I Spy: So Long, Patrick Henry

Original airdate: September 15, 1965 (Premier)

“It is in vain, sir, to extenuate the matter. Gentlemen may cry, Peace, Peace — but there is no peace. The war is actually begun! The next gale that sweeps from the north will bring to our ears the clash of resounding arms! Our brethren are already in the field! Why stand we here idle? What is it that gentlemen wish? What would they have? Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!” – Patrick Henry, US statesman 1736-1799

I watched this episode on YouTube back in 2008 just after finding “A Cup of Kindness.” Where I was hooked by “Kindess,” it was this episode that sufficiently reeled me in.

The episode opens with Scotty and Kelly watching film footage of Elroy Browne (Ivan Dixon), an American athlete and Olympian, who defected to China approximately a year earlier. The footage seems to indicate some disenchantment on the part of Browne and the US Government wants to open an invitation for Browne to return to the US. He’s not particularly wanted back but the gesture at least needs to be made.

Scotty spoke to Elroy the previous year, trying to persuade him not to defect but the message went nowhere. The incident left Scotty a little bitter, as Elroy said hardly anything during Scotty’s speechify and then departed saying, “So long, Patrick Henry.”

Although Scotty doesn’t care to have to go through it again, he accepts the assignment with Kelly.

In Hong Kong, Scotty and Kelly are waiting for Elroy, who is arriving to promote the African/Asian Games, a PR stunt dreamed up by the Red Chinese in order to further their influence on the African continent. Scotty hires a bellboy to keep an eye out for Elroy’s arrival. The kid – a big fan of James Bond – really gets into it, calling Kelly and Scotty “007” and offering to place a “small” tape recorder in the guest’s room. (Tape recorders were the size of a brick in 1965.) Kelly declines the offer and the spy-ese from the kid really irritates him. “I told him we’re spies,” Scotty explains casually. Before Kelly can really get upset Scotty adds, “…for the American Tennis Company.”

Down in the lobby of the hotel, Kelly and Scotty are waiting for Elroy to come in. When he does, Elroy recognizes Scotty. He even remembers their conversation, much to Scotty’s surprise. The fact he remembers the conversation is significant though, and the way he acts with his Chinese entourage seems to speak even further of his discontent. The only bright spot in Elroy’s life at the moment is the African Princess Amara (Cecile Tyson), whom he met in China where she’s attending the university in Peking, and has been traveling with him. They’re engaged to be married. Before parting, Elroy asks to meet with boys later, for drinks. He has a cocktail party to attend prior.

Later, they wait at the bar…but Elroy doesn’t show. The busboy reports that Elroy left the cocktail party an hour earlier and went to his room. A minute later, Elroy’s Chinese entourage arrives, en masse. The leader of the group offers apologies to Scotty and Kelly, explaining that Mr. Browne would not be able to join them. Scotty and Kelly realize, however, that the entourage doesn’t know where Elroy is either.

As Scotty and Kelly are about to leave the bar area, the busboy comes through again and hands a piece of paper to Scotty directing them to go out front and take a cab. When they get out there and hail a cab, they find Elroy and Amara in it and are invited to come along and paint the town.

From there, it’s a series of bar stops and various conversations. Elroy enjoys giving his “handlers” the slip. Eventually, they get to the crux of the whole thing and there’s a heated exchange between Elroy and Scotty. In the end though, it doesn’t seem like Elroy is disenchanted enough to want to return to the US. Afterall, he’s making a ton of money…

Despite his reluctance to return to the US, Elroy’s entourage figures that Kelly and Scotty are a bad influence and need to be neutralized. Although Kelly spots that they’re being bird dogged and he and Scotty try to make it appear as though the four have done nothing but traipse around Hong Kong and drink too much, it doesn’t help. Kelly and Scotty are nearly shot in a cab and they end up taking off on foot, being chased into the wee hours of the morning.

The chase ends up going across roof tops, with Kelly taking a spill at one point and being bodily picked up by Scotty. (In his commentaries on the DVD, Culp talks about being sick as a dog during the filming of some of the chase scenes and mentions how Cosby literally had to pick him up off the ground a couple of a times.)

From there, they end up in the shanty towns of the Hong Kong hillsides where the inhabitants watch the chase, having no idea what’s really going on. A group of them stand and stare openly at Scotty and Kelly as the two stop to take a breather. After Kelly grumbles about them being so obvious, Scotty turns it around and tells the folks that they’re filming a movie and that if they look around, they should see the bad guys coming. It works and gives Scotty and Kelly the advantage in knowing where the bad guys were coming in from and lets them get the drop on them.

Back at the hotel, Elroy is being held captive by his “handlers” and, unknown to Scotty and Kelly, he’s been injected with typhus. Amara, also sickened with typhus is being flown back to Peking. The announcement of the Afro-Asian Games will still be made, despite Elroy not delivering it. Elroy than finds out that the whole point of the games is for China to have greater influence in and over Africa. He’s been used for nothing more than a ploy.

Scotty and Kelly get a report from the busboy about Amara being taken away and about Elroy still being in his hotel room. With a little help from the busboy, Kelly and Scotty manage to overtake Elroy’s captors (with Kelly taking the window route – and nearly slipping off the ledge!)

Elroy offers Kelly the deal: Get Amara back and he would come back to the US. One better, he would go down to the conference and announce that whole thing was a total sham. Kelly takes off to stop the plane from leaving Hong Kong.

Kelly hurries to the airport and alerts the World Health Organization that a plane carrying typhus is attempting to take off. The radio tower attempts to order the plane to not take off but is ignored. Kelly runs out on to the runway, fights off a bad guy and then commandeers a baggage truck, which he drives directly into the path of the plane.

Kelly ends up with a broken arm for his efforts, but he gets Amara back and returns to the hotel as the Chinese agents are nabbed. At the conference, Kelly walks in to see Elroy at the podium telling everyone what was really going on. Scotty is in the broadcast booth, making sure the message is translated.

Their mission a success, the final scene shows Elroy and Amara speaking with the press as Scotty and Kelly look on. The busboy then comes up behind them and is ready to go. Kelly learns that Scotty promised to take the kid to a movie as reward. The movie?  “The Adventures of 007” (ie, Goldfinger. Cue up Shirley Bassey). Scotty adds that the film will be a great refresher course for Kelly.

Between this episode and the second, A Cup of Kindness, the tone of what would be I Spy is clearly set. The mix of drama and humor is well balanced and Culp’s script takes any ideas of campiness and tosses it immediately (the scene with the bellboy on the phone to Kelly offering to place his brick sized tape recorder in Browne’s room). The running joke through the episode, of course, is the bellboy’s infatuation with James Bond, but the episode itself makes it clear: This show is not James Bond.

The story itself borders on controversial (for the time). The basic concept of a man who sells out to the highest bidder and realizes that money doesn’t buy happiness isn’t new, but Culp’s twist puts a black man in that position. I Spy already had a strike against it when several NBC affiliates in the south refused to air the show because it featured a black man and a white man on equal footing. Culp’s script had to be even more insulting to those same affiliates.

Ivan Dixon plays Browne well and for having seen him only in Hogan’s Heroes, I found it refreshing to see him in a much more dramatic role.

Above all, the camaraderie between Scotty and Kelly is the greatest selling point of this show. If they had not been put on equal footing, 50/50, it never would have worked.

“So Long, Patrick Henry” is available on the first season DVD, available at Amazon.com.

Get Smart – “Die Spy”

Here’s another one of those miscellaneous clips I found on YouTube back in 2008 that just fueled my growing interest in Robert Culp. This clip amused me to no end and I still get a good laugh from it when I go back and watch it. This particular episode of Get Smart was a spoof of I Spy and although Culp is not credited for this appearance, the scene is totally his.

So! Kind gentlemen and lovely ladies, it would please me to have you to watch this clip…

DVD Release: Sunday in New York

The Warner Archive has released via their DVD on demand, the 1963 Jane Fonda film “Sunday In New York” (Remastered).  Robert Culp, of course, is also in it. I’ve seen various photos and movie stills from this movie and have read about and have lamented not being able to find it on DVD.

I just loooooooooooooove the Warner Archive! Thanks WB!

(Disclosure: If you purchase through the provided link, I receive compensation. Click here for details.)

I Spy: A Cup of Kindness

Originally aired: September 22, 1965

No sooner had I been introduced to Robert Culp through the Columbo: Death Lends a Hand episode, I set out to find anything and everything I could of his work and material. Roaming through YouTube one day I discovered there were a couple of episodes of I Spy that had been posted (this was before the more official posting of the episodes that now run in their entirety and are uncut on both YouTube and formerly on Hulu). The first episode I found was this one, “A Cup of Kindness.”

We all know the expression, “You had me at hello?” Yeah, that’s pretty much what happened here. I loved this episode at first viewing and thoroughly enjoyed viewing it again when I went back to do my caps for this post. I won’t say how many total screen caps I ended up doing because…um…well, it was a lot.

But suffice it to say, not long after viewing this episode (along with the very first episode of I Spy, “So Long Patrick Henry” also posted at YouTube at the time) I bought all three seasons of I Spy. In one shot. Wham, bam, thank ya sir.

So here we go, the episode that introduced me to Kelly Robinson, Alexander Scott, tennis, Hong Kong and ascot ties!

Kelly and Scotty return to their hotel room only to realize from the shadow showing in the door vent that somebody is sneaking around within. They dismiss their busboy and, always being prepared, remove weapons from their sports bags. They then enter the room, which appears to be empty. They both notice two feet showing from behind the floor length curtain by the window. They get the drop, only to find it’s just a pair of shoes. They immediately turn to the closet next to them but their visitor is actually across the room, watching them from behind a book shelf. He announces himself, with gun drawn.

The intruder turns out, is not really an intruder at all. His name is Russ Conley and he’s Kelly’s former instructor from spy school. The intrusion turns to a nice reunion and Kelly introduces Scotty to Russ. Russ, turns out, did have a reason for seeing the boys, as he had a message to deliver to them from “the department.”

He gives the envelope to Kelly who goes to check it out. The message is in code, so Kelly retrieves their codex (hidden with the number six of their room number on the door) and deciphers the message. The decoded message is short and grim. The man delivering the message, Russ, was a double agent and had to be killed. Kelly is clearly shocked by the news of his old teacher and the assignment that’s now been placed within his and Scotty’s hands.

Kelly shoves aside his feelings about the assignment and maintains a cool detachment as he rejoins Russ and Scotty for a drink. Kelly hands the decoded message to Scotty, folded and says nothing to Russ, other than confirming that it’s a new assignment. While Scotty reads the message, Kelly pours a beer for Russ and toasts him. Kelly then proceeds to tip Russ’s glass too far, spilling some beer on him. The tactic serves one obvious purpose – to get Russ out of the room for a few moments while Kelly and Scotty absorb their new assignment. Then I got to thinking about it, the gesture also serves another purpose, a way for Kelly to say “Damn you!” without having to speak it.

Considering the warm and friendly introduction Scotty had witnessed just a few minutes earlier, he asks Kelly the blunt and obvious question. What are you going to do? Kelly’s reply is equally as blunt. Kill him.

Without letting on that their assignment had to do with him, Kelly and Scotty go about showing Russ the sights of Hong Kong. They go up to Victoria Peak (the bluff that overlooks Hong Kong and the harbor) and have a somewhat coded conversation about becoming corrupt. By the end of it, it becomes clear. Russ knows of what was in the coded message and that he’s been branded a traitor by the government. As he and Kelly stand near the edge of the bluff, Russ asks if Kelly’s going to push him off. Kelly is unable to do the task.

They ride on the ferry and talk. Russ tells his story of what happened, how he’d been captured and tortured. He couldn’t bring himself to swallow the cyanide tablet. Whether or not Kelly and Scotty are sympathetic it’s hard to tell. Maybe Russ wasn’t a double agent, but he had still sold out to the other side and there’s a slight issue with trust at this point. Russ pleads, however, for their help to prove that he wasn’t a double agent. He had a non-functioning duplicate of the component he had traded his life for. He knew where the real one was located. All they had to do was switch the real component for the fake one.

Russ knows where the component is located and offers to show them. Walking through a crowded market area, Russ gives Kelly and Scotty the slip. They find him in short order and he explains that he was only showing that he could’ve walked away and disappeared if he wanted to, if he were truly guilty. Kelly and Scotty don’t seem to be any more assured by this demonstration. Russ then shows them where the component is located, an import/export business. There’s still some skepticism from Kelly and Scotty, about how Russ could even know where this small device is located. He insists, however, that it’s there.

They decide to try to prove it and Kelly sets up a beautiful little shuck and jive. He goes in with a box of firecrackers and a couple of his tennis rackets. He immediately turns on the charm to the girl working behind the counter, even interrupting her with another customer. When she basically tells him to heel, he bides his time, lighting a cigarette. (Note that more than one cigarette is already coming out of the pack when Culp goes to tap it on his finger. Whether that was intentional or a slight goof, Culp grins a little but carries on flawlessly.)

When the clerk finishes with her customer and turns her attention to Kelly, he’s all charm. His request is very simple. He wants to ship out a package of firecrackers and his tennis rackets. The girl attempts to explain to him that theirs is not that type of business and that he would need to go elsewhere. Kelly refuses to accept that and asks to see the manager. The manager/owner basically tells Kelly the same thing. As they’re talking though, Kelly has strategically placed his lit cigarette near the exposed fuse of the box of firecrackers. When it goes off, chaos ensues and gives Kelly enough time to watch the manager dash to the back office and check the safe.

Before the firecrackers die down and the manager returns to the front office, Kelly dashes back and jumps behind a display. He feigns surprise for what happened and attempts to apologize. The manager wants to hear nothing of it and he removes Kelly, bodily, from the office.

Outside, Kelly reports to Russ and Scotty. It’s there. All they have to do now is make the switch. Back at the hotel, they make their plan but afterward, Kelly still seems bothered by something.

The next day, they set up. Scotty and Russ will break in from the alley while Kelly pulls another diversion again using the same firecracker trick. The clerk behind the counter is less than enthusiastic to see Kelly again.

In fact, she’s essentially non-responsive to any of his charming antics. Kelly, naturally, picks up on her offense and apologizes for his foolishness from the day before. As he’s talking to her, however, the lit cigarette is once again strategically placed near the exposed fuse of the firecrackers.

When the firecrackers suddenly start popping, it starts the clock ticking. Scotty and Russ blow the metal covering off the back window of the office and proceed to cut the gate while Kelly carries on with his ruse out in the front office, which turns into a free-for-all once the firecrackers die down. The manager gets a little rough with Kelly, Kelly gets rough back (although his karate chop attempt against the manager hurts himself more than it does the big manager) and Kelly ends up in a battle royal with all the exporter dudes henchmen (before which he’s plunked on the counter like a rag doll and sent flying down the length of it!)

And I mean battle royal! Every possible fight technique you can think of is utilized in this sequence and it’s one of my favorite fight scenes with Culp. He’s not only throwing punches, he’s jumping on the counters, scaling walls, swinging from the overhead pipes, giving a boot to the head here n’ there, coming down to the floor long enough to stuff one guy into a desk and then swinging on a hanging overhead lamp. Oh, and the hammer toss! I can’t forget the hammer toss!

Despite Kelly’s gallant efforts, he still gets beat by the bad guys and Scotty and Russ are caught too. The exporter manager tosses everyone in a supply room. No problem, Kelly figures. After all, Russ was the expert on this stuff, being in locked rooms and all. So Kelly asks, “what do we do, Teach?”

Russ, unfortunately, doesn’t have much of an answer, which doesn’t sit well with Scotty. He starts to go around the supply room, trying to find something that might give them an advantage to bust out of the place. Meantime, the exporter manager returns and gives them 15 minutes to decide if they’re going to tell him who they are and what they’re up to. And with 15 minutes until their fate, Scotty wasn’t interested in having to wait for a spark of genius to come from Russ. He starts to gather some stuff together with Kelly helping, although Kelly has no idea what his partner is up to. One thing Scotty needs is for one of the crates of codfish to be opened. Kelly tries to pry it open bare handed, but can’t do it. Scotty asks Russ for the component to use to pry open the crate. Russ hesitates, out of fear of damaging the component, but is overruled by Kelly and Scotty. He hands it over and they pry the box open.

Kelly watches as Scotty puts the ingredients together in an old shoe box; chemical fertilizer, dry ice and a flammable liquid. Scotty explains that the concoction won’t blow the door off the place but would create enough smoke and chaos to give them the upper hand. The only thing left needed was a fuse, and the only thing they had was cigarettes. After determining how far a cigarette burns in five minutes, Scotty clipped another cigarette to the same length and lit it. He set it in the box and everyone took cover within the room. They had just about five minutes until their hosts returned.

No sooner do the bad guys open the door when Scotty’s homemade bomb goes off. Chaos erupts and the boys have a momentary advantage over the bad guys. There’s a fight and gunfire and a close call for Kelly who’s nearly shot by one of the bad guys. Russ saves Kelly and they make their escape. The three jump into a cab and it’s here that Kelly and Scotty find their suspicions confirmed. Russ points a gun at them while instructing the driver to go to Victoria Peak.

At Victoria Peak, the truth about Russ comes to light. He has, in fact, gone corrupt. With the component back with him, he can now sell it to an even higher bidder. The only thing left was to dispose of Kelly and Scotty. Kelly belittles Russ for setting it up to shoot them in the back.

Scotty, however, isn’t going to stand and take a bullet in the back and he turns suddenly and charges at Russ. Russ shoots, hitting Scotty in the leg as Kelly also charges at Russ and there’s a struggle and scuffle. Kelly knocks the gun from Russ’s hand and during the course of the struggle, Kelly drops down to the ground on his back, pulling Russ with him. He flips him over and sends him tumbling off the edge of the cliff.

Although this had been the mission all along, Kelly is horrified. After all, Russ had been his teacher and somebody he had respected at one time. The deed done all the same, Kelly picks up the component (Russ had made Scotty put it down on the ground earlier) and turns his attention to his wounded partner. Kelly apologizes for what’s happened but Scotty shakes it off. Kelly didn’t have to apologize for anything.

With their assignment complete and Scotty on the mend, Kelly’s kinda bummed by what happened with Russ. But not for too long. The girl who worked as a clerk at the import/export place comes knocking on the boys’ hotel room door. Kelly’s surprised to see her.  She carries with her a box of firecrackers, like what Kelly used with his ruses. She tells the boys that she was cleared of any wrongdoing, since she had been working at the place for only a few days and had no idea what was going on. She then lights the fuse on the box of firecrackers, sending Kelly and Scotty both diving under their beds.

But the box doesn’t go off….at first. She was told it wouldn’t but had wanted to see how they would react. Then all of a sudden, it does go off and she winds up under the bed with Kelly.

Yeah… Yeah, I would have too.

 

 

 

 

 

The first season DVD for “I Spy” is available at Amazon.com.