Aboard the Orient Express (original air date: 12-11-65)
Cast: Countess Rifchevsky – Carol Ohmart, Agent 44 – Victor French, Demetrios – Theo Marcuse, Ernst – Bill Glover, Dr. Minelli – Del Close, Porter – Maurice Marsac, Courier – Jack Donner and Special Guest Conductor – Johnny Carson
Director: Frank McDonald
Writers: Robert C. Dennis and Earl Barret
Producer: Jay Sandrich
Filming Location: Paramount Studios, Hollywood
Synopsis: Control is having a problem getting its payroll to all its freelance agents working behind the Iron Curtain: The couriers carrying the cash keep turning up dead. Max is tasked with hauling a half million dollars in a briefcase chained to his wrist -and finding the identity of Kaos agent Krochanska.
This episode is the one with Johnny Carson in it – well, one of a couple episodes. Carson shows up again for a brief cameo in the third season episode, “The King Lives?” On the Orient Express, he’s in a handful of scenes -namely to stamp passports and clean up carnage.
The Chief initially plans to enlist 99 as the next courier, providing her with a security briefcase containing the payroll, a handcuff and a 5,000 volt charge that would shoot through anyone trying to purse snatch. Agent B-12, stationed in the Baltics, has the only key to the handcuff and is set to intercept the briefcase when the courier gives him the password Tanganyika.
We later see that the fancy security briefcase doesn’t stand up to much of a scuffle, so all this scary build up about electrocution, deafening alarms and threats of amputation amounted to squat.
Once upon a college psych paper on the topic of how TV influences gender roles in children, I used the following exchange to illustrate how 1960s TV bosses were reluctant to give their female employees dangerous assignments:
Chief: The enemy knows we must send another courier. Our one chance is that they won’t be expecting a woman.
99: I know. I’ll do the best I can.
Chief: It will require intelligence, determination and icy nerves.
99: Will I be issued a destruct pellet?
Chief: Yes, 99.
Max: Wait a minute, Chief! You’re not thinking of sending her! She’s a woman!
99: (smiles at what he has said) Thank you!
Chief: Being a woman is the reason we chose her. Four men have failed!
After this, Max manages to accidentally handcuff himself to the briefcase. 99 calls his action bravery. Likely it was simply stupidity.
99: Max, that was the noblest, bravest, most heroic thing I’ve every seen. Thank you.
86 doesn’t give 99 much of response outside of a weak smile. He had other thoughts after she left the room.
Max: Maybe I could soak my wrist…
In other matters, we’re introduced to Agent 44 who is hiding in the medicine cabinet in Max’s train compartment. After a bit of whining about how he hasn’t been paid in five months, 44 manages to mooch some cash off the usually cheap Agent 86. Agent 44 then proceeds to charge Max for the secret messages he’s supposed to distribute – they’re $5 a message or three for $10 and leave a bitter aftertaste if you have to eat them.
Max spends the rest of the episode trying to sniff out Krochanska from a train car full of suspects. His choices are a snotty French porter, a blind hat salesman and British spy named Ernst or the Countess Rifchevsky.
The answer was none of the above. Krochanska turned out to be Ernst’s service dog, Cyril. The pooch was given orders from Kaos agent Demetrios to chomp on a poison gas pellet that had no effect on dogs but was lethal to humans.
I’ve always liked this episode – Johnny Carson nonchalantly walking into the trashed compartment at the end gives me a giggle. However, some of the scenes seem a bit… abrupt… at times. I notice this most with 99’s appearance on the train.
The episode concludes back in the Chief’s office where the conversation trails from the fate of the double agent dog (he was adopted by a nice family) to the union benefits of overseas Control agents.
Watch for: Johnny Carson’s cameo.
• The episode title is a reference to Agatha Christie’s novel, Murder on the Orient Express, which featured Christie’s detective Hercule Poirot.
• The incomparable Johnny Carson served as host of the Tonight Show for 30 years.
• This is Victor French’s first shot as Agent 44. He continued the role as the hidden agent until Dave Ketchem came aboard as Agent 13. Agent 44 returns in the fifth season, but the part was then played by Al Molinaro.
• Carol Ohmart, known for starring in film noir and horror films, was promoted by Paramount as the next Marilyn Monroe. She appeared in a handful of TV shows, including a few roles on 77 Sunset Strip.
• Known for playing villains, Theo Marcuse appeared in a bevy of TV shows, most frequently in The Wild Wild West and The Man From Uncle. He also appeared in an episode of Star Trek.
• Bill Glover’s credits include a number of appearances on TV shows and two soap operas – General Hospital and Santa Barbara.
• A director of Second City, Del Close was a mentor to many well known comedians. His movie credits include Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and American Graffiti.
• Maurice Marsac was the all-purpose player of French parts on TV. Marsac returns to Get Smart for the third season episode, “99 Loses Control.” He also appeared in Mission Impossible.
• Jack Donner has a lengthy TV resume including a reoccurring role on General Hospital, several appearances on Mission Impossible and as Romulan Subcommander Tal on Star Trek. He even appeared on Scare Tactics.
Glick meter: Max accidentally handcuffs himself to the security briefcase – and he develops an appetite for paper.
Oh Max meter: 99 chooses to believe that 86’s screw-up with the security briefcase was simply chivalry.
Control Agents: Agent 44, Agent 85, Dr. Minelli, Agent B-12 (mentioned)
Kaos Agents: Demetrios, George Robinson (mentioned – agent in drag from the Kaos Hawaiian branch), Cyril Krochanska
Gadgets: Destruct Pellet (mentioned by 99, not actually issued), security briefcase, Bowler Gas Mask, Ladies Gas Mask hat, Straddler Shoes
Episode Locations: Would you believe Lichtenstein?