Although I was guilty of overlooking this little gem before, "Who's Who???" has become one of my favorites. It's a good video to watch when you feel like things aren't going well for you and you'll never get the mess straightened out. Imagine how it would be if you had been mind-swapped into the body of someone else, a wanted criminal perhaps, and you were on the run. But when Steed and Mrs. Peel are the victims, you know somehow they'll emerge victorious. Never mind that they have no idea where to find that machine, or how they'll operate it even if they do. So what if the entire British Secret Service is looking for them? The odds against them are ridiculously high, but for Steed and Emma it's just another day at the office.
In journalism, what's known as the dark moment comes when Basil issues the command to, "Kill 'em on sight." He and Lola have decided to take up permanent residence. Steed and Mrs. Peel soon find that the situation has changed as they are flushed out of Steed's flat for the second time. Steed forgetfully greets Tulip as "Old Pot." But Old Pot draws his weapon with the clear intention of discharging it. So much for Basil not wanting to fill himself full of holes. But even now when it seems all is lost, Steed keeps his sense of humor. "Slight misunderstanding," he comments.
Now, it's really serious. Half of their agents have been assassinated. Steed and Emma are fugitives, can't head for Emma's flat because there will be men posted waiting for them, and to top it all off, Steed gets one of Basil's migraine headaches. At this point I would just be wondering where to find shelter for the night. But Lola and Basil, with their new identities, are threatening to bring down the whole British empire in a day. At last, our heroes get a break when they find Krelmar's address on the medicine bottle. As the narrator predicted, it all sorts itself out. We knew it all the time, didn't we?
Yes, what did Emma whisper in Steed's ear? We may never know, but most likely it was something like, "I'll be glad when we get this bloody scene finished." Such is life on TV and movie sets. Little did Diana and Patrick know that nearly 40 years later, people would still be enjoying all of this. "Who's Who???" is not only lots of fun, it reinforces Winston Churchill's admonition, "Never give up."
Plot: OK. The old mind-swap trick, just as unbelievable here as anywhere else.
Humour: Very Good. Basil and Lola in Steed and Emma's bodies making comments was great. "What sort of fiend are we dealing with? A man who would bite off the end of a cigar is capable of anything!" I loved the bits with the announcer trying to sort things out.
Direction: Good. Nice science fiction shots during the mind swapping scenes. Nice pan up of the man on the stilts.
Acting: Excellent. Great performances from Patrick and Diana as Basil and Lola. No one can be Steed and Emma except Patrick and Diana, but Freddie Jones and Patricia Haines did very good jobs.
Music: Poor. The music in this episode annoyed me. I am not exactly sure why it did, though.
Miscellaneous: I couldn't get used to Steed and Emma not being Steed and Emma for the first part of the episode, so I rooted for the bad guys; but after being confused by their awkward behavior, I began rooting for the good guys. Steed did not seem at all worried when his mind was swapped! The man wearing ridiculously long stilts was an interesting touch. The rose in the gun reminded me of James Bond, for there was a similar image on the book cover of the original printing of From Russia With Love. Major B had quite an eccentric British room, right down to a Union Jack waste paper basket. How did Steed know Basil had migraine medicine in his pocket? Steed instinctively reached for it.
Overall Rating: 6/10
Up front, "Who's Who?" ranks as one of my top five favorite Avengers episodes, and quite possibly as my all-time favorite, period. It for me completely epitomises the wit, stylishness, and comic-book charm of the show. The plot is completely outrageous (enemy agents swap minds with Steed and Mrs. Peel in an attempt to sabotage the British security apparatus, through the aid of a most unlikely-looking machine and a sinister mad doctor), and doesn't care one bit that it is. It also gives a very funny glimpse into Emma and Steed's relationship through a—literally—different point of view.
Admittedly, I've always preferred the more comic episodes to the dramatic, or more heavily drama/action oriented ones. Writer Philip Levene excelled at comedy, and his script definitely shows this to full advantage.
Also, I really think that "Who's Who?" pretty definitively settles (for me, anyway) the hoary old, but ever intriguing question; namely were Steed and Mrs. Peel—ahem—"doing it"? I think this episode makes it pretty clear they probably weren't, in fact I have a feeling the writers intended this as part of the joke. It's very obviously suggested to the viewer early on that Basil and Lola are at it hot and heavy in their own bodies, so that when they've mind-switched with Steed and Emma, we're getting a wickedly witty contrast with our heroes' own highly flirtatious, but ultimately physically chaste relationship. A good example of this comes when Basil/Steed tells Lola/Emma that they're "going to have lots of fun" in their new identities as Steed and Emma. Lola/Emma replies, dubiously: "In separate apartments?" After considering this little obstacle, Basil/Steed replies that it looks as if Steed and Emma are "just good friends. But they're about to get a lot friendlier." In sixties TV lingo, "separate apartments" would have been a permissible euphemism for "not sharing a bed," or so I'd guess.
But without doubt, the best thing about this episode is the performances of the cast. Patrick Macnee and Diana Rigg have great fun playing a couple of low-lifes, and Rigg is especially hilarious playing a slutty, gum-smacking, ale-swilling tart. The look she shoots Macnee when he (as Basil) comments appreciatively on Mrs. Peel's "appeal" is priceless, along with a number of other bits of business she gets in. My only complaint with Macnee is that he doesn't come off doing a convincing job with his voice. He still sounds a bit too smooth and suave for the gangsterish Basil.
And "Who's Who?" has, without doubt one of the best guest stars the series ever had in the person of Freddie Jones. He was definitely one of the top comic actors in Britain, and it's a pity that more of his work in that vein isn't known to American audiences; he's much better known for his sinister and/or grotesque roles (at which he was equally good). I've remarked elsewhere that I really do believe he could've gotten away with playing Steed; when not downplaying his appearance under makeup, or weird characterization, he was actually a quite good-looking man, with a great voice; and watching his take on the Steed persona, there's not much doubt that he was able to convey the humor, charm, and yes, sexiness that was called for. (However, I'm still glad that Macnee didn't forsake the show. The Avengers just would not have been quite the same without him). Jones is well abetted by Patricia Haines, who, while not quite as showy, does a nice job as both the prim Emma and the hellcat Lola.
Also, one should not overlook the very funny performances of "Tulip" and "Major B," the befuddled good guys who are trying, vainly, to make sense of what's going on. Both are deadpan serious and wittily straight-faced in the midst of total insanity, not knowing that the good agents are really the bad agents, or maybe it's the other way around...
Best scene: the whole opening segment, from Basil and Lola springing up on poor "Rose" Hooper and filling him with bullets, straight on through to the long camera pan up the stilts to Hooper's body demurely perched, complete with bowler and brolly, at the top of a pile of crates. (By the way, where'd they come up with a pair of trousers that length?). Macabre and very funny. Another good scene is the Woburn Sands footage, where Basil is a little too appreciatively ogling Emma, much to Lola's aggravation, until she gets even with her own comments on Steed's good points. But this whole episode is filled with marvelous bits. The "Floral Network." the pileup of dead agents in Steed's closet (as Lola/Emma collects. one by one, their signature blossoms to arrange in a vase), the penultimate fight sequence between Steed and Basil, bitten cigars and trashed lodgings... there are too many to name them all.
My one big question from this episode is: Just what did Emma whisper into Steed/Basil's ear to convince him that she was really back in her own body? Since I'm convinced that theirs was not a physical relationship, one wonders what saucy intimacy Emma could have known about Steed to prove her identity convincingly. A tattoo? A birthmark glimpsed accidentally? Who knows? One thing is for sure, whatever Diana Rigg did whisper to Freddie Jones, it must've been pretty bawdy and probably ad-libbed—if you look closely, Jones is genuinely blushing when he gets out of Rigg's grip; and that's not a physical reaction even a talented actor can just produce to order. Anybody have any ideas?... On the other hand, maybe it 's better (and funnier) to conjecture for oneself just what the fabled whisper really consisted of...
"Who's Who?" is a real gem from start to finish. If anything, I wish it had been longer, given the great comic possibilities inherent in the mind/body-swap theme. But even at its hour running length, it's great fun. If you haven't yet seen it, make a point of catching this one.
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