Season 4 Episode 2

Call Me Sir!

Aired Saturday 9:00 PM Mar 08, 1972 on ITV
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Episode Summary

Call Me Sir!
When the KGB gave Callan back to Britain they mistakenly thought he was an important operative. To hide their mistake they may want to eliminate Callan… and Lonely could be part of a trap.

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  • The KGB thought Callan was more important than he really is, but they had to send him back to Britain to regain their own man. Now Callan must die as payback, and Section are reluctant to protect him - Callan is just not important enough. But he might be.moreless


    At an impressive looking manor house in the English countryside Callan peers out into the rain and waits for his visitors.

    It's Bishop, someone higher up in the Section apparently though no-one seems to know. He has Stafford with him in the back seat for protection, but the windows are wound down despited the rain. Stafford assures the boss they're nearly there. Bishops sneezes, from hay fever and the cold and asks for the windows to be wound up now. Stafford says a closed window wouldn't stop a bullet coming in but a shattered pain would slow him down if he tried to return the fire. So, that would be a no. The driver toots at a bum shuffling along the road who looks at the car suspiciously. Bishop envies the hobos life and their lack of responsibilities - easy to do when it's raining and you're in the back of a limousine.

    Callan is disappointed to meet only Bishop - he had hoped to see Hunter after so many months in prison and now the extra time in the debriefing house. Instead he gets Bishop - a man nobody is sure about or even his position, apart from higher up. Callan expresses his desire to leave the service and retire, perhaps open a small business. For every idea he has Bishop poo-poos it for lack of qualifications and financing. Callan may be allowed a small half-pension on retirement but that's about it. Bishop makes the whole notion of going elsewhere sound impossible. Callan snaps regarding the department's stinginess but Bishop reminds him that while he was in a Russian KGB prison they did continue paying him a service allowance even though he wasn't officially on service. Very generous. Bishop says the retirement, "Just isn't on, you're a marked man. You will simply have to stay with the service." Unhappy but seeing no option, Callan agrees. He demands a 9 to 5 desk job with no chance of dying but he will do anything. Bishop looks at him curiously and asks what like, but Callan isn't fussy - crypto, admin, training...

    Eventually they all drive back to the city. Callan is eager to catch up on his only 'friend'. This friend is Lonely, of course, his smelly little thief friend.

    Lonely is earning some money on the side posing for a woman called Mayhew in her apartment/portrait studio. As they chat about his nervous condition that makes him so stinky she asks how his friend Callan is. Lonely says he hasn't seen him since he last saw him. He seems a little chuffed someone wanted to paint him. Suddenly Mayhew notices someone outside at his truck, and Lonely says he recognises him.

    Later Lonely brings the truck back to his boss at the junk yard. He is late and the boss whinges about Lonely having a fancy woman on the side - while muttering he's "Lucky b*gger". As Lonely returns to the truck for some plumbing ballcocks the vehicle explodes.

    Bishop brings Callan to a fairly ornate, mostly pink, apartment. As they walk in their is a sound like a gunshot and on reflex Callan reaches for a weapon - but its just Hunter with a bottle of champagne welcoming him home. Not only is the place decorated like the inside of a stomach it has a guard on duty 24 hours a day to escort him wherever he goes, a window made of bullet-proof glass, and an alarm system turned on and off by a very convenient ON-OFF dial located beside the window.

    The new apartment is to be Callan's, and is somewhat better than the usual dingy hovels they find for him. In fact, it's all a bit too good for the likes of him and wants to know what it's all about. Bishop tries to explain. The transcripts of the debriefing show he didn't tell the KGB much and he agrees he told them nothing they didn't already know. He is certain because they had no chance to use the hard interrogation drugs on him before the swap.

    It seems the British analysts have a theory that the KGB wildly overestimated Callan's importance to the service, and apart from wanting their own spy back they were confident they had something of equal value to exchange. Feeling that they have yielded up a valuable pawn, the KGB will probably now want to do something about it. Hunter confirms they know an agent has been sent over to kill him. Bishop remarks that Callan picked a bad time to talk about his future, when it seems as though he doesn't have one. Although Callan says he should be safe in that secure apartment with the alarm and the guard and his gun... well, Bishop being the pen-pusher he is, whines about being unable to justify the expense because, frankly, Callan in his current position he doesn't warrant it.

    As with most of these comments about his lack of worth, Callan looks despondent. However, his future position may warrant it. Bishop wonders why Callan didn't suggest a promotion to a higher post as an alternative job? Callan is flabbergasted - the idea is terrible. Him as a leader? Bishop and Hunter disagree and believe that Callan's hobby of playing war games with model soldiers, and rarely losing a battle, shows he enjoys the thrill of command and makes good command decisions. Now maybe is the time to use real soldiers. Callan is bewildered - possibly because a part of him recognises the truth.

    Callan walks into the junkyard pretending to be a Mr.Grimshaw. He finds Lonely's old boss cutting up the burnt-out shell of a truck. He tells Callan Lonely got hurt and taken to hospital but it was nothing serious. Since then he's been missing - probably with his fancy woman, the boss moans. Callan finds this notion almost impossible to believe but goes to the address he's given.

    He goes to home of the painter, Mayhew, and introduces himself as Mr.Grimshaw from social security. He goes on about Lonely's late wife and his kids, and says they need to contact him urgently. Mayhew hasn't seen him lately but she owes him money for being her model. She shows Callan the portrait - pretty good, too, in a craggy, grotty way. She promises to call Mr. Grimshaw if Lonely returns, but Callan says he is out and about all the time so he'll call her. She sees a car parked on the road and mentions that Lonely saw the man in that car the other day and said it was a friend. Callan goes down to the car and finds Stafford in it. The car came from the pool, he says. He thinks Cross had it out last.

    Hunter is concerned about offering a top job to Callan because he's never done anything like it before. Bishop shrugs off the concerns. "The position could make him," he says. "Or break him," Hunter adds. "No," Bishop is ominous. "That's our job."

    When Callan arrives in Hunter's office, Bishop and Hunter are sitting at the coffee table. Before they can speak he demands a job that's non-operational. Anything at all. Hunter instantly agrees. Callan is amazed. It was that easy? Then Hunter tells him to sit down. After a quick glance about there is only one other chair - behind the desk. Hunter's.

    It's dawning on Callan as he quietly asks where to sit. Hunter tells him to try the one behind the desk as it goes with the job. Callan laughs because it must be a joke to offer him that! The desk and chair represent to him all the orders that turn his stomach. Lying, cheating, double-dealing, dying... "That bloody desk has dominated my life!" He is reminded one of the fringe benefits of the position is the safety. Callan reminds Hunter that not all the Hunters have been safe... and they recall Callan shooting the previous Hunter.

    There is no option as Hunter must go elsewhere and there are no other immediate candidates. Bedises, Bishop says, the Russians think Callan is important and if they find he isn't, well, "We can't have them sn*ggering into their samovars". So the option is to make Callan important. Still unconvinced Callan tries for another department but they point out these departments are specialised and, just as he is a specialist in his field, there is no place for him in theirs. Angry, Callan says there is only one alternative left. Ominously, Bishop says he can think of two... but what was the one Callan had in mind? Oh, retirement.

    At this Hunter tells him if he retired he would be immediately placed in a red file because he might turn freelance - no one loves a freelance - or defect or be assassinated. Seeing the only alternative is an unmarked grave in a pine forest, Callan agrees to the job. But he's not happy.

    Hunter and Callan work late into the night in the office with Hunter showing him all the files etc. There is a special telephone. Who is it from? Callan asks, but it seems no one knows as it has never rung. Yet. It is a direct line and if it rings he must immediately follow any instructions from it to the letter. Callan is looking a little overwhelmed so Hunter tells him to call if he needs to. How will others feel about his promotion, Callan wonders, then decides he doesn't care he can handle it. Hunter picks up his bag and leaves, pausing at the door to announce grandly: "I leave without a particle of regret." He then says good night to Callan and corrects himself and calls him "Hunter." Now it is sinking in to Callan and he's even more concerned. He slides his magnum into the desk drawer.

    Next morning Liz puts flowers on Callan's desk, turning over his calendar and doing all the nice things a secretary does for a boss she likes. Cross plays with her typewriter, grinding his teeth and making snide comments about the new appointment. He wonders if Callan knows about Lonely yet.

    Over at Mayhew's place, the bum from the country road in the beginning scene is scavenging around in her bin. He must be hungry, having travelled so far for a rubbish bin. She takes pity on him and tells him to come inside for a feed.

    Callan sits at the Hunter desk, feeling a bit pleased with himself. It's not so bad after all. He notes the flowers and smiles. He calls Liz in to take notes and tells her to call him David in private, but she prefers Sir. Oh well. She passes him the latest files but tells him to look at the red one first. It's Lonely's. It's been active for a week and Cross is on it, she says.

    Cross is called in and claims he doesn't know where Lonely is. He was 'mislaid'. Callan takes this as a euphemism for what they usually do when they 'mislay' people; on some Essex mud flat? Down a disused mine shaft? He thinks they might have even buried him with a fake phony death certificate and funeral! Cross laughs this off because that method is a failure - "Sometimes they come back." Like Callan did. This just angers Callan more, especially when Cross sits down without being invited to and is sarcastic. Callan reminds him he is boss now and decides who gets what job. He tells Cross to call him Sir, but Cross refuses and storms out. Cross is standing near Liz in her office, fuming, when Callan calls Liz on the intercom and asks her to phone the old Hunter to arrange a meeting. As she dials, Cross watches.

    Hunter and Callan are drinking up in Callan's pink palace and Hunter openly agrees he put Lonely in a red file because he knew too much about Callan and was causing trouble. Hunter says Callan can take him from the red file as he is the new Hunter, but he must be able to justify everything he does to those above him. That's the hard part. Feelings are no justification for anything here.

    Callan, still posing as Grimshaw, calls Mayhew and asks if she has heard from Lonely. Although initially concerned he might be police, Mayhew relents and gives Callan the address of a doss house. Callan is about to leave his front door to find Lonely when he thinks twice about his personal guard waiting form him downstairs. Instead he goes to his window, turns off the convenient alarm, and climbs out.

    He arrives at a dingy men's hostel dormitory full of snoring men. The one awake and eating cold fish and chips is Lonely. It's the first time they've seen each other since Callan turned up at his own grave and Lonely fainted upon seeing him. Callan shrugs off the whole funeral thing but Lonely is still hurt about the incident. When Callan says Lonely is in trouble the thief agrees but thinks it is the police after him about the truck exploding in the junk yard. It seems he had been minding a parcel for a friend of his and he didn't know what was in it, although he had an idea it was explosives and his mate might have mentioned doing a job with them...

    Callan is angry because Lonely only just got out of prison, but Lonely returns his anger, saying he had no choice because Callan left him alone for eight months then putting out the word he was dead. Suddenly Lonely is torn between anger and fear - and the anger wins out. He says he isn't stupid and he's been thinking about all the jobs they've done where they stole papers, or film... never the valuables. And they got that Russian spy, Lubin, out of prison. Lonely says he's figured out where Mr.Callan has been for the last eight months. Callan tries not to show his concern and calmly asks where.

    Russia, says Lonely, and Callan is both surprised and defensive.

    Softly, as if it is a bit of a joke he asks, "Why did you say that?"

    Lonely says he isn't a mug, he thinks Mr. Callan is a spy. Callan is flabbergasted, especially when Lonely adds, "You're a bleedin' communist spy!"

    It is Hunter's office and Callan is showing his men - including Cross - slides of Lonely and telling them to find him and carry out their orders quickly because the case has been mucked up already by Cross.

    Up in Callan's flat, Lonely is poking around checking out the booze and alarm system. He thinks Callan has done alright for himself.

    Callan calls Liz in when the office is empty and asks why there are no more flowers on his desk. They wilted, she says icily. She's been listening to Cross too much, perhaps. However, she comes back to Callan's side when he tells her to quietly arrange papers and money for Lonely because it is not "Send a Friend to Heaven" week.

    This must be what Section do best because Callan and Liz are already back in his apartment handing over money and documents to Lonely. Callan explains Lonely has a new name, job, and passport, money and passage out of England that night to Canada where he will now live. Rather than be grateful, Lonely is miserable to be leaving all his friends behind - though who they could be is hard to understand. At a knock on the door Callan hides Liz and Lonely in his bedroom and goes to answer it.

    There is Cross, looking ashamed, and says he wants to come in and apologise. Callan has to agree. They talk and they agree they were just a little tense and no more will be said about their argument. Cross says he was mainly concerned Callan was unable to lead well, but he was impressed by the way Callan has set the dogs on Lonely. Speaking of which, Cross announces he has found Lonely. Callan tries not to look concerned.

    Just then the doorbell rings again and there is the old Hunter who wants to know why he was called there by Cross under Callan's orders. Of course, Callan knew nothing about it. It's a Cross plot.

    Cross says he felt that as Hunter instigated the red file on Lonely it seemed appropriate he should be there to close it, and now Cross knows for certain where Lonely is - in Callan's flat. Cross claims he found a taxi that drove them from a doss house to this flat and now he wants to check the bedroom but Callan refuses.

    Meanwhile in Callan's bedroom Lonely listens at the door, horrified, then notices Liz is taking off her clothing.

    Hunter says he is no longer involved in the case, but he seems suspicious, too. He doesn't know why Callan won't let them into his bedroom if there is no basis to the claim, but he assumes Callan has his reasons.

    Just then Liz appears from the bedroom wrapped in a dressing gown and looking embarrassed. The other three all seem surprised, although Callan manages to also look a little smug. Cross sees it as a ruse and declares Lonely is also in the bedroom. Callan laughs it off. "A liar, I may be. Kinky, I am not." Cross checks and the room is empty and storms out. Hunter seems to be in shock, just standing there gazing up and down Liz as if he hadn't noticed in all the years she worked for him that she was female. "You mentioned fringe benefits?" Callan tries to not be too smug. As soon as Hunter has gone they check for Lonely. He has gone out the window. Callan is sure he'll return to the doss house but unfortunately so will Cross.

    At the doss house Lonely is counting the money Callan gave him and lies down to try to sleep. In the far corner is the bum from the street, watching him, who then leaves and makes a phone call. Lonely is asleep when Cross comes in and grabs him.

    When Callan answers his phone it's Mayhew calling Mr.Grimshaw to say Lonely is upstairs at her flat lying on the bed, and he looks like he's been in a fight. Lonely asked her to call him, and a concerned Callan says he'll come straight over. He'll pick him up in about half an hour.

    When Mayhew hangs up the phone she looks over as the bum comes in through the door. She asks, "Where is he?" Callan goes to find Lonely. He instructs Liz to keep the window open and the phone off the hook while he's gone. As he climbs out the window she goes to lift the receiver, but it starts to ring. Should she answer it? She races back to the window and calls for Callan. On the other end Cross is listening to the receiver, sitting beside a beaten up Lonely.

    Up in Mayhew's flat the bum is screwing a silencer on to a pistol and waiting. When the phone rings it is Mayhew who answers and then hangs up, saying Callan is going to be ten minutes late. While they wait she says she'll put the bags in the car. When she goes down to the street though she puts her bags beside the waiting black sedan and allows Cross to frisk her. She sits in the back of the car beside Callan, who tells her it was good she decided to come down and surrender after he phoned her.

    He knew she was lying because he gave neither her nor Lonely his phone number. Also, just before she called, Cross called to say he had Lonely with him. When he finds out only one assassin is waiting for him Callan is a little insulted but he sends Cross in to take care of it anyway - and Cross is more than pleased to do what he does best. Up in Mayhew's flat Cross and Stafford shoot to kill. It's quick and done in a flash. At the sound of the shots Callan is as disgusted as usual by the killing. Cross returns to the car to let Stafford clean up and tells Callan Lonely is asking for him, and Lonely is Callan's problem.

    Callan agrees wholeheartedly and resignedly.

    This is an interesting episode for many reasons. It shows some of the politicking in the higher echelons of the Section as well as the sniping between Cross and Callan. Lonely manages to gather up both some nerve and some brains, figuring out finally that Callan isn't a master criminal he's a spy. Strangely, in this episode Hunter comes out as quite a nice, human person rather than the cold bastard he usually is. But he remains in character - Callan is, at this point, his equal so he can afford to be nicer.

    It was also good to see Callan finally get a reasonable place to live in, even if it is pink. In some ways it was inevitable that Callan would become Hunter one day - there are no other positions up higher - but at the same time it is a position that you know is bound for grief. He has always hated authority and now he has become it. But there is no choice for him.

    He's told repeatedly that he is not of much value (though the actions of his superiors belie this at times), so becoming Hunter is the only way he can go. Cross never got on with him anyway but now there is even more reason for them to argue.

    This episode also sets the scene for a story arc involving Callan as Hunter, trying himself out in the new role with varying degrees of success, Lonely having a job with Section, the return of an old favourite and the fall of another.moreless
Alan Downer

Alan Downer


Guest Star

Glynn Edwards

Glynn Edwards


Guest Star

Sarah Lawson

Sarah Lawson

Flo Mayhew

Guest Star

Lisa Langdon

Lisa Langdon


Recurring Role

Paul Williamson

Paul Williamson


Recurring Role

Geoffrey Chater

Geoffrey Chater


Recurring Role

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Trivia, Notes, Quotes and Allusions


  • TRIVIA (0)

  • QUOTES (17)

    • Callan: How many [assassins] have you got there waiting for me?
      Mayhew: Just one.
      Callan: Well, I'll try not to feel insulted.
      Mayhew: Just one, but a good one.
      Callan: Don't your lot want him back?
      Mayhew: A good one, but not one of ours.
      Callan: Nobody loves a freelance.

    • Cross: Lonely is in that bedroom!
      Callan: A liar, I may be. Kinky, I am not.

    • Lonely: Oh I know, what you'd say is there's worse things happen at sea but then I'd say, people who live in glass houses…
      Callan: What the bloody hell are you talking about?
      Lonely: Oh, I been thinking, Mr. Callan. I been thinking about all the jobs we done together. 'Just get me that set of papers, Lonely.' 'Lonely, be a pal, screw that safe.' 'Lonely, never mind the valuables. Get me that roll of film.' Yeah and then there was that geezer you sprung out of the nick. Oh, I been thinking, Mr. Callan. I know what two and two makes. I can guess where you been for the past… eight months. Russia.
      Callan: Why did you say that?
      Lonely: Because I'm no mug, Mr. Callan. I know how many beans make nine.
      Callan: Well you tell me, mate, how many beans make nine?
      Lonely: No, but, I'll tell you what I think. I think you're a spy!
      Callan: What did you say?
      Lonely: You heard me. I think you're a bleedin' communist spy!

    • Cross: Look, Mr. Callan...
      Callan: Sir. Call me sir.
      Cross: That would really stick in my throat.
      Callan: Then you are going to have to learn to swallow very hard, Mr. Cross. I am dishing out the jobs now, all right? I know which knife to use and I know exactly how to turn it.
      Cross: There's no point in having authority if you don't abuse it.

    • Cross [ on Lonely ]: We've mislaid him.
      Callan: And where have you 'mislaid' him? On some Essex mud flat? Down a disused mine shaft? I mean, where do we dump them these days? Or perhaps there was anther funeral with a phoney death certificate
      Cross: No, that method proved unsatisfactory. They sometimes come back.

    • Hunter: I leave without a particle of regret!

    • Callan [ on promotion ]:Better than some unmarked grave in a pine forest.

    • Callan: You know what that bit of furniture means to me? That's orders that turn my stomach. Lying, cheating, double-dealing, dying… That bloody desk has dominated my life!
      Hunter: Life can look different from the other side.

    • Hunter: Sit down, Callan.
      Callan [ looking around ]: Where, sir?
      Hunter[ indicating ]: Try that one for size.
      Callan: …That's your chair, sir.
      Hunter: Goes with the job.
      Bishop: It isn't a joke, Callan, it's a serious offer.
      Callan: That's what makes it a joke.

    • Bishop [ on promoting Callan ]: It could make him.
      Hunter: Or break him.
      Bishop: No. We'd do that.

    • Bishop [ to Callan ]: You enjoy the vicarious thrill of command. You make correct command decisions – with model soldiers.
      Hunter: Isn't it about time you stated playing with real ones?

    • Bishop [ to Callan ]: You see, you picked a bad time to talk about your future, when it seems as though you don't have one.

    • Mayhew [ of Callan ]: Have you seen him lately?
      Lonely: Not since the last time.
      Mayhew: That's logical.

    • Callan [ on his ideal job ]: Not in the field. I don't mind what I do. Anything. As long as it's 9 to 5 and I don't get killed.

    • Bishop [ on Callan's imprisonment ]: During the period in question your operational supplement was not deducted although, strictly speaking, you were non-operational.
      Callan: Well you see, sir, there were these guards…

    • Callan: It's hardly [my fault], sir. I didn't go into a Russian prison out of personal choice.
      Bishop: Yes indeed, most unfortunate I'm sure. Been a bad year for all of us, one way or another. The pollen count's been dreadful.

    • Callan: Are you alone sir? I was expecting Hunter.
      Bishop: Busy man, Callan. I imagine he would have sent his apologies – if the thought had occurred to him.

  • NOTES (0)