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*** This review may contain spoilers ***
A classic episode from the final season of 'I Spy' which starred Robert
Culp as 'Kelly Robinson' and Bill Cosby as 'Alexander Scott', a pair of
globe-trotting American secret agents.
Our heroes are being pursued across the American Midwest by five armed men. Kelly's legs are shackled and he is suffering from fever. Taking refuge in a barn, they rest. Robinson remembers the farmhouse from his childhood. Not wishing to endanger the owners, whom he calls Uncle Harry ( Will Geer ) and Aunt Alta ( Una Merkel ), he stays out of sight while Scott gets a job digging ditches, all the while smuggling food back to his friend.
Harry sense something strange is going on and confronts them, armed with a shotgun. Robinson says that both he and Scott have discovered the identities of a group of saboteurs posing as respectable businessmen, and they have dispatched the killers to stop the information from reaching Washington.
No sooner has Robinson revealed his identity than the men close in on them. It is down to him and Scott to outwit these assassins before a bloodbath can ensue...
This is a simple tale, yet brilliantly executed thanks to Culp's script and polished direction by Richard C.Sarafian. It helps that the killers are not properly seen, merely glimpsed, hence they come across as a terrifyingly eerie threat ( they are credited at the end as 'phantoms' ). It tells you something of the show's quality that even this, a late series entry, could rank up there with the best episodes. Unlike 'The Man From U.N.C.L.E.', there was to be no descent into self-parody for 'I Spy'.
Will Geer is, of course, best remembered as 'Grandpa' from 'The Waltons', but also appeared in two of my favourite movies - 'Seconds' and 'The President's Analyst'.
Interestingly, a similar plot later cropped up in the first season of the British thriller show 'The Professionals' - 'Close Quarters'.
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