Double Agent: Going to seed for the spy business

Max goes to the dark side. 99 tries to talk him out of it.

Max goes to the dark side. 99 tries to talk him out of it.

Episode 16
Double Agent (original air date: 1-8-66)
Cast:  Alex- Robert Ellenstein, Kaos Agent 1 – Arthur Batanides, Parker – Milton Selzer, Texan – Gregg Palmer, Kaos Agent 2 – Dave Barry, Kaos Agent 3 – Clay Tanner, bartender – Fabian Dean, drunk – Jack Orrison, Fang – Red, casino dealer – Robert Karvelas, gambler – Rose Michtom
Director:  Frank McDonald
Writers:  Joseph C. Cavella and Carol Cavella
Producer: Jay Sandrich
Filming Location: Paramount Studios, Hollywood

Synopsis:
A group of Kaos agents plan to attack the Pentagon and need to recruit someone that has access to it. They decide on Maxwell Smart. Max has to convince them that he’s the man for the job by going bad — as in blowing his money, becoming a drunk and killing 99.

Nano technology: Parker shows off his new fly transmitter.

Nano technology: Parker shows off his new fly transmitter.

My Thoughts:
The episode opens and concludes with Professor Parker’s super small spy devices, so let’s get that out of the way first.

Max and 99 are first seen listening to the Kaos boys via an ice cube transmitter. The device is soon discovered and destroyed when a Kaos agent realizes the “ice cube” hasn’t melted. Parker apparently spent six months testing the ice cube transmitter in every known fluid — which is how he got his reputation as a drunk.

Meanwhile back at Control, Parker is presenting his latest minuscule device to the Chief — a fly transmitter. According to Parker, it took two and a half years of nerve wracking micro miniature fabrication and $400,000 worth of research and equipment to make the fly. The fly’s antennae are each a transmitter and receiver and the eye is the world’s smallest radar tracking dish.

Sadly, the fly would never make its spying debut. All the time, labor and tax payer dollars put into the fly met the end of a newspaper lobbed by Agent 86.

By the end of the episode Parker has managed to work through his grief over the loss of the fly. He replaces it with a new device that is again destroyed by Max — a light bulb. Perhaps he should have gone to work for Apple.

With no way to mechanically spy on Kaos, the Chief assigns Max to do it the hard way. Since the Kaos boys already had their eye on Max as a potential weak link, Max is given instructions to tarnish his reputation.

Max has a bad day at the casino - because he's too lucky.

Max has a bad day at the casino – because he’s too lucky.

Phase one of the effort involves Max gambling away his six-month’s salary at an illegal gambling den — conveniently frequented by Kaos agents and apparently Aunt Rose. The idea sounds good on paper. After all, the house always wins, right? Wrong.

Upon walking into the casino, Max turns out to be a “bonafide angel of luck” for an over-zealous cowboy playing the roulette wheel. After giving the cowboy the brush off, Max hopes for bad luck at a table game with the Kaos guys. Again, he fails — even a nearby slot machine likes him.

It’s unknown what happened to Max’s winnings, but after returning to Control, he voices his frustrations to the Chief.

Max: No one from Kaos is going to approach me. I’ve got too good a reputation to live down.

Never mind that — it’s on to phase two. Max is less than pleased that phase two – physical degradation – involves him becoming an alcoholic. Thanks to a bottle of Absorbo pills and ratty coat that resembles something from Kanye West’s clothing line, all he has to do is act the part.

With orders to go to seed, Max first has to blow off 99 — starting with their plans to attend a concert. The Chief has left 99 out of the loop on this mission, which appears to be a sore spot with Max.

Chief: Until your mission is a success, she’ll learn to live without you.
Max: Yeah Chief, but what if my mission is a failure?
Chief: Then we’ll all learn to live without you.

Max makes for a particularly gnarly bar-fly. Dirty, unshaven and surly, everything is going according to plan — until the bartender chews him out for letting a dog in the place. Max attempts to send Fang on his way with a weak insult about doggy breath. 99, however, arrives and tries to stage an intervention with Max.

Max’s response is to tell 99 that he doesn’t like her because she’s too statuesque. At this rate, he’d better hope Kaos isn’t grading him on his insults.

Part of me feels that if this episode had occurred later in the series, Don Adams would have pulled out his Bogart impression.

With 99 out of the way, Max moved on to phase three, which involved the Chief coming into the bar and Max cracking him over the head with a bottle of booze. This is the episode’s big slapstick moment and includes Max busting up the bar. After he and the Chief complete their pantomime, Max manages to swallow his Absorbo pill and pass out.
Max wakes up in a Kaos office where he’s given his first assignment: He must kill 99. Max first attempts to stall and then convinces the Kaos agents to leave the room so he can work.

After the bad guys leave, 99 declares that she knew Max’s behavior was an act. They then work on an escape plan and we get to see the best gadgets of the episode. Max uses his Phonowatch along with 99’s charm bracelet record as a distraction. One side of the record produces a woman’s laughter and the other a woman’s screams.

In something of a classically confusing conclusion, we learn that the group of Kaos agents are actually double agents with the CIA, FBI, Naval Intelligence and Scotland Yard. This discovery is made, unfortunately, after Max wounds each of them. It’s later revealed that the real Kaos agent who started the group died several years prior and was never replaced.

Busted equipment, wounded agents … this episode gives us a nice little life lesson: Don’t keep people out of the loop.

In other matters, there are some issues with this episode:

• 99’s not so good with the maths. She offers to help pay off the $400,000 fly that Max swatted with a $10 a-week loan, which she determines would take 900 years. Would you believe it would just take 769 years… unless she was factoring in interest.
•While in the bar, Max makes a phone call to the Chief. After he hangs up, the phone rings in the phone booth, but that comes off as a bit that goes nowhere.
•For this episode, Absorbo pills were supposed to “absorb” all the alcohol Max was drinking. That’s a cute idea – unless you swallow the pill like Max did. So my question is, after that, how did he not wind up with alcohol poisoning or at least with his head on the toilet seat?

Max is less than pleased with his wardrobe for this assignment. He should know Control paid a lot of money to have all those nice holes ripped into that coat.

Max is less than pleased with his wardrobe for this assignment. He should know Control paid a lot of money to have all those nice holes ripped into that coat.

Watch for: Look for cameo appearances by both Robert Karvelas and Aunt Rose. Robert Karvelas is wheeling and dealing and Aunt Rose can be seen playing cards.

Footnotes:

IPod - the Cold War version. Max's Phonowatch plays 99's Charm Bracelet Record.

IPod – the Cold War version. Max’s Phonowatch plays 99’s Charm Bracelet Record.

• Early on in his acting career, Robert Ellenstein was featured as one of James Mason’s henchmen in Hitchcock’s North by Northwest. He made multiple appearances in various TV series including Perry Mason, Ironside, The Wild Wild West and Mission Impossible. He also played the Federation President in Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home.
• Arthur Batanides appeared in four of the Police Academy films as Mr. Kirkland. He made multiple appearances in Happy Days, Lou Grant, The Odd Couple, Gomer Pyle U.S.M.C., The Wild Wild West, I Spy and The Dick Van Dyke Show. He appeared in six Mission Impossible episodes and the Star Trek episode, “That Which Survives.”
• Gregg Palmer was known for his roles in TV westerns including Gunsmoke, The Virginian, Death Valley Days, Bonanza, The Wild Wild West, Have Gun – Will Travel and Wagon Train. He made another Get Smart appearance in the first season episode, “I’m Only Human.” He appeared in The Rebel Set along side Ed Platt and, you guessed it, Star Trek and Mission Impossible.
• Stand-up comedian and voice over artist Dave Barry provided the opening act for Wayne Newton for eight years.
•Fellow Hoosier Clay Tanner appeared in multiple episodes of Bonanza, McHale’s Navy, The Virginian and had an uncredited role as the devil in Rosemary’s Baby. He also appeared in an episode of Mr. Terrific, which co-starred Dick Gautier a.k.a. Hymie the Robot.
• Fabian Dean appeared in two other Get Smart episodes, the second season episode “Island of the Darned” and the fifth season episode, “Witness for the Execution.” Also, he too appeared in an episode of Mr. Terrific.
• Jack Orrison appeared in a variety of 1960s TV series, including Petticoat Junction, The Wild Wild West and Gunsmoke.

Glick meter: We get an “And Loving it” out of this episode.

Oh Max meter: So… neatly tucked into this episode is the fact that Max and 99 have a date lined up. It’s not so neat to see poor 99’s disappointment when Max tells her he’s not going.

Control Agents: Fang, Professor Parker

Kaos Agents: That’s debatable. See above.

Gadgets: Ice Cube transmitter, Fly transmitter, Absorbo Pills, Phonowatch, Charm Bracelet Record, Light Bulb transmitter

Episode Locations: Seedy illegal casino Kaos agents frequent and Chez Charles, a skid row bar

Nothing to see here - just a meeting between Kaos agents that are not really Kaos agents.

Nothing to see here – just a meeting between Kaos agents that are not really Kaos agents.

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