The Prisoner: episode 3 – A, B and C – synopsis

Thunder crashes. The credit sequence runs. There is a minor difference to the previous sequence: in response to the question, “Who are you?”, the new Number Two’s response this time is “I am Number Two.” His responses to the catechism struggle to seem smooth and confident, and his laughter at Number Six’s declaration that he is a free man is forced and unconvincing.
We begin with Number Two in his office, pacing nervously. A jug of milk and a glass are on his desk. In addition to the usual cordless stand-up handsets, there is a larger, even more stylised phone on his desk, a single piece of broad-based red bakelite, shaped like a hook. It gives off a high-pitched bleeping sound.
Number Two (Colin Gordon: tall, bespectacled, stressed) steels himself to pick it up. He is clearly speaking to Number One about Number Six. He acknowledges the importance of this case, that he understands what is wanted, that his future depends on this. Putting the phone down, he hurriedly pours and drinks a glass of milk before picking up a standard handphone and demanding to speak to Number Fourteen.
She, a strong-faced blonde in her early thirties, takes his call in a laboratory. Like any frightened bully, Number Two copies the menace of his boss to her. The experiment must proceed tonight: she will omit testing on animals and go straight to her human subject.
Lightning flashes. Two orderlies dressed in soaked oilskins enter an underground passage pushing an oilskin wrapped body on a trolley. Number Fourteen orders them not to bring wet clothing and boots into a laboratory. They steer the trolley down a ramp, strip of the oilskins to reveal an unconscious Number Six, and load him onto an operating table before leaving.
Whilst Number Fourteen sets things up, attaching electrodes to Number Six’s temples and wrists, switching machines on and checking a container with three hypodermic needles, Number Two runs over with her what her equipment will do. The machine reads electrical images from Number Six’s brain – i.e., his dreams – and projects them onto a screen, the experimental and highly dangerous drug will enable to influence the course of those dreams.
Number Two believes that the Prisoner intended to sell out and intends to invade his dreams to discover to whom, and what. His investigation has boiled things down to three suspects – A, B and C – all of whom are known, like the Prisoner, to attend the parties of the celebrated Madame Engedine in Paris.
Whilst Number Two is talking, Number Fourteen sees herself on the screen. Number Six, semi-conscious, has an eye open and is looking at her. Hastily she closes his eye.
A tape of one of Engedine’s parties is used to induce the Prisoner to dream himself into the scene, urbane and charming in an immaculate tuxedo. He flirts with the vivacious, knowing Engedine. Number Two then produces a tape of A, a suave, moustached, handsome man (Peter Bowles in an early role), who Number Fourteen recognises. He is a former colleague of the Prisoner, who went over to the other side some years ago.
At the party, A approaches the Prisoner. He knows of his resignation, recent though it is, and wants to buy his former friend. The two fence verbally before the Prisoner makes it plain he is not selling. He goes to leave but, when he collects his coat, A is waiting with henchmen, to save himself money by seizing the Prisoner. He is driven to a remote house, an Embassy, where he sets about A and his henchman, beating them and leaving.
Satisfied that it is not A, Number Two wants to go straight on to B, but Number Fourteen refuses. Number Six can only have three injections and these must be twenty four hours apart, or the strain of the drug will kill him. Reluctantly, with a glance to the big red phone, Number Two accedes.
In the morning, Number Six awakes in bed, feeling rumpled. He goes to pick up his milk outside his front door (one of the very few instances that dates the series). A flower-seller has set up outside and a blonde woman in buying flowers from her: it is Number Fourteen. Number Six recognises her  and discovers a hypodermic scar on his wrist.
Dressed, he follows her to the tables outside the Old People’s Home, and tries to start a conversation about meeting people that you have only seen in dreams. Number Fourteen dismisses his ‘nonsense’ and leaves. Number Six goes on to Number Two’s office: the latter plays it casual, too casual when Number Six forces him to see the scar, further arousing the latter’s suspicions. After he leaves, the big red phone bleeps. A very nervous Number Two promises results within 48 hours.
That evening, Number Six pours away the cup of tea made for him by the maid and drinks water instead. That too, however, is drugged.
Back in the laboratory, and back at Engedine’s party, nothing seems to be happening. B’s tape is introduced: she is a foreign spy, a very clever one, but she does not enter the dream. Number Six is restless: he is resisting the drug and is burning it up rapidly.
A maid brings a note calling the Prisoner into the arbour, which is shaped as a small maze. He finds B at the centre, at a table, drinking champagne. They dance, flirt, talk nonsense, which frustrates Number Two intensely. Number Fourteen tries to force the pace along by inputting her own voice, which the Prisoner hears as B’s: “They’re going to kill me.”
But the Prisoner immediately feels something is wrong, that B is not B but a mouthpiece. Even when armed men appear and a gun is held to B’s head, he refuses to give any information. Instead, he stumps Number Fourteen with a question that’s not in Number Two’s dossier, and walks away.
The next morning, Number Six awakes to find a second scar on his wrist.
He dresses and sets out to find and follow Number Fourteen. A bleary, sleepless Number Two, irritated, fails to realise he is tracking Number Fourteen to the lab. After she has finished checking and leaves, Number Six enters by a ventilation shaft. He checks enough of the equipment, including the A, B and C box-files, to work out the principles of what has been going on, injects half the contents of the last hypodermic into his handkerchief and dilutes the dosage with water before leaving.
Back to the party, but things have changed. The innocuous, almost inaudible background music has been replaced by a stirring, driving pop/rock theme, the camera reels and the Prisoner acts as if he is high. He addresses a blonde-haired woman wearing B’s dress with the words, “Haven’t they killed you yet?”, but she is a different woman. He proclaims that this is a dreamy party, causing Numbers Two and Fourteen to look in consternation. He flirts again with Engedine, and the music repeats, rising in pitch. On the far side of the room he sees an ornate wall-mirror is hung crooked. He struggles to bring it true, and as he does, the camera settles, the music diminishes and things return to normal.
Engedine reappears, introducing the Prisoner to a tall, blonde woman in evening dress, describing him as ‘the only sane man left in the world’. Intrigued, the blonde asks a few questions, determining that he has ‘retired’. She may be able to put something his way. She detaches a pearl earring and sends him to the roulette table.
The Prisoner puts the earring on 6: it wins and the croupier passes him a key.
Number Two is fascinated by the goings-on, utterly absorbed with the screen.
The Prisoner carries the key before him until he is approached by someone carrying an identical key: it is Engedine herself. Astonished, Number Two decides he will have her brought to the Village immediately.
The Prisoner agrees that he is carrying papers that represent his future. They walk towards a door in the garden wall. She offers him a chance to turn back: once through the door there is no return. He declines. They go to the door, but the dream is broken by Number Six’s collapse.
Number Fourteen unwillingly applies a heart stimulant to recover the dream: Number two is so insistent on getting his answer that he will risk Number Six’s death.
The dream resumes with Engedine driving the Prisoner through Paris to meet her master. The revelation stuns Number Two: Number Fourteen quips that he’ll have to be called D.
They approach a château: Engedine leaves the Prisoner at the courtyard door. Inside it is a dark, low-lit street. D’s voice, rich, accented, echoes, sounding very assured. The Prisoner refuses to deal with him unless he can see him. D reveals himself at the end of the street, in evening clothes with wide-brimmed hat and cloak, his features covered by a full-face mask. Number Two is getting frantic, running up to stand below the screen.
The Prisoner insists on seeing D’s face. He grabs the man, tears off the mask and stares at him in satisfaction. D’s back is to the camera. The Prisoner swings him round, for the benefit of “those who are watching.” It is Number Two.
In the lab, Number Fourteen is shocked, but Number Two is broken. Both realise that Number Six has been controlling the dream all night.
On screen, the Prisoner walks away, leaving D. He is next seen walking through woods, dressed as Number Six. Numbers two and Fourteen appear in the laboratory. Its door slide open – in the real lab both swing to look at their own doors, which do not move. The Prisoner enters the lab. He apologises to Number Two and hands him an envelope of papers, keeping his promise. Hoping to get something out of the débâcle, the real Number Two urges his counterpart to open the envelope, but all they contain are travel brochures for holiday destinations. Sitting himself on the operating table the Prisoner explicitly states that he was not going to sell out. That wasn’t why he resigned. He lies down and the dream ends.
Numbers Two and Fourteen cannot bring themselves to speak. The big red phone begins to beep.

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