The Prisoner: episode 7 – Many Happy Returns – synopsis


Thunder crashes.
The opening credits do not show the new Number Two, and instead an additional shot of Rover. The voice of ‘Number Two’ is spoken by Robert Reilty, who supplied voiceovers throughout the series.
Number Six awakes in his bed, looking somewhat muzzy-headed. He checks the coffee percolator in the kitchen and switches it on. He turns on the shower in the bathroom, but no water comes out, nor from the handbasin tap. The coffee percolator has not started, nor does a lamp light up when he clicks the switch.
Looking through the window, Number Six discovers that the square is deserted: there are no villagers in sight.
He explores the Village thoroughly. The café is locked and deserted, the shops shut. The bell pull does not ring at the Green Dome and, when he forces entry to Number Two’s office, the Chair is empty except for Number Two’s umbrella.
Number Six finds a working mini-moke and tries to drive away, only to find the Village surrounded by impenetrable mountains. He returns to the Village and constructs a raft, using cut down trees and oil drums for buoyancy. He takes copious photos of the Village, together with plentiful food from the store, and an issue of the Tally Ho on which to write his log.
As he is about to push off, he hears a crash behind him. Steeling himself to look round, he finds that it is only the Village cat, knocking over a plate on the terrace.
The Prisoner poles out into the bay and begins his journey. He cannibalises a loudspeaker and magnetises a nail to serve as a primitive compass. Days pass, He keeps himself shaved for some time, but by Day 18 he is growing weaker and dehydrated, and collapses.
He wakes to find two men on his raft. They ignore him, stealing his food, breaking his compass and dropping his oar into the sea. Before powering away in their motor vessel, they dump him in the ocean, but unseen by them he swims to the stern of the boat and gets on board.
The two men, who speak German, cook themselves some of the Prisoner’s food. Whilst they eat in the wheelhouse, he explores their boat. One cabin contains a box which, when prized open, contains guns.
The Prisoner creates a distraction by burning cloths in cooking oil in the galley, and waiting for the crew to investigate. He subdues both of them individually, and ties them up in a cabin, which he locks using a chain wrapped around the handles of the sliding doors.
He takes over the craft and pushes it on. Some time later, he sees a lighthouse and turns the boat directly towards it. By now the crew are awake. They release each other and escape from the cabin by kicking through the back of the locker, into an unchained cabin. Splitting up, they plan to attack the Prisoner simultaneously, one from each side of the wheelhouse. Their attack is mistimed: the Prisoner is able to beat off one before the other joins in. But the first man gets a gun from a drawer and the prisoner is forced to leap overboard and swim towards shore.
He comes to on an empty beach beneath chalk cliffs. Unable to find a way off the beach in either direction, he is forced to climb the cliffs, emerging on green downs. A man passes by, dressed as a Romany, leading a greyhound on a lead and using a rough stick. The Prisoner asks him what land this is (after 22 minutes, this is the first English dialogue in the episode). The man ignores him and hurries away.
The Prisoner follows him to a small Romany camp, where a woman and an old man are sat around a cookpot. The woman berates the man in Romany, ignoring his attempt to defend himself. She offers the Prisoner a cup of something from the cookpot, which he finds sustaining. None of the Romany speak English but the woman recognises the word ‘road’ and points his way.
When the Prisoner reaches the road, English bobbies have set up a road block and are quizzing every driver. He circles round to beyond the road block, and manages to get into the back of a lorry, concealing himself above the cab and going to sleep. He is woken by sirens and automatically leaps from the lorry, to find himself in London.
Overwhelmed to some extent by having gotten back to freedom, the Prisoner wanders, eventually ending up at his old home at 1 Buckingham Place. He knocks on the door, which is opened by a middle-aged maid, who clearly disapproves of his scruffy, unshaven, dishevelled appearance. Initially, he is rude and demanding, and by the time he recovers his manners and asked to speak to her master, she closes the door on him, saying that her mistress is not at home.
Her mistress returns almost immediately, driving the Prisoner’s Lotus. He is equally ungraceful with her, Mrs Butterworth, a middle-aged widow with a flirtatious air, clearly amused by the ragged man asking her questions he can answer about her car. She invites him in for tea and cake. Inside, his old flat seems to be unchanged.
Mrs Butterworth brings cake and sandwiches, which he devours hungrily. She shows him her lease – 10 years, prepared by a firm who had not dealt with the Prisoner. It is March 18th: the Prisoner, almost shamefacedly, says that it is his birthday tomorrow (McGoohan’s birth date), and Mrs Butterworth promises to bake him a cake.
It’s clear that all signs of his previous existence in London have been efficiently obliterated.
The Prisoner’s next step is to contact his former employers. Over his protestations, Mrs Butterworth insists on helping him further, forcing on him a bath, clothes belonging to her late husband, and the loan of the Lotus, on condition he fixes its problem with overheating in traffic. The Prisoner repeats his journey of the credits, to the underground garage, and the office occupied by the civil servant played by Markstein.
He is referred to two senior officials, who meet him at an old country home. The Prisoner has told his story, shown his photos,produced his Tally Ho log. The Colonel is blandly neutral, putting it to his subordinate Thorpe to point out the fantastic elements of the account. They openly state that they are concerned that the Prisoner defected, and is now trying to come back on behalf of the other side.
The Prisoner, in a much more relaxed frame of mind, still intoxicated to some extent by having gotten away from the Village, reasserts that he intends to find and destroy the Village, and to uncover its masters.
After checking out the Prisoner’s story as much as possible, the Colonel brings in senior Royal Navy and Royal Air Force officers to plot his course as best as possible from his rough log. They conclude that the Village ought to be somewhere on the south west Portugal/Spain coast or north west Morocco, or an island in that area.
Early the next morning, the Prisoner and the RAF officer meet at an airfield. It is so early, the milk is being delivered. They are to do a reconnaissance flight to locate the Village. The Colonel and the Prisoner go outside as the pilot finishes suiting up. Playfully, the Colonel calls the Prisoner Number Six. Calling the Colonel James, the Prisoner threatens him with hospitalisation if he uses that term again.
As the plane flies off, Thorpe describes the Prisoner as an “Interesting fellow.” “He’s and old, old friend,” the Colonel replies, “who never gives up.” They drive away.
The flight progresses steadily, in calculated sweeps over coasts and islands until the Prisoner sees the Village, on a peninsula, tucked up against its forested hillside. He instructs the Pilot to go closer. Instead, the pilot removes his oxygen mask and reaches for a yellow lever. He turns towards the Prisoner, showing that it is not the pilot, but instead the Milkman. He calls out, “Be Seeing you,” and ejects the Prisoner.
Stiff with mute fury, the Prisoner controls his descent until he lands on the beach. The Village is still deserted, the cat still by the broken plate. Weary and frustrated, he walks back to his cottage, clearly intent on starting again.
Suddenly the shower comes on, the percolator starts to bubble and the table light lights. The cat mews. Looking up, he sees Mrs Butterworth approaching him. She is carrying a cake, covered with birthday candles which she holds out to him. On the shoulder of her dress is a reversed Village badge, white-on-black, with the Number 2. “Many Happy Returns,” she says.
The sound of the Village band playing is heard. Number Six crosses to the window, The Square is filled with Villagers, playing and parading.
We cut to the stock shot of the Village. Number Six’s face races towards the centre of the screen. Iron bars slam across it with a prison clang.

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