The Sandbaggers: Always Glad to Help
March 18, 2016 5:08 PM - Season 1, Episode 5 - Subscribe

The Ministry of Defence asks the SIS to send a diver to investigate a Russian merchant ship that they suspect has been outfitted to launch espionage operations against NATO and French naval bases. Sir Geoffrey Wellingham asks the SIS to organize a coup in the middle east. A Russian defector walks into the British embassy in Ankara. Dickens, Caine, and Burnside are left with very little time to sort through murky and contradictory information about internal and external plots.

Warning at the outset: This is a problematic episode, with Prince Hamad of the fictional Arab state of Al Jalada played by a white actor in dark makeup.
posted by Grimgrin (6 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
That was an effective car stunt.
posted by detachd at 8:45 AM on March 20, 2016

No airbags back then.

"I'm a special agent. I'm James Bond. And I get paid less than an Assistant Undersecretary at the Foreign Office."

"Yes, let's not go into that again."

Occasionally Peele did manage to score.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 12:11 PM on March 20, 2016 [1 favorite]

The creep factor was pretty high with the comments about Dickens and other women in this one; that kind of stood out.

I had thought the frogman attempt on the Russian ship might turn out more like this botched operation.
posted by MoonOrb at 1:41 PM on March 20, 2016

MoonOrb: Thanks for that link, helps add context to the mission and events of the episode.

As I was thinking about this episode, I realized that the divers only went ahead because of the language Peel put in the mission pack to get it through. Peel's attempt to give the brief 'more bite' could have lead to a disaster and more, a disaster that the agency had signed off on. I realized this is part of why Burnside's character works. He understands consequences, even if he doesn't gauge what they're going to be correctly, he typically behaves like someone who is aware of the potential consequences of their actions and making a considered decision. Those decisions are often monstrous, but they're not cavalier like Peel's end run here.
posted by Grimgrin at 4:11 PM on March 21, 2016

Those decisions are often monstrous, but they're not cavalier like Peel's end run here.

This ep does a good job contrasting Burnside's motivation to be the best Intelligence Officer possible with basically everyone else around him (who isn't a Sandbagger). For instance his celebrated former relative wants to mount a coup for his own personal glory, and that alone is enough to get Peel hot-stepping to it.

I might've fallen in love with Dickens a little when she pranged the Mini. SIS is in a middle of a budget cutback, Burnside warns her to be careful with the requisitioned vehicle (not just for the sake of the vehicle, but because anything happens to it and suddenly he's got to fill out 14 different forms) and she just honey-badgers it into an embankment. She's just so... infuriating!... And irresistible!

Also re: budgets, I like the part where the loud red phone rings not long after the budget discussion with Peel about the Sandbaggers' airfare. A possible defector? Sure! We'll send Sandbagger 1 to the other end of Europe straight away! Darling, set a flight up would you?
posted by carsonb at 7:38 PM on March 21, 2016

New to watching this show and it is so very good. I really like Diane Keen as Laura Dickens, she brings a lot of necessary freshness to the show. The sexism, her contempt for the Sandbaggers, her absolute competence. I love the way she just rolled that Mini like it was no big thing. And her switching between honeypot wardrobe and ordinary sensible business dress.
posted by Nelson at 6:21 PM on August 29, 2023

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