|Season 4, Episode 7.|
Let's see how my soon-to-be-retired Avengers episode template holds up.
1) PROLOGUE INTRODUCES THE MYSTERY
It does certainly do that.
|A man ("Stone") marked with a carnation awaits his date's arrival. When she shows up, she shoots him dead.|
2) STEED VISITS MRS. PEEL TO DISCUSS SAID MYSTERY
Close. It is Mrs. Peel who visits Steed, where he tells her about eleven recent murders they've been tasked to solve. As per usual, the only clues are receipts and scraps from Stone's pockets.
This is actually the first episode to feature Diana Rigg as Mrs. Peel, though it was not the first episode to air. (That would be "The Town of No Return.") As our friends at The Avengers Forever note:
"Diana appears to be feeling her way along, and Emma is not quite "herself" yet. Instead of her usual bright, razor-sharp wit, she is low-key, almost sultry.
"Other anomalies include her uncharacteristic, rather Cathy Gale-ish * lashing-out at Steed and her awkward fight with the female baddie, which resembles more of a girlie catfight."
* Emma's predecessor, for those who are unfamiliar.
We'll get to the catfight later. Patrick Macnee caught the last train out since the last time I covered The Avengers in these pages.
He was a familiar and well-loved figure of the small screen and large from his debut in the 1940s until his retirement in 2003. I knew him first as the disembodied celestial voice on the original Battlestar and then as James Bond's sidekick in A View to a Kill. When my parents started getting those Avengers episodes A&E put out on VHS in the 80s, I'd throw them in occasionally out of curiosity, and it was Macnee's taped introductions to the episodes that opened the series up to me. He imbued the character - as he did for any role he played, even when showing up on The Love Boat - with class, charm, and confidence.
|Not to mention a good deal of humor.|
3) STEED AND MRS. PEEL CANVAS THE SCENE
Emma meets with Stone's family, while Steed heads to the photographer whose name is printed on the receipt found in his pocket What follows is historically interesting:
As we all know from Austin Powers, the "Yes! Yes, baby!" photographer is an enduring trope of "Swinging London." Previously I'd assumed this was only an account of the movie Blow-Up, which came out in 1966. That's the year this episode premiered in the US, but it premiered in the UK in '65 and was actually filmed in '64. And here's the same character!
Was this trope already well-established even in '64? Or is it just a coincidence? Or even the first appearance of said trope? I'm re-reading Peter Brown's The Love You Make as we speak, and the Swinging London anecdotes are fast and furious therein. I'll keep an eye out for any corroboration of this. Given London's importance to the fashion and fashion photography scene, it would make sense.
Either way it's a fun scene. And Steed learns that a matchmaking business named Togetherness, Inc. routinely sends work the photographer's way, so that's where Steed goes to next.
4) THE AUDIENCE OVERHEARS A PRIVATE CONVERSATION BETWEEN THE ANTAGONISTS WHICH REVEALS DETAILS OUR PROTAGONISTS HAVE YET TO LEARN.
Here my template fails me a bit, as while the audience does eavesdrop on the criminal side of things, so does Steed.
Which is to say, the audience gains no information before Mrs. Peel or Steed do. With one exception - when Steed learns of the gang's next target as a result of his snooping, he calls Mrs. Peel and she goes to the man's home to investigate. Before discovering his corpse in the bathtub, she sees this lady running off:
Whom we of course recognize as the lady from the prologue.
5) EITHER STEED OR MRS. PEEL GO UNDERCOVER
Steed effortlessly passes himself as off as a ne'er-do-well fop at Togetherness, Inc., with a cover story guaranteed to catch the attention of the higher-ups. Not mention Barbara Roscoe:
The social sniffing that goes on between Steed and Lovejoy (Patrick Cargill aka that guy from Help!) is great fun. Lots of fun dialogue in this scene, whether it's Steed's rattling off a detailed list of wifely attributes that easily establishes himself as a member of the landed and wellborn (later, Mrs. Peel tells him his real ideal woman would be "a cross between Lucretia Borgia and Joan of Arc" - I'll just leave that there) or telling Lovejoy he "tried working once. Didn't work out. Too much like work."
"Expelled from three."
Public school in the UK is what we'd think of as private school in the US. Oddly enough.
|Lovejoy can barely contain his excitement at landing a potentially very lucrative new client to knock off and wastes no time setting him up with:|
|That girl again! Upon meeting, though, she doesn't shoot him outright.|
There's a lot of suggestive and cheeky stuff going on in this scene, (the horse-riding accoutrements provide plenty of innuendo) all while Steed strings her along with talk of a rich cousin whose death will clear the way for his inheriting a fortune.
6) KOOKY ALLIES and
7) KOOKY ALLY GETS HIM-OR-HER-SELF KILLED
None to be found! And ditto for our next category:
8) MRS. PEEL CHANGES TO SOME KINKY GET-UP
She does, however, drink too much champagne and then climb into a coffin. So there's that.
9) THE FINAL ASSAULT
As Steed strings the gang along, Peel works with Stone's soon behind-the-scenes, trying to uncover their murder-for-inheritances scheme.
|This leads them to uncover the real head of operations:|
|Played by Suzanne Lloyd.|
We just had a look at Ms. Lloyd's memorable Twilight Zone appearance in these page. It's too bad I don't have any episodes of The Saint in the ol' TV Tomb of Mystery, as she appeared on that show quite a bit and I could go three-for-three with a look at one of those episodes. Ah well.
The fight scene between her and Mrs. Peel is indeed a little stilted, but a) I for one didn't get a "catfight" vibe from it, and b) I don't know if anyone's coming to The Avengers for well-coordinated Jackie-Chan slam-bang action. Emma has the situation well-in hand -
|and I like this "lights out" gag with the lamp cutting out when Emma flips her over the couch:|
but she only passes out for good once Mrs. Peel throws her into Steed's arms, where she falls unconscious.
Speaking of Steed, he escapes his own peril by utilizing the ol' pose-as-the-mannequin trick.
|Foreshadowed in several earlier shots:|
10) CRISIS AVERTED, STEED AND MRS. PEEL WRAP THINGS UP WITH CHEEKY DIALOGUE IN SOME MANNER OF MOVING VEHICLE.
Indeed - this one with Emma as a chauffer with Steed in the back, speaking without sound until he realizes the partition is up.
The episode is filled with these sorts of wry remarks on the institution of marriage - nothing too serious or groundbreaking, but I like how they always tie up the story's thematic concerns with this little sequence at the end.
The Avengers will return in: "How To Succeed... at Murder."