The Prisoner: A. B. and C.   Rewatch 
July 19, 2014 6:29 AM - Season 1, Episode 3 - Subscribe

Number Two believes Number Six had planned to sell information when he resigned, and tries to discover which of three agents Six was planning on selling out to.

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posted by DevilsAdvocate (11 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

Firstly: wow, the placement of this episode makes much more sense in this order than it does in air order. It makes no sense to split the Colin Gordon episodes -- he's not an effective Two, why would he be returned to the Village for another crack at Six? And it feels like this one does naturally follow The General as it portrays Two under pressure from his superiors to get results fast, which makes more sense after his failure in The General

The only argument for placing it early in the run is maybe that it does reveal some of what Six's job involved; it's a very clear "yes, Six was a field agent" statement.

I said in the post for The General that I liked this one a lot more. And I do. It's a turning point in that it's the first unqualified win for Six: this is where he starts besting Two, and this is I think the first episode in which Two is genuinely surprised by Six.

It also shows Two as more vulnerable than he has until now. The previous Twos' failures to break Six have generally been portrayed as "never mind, you gave it a good shot"; but Gordon's Two is harried and stressed, and clearly there will be unpleasant consequences for him if he fails.

(A subtle nod to this shift in power: previous Twos have served Six food -- breakfast, tea -- as a display of how much they know about him. Gordon's Two relinquishes this power, asking Six to pour him some milk.)
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 9:07 AM on July 19, 2014 [5 favorites]

Also: Peter Bowles is deliciously slimy.
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 9:21 AM on July 19, 2014 [1 favorite]

Bwahahaha! Peter Bowles is my husband's uncle!
posted by potsmokinghippieoverlord at 2:53 PM on July 19, 2014 [1 favorite]

Actually, I wish I could ask him questions about this episode (and many other things) but I understand that he's a bit of a technophobe so doesn't "do" email. Any questions would have to be relayed via my mother-in-law and then it becomes a game of Telephone.
posted by potsmokinghippieoverlord at 2:55 PM on July 19, 2014

That wrist nonsense gave the whole game away. And Six used that to his complete advantage.

Couldn't they use the inside of the elbow?
posted by RainyJay at 6:08 PM on July 19, 2014

For me the weak point is how incredibly easily Six is able to break into the Secret Dreamwatching Lab, browse the dossiers and watch a film or two, tamper with the serum, and get out again without anyone noticing.

The show a bit fast and loose with this in general: the Village is a panopticon of constant overt and covert surveillance, but when it's necessary to the plot Six is often able -- either accidentally or deliberately -- to elude it.
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 3:58 PM on July 20, 2014 [2 favorites]

(eh, missed the edit window: plays a bit fast and loose.)
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 4:43 PM on July 20, 2014

-You were right, WHADKyle -- this is a much better episode than “The General,” and a much better one than I remember. It's been a long time since I watched it, and remembered the dodgy premise and the slow patches without remembering the wit of the ending, in which 6 completely reverses his role and 2's, sucking 2 into a “Who is Number 1?” narrative of his own. And more than that: he places the viewer in the role of 2, fascinated and irritated by 6, unable to understand his motivations despite several layers of televisual surveillance, hopelessly stuck on our side of the thick glass screen. He walks by on his endless rounds, he gives his salute and says his catchphrase, he doesn't disappoint the people who are watching – but he's safe back there, and he doesn't choose to come out.

It also helps to see it so far into the series – far from an arbitrary moment of resistance before the Village breaks him afresh, it's now the great turning point in his relationship with the Village.

-”The Prisoner” is never more explicitly a show about television than this week. I was aware during each moment of runtime that I was watching the story of a fictitious place, arbitrarily populated, whose inhabitant cannot leave – all as true in-universe as outside of it. The Village isn't just Neverland; it's also a sitcom hell.

-A propos of that, I love that the crucial moment for 6 was recognizing that B was being written out of character, "played" by an actress doing her best to make this shit make sense.

-The role-reversal of 2 and 6 begins early – it's nine minutes before we see our ostensible hero in a conscious state, and fourteen minutes before we actually see him up and in the real world, and we spend most of that time with 2. It's 2's story, 2 who's consumed by the need to know who the man behind the man is, 2 who breaks.

-Are we assuming that the party guest played by Georgina Cookson is the same person as Mrs. Butterworth from "Many Happy Returns"? He plainly doesn't know her when they meet in that episode, but his placement of her in his lucid dream suggests that he has seen her before, that she's somehow important, even if he doesn't consciously understand where or why. One assumes that anyone at this party, which is swarming with high-level agents, could be a reasonable candidate to be part of the talent pool of 2's; it's not unlikely that they have met in a place like this.

-Colin Gordon's 2 is unique because he genuinely doesn't like 6. Most 2's seem to feel neutral about the man, or enjoy his company, or take pleasure in tormenting him, but 6 just makes Gordon's 2 feel fretful and scared -- and I think it goes beyond 2's mandate to get information from 6 at any cost.

-”Where are you taking me?” “To the summit. To hand over your papers.” “I haven't seen him. No one has ever seen him.” That mountain again, and The Prisoner does The Man Who Was Thursday.

-It's extraordinary that 6 actually gives a substantial hint to the series' central question: yes, one can be sure that he didn't resign in order to defect. It's a red herring, falsely suggesting that the reason behind 6's resignation is going to be a proper serialized mystery, but I also appreciate it because it keeps the show from pure cynicism: there are some things we know about 6, however opaque he must remain, and one is that his ideals are sincere.
posted by thesmallmachine at 5:04 PM on July 20, 2014 [2 favorites]

Any time I start to get jaded about the internet, I remind myself of 1993 when I went across the country to visit a friend who had this episode on Betamax.
posted by whuppy at 6:35 AM on July 21, 2014 [2 favorites]

"We've researched and computed his whole life."

They still don't know what's going on in Our Hero's black box of a brain.

A, who "made the world news." This implies that there are links to the outside in the Village, or that staffers, like 2 and the doctor, can travel between.

Why is her number 6? There are so many higher numbers - almost everyone we meet. Was 6 free? Were they saving it for him?
posted by the man of twists and turns at 5:51 PM on July 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

This is one of my favorite episodes. I especially love the trippy/groovy party music during the third dream, and the finale genuinely blew my mind. One of the greatest turning points I've ever seen.
posted by isthmus at 10:28 PM on September 4, 2014

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