U.N.C.L.E.

Nothing is better than The Man From U.N.C.L.E., the frothy, fun 1964-1968 spy series starring Robert Vaughn and David McCallum as secret agents Napoleon Solo and Illya Kuryakin. Nothing.



To access all my recaps, click here. To find an individual episode, look below:



SEASON ONE

"The Quadripartite Affair"
“Look, guys, when the untrained civilian wants to accompany you on a dangerous mission just for kicks, it’s perfectly okay to say no. In fact, it’s a very good idea to say no.”

"The Shark Affair"
"At around this point, Mr. Waverly walks in and catches his two top agents lounging around his office whilst indulging in on-the-job cocktails. Illya and Napoleon scramble to fix their ties and tuck in their shirts and look presentable for their boss, while Waverly looks weary and resigned, like he’s come to expect this sort of behavior from these two magnificent knuckleheads."



"The Deadly Games Affair"
"Plotwise, absolutely nothing useful happens here, but this whole scene is worth its weight in gold just for the way Napoleon and Angelique openly flirt with each other while Illya seethes in the background."

"The Giuoco Piano Affair"
"Eventually, Illya wins Marion over by, uh, implying that she’s less clever than Gervaise, which is a little confusing. I mean, that’s just a fact—Marion is less clever than Gervaise—but I’m not at all sure why pointing this out makes Marion more inclined to help him."

"The Double Affair"
"Illya will spend this entire episode oblivious to the fact that he’s dealing with an imposter. While undeniably cute, Illya is as observant as a block of government cheese."



"The Pr
oject Strigas Affair"

“Whew! For a moment there, I was worried Napoleon would have no opportunity to flirt and/or sleep with a beautiful enemy agent in this episode. Canoodling with the enemy is one of his signature moves, second only to yammering on about his top-secret identity.”

"The King of Knaves Affair"
"Seeing as Mr. Waverly is out of the country on another assignment, Napoleon decides he and Illya should jet off to Italy to drink cocktails in a fancy nightclub while looking dashing in tuxedos. If their schedule permits, maybe they’ll investigate the case a little. I have no problem with this plan."

"The Terbuf Affair"
“At the harbor, Napoleon meets up with Illya, who arrives in Terbuf by boat in the guise of a Bulgarian fisherman. A tiny, adorable, turtleneck-clad Bulgarian fisherman. If this show’s vast and varied licensed merchandise didn’t include an official Bulgarian Fisherman Illya Poseable Action Figure, complete with jaunty cap and removable wool coat, someone in the marketing department dropped the ball.”


"The Deadly Decoy Affair"
"While this briefing takes place, a glowering Illya makes a big production number out of reloading his ammunition clip, like he’s silently daring Waverly or Napoleon to ask him why he showed up at work in the morning with only a single bullet in his gun."

"The Fiddlesticks Affair"
“To pull this off, they’ll need to recruit a couple of civilians: a professional thief to help them avoid the many electronic traps surrounding the vault, and a beautiful woman to cause a diversion in the casino while the break-in takes place. Seasoned viewers will not be shocked to learn that Napoleon immediately pulls rank on Illya (“Senior officer by two years!”) and calls dibs on finding, seducing, and recruiting a suitable woman.”

"The Mad, Mad Tea Party Affair"
"Yep. Everyone’s on the highest possible alert following a couple of alarming security breaches on the day of an important summit of world leaders, and U.N.C.L.E.’s  two top agents just gave directions to a stranger wandering around the building. Excellent work, boys."




“When Morgan presses Illya on his motivation for joining the mission, Illya wearily responds, “It is inevitable. A man must die a little every day.” Okay, thanks for playing, Illya! That was not at all relevant to the discussion! In these first-season episodes, when the U.N.C.L.E. writers were still struggling to get a handle on Illya, his patented Slavic Inscrutability™ occasionally drifts into abject nonsensicality.”

“The Bow Wow Affair”
“After inspecting the dagger, Napoleon summons Illya on the intercom: “We’re in need of your talents. Are you free?” “No man is free who has to work for a living,” Illya replies glumly, “but I am available.” Ah, yes, wonderful. There’s something delightfully off-kilter about the first-season depiction of Illya, who was prone to drifting in and out of episodes while delivering enigmatic statements and looking glamorous.”

“Then there’s kind of a long sequence back at headquarters where Napoleon styles his hair in the mirror while singing happily to himself. This episode is short on plot, but luckily we get treated to some very entertaining filler.”


"The See-Paris-And-Die Affair"
“Illya is unfazed by his near-death experience, opting instead to berate Napoleon for his sandwich choices: “Must you put ketchup and mustard on everything?” While he’s being ungrateful and surly—hey, free sandwich!—I’m firmly Team Illya on this one. What kind of uncouth, uncultured American goes to Paris and asks for a baguette sandwich with ketchup and mustard?”


“At this point, I’m feeling pretty certain THRUSH kidnapped the real Illya and replaced him with a slutty evil doppelgänger. Some enterprising fanfiction author needs to jump on that idea, pronto.”


“Illya complains to his partner that his bare feet are getting cold. Napoleon: “Your suffering distresses me, but not very much.” This is the single best line of this episode. That’s it. That was the high point. There’s no need to watch any further; it’s all over. Go home.”


"The Never-Never Affair"
“This episode comes relatively early on in the series, so Gervais and his THRUSH associates genuinely appear to have no idea who Illya is—they consistently refer to him only as “the courier”, instead of as “Mr. Kuryakin”, or as “the Russian”, or “the one with the turtleneck fetish”, or maybe “the cute one with the pretty eyes and all that nice hair.””



"The Gazebo in the Maze Affair"
“Edith seems delighted to meet Illya. This is an ominous sign. When sweet-natured-but-probably-evil ladies take an interest in Illya, it never turns out well, because there’s nothing sweet-natured-but-probably-evil ladies like more than torturing him in violent and creepy and inappropriately sexual ways.”


“Then we get a vaguely unnecessary interlude in which Mr. Waverly bawls out Sarah for returning late from her lunch break because she’d stopped by the hospital to check on poor wounded Illya. Yet again, we're reminded that Mr. Waverly is, on occasion, kind of a dick.”

“Napoleon will spend much of this episode getting slugged and throttled by enraged blondes. As much as I adore Napoleon, I can’t honestly say he doesn’t deserve it.”


“Aw, look at Napoleon and Illya, being all alert and competent and sneaky and good at their jobs! This does my heart proud.”

SEASON TWO

"The Ultimate Computer Affair"
“Illya sneaks past the drugged guards and makes his way into THRUSH’s underground fortress. He demonstrates his usual level of competence, i.e. he walks directly into an electrified field, narrowly avoiding a fiery death only when his cigarillo bursts into flames before his face does.”



“Here’s a fun game: Watch this episode while assuming that Mr. Waverly is actually a cunning, sadistic, deep-cover THRUSH spy who is actively seeking to discredit and/or kill Napoleon and Illya. You’ll be amazed at how logical and plausible it seems.”


"The Discotheque Affair"
"Due to Napoleon’s semi-incapacitating injury, Waverly sidelines him with some inessential busywork: supervising the remodeling work being done on some U.N.C.L.E.-owned brownstone apartments adjoining headquarters. Napoleon seems somewhat less than thrilled by this, and who could blame him? He’s a dashing and reckless secret agent! He should be out in the field, flirting with his partner and hopelessly botching missions while wearing nice suits and delivering witty one-liners, not overseeing the installation of air conditioners."


“He departs amidst a flurry of lurid comments about whatever went down between Illya and Lisa: “Illya, I think you’re going to have to stay with her. She’s going to need a… bodyguard.” Yep. They fooled around. You saw it. We got it, Napoleon.”


"The Arabian Affair"
"Nothing to see here. Just a little footage from Napoleon’s shockingly ill-advised foray into bondage porn, that’s all. Move along."




"The Tigers are Coming Affair"
"I don’t like this episode very much, so I’m going to have to make a serious attempt to find favorable things to say about it. I’ll start with this: The outfits, from Suzanne’s darling pith helmet to Napoleon’s entire I’m-a-serious-journalist ensemble, complete with natty pink patterned scarf knotted at the neck, are often wonderful."

“The Deadly Toys Affair”
Elfi agrees to help, mentioning that she finds Illya very attractive. “Those bangs!” she exclaims, whereupon Napoleon spends the rest of the scene anxiously touching his hair, silently wondering how he’d look with bangs.”



"The Cherry Blossom Affair"

"So, yeah. Illya just made a pass at Napoleon. That just happened. No room for misinterpretation."



"The Virtue Affair"
“Illya dons a lab coat and an adorable pair of wire-rimmed glasses and gives the captured scientists an impromptu lecture on the operation of the inertial guidance system. Even though Illya has his doctorate from Cambridge in, ahem, quantum physics, he’s a complete disaster at this. An adorable complete disaster.”




"The Children's Day Affair"
“They’re sadistic, creepy, and kinky. Obviously, nubile young Illya is going to wander into their clutches before the second commercial break. He’s a magnet for this sort of thing.”

"The Adriatic Express Affair"
“The leggy blonde model spots Illya, grabs him, and drags him into her room, presumably to shag him senseless. Illya, a known judo expert, puts up no resistance, which is as close as anyone’s ever going to get to a confession of romantic interest from him.”



“The Yukon Affair”
"Napoleon stages a distraction by challenging a burly lumberjack to a wrestling match. The lumberjack is disinclined to take him on, but Napoleon is insistent. “You’ll never know unless you try,” he says, which seems like the sort of thing he often says to strangers in bars after a few drinks."


““You could use a haircut,” he tells Illya, who quietly seethes at this slight to his magnificent mane. Napoleon jumps at the chance to stroke his partner’s hair a bit.”


"The Dippy Blonde Affair"
“Well done, Mr. Waverly! You’ve persuaded a trouble-plagued and down-on-her-luck young woman to prostitute herself to a dangerous criminal so that she can do the work of your highly trained agents. No one’s really heard much from the United Network Command for Law and Enforcement since 1968; I’m guessing that’s right around the time it was shut down after being financially gutted by all the lawsuits brought against it for recklessly endangering civilians.”

"The Deadly Goddess Affair"
"Illya and Napoleon debate the merits of dowries for a while (Napoleon is anti-dowry; Illya is staunchly pro-dowry), then Napoleon makes a weird and faintly tacky pass at Mia. “Who’d want a dowry with a lovely girl like this?” he asks her. “Any American wouldn’t ask for a penny!” Nonplussed, Mia hurries off without responding. Napoleon asks Narouz, “Did I do something wrong?” Yes, Napoleon, you did. You made a weird and faintly tacky pass at her."

“The Birds and the Bees Affair”
"Illya, you are an amazing, dazzling creature, but in this episode, you got outsmarted and outclassed by your partner, who tried to shoot invisible bees."

"The Waverly Ring Affair"
"Illya licks the photo of File 40: “It’s genuine,” he tells Napoleon solemnly. Illya, sweetheart, that’s not how you check… oh, never mind. Skip it. Go ahead and lick the photo, if it makes you happy."


"The Foreign Legion Affair"
"Pretty sure this episode came about as a dare between executives at NBC to see how much footage of David McCallum’s bare thighs could be jammed into a single episode."



“As it turns out, tricking Napoleon into sex is really not all that difficult.”

"The King of Diamonds Affair"

"While they discuss the situation, an attractive female agent tends to their injuries, because highly-trained spies have nothing better to do than dab Illya’s fevered brow and give him lingering neck rubs while Napoleon seethes in abject jealousy."

"The Project Deephole Affair"
“Oh, god, Narcissus and Napoleon are lovers. I don’t know why I didn’t see that coming. It’s certainly not like it’s the first time this sort of thing has happened; I can only imagine U.N.C.L.E.’s head honchos are well aware of Napoleon’s predilection for sleeping with the enemy.”



"The Roundtable Affair"
"Illya squawks about this, whereupon Artie smugly chastises him for his reckless behavior: “An American citizen abroad must never forget that he’s a roving ambassador of goodwill.” Honest question here: Why on earth do bad guys keep assuming Illya—globe-trotting, Russian-accented Illya—is an American? What do they know that we don’t?"

"The Bat Cave Affair"
“Illya, you are a delightful human being. You’re a terrible spy, capable of botching even the simplest courier assignment, but you’re peerless in your ability to coolly mouth off to villains when you’re under duress.”

"The Minus-X Affair"
"Illya is dressed for the occasion in sensible cat-burglar black; Napoleon is dressed in… an expensive suit. Not that Mr. Waverly doesn’t have a point, but I’m with Napoleon on this. Just because your job sometimes requires you to get down and dirty doesn’t mean you should compromise your personal style."


"The Indian Affairs Affair"
"A gaggle of Cardiac tribe members ambush Illya, tie him to stakes on the ground, and threaten to cover him in flesh-eating ants if he doesn’t explain his reasons for trespassing. “If you don’t talk, then soon will come the giant red ants, drawn by the sweet smell of your pale skin,” says one of the Native Americans, who is played by a pasty white dude."

SEASON THREE

"The Her Master's Voice Affair"
"Napoleon looks disconcerted by all this focus on Illya’s awesomeness, like he’s longing to return to the days when he was the one and only Man From U.N.C.L.E., back before David McCallum’s burgeoning popularity threatened to transform the series into The Adventures of Amazing Superspy Illya Kuryakin, With Help From His Special Friend Napoleon."

"The Sort-of-Do-It-Yourself-Dreadful Affair"
"Napoleon wraps up their conversation with this epic non sequitur: “All right, keep in touch. And thank your mother for the chicken soup.” Harlan Ellison is an eight-time Hugo Award winner and four-time Nebula Award winner, and no one’s ever going to challenge his bona fides as a well-respected and accomplished author, but damn it all, he flat-out does not have the hang of writing Napoleon and Illya’s signature snappy banter."


“Yes, I do agree, this episode has fully gone off the rails. I won’t try to defend anything that happens from here on out. We’re in dangerously loopy and stupid territory here.”

“It’s probably safe to assume Waverly is well aware his top two agents have, yet again, lucked into staying alive, and simply chooses to live in denial about their flagrant lies and general ineptitude.”

"The Pop Art Affair"
"So basically it’s a scene where Illya gets naked while Napoleon callously implies that he shagged a naïve young woman just to get a rise out of his partner. This is the sort of thing I watch U.N.C.L.E. for. Not for unconvincing beatniks. Not for exploding golf balls. This."





“At the bar, Nellie gets liquored up on far too many daiquiris. “You know something? You’re cute,” she drunkenly tells Illya. Illya looks weary and long-suffering, like he’s heard this sentiment too many times from too many people for her words to even register.”

"The Candidate's Wife Affair"
"Meanwhile, Illya breaks into the beauty salon at night in an attempt to find the real Miranda. He wanders around in the darkness, taking some time to admire his hair in the mirror. Fair enough. You do have nice hair, Illya."

“At the hospital, a naked Illya receives a massage from a sexy nurse. “How do you keep your skin so soft?” she purrs at him, because everyone in this episode is super horny.”


“The Off-Broadway Affair”
“Those eyebrows. What the hell, Illya? Did the makeup artists get confused about what show they were currently working on? It looks like they tried to turn you into a Klingon, then got bored halfway through the process.”


"The Concrete Overcoat Affair"
“This marks the first of two occasions in Season Three in which Illya will prevent Napoleon from being married against his will. One time can be considered bad luck, Napoleon, but if this sort of thing becomes a pattern, you need to start taking a hard look at your life choices.”

"The Abominable Snowman Affair"

"Wholly unable to believe Amra feels no attraction toward him, Napoleon kisses her. Underwhelmed by the experience, she assesses her first kiss thusly: “The anatomical juxtaposition of two oris muscles in a state of contraction.” No lie, Amra is one of the weirdest characters ever to appear on this show."

"The My Friend The Gorilla Affair"

"Illya makes a break for freedom; goons chase him into a lagoon, then shrug and saunter off, figuring the crocodiles will devour him sooner or later. As terminally lazy and incompetent (but charming and adorable!) as Illya and Napoleon both are, the bad guys are always juuuuuuust a smidgen lazier and more incompetent. The universe remains balanced."


“Illya launches into action: “Would you mind turning around while I take the elastic out of my underpants?” he asks Coco. Coco dutifully obliges while Illya, yep, rips the elastic band from his underwear. Bless you, Illya.”


"The Jingle Bells Affair"
“I have no idea what was going on behind the scenes here, but Vaughn and McCallum will both spend this episode looking like they’re a nanosecond away from bursting into tears and storming off the set.”



"The Suburbia Affair"

“Illya’s valiant efforts to bake a soufflé despite countless obstacles thrown in his path will provide this episode with the closest thing it has to a resonant emotional core.”




"The Yo-Ho-Ho and a Bottle of Rum Affair"

"Jenny and Napoleon continue to have enthusiastic sex. When Napoleon tries to discreetly grill her as to the ship’s destination, she dodges his questions. Then, as armed THRUSH goons burst into her quarters and apprehend him, she triumphantly announces that she’s been aware of his true identity all along, a tidbit she presumably failed to disclose several days earlier because she was having too much fun banging him. Jenny is evil, but I find it difficult to fault her for this."

"The Napoleon's Tomb Affair"

"Napoleon and Illya meet with Waverly at U.N.C.L.E.’s Paris headquarters to drink excellent French wine and take a token stab at discussing their mission. In this episode, the scenes where Illya and Napoleon sit around and drink wine are SO MUCH BETTER than the scenes in which actual plot-type stuff happens, trust me."

"The It's All Greek To Me Affair"
"He’s quickly overpowered by Stavros, and… well, look, it was pretty much inevitable that, at some point, Illya and Napoleon would end up in bed together."





“I suppose the big takeaway from this scene is that the unnamed technician heaves her formidable bosom in Illya’s direction and pants heavily while making double entendres about the hot weather, thus making this one of the relatively rare erotically-charged scenes about military-grade weapons testing.”

"The Pieces of Fate Affair"
"Oh, these two. So cute! So sparkling and charming! So bloody incompetent! Illya, who I’m just going to quickly remind you, has a doctorate in quantum mechanics from Cambridge, can’t figure out how to remove his gag with his hands tied in front of his body until Napoleon gives him a handy visual demonstration."



"The Matterhorn Affair"
"For some unfathomable reason, Illya will spend this entire scene with one hand casually jammed down the front of his pants. Weird acting choice, David McCallum."

"The Hot Number Affair"

"This episode is kind of a doozy, isn’t it? I don’t know if I like it—it’s fundamentally pretty silly and repetitive—but in many ways, not least of how it very casually raises the possibility of a Cher-Robert Vaughn-David McCallum ménage à trois, I have to respect it."


“Bruised and grumpy, he returns to his hotel room, where he finds Illya hiding in the closet. They roll around on the floor together for a while, which is probably the very best part of the episode.“


"For those keeping score at home, this is now the third time in this series that Napoleon has been forced at gunpoint to marry a woman due to a zany misunderstanding."

"This whole episode is infused with a hoary vintage-issues-of-Playboy view of college-aged women (“coeds” in the parlance of this episode, naturally) as flighty, baby-doll pajama-clad objects of lust for horny adult men. I kept expecting Napoleon to breeze through campus in a red velvet bathrobe and ascot, a nubile babe on each arm."

SEASON FOUR

"The Summit-Five Affair"
"Of Strothers, Napoleon says, “He did have one indispensable value.” Illya finishes his thought: “Yes, quite unlike Beldon, he was reassuringly unlikeable.” And the episode ends with Napoleon and Illya having a hearty chuckle about how some innocent dude they didn’t like very much got fired for doing his job."



"The Master's Touch Affair"
"Let’s discuss Napoleon’s sunbathing outfit. This is… well, this is something. It’s some kind of matching two-piece patterned shorts ensemble, complete with terrycloth collar and cuffs, and it is amazing. Since Napoleon didn’t pack a suitcase for his unscheduled vacation at the villa, we can assume it’s a loaner from Mandor. The outfit is almost bizarre enough to draw attention away from the unprecedented amount of leg Robert Vaughn is flashing in this scene. Almost."



"The THRUSH Roulette Affair"
"And then it’s Illya’s turn to be tortured. Illya, of course, refuses to be bothered by the prospect of a little pain. “I have an unusually high threshold,” he tells Barnaby dryly. Well, yeah. After all THRUSH has put him through over the past few seasons, he’d have to."



"The Deadly Quest Affair"
"Mr. Waverly puts his foot down and forbids Napoleon from playing into Karmak’s hands by trying to rescue Illya. “I couldn’t allow that. I can’t afford to lose two agents,” Waverly says, immediately leaping to the assumption that Napoleon would fail miserably and die in the process."

"The Gurnius Affair"
“Thinking fast, Illya comes up with a way to save his partner: He offers to, uh, brutally torture him to death instead.”



"I get it, Napoleon. Illya’s hair is awfully pretty. If I were tooling around the English countryside in a convertible with Illya, I’d probably try to discreetly entwine my fingers in his silky locks, too."



MISCELLANY

The A-Team: "The Say U.N.C.L.E. Affair"
“Mashing up The Man From U.N.C.L.E. (swanky, frothy, sexy) with The A-Team (gonzo, gleeful, idiotic) is like ordering a Kir Royale with a Pabst Blue Ribbon chaser, or ending a jazz recital with a string of fart jokes.”




Comments

Senor Sock said…
LOVE this! Can't wait to get a chance to sit down and read it all! How come you didn't include the Man from UNCLE Reunion movie? IT included George Lazenby as James Bond.
Morgan Richter said…
Oh, man, Senor Sock, I hated that reunion movie (though I dug Lazenby's cameo!). I'll get to recapping it in due time, probably, but I still have close to a hundred U.N.C.L.E. episodes to get through first.
John Portillo said…
I agree I too hated the reunion movie. I just saw it recently and it took me five days to watch it, because I had a very hard time sitting through no more than 25 minutes at a time. The film is a train wreck. Terrible story, characters, action, and it's extremely cheap looking. The year of the release 1983, was also the year of the battle of the Bonds with the return of Sean Connery in Never Say Never Again against Roger Moore in Octopussy. The Uncle reunion doesn't even come close to either of these films. Watch these two films instead, both top notch Bond films too.
Morgan Richter said…
John, yeah, the reunion movie was really disappointing. It took far too long for the plot to get underway, and Vaughn and McCallum didn't even have many scenes together, and it didn't recapture the feel of the series. Just a disaster across the board.
M'lady said…
I'm hoping that you will get to the bridge of lions affair soon. What's more cute than illya and napoleon, illya and napoleon with kittens. ;)
The reunion movie frustrates me it has potential it never reaches. The best bit is the fight in the cafe because the two protagonists are together.

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