The opening teaser of The Saint, with Simon Templar chatting to the viewer at home, is always a bit self-reflexive (or whatever the current jargon is), but tonight's is even more so than usual, featuring, as it does, a pair of students (Nicholas Pennell and David Jackson, barely recognisable as Lofty from The Larkins. Their characters are listed in the credits as "Intelligent Undergraduate" and "Husky Undergraduate" respectively) watching Simon at a hotel bar and joking about him being the heroic type regularly approached by women in need of help. Simon is at pains to assure the viewer this isn't always the case at all: he's perfectly able to have a drink in a bar without coming to the aid of a damsel in distress. But lo and behold, here's a terribly upset Annette Andre: "My name is Madeleine Gray and my life's in danger!" Simon even conjures up his halo himself this week by noting that she's come to him "Because I'm the famous Simon Templar."
Madeleine tells Simon she's received her note threatening her life if she keeps an appointment with chemical company owner Hobart Quennel. She explains further that her father's a brilliant scientist whose new invention is worth millions. Simon offers to take her for dinner, but informs her that he doesn't believe a word of it. Madeleine storms out, and Simon goes to confront the students, who he's sure set him up. When he realises they didn't he races after her - she's on her way to Quennel's house, followed by what must surely be one of the most sinister gangs of crooks ever seen on TV, consisting of Peter Vaughan, Neil McCarthy and Michael Robbins.
Outside the Quennel residence there's fisticuffs aplenty with Morgen (McCarthy) and Smith (Robbins) trying to drag Madeleine away with them but being interrupted by Simon, who, of course, bests both men.
As the heavies slink off, Simon and Madeleine are approached by Vaughan's character Walter Devan (nobody seems sure how to pronounce his surname), who Madeleine knows well as Quennel's PA. They all head to the house, to be told by the aged butler (Ian Fleming - not that one) that Quennel's not in. His curiosity piqued as to what's going on, Simon takes Madeleine home and she explains her father's discovery of Process G: "a revolutionary new way of making synthetic fibres". An American company's offered Professor Gray a million dollars for the formula, but being a patriotic type, he's been trying to negotiate with Quennel's Quenco instead - though they've been oddly uncommunicative. So Madeleine was meeting with Quennel in a last ditch attempt to get something sorted. Simon decides to go and talk to the businessman in her place.
On his return to the Quennel home, Simon's greeted by the fabulous Justine Lord as Quennel's deranged nymphomaniac daughter Andrea: "Good evening." "It is now... My, but you're big and strong!" The plainly terrified Saint is saved from her clutches by her disapproving father (Geoffrey Keen). Simon demands to know what's going on with Process G, but Quennel claims that his scientists have shown it to be utterly useless. He seems baffled by the Americans' plan to pay so much for it, and promises to investigate further. Simon's convinced that Devan's behind whatever's going on.
After reporting back to an astonished Madeleine, Simon returns to his hotel room to find Andrea waiting for him (Why's he staying in a hotel in London? He lives there!).
A startled Madeleine walks in to find Andrea forcing a snog on Simon. He quickly boots the troublesome vamp out, responding to Madeleine's question of what she wanted with a hilarious glance. Madeleine's concerned because her father's not answering the phone.
The pair of them head to Professor Gray's home - there's no sign of him, but Simon discovers Morgen snooping around the lab. He demands to know where Gray is - shooting some bottles as a warning.
It escalates into another big fight, continuing the trend of increased violence in the show: Simon nearly gets acid in his face and the eventually beaten Morgen has blood dripping all done his chin. He agrees to talk, but is shot in the back by Smith before he can. Smith gets away.
The detective on the case of Gray's disappearance is not Claude Eustace Teale this time but the altogether friendlier Inspector Malloy (Robert Bruce).
Quennel visits Madeleine to sympathise over her father's disappearance. He says his scientists' reports don't add up and he's convinced there must be more to Process G than he's been told (he's being so nice that it's obvious he'll turn out to be the baddie).
Devan has mysteriously vanished, and Simon pitches up at the hotel room of Process G's American prospective buyer Cy Imburlaine (Ed Bishop, who, you may remember, was in the show last week as someone else) pretending to be him. Imburlaine knows he isn't as he's met Devan, and the two have a fight (for no real reason other than that this is what happens in The Saint). Afterward, Imburlaine insists he has no idea where either Devan or Gray are.
Once more, Simon finds Andrea in his hotel room. This time she's totally pissed. "I suffer from a kind of agitated boredom," she slurs in explanation for why she's pursuing him. She's surprised to be asked where Walter Devan is, as he's at home with her father.
At the Gray house. the kindly constable assigned to look after Madeleine notes that the lab's on fire and goes to investigate, leaving her at the mercy of Smith, who promises to take her to join her old man.
Simon returns to the Quennel household with Andrea. The industrialist cheerfully admits that he arranged Gray's kidnapping: it's all part of the dirty tricks you occasionally have to get up to in business. Gray wouldn't accept his offer for Process G, so he's decided to be extra persuasive.
Quennel offers Simon a job at £100,000 a year (in 1964 money!), but when the Saint turns him down he's roughed up by Devan and Smith.
Simon's taken off to join the Grays. Andrea confronts her father, and gets beaten up by him (this episode's remarkable for its violence against women).
Quennel's captives are kept in an air raid shelter on his grounds, and Simon's given 5 minutes to persuade the professor (Moultrie Kelsall) to sign over his formula. Instead, he sets to rigging up a device that will electrocute anyone who both stands on a wet newspaper on the floor and touches the metal doorknob.
Yes, it does sound a bit of a long shot, and there are a few tense moments when it looks like Devan won't fall foul of the trap. But eventually he does, enabling the captives' escape.
Simon confronts Quennel, only for Andrea to inform them that she's already informed the police about her father. She's the sort of character who almost always ends up tragically dead, so given Justine Lord's tremendously entertaining performance it's rather wonderful that not only does she survive but she sweeps in at the end of the episode, glammed up to the nines, just as Simon's trying to convince the students how unremarkable his life is.
This series of The Saint has been tremendous fun so far, and this is another winner.