"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!)

Friday, February 12, 2010

"The Concrete Overcoat Affair, Part II" (ep. 3/12)

As we'd hope, Part II sweeps forward from Part I and builds to an epic climax worthy of a thriller novel or a theatrical movie.  Bill Koenig mentions that this was the most expensive hour of TV entertainment up to that time, and it shows.

I love that, when Solo seizes his chance to escape Strago and must leave Pia behind, he shouts to her, "I'll be back."  And the next scene, as Waverly and Solo come into Del Floria's and clash at the door to the big guy's office over Solo's determination to rescue Pia and Illya, is justly famous as a Season One-like, truly human moment.  A part of me wishes that Solo had not backed down, had fished out his credentials and tossed them onto the desk in front of Waverly and turned on his heel to go, only to be called back by Waverly . . . but the scene sings anyway.  (And Waverly calls the Del Floria's staffer "Bill."  How neat is that?)

How do Alex & Co. know what Thrush is up to vis-à-vis the Gulf Stream, though?  At the end of Part I, they were still trying to find out what Strago needed heavy water for.  Illya discovers a missile on the docks, but Miss Diketon captures him before he can report it; while Solo escapes Strago, he doesn't know about the missile; and in any case neither of them knows what the missile is for.  How has Waverly divined the plot?  (That's it -- he has a Delphic oracle concealed behind his comm console!)

Strago's island defenses are appropriately larger-than-life and science-fictional, as is the entire project to turn Greenland into Thrush's own tropical paradise.  Hey, if you're gonna be evil, go all the way.  It would be a letdown were Strago plotting merely to rob the Bank of England or something.

We should have seen Solo jumping up from the speedboat's wheel and staggering toward the stern in the instant before the speedboat blows; this would have made his escape a bit more plausible.  He looks as much at home on the Stillettos' craft, in jacket and knit watch cap, as he did in the same outfit in "Shark."

Pia Monteri is no shrinking Innocent.  She doesn't panic, dispatches Miss Diketon handily, and yet displays kindness to her former opponent.  (Fan fiction suggestion:  Following the success of April Dancer, Solo recruits Pia for Section Two!)

Miss Diketon's switching sides is well-motivated.  It's not only to save her own neck (I'm sure she doesn't think she'll be merely transferred), but to revenge herself on Strago for spurning her.  (Trivia:  I read someplace, possibly in Jon Heitland's book, that Janet Leigh's kids were big U.N.C.L.E. fans and were thrilled to have their mom on the show.  One of those kids went on to star in an U.N.C.L.E.-like thriller, too.)

Will Kuluva's Mr. Thaler is the perfect high-level bureaucrat: all starch and propriety until, away from the home office and his wife, it's time to go wild.  One imagines him in Billy Wilder's "The Apartment," using Jack Lemmon's digs for his assignations and groping secretaries along with Fred MacMurray at the Christmas party.

The last two acts are remarkably exciting, with startling camera angles and a ticking clock like all good thrillers.  And for once, I don't mind the light-hearted tag scene at the pizzeria (in Chicago, I presume).  The previous hour has been so strong that we need a chuckle at the end.

Verdict: An odd mix (satire, drama, and a chick fight!) featuring a James Bondian threat and colorful sets like the control room and the red-lit conveyor tunnel, "Concrete Overcoat" is the most entertaining episode yet of Season Three.

Memorable Lines:
Waverly (to himself, as he lets Solo race after Pia and Illya):  "Alexander Waverly.  Hmf.  Sentimental grandmother of the year --!"

Von Kronen (softly, to Miss Diketon): "I cannot forget how beautifully you tortured that U.N.C.L.E. agent. . . .  I admire you very much.  Bravo!"
Miss Diketon (clearly flattered): "Oh, that's awfully sweet.  From a real professional like you!"

Mr. Thaler (Thrush's Man in the Green Hat): "Oh, the faithful Miss Diketon.  More beautiful than ever. . . .  You'd be a fortunate man, Strago, if you were human."

Mr. Thaler: "Well!  We certainly can't have corruption in Thrush, can we?  But don't transfer [Miss Diketon], Strago.  Just kill her and have done with it, will you?  Save all that annoying paperwork."

Illya (after being ambushed, by mistake, by Solo): "I bring Lucrezia Borgia, and you bring the Mafia.  We're in great shape."

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