The Ten Best I Spy Episodes

I SPY, which premiered 50 years ago this week on September 15th, 1965, ran for 83 episodes and if you think it was easy compiling a Top Ten list, you’d be mistaken. Most of those 83 could probably be easily shoved into this list. My handicap in trying to come up with a list on my own is the fact that I have not seen all of season three. So I put the question out to other fans on Facebook and over at the I SPY FORUM to try to come up with The List of the 10 best I SPY episodes. These would be the ones that just stick in your mind, the ones that if you were introducing someone new to the show you would have them watch, the ones that had the best story lines, the best performances, the best use of exotic scenery, the best score by Earle Hagen – and more often than not, all of these elements would be in the same episode!

So here we go, in order of season/air date…

So Long, Patrick Henry (Season 1, Episode 1)

I SPY’s original pilot episode, “Affair in T’Sien Cha,” was already in the can, promo photos were being used by the press but NBC wasn’t happy with it. They decided not to go with “Affair” and instead, selecting from other episodes completed, they picked this one to set the tone for the series. And they couldn’t have picked a better episode. Written by series star Robert Culp, the episode features Ivan Dixon (Hogan’s Heroes) as a disgruntled US Olympic athlete who defected to China after the ’64 Olympics. Appearing to not be happy with his decision after a year, the US government is prepared to offer him a chance to come back and Scotty and Kelly are sent to deliver the message. The episode has a great mix of drama and comedy and overwhelmingly succeeded in starting the series off on the right foot.


Tatia (Season 1, Episode 10)

Kelly falls for a freelance photographer, Tatia Loring, who Scotty suspects is an enemy agent. Nearly everyone Tatia has ever photographed has ended up dead. Kelly’s feelings are strong and he doesn’t believe his partner – to the point they have a knock down drag out fight over it. Set in Japan, the episode showcases the Japanese scenery and backdrops beautifully and has an excellent mix of romance and angst.


The Tiger (Season , Episode 15)

Prior to taking the role of Kelly Robinson in I SPY, Robert Culp had written a script for a pilot for a potential spy series called “Danny Doyle.” That script was reworked and became this episode. Kelly is sent on a dangerous mission to Vietnam to locate a philanthropist doctor who has gone into hiding. The doctor’s daughter, Sam Than McLean, a US government agent herself, is captured by the enemy in order to lure the doctor out. Scotty waits in the wings to assist in picking Kelly, Sam and her father up but they are under a desperate time table – the US Airforce is set to bomb the area whether Kelly and all make it out or not.


Bet Me a Dollar (Season 1, Episode 20)

The most dangerous thing Kelly can do is get bored. And he does in this episode which prompts him to challenge Scotty to “find” him. The game would be fun, except it takes on a serious turn when Scotty finds out that the knife wound Kelly suffered prior to the challenge has exposed him to anthrax. Meanwhile, Kelly befriends a young Mexican boy who accompanies him through the “game.” Kelly, however, gets sicker as the challenge goes on but refuses to let Scotty find him and it’s up to the young boy to be Kelly’s salvation.


Vendetta (Season 2, Episode 4)

What did I say about Kelly getting bored? This time he’s hanging out by the pool of the hotel he and Scotty are staying at when he spots an attractive Italian girl. She turns out to be bait for a set up and Kelly is held against his will by the family of a man who was killed during the Korean War under Kelly’s command. Kelly is accused of having shot the man in the back and is placed on trial by the family. If convicted, his sentence is death.


Bridge of Spies (Season 2, Episode 9)

Sheesh, you’d think Kelly would be more careful of beautiful women by now but…nope! This time it’s an Italian tourist guide (Barbara Steele) who sets him up so she and an accomplice can retrieve information on other agents and take them out of circulation. Scotty and Kelly’s set ups for contact with other agents are super secretive and the loss of the agents starts to make Scotty and Kelly suspicious of each other.


Room with a Rack (Season 2, Episode 21)

Quite possibly the most disturbing opening for television at the time, we see Kelly chained to a medieval rack, stretched. Subsequent images follow, making it clear that Kelly has been tortured. We then see him in a hospital, recovering – and that’s all before the opening title sequence. He’s given a 30 day vacation but at the same time the Department thinks he’s damaged beyond repair. While on break, Kelly is happy to meet an old friend but the enemy agents who tortured him have found him too. Culp’s performance is fantastic as the nearly broken Kelly, who flinches and cowers much too easily after his ordeal and falls to his knees in tears when he’s brought back to the torture chamber for the second time.


Mainly on the Plains (Season 2, Episode 22)

Kelly befriends Don Silvando, a scientist (Boris Karloff), in Spain and with Scotty must convince him to work for the US. (The Communists are attempting the same but when their agent fails to befriend the scientist they just try to go with force). When Kelly and Scotty offer to drive with the Don to Madrid they discover that his car is full of books – hundreds of copies of all the same book, Don Quixote, in multiple languages. The Don loves the story so much, and has been under quite a bit of strain as of late, along the way to Madrid he has moments of hallucination and thinks he is Don Quixote. The Don saves a damsel in distress, battles the windmills and inadvertently releases a truck load of prisoners.


Magic Mirror (Season 2, Episode 25)

Sam McLean (seen previously in The Tiger) whom Kelly has fallen for is shown to be having an affair with a vicious dictator currently in exile. The dictator plans to return to power with help from the Soviets in exchange for allowing missiles to be based in his country. Kelly and Scotty must find out what he’s up to, stop him and if need be, destroy Sam for her traitorous ways. But is she really a traitor?


Home to Judgment (Season 3, Episode 14)

Consistently a top choice among fans as a favorite, I think I can safely assume that if any I SPY fan were to be stuck on a desert island and could only take one episode with them, this would be it. Kelly and Scotty blow an assignment and escape from the criminals they had been in pursuit of who are now in pursuit of them. The boys seek refuge on an old farm that turns out to be Kelly’s aunt and uncle, whom he hasn’t seen in years. Not wanting to bring heat down on his family, Kelly and Scotty figure to move on as quickly as possible but are caught by Kelly’s Uncle Harry as the bad guys are closing in.

Honorable Mentions:

It’s All Done with Mirrors (Season 1, Episode 27)

Kelly is abducted by a Russian scientist (Carroll O’Connor, totally NOT Archie Bunker here) and brainwashed into believing that Scotty is a traitor and must be killed. Kelly is controlled by light reflecting off a mirror and when he fails to kill on the first attempt, the department writes him off and wants him destroyed. Scotty doesn’t believe his partner has deliberately gone rogue and manages to finagle 48 hours to bring Kelly in or otherwise dispatch him himself.


Blackout (Season 2, Episode 24)

Kelly woos a Russian ballerina in order to try to find out who in the ballet company is passing information. He wakes up in a seedy hotel in Spain, the ballerina dead and he unable to recall what’s happened. Colonel Benkovski of the KGB gives Kelly and Scotty approximately 12 hours to figure out what happened and who killed the ballerina before taking the matter to the Spanish authorities.


Laya (Season 3, Episode 3)

A Central African country, recently independent thanks to the Communists, has been receiving arms shipments from the same. Scotty is assigned to befriend an embassy clerk who has access to the information but the assignment becomes complicated when he develops genuine feelings for the woman.


The Lotus Eater (Season 3, Episode 12)

Scotty loses contact with Kelly for 10 days eventually finding him on a Greek isle, literally enjoying wine, women and song. Kelly claims he’s quit the service, has taken up light housekeeping with a pretty Greek girl and dances at the local tavern smashing plates over his head. Scotty suspects something’s up and when he’s jumped by two thugs who work for Sorgi (Sheldon Leonard, previously seen in “Three Hours on a Sunday Night”) he has no doubt.  Kelly’s dependence on Ouzo isn’t by accident.


Think there’s an episode that should have been on this list? Let me know in the comments below!

~Lisa Philbrick

The Robinson and Scott Biographies

Robert Culp and Bill Cosby as Kelly Robinson and Alexander Scott in I SPYUsing information mentioned or otherwise inferred in the episodes and from the 1994 I Spy Returns TV movie, Barbara K. Emanuele has compiled comprehensive character bios for Kelly Robinson and Alexander Scott. Given the fact that the show ran for three seasons and accounting for continuity issues and conflicting tidbits, Barbara has managed to pull together information that brings further depth to these characters. is pleased to showcase these character bios! 

Kelly Robinson Jr. 

Alexander Scott

“They were partners in the truest sense of the word.  Ideally matched in wit, charm, looks, and strength, at no point was one far superior to the other.  Mission after mission, locked room after opened room, they were equals who never let the obvious difference in race be anything more than a physical difference.  Their work and their cover allowed them to function above the racial turmoil of the late sixties.”


I Spy: Carry Me Back to Old Tsing-Tao

Originally aired: September 29, 1965

After watching So Long Patrick Henry and A Cup of Kindness on YouTube, I purchased all three seasons of I Spy off the bat. Indeed, the season DVD sets were released just weeks after I “discovered” Robert Culp and I Spy. Previous DVD sets were “theme” sets based on location or whathaveyou. My timing couldn’t have been better.

So, once I got the sets I began to watch from the beginning, meaning I watched “Patrick Henry” and “Kindness” again, since the episodes were kinda chopped on YouTube. From there I carried on with “Carry Me Back to Tsing-Tao.”

The episode opens with Kelly charming a lovely lady at a Hong Kong bar until he’s rudely interrupted by a drunken sailor. The interruption turns into an offense and the two men have to take their differences to the back alley to be settled. Turns out, the sailor is a spy like Kelly and he has information for an assignment for him.

It seems Charlie Huan aka “Papa Charlie” (Philip Ahn) wants to meet with Kelly and Scotty the following day (which is gonna put a crimp on Kelly’s plans with the lovely lady he’s been trying to woo for about a week). Kelly’s familiar with the name, as Mr.  Huan ran a lot of not-necessarily-legal stuff on the West Coast of the US. Mr. Huan also knows that Kelly and Scotty are undercover agents.

After getting the information, and being told that the sailor can’t do the meeting because he’s not “one of you cute, glamour boys” the two men realize that one of them has to come out of the alley looking like a loser.

It’s not the glamour boy. Heh…

The next day, Kelly and Scott go to see Papa Charlie, who’s in the middle of his birthday celebration with his daughters and sons-in-law. The sons-in-law, Turkey (David Sheiner), Harold (Bernard Fox) and Morton (Michael Conrad) express an abundance of love and appreciation for Papa Charlie and it’s only for one reason; Papa Charlie is very rich and the three men want his money.

Papa Charlie excuses himself from the festivities to see to Kelly and Scotty (and let me say that Culp looks very dapper in the wine colored jacket and ascot tie). He takes them out of the big house to his quarters, a smaller more modest building on the grounds. Just before getting there he asks for them to follow him single file through the grass and to be careful of  “poison ivy.”

In his quarters, he tells them his situation. He wishes to return to his native village in Formosa (AKA Taiwan) to live out the last few years of his life. However, he owes quite a bit in back taxes to the US government and as such, Formosa, by request of the US, will not grant Charlie a visa. He has discussed the issue with the US government and has agreed to pay $1 million to settle his debt. Once paid, he will be granted his visa.

Before Charlie can give them the money, Kelly and Scotty tell him they need to check with the government first and get instructions. Charlie tells them to do it quickly and warns them about his three sons-in-law how they’re after his money and if they found out what he was up to, they would be very dangerous.

Kelly and Scotty receive a cable back from the US government indicating the offer is acceptable and warns that the three men in question have criminal records. They should use “extreme caution.” Scotty’s not so bothered by extreme caution. He’s wondering where Charlie has all that money hidden!

When Kelly and Scott get back to their hotel room they’re jumped by Turkey, Harold and Mort. (I still can’t get over the fact that one of these guys is named Turkey!). The boys are roughed up a bit and when Kelly wakes up he’s staring straight into the barrel of Harold’s gun. The three men want to know why the two went to see Papa Charlie.

They don’t like Kelly’s first answer about a shark fin and a recipe for soup. Turkey slaps Kelly for that. Scotty tells them he only came along to listen to some old Fats Waller records. He gets a punch from Turkey for that.

Finally they come out and say they were talking a deal for something and were “dickering over a price.” Kelly tosses the explanation to Scotty who, not missing a beat, starts in about that they were con men and had found a piece of land to use in a deal and had asked Charlie if he would finance it for them. (I love the change in Culp’s expression as Scotty’s spinning his yarn. Heh!) Scotty and Kelly also say that Charlie agreed and that they saw his bank book.

Harold tells them that Charlie doesn’t have a bank account in any Hong Kong bank (they’d checked). Before Scotty and Kelly can get roughed up any further, one of Charlie’s daughters – Catherine – suddenly comes into the room and slaps Turkey. Scotty tells her to do it again. She does. She then tosses the three men out of the room.

Kelly and Scott are more than grateful. Kelly even tries to charm Catherine but doesn’t get far. When he tells her that he hurts pretty much all over, she has just the remedy for him: Chicken soup. (Not what he had in mind!)

When Catherine takes them to see Charlie, they find out why they have to walk single file through the grass. The whole area has been mined with anti-personnel mines.

They tell Charlie that the government accepts the deal. He then reveals to them his $1 million…a solid gold stove. They load the stove into an old truck and off they go to deliver it to the IRS.

I love the conversation Kelly and Scott have as they drive, talking about a few pounds of the stove for themselves (gold going for about $60 an ounce, black market. Gold prices at the time of this post is around $1600 per ounce. “A couple of one way tickets to Tahiti would hardly put a dent in it!”). Of course, they don’t do this knowing that if they did, they would lose their jobs and probably any sense of self-respect. (And medical benefits – who doesn’t love plaster of paris?)

It’s not long before Turkey, Harold and Mort catch up to Kelly and Scott and run them off the road. Both are thrown from the truck and a little worse for wear. While out cold, Turkey, Harold and Morton load up the stove into their car. (Okay, Turkey drags the stove, Harold gives commands and Mort stands over unconcious Kelly and Scotty with a gun.)  The boys come to just before the three take off and try to fight them to no avail. Kelly ends up with his already cut face planted in the dirt.

I loved Kellys line to Scotty as Scotty’s picking him up off the ground. “You look terrible.” To which Scotty replies with a bit of chuckle, “Sorry about that.”

Turkey, Harold and Mort take the stove into town to have it looked at and determine a value for the gold. Only to find out that the stove isn’t gold at all. It’s cast iron with gold leaf paint… (and if you think they weren’t happy…)

Papa Charlie, meantime, with his visa to Formosa, packs up his meager belongings for his trip. Catherine, however, has discovered that the stove was a farce too. He tells her that there is no gold, that he did not have the money all along.

Back at the hotel, Scotty helps tape up Kelly’s ribs. (Yes, folks we’re on the 3rd episode of the series and 30 minutes into it and Culp has his shirt off!). He notices a scar on Kelly’s shoulder and Kelly tells about how he got it (the short version, he was bit by a dog). They then get a message that a stove can be bought at a shop in town.

They figure it’s a trap but they go to check it out anyway. At the shop, they speak to the proprietor about the stove and they find out about it not being gold at all. They realize they’ve been had by Papa Charlie. They figure the note came from Turkey, Harold and Mort and they go to the back alley of the store to find “The Rover Boys” waiting for them. Kelly and Scott get their just deserts and clean the alley with all three men.

Back at their hotel room, they try to track down Papa Charlie, only to find out he has already passed through immigration and into Formosa.

“Into each life, some goofs must fall,” Scotty philosophies.

“Yeah, but so many in ours?” Kelly replies.

They ponder how they can find Charlie on Formosa and then realize they could probably get their answer from Catherine.

They tell her that they realize they were used in order for Charlie to get his sons-in-law off his back. But they warn her that once the three men figure out where Charlie went, they would go looking for him and they would kill him for his money. She tells Kelly and Scott that there is no money, no gold, nothing. They would believe her, if she’ll tell them where in Formosa Charlie is.

They promise that if she tells them, they can have the three men sent back to the US and denied any passports or visas, which would prevent them from leaving the US and finding Charlie. Catherine, however, wants a different kind of assurance and gurantee. She suddenly runs out of her father’s quarters, yelling for Turkey, Harold and Mort, who come running and set off one of the land mines. The explosion kills Turkey. Kelly yells for Harold and Mort to stay put, otherwise, they’d be killed too. And he knows that once she was through with them, she’d find something for Kelly and Scott too.

So Kelly counters with a threat of his own. He’d turn Catherine over to Harold and Mort. Catherine chooses her sides more carefully.

Kelly, Scott and Catherine fly to Formosa and ask around for where to find Charlie. What they learn is very surprising. Papa Charlie is conducting business as usual. The meager housewares Catherine had helped him pack up, were actually made out of platinum and he is trading these pieces for diamonds and jewels and other mediums of exchange. Kelly quietly interrupts Charlie’s business day, tells him to send everyone home and then asks him to count out $1 million in the platinum pieces.

Charlie does so but says he will be left penniless now. Kelly doesn’t buy it. Kelly also doesn’t have very good luck charming any of the Asian women in this episode. Catherine pretty much ignored him as does one of Charlie’s assistants, who simply walks away from Kelly when he says hello.

Later an IRS agent shows up at the boys hotel room because the payment was short. Four ounces short as a matter of fact. (Interesting to note that platinum in 1965 was $140 an ounce. At the time of this post, it’s around $1400 an ounce.). Kelly and Scott knew the man would be coming and as he’s telling them about the shortage, Kelly is polishing off a platinum fork. They then show him the fork, along with a matching fork, and the box that they were going to ship the forks back to the IRS with. The agent doesn’t understand until Kelly explains that they have a friend who boasted once about eating fettuccine with a golden spoon. Now they can say they ate Chinese with platinum forks.

The IRS agent thinks about this for a moment and then asks to pass the moo goo gai pan.







When I first saw this episode, I thought “Huh…this looks familiar…”

I know the rib wrap would show up in another TGAH ep later (“Lilacs, Mr. Maxwell”) and subsequent I Spy eps, but the bandaid on the face, on the same side no less, was a hoot.

And even this felt familiar!

That’s what I get for watching these shows back and forth.

Anyway, “Carry Me Back…” was a fun episode. Where “Patrick Henry” was fairly serious, “Kindness” mixed serious with humor, “Carry Me Back…” also had a good mix of serious and humor but was pretty much an adventure in mishaps. I thought the plot stretched things just a tad (how would Charlie have ever, ever, known that Kelly was a undercover agent??) and was constructed purposely so that Kelly and Scotty’s mishaps would take place (seriously, wouldn ‘t the US government have waited for the back tax money to be delivered in hand to the IRS before issuing the visa? We’re talking a million bucks here!). Nonetheless, the episode offered some great banter and some classic lines.

Kelly and Scotty’s adversaries included…

– Bernard Fox, who was seen several times on the sitcom Bewitched as Dr. Bombay, played it straight here but would show up later on Hogan’s Heroes as the memorable, hapless and bombastic Colonel Crittenden.




– Michael Conrad, a frequent face seen on television through the 60s and 70s and best known as Sgt Phil Esterhaus on Hill Street Blues in the early 80s.





– David Sheiner, another frequent face on television during the 60s and through the 80s, doing multiple guest spots on shows such as The Man from UNCLE, Mission Impossible, and The Fugitive. He also was one of Oscar’s poker buddies in the 1968 movie The Odd Couple. He may have been hard to recognize here as he either shaved his head or wore a skull cap for the role.



– Philip Ahn, sly old fox “Papa Charlie,” was born in the US of Korean descent. A veteran character actor playing various Asian characters in film and television he had a long career spanning from the 1930s until his death in 1978. He is probably most known for his role as Master Kan in the David Carradine tv series Kung Fu.


Conrad, Sheiner and Ahn would each return for a second time on other I Spy episodes.

Also of note is George Murdock, the drunken sailor at the beginning of the episode who gives Kelly the assignment. Another veteran character actor who made a career out of playing judges, cops and bad guys, he appeared on numerous television shows and in films, incuding frequent guest appearances on shows such as Banacek, Ironside, Barney Miller, and Battlestar Gallatica.

Kelly and Scotty’s discussion about the gold stove and taking a piece or two for themselves is listed in the Memorable Quotes section for I Spy on the IMDB.

And one final programming note…it’s a good thing this episode of I Spy didn’t air on Monday, October 4th, 1965 because it never would have been seen. NBC dropped all of it’s regular daytime and nighttime programming to allow wall-to-wall coverage of Pope Paul VI’s visit to the US (the first such visit to the US by a Pope). ABC and CBS also provided wall-to-wall coverage but with a few exceptions here and there. ABC was in the particularly sticky situation of having to choose between coverage of the papal visit and airing the National League baseball pennant game between the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Francisco Giants (if it was so needed…and good Lord man, life does have it’s priorities!).  Fortunately, the Dodgers saved them from such a decision by clinching the pennant over the weekend.

The first season of I Spy, of course, is available at

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

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