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Series / The Spy

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The Spy is a 2019 limited series based on the real-life Israeli spy Eli Cohen. It was created and written by Gideon Raff and stars Sacha Baron Cohen as Cohen.

Eli Cohen works a menial job but yearns to be of service to his nation. When Mossad spymaster Dan Peleg begins looking for a new agent to send on a deep-cover mission to Syria by way of Argentina, Cohen jumps at the chance. In spite of Peleg's lingering guilt over similar spies who have died under his watch, Peleg recruits him, and Cohen departs for Argentina with his loving wife none the wiser of his real mission. Cohen proves a natural at espionage, and soon charms his way into the highest ranks of the Syrian power structure. But the deeper he goes, Cohen finds himself ever torn between his desire to achieve greatness and his yearning to return to his true identity.



  • Aluminum Christmas Trees: Some details of the story seem made up for added drama, but are actually real. For example, Cohen's brother really did claim that he discovered Cohen's secret identity while working as a cryptographer.
  • Ambiguously Gay: Ma'azi seems to have a crush on Cohen, but it's never confirmed whether he's bisexual, a closeted gay man, or simply infatuated with Cohen. His gaze lingers on Cohen's naked body, and he repeatedly asks about Cohen's sex life, even sending him a prostitute to see if he'll have sex with her. Cohen seems to understand Ma'azi's interest and brusquely turns him away without acknowledging it. However, in another scene, Ma'azi seems to be enjoying making out with a woman.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Cohen is caught and executed, leaving his wife a widow and his children fatherless. His family has spent decades trying to get his remains returned, to no avail. However, the work he did made a real impact in ensuring the survival of his country.
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  • Celibate Hero: Cohen is in a loving marriage and does not want to cheat on his wife for any reason. He takes no lovers in his cover identity, which does not go unnoticed. He's eventually forced into stringing along a business partner's daughter as his nominal girlfriend.
  • Cigarette of Anxiety:
    • Peleg takes up smoking again due to the stress of Cohen's assignment.
    • Cohen takes up smoking as part of his cover identity, but keeps smoking even when in Israel due to anxiety (and likely the onset of addiction).
  • Comfort Food: Bread and butter for both Cohen and his wife, reminding them of their time together. When Cohen feels his true identity slipping away, he raids his fancy kitchen for some simple bread and butter to remind himself of who he is. When Dan Peleg cooks breakfast for Cohen's wife and starts eating bread and butter at their table, she tells him to leave.
  • Cool Car:
    • Cohen fawns over a magnate's prized Peugeot to develop a connection with him.
    • Ma'azi takes Cohen out for a tour of Syria's military fortifications in a convertible Alfa Romeo.
  • Death Glare: Ahmed Suidani is almost always scowling. There's only a single scene where he breaks his scowl, giving the wife of Amin al-Hafiz a warm smile as she passes by, before going right back to his scowl.
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance: Given that it's The '60s in the Middle East, being gay is out of the question. When Cohen seems to register that Ma'azi has a sexual interest in him, he turns him away without even acknowledging the matter. Later, Cohen is advised to get a girlfriend so his cover identity isn't thought to be "funny in that way."
  • Disappeared Dad: A justified version. Cohen is a spy and so he can't be with his family, which includes his daughters, as much as he would love to.
  • Historical Hero Upgrade: The real-life Cohen had as many as 17 beautiful mistresses, but in the series, he's such a Celibate Hero out of respect to his wife that it causes problems for his cover identity.
  • If You're So Evil, Eat This Kitten: A Syrian general invites Cohen to open fire on a group of Israeli civilians with a machinegun. Cohen is forced to either go along with it or break his cover as a Zionist-hating Syrian zealot. It was ultimately just a prank by the general.
  • "Just Joking" Justification: A Syrian general invites Cohen to open fire on Israeli citizens and won't accept Cohen's several attempts to beg off. Only after Cohen has reluctantly aimed at a target and put his fingers on the trigger does the general claim he was "just joking," and tells Cohen to step away. It's ultimately ambiguous as to whether this was really a joke, if the general was trying to see whether Cohen would actually do it or if the general just changed his mind about provoking an international incident.
  • Klingon Promotion: The 1963 Syrian coup puts Amin al-Hafiz in power by killing or deposing the Syrian leaders by force.
  • Male Gaze: The camera lingers on Cohen's rear naked body as Ma'azi observes him showering. This is the first hint that Ma'azi is Ambiguously Gay.
  • Mistaken for Servant: Cohen is mistaken for a waiter at the house party of his wife's wealthy boss. This helps motivate him to take bigger risks to achieve greatness with his life.
  • My Greatest Failure: Peleg has never gotten over allowing an extremely talented field agent to get assigned to deep cover because he knew the man was too eager to please and would take excessive risks. The agent was almost immediately captured and killed. He doesn't want the same thing to happen to Cohen.
  • Nepotism: Ma'azi receives special privileges because his uncle is a powerful Syrian general.
  • Reckless Gun Usage:
    • The spoiled idiot nephew of a powerful general is introduced when he drunkenly hands his loaded service pistol to a bartender and demands that the man point it at him and pose like a famous movie star. In another scene, he points his gun at the protagonist and threatens him, but it turns out that he's only joking. The protagonist lambastes him for pointing a weapon at him in his own home.
    • In another dramatic scene, a Syrian general invites Cohen to shoot at Israeli civilians with a machine gun. After instructing Cohen to aim at a target and put his fingers on the trigger, he tells him he was "just joking."
  • Sharp-Dressed Man: Cohen dresses very well as part of his cover identity as a wealthy playboy.
  • Title Character: "The Spy" refers to Cohen.
  • Translation Convention: All spoken foreign languages, with the exception of a few snippets of religious utterances and news/radio broadcasts, are rendered as accented English. Given that the series takes place in Israel, Argentina and Syria, it's sometimes not clear what language people are supposed to be speaking. Text is usually left untranslated, but a few key snippets transform into English translations on camera.
  • Tuxedo and Martini: Cohen rubs shoulders with the Syrian elite at a variety of black-tie functions, though the Muslim prohibition of alcohol occasionally means that he claims to abstain from actual cocktails for religious reasons.
  • Young Future Famous People: Of all of Mohamed bin Laden's children to make an appearance, of course it's Osama we see.

Alternative Title(s): Spy 2019


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