Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy: Part 5 - Tinker Tailor
March 19, 2015 9:49 PM - Season 1, Episode 5 - Subscribe

George Smiley conducts two interviews, first with old hand Sam Collins, the duty officer on the night Jim Prideaux was shot, then with Prideaux himself. Between the two testimonies a clearer picture is painted of the events of that night, the fateful, failed Operation Testify, as well as its fallout.
posted by carsonb (22 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
George casting about for information given willingly enough is one thing we've seen so far, what with Lacon's and The Circus' (unwitting) assistance. Even his interview with Sam is cordial and as friendly as any of Smiley's interactions get. But you can see him start to tread carefully as he goes out to the countryside to visit Prideaux. Mendel's appearance way out in the field at the beginning of the episode is enough to prick Jim's awareness, so Smiley knows he'll be on the lookout for more odd bods. Just pull up in the car, sit, wait, Jim will come at his own pace. He has to be comfortable with George; he's like a wounded animal, distrustful, alone, scared, hackles up.

Interrogating someone who's been tortured, about their torture, seems like no fun at all. That's just multiplied by the fact that Jim wasn't brought in from the cold in the traditional manner, he was just dismissed, almost as an afterthought, without even being interviewed. The facts were known. I go back and forth between loving George for being so brief and to the point with Jim, getting it over quickly, and hating him for not dancing around Jim's obvious raw spots.

I imagine if first-time viewers weren't already bored out of their skulls watching this by the time this ep comes around, this'd be the one to do it. The hugeness of the clues George is putting together is hidden by how deviously the knowledge is partitioned, and how mundane Who knew what, when is. Sam barely knows what's going on at all, having been practically on vacation already when Operation Testify went south, but he does relate that Bill Haydon knew about the fiasco in Czechoslovakia before he had any reasonable means to. Jim isn't surprised at all that Toby Esterhaus knew enough to use the words "Tinker Tailor", probably because he was shell-shocked but also because his bosses are all chorusing 'facts are known' at him via Toby. But that information blows George away. Nobody was supposed to know "Tinker Tailor" except for Control and Prideaux, and here's Toby batting it about with casual flamboyance. Hmmm, Toby...
posted by carsonb at 1:51 PM on March 20, 2015


"Oh, the safe houses I have known"
Best forshadowing. Good synopsis. The sticking point is that Jim is supposed to have full anonymity concerning his relocation. Jim knows nothing and likes it. This version has Mendel appear but the book and new movie have George just showing up.
Jim is the key to George's hunch of Bill being the baddy due to their close past. (1937 in the novel)
So it's carful treading because Jim initially thinks George is still with the Circus, probably did not know Control was dead, like the novel.
George discovers the real clue "tinker, tailor". Innocent enough when told to never utter it again.
I think Jim knew when he was released it was Xxx. And that loyalty held the lie together.
Roach is an interesting character. But only as a mirror of Jim to a degree.
Toby was sent to hush up Jim at Sarret sic sp because tobe was George's recruit. Clever, thus allaying any of Jims queries. The movie says Toby was Controls man but Le Carre has a lot of Toby's in his work.
posted by clavdivs at 12:24 AM on March 21, 2015


So it's carful treading because Jim initially thinks George is still with the Circus, probably did not know Control was dead, like the novel.

It also seemed like he thought he was going to get the Turing treatment when George was reciting the 'odd bit' from Haydon's letter of recruitment—About 8 foot tall and from the same firm that did Stonehenge. I think the palpable relief he feels when George dismisses the homosexual dalliances of his youth as unimportant is a big key to getting him to talk about Operation Testify.

I think Jim knew when he was released it was Xxx. And that loyalty held the lie together.

I'm a bit incredulous about it being 'loyalty' I guess I'd probably categorize it as love-blindness. I'll have to watch this ep one more time (OH NOES!) but there's a part in their conversation where some bit of business between Jim and George gets a reaction out of George and you expect Jim to address that reaction but instead it's all about his best buddy Bill.
posted by carsonb at 12:10 PM on March 21, 2015


It also seemed like he thought he was going to get the Turing treatment when George was reciting the 'odd bit' from Haydon's letter of recruitment

Yes, it's a pretty nasty bit of blackmail from Smiley. He's at his most manipulative in this episode - unconcerned and even a bit exasperated when Prideaux is retching after learning his agents were shot.

But, that's the game Smiley is playing - even if you're on the "right side" espionage is conducted by blackmail, bribery and forced betrayals. It thrives on human weakness. And Smiley is good at the game. Think about the operation Smiley and Control run in The Spy Who Came in from the Cold: it's morally repugnant.

As Alec Leamas says: "What do you think spies are? They are a bunch of seedy squalid bastards like me."

there's a part in their conversation where some bit of business between Jim and George gets a reaction out of George and you expect Jim to address that reaction but instead it's all about his best buddy Bill.

I think you're referring to Karla taunting Jim with Smiley's lighter during his interrogation ("perhaps he should have the inscription changed after the business with Bill" or words to that effect) - he jumps in to defend Bill (which Karla must have found amusing) even though it's obviously meant as a slight on Smiley. It is perhaps the most striking bit of that whole conversation.
posted by sobarel at 1:42 PM on March 21, 2015


Yep! That's the part. It's striking how that part of the interrogation shows just how wrapped up in himself Jim is, what a large part of his mind is taken up by Bill.

I love how George's exasperation—that's a great word for it—is based in his expectation that everyone he's dealing with is on the same page in terms of the nature of their business. At least when Prideaux is retching we finally get a logical reason for lighting a cigarette. That may be the only time it's not excessive, seemingly pointless tobacco-burning in the whole series.
posted by carsonb at 2:14 PM on March 21, 2015


"a big key to getting him to talk about Operation Testify. "

Agreed, but I think it would be confusing to enter the books plot thus the key is for George to ascertain the part of the craft most dangerous, a cold, possible hostile contact that if discovered could get them both killed. This is that understanding that George and Jim dance with ala the neck comment.
"Dame Ya gorge".
Once they understand Lacon and Co. Are at the helm of this off the record firm, it gets smoother. Interview I would use, yes some tough questions but that look Carsonb refered I believe was George gauging Jims honesty in not knowing the current state of affairs.
Ok, your George, going in blind with questions but if Jim does south, so to say, the gig is up-Alvis is doing Patrick Magooahand circa 1967.

Jesus I thought know one ELsE found this series like, the best thing filmed for television in the 20th C.
Concerning espionage that is.
posted by clavdivs at 4:02 PM on March 21, 2015


"At least when Prideaux is retching we finally get a logical reason for lighting a cigarette. That may be the only time it's not excessive, seemingly pointless tobacco-burning in the whole series."

you little scalp hunter. Was just thinking that.
That scence is key and shot with cinematic genius. A quick cut before we seem him inhale.
Empathy
Goerge being George
Routine
Predictable
Logic versus extractions guilt.
Cut.
posted by clavdivs at 4:08 PM on March 21, 2015


Oh man, Jim Prideaux' impression of Toby Esterhase is uncanny. You can just see Tobes in his new suit and pompous tie saying, Forget it. Forgeeeeht eeht!
posted by carsonb at 8:18 PM on March 21, 2015


A quick cut before we seem him inhale.

Yah but plenty of time to watch him use matches to light it.
posted by carsonb at 8:19 PM on March 21, 2015


Maybe he'll get that lighter back one of these days...

I also liked George's tiniest of smiles when he hears Karla's jibe about Toby's dress sense.
posted by sobarel at 6:41 AM on March 22, 2015


Oh that's the genius, the match barely strikes and cut. It's the motion he goes through to distract from His own emotions
posted by clavdivs at 2:18 PM on March 22, 2015


It's the motion he goes through to distract from His own emotions

Yes, exactly. It's the same thing he does with cleaning his glasses - although in that case it's something he does both to put something physical between him and other people and to see them more precisely.
posted by sobarel at 2:31 PM on March 22, 2015


That lighter damn near cost the whole lot.
George's lighter from Anne pinched by KARLA in 1955. Why did he let Karla take it. Was he hot, the weather not the lighter but likely...
The lighter is not KARLAs ticket to the top of the special sauce bureau no, it's a sovengher si sp.
Karla already had bill in his pocket by 55' so he wasn't returning to the cellar basement, he was coming in from the cold to take over with the help of George's lighter after all who could attain such a thing Alex vlad my presidium chum.

I'm KARLA, I've interrogated Bills buddy, he's been through hell and knows about the mole but that's lost isn't it, lost to the miracle of getting out and forgetting. Why show Jim the lighter. A mere symbol of George's weakness that indirects his psyche into Cold War battle mode?
It was a signal of the most simple kind. Tell George I have his lighter because no one else will. It's a future chip. One free pass for another.
The thing is, would bill have known? I doubt it.

"Will he get it back "
Is what sold me on George's genius, it was his dog whistle all along, so to say, but that's another tale.
posted by clavdivs at 9:27 PM on March 22, 2015


and to see them more precisely.
posted by sobarel

Yes, I think sir Alec knew this hence his stare at the line "...on the wanted list" to Tarr in Ep. 1.

'A comparative George'
would make a neat project.
posted by clavdivs at 9:34 PM on March 22, 2015


Is what sold me on George's genius, it was his dog whistle all along, so to say, but that's another tale.

Let's not get ahead of ourselves. (Oh who am I kidding, you probably shouldn't read this comment if you haven't seen TTSS or Smiley's People before.)

Why show Jim the lighter.

Karla thinks that's George's thing. Is it a clue too that Karla didn't ask Jim for an update on Bill? Bland, is he still drinking? Toby, who would trust anyone who dressed like that?* Alleline still whatever? All the gossip on these big boys, plus a little taunting for George.** But Karla's apparently not curious at all about Bill Haydon. Hm.

* Maybe the man who recruited him? George knows Toby, and understands his affectations and his reasons. He's a rum chap, but good....
** Karla believes that everyone has a thing, that will break them in interrogation, or turn them double when needed, or motivate them to do things they never normally would, and all you need to do is find that thing and exploit it. When George pricks Gassman (Karla) in India all those years ago, he does it by imagining what life for his wife would be like, her having seen him shot to death and then banished to Siberia. Karla is heady and confident at the time, turned on and watching for the smallest advantage he can leverage against Smiley down the line. He sees George become inspired to the Death/Siberia line of interrogation by his wife's inscription on the lighter, and he makes the (faulty) assumption that their relationship is George's thing. Once he has that, he's done with the interrogation and leaves. But is he really offended, or does Karla just think he have what he needs from George now, his thing, and fake the wife angst to end the interrogation? He takes the lighter, but moreso he takes Anne's inscription, Anne's gift to George, and that symbolizes how he plans to take her away from him literally in the future. It's a little humorous, actually, because George (potentially) being wrong about Karla's thing gives Karla the wrong idea about George's thing.

George can't not let the man he thinks is dead-man-walking take a final few cigarettes and the lighter from his flagrantly philanderous wife. It would be petty and small to demand it back, maybe he thinks. Or maybe George lets it go because it really doesn't mean much to have a little lighter from Anne. But clearly it does, since he never uses another lighter, ever. Anyway, point being Karla taking George's thing via the lighter and [spoilers]
posted by carsonb at 11:35 AM on March 23, 2015


Gassman taking the lighter was George's own mistake by volition.
KARLA was not active yet but what did the lighter do, reactivate bill because HERE is smileys lighteryoubozrembergeorge?Gassmans flummoxed boss is replaced. Seems the likely route.

But why show it to Prideaux? To shut him up/ confuse and mis-direct him most likely.
It's george it's control its bland or Bill but certainly not Tobe.
But Jim evading reference to bill (I was in quarantine-yes, but...) seems to hint at his evading George's question, which he does not ask, who do you think the mole is. Bills release was designed for a smart person not to ask questions and that is sad.

Jerry was interrogated but expected it. "Hunting alone...that stare was a 9 seconds of George frozen face. Jerry was the third piece of evidence, a letter he burned from jerry about his encounter with tobe and the your "plastered, in an alcoholic haze" meeting. Then the camera is pulled back, Jerry is a true heart, an hounarable man.
posted by clavdivs at 3:40 AM on March 24, 2015


Jerry (Westerby) shows up at the beginning of the next episode... Mentioning only because I have plenty to say about him but this is not the place.
posted by carsonb at 11:25 AM on March 24, 2015


EP. 5, scene index 4: "Pub Tales". George "runs into" Jerry and gets the czechko bar story which he reported to tobe-one after Jers' Budapest drop. Jerry is not in episode 6. The end of Ep.5 is the interrogation of Toby who's voice once again modulated towards the right pitch of snob with a slight Hungarian "dwroll" that sounds like slight lisp. Toby folds after George's "thesis". "5, Lock-Gardens, Camden Town" The Polyakov circle, like a contorted "Bloomsbury lot" with someone spiking the Chianti is thus reveled.
posted by clavdivs at 11:53 PM on March 24, 2015


"George Smiley conducts two interviews, first with old hand Sam Collins, the duty officer on the night Jim Prideaux was shot"

This incident took place in episode 4, scene 6. at the CHC which Sam runs.
Are you using the US 6 episode version or the BBC 7 episode version?

Jerry Westerby: Rum chap, Toby Esterhase.
George Smiley: But good.
Jerry Westerby: God, brilliant! First-rate chap! But rum.

"...his affectations and his reasons. He's a rum chap, but good..."

That was a dog whistle. Rum chap=pirate.

This was said at the end of Jerrys' interview to deflect from Smileys "hunting" but really he's availing his services to George. George is satisfied and they both ironically lift tankards to drink.
posted by clavdivs at 12:45 AM on March 25, 2015


Original 7 episode BBC version, please and thank you. I didn't even realize it had been recut for the American airing, what a shame.
posted by carsonb at 7:47 AM on March 25, 2015


Ah, sorry for crossover, no intended spoilers.
posted by clavdivs at 3:29 PM on March 25, 2015


There's quite a lot of Bill Haydon in this one, isn't there. And again, it's not what people know, but when. They know before they're supposed to, which means they're closer to the leak. Bill and Toby, Toby and Bill...

Also love the jibe about Toby's dress sense. The next time we see him he's in some garish burgundy-and-black getup.

Want any throats cut, George?
posted by the man of twists and turns at 6:29 AM on April 1, 2015


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