This week’s Danger Man episode was a mostly plain thriller story, notable for the element of comedy that subtly underpinned John Drake’s latest assignment – under his own name – as a very efficient,imperturbable and self-effacing butler to a man you seriously had to be self-effacing about, and the equally subtle air of romance, with Drake having not one but two attractive young women paying attention to him, but also showings signs, at a social distance, of being attracted to one of them himself. Lawdy mama, won’t they think of the children?
The episode began in Athens, at the rented home of international financier Grigori Benares (Howard Marion Crawford, who’s already appeared in ‘Yesterday’s Enemies’, on honeymoon with his young English bride Helen (Suzan Farmer), who has no-one else in the world, has no experience of this lifestyle and who thinks of herself as a lucky nobody. They’re visited by Greek Minister Mr Avraam, who gets into an argument with Benares and ‘kills himself’ later that night. The Benares shoot off to Rome.
Meanwhile, at World Travel, Admiral Hobbs explains to Drake that this sort of thing follows Benares around. As do substantial loans to foreign gvernments, intended to better the lot of the peasants (a-ha! A Socialist notion! Premature Wokeism) but which gets creamed off into the pockets of rich Government figures and international financiers (seriously, this is 1964 speaking directly to us in Britain 2021). Benares is renting a Villa in Rome from friends of Hobbs, who are persuaded to replace their tried and tested butler, Hesketh, for a complete novice (but a fast learner) – Drake.
Benares doesn’t like Drake or trust him from the start. Later, it’s put over that Benares could detect, from the first, the absence of essential component of Drake’s imposture, that he is a servant but that he has no servility. I can see that in Benares, who is exactly the kind of person who would see servility as his due, because a servant is a servant, and thus of no human concern, an attitude emphasised by the fact that Helen, unused to servants, automatically treats Drake as a person, and a human being. She cannot get the hang of calling him Drake, it always has to be Mr Drake, and he in his turn is supportive towards her and even gallant to the extent his position permits. Especially after he and we discover from offstage that Benares is in the habit of beating his wife.
The financier – who has a touch of the Robert Maxwells about him – has another scam going, based on a substantial loan from a big bank represented by Mr Armstrong (Mervyn Johns), who is in Rome with his daughter Judy (Francesca Annis, looking even more lovely than in her ‘earlier’ appearance in ‘That’s Two of Us Sorry’). Helen and Judy are getting on like a house on fire. Benares and Armstrong aren’t, because Armstrong is recommending refusing the loans until some genuine proposals to improve the lot of the poor are put in place.
The outcome of that is that, under the pretence of the two girls meeting up for an afternoon’s shopping, Helen is put off and Judy kidnapped. Nor does Drake have a free hand to act in the best interests of everybody since Armstrong won’t let Judy be put at any risk, and the Police are prepared to play the old meddling-in-things-that-are-not-your-business card, and put Drake in gaol, after a couple of stomach punches, to keep him quiet.
Fortunately, Drake knows how to ride a couple of stomach punches, and how to conduct a single-handed rescue – not entirely single-handed because the spirited Judy plays a calm and quick-0witted role once she’s released.
And that’s it for Benares, and sadly for Helen’s life of luxury. There’s signs she may fall on her feet: the friendship with Judy was real enouh that the Armstrong’s will take her back with them to London, from which we infer they’ll help her establish herself. The lovely helen still sees it as going back to being a nobody, but this is where Drake and McGoohan surprise us, with a meaningful look and a quiet assurance that she’ll always be a significant person to him. Which prompts a soft goodbye from Helen to… John..
My, oh my.
It’s the closest we get and it’s very much of the in-another-world style of romance. The ships have already passed in the night and all that are visible are their stern lights, their hulls an empty shadow. Forget the action, forget the tension, this is the core of this episode, We’ll remember this long time.
2 thoughts on “Danger Man: s02 e13 – No Marks for Servility”
Actually, this is one of my favorite episodes. Sometimes rather than watch the series through, I’ll pull out a few favorites and this is always one of them. Crawford is perfect. Francesca is a much more interesting character than in That’s Two of Us Sorry. But McGoohan absolutely outdoes himself. The way he struggles to control his anger, and his patent inability to act servile makes this one of his finest performances in the series. Don’t Nail Him Yet is still his best, though.
The anger thing, and the bit where he crushes the glass was a bit too much for me. A less arrogant man than Benares would have been suspicious at that point. But I thought McGoohan judged his performance very finely, especially given that his ‘cover’ this week was called Drake…