The United Network Command for Law and Enforcement
A one hour dramatic series which ran from September, 1964 through January, 1968 on NBC. Created by Norman Felton and Sam Rolfe with limited assistance from Ian Fleming. Fleming contributed the last name of the main hero, "Solo" (originally a very minor character in Fleming's novel Goldfinger and its movie adaptation), and a minor character, April Dancer, who appeared in the main series in only one episode. (This episode was a Poorly Disguised Pilot for the spin-off, The Girl from U.N.C.L.E..) The series also owes a lot of its style, especially in its "innocent gets caught up in international intrigue" conceit, to Alfred Hitchcock's North by Northwest.One of the very first shows to capitalize on the spy craze of the early 1960s, the series featured the adventures of two enforcement agents of a multinational law enforcement and intelligence organization: the United Network Command for Law and Enforcement. Their mission: an ongoing struggle against wrongdoers who threaten world security, especially their recurring nemesis, an organization known as THRUSH, which strives for world domination. The series's unique gimmick was that just about every episode involved an "innocent civilian" in the week's plot. Sometimes the civilian was a willing volunteer in U.N.C.L.E.'s machinations against its opponents, but other times the innocent was merely a passerby who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, and thereby found himself or herself involved in the plot (i.e., a Heroic Bystander).Robert Vaughn was billed as the star, cast as the American, Napoleon Solo, U.N.C.L.E.'s top enforcement agent. His sidekick, Russian native Illya Kuryakin, was intended by the producers to be merely an occasionally recurring minor character, but fans became so smitten with David McCallum's portrayal of Kuryakin that he almost immediately became a series regular, was billed as a co-star early in the first season, and rose to equal billing with Vaughn by the second season. Completing the regular U.N.C.L.E. contingent was veteran character actor Leo G. Carroll, cast as Alexander Waverly, U.N.C.L.E.'s chief in their New York headquarters.Almost as popular as the stars were the various items of high tech (for the early-to-mid-60s milieu of the show) spy equipment used by the U.N.C.L.E. agents in their various missions; the most iconic of which became their communications devices (disguised as cigarette cases in the first season, changing to pens in the second through fourth seasons) and their pistols, the "U.N.C.L.E. special,", which by the addition of a barrel extension, stock, telescope, and extended magazine could be converted into a cool looking carbine. (It's famous today as the alternate mode of Megatron from Transformers. The gun itself was so popular it actually got its own fan mail, up to 400 pieces per week (many addressed to "The Gun") at the show's height of popularity.)The first season (broadcast in black and white because NBC had not yet transitioned to all-color broadcasting) is thought by many fans to be the best in the series' run. Producer Sam Rolfe left the series at the end of that season, frustrated with receiving too little credit for the series' success. Subsequent producers failed to understand the unique factors which made The Man From U.N.C.L.E. popular. Gradually, under the influence of the campy 1966 series Batman the series attempted to be an outright spy spoof and wound up ranging into farce, but less-than competent execution resulted in the show's hemorrhaging viewers. Still, at its peak the show was popular enough to inspire a Spin-Off, The Girl from U.N.C.L.E., about the adventures of U.N.C.L.E. agent April Dancer, and a host of U.N.C.L.E. novels. Nostalgia for the show in the early 1980s led to the production of a Reunion Show, The Return of The Man From U.N.C.L.E.: The Fifteen Years Later Affair. In the late 1980s The A-Team, which had cast Robert Vaughn as a regular, cast David McCallum as a guest star in a fifth season Homage episode titled "The Say U.N.C.L.E. Affair". A movie project has been in Development Hell for close to two decades (at one point Quentin Tarantino was interested in the project) but, as of fall 2013, the movie, directed by Guy Ritchie, is finally filming in Great Britain. The remake will feature Henry Cavill (Man of Steel) as Napoleon Solo and Armie Hammer (The Lone Ranger) as Illya Kuryakin, with Hugh Grant as Mr. Waverly. The release date was moved from January 16 to August 14, 2015.
This show provides examples of:
Acting for Two: Diana Hyland played the wife of a presidential candidate and a THRUSH double for the missus in "The Candidate's Wife Affair," while Robert Vaughn, David McCallum and Leo G. Carroll all got to play dual roles ("The Double Affair," "The Gurnius Affair" and "The Bow Wow Affair" respectively).
Artifact Title: The title remained The Man from UNCLE, notwithstanding the fact that Ensemble Dark Horse Illya Kuryakin was raised to co-star status even while the series was only a few episodes old, thus causing the focus of the series to be on two men.
Backwards-Firing Gun: One episode a pistol which fired backwards AND forwards, so that the assassin would take out her target and at the same time inadvertently silence herself for good.
Bang Bang BANG: Averted, in that the U.N.C.L.E. Special handgun was noticably less noisy, even when not using a silencer, than the standard run of Hollywood handgun.
Beautiful All Along: In the second season episode, "The Nowhere Affair". THRUSH wants to stimulate Solo's libido in the hopes that might reverse the Easy Amnesia induced by the "Capsule B" Solo took before THRUSH captured him. Hot THRUSH scientist Mara makes the transformation from geeky to hottie by the statutory means: removing her glasses and letting her hair down (though the rather fetching bikini she wears in one scene certainly doesn't get in the way).
Big Damn Heroes: Happens fairly often; usually Solo is in James Bondage when Kuryakin will swoop in at the nick of time (though the opposite, Solo saving Kuryakin from an almost certain Death Trap, happens often enough).
Just one example: The second season episode "The King of Diamonds Affair", when Kuryakin arrives to save Solo, the innocent of the week, and a villain-turned-hero who are strapped to cannons with lit fuses:
Napoleon Solo: Next time, try not waiting til the last minute.
Illya Kuryakin: Next time try not to go that far up the Amazon.
Bitter Almonds: In the first season episode "The Project Strigas Affair," Illya faked his own suicide and scented his "corpse" with bitter almonds...
Bond One-Liner: Dropped, usually by Napoleon Solo, after a THRUSH mook has been dispatched.
Breaking the Fourth Wall: In the first few episodes of the first season, Solo, Kuryakin and Waverly would introduce themselves to the audience at the beginning of each episode and give a brief account of their jobs.
Bridge Bunnies: The hiring practices of UNCLE include a lot of beautiful women communications experts.
Bullet Proof Vest: Used to prevent a knifing in the second season episode, "Alexander the Greater Affair, Part II".
Bunny-Ears Lawyer: In the fourth season episode "The Summit-Five Affair", U.N.C.L.E.-Northeast head Harry Beldon is pretty much set up as a Bunny-Ears Lawyer. He's a flamboyant playboy who arrives at his Berlin headquarters garishly dressed, in a chauffeur-driven limousine, while drinking champagne with two beautiful women (at least one of whom is married, since Beldon tells her "remember me to your husband"). Something which is remarked on:
Illya Kuryakin: Hmmm. Harry Beldon... Everything a cautious, unobtrusive, successful secret agent shouldn't be, except he's successful.
However, it turns out that Beldon is a THRUSH double agent, which raises the question to what extent he was truly a Bunny-Ears Lawyer, and to what extent his apparent competence was a function of his being a THRUSH mole.
This is often not quite as egregious as on other shows, considering that back in the 1960's, MGM still had its large complex of soundstages which could be (and were) expertly dressed to resemble most required locations. It was more jarring, though, when the show had to do location shooting. One blatant example comes in "Alexander The Greater Affair" (as noted, this was the only episode not to begin with "The"), where Southern California is expected to stand in for Northern Virginia. Possibly justified if one interprets this as SoCal standing in for the Blue Ridge Mountains, which can easily be seen from the western fringes of the Washington suburbs.
Compilation Movie: several; this show very possibly invented the genre. Many of these films were released in Europe with additional violence and racy footage added, and several of the films became bona fide box office hits as Bondmania continued.
Comic Book Adaptation: Gold Key published a comic book that outlived the parent program by about a year. In the 1980s a short-lived UNCLE comic was published, but featuring the agents in the (then) present day.
In the third season episode "The Hula Doll Affair", the entrance to THRUSH Headquarters in New York is an upper-class haberdashery, in contrast to the working-class Del Floria's Tailor Shop which serves as the entrance to U.N.C.L.E. Headquarters. Solo, as he is captured by Oregano (a THRUSH operative), remarks on the contrast:
Napoleon Solo: Very ingenious. Am I to assume I'm in THRUSH Headquarters?
Oregano: When we reach the 13th floor.
Napoleon Solo: Mmm. That haberdashery shop...
Oregano: What about it?
Napoleon Solo: It's quite impressive. I wish U.N.C.L.E. could afford that.
Cool Car: In the second season, a few episodes set in Europe found Solo and Kuryakin driving classic Mercedes-Benz roadsters. In the third and fourth seasons, the show introduced what became known as the "U.N.C.L.E. car", a concept car developed from the Bertone Pirana.
Covert Group with Mundane Front: U.N.C.L.E. headquarters is located behind Del Floria's Tailor Shop, while another entrance is via The Masque Club. U.N.C.L.E.'s "Section VII: Public Relations and Propaganda" had a charity fundraising group as a front.
Played with/spoofed in the third season episode "The Hula Doll Affair", where, in contrast to the entrance to U.N.C.L.E. Headquarters—a run down, working-class tailor shop—THRUSH's New York Headquarters is entered through an elegant, upper-crust haberdashery. Solo even comments on the contrast (see Continuity Nod, above).
Creator Cameo: In the first season episode "The Giuoco Piano Affair", series co-creator/executive producer Norman Felton, series co-creator/producer Sam Rolfe, associate producer Joseph Calvelli, and episode director Richard Donner all have cameos as guests at a party hosted by episode guest star Jill Ireland (then-wife of series co-star David McCallum).
Credits Gag: The end credits of every episode in Seasons One, Two, and Three bore this acknowledgment: "We wish to thank the United Network Command for Law and Enforcement without whose assistance this program would not be possible." For whatever reason this acknowledgment was dropped from the end credits in Season Four.
One might venture the in-universe explanation that U.N.C.L.E. was so displeased by the campy direction the show took in the third season that it withdrew its support, which would also explain why the series was cancelled before it had finished its fourth-season run!
Cynicism Catalyst: The death of an Innocent (a young woman) due to a betrayal by a double agent is what caused Illya Kuryakin to resign from UNCLE, according to "The Fifteen Years Later Affair."
Darker and Edgier: Inverted before reaffirmed; the series starts out as an action-packed, often very violent spy show, before turning into a comedy in Season 3, then reverting to Darker and Edgier for its final season.
Also applies to the theatrical versions made of several episodes.
Deadly Dodging: In the second season episode "The Virtue Affair" (and a few other episodes), Napoleon Solo, faced with two mooks, each approaching from opposite ends of a corridor, dodges out of the line of fire just in time for the mooks to gun each other down.
Played with in the third season episode "The Five Daughters Affair, Part II". Solo and Kuryakin, creeping down a corridor of a THRUSH complex, are menaced by one THRUSH mook ahead of them and two behind them. The mook in front of them sprints towards them, then leaps at Solo as if to tackle him. Solo quickly hits the floor, and the leaping mook takes out the two mooks following the heroes.
Deadpan Snarker: Illya Kuryakin in several episodes. Usually when in the hands of THRUSH or another villain. E.g.:
[Solo is deep undercover in a THRUSH laboratory, while Kuryakin has been captured by THRUSH mooks and is in a holding cell]
Napoleon Solo [on his communicator]: Open Channel D. Control, this is Sheep's Clothing. Come in, Control. Open Channel D. [sotto voce] Jammed. How about Channel F? Is there anything new on Channel F?
Illya Kuryakin: Not much. What's new with you?
Napoleon Solo: Illya, is that you? What are you doing on Channel F?
Illya Kuryakin: Don't be presumptuous. You called me.
Napoleon Solo: Where are you?
Illya Kuryakin: I'm tied up right now.
Napoleon Solo: I get the feeling you're not telling me everything.
Illya Kuryakin: Well, Miss Francis and I were detained by the THRUSH welcome wagon.
Napoleon Solo: Ah, you've been captured.
Illya Kuryakin: It's amazing how you grasp the picture with such unerring clarity.
—"The Sort of Do-It-Yourself Dreadful Affair" (third season)
Easy Amnesia: In the second season episode "The Nowhere Affair", Napoleon Solo takes "Capsule B", a drug which induces "total amnesia" for a period of "at least 72 hours", when faced with imminent capture by a pair of THRUSH mooks.
And in the third season episode "The Pieces of Fate Affair", the innocent-of-the-week suffers partial amnesia when she's grazed in the head by a bullet during a THRUSH assassination attempt.
Expanded Universe: At the height of its popularity, the show inspired 23 published (and one unpublished but distributed via samizdat among the fandom) tie-in novels and a Comic Book Adaptation.
A thriving Fan Fiction community continues to create new U.N.C.L.E. adventures to this day, with several sites dedicated to archiving these works.
invoked The late David McDaniel, who wrote what many fans consider to be the best of the 1960's tie-in novels, The Dagger Affair, created much of the Fanon for the series, including the unofficial-but-generally-accepted full name of THRUSH.
Everybody Lives: "The Project Strigas Affair" is a rare episode where there's not a single punch thrown or shot fired, and where no one gets killed though Kurosov's fate doesn't look rosy at the end.
Fake Nationality: British David McCallum as Russian Illya Kuryakin, and many American and British guest stars affecting various ridiculous European/Asian/Middle Eastern accents.
In several episodes, U.N.C.L.E. Bridge Bunnies would be tanning in two piece bathing suits under sunlamps in U.N.C.L.E. headquarters(!) when receiving incoming communications from Solo.
The Compilation MovieOne Spy Too Many (compiled from footage of the second season two-part season opener, "Alexander the Greater Affair (Parts I and II)") included an additional romantic subplot (not included in the original series episode) featuring actress Yvonne Craig as a relative of Mr. Waverly's who is also an U.N.C.L.E. communications Bridge Bunny. In one scene she does the "tanning under a sunlamp in Headquarters" routine in averyskimpy bikini (probably too skimpy to have passed Broadcast Standards in 1965 when the episode first aired).
In the second season episode "The Indian Affairs Affair", the innocent civilian of the week is an "Indian princess" (i.e., daughter of the chief of a Native American tribe) who is a student in New York. We first see her dancing in a club in a Stripperific American Indian-inspired costume (complete with feathered war bonnet).
Getting Crap Past the Radar: All the time, but especially in the first season episode "The Bow Wow Affair", in which a dog expert spreads some photographs of dogs' legs on the floor right next to the Girl of the Week 's shapely legs, and then says "Look at those legs!"
Girl of the Week: Usually Napoleon Solo's balliwick, though the occasional episode gave Illya Kuryakin a love interest. And once in a blue moon Mr. Waverly will step in and sweep the Girl of the Week away from Solo (usually Played for Laughs when that happens, and always at the end of the episode).
According to both canon and Fanon, U.N.C.L.E. is an independent international organization, created shortly after the United Nations, and designated to take care of problems that the latter organization can't. The in-house United Nations newsletter once printed a Fan Fiction short piece where a U.N. employee, exploring the tunnels below the Secretariat building, ran into Napoleon Solo!
Handguns: the U.N.C.L.E. Special. Possibly a "handgun on steroids", it can convert to a carbine (by addition of a stock, telescopic sight, and barrel and magazine extensions), and fires regular bullets, sleep darts, and in at least one episode ("The Indian Affairs Affair") fired a "communicator dart" which allowed Solo to converse, via his communicator, with some THRUSH hostages.
Chief Highcloud: There is another of your men outside. He talked to us with this. [hands Kuryakin an object]
Illya Kuryakin: Communicator dart. Fired it through the window, I suppose?
Heel-Face Turn: Occasionally the U.N.C.L.E. agents manage to subvert a THRUSH operative into working for them (e.g., the second season episode "The Arabian Affair", where Solo informs a THRUSH minion who is due to retire that THRUSH liquidates retired minions to insure their perpetual silence), whereas other times the villain comes over to the good side for his own reasons (e.g., the second season episode "The King of Diamonds Affair", and the third season episode "The Concrete Overcoat Affair, Part II").
Heroic Bystander: In many episodes, the innocent civilian is just someone who, by being in the wrong place at the wrong time, manages to get caught up in U.N.C.L.E.'s operations.
Example: the first season episode "The Hong Kong Shilling Affair", where the episode's innocent becomes involved in the adventure when he attempts to "rescue" that week's Femme Fatale (who, unbeknownst to him, was really in no need of rescue).
Idiosyncratic Episode Naming: Every episode was explicitly titled "The __________ Affair"; additionally every individual act within the episode was subtitled, usually by a brief quote from dialogue within that act (exception: Season Four, when the producer, director, and writer credits replaced the first act subtitle).
Idiot Ball: In the fourth season episode "The Test Tube Killer Affair", Napoleon Solo is trying to convince the innocent-of-the-week (a young American woman on a grand tour of Europe) that the THRUSH agent she is hot for really is a dangerous criminal. The writers then apparently pass the Idiot Ball to Solo, as he tells her that he is going to place a phone call to his superiors, and she is not to move until he returns. And of course, she immediately sprints away the minute Solo turns his back on her.
Possible inversion, however, since Solo stays very close on her heels as she runs away, and he and Illya immediately tail her as she attempts to meet her THRUSH beau, raising the possibility (never explicitly stated in the episode) that Solo may have purposely allowed her to escape.
Imperial Stormtrooper Marksmanship Academy: In the third season episode "The Jingle Bells Affair", the chairman of a Communist nation (a thinly-disguised counterpart to recently ousted Soviet premier Nikita Khrushchev) is a target of assassins. The innocent-of-the-week leads the chairman on a merry chase over the rooftops of New York City, all the time under fire by the assassins. Even though the assassins have a clear shot, and the chairman and the innocent are not moving very fast, not one shot even comes close to them. Possibly justified, in that this episode was Played for Laughs (as indicated by the title, it was the show's only Christmas Episode), and the lead assassin is pretty much characterized as an incompetent bungler.
Improbable Aiming Skills: In the first season episode "The Never Never Affair", Napoleon Solo demonstrates Improbable Aiming Skills when he manages to shoot a THRUSH agent while bound to a chair, forcing him to aim the pistol with his hands tied behind his back. Also, in the third season episode "The Super-Colossal Affair", a crime syndicate mook manages to disarm Solo by shooting Solo's pistol out of his hand while Solo is running away from him.
Instant Sedation: Often used by both U.N.C.L.E. and THRUSH when a character needs to be incapacitated without killing him/her. Most common varieties: various forms of tranquilizer darts (the U.N.C.L.E. Special handgun was early established as being capable of firing "sleep darts" as well as conventional bullets, but on at least one occasion THRUSH operatives have used similar darts to capture a target of their interest) and knockout gas (often thrown, grenade style, in spherical glass containers).
Karmic Death: In the third season episode "The It's All Greek to Me Affair", the estranged husband of the innocent-of-the-week is a convicted criminal who's escaped from prison, and who spends most of the episode threatening to kill his estranged wife's meek, milquetoast schoolteacher boyfriend, and (near the end of the episode) abuses an inoffensive shepherd boy in order to retrieve the valuable U.N.C.L.E. code he'd stolen but lost earlier in the episode. In the climactic fight scene, the estranged husband (who is fighting with his estranged wife's boyfriend) winds up accidentally stabbed to death by the THRUSH Central representative to whom he had hoped to sell the U.N.C.L.E. code.
Similarly, the fate of THRUSH operative Randolph in the third season two part episode "The Five Daughters Affair". In the course of the episode he seduces Dr. Simon True's widow, Amanda, only to tell her that he did not love her but was only using her to procure Dr. True's formula, he smacks around Amanda before ordering her killed, and he smacks around several of Dr. True's stepdaughters and his daughter. Needless to say, he is killed when Solo and Kuryakin sabotage the THRUSH plant built to use Dr. True's process on a large scale.
Live-Action Escort Mission: Inverted in the first season episode "The Four-Steps Affair", where Solo and Kuryakin are tasked to prevent THRUSH from kidnapping the 10 year old leader of an Asian country. The boy, far from being spoiled, is at least as (if not more) mature and worldly wise than his caretakers.
Lzherusskie: Scotsman David McCallum cast as Russian Illya Kuryakin.
MacGuffin: The second half of the third season was especially MacGuffin filled: e.g., the stolen U.N.C.L.E. codes in "The It's All Greek to Me Affair", the explosive hula doll in "The Hula Doll Affair", the THRUSH historian's diaries in "The Pieces of Fate Affair", the Project Quasimodo filmclip in "The Matterhorn Affair", the dress with the THRUSH coded pattern in "The Hot Number Affair" (Season 03, Episodes 21-25 inclusive), and Dr. Simon True's gold-extraction-from-seawater formula in the two-part "The Five Daughters Affair" (Season 03, Episodes 28-9).
Mythology Gag: In the second season episode "The Bat Cave Affair", Napoleon Solo is escorting the the episode's innocent to Europe as they investigate some developments in the plot. A scene on the airliner cuts in just as the inflight movie is ending, revealing a The End card which shows that the inflight movie was One Spy Too Many—which is in fact one of The Man From UNCLEcompilation movies (basically, One Spy Too Many was composed of the two parts of the second season opening episode, "Alexander the Greater Affair (Parts I and II)" plus added footage).
Clemency McGill: That was a right fine movie. Do you like spy movies Mr. Solo? Napoleon?
Napoleon Solo: I'll tell you, they're alright if you like light entertainment. I just think they're... pretty far fetched.
And in two third season episodes: 1) in "The Hula Doll Affair", Napoleon Solo receives a message to go to 555 Felton Avenue (which turns out to be the location of THRUSH's New York headquarters), while 2) in "The Cap and Gown Affair" a "Felton Hall" is named as one of the buildings on the Blair University campus. Norman Felton (as noted above) was one of the creators (as well as executive producer) of the series.
No Celebrities Were Harmed: In the third season episode "The Jingle Bells Affair", Chairman Georgi Koz is a thinly disguised counterpart to recently ousted Soviet premier Nikita Khrushchev (including a scene where Koz, practicing a speech to be delivered to the UN, removes his shoe and bangs it on the desk).
And in the fourth season episode "The Fiery Angel Affair", Angela Abaca bears a distinct resemblance to Eva Peron.
No Swastikas: Averted in the second season episode "The Indian Affairs Affair"; when Illya Kuryakin goes undercover on an Indian reservation, he wears a Indian headband adorned with swastikas.
Which is Truth in Television, as the swastika is an ancient good-fortune symbol among American Indians (corresponding to its traditional pre-Nazi status in a great many other cultures).
Not with the Safety on, You Won't: In the first season episode "The King of Knaves Affair", Napoleon Solo disarms a woman accosting him in his hotel room when he notices that she hasn't checked the safety catch. Also pulled by Illya Kuryakin in the third season episode, "The Her Master's Voice Affair."
Pistol-Whipping: Done fairly often during the series, as one of the ways a character can be incapacitated without killing him.
Playing Drunk: In one episode, Ilya harasses a girl while pretending to be drunk so that Napoleon Solo can step in and rescue her.
Prince and Pauper: In the third season episode "The Galatea Affair", U.N.C.L.E. agent Mark Slate is tasked with teaching working-class Bronx-native bar performer Rosie Shlagenheimer to pass for THRUSH minion Baroness Bibi De Chasseur (both roles played by Joan Collins).
Punch Clock Villain: While throughout the series viewers are shown uniformed THRUSH forces (with the implication that they're regularly paid), in the second season episode "The Arabian Affair" we actually see a THRUSH minion carrying a lunch pail and punching a time clock while leaving the job.
Rare Guns: THRUSH operatives often use the P08 Parabellum ("Luger") as a their personal handguns. Also, when U.N.C.L.E. conducts operations against "evil" governments, their police or military are often armed with the Mauser C96 ("Broomhandle").
Subverted: neither gun is that rare, especially the Luger, which was the standard sidearm for German military officers throughout most of the first half of the 20th century.
Real-Life Relative: In the first season episodes "The Quadripartite Affair" and "The Giuoco Piano Affair", Illya Kuryakin got the Girl of the Week. She was played (in both episodes) by Jill Ireland, David McCallum's real-life wife at the time the episodes were filmed (q.v. Yoko Oh No).
Ms. Ireland also appeared in the second season episode "The Tigers are Coming Affair", and in both halves of the two-part third season episode, "The Five Daughters Affair". She did not play Kuryakin's love interest in either of those episodes, and by the time of the filming and airing of "The Five Daughters Affair" her marriage to McCallum was over.
Recycled Set: Entire drinking games could and probably have been based around this.
Red Scare: THRUSH as a thinly disguised variant of SMERSH, a real-life counterintelligence agency of the USSR.
Red Shirt: Usually THRUSH Mooks also double as Red Shirts, usually being mowed down like grass by Solo and/or Kuryakin's gunfire. Occasionally, though, U.N.C.L.E. personnel wind up being Red Shirts (e.g., in the fourth season episode "The Test Tube Killer Affair", the THRUSH agent shoots at an U.N.C.L.E. helicopter with a machine gun, causing it to explode and kill both U.N.C.L.E. agents on board).
Reverse Polarity: In the second series episode "The Minus-X Affair", a THRUSH scientist explains that all she needs to do to create an incapacitating drug from a sensory-enhancement drug is to "reverse the chemical process" used to create the original drug.
Riding the Bomb: The climax of the third season episode "The Super-Colossal Affair" found Illya Kuryakin riding and defusing a 10 ton stink bomb which was part of a crime syndicate plot to render Las Vegas uninhabitable.
Russian Guy Suffers Most: Illya Kuryakin seems to spend a disproportionate amount of time being bound and tortured, and in general if plans go awry it will be Kuryakin who'll bear the brunt of the inconvenience.
Subverted in the fourth season episode "The Summit-Five Affair", where it is Napoleon Solo who bears the brunt of a brutal interrogation (bordering on torture) by an apparent THRUSH double-agent within U.N.C.L.E.'s Berlin office who appears to be attempting to cover his tracks.
And inverted in one episode where Kuryakin impersonated Identical Stranger Maximilian Nexor, a fascist Secret Police type ... torturing Napoleon Solo. The act in which this happened was titled, "How to Strain a Friendship."
Screwed by the Network: The disastrous decision to turn the series into a camp comedy for season 3, which effectively killed the show (the sight of Napoleon dancing the watusi with a gorilla being considered the last straw for many); a return to more serious storytelling for Season 4 came too little, too late, and the show was cancelled at midseason. The change in direction is also blamed in part for the failure of spin-off series The Girl from U.N.C.L.E. that aired during this period.
Shoe Phone: Much of U.N.C.L.E.'s spy equipment was disguised as mundane items.
Shoot Out the Lock: Used occasionally when U.N.C.L.E. agents need to get past a locked door. Not the preferred method (that would be to use special devices to manipulate the lock and open it, or to use explosives/incendiaries to blow out/burn out the lock; these are usually concealed in the heel of the agent's shoe).
Shotgun Wedding: Seems to happen to Solo with alarming regularity, although he always manages to get out of it.
We see a literal shotgun in two third season episodes: In "The Concrete Overcoat Affair, Part I" (Season 03, Ep. 11) Napoleon Solo, thinking he is being pursued by THRUSH minions, hides underneath Pia Monteri's bed. After he is discovered under the bed, Grandmama Monteri comes into the bedroom with a shotgun, tells Pia to go to the closet and get Grandmama's old wedding dress, and tells Solo that she's sending for the parish priest. In "The Apple a Day Affair" (Season 03, Ep. 27) Nina Lillette's grandpa (who is carrying a shotgun in every scene he appears) finds her in a "compromising position" with Solo, so he proceeds to call the local preacher...
Shout-Out: In "The Survival School Affair," three U.N.C.L.E. agents-in-training are suspected of murdering a fellow trainee. One of the trainees is Melissa Hargrove, named after regular series writer DeanHargrove. She didn't do it.
Soundtrack Dissonance: Nelson Riddle's Batman-esque music for "The Concrete Overcoat Affair" sticks out like a sore thumb among the rest of the show's scores. Unsurprisingly, Riddle was the only composer for the series who was never used again - in fact, Norman Felton never used him again on any of his shows (although his music was tracked into other episodes where, given the campy comic tone of the third season, it fit all too well).
Special Guest: Vincent Price, Dorothy Provine, Sonny and Cher and Nancy Sinatra, among others. Could also be seen as Stunt Casting.
Honorable mention: Elsa Lanchester as Dr. Agnes Dabree in "The Brain-Killer Affair" (Season 01, Ep. 23). Still inspiring nightmares years later...
Stock Footage: In one truly egregious example, the show had one favorite clip of a large WW II era bomber, possibly being used after the war as a target drone, being hit by an antiaircraft missile. Whenever the series required an aircraft to be shot down—whether it be a single engined private plane or a multiengined jet aircraft, whether it was shot down by a lucky rifle shot, antiaircraft artillery, or a missile—they would splice in this clip for the inevitable "airplane explodes in midair" scene.
In the fourth season, the series had one favorite stock aerial photograph of a coral island, which stood in for several island locations in several episodes: the Caribbean island location of Club Thanatopsis in "The THRUSH Roulette Affair," the remote island location of U.N.C.L.E.'s Survival School in "The Survival School Affair," and the island of Irbos in "The Man from THRUSH Affair."
Strange Bedfellows: U.N.C.L.E. having agents from both the West and the Soviet Bloc working together against common threats; also in the Expanded Universe U.N.C.L.E. novel The Dagger Affair by David McDaniel, which had U.N.C.L.E and THRUSH uniting against a common threat.
Sugary Malice: In "The Gazebo in the Maze Affair," the villain's wife, Edith Partridge, initially appears to be a sweet, if not-entirely-there, old lady who is oblivious to her husband's evil. It soon becomes apparent that she's pulling many of the strings, and she tortures the heroes — and gives her husband instructions on how to torture them "properly" — without ever changing her sweet manner.
Super Cell Reception: Our heroes rarely, if ever, have reception problems with their communicators. In the 1960s. If the communicators cease to function, either by internal breakdown or by external interference, it's because the plot requires it.
Tap on the Head: Also common: "karate chop to the neck"; both being ways U.N.C.L.E. agents will non-lethally incapacitate enemies when necessary (or vice versa).
In the third season episode "The Pieces of Fate Affair", Mr. Waverly infiltrates THRUSH, and is required while undercover and in disguise to whack Kuryakin over the head with a cane to temporarily disable him. Played for Laughs in The Tag:
Illya Kuryakin: I hate to interrupt this happy scene, but I wish to register a complaint. [to Mr. Waverly] Was it necessary for you to hit me quite so hard with your cane?
Alexander Waverly: Ah, yes. Uh, I'm sorry about that, Mr. Kuryakin. But, uh, well, I did have to gain their confidence, didn't I?
Illya Kuryakin: Of course, but I still have the lump.
Those Wacky Nazis: In the occasional episode, U.N.C.L.E. would often be called in to thwart somebody's attempt to initiate a Fourth Reich.
[Solo and an U.N.C.L.E. strike team have managed to free the boy lama Miki, but the leaders of the THRUSH plot to kill the boy have fled. Solo prepares to pursue them]
Miki: Wait! [Solo stops] Are those two not already finished? You know their faces. Their own organization will know they've failed. Surely they could not be running to any sort of freedom.
Uncanny Family Resemblance: First season episode "The Bow-Wow Affair"; Leo G. Carroll played both U.N.C.L.E. chief Alexander Waverly and Waverly's cousin, Quentin Lester Baldwin.
Unified Naming System: Maybe; there's some dispute as to the canonical status of the name "THRUSH" as an acronym, since, the expansion of "THRUSH" (Technological Hierarchy for the Removal of Undesirables and the Subjugation of Humanity) was never stated in the series itself, but was used only in several Expanded Universe U.N.C.L.E. novels.
The production team and MGM never have raised any objection to the acronym.
Several novel and Fan Fiction authors have made use of a gag whereby various THRUSH fronts have names whose acronyms are the same as the evil organization's name.
Un Paused: In "The Brain Killer Affair", Illya is zapped with some kind of hypnosis device just as he's about to make a call on his cigarette-case radio. When Napoleon snaps him out of the resulting catatonic state hours later, he immediately starts talking into the radio.
The Watson: Illya Kuryakin at the climax of the third season episode "The Five Daughters Affair, Part II":
[THRUSH operative Randolph, having gotten Dr. Simon True's seawater-to-gold extraction formula away from U.N.C.L.E., is gloating before Solo and Kuryakin]
Randolph: Imagine, tons of gold, tons! Pouring into our storage vats. [Kuryakin raises his hand] Yes?
Illya Kuryakin: Won't this Midas-land master plan defeat its own object? With gold as plentiful as dust, won't it lose its value?
Randolph: We will control its rate of release, don't you worry.
Napoleon Solo: We won't.
Well-Intentioned Extremist: Capt. Shark in "The Shark Affair", who resorts to piracy, theft and kidnapping in order to preserve a group of human survivors from the nuclear holocaust he's sure is coming. Even Solo seems sympathetic to his intentions, though not his methods.
Also in the fourth season episode "The Survival School Affair" (the only episode of the series in which series co-lead Robert Vaughn did not appear at all), where Napoleon Solo's absence is brushed off by a mention that Mr. Waverly had given him another assignment.
The all time champion of "You Look Familiar" on the series is probably character actor Woodrow Parfrey, who had 5 guest appearances in unrelated roles in the first three seasons. By 1966 (one appearance in the last half of season 2, and two appearances in the first half of season 3) he was probably inspiring "Hey, It's That Guy!..." moments among the remaining fans of the show.