"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!)

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

"The Maze Affair" (ep. 4/13)

One of the best of this year, “Maze” is swift-paced and tricky: a reverse “Mission: Impossible” where we see just how clever Thrush can be, and with some real suspense at the climax.

The interior scenes at HQ are colorful, and really give us the impression we are looking at a busy nerve center.  Plus the entire demolition sequence is quite futuristic-looking.  Apparently bomb disposal is a new, or experimental, job for Illya, yet it matches with what we’ve been shown before.

Solo smartly circumvents the “security” at Febray Electronics and even checks the bona fides of the “generals.”  When we look back, we realize Thrush must have arranged the weak defenses -- made them look good enough to pass, but not truly effective.  The desk guard must really be dense, though, not to wonder at Solo showing up in a suit to check  the A/C!

We have to ask just when Febray and Barnes put this plan together.  No time elapses between the first attempt to bomb Command HQ and the mission involving the “molecutronic gun” (I wish they’d found a more elegant name for it!).  So their scam must already have been in motion at the time of the abortive attempt, since during it Solo and Illya are in Waverly’s office discussing the gun.  Yet the teaser scene with Barnes and his assistant implies they had a lot riding on this attempt, and they need to go back to the drawing board.

Second, Waverly might risk himself leading an assault force, but he certainly shouldn’t.  A fleet admiral commanding an aircraft carrier doesn’t take a plane up himself.

Third, how did Thrush “find” Febray?  Sure, they knew where he was; he was certainly reporting to them all along.  But Barnes & Co. were pretending they didn’t know.  How and why did Illya squeal?  It’s never implied they tortured him or drugged him.  Yet they must have, or he and Solo would have been wondering how Thrush located the good doctor.

The purpose of the dynamite Solo finds out in the desert is never explained.  We needed a line from him:  "So that's why you planted that dynamite -- to maintain the illusion that the gun actually worked."

Neat bits:  Illya crossing his fingers as he waits for the immersed bomb to go off; his knocking in a code pattern on the hotel door; the shadowy lighting in Waverly’s office as they examine the desert map, and later in the lab; the leather-jacketed Illya paying only $1.94 to pump five or six (?) gallons of gas; and town names like Vinegar Wells and Gossamer Flats.

High marks to scripter Leonard Stadd for not having Barnes mention early on that there is a “Mr. Big” somewhere.  It would have made us peer at and suspect all the guest characters, Febray included, and the revelation at the end of Act III would have been weakened. 

Abbe Melton is cute, but it is rather coincidental that Solo runs into her; and worse, she has no function except to pretend to faint at Solo’s direction and provide him with a safety pin.  Wouldn’t it have been neat if she’d been not a Daddy’s Princess but a tough-but-pretty rancher’s daughter who helps Solo survive the desert trek?  (“Watch out for rattlers, Mr. Solo.  Remember, they’re just as scared of you.”) 

We don’t get to see Illya conclude that the gun is actually a bomb.  We go from the staticky transmission, to Waverly suddenly ordering the demolition unit into action again.  I’d have liked it if we’d seen Illya zero in on some flaw in Thrush’s plan (perhaps wondering how they located Febray, as above), and leap to defuse the bomb.

(Peculiar . . . Disc Five has only two titles on it.  I suppose it’s so Disc Six can have both parts of “Seven Wonders” together -- but it reminds me of the night the last episode aired.  Instead of June Foray telling us that “Our man from U.N.C.L.E. will be back in a moment with a look at next week’s show,” there was only silence. . . .)

Verdict:  A twisty Season Two-like spy story with embedded surprises, a vivid look at HQ, and colorful desert locations to boot.

Memorable Lines:
Febray (examining Solo in exasperation):  “Just who are you?”
Solo (levelly):  “I’m Napoleon Solo . . . from U.N.C.L.E.”

Barnes:  “Are you suggesting that we simply kill you, Mr. Solo?”
Solo:  “Oh, no, no, no.  You can just let me off at the next bus stop.”

Waverly (scooping up the locator pin):  “Mr. Solo seems to have lost his tie tack.  I hope the same
can’t be said of his life. . . .”

Febray:  “. . . [T]hese childish games -- passing me off as a shah.”
Illya:  “I once passed myself off as a Tibetan lama.”

Illya:  “I always say, when you’re locked in an escape-proof room, it’s good to have a physicist with you."

Febray:  “I don’t know how to get to the M-5, Kirk; I really . . . do not know.”
(Oops, wrong TV series)

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