"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!)

Monday, February 1, 2010

"The Dippy Blonde Affair" (ep. 2/16)

Here we are, halfway through the second season, when the show was truly Must See TV for millions.  This Peter Allan Fields script (one imagines Robert Vaughn saying, "I say, Peter, why don't you write a story for my lady friend Joyce Jameson?" "I say, Robert, I think I will") is much better than you'd expect from the title, and mixes characterization and humor with a serious McGuffin.

We open up with Solo and Illya leading a raid on the Thrush satrap on Long Island.  It's nice to see there are other Section II agents besides our heroes.  Solo even mentions the Intelligence section, which emphasizes again that they are not two lone agents but are backed by a large organization.  The teaser also involves Miss Jojo ("Muriel Goodman") Tyler deeply in the action, as she witnesses Pendleton's execution of Dr. Segal.  If not for the humor, the "ion weapon," and Pendleton's trick to feign death, this could have been an "Untouchables" story about a Capone Mob gun moll and Eliot Ness.

I love the scene with a rumpled Solo in Waverly's office just before dawn, reading off Jojo's record to her.  In fact I want to take that scene home with me.  Make that a double:  Add Illya and Waverly's interrogation of Pendleton.

The "ion projector" sounds like a concept that David McDaniel amplified and made his own (the Particle Accelerator Rifle) in his Ace novel "Hollow Crown."

Waverly actually smokes his billiard pipe.  He shows himself to be an expert psychologist when he maneuvers Jojo into helping them; he also shows he is not infallible when he honors Pendleton's "last request" and sends his body to the arms of Thrush.  (Good thing for him Waverly didn't order an autopsy to find out about the poison he used!)

Robert Strauss's Mr. Baldonado is an intriguing character.  ("I don't want to kill any more people.  I want to laugh!")  Unable, as he admits, to relate to women very well, he's compensated by achieving power and status within Thrush.  It's a bit hard to figure, his ditching the Thrush project for love of Jojo, but one can imagine his loneliness, and his delight at finding a woman who "look[s] at him twice with something other than nausea."  (Today we'd say he was having his mid-life crisis.)  To cover himself, he probably intended to throw any blame for the project's failure on Max and Eddie.

Solo could safely follow Baldonado and Max into the couturier's shop.  Neither of them had seen him -- only Pendleton and Jojo knew who he was.  On the other hand, for Illya to masquerade as the hearse driver without a disguise was not safe; Max and Eddie could have recognized him, as Max does later.

The super-tuning fork Illya uses twice to good advantage is a new toy from the labs, no doubt.  A nice alternative to the magnesium lock-melters we've seen.

I don't, however, care for the tag, with Jojo making out with Solo as Illya fights in the rain.  Yes, it's funny, and we can be sure that in PAF's next script Illya will get his own back.  But it's a little, ah, damp.  How about this: Jojo, eye always on the main chance, tries to double-cross Solo and Illya and help Baldonado.  They anticipate this, and outmaneuver her.  At the last we see, in Waverly's office, Jojo trying to work her wiles on Solo.  Just when we think he's going to fall for it, two cops show up to escort her back to jail on one of those old charges.  Solo does a tongue-in-cheek Sam Spade:  "I'll wait for you."  To which Jojo sneers.  The last we see of her is her struggles with the cops as they hustle her out.  And Solo pours a drink for himself and Illya, a la "Shark," and they clink glasses. . . .

Verdict: Sporting a certain charm, this one is not a classic, but it works well.

Memorable lines:
Solo (to Illya): ". . . I would suggest that you proceed, old bean, with alacrity."
(When was the last time you heard a TV character use a word like "alacrity"?)

Solo (to Illya, as he wrestles desperately with Pendleton, re: his last-second entrance): "It's about time.  What'd you do, walk all the way?"

Illya (getting the drop on the Thrushes): "And lesson number seven says, never run, skip, or jump when faced with an U.N.C.L.E. agent's gun."

Baldonado (levelly, to Max): "Coffins have been known to accommodate two people at the same time."

Illya: "Napoleon? I hate to bother you with trivia, but I think I'm about to get killed, and it struck me that perhaps you might want to say goodbye."

Illya (drenched and muddy, to a dry Solo wrapped in Jojo's arms; sourly): "We do work well together, don't we?"

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