. However, my big quibble with this story is with this scene.  Why does Waverly accept Solo's word alone that the Congress's delegation should come to Panat?  What about a little thing like, yanno, evidence?  Surely Waverly would want to know what Solo bases his judgment on.  And as with "Gazebo in the Maze," you'd think Solo would slip in a code word to inform Waverly that he and Illya are under enemy control.

The long and nearly dialogue-free escape from the mine emphasizes how well Solo and Illya work together. 

Verdict: Despite the sentencing of Illya to spear-carrier status and the annoying helplessness of Suzanne (except at the climax), a fast-moving and colorful story featuring a consistent villain and with a plausible reason for U.N.C.L.E. to investigate.

Memorable lines:
Solo (as the Sage reporter): "If you don't mind, Your Highness, jungle war stories are a dime a dozen today."
( -- Possibly the only reference the show ever made to a certain infamous war in Southeast Asia?)

Julali: "Upcountry is forbidden, sahib.  Men go there, they not come back.  Never."
Illya (calmly): "Then let's go and find out why."

Prince Panat: "The dacoits are very difficult to control.  They're much like the teenage problem in America, I should imagine."

Prince Panat: "Why, I can get fifty miles a day out of the average beater."
Solo (sotto voce): "Ask the man who owns one."
( -- A play on the famous ad slogan for Packard automobiles)

Solo (as they speed away from the dock, preparing to fire at the gleaming insecticide cans): "I think I see a silver turkey --!"


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Wastrel said...

"Solo (as they speed away from the dock, preparing to fire at the gleaming insecticide cans): "I think I see a silver turkey --!"

Indeed. As he licks his fingers and applies some spit to the sights of the rifle. If you don't get the reference to Gary Cooper as Sergeant York, you will never get anything.