The Prisoner: A, B and C

"Nothing like a good party."

One could say that this series is about mind games. But this episode actually was a mind game.

A new, nervous and frightened Number Two had a deadline to break Six and decided to use an experimental, dangerous drug created by Number Fourteen, coupled with a machine that would allow them to see on a screen what was going on in Six's mind. (In other words, "virtual reality.") The machine was preloaded with a specific scenario, a party in Paris where Six might have encountered three other agents that had something to do with his resignation. Although the setting was created by his captors, Six's unconscious mind controlled what happened within the scenario.

The first night of the experiment, Six dreamed he was at the party in Paris, wearing his wonderfully well-fitting tuxedo and looking like James Bond. He encountered A, a traitor who tried unsuccessfully to get Six to defect to the other side along with him. The second night, Six again dreamed he was at the party and met B, a female spy he used to know and like. In the middle of the drugged dream, Six realized something was wrong and said to her, "I don't believe in you." The experiment failed a second time.

The next day, Number Six followed Fourteen and managed to stealthily locate the room where the experiment was taking place. He went through files, saw the recording of the party, and realized exactly what had been done to him. Instead of confronting his captors, he replaced the drug in the third syringe with water. When he was taken that night, he was awake -- he hasn't drunk his drugged tea. What Two and Fourteen watched on the screen in the "C" scenario was created by Six's conscious mind.

This third sequence was absolutely marvelous. As it started, Six laughed and talked about the "dreamy party" and adjusted a crooked mirror on the wall, wonderfully symbolic of Six taking control of the unreality and making it his own. The identity of C was unknown, so Six played with his captors by creating a C in a black mask and opera cape, and finally revealed him to be Number Two. Six then created the Village in his head, walked through it and in the door, and reclined on the empty gurney that he was actually lying upon in reality. He freaked Number Two out to such an extent that Two was actually watching the door for his arrival -- even as Six was lying there in front of him. Exceptionally intense and delightful sequence. I laughed out loud.

And I realize that this was more of a recap than a review, but that seemed to be what I wanted to write about this episode. Because I absolutely loved it. If I were keeping score, I'd say that Six finally won one. This Number Two is in deep trouble.

Ben P Duck Number Five says...

[dreamy fade-in to Number Five at a science fiction convention room party]
Number Two: Now we will discover why he resigned and who he sold us out to... he will meet the three possible handlers and betray his allegiance.
Number Five: (in a dream) Why, Danerys Targaryen, your children are getting so big, ow, hey, your dragon's biting me, ouch... she seemed nicer on TV.
Number Two: Hmmm, so that seems like a no.
Number Five: Drusilla, wow, you look great, it's been so long since Angel went off the air, yes, you are right, the moon does seem to be singing and crying at the same time, um hey, you're biting me, ouch... she seemed nicer on TV.
Number Two: Strike two. So it must be number three.
Number Five: Hey. aren't you a zombie girl from The Walking Dead...
Number Two: I sense a theme here.

The first episode with the Prisoner back in the world he left behind, okay, through a dream sequence (well, through multiple dream sequences) which let them play with things that were otherwise difficult to justify, like Number Six's past.

That said, betrayal is today's lesson and a particular obsession of the British during the period. The 1950's and 60's were not a great time to be a British spy. Seemingly year after year, deep sleeper agents (or "moles", as George Smiley would say) appeared and then defected. The most infamous was Kim Philby, the notorious 3rd Man, who even after being driven from the secret services under suspicion of espionage, continued for years to spy for the Russians in various guises including journalist and general bon vivant. He eventually defected and had done enough damage to rate a pension from the Soviets as well as a postage stamp with his face on it. These betrayals did more than expose secrets. They created a profound sense of failure among the British because skills, gadgetry and (above all) incredible loyalty had been seen as the hallmark of their intelligence services going back to the 19th century. Then, just as everything else British in the world was falling apart, the betrayal by those trusted with the nation's secrets undermined faith in the system as a whole.

So one can hardly blame Number Two (in this case the extremely anxious Colin Gordon, one of only two repeaters in the role), for his assumption that Number Six had sold out. It's also a suggestion that Number Six is made of wholly different stuff than his opponents. At this point, despite the wanderings through his identity and unconscious, we really have no idea what is driving Number Six. Although we can guess why he resigned, it is only a guess. Number Two reveals the thin allegiances of himself and his fellows in his belief that only betrayal could drive Number Six.

Back to Billie for bits and pieces:

-- The three doses were labeled 1, 2 and 3, and the three spies were A, B and C. They think it'll be easy as 1 2 3 or A B C. (I can hear little Michael Jackson singing that right now.)

-- Apparently, Six resigned but never sold out.

-- The party was thrown by Madame Engadine. Madame Endgame?

-- The first two scenarios ended with Number Six in a fist fight. Six cannot stop fighting what is happening to him. And he met B in the interior of a garden maze.

-- Number Fourteen was someone else before. Same as Eight in the previous episode. People come and go so quickly here, and not only are you a number, you might not be around for long.

-- Number Six carries a letter opener in his tux?

-- Two observed that Six is always walking around the Village. Like a lion pacing in his cage.

-- Our eighth Number Two drank milk (for ulcers?) and had an extremely large red phone (to talk with Number One, I assume.) I also thought he blew the fiendish laugh in the opener.

Quotes:

Two: "Extraordinary. How very single-minded."
Fourteen: "He's not conventional."
Two: "I sometimes think he's not human."

Six: "Haven't they killed you yet? Sorry. Must have been thinking of someone else."

Madame: "It's so wild, darling! It will end in tears."
Six: "All the best parties do."
Madame: "Oh, it's terrible!"
Six: "Terrible? It's dreamy! This is a dreamy party!"

A fascinating, powerful episode. Four out of four purple syringes,

Billie
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Billie Doux loves good television and spends way too much time writing about it.

1 comment:

Mark said...

From the Companion:
"The stunning victory won by Number Six at the end of "A. B. and C." is hi first real victory of the series, and it is revealing of a man whose final motives have been seriously altered by his situation. In the first two episodes Number Six wanted out. In this episode he simply wants to maintain his identity and the information in his head. In doing so e not only survives intact, but he effectively defeats an authoritative individual -- Number two, who must now answer for his failure to break Number Six. A lot can be learned about this series by identifying which victories are won by Number Six and which are lost."