Vulcan was the television series premiere episode, and as such, was entirely a vehicle to introduce the show's premise and title character. Napoleon shines in this introductory episode and his personality is well-established right from the start. He is pretty much an all-business kind of guy here, efficient, intense, calculating, resourceful, and apparently is accustomed to working independently (definite take-charge attitude). He is also rather charmlessly manipulative. When the female Innocent protests that she "couldn't possibly do that", he neither cajoles nor charms, but steamrolls over her objections. It's clear that, in his mind, neither her family nor her own safety is more important than her participation in this mission. When she has doubts at a crucial moment, Napoleon shows considerable manipulative skill in making those doubts seem invalid, and then practically shoves her out the door to meet the villain before she has time to think further. Then there is a dialogue exchange between the Innocent and Napoleon after they are captured. She tries to reassure Napoleon that he shouldn't blame himself, that she knew the risks. Napoleon's response is a brusque and flat, "Of course I don't blame myself. It had to be done." We see in this episode that he is entirely prepared to sacrifice the Innocent as well as himself in order to get the job done, but we also see that he's doing his best to protect her, even at risk to himself. It's made very clear that Napoleon believes wholeheartedly in the ideals that brought him to work for UNCLE, and that devotion to duty comes above anything else.
There are flashes of Napoleon's trademark charm and humor, however. He obviously gets a kick out of playing "Santa Claus" to the Innocent and enjoys her reaction to the glamorous environment he has thrust her into. When she grieves over the fact that her family will never see this elegant side to her, he is sympathetic. They are able to laugh together over an absurd realization. At one point the Innocent accuses Napoleon of having poisoned someone, and he is quick to defend his methodology. He has, of course, poisoned the individual, but it was only to make him ill and ultimately save the victim's life, a fact Napoleon quickly points out. We're left with the impression that Napoleon (and UNCLE) only performs such questionable acts for ethical reasons, and then out of necessity in a battle against evil. Napoleon's response implies that he is a much better judge of when to employ such methodology and that his decisions should not be questioned. It's quite a condescending or paternalistic attitude, something we see throughout all four seasons, and possibly accounts for a lot of Napoleon's (and Illya's) arrogance.
As long as the mission is proceeding as planned, Napoleon seems able to drop his guard and expose a bit of his humanity. He never flirts with the Innocent at all, although whether it is because she is happily married or because he is entirely focused on the mission, or a combination of both, is hard to tell. It seems possible that he would flirt or seduce if he considered it necessary to gain her cooperation. And he does have a momentary sizzle with a strange woman on the airplane where we see his charm and talent for repartee.
At the end of the episode we glimpse Napoleon's softer side: he remembered gifts for the Innocent's family and observes her reunion with husband and children with apparent satisfaction. There's no sense that he feels any twinge of remorse, nor any sign that he secretly longs for that kind of mundane life; it just seems he is relieved the Innocent has been safely returned home. We can deduce from this that he does indeed have deeper feelings about exposing Innocents to such danger, but sacrifices his concern in favor of necessity. Finally, he stays on the plane during the layover, as though rejecting any contact with the 'ordinary' life outside, perfectly happy with the status quo, and ends up flirting with the stewardess.
Illya's part in this episode is unfortunately very brief, but we can glean a few things from his appearance. His status in UNCLE is clearly inferior to Napoleon's, but he is the only other agent privy to Waverly's briefing, so it seems likely that he has some kind of favored status. As he and Napoleon address each other by first names, they are probably acquainted beyond the simple 'know by sight in the cafeteria' kind of relationship. There is a hint that they are somewhat accustomed to working together, particularly in their comfortably familiar exchange while they examine the intruder's briefcase, and later when Illya briefs Napoleon on some research for the mission. Illya is very definitely Russian in this episode; his English is heavily accented and he drops the occasional article when speaking. Plus, all of Illya's trademark black outfits must've been at the cleaners that day, as he is wearing light-colored trousers and a white shirt.
Two small things that struck me as odd: Napoleon's Bryl-Creem slicked-back hairstyle (he must've used more than a little dab) and the cheap gun holster rig. Both were changed in short order.
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Iowa-Scuba was the first episode filmed solely for television, and as such focuses on the title character, Napoleon. Illya does not appear in this episode, nor is he referred to any way. The theme of utter professionalism is carried forward, and Napoleon even identifies himself as such, when the Innocent hunts for a word to describe the similarities between Napoleon and the man he killed. "Professional is the word you're looking for," he says, helpfully although completely seriously. It's clear that Napoleon takes great pride in his professionalism, in his ability to surmount any challenges tossed in his path and get the job done. Also in the professionalism department is Napoleon's explanation to Mr. Waverly on why he had to kill someone on this mission: "It was a matter of his life or mine and I chose his." Happily, this could indicate that killing someone is a matter of last resort for UNCLE agents, but it also proves Napoleon's ability to make ruthless choices when necessary.
Despite the professionalism, Napoleon's charismatic side begins to emerge in this episode. He is quietly gallant toward the young Innocent, never turning on the charm the way he might with an older and more sophisticated woman, instead demonstrating either a practiced or instinctive ability to tailor his approach to the individual. Napoleon doesn't openly flirt with the girl, but his admiration of the Innocent's naïveté seems unfeigned and his compliments sound genuine; it's a lovely glimpse into Napoleon's chivalrous nature. It's pretty clear that the home-spun surroundings are foreign to his sophisticated tastes, but that doesn't stop him from expressing appreciation for those values. He is also firmly in control of himself when he and the Innocent are exposed to danger; he remains calm, makes a few light-hearted comments designed to reassure her and generally proves himself to be capable and determined in protecting her safety. In this episode there's a real sense that Napoleon puts the Innocent's safety on a par with accomplishing his purpose; the expression on his face when he learns the car the Innocent is in has been rigged to explode says so much. And when the Innocent returns to aid him, he risks failing at his mission in order to protect her. This is a far cry from what happened in The Vulcan Affair; it's possible quite some time has elapsed between these two field missions. The character development certainly suggests it.
There's another delightful aspect to this episode, and that is the relationship between Mr. Waverly and Napoleon, which is nearly a father/son dynamic at best, or a mentoring teacher/pupil dynamic at worst. Twice Waverly teases Napoleon (at Napoleon's expense) and both times we see Napoleon almost miss the joke, before smiling wryly. There's clear affection in Waverly's attitude toward Napoleon, and Napoleon shows respect and admiration in return.
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Brain-Killer was the third episode filmed, but aired 23rd. And I must confess that a discussion with other fans and a re-viewing of this episode caused me to see Napoleon's actions here in a different light, and this recap has been revised accordingly.
In B-K, Napoleon's character begins to expand a little more beyond the dedicated and ruthless agent of the debut episode. He's still very focused on the job at hand, in this case protecting Waverly, but we get a glimpse of his complexities as well. He is still capable of manipulating the Innocent, but we also see his tendency toward "random acts of kindness" (as Clare points out). Certain aspects of Napoleon's character are reinforced: his status as top agent and 'favored son'; his comfort level with the trappings of wealth. In this episode Napoleon is confident, assured, efficient and in charge. He bribes the Innocent with money, claiming it is the fastest and easiest way to ensure her cooperation, but underneath that claim lies compassion for her dilemma; she is in desperate financial straits yet fiercely guards her pride and independence. He seems both amused and admiring of the prickly pragmatism covering up her naïveté and he doesn't hesitate to offer her that 'night on the town' she dreams of. He didn't need to do that on top of the financial aid he already offered, as there is no evidence he actually finds her desirable. It's simply that compulsion toward kindness showing through, and no doubt Napoleon made it an evening worth remembering.
This is where we discover the depths of Napoleon's complexity; yes he exploits/uses the Innocent and her vulnerabilities for his own purpose out of necessity, but we also see Napoleon's sense of compassion and "rightness" counterbalance the mercenary nature of such necessity. He does what he can to ease the disruption of the Innocents' lives, and offers the money as compensation. It's clear, though, with the offer of that evening on the town, that he understands how inadequate that compensation really is. For instance, when the Innocent exposes her fear that she is being mercenary for taking the bribe, he manipulates her into taking it - and that's a very multi-layered game he plays, benefiting the Innocent but exposing her to even more danger, benefiting Napoleon's purpose but also assauging his guilt feelings. Compassion and idealism certainly live in Napoleon's soul, but they are linked to his serving a greater purpose as well. Interestingly enough, Napoleon shows no reluctance to knock down a woman (the nurse) in a scuffle, and shows no interest in trying to warn Dr. Dabree about the potentially dangerous fall ahead of her. His chivalry obviously doesn't extend that far.
Another interesting glimpse into Napoleon's character comes toward the end of the episode, when the Innocent falls into his arms and begins to sob in reaction to the now-harmless situation. He laughs in a rueful way at her very natural reaction, possibly because he recognizes the same impulse in himself and knows he doesn't have an option to give in to that reaction. One wonders if he occasionally wishes for someone he could turn to for comfort at such times, someone who would fully understand his complex feelings.
Illya's role in this episode is considerably more essential than in Vulcan; we see that he appears to hold some position of authority within the agents' ranks and clearly Napoleon relies on him to assist in the investigation, more so than anyone else. Illya's accent is much improved, too. He also dresses every bit as well as Napoleon in these early episodes. There's no evidence (as yet) that he is careless about his appearance. Although they're nothing but professional here, glimpses of a personal relationship shine through. Illya calls Napoleon "my friend" twice, implying something beyond just working together. There are hints of Illya's ruthlessness, such as when he is dispatched to interview suspects and he says "I shall see to them" in a darkly promising tone of voice, with accompanying glint in his eyes. The viewer knows nothing will escape his scrutiny. It's both a chilling and reassuring moment, and sets up his character as one to be respected, if not feared.
We also see Illya's socialist preferences and his sarcastic wit surface in this episode. He appears scornful over Napoleon's use of money to secure cooperation - he seems to recognize Napoleon's compulsion toward kindness but apparently doesn't share that same impulse - ("For that you should be getting your answers gift wrapped") and his attitude toward the Innocent for accepting the money is equally dismissive. Other things we learn about Illya: he knows he "can't fight city hall" head-on; when the nurse tells him the hospital is quarantined he immediately steps away to contact reinforcements. That's his pragmatism - and possibly his life under communist rule - showing. When Napoleon rouses him from the paralyzing drug, we see his ability to reorient himself quickly, and also his resilience to shake off physical discomfort. When Napoleon asks if he's all right, Illya responds with typical understatement, "I've felt better". But he does later complain of a headache, another glimpse of an established character trait. He takes his lumps willingly, but refuses to suffer in silence.
Some things that struck me about this episode:
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Illya and Napoleon share only a few moments of screen time in this episode, but they're a most intense and rewarding few moments. The fundamental story concerns the precarious truce between the United States and the Soviet Union, one of the few episodes to actually address the Cold War between the Eastern Bloc and the West. As such, we see how this affects Napoleon and Illya, both as individuals and as citizens of their respective nations, as well as how it impacts their working relationship.
Illya is very Russian in this episode, both in speech and attitude. He is also uncharacteristically emotional, almost distraught, over the crisis in the USSR and like many men uses anger to mask his feelings of fear, frustration and helplessness. His concern for people who may well soon starve is palpable, yet he is also very aware of even greater political repercussions. The fate of the world quite literally rests with them in this episode, as East and West hover on the brink of nuclear war. More precisely, it rests with Napoleon, as Illya must return to the Soviet Union to help with the crisis, leaving Napoleon to discover/disarm the source of the problem.
In the intriguing opening scene, we see Illya in a military uniform watching some sort of capsule leak its contents into the water somewhere on the Soviet coast. From this brief glimpse a couple of things are apparent about Illya's status: he is still a Soviet citizen in good standing and holds at least a reserve officer rank in some branch of the Soviet miltary (the Navy, according to the film The Spy With My Face). Does anyone know what rank he holds?
The next scene takes place in UNCLE's headquarters, where Illya briefs Napoleon on the capsule and its contents (a grain-destroying fungus) which threatens widespread starvation in the USSR. Illya becomes more emotional as he outlines the severity of the circumstances and Napoleon grows quieter and calmer, perhaps in an effort to balance Illya's temper. Napoleon's attempts at humor are rejected by Illya; in fact they only serve to increase his agitation. There's real frustration behind Illya's exclamation, "Oh, Napoleon!" It's said softly, but there's disappointment in his voice, as though he'd expected better of his partner. As indeed he should. It's a rare instance of Napoleon miscalculating volatile mood, but then again, this is very unusual behavior from Illya. They're both certainly on edge and behaving abnormally.
As much as UNCLE tries to transcend political and social boundaries, in this scene we see that Napoleon and Illya still have emotional ties to their individual countries; this particular situation brings those ties into sharp relief. There's an 'us v. them' dynamic built into the situation that both agents respond to. Illya enumerates the reasons why the Soviets blame the US for this disaster and Napoleon's expression as he listens to the evidence shows his disbelief and resentment. The potential for a serious rift in their personal and working relationship definitely exists, which may account for Napoleon's rather flippant response when informed he has approximately three days to get to the bottom of the situation. It's a great pity we never get to see Illya and Napoleon together at the end of the episode, post- crisis, to see how or if they address those reactions.
There is also the interesting question of why Illya was recalled to his country in this situation; it seems likely he was called in to serve as liaison between the USSR and the international community as represented by UNCLE. After all, they provided at least one agent and they should be getting some use out of him, right? It also explains why Illya was allowed to bring the capsule out of the USSR - presumably to take advantage of UNCLE's scientific expertise. Also, at a time when the Soviets were commonly portrayed as warmongers, this view of them as preferring to explore peaceful avenues rather than reacting belligerently and instantly on their suspicions is rather striking. It gives more substance to the idea that Illya was no 'reject' or 'joke', but a genuine and serious contribution to the international peace-keeping community.
After this opening scene the show is all Napoleon's as he races the clock to prevent World War III. Illya has returned to the Soviet Union to help in whatever way he can, leaving Napoleon on his own, inexplicable as that seems given the potential for a holocaust if he fails. Suffice it to say that Napoleon saves the day with his usual panache at the very last second. Literally. Despite his careless attitude with Illya earlier, it's clear Napoleon takes the desperate situation very seriously.
There are a couple of quintessential Napoleon moments in this episode: the first is where he breaks into the suspected culprit's home and dazzles the man's daughter with a charming snow job; the second is where he emphatically tells the Innocent that accompanying him is "out of the question". Naturally, the next scene shows both of them. Here's an Innocent Napoleon doesn't flirt with though, probably because she is engaged (to one of the villains, as it turns out). Napoleon's behavior toward the young woman is more big-brotherly than anything else.
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The Shark Affair offers oodles of good moments between Illya and Napoleon. The teaser opens with both men interviewing the Innocent about her husband's mysterious disappearance. It's a cozy little domestic scene; she's laying on her just prepared lunch and Illya perks up at the sight of food. She offers them lunch and Illya eagerly accepts and sits down at the table. Napoleon declines but can't seem to hide a smile at his partner's reaction. This is the first glimpse we have of Illya's prodigious appetite, but it certainly won't be the last. And when Napoleon is called away by Mr. Waverly, he lets his hand linger on Illya's shoulder and tells their hostess, "I think he could use another plate of soup". (Illya smiles appreciatively at his partner's concern for his stomach.) Obviously Napoleon has had experience with Illya's appetite. The affection for and knowledge of one another is definitely palpable in this scene.
This episode also begins to define the different attitudes Napoleon and Illya have toward women. We've seen Napoleon's tendency to focus on the romantic interest, but Illya's focus falls into a more practical approach. When the Innocent declares that her husband couldn't have left on purpose because "he loves me", Illya's expression is dubious, as if he doesn't believe that's quite an adequate reason. However, because the husband's disappearance fits a larger and mysterious profile, he agrees with her ultimate conclusion. Napoleon's reaction is very different, more sympathetic with her feelings and reasoning. He is also far more tolerant of her questions and chattiness, while Illya shushes her at one point. In later episodes we'll see that gap in their approach toward women widen even further. We also get a glimpse of Illya's cynicism toward marriage in this episode, particularly in the tag scene where the Innocent and her husband bicker (and Illya gets to eat yet again).
There's a terrific scene set later that night, where Illya and Napoleon relax in Mr. Waverly's office by sharing a pitcher of martinis. It's another very intimate, domestic scene. Illya is telling his tale of woe from the day (more about that in a bit) and Napoleon listens sympathetically. Then they begin to discuss their current cases and bicker just a bit: the overall impression is a standard 1960's "dad comes home from the office and mom greets him with a drink" scenario. The emotional dynamics are incredibly familiar and marital. There's an easy rapport between them that speaks of familiar comfort and trust. Mr. Waverly interrupts their tête-à-tête by striding in and chastising them for their indolence while there is work to be done. Like schoolboys caught in a prank they instantly jump up and straighten their clothing: tightening loosened ties, buttoning up jackets, Illya even tucks his shirt back in. Makes one wonder why their clothes were so askew... what did we miss off-screen? Also, the fact that they felt privileged enough to relax in their boss' office definitely says something about the relationship they have, not only with each other, but with Mr. Waverly, as well as their relative status within the UNCLE hierarchy.
The last half of this scene in Waverly's office shows a momentarily out-of-character Alexander Waverly. He botches pronouncing a kidnapped Russian musician's name, and in an "Ugly American" (or in this case, Ugly Brit) moment, goes on to make a vaguely disparaging comment about Russian naming conventions. For Waverly to behave thus is astonishing; to have him do so in front of a native Russian is mind-boggling. Embarrassment doesn't begin to explain Waverly's comment, which he makes to Napoleon. One wonders if Waverly is exacting petty revenge for the martini episode. Oddly enough, Illya doesn't react to this rather phobic remark. Perhaps it is a sign of his respect for his superior that he can allow the occasional indiscreet comment. Or perhaps his mind is already too fully engaged with the conundrum posed to even notice.
The following night there's another lovely scene between Napoleon and Illya in what appears to be an UNCLE office - whether Napoleon's or Illya's is uncertain. It looks to be quite a small room, however. Illya reports on his lack of success interrogating a suspect and as he and Napoleon discuss the baffling problems they are both encountering, they begin playing off each other trying to break through their respective dead-ends. There's a definite energy sizzling between them as they bounce ideas back and forth and it's easy to see this has become an established working pattern for them. This is a nice glimpse of how well they work together intellectually, as if their minds are wired to the same circuit. At one point Illya exclaims rather gleefully, "But instead of being at our own dead-ends, we are now at the same dead-end together!" It's an adorable moment, and we can see just how pleased Illya is to realize he and Napoleon are actually working on the same case. Oh, and Illya eats a sandwich in this scene, while they are discussing the case.
Unfortunately, our agents have been a trifle too slow in putting all the clues together, and next morning's briefing has Mr. Waverly lecturing them again on their professional failings. Waverly works up a head of steam; Napoleon and Illya exchange frustrated looks and attempt to justify their actions. While Illya chews on his glasses and Napoleon stares at the ashtray and fiddles with his tie, Waverly arranges for them to be stranded in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Literally.
It's all in a good cause, of course, but being dropped into a raft 800 miles off the coast of Hawaii tends to make Illya a trifle cranky. He's also seasick, and while moaning about how he hates the ocean, he slips in a couple of gibes at Waverly. This fascinating little scene really highlights the difference in their attitudes toward Waverly; although Napoleon comments that he sometimes thinks Mr. Waverly is secretly on Thrush's side, it is clearly meant facetiously. Illya's criticism, on the other hand, is equally clearly intended as serious complaint. Perhaps he noticed the earlier disparagement after all. At any rate, we see another divergence in their attitudes: Napoleon's overall respect for Waverly's acumen and judgment outweighs his temporary misgivings in a given situation; Illya's opinion appears to be less trusting and more subject to examination by his personal set of ethics overall. It seems that Napoleon could be described more as a team player or company man, whereas Illya is more of a wildcard/free agent.
This little raft scene also confirms the basic set of their personalities; Illya's pessimism/pragmatism and Napoleon's optimism/idealism. Further evidence of Napoleon's basic outlook on life, as well as his chosen career, comes at the very end of the episode, when he tries to convince Captain Shark to abandon ship and come with him. Napoleon's trust in working with the system to effect changes is clearly defined in their discussion; he is persuasive and passionate about his beliefs, and we see that Napoleon truly lives according to his principles.
We never do learn what Napoleon's cover is by the time they are picked up by the pirate ship, although more than likely he was supposed to be some kind of officer, while we know Illya's cover was that of a ship's cook. They play the succeeding scenes that way too, with Illya becoming fairly passive and unobtrusive once they're in their adversary's hands, letting Napoleon do the talking and bear the brunt of scrutiny. This establishes their modus operandi during field work, a pattern based on their respective strengths and weaknesses.
In taking the lead role, Napoleon insults the villain (although he's quite a noble and courteous villain) and earns himself ten lashes. He appears unconcerned as sentence is passed down, and even as the punishment begins he manages to make a couple of jokes. Meanwhile Illya reacts in what becomes a trademark tempestuous fashion and jumps the captain wielding the whip. Of course that earns him a beating and a trip to the brig, but it shows that even in the face of impossible odds, he will try to help/protect/save his partner, regardless of personal risk. Napoleon returns the favor a little bit later when he negotiates Illya's release from the brig.
The climax of the episode involves a formal reception on board the pirate ship, and in an interesting twist on their later pattern, Illya is the one to attend the function while Napoleon does the dirty work. At the party Illya once again finds something to eat while Napoleon enlists the Innocent's assistance to make a big bang (no pun intended). Napoleon takes a very unusual calculated risk here in setting off a bomb on shipboard; such an explosion could easily get out of control and result in the ship sinking before the passengers can get off in lifeboats. His decision seems a bit overly-dramatic considering how many people are on board the ship; it makes one wonder if he's too mindful of Waverly's reprimand if he should fail in this assignment. All in all, it seems more like an Illya action than a Napoleon action, although this is consistent with Napoleon's first season characterization as a scheming and action-oriented ruthless professional.
All in all, an excellent relationship episode showing them finding their range as working partners and friends. It's clear they're moving beyond mere colleagues into something far closer and more transcendent.
A couple of interesting things:
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Here's an episode where Illya disappears about a third of the way into the storyline and sadly, what little screen time he shares with Napoleon here is all business. The episode begins with them on a stakeout together and from there are lead to Rome. Napoleon in Rome is truly a delight, by the way. We learn he speaks fluent Italian, that he has some history with Gemma Lusso of the Rome UNCLE office, and that he's pretty familiar with Rome's social/nightclub scene. Illya, by contrast, doesn't seem anywhere near as familiar with things Italian. The best scene between them in the early part of the episode comes as they receive information on their covers for the assignment. They exchange ruefully amused glances when Illya's cover is revealed as a physicist who "brilliant career was cut short"; there seems to be an in-joke the viewer is not privy to. Of course in season 3 we learn Illya is in fact a physicist whose potentially brilliant career was indeed cut short to become an UNCLE agent.
In this episode we see an expansion of their working pattern: Illya helps with the setup and then fades into the background to do the 'dirty work', all the better to cover Napoleon's back. Napoleon takes point and deliberately sets himself up as the target. He has some very nice moments throughout this episode, especially as his cover role demands he play against his own nature. He must appear to be physically inept and unsophisticated. The scene where he acts the drunken buffoon at Casa Trufare is utterly wonderful, as is the scene where he must pretend to know nothing of unarmed combat.
There is another partner scene at the very end of the episode which conveys a very subtle intensity. After Illya and other agents more or less rescue Napoleon, Illya rather pointedly searches for his partner in the confusion. The Innocent happens to ask the villain if he has seen "Mr. Smith" just as Illya brushes past on his determined hunt, and the expression he shoots toward el Pasad is most unpleasant. It promises serious revenge if any harm has come to Napoleon. Fortunately for the villain Illya finds Napoleon safe and sound, just in time to roll his eyes in exaggerated annoyance when it appears Napoleon will turn to flirting with Gemma.
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Green Opal is another Napoleon-centric episode where Illya has only small appearances at the beginning and end, but to compensate we get Nerd!Napoleon. NS assumes the role of a male secretary to an eccentric millionaire and plays the role very well indeed. It's such a change from his usual debonair persona, but Napoleon does nerdy with flair.
As in the other "solo" episodes, Napoleon comes off as extremely professional, very focused on his goal and very capable. He is remarkably resourceful here and exhibits the kind of 'trivial but most helpful' sort of knowledge that we're accustomed to see from Illya. As always, Napoleon manipulates the Innocent although his approach is once again subtle rather than sledgehammer. His behavior is more chivalrous this time around, although he does prove himself a very adept, charming and believable liar while convincing the Innocent. But again we see that an act that could be considered reprehensible turns out to have a beneficial effect; Napoleon's fabrication about his grandfather helps save a shaky marriage. This episode also showcases Napoleon's sardonic sense of humor after a cheetah mauls an evil minion, has him make several bold bluffs, and proves him to be courageous and quick-witted. He demonstrates remarkable savoir-faire in facing numerous difficult situations and produces clever rejoinders when the main villain deigns to duel verbally with his prisoner. The villain even pays him a backhanded compliment, "You have a cunning mind".
Napoleon is also extremely perceptive here, deducing from a few words and glances a hidden truth that he uses to ultimately destroy the villain and free himself and the Innocent. There is one instance where Napoleon's professionally detached nature comes to the fore: when the Innocent panics and inadvertently causes a distraction, Napoleon takes advantage of the distraction to make a leap for freedom, leaving the Innocent behind. He isn't successful, but if he had managed to escape we somehow know that he has not abandoned her in any way. Basically the character development here is simply expanding and reinforcing what we already know, although the emphasis seems to be shifting by now to a less single-minded professional toward the complex Napoleon of later seasons.
As far as Illya is concerned, there's a very enjoyable opening scene where he is practicing his hand/eye coordination with a fairly lethal object. Napoleon is nearly injured by the object and teases Illya. It seems Napoleon by now is accustomed to some of Illya's quirks. This little scene goes a long way toward establishing their relationship dynamics and how they relate to one another. Napoleon pokes gentle fun at Illya's singlemindedness and interest in obscure things, and Illya's response is utterly factual, but he doesn't bristle at being teased. One gets the sense he is quite comfortable with Napoleon's teasing, perhaps sees it as a sign of respect. When their moment of fun is interrupted by an emergency, it's interesting to note that Illya takes the lead and Napoleon serves as backup, and then it's the reverse when they must deal with others to get information. Napoleon takes the lead and does the talking, Illya lurks in the background and comes out with a couple of crucial questions and opinions. During the briefing Napoleon glances over at Illya to gauge his reaction and Illya seems to read Napoleon's mind at one point. In fact, it is Illya who comes up with a plan for the mission and Napoleon goes along with it. Illya's little smirk when he considers the mechanics of infiltrating an undercover Napoleon onto the yacht is so perfect. He's having a great time here, loving every minute of it.
It would seem that by this time they are very comfortable working with each other, and have a solid grasp of how to balance their diverse strengths and weaknesses. This episode sets the pattern for the nicely balanced way they will interact from now on.
There's a totally delicious scene where Napoleon presents himself in his undercover disguise. Illya examines him very carefully from all sides, and seems to be hiding a smile as he turns away from Napoleon. Illya is definitely enjoying the circumstances here! There's also a brief ending scene back at HQ after the Innocent leaves, with some enjoyable NS/IK teasing. Napoleon's lie about his grandfather is exposed by the Innocent's comment; Illya then reminds Napoleon about certain facts. His delivery is straight-faced but he is clearly teasing, and Napoleon replies in kind, making a self-referential joke about UNCLE, and he just plain grins at Illya as he says the punchline. It's a sweet moment between them, very easy and comfortable.
Interesting points: Napoleon has incredibly large soulful eyes that seem to change color with the lighting and his mood. And he looks terrific in a wet t-shirt. And they're wearing better gun rigs now.
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This is the episode featuring the sole appearance of the famous THRUSH femme fatale, Angelique. Much has been made of the attraction between Napoleon and Angelique, so it was interesting to check out that relationship through slash-colored glasses. It makes sense that Napoleon would be attracted to Angelique; she is intelligent, calculating, manipulative and capable of extreme ruthlessness, all of which will doubtlessly appeal to Napoleon's alpha male personality. They speak the same professional language, can understand one another on a level that no Innocent or mundane of either gender could ever approach. No simple conquest by charm here; she is a challenge worthy of Napoleon's cunning and abilities. In fact, she possesses all of the traits that are most likely to attract someone like Napoleon, and if we view those qualities from a different angle, we see there is another blond in Napoleon's life who also possesses those same desirable qualities. Still a challenge in different ways, but Illya comes with a priceless bonus that makes relationship longevity far more likely: Napoleon trusts Illya unconditionally. This is the personality type that can lure Napoleon into fidelity: strength meeting strength, a union of equals with just enough tension and conflict to keep the relationship dynamics interesting.
Illya's mistrust of Angelique (and Napoleon's relationship with her) are played up just enough to suggest a more than professional concern. He is clearly annoyed in a way we don't see when Napoleon must deal with other untrustworthy individuals; the reason behind Illya's reaction is ambiguous. Is it prior experience with Angelique's traitorous behavior? Is it annoyance with Napoleon for taking unnecessary risks? Is it, as Napoleon suggests, jealousy? Or possibly a combination of all three? Napoleon certainly seems amused by Illya's exaggerated loathing toward Angelique. Illya's wariness proves fortunate, though, when he saves Napoleon from one of Angelique's lethal "pets". Illya doesn't exactly treat Angelique gently when he disarms her and shoves her through the trap door; one might guess he took a certain amount of satisfaction in that.
There's a very cute bit of teamwork where the Innocent is concerned over her fiancé's safety and Napoleon tries to reassure her. He starts off with a leading comment, Illya picks up on the clue, and by the time Illya is finished talking the Innocent is reassured and they're all smiling. Very smooth teamwork, almost a mind-reading act.
Check out Illya and Napoleon's body language here; Illya invades Napoleon's personal space several times and Napoleon's response is subtle but definite: by turning toward Illya and meeting his eyes directly (which he almost never does with Angelique) he gives tacit approval of such physical closeness. Such a response defines the level of comfort and trust between them. It's really lovely to witness the growing affection and emotional intimacy between them. Also, Illya has a tendency to drop his voice to a low, sexy purr sometimes when speaking privately with Napoleon; he definitely does that during their initial briefing.
The briefing scene at the episode's beginning offers an intriguing hint of Illya's past. His tone of voice, the expressions on his face and his nervous gestures (he keeps adjusting his cuffs) suggest agitation with the focus of their assignment, a possible surviving Nazi scientist. It's pretty obvious that his childhood memories of World War II are still very close to Illya. By contrast, Napoleon (safely out of the war zone) seems to view the case purely as an intellectual exercise; he has emotional distance where Illya possibly does not. The way the scene is played raises some very fascinating possibilities but alas, there is no followup in the episode.
The tag scene, where Illya comes in to inform Napoleon that he has a visitor "at the security entrance" is fascinating in a different way. Illya's concern for Napoleon's welfare around Angelique seems to have evaporated, rather he only makes a small joke about "a bad reputation". It feels like established characterization was sacrificed for a one-liner. How annoying.
Small things worth noting:
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The Quadripartite Affair is a very well-balanced episode, meshing plot and action with strong characterization and relationship moments, and topped off with snappy dialogue. This is the first episode where there's much interaction between Illya and a woman, a rare occurrence indeed. The emotional center of the episode is still firmly focused on partnership dynamics though, all of them revolving around the supposed - and unconvincing - spark of attraction between Marion (the Innocent) and Illya.
When Waverly initially briefs Napoleon and Illya on the case at hand, both agents appear to be a bit preoccupied and not giving their full attention to their superior. Except for a long, ambiguous look Illya throws at Napoleon behind Waverly's back just before they enter the office, they studiously avoid looking at each other during the briefing. As Napoleon peruses the case file, Illya takes advantage of his partner's distraction to study him thoughtfully. A moment later he takes the file from Napoleon, snatches a photograph from the file and pronounces his opinion of the woman pictured in an oddly defiant manner. "Nice," he says, staring at Napoleon, not the picture, as though daring Napoleon to disagree. It's a most unusual outburst from Illya, especially in such a pointedly professional situation. Napoleon matches Illya's stare, paying little attention to the photo either. There's definite tension between the partners here, tantalizingly so. Have they quarreled? If so, about what? They seem rather emotionally invested in their positions for it to be a professional disagreement.
The next scene takes us to the Innocent's home, where Napoleon and Illya are trying to glean some further details about her father's mysterious death. Napoleon is the consummate professional here, courteous but cool and surprisingly uninterested in a beautiful, unmarried woman. In contrast to Napoleon's calm professionalism, Illya seems nervous. He paces around the apartment, indulges in some nervous gestures (rubbing his fingers together), acts distracted and generally pays little attention to the purpose of their visit. He clumsily interrupts Napoleon's questioning of the woman to ask her a personal question and generally behaves in a most un-Illya-like fashion. Up until the moment where they learn Marion has been under surveillance by an unknown party, Napoleon and Illya are still doing their best to ignore each other's presence.
Napoleon departs shortly thereafter to follow up on some clues, leaving Illya behind as bodyguard. (A change from their typical division of duties as NS almost always stays with the girl while IK does the behind-the-scenes work.) This scene, too, is layered with tension between Napoleon and Illya, almost as if by leaving Illya alone with Marion and pointing out that "she's nice" (a clever twist on Illya's earlier statement), Napoleon is issuing a challenge to his partner. The question is, what kind of challenge are we talking about? Is it to prove that Illya is attracted to women?
Illya then makes another nonsequitur of a statement:"Resolution is my favorite virtue." He is addressing Marion, but the statement appears to be directed toward Napoleon, in the same defiant way we saw earlier. A declaration of intent almost, as if he's committing himself to a course of action. Has he accepted Napoleon's challenge then? Napoleon practically smirks as he then says to Marion, "You'll get used to him. He might even grow on you." Poor girl, perhaps she should take that as a warning, because Illya sure doesn't treat her very well after that.
Before this we've seen Illya angry, scared, worried, stubborn and blunt - but we've never seen him quite as rude as he is to Marion now. He belittles her musical tastes, ignores her offers of refreshment and orders her to dismiss his presence. He is deliberately manipulative of her feelings; check out the little smirk on his face as he turns away from her after she's just admitted it will be hard to forget he's there. Marion responds by viewing Illya's attitude as a challenge and we see the power of his approach. He quickly draws Marion to him without risk of exposing any vulnerabilities of his own and with almost no effort on his part. It's a calculated and professional approach, one we might expect to see if he were required to seduce a woman on the job. We know he is capable of flirtatious charm on occasion, but he apparently doesn't consider Marion worthy of that effort. This fits in with his mistrust of females in general, particularly ones attractive enough to have sexual power over males. The only females he seems to respect, like and treat as equals are older women who he doesn't perceive as sexual beings.
The incident with the delivery allows Illya to show off his professional expertise and gives Marion a reason to admire his competence openly. Illya takes advantage of the opportunity and milks the parcel unwrapping for all it's worth in that context. There's another small smirk that betrays his awareness of the impact this will have on Marion and her interest in him. His slight thawing toward her at this point seems equally calculated, like he's following an equation: (ab)+c = 7.5 degrees of thaw.
The scene where Napoleon discovers Illya, a victim of the 'fear gas', alone in Marion's apartment, is a fan favorite. We now understand the scope of the danger posed by this gas if a man as fearless and well-trained as Illya can be reduced to sheer, quivering, irrational terror. Intriguingly, there's something both frightening and reassuring in seeing an otherwise invulnerable hero reveal a weakness, a vulnerability, and struggle with it. It makes him more real, more likable, more human. That's true even in the case of this artificially induced weakness, which symbolizes the smaller, more personal and painfully real flaws and vulnerabilities we discover in Illya here, such as his difficulty in connecting emotionally with other people, that self-sufficient defense structure that renders him 'part of the furniture' instead of 'a human being'.
Napoleon's reaction to finding Illya is a complex tangle of shock, concern, horror and bewilderment. He rushes into the apartment to find Illya cowering at the bottom of the stairs babbling in terror, and he stops dead in his tracks, transfixed by such an impossible sight. He loses his professionalism in that instant, lowers his gun and instead of checking for danger or searching for Marion, steps carefully toward Illya, completely focused on his partner. One more step and he'd reach out but Illya's chemically induced fear interprets even Napoleon's approach as a threat. He shoves Napoleon away violently and makes his escape. Napoleon recovers and stares at Illya, shock all over his face. He steps toward his partner again, careful not to get too close even though we can see his instinct is to touch, to reassure himself that Illya is all right. Illya crawls into a corner like a wounded animal and can only whimper and stare like a deer caught in the headlights. Finally Napoleon remembers the reason he is there and checks through the apartment, although not very thoroughly. His attention is still on Illya, tossing glances over his shoulder to make sure his partner stays put, perhaps fearful Illya will bolt out of the apartment or over the balcony. A valid fear under the circumstances. Eventually Napoleon contacts HQ and reports that Marion Raven is missing, but very deliberately omits any mention of Illya. When Waverly hears Illya whimpering he asks, "Is that some sort of animal I hear crying?" Napoleon turns around to look at Illya and responds, "Yes, something like that," but offers nothing else. A likely explanation is that Napoleon is protecting his partner's dignity and privacy as much as possible.
After Napoleon has rescued Marion (a very exciting James Bondish-style rescue from the villainess' yacht), there is another briefing in Waverly's office, rather an awkward one. Illya is very emotionally withdrawn and wears his iciest, most remote expression. He occupies himself by scribbling notes in a book in order to remain disengaged from everyone else in the room, a likely signal that he is still uncomfortable and/or embarrassed about his earlier condition. His reassurance to Marion comes off as less than comforting, something he extends only as a formality because it seems to be expected of him. Napoleon looks everywhere but at Illya, and similar to that earlier briefing, he appears distracted and perhaps a bit restless. He fidgets, very unusual for this ordinarily suave and collected man. At one point Napoleon completely covers his face with his hand, possibly to hide his expression. It could be guessed that he's simply trying to concentrate on the briefing information, but the timing is most interesting. He has just tried to break through Illya's icy façade by remarking that there didn't seem to be any lasting effects from the drug, and was soundly ignored. It's certain that seeing Illya in such an emotionally undone state proved difficult for Napoleon and he may be having trouble knowing exactly how to get back on an easy and equal footing with his partner.
When Waverly suggests that Marion accompany them to Yugoslavia, Illya checks a startled turn and Napoleon rolls his eyes and hides a grin behind his hand. Looks like Illya is less than thrilled with the idea of continued contact with Marion and Napoleon is delighted, perhaps at his partner's expense. That impression is reinforced at their final briefing, just before they leave, when Illya tries to convince Marion to stay behind and fails. Napoleon says, with yet another grin, "Next stop, Yugoslavia. The three of us." Again, it feels like he's saying 'you don't get off so easy, IK'. Illya's expression is less than pleased. Perhaps it's because Marion now reminds Illya of his own failings?
In Yugoslavia, there's a very adorable moment where Illya says something to Horth, probably in a gypsy tongue, which marks him as friend, and is warmly welcomed as a result. Napoleon gives a sidelong look which promised questions later. Illya tries again to convince Marion to stay behind at Horth's cabin, but she's having none of that.
During the arduous journey to the enemy stronghold, Illya and Marion have another 'I'm just part of the background' scene, and it becomes clear that Marion in still interested in Illya. When she declares "you're a rock" and settles against him to rest, he first looks surprised and then pleased. His surprise marks him as a man who isn't skilled in reading female signals, as if we didn't know that already. In fact, his reactions in every encounter with Marion show his lack of experience with women - for whatever reason.
Once they are captured, Illya and Marion share a cell. Marion is very frightened, especially after witnessing Horth's murder, and is in desperate need of comfort and reassurance. Illya has no time for such things, instead devoting himself to figuring a way out of confinement. In fact, it doesn't register on him how terrified Marion is, despite her body language and words, until a comment breaks through his concentration. "Just once, couldn't you pretend to be a human being?" she pleads. It must be an accusation he's heard before, the accusation that he lacks empathy and understanding, the accusation that he lacks feelings himself - because his expression softens immediately. He agrees to the pretense with a hint of the humor we know he is capable of, and gathers Marion into an embrace. It's certainly not romantic, but it is the first time he interacts with Marion in what appears to be a genuine rather than calculated way. It's also a breakthrough moment for Illya's character, where he responds genuinely and emotionally to someone other than Napoleon. (It doesn't stop him from leaving Marion behind at the end, though, when they're running from an imminent explosion and she stumbles. It's Napoleon who grabs her hand and makes sure she gets to safety.)
The last scene with Marion and Illya is again intriguing, because for a moment it seems like the relationship dynamics have reversed. Illya offers to see her home, she refuses and seems uninterested in ever seeing him again. He overrides her refusal and even orders, "We'll walk. It's a nice afternoon for walking." That's one way to disguise his thrifty habits! Just then Napoleon enters and Marion seems as mistrustful of him as she does of Illya. "I suppose I ought to say it's been nice," she says, meaning the exact opposite. Napoleon smiles gently at his partner and proceeds to make an equally obnoxious comment sound charming, "I suppose I ought to say I hope we'll meet again someday". When he asks Illya where he will be if needed, Illya regards his partner suspiciously and responds, "Right where I'm needed", suddenly sounding very Russian. And then he practically shoves Marion out the door, leaving Napoleon to smile bemusedly and paternally.
And then! We learn that leaving with Marion may not have been Illya's choice after all, since Waverly has ordered him to help Marion 'put it all behind her'. This is a very unusual tag scene for several reasons, but foremost is Waverly's use of 'Illya' instead of 'Mr. Kuryakin'. Since when does Mr. Waverly address any of his agents by their first names? His concern over Marion's post-mission trauma is pretty unusual too. In fact, Napoleon appears nonplussed by it but thanks his superior for his sympathetic attitude (one wonders what Napoleon must be thinking about Illya and Marion's relationship by now), and then discovers himself holding the booby prize - going after the other two baddies who escaped.
More items of interest:
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The Giuoco Piano Affair is a sequel to Quadripartite and was aired several weeks after Quadripartite, although scenes within "Piano" suggest that months have passed between the two events. The two surviving villians from Quadripartite, Gervaise Ravel and Harold Bufferton, have surfaced again, still intent on taking over the world, and Napoleon concocts a plan to draw them out that involves - you guessed it, Marion Raven.
There are a couple of nice moments involving Napoleon and Mr. Waverly as they discuss the case. The first one is when Waverly refers to a now deceased agent as "a bit too sure of himself" and says he reminded Waverly of Napoleon, whereupon Napoleon smiles his best self-deprecating smile. And a few minutes later as they are considering ways and means of enticing the villains from hiding, Napoleon suggests using himself as bait but wonders if his death would help anything. Waverly responds, very dryly, "Only Mr. Kuryakin." At Napoleon's rather puzzled glance he elaborates: "Who is next in line for promotion." Thus does Napoleon realize his leg is being pulled, ever so gently. This is reminiscent of a similar scene in Iowa-Scuba and reminds the viewer that the relationship between Waverly and Napoleon is far more complex than a simple boss/employee dynamic. This scene also shows us the official hierarchy, that Illya is second-in-authority to Napoleon, although we still don't know exactly what position Napoleon holds.
Enter Illya, on a mission to convince a wary Marion to assist them yet again. He crashes a party at her apartment, but the dynamics between them now are very different than at the end of Quadripartite. Illya is confident and socially at ease, and he clearly expects a warm welcome from Marion, which he receives. There is definitely an easy familiarity between them that speaks of some kind of relationship in the interim. They flirt, tease and touch in a way that expresses affection and possibly intimacy. Even though she is resistant to getting involved in a case again, Marion doesn't seem to have any problem with Illya himself. There is one interesting reaction, though: when Illya brings up Napoleon's name, Marion reacts quite angrily and all out of proportion to what he says. It's as though she holds a personal grudge against Napoleon specifically. Since there was no real reason for such animosity up through the end of Quadripartite, it stands to reason that whatever Marion's reason for disliking Napoleon so much now, it happened in the missing intervening months - and at a guess, it is somehow connected to her feelings about Illya.
In the end Marion agrees to assist UNCLE again, although only after Illya plays a trump card of suggestive sexual competition, which is a further hint of intimacy between Illya and Marion. During the scene where Napoleon briefs Marion on the mission, Marion seems resigned to her fate and Illya appears rather self-effacing. When Napoleon says "I don't want to pressure you into anything you may be sorry for," Marion gives Illya an enigmatic glance and in return Illya remains completely innocent and bland. It's clear she is doing this only because of Illya, and IK may actually be feeling slightly guilty for using her in this way. Napoleon is obviously aware of the tension in the room and uses an ironic joke to try to lighten the tension, and also to steer Marion's attention away from Illya. It's almost as if he's trying to act as a buffer zone, or given Marion's apparent dislike for Napoleon, perhaps it's more likely that he's offering himself up as a target for all the blame, trying to absolve his partner of responsibility.
However, in the hotel room in Baridqua, when Illya breaks in so dramatically (he does have a flair for the dramatic), he purposely ignores Marion after his initial greeting. He and Napoleon discuss the mechanics of the mission, referring to Marion as a distant "her" even though she is in the room. Her very natural resentment and worried outburst is ignored and her concerns dismissed by both Napoleon and Illya. It's as if a switch has been flipped in both of them and they're all about the business now, with Marion important to them only in that she remain a willing (but depersonalized) pawn in their plan. This is a pattern we'll see again, over and over, the way Illya and Napoleon can shift from personable to cold professional in the blink of an eye. Their world narrows down to the only other person they can truly trust and rely on - each other.
Still, there is a moment where an ambiguous smile flits across Illya's face as Marion delivers her last gibe and Napoleon turns to reassure her. It's hard to say what Illya is feeling/thinking here - regret over what Marion might face on his behalf, admiration at her fighting spirit, relief that Napoleon is handling her temper tantrum? Or is he simply reacting to the elbow poke Napoleon has just given him as he turned aside, as if to say "watch the master at work"? It seems like their usual division of labor - Napoleon handles the human factor and Illya the technical - which is particularly interesting in this circumstance since it is Illya who obviously has the connection with Marion.
Napoleon's strategy quickly bears fruit, as Marion is kidnapped and Napoleon recruits assistance in the form of a local police lieutenant. Napoleon's professionalism shines in the scene with the officer, where he enlists assistance but carefully and tactfully reveals nothing of his plan. In fact, all the scenes with Napoleon as he plays his role in the scheme are really lovely, highlighting his intelligence, confidence and resourcefulness. He maintains his cool under a wide variety of unexpected surprises and betrayals, and manages to turn setbacks into advantage. In fact, it appears that he has already included all these variables in his initial plan. This episode really showcases his strength as a tactician and strategist. Further, his meeting with Gervaise is a masterful verbal duel between two highly intelligent, determined and manipulative individuals. And in a scene that is a testament to Napoleon's character, he saves Lt. Manuera's life at risk to his own, despite the lieutenant's betrayal. He even gives Manuera yet another opportunity to prove his loyalty, in a gesture that profiles Napoleon's fundamental idealism. Of course he's too much of a professional to leave the mission's success to chance and has arranged for a backup - but he does offer the man a chance to redeem himself.
Napoleon's complicated plot works, although not without a few snags. Marion is rescued, Illya kills Bufferton and Gervaise is finally captured. There's a very telling exchange of glances between Napoleon and Illya as Gervaise is hauled off by the police. Illya grins broadly, exhilarated and pleased with the day's work. Napoleon, in contrast, is pained and weary. What a perfect snapshot of their different personalities!
The epilogue features another (really a continuation of the same) party in Marion's apartment. In a domestic moment Illya snipes at Marion's refusal to stop and get cleaned up before returning home and again seems perfectly comfortable in the situation. We learn at least a partial reason for Marion's dislike of Napoleon - her affection for Illya won't let her see him as choosing to use her the way he has, and so she assigns all the blame onto Napoleon. She argues with Napoleon, accuses him of using Illya as a pawn in his "whirling mass of plots and schemes" and calls Illya a "poor boy" as she flings a protective arm across his chest. (IK's body language here is really interesting; all the while Marion is 'defending' and touching him, he keeps his arms firmly folded across his chest in what is generally considered a gesture of either withdrawal or rejection.) Both Napoleon and Illya seem to find her attitude amusing. Illya begins a half-hearted defense of Napoleon's character but quickly abandons the effort because he starts to laugh. Before Marion pulls Illya away and Napoleon heads off in pursuit of an attractive woman, the two partners exchange a very interesting look harkening back to Quadripartite and the challenge that seemed to have been thrown down. By now it's clear to everyone that the challenge has been answered.
Both party scenes are absolute hoots and worth watching over and over again. The party quests are played by behind-the-scenes personnel such as creator Sam Rolfe and executive producer Norman Felton, and the party itself is a parody of crazy Hollywood-type parties.
Points to ponder:
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The Dove Affair is an excellent episode despite the fact that Illya does not appear in it at all (not so much as a single reference). This is strictly a one-man show, and it is a bravura performance. Napoleon is on his own in a foreign country where even UNCLE cannot help him, and all alone he deals with a possible double-agent, the local law, complex politics, an American schoolteacher and her rambunctious charges. The focus here is very much on the intrigue/espionage aspects. This is probably one of the most realistic MfU episodes ever.
All the qualities and characteristics we've seen so far about Napoleon culminate in this episode. He is consummately professional, hardnosed when he has to be, compassionate and considerate when he can afford to be. He refuses to allow the teacher to help him once she accidentally tumbles to what is going on, in order to protect her and her charges. But he also clearly finds humor in the entire situation. He's clever, ingenious and strong, uses his wits instead of his gun, and never gives up for a second.
Although these "solo" episodes are terrific character study opportunities, they are certainly frustrating from a slashy point of view. The show really only hits its stride once Illya and Napoleon are teamed together permanently; it is the relationship between the two that made this show sizzle. Their banter, the looks they aim toward each other - it's all good. And unfortunately all missing from this particular episode. Satine (the possible double agent) is a poor substitute for Illya.
One terrific moment: when Napoleon unexpectedly encounters the possible double-agent, he makes a point of telling the agent that he has been timed at being able to draw and fire his gun in one second. Oh, and Napoleon rides a bicycle.
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The episode out of time... this one turned out to be incredibly frustrating in terms of the building relationship between Illya and Napoleon. In fact, this episode focuses on plot mechanics to the detriment of established characterizations. The script underwent numerous revisions by several different authors, which probably accounts for the unconscionably bad characterizations. This episode had a lot of extra footage in the film version and the edits for the transition to television episode were very badly done; a lot of questions are left unanswered.
The opening sequence was most intriguing and made clear that Illya's knowledge and close bond with Napoleon was the biggest threat to Thrush's plan to substitute one of their agents for Napoleon. Thrush is so worried about Illya tumbling to the substitution that they try to murder him in a bumbling and science fictiony method that leaves far too much up to chance and seems more like a third season device than first season. Thankfully the plan fails, but that is also the last we see of Illya's great knowledge of Napoleon and his threat to the plan. Other than that opening teaser there is no evidence that Napoleon and Illya are anything but distant colleagues, and that completely contradicts what we've seen in earlier episodes. "Double" is a very displaced episode, no banter, no humor - it just doesn't quite fit in anywhere in the established continuum of character or relationship development.
The substitution goes smoothly and the ersatz Napoleon slips easily into his new role. Illya doesn't appear to notice much of anything, a serious flaw in the script, because he has already been established as a keen observer and in sync with Napoleon's personality. There are moments in the episode where Napoleon acts out of character and Illya notices, yet nothing comes of these moments. Illya either ignores the aberrant behavior, or in other instances, doesn't even appear to notice something is amiss. The inconsistencies are most annoying.
There is one scene in Mr. Waverly's office, as they are being briefed on a most important mission, where Waverly makes a comment about Napoleon's late night. There's a marked lack of banter here and Napoleon is unusually sober and businesslike. He neither asks nor answers questions, very unlike his typical briefing behavior, but it isn't unusual enough to be remarkable given the importance of the upcoming mission. Neither Waverly nor Illya appear to notice anything amiss.
On the plane to Washington, Napoleon again acts out of character when he ignores the attractive stewardess, an inaction Illya clearly notes and appears puzzled over. He says nothing to Napoleon however, so the conclusion has to be that he has dismissed the unusual behavior as perhaps stress or focus on the upcoming mission. One wonders if Illya also noticed the absence of Napoleon's 'in charge' attitude in getting to the Washington HQ. Then there's a brief tense moment when the receptionist notices there's something different about Napoleon. The imposter is instantly tense - it shows in his body language - and it's hard to believe Illya would miss that, or could ascribe it to nerves over the mission. That is truly out of character for Napoleon, as well as OOC for Illya as well. The difference turns out to be his aftershave; Napoleon says the new scent is a 'gift from my mother' and all is well. From this we can deduce Napoleon's mother is probably still among the living, otherwise Illya surely would have reacted or commented upon his words in some way.
When they meet the other agents assigned to this mission, it's interesting to note that it is Illya who is more personable and friendly, while Napoleon is reserved and silently businesslike. This is an interesting reversal on their normal roles, and surely Illya must be wondering by now if something is seriously wrong with his partner. Yet he says nothing, possibly in deference to the presence of others, or perhaps because he respects Napoleon's privacy, trusting that his partner will turn to him at an appropriate moment.
On the plane we see more oddities: Illya must not be feeling suspicious at all because he's absorbed in what appears to be some kind of bureaucratic paperwork and pays no attention to Napoleon whatsoever; Napoleon's strange comment when the annoyed stewardess dumps coffee on him - what in the world does "No, just a little sweet" mean when she asks if it was too hot (he never tasted the coffee, by the way)?; or when the stewardess grumbles to Napoleon, "Are you sure you haven't lost all your buttons?". Illya ignores the obvious tension between the stewardess and Napoleon, but Namana picks up on it. Namana, a total stranger to Napoleon, seems to be far more sensitive to the edgy undercurrents than Napoleon's own partner.
Once the UNCLE couriers arrive at their hotel, two interesting things happen. It turns out that Napoleon is sharing a room with the other (surviving) agent, not Illya, although Illya doesn't react to that information. Then Napoleon receives a private message and heads straight for the bar to meet with the lovely Thrush agent, right in front of Illya, where they openly discuss Thrush's plans to hijack Operation EarthSave. And still our brilliant, suspicious Russian doesn't react? Did somebody give him a lobotomy during the commercial break?
Now that Namana is gone, Sandy the stewardess seems to be the only one capable of seeing through the imposter. With one kiss it appears she too recognizes the difference between a real and fake Napoleon. How annoying that Illya apparently had no reason to kiss Napoleon in this episode, otherwise the nefarious Thrush plot would've ended very quickly, and with far fewer lives lost.
Toward the end, it appears that it wasn't only Sandy who had suspicions, as Illya and the other agent come barreling out of the lodge in a timely manner. If Illya had been harboring suspicions and keeping Napoleon under observation, Napoleon's rough handling of Sandy must've erased the last doubt. After jump-starting a convenient car, the two agents follow Serena, Sandy and Napoleon, arriving just in time to see the imposter die and the real Napoleon collapse into the lovely Thrush agent's arms. By this time Illya has his priorities straight - finally! He heads directly toward Napoleon, not giving a thought to the innocent and unconscious Sandy.
The ending tag scene is a lovely bit of true Napoleon characterization, one of the few good bits of the entire episode, where he shows he's about ten steps ahead of Serena's devious plot, and lets her go in his usual suave and charming manner. His Thrush nemesis barely out the door, Sandy shows up and Napoleon switches gears effortlessly, slipping back into his teasing, flirtatious, superficial routine. And that's that.
It's easy to guess that this episode wasn't really intended for a television audience who put characterization first and plot second, as the emphasis throughout is on furthering the plot and tossing extraneous pretty girls into the mix at the expense of established characterizations. What little characterization there is falls back on stereotype: Napoleon the womanizer, Illya the unimportant sidekick, the disposable black agent who oversteps the boundaries of his race by being as smart as the hero/villain and must die for such temerity. All in all, a truly abysmal offering in the slashy annals of Man from UNCLE.
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"The Love Affair" is another episode that gives us a tantalizing glimpse of the East/West dynamics embodied in the Illya and Napoleon characters. These moments are few and far between in the first season and non-existent in later seasons, so the episode is noteworthy for this interaction. It's a throwaway bit in the midst of a plot that showcases the odd place religion occupies in American society, and how the fašade of piety can be subverted and misused to hide great evil.
The episode plot focuses on a charismatic religious leader known as "Brother Love", whose revivalist movement is a front for THRUSH's bid into the space race. Scientists have been disappearing all around the world, their disappearances coinciding with Brother Love's revival meetings in each locale. UNCLE's investigation into Brother Love's involvement in these disappearances leads Napoleon and Illya to a fundraising private party at a Long Island estate.
As they arrive at the estate, Illya and Napoleon observe the event and see very different things. It's easy to see that Napoleon isn't intimidated by the situation and probably has his mind on immediate issues, such as how to achieve his goal of infiltrating the party - while Illya is thinking about cultural differences. "It's a pretty expensive party, I'd say," Napoleon says casually, finding nothing unusual in the trappings of wealth. "Suddenly I feel very Russian," Illya grumbles, his expression reflecting distaste for the excesses displayed before him. ('Russian' seems to be used as a euphemism for Soviet or perhaps even communist in this scene.) Napoleon is amused by Illya's reaction and baits him with a leading, almost patronizing comment, but there's also affection in his voice and expression. Illya gets annoyed at this point and there's true resentment behind his next couple of comments, culminating in his response to Napoleon's, "All right, if I'm not out in half an hour, start a revolution." "That would be a pleasure," Illya states, looking as if he's definitely hoping Napoleon takes at least 31 minutes to complete his assignment.
Napoleon is captured at the reception and smuggled past his partner (apparently within the 30 minute deadline because no revolution is forthcoming), but the homing beacon alerts Illya and he follows. A magnetic grenade makes short work of Illya's car - and Illya - leaving Napoleon on his own with Brother Love. Napoleon's expression when he thinks Illya has been killed by the grenade is a study in subtle, controlled grief.
In typical early first season fashion, this removes Illya from the majority of the episode. Happily, Napoleon and Illya are reunited at the very end of the episode, and chuckle over their various injuries. Isn't it sweet that Illya comes to meet his partner at the airport, despite having what appears to be a broken wrist and no real mission-related reason to be there? Napoleon looks both delighted and surprised to see Illya waiting for him - an unexpected, reassuring reward at the end of a hard mission, that he still has a partner to come home to.
While Napoleon has his adventure sans partner, we see more evidence of his 'random kindness to strangers', when he risks the mission to return to free the episode's Innocent.
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Project Strigas is a terrific, nicely balanced episode thanks to some outstanding writing built around a taut, intelligent plot line and good acting. Although from a slasher's pov there isn't much emphasis on the IK/NS relationship, overall the episode is rewarding because it is so obvious that they are a close team here, intensely aware of each other as individuals and as professionals. The plot is built around a complex "sting" that depends completely on them knowing and trusting each other in a very fundamental way - and that's something that is incredibly rewarding to see in action, as well as very sexy.
In an intriguing opening scene, Napoleon and Illya receive a rather open-ended assignment from Mr. Waverly: a firebrand foreign politician must be "removed from the international scene". "Permanently?" Illya asks. This appears to be a reference to assassination, and while Illya doesn't seem particularly fazed by the thought, he does sound a bit startled. Waverly's response suggests that while assassination may be too high-profile in this particular situation, it is something they are required to do on occasion. This exchange balances very delicately between the sordid realities of espionage and the comforting reassurance that these are the good guys, who look for nonviolent solutions first and regard violence as a last resort. It's a well-done hint of the what these men (including Waverly) are capable of behind their civilized exteriors. However, the method of achieving the goal is left up to the agents; Waverly confides, "Oh, I'm sure the two of you are capable of concocting some diabolical scheme."
Handed what sounds like a most challenging task, both Napoleon and IK look thoughtful and exchange a ruefully amused glance, as if they're thinking, "Oh sure, that's easy for him to say!". But while Illya looks a little doubtful, Napoleon appears to be enjoying the prospect. This is one of those moments that showcases how different (and complementary) they are: Illya thinks in terms of direct physical action and doesn't seem to relish the prospect of having to come up with some 'diabolical scheme' whereas Napoleon is intrigued and stimulated. Their physical positioning in this scene subtly reinforces this, by having Illya seated in a static, subordinate pose while Napoleon stands over him in a dynamic, superior posture.
As the episode unfolds, we see Napoleon's scheme (for it is indeed Napoleon's and not Illya's, we learn) take shape, a complicated puzzle of misdirection and greed, hinging on Kurasov's desire for power. While Napoleon puts himself - and his Innocents, Anne and Mike Donfield - out as bait, Illya works undercover to sow confusion and mistrust.
One of the most delightful partnership moments comes at the beginning of the second act, when Anne Donfield expresses her concern over the risk her husband is taking. When Napoleon quietly sympathizes by saying, "I know how you feel, Anne," she snaps at him, unable to believe he has even a passing acquaintance with her gut-churning fear. Just how familiar he is with that kind of fear is made clear a moment later, when the visitor knocking on the door proves to be Illya, who explains that Kurasov insisted he spend the night at the Embassy. Napoleon's reaction is particularly interesting here; his expression tightly controlled when he first recognizes his partner, then softening into a smile as he hears Illya's explanation. Certainly a lot of his reaction can be attributed to relief that Illya is all right; no doubt he was fearful that his partner might have been killed or imprisoned. But the way his smile comes only after he hears the explanation is curious, almost as if he were angry in a personal way, the "you'd better have a good explanation for scaring me out of my wits" type of reaction that comes when two people are invested emotionally in each other. And then while Illya removes the disguise, Napoleon hovers close, watching every move Illya makes with a sort of fond possessive intensity. It's completely adorable, as is the little laugh that escapes when Illya confides that Kurasov's aide, Vladeck, is jealous and fearful that Kurasov might replace Vladeck with Illya. That insecurity is as much a testament to both the effectiveness of Napoleon's plan and Illya's skill in playing out his role as it is a potential danger, but perhaps Napoleon can appreciate Vladeck and Kurasov's immediate response to Illya on another level.
As the scene continues, we see the situation reversing itself, and it becomes Illya's turn to be concerned as Napoleon prepares to expose himself to unknown dangers. As Mike receives instructions for a meeting, Illya looks at Napoleon and then looks away several times. He already knows what the phone conversation means in terms of risk although Napoleon must explain it to Mike and Anne.
Act III actually has quite a bit of Illya content, somewhat unusual for the first season, including some very nice partnership moments. After Vladeck manages to thoroughly blow the original plan and Illya pretends to commit suicide in order to avoid being taken prisoner, Napoleon comes onto the scene with his customary style despite his annoyance. What follows is a quintessential partnership moment, where a stray caustic remark from Illya sparks inspiration in Napoleon. They are absolutely being themselves here - Illya openly pessimistic and grumpy and Napoleon steadfastly determined to shape events to his will - and this natural complementary style is what saves them time and again. Illya's attitude is all the motivation Napoleon seems to need, and then Illya must only give Napoleon the time and space he needs to think - and then Illya carries out the plan. This is similar to what happens in "The Shark Affair", where they bounce ideas off each other; they have a wonderful natural energy together.
The final good partnership moment comes in Waverly's office, when they interrogate Linkwood, using a variation of good cop/bad cop. Waverly and Napoleon put on their most civilized manners and set themselves up as the "good" cops, trying to spare Linkwood the pain and suffering of "being tossed back to Illya". Illya does his part by standing silently in the background, glowering and cracking his knuckles - aieee, those big, strong hands!
As in the episode "Giuoco Piano", we get a wonderful view of Napoleon's tactical genius and his remarkable ability to turn misfortunes into success. When his identity and the Innocent's are confused, Napoleon is able to salvage the scheme by boldly impersonating the Innocent. And when some bad timing very nearly uncovers the subterfuge, Napoleon employs his charm and manages to avoid exposure. There's also a lovely bit of quick thinking on his part during the interrogation scene, when he tricks Linkwood into thinking that the cigarettes he's smoking are drugged, in order to elicit the necessary information. And finally, it is Napoleon who takes the complete ruin of their plan with equanimity and retains enough presence of mind to figure out how to turn failure into complete success. He's an absolute wonder to behold in this episode. His "luck" is obviously the result of a lot of applied intelligence, a lot of faith in his and his partner's combined abilities, and a willingness to take calculated risks.
The same is true of Illya, playing the agent provocateur with just the right touch of earnest duplicity. Napoleon may have scripted the broad strokes, but Illya's instincts are what make the role successful. He moves so well at the reception, physical gestures tightly controlled, eye contact held to a minimum - he's both distinctive and unmemorable at the same time. Even though Napoleon and Illya don't so much as look at each other during the reception, they are completely playing off one another - and playing Kurasov - the whole time.
In the end Napoleon's plan achieves its purpose and Kurasov is ensnared by his own greed and the team's effort. The little tag scene at the end is so much fun. As Kurasov and his wife are escorted to their plane in disgrace, they must walk past a UNCLE rogue's gallery, obviously there to savor their victory. Napoleon waves a cheerful "g'bye". Mike Donfield can't resist a smug "have a nice flight" but his wife Anne sounds sincerely concerned as she reminds Madame Kurasov (who is wearing an elegant fur coat) to "wear a warm coat" - possibly a reference to exile in a Siberian gulag. But the best part is when Kurasov sees an undisguised Illya and can't quite believe who/what he sees. And then Illya, twisting the knife with delight, says, "I'd give you a pill, but it failed to work with me, you see." Kurasov and his wife go off to their miserable fate snarling and cursing, now understanding fully just how thoroughly they had been used and manipulated.
Fun things to watch for:
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Another episode where Illya appears only in the opening scenes, and once again these are very intense and emotional sequences. Napoleon and Illya fly into what appears to be a remote and deserted Scottish village - our first glimpse of Napoleon the helicopter pilot - dressed in contamination suits. The reason for the suits quickly becomes apparent as the dead bodies pile up. One wonders if this is where Michael Crichton got the idea for a similar scene in his 1969 novel, "The Andromeda Strain".
There is no dialogue between Illya and Napoleon on their grim mission to retrieve a crate that holds the clue to whatever happened in this village. We catch glimpses of their faces inside the suit helmets; their expressions are bleak and determined. Their final act before taking off is to torch the town to prevent spreading the contamination. It's a very haunting, eerie scene.
During their flyout, the helicopter is attacked from the ground and Illya is struck in the shoulder by a stray bullet. It isn't a serious wound, though, as Illya a concerned Napoleon. He only wants to hurry so he won't miss lunch. Apparently the morning's hideous task didn't affect Illya's appetite. Napoleon grins at the black humor, though, and it is apparent that this is one way they deal with the horror of such unpleasant duties.
There's a lovely bit later between Napoleon and Illya. Waverly orders Napoleon to investigate the case and Illya to remain behind and recuperate (Waverly seems to be overly protective of Illya for some reason). Illya is disgruntled by the directive and when Napoleon grins and says, "That's an order!", thumping Illya in the chest to emphasize the command, Illya is hard pressed to hide his answering grin.
The rest of the episode is thoroughly enjoyable as Napoleon spends most of his time dealing with a young boy who attaches himself to Napoleon (he's hunting for a father/ husband for his widowed mother). Napoleon displays a delightful blend of compassion, patience and humor during his interactions with young Chris, and the plot takes a back seat to the byplay between man and boy. Could it be that this intelligent, courageous and inventive child reminds Napoleon of himself at that age?
One typical Napoleon moment comes at the very end, when he finally gets a glimpse of Chris' much-touted mother. At first he mistakes a rather plain woman for "mom" and so is content to pass up meeting her. But when "mom" turns out to be a very attractive woman, Napoleon has second thoughts.
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Credits for the photographs used on this page: Also, mucho thanks to Bluster and Sithdragn for allowing me to
rummage through their personal collections of screen caps and photos.
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Also, mucho thanks to Bluster and Sithdragn for allowing me to rummage through their personal collections of screen caps and photos.