Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy: Part 3: Smiley Tracks The Mole   First Watch 
March 4, 2015 10:54 PM - Season 1, Episode 3 - Subscribe

Smiley sends Guillam to The Circus headquarters at London Station to covertly follow up on Ricky Tarr's story, while he visits Oxford to pick the brain of former Head of Research Connie Sachs. Connections begin to appear as they compare notes, and George fills Peter in on Merlin, Witchcraft, and Percy Alleline's insufferable angling for Control's chair. There are three of them, and Alleline. Control's words.

With his nose firmly on the scent of the mole, George Smiley's ingenious interrogation style is on full display throughout this episode. First up is Connie Sachs (Beryl Reid). The character is purportedly based on British 'watcher' Milicent Bagot, who was instrumental in the outing of Kim Philby.

Then, in flashback, George spends some quality one-on-one time with Toby Esterhase (Bernard Hepton), Roy Bland (Terence Rigby), and Bill Haydon (Ian Richardson).
posted by carsonb (7 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Such a great episode, driving forward both with plot and character development. Love Percy's triumphant pomposity, love Peter "playing Burglar Bill", love poor old broken Connie ("listen you two-faced ferret..."). Personal favourite scene though is Roy Bland, in a grubby mac, pontificating on Primrose Hill:

"I don't know what the hell I've bought with it, but I've paid a packet. Poznan, Budapest, Prague, back to Poznan - have you ever been to Poznan? - Sofia, Kiev, two bloody nervous breakdowns and still between the shafts. That's big money at any age."
posted by sobarel at 5:14 AM on March 5, 2015 [2 favorites]

Peter steeling himself for the 'foreign country' treatment that he does indeed receive back at the Circus, oh man it's so tense but so understated! We've had little glimpses of Esterhaus, Bland, and Haydon up to now, like when Peter is being shown into the Circus, and the contempt they show for him speaks volumes even as they just stare at him, open-mouthed, silently. A glad hand, indeed!

Bland's What's the deal? insistence and casual dismissal of his father's implied disapproval of his loyalty firesale is infuriating. His immediate demands for a ridiculous payout to stay loyal to Control and Smiley only prove that he's already been given some sort of 'deal' to get on board with Alleline's Witchcraft scheme. I do like how Bland and Smiley's conversation (or I guess it's Smiley's recollection of their conversation) gives us so much background with so few words. Bland's dad was presumably a Czech (or something) defector brought in by Smiley long ago, and then Smiley subsequently recruited Bland to The Circus. (Oh, and that little bit of story is echoed in Smiley's People with the truck driver...) Bland's straddling of communism/capitalism makes for an interesting argument, but he's clearly put too much stock in Haydon's 'pigs in clover' grousing.

Toby wants a promotion, and seems assured that Alleline has already promised him one.

Bill is oddly on the defensive. He goes straight to the 'How's Anne' tactic of resisting Smiley's interrogation, and does a pretty good job of covering up the fact that he's really, really curious about what Control has been investigating. He thinks George's blind spot is Anne, when actually it's the fact that he and George want to know pretty much the same thing: What's your boss up to?
posted by carsonb at 4:27 PM on March 6, 2015 [1 favorite]

Bland's dad was presumably a Czech (or something) defector brought in by Smiley long ago, and then Smiley subsequently recruited Bland to The Circus.

Bland's father was a dockworker and trade unionist (or "commie thug" as Roy describes him in this episode...) in London. In a sense Roy is the defector, having used his family connections as a way into the Eastern Bloc while working overtly as a left-wing academic and covertly for the Circus.

Roddy Martindale refers to him as "the first red-brick Don to make the Circus" in the first episode, with some fairly explicit class snobbery. Smiley, Alleline and Haydon are gentlemen. Esterhase wants to be one so much that he's ridiculous. Bland meanwhile isn't pretending - maybe he can buy "the kid into Eton" but he knows he's not truly a part of either of the worlds he has a foot in.

I suppose this dual existence, and his evident cynicism, might lead one to suspect him of being capable of being a double agent...
posted by sobarel at 5:29 PM on March 6, 2015 [1 favorite]

Ah, that context about Bland's dad (from the books, right?) makes his position a lot more understandable for me. Also, while I've seen this episode 12 times this week alone, my American ears have never once heard anything other than "And the kids to eat it too." I thought Bland was asking Smiley for a wife and kids to enjoy the riches he's "paid" for.

And the kids to Eton makes a lot more sense.
posted by carsonb at 5:18 PM on March 7, 2015

One of the things that strikes me about this series compared to the film (starring Gary Oldman) is how lived-in everything looks. The film was saturated in 70s period wear and furniture, where this looks like ... a shabby set of government office filled with bureaucrats who are as worried about their own fiefdoms as they are in doing their jobs.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 4:10 PM on March 30, 2015

One of the ways to evaluate the mole candidates is how quickly they move to mention Ann.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 5:16 PM on March 30, 2015

Speaking of both those comments, wasn't there a bit in the film that wasn't in the BBC production where Bill had been the one to give the Callo to Ann, who in turn gave it to George?
posted by carsonb at 3:22 PM on March 31, 2015

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