"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, February 11, 2010

"The Candidate's Wife Affair" (ep. 3/8)

This one marks the return of scripter Robert Hill, who gave us such neat dialogue in "Deadly Toys" and "Adriatic Express."  "Candidate's Wife" features a host of good elements and scenes, which sit oddly with the bits that don't work, as we'll see.

As we open and find Solo guarding Senator Bryant's wife, we have to ask:  Why is U.N.C.L.E. doing the Secret Service's job?  We needed a line or two from Waverly in Act I, in which we learn that the Service is asking the Command for help -- that the Service has intelligence indicating that the shadowy entity known as Thrush has a finger in this pie.

Wouldn't it have been smart to have a woman agent (like, say, April Dancer?) backing Solo, so that she could follow Mrs. Bryant in to the ladies' room and the salon?  And shouldn't he have either mentioned or displayed the audiograms to Bryant as evidence of his wild-sounding assertion?

Richard Anderson is the perfect image of a presidential candidate, isn't he?  Larry D. Mann, too, is great casting as Fairbanks, the cynical politico and veteran of smoke-filled rooms.  That he's behind the plot is no real surprise, but the character, especially when talking with Solo in Act III, has a solid authority and believability to him.

Dr. Caxton, the champagne-swilling, "Jabberwocky"-quoting giggler, seems unreliable; I wouldn't hire him to park my car.  Perhaps Thrush needed a way to get to a presidential candidate in a hurry, and Caxton's was the only project they had in the pipeline.  If it had succeeded, I'll bet Thrush would have promoted the more ruthless Signe to run things.

Good stuff:  Having the Bryants be newlyweds is a smart touch, so that Bryant is still learning about his new wife, and the substitution has a chance to work.  The revelation that Illya is the chauffeur in Act II; his cat-burglaring around the salon, intercut with Solo's dealing with the sleepy Irina; Illya's vivid reference to his earlier sally there, when he "flushed the old dears in hair curlers"; and his smile when Solo compliments him ("That's what you do best") all click.

One scene in particular is fine work.  After Irina the ringer has saved Solo from a plunge off the balcony, he tells her seriously, ". . . anyone who saves my life the way you did . . . whatever happens, I want you to know I'm on your side."  This strongly echoes a scene in Raymond Chandler's 1930s novelette "Red Wind," in which a woman saves private eye Philip Marlowe's life.  He tells her much the same, and at the end allows her to keep her illusions about a former lover by concealing that the guy was "[j]ust another four-flusher."  If only we could have had a similar tag scene here!  "You saved my life last night and we had a moment, but it was just a moment. . . ."

Bad stuff:  Besides the weirdness that this story apparently takes place in 1967, not a U.S. presidential election year, and the absence of the Secret Service, there's a major issue.  Solo and Illya want to confirm that the real Mrs. Bryant has been kidnapped, and a ringer put in her place.  The truth serum pills don't work.  So, while Irina is sleeping, why not take her fingerprints and run them through their own computers or those of the FBI?  Any sensible cop would do that first thing.  It wouldn't have changed the plot; simply tell us Mrs. Bryant's prints, and Irina's, aren't on file, and Solo will still need another way to prove or disprove the substitution.

Verdict:  Good in many places, featuring some fun detective work and dialogue.  It's spoiled mostly by some illogic that could have been fixed, a silly tag with "hip" phrases, and a complete disregard for the emotional connection established between Solo and Irina.

Memorable Lines:
Signe (at the salon, to Solo): "Gentlemen are not allowed beyond these portals, sir."
Solo: "Well, I'm no gentleman; I'm the press."

Solo: "I didn't leave [Mrs. Bryant's] side except . . . once I . . . well, to put on a little smock at the beauty parlor."
Illya (sourly): "You must have looked divine."

Illya (in the limo, as Irina cuddles with Solo): "Napoleon, really.  Don't you ever turn it off?"
Solo: "Well, it's not my fault. When you've got it, you've got it.  I've got it."

Illya (to Solo): "You Prince Charmings are all alike.  I've always told you one day your devastating charm would backfire."

Solo (re: Arnold's house): "Atavistic old place.  I suppose it's a throwback to the days of ward heelers and brass spittoons."

Irina: "Mr. Solo, yours is a strange world.  Living with all this deceit and violence has done something to you."
Solo: "You're right.  It's taught me to trust no one. [Pause]  Not even myself.  Especially with you."

Solo: "Sometimes the long arm of serendipity outsmarts us all."
(How an "arm" can outsmart anyone, I don't know, but as delivered by RV, it somehow works)

1 comment:

ARH said...

Usually these reviews are on the money; this one I find a little harsh. I think this a really great episode, with Solo off-kilter, and Vaughn doing some fine acting along the way. No sillier than first season episodes, it really worked for me! A good entry.