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Saturday, March 10, 2012

Sunday At The Movies! "Smiley's People," Chapter 6: Karla Comes Home.

As the American version of, "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy," is currently running in theaters across the country, I thought it might be fun to skip ahead two novels and post the BBC miniseries, "Smiley's People." I'll put up a chapter on Sundays over the next month and a half. I have not seen the American version of the Fist novel in the Karla series yet, but years ago, while attending Ohio State, I along with a room mate in my dorm watched for 7 consecutive Sundays the BBC version. "Smiley's People," represents the 7th novel featuring George Smiley, and the 3rd involving his life long nemesis, Karla Ostrakov.

Chapter 6 begins with the kidnapping and turning of Counselor Gregoriev. The scenes of Alec Guiness turning adversaries are masterfully done, in both this movie and in, "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy." You may notice that the Smiley character is seated beneath a portrait of Ludwig Von Beethoven. this is symbolic of his complete control of the script from here on out. The play has been written, and Smiley is now merely a conductor, arranging for the forced defection of a man who does not yet realize that Smiley has been endeavoring to destroy his life by exploiting the weaknesses he has found. When Smiley does defeat Karla, after a 30 year battle, the victory will seem empty to him against the back drop of a cold war which is going to continue, unchanged, without him and Karla. In the end, a broken Karla faces an old Smiley. The two men face each other and without a word, the audience is able to witness both the hatred and respect the two men have for each other. Each has adopted the very same tactics of cruelty and evil in pursuit of winning the war for his side. (For those who have or have not read the Smiley series of novels, a simple trip down memory lane will serve to remind us that George, while he may be polite and seem mild mannered, is capable and culpable of great evil. He has the blood of Nan Perry, Fred Leiser, Alec Leemas, Fiedler, and many others, all who died because it was a matter of expedience.) The last action of Karla is to drop the now infamous cigarette lighter on the ground at the feet of Smiley, without actually handing it to him. His way of acknowledging that Smiley has won, but the victory only came at the end of a life time of defeat. Smiley refuses to pick up the lighter, which symbolizes an acknowledgement the the victory was empty. In the end, George had to be reminded that he had won, and with a previous life that had been destroyed by Karla and the business of doing battle with Karla, we are reminded that George has no real desire to continue in retirement alone, with no purpose, and the only real thing in his life, his part of the Cold War, having again been taken from him.

Faces you might recognize. Patrick Stewart is Karla Ostrakov. You might remember him as Jean Luc Piccard, captain of the Enterprise on, "Star Trek Next Generation." He was also Charles Xavier of the X-Men Trilogy.

While Stewart did not actually say anything in either mini series in which he portrayed Karla Ostrakov, it is hard to imagine that an unproven actor could have pulled the part off. In all three Karla novels, we are never treated to any Karla dialogue. His presence is still powerful, and it dictates the direction of the story, merely by his presence. (In, "The Honourable School Boy," the portrait of Karla hangs above Smiley's desk at the headquarters of the Circus.) Smiley is constantly haunted by Karla, and we get the sense that Karla is similarly haunted by Smiley. (We know this because Karla continues to keep the cigarette lighter, even through George's two retirements.) So, while Stewart did not actually have any lines, we still needed an actor who could portray that entire array of emotions without speaking, and with only a few seconds of time in the movie.



Agent - A spy recruited by a foreign government to spy on their own country. This term should not be confused with a case officer, the intelligence service member who recruited and then handled the spy.

Babysitters - Bodyguards

Circus - MI6, the British intelligence service.

The Competition - MI5, British counter espionage service. Also referred to as the, "security mob."

The Cousins - The CIA or any American intelligence service.

Distress Rocket - An emergency signal to a logistical support structure that a crash meeting or other prearranged measures are necessary, often involving new identities and emergency legends.

Ferrets - Tech people who find and remove bugs, cameras, or an attempt to spy on the good guys.

Honey Trap - A sexual trap intended for black mail or murder.

Housekeepers - Internal auditors or accountants who are used to insure discipline within the service.

Inquisitors - Interrogators who debrief agents or defectors.

Janitors - Headquarters staff and guards of internal secure areas.

Lamplighters - Watchers, surveillance staff, couriers.

Legend - A false biography and accompanying documents for a covert operative, be they a control officer or a mole.

Mole - A recruited agent who does not begin spying on his target for a long period of time. Usually they have worked their way up through an organization until such time as a preset target has been reached, and then activated after a period of years. In, "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy," for instance, Gerald was recruited in 1955 and not activated until 1972.

Mothers - Secretaries, researchers, clerical staff, most trusted by case officers.

Nuts and Bolts - Logistical support.

Pavement Artists - Specialized surveillance teams who can follow without getting caught.

Priests - The Legislative overseers of MI6. (Intelligence oversight committees etc.)

Scalp hunters - Professional thugs, handling assassinations, bribery, break ins, beatings, kidnappings etc.

Shoemakers - Forgers, they provide false identities in the form of passports, drivers licenses, etc.

Wranglers - Intelligence analysts, cryptographers, the people who look at raw reports, documents, photos, etc., and pass on authenticity, meaning, scope, etc.

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