It's been done before, we know, but there's some nice elements here that make the episode work. It's a shame that Steed suffers once again from "Angela Lansbury Syndrome" with yet another close friend dying on him, but the way Pat handles the scenes with Wendy is infinitely better than that awful emotional scene in "House of Cards." Any qualms about him playing himself are dispelled with his treatment of the doppelganger, and the scenes after his "death," where you could almost believe that he has been replaced.
There's also some nice intercourse between Purdey and Gambit when they are being taught how to be themselves (although Gambit's Irish accent are probably best left alone). Jo clearly has fun in playing the different "characters, and what is really lovely here is the emotion. Purdey actually shed tears when she thinks that Gambit has been killed. While Emma and Tara came close to tears, we have never actually seen one of the Avenger girls crying over their companions, and it works wonderfully! Well done, girl. It also hints again that Purdey probably cares more for Mike than she lets on, especially in light of her anger when he reveals what he's been doing all along!
There's a return to the "kinkiness factor" of the original as well, what with Purdey doing the strip in the mirror, dressing as a tart; Jo in Sally Army uniform, anyone? The scene with Steed and Gambit on the range shows their differences and their mutual respect nicely—Steed the traditionalist gentleman, Gambit the modern working-class rogue ("It's not a gentleman's gun... I'm not annoyed with you Gambit—you can't help your background.")
Elsewhere we have a good supporting cast, including the ever-reliable David De Keyser as Prator and Richard Leech as Craig. Even the minor roles are familiar: Donald Hewlitt sticking to form and Michael "Mr. Bronson" Sheard in a very subtle supporting role, which is nice to see. The violence is a bit graphic at times, especially in the scenes involving the arrows (although the edge is taken away by the un-suspenseful freeze-frame at the outset). Loses a mark for the dreadful end scene, which lets an otherwise good episode down.
"Togetherness. I want to feel that you two absolutely trust, respect and adore each other."
The background of the plot is not elaborate, but it takes a surprisingly long time to set up. Especially considering the tempo of the three previous "face swap" stories in the Avengers canon. Once it gets going there are twists and turns aplenty.
Production: The direction veers between expansively adventurous (Bilston hunted by his "döppelganger" through abandoned streets, then slain above a derelict concourse), and spartan (the refuge hostel is suggested by a rain-lashed sign). The only true fight is a fine melée between Purdey and ace archer Mullins.
The Avenged?: Steed has an "oldest friend" again, "known him since I was so high": Mark Clifford, not to be confused with Mark Crayford in "Dead Men Are Dangerous". Steed has to go against his usual gentlemanly instincts and disappoint Mark's widow: all part of doubling the doubles...
Diabolical Masterminds?: It skips the character development, as the two vagrants conceive the scheme (when did they meet Prator?). Then again, the preamble is already too long and lacks mystery: the story structure is totally unbalanced! None of them are brainy enough to be true masterminds. David De Keyser is the best: affably avuncular with a dangerous fearlessness, and with a nice final scene.
The Avengers?: Joanna Lumley performs very impressively, in a trio of personas; Purdey plans and works alone brilliantly. Gambit's accent is passable to an English ear (the villains don't seem to be Irish). Steed talks of coveting Wendy (his oldest friend's wife) and even claims to have loved her: most peculiar.
Umbrella, Charm and a Bowler Hat?: Purdey and Gambit's interchanges are very amusing, despite a tawdry scene that has Gambit goosing Purdey (or Lolita). Steed's mild disapproval of Gambit's use of a pump-action shotgun is part of a nice in-character scene.
Bizarre?: Did Purdey wear a curly wig when approaching Prator as Lolita? If so, he should have been more suspicious when he began grooming her as a "fake" and found Purdey's hairstyle underneath! Perhaps she found time to get a perm and dye. The mole under her eye must be genuine, and usually partly-concealed with makeup (we can just still see it after "Lolita" becomes Purdey, so surgery hadn't remove it).
Epic?: The threat feels lightweight because the villains seem to be running a business rather than pursuing any ultimate goal. It seems they have infiltrated the secret service for five years just to sell secrets to the highest bidder. And they lack personality, wasting good actors. The story improves on re-watching, with the Gambit/Purdey relationship being particularly good. Gambit mischievously retains his double's role, to find out what Purdey really thinks of him! But since she said in "Target!" that she loves him (he didn't quite hear!), and since she cries real tears here when she thinks he is killed, there's not much doubt. The big mystery is why they don't become lovers, but its fun to speculate on the reasons.
Gambit: "I haven't forgotten about that big kiss."
Purdey: "I haven't forgotten about that little black book!"
The pair exit, bickering...
Steed (to camera): "Irreplaceable."
Rating: Some weak areas and a few strong ones, averaging out at 3 Bowlers (out of 4).
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