Season 4 Episode 4

Rules of the Game

Aired Saturday 9:00 PM Mar 22, 1972 on ITV
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Episode Summary

Rules of the Game
Callan orders Cross to terrorise an innocent Russian family for political reasons. Cross does enjoy his work - usually.

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  • Callan orders Cross to terrorise an innocent Russian family for political reasons. But the Russian may not be so innocent, and the reason may be more devious than anticipated. But Callan/Hunter must do as he is told regardless of his own scruples.moreless


    Bishop and Callan meet over a scotch in a strangely vacant office with telephones all over the floor. Bishop notices Callan looking about and says being watchful is a good habit. Callan gets the hint - who needs watching?

    Bishop pulls him up for not calling him 'sir', and informs Callan that his subordinates will treat him with the same respect. Callan sneers at this obvious piece of tosh. Bishop says for Callan's first real assignment as Hunter he is to make the Russian embassy in London withdraw one of it's junior cultural attaches. It's a tit-for-tat thing. Russia is expelling one of the British junior cultural attaches from Moscow so, playing by the rules of the game, they must reciprocate.

    They claim the attache in Moscow is a spy but Bishop says he isn't, and that's why they must have a non-spy removed from London. He must be voluntarily withdrawn.

    To do this Bishop wants the Section to harass the man, Medov - a linguist and musician, into leaving. Foreign office can't ask he be withdrawn under suspicion of spying because it is the rules. As Russia is expelling their man quietly with no press releases, etc, they will do the same. Bishop reminisces over Medov, whom he met. "Found him an extremely pleasant man when I met him." "Is he a spy, Sir?" Bishop sighs. "Aren't they all?"

    Callan wants to know why this man has been chosen but Bishop simply tells him to do his job. Obviously things are no more clear as far as motive goes when you become Hunter.

    In the Hunter office, Callan briefs Cross and gives him a file to read on Medov. Callan also reminds Cross that there is no special relationship between them just because they used to work together sometimes. Callan adds,"There's no holding hands under the desk."

    "I never knew you cared," Cross grins.

    Callan continues with his briefing. "Well, it's not a hard one to start with. A nice, mucky little job. Harassment. Right up your street. Should enjoy it."

    Cross reads the names in the file out loud. Wife is Alevtina and daughter Danera - nice names, says Cross, and Callan reminds him the job is only Medov. Cross disagrees and says the family are part of it. Then he realises it is because Callan is in charge.

    "Oh," Cross frowns, "Under the new management we are allowed to have scruples?" Callan sighs. "Section policy hasn't changed, you know that." Cross agrees. "Yeah. A Callan job." Callan smiles - it was probably meant to be an insult but to him it wasn't. Cross runs up to a nice, white Volvo stationwagon and plants a small explosive on the window, shattering it. A man, Medov, comes out of his house and finds the damage and the device, and looks around the empty street.

    Lonely is out driving his taxi at night and calls Callan over the radio to asks what he is doing. Callan explains that people with Lonely's best interests at heart found him a legitimate job. Lonely can't understand it - legitimate taxi drivers have to take a road test to show they know all the one way streets and stuff, he says, and he hasn't. "You passed." Callan tells him.

    What should he do with the money he gets for fares? Callan tells him to keep it as it won't be much - and Lonely agrees with that sentiment. Callan tells him if the little red light on the dash board ever flashes, Lonely must do what ever they ask him to do, that's all. He has to stay near the taxi.

    In the Medov house the phone is ringing again and again. Alevtina and her daughter Danera are upset but answer it anyway. There is a phony Russian-sounding voice on the other end calls her a spy wife. They hang up in disgust and fear. It rings again and Danera answers - she picks it is not real Russian and hangs up. Alevtina says it is just like before. The phone just keeps ringing.

    A young, smooth guy called Kane - but no where near as dangerous-looking as Cross or Meres - is in Hunter's office. Callan is trying to get a report from him but Kane says there is nothing to report. Callan wants to go through it all again.

    How many British staff have left Russia in the last twelve months? Seventy eight, and seventy one went back. Only the ambassador visited any sections, and the remaining six will go home next week. Only one won't as he is dead - from measles. Callan wants them all checked again - including the measles man - as well as checks on any reporters or business people travelling from or to Russia in the last six months. But Callan demands no cross section contact - Kane must report only to Callan. Kane is unimpressed and leaves in a bit of a huff.

    Cross enters and reports on Medov. He's a nice guy, hard worker, goes to work and comes home, looks after his family, has a pretty daughter...

    Callan, obviously disgusted by their job, asks if Cross is pleased so far with what he's done and indeed Cross is even though it is early days yet. The only problem, says Callan, is that nobody has complained.

    In Medov's bedroom he is telling his wife he cannot complain by telling the embassy his wife is feeling a bit nervous. His wife asks if there is another reason they are in London but he insists he is just a cultural attache. He says nothing has been happening to him - which is a lie - but she is still frightened by the phone calls. She says such things happened to her parents when they were taken away by secret police and she is scared. She goes to make breakfast.

    In the house across the street, Cross loads a sniper rifle and sits at the window, humming a merry little tune. Alevtina goes out to the front step to collect the milk. As she picks it up the bottle is shot out of her hand and she screams. Cross packs away his rifle and sneaks away, smiling.

    Danera is angry and says she hates the English as she and her father tend her mother's cut hand. Medov goes to the step and looks around, then finds the bullet amongst the bottle glass. He returns to look after his wife. Danera wants to call the police or the embassy but Medov says he will do it. He will go through the embassy and make an official complaint. But he shrugs off his wife's concerns that it was a gunshot and claims it was just children. He promises to look after her.

    Danera goes out front to clean up and sees Cross strolling off with a rifle case and climbing into Lonely's taxi. She pursues him but he manages to get away. Just. Only Cross could get caught by a teenage girl in slippers. He's no Callan.

    In Hunter's office Callan is annoyed Cross was sloppy enough to be seen. Why didn't he take the back way out - and if there was no back way then make one! "You're falling apart," Callan snaps, which is a hint of what is to come. Still, despite all this terror, there is still no complaint. Callan continues to warns Cross not to touch the daughter and instead tells him to follow routine and do... something. Like what? Cross asks. Callan looks down on him. "Why don't you think about it? It says in your file you're flexible... imaginative..."

    Cross makes it sound like a school report. "...Will do better next term..."

    "Provided he keeps away from the little girls! I want Medov pushed and pursued. I have no orders to stop. So we both better push."

    Cross agrees. "Right, Sir. I'll push."

    Medov is in his lounge room talking to his embassy security supervisor, Vasayayev, and then shows him the .22 calibre bullet that shot the bottle. Medov says he just wants his wife and daughter to feel safe. Vasayayev says with the broken window and the shot, the British must think Medov is a spy.

    "Do I act like one?" Medov says suddenly in a serious voice. Then he explains about the harassment over the last three weeks - just the sort of thing they are briefed to expect. He says he didn't want to complain because he thought the embassy staff would want things to continue to find out why the British are so interested. You are here to produce concerts, says Vasayayev, who discovers Danera outside listening in on them. She tells him she saw the man that shot at them.

    Callan waits in Bishop's empty-but-for-telephones office. Bishop asks if things are going beyond Hunter's control. Callan snipes he didn't ask for this appointment so "sack me". Bishop says he has no intention, but he does ask him to sit. "Sit down, Hunter. Aggression somehow always looks less dangerous when seated."

    Callan claims to have three problems. Number one is he has problems accessing information - the files are always missing or sealed. He has fourteen projects currently being worked on in the department and thirteen of them he is fully briefed on. Bishop stops his flow to tell him he is doing excellently.

    But the Medov case is different, says Callan, and is problem two. Why, as Section head, can he not know why the victim was chosen? How can he know how to apply correct pressure? They have splintered glass in the wife's face and still no complaint. If they really push hard to make a movement it will be hard and there could be serious repercussions - and Callan doesn't want to cop the responsibility for that.

    Bishop asks what Callan's third problem is. "Me. Shall I tell you why I was considered so good in the field?"

    Bishop disagrees. "Good men in the field don't get caught. You were."

    Callan's turn to disagree. "Good men in the field are not bought and brought back by Her Majesty's government, Sir. I was."

    Bishop only just concedes defeat at this, so he complies and asks why Callan was so good in the field.

    "I was trained never to take any one or any thing on trust. You start off with one simple premise - everything smells. Yourself, the job you're doing, and the man who tells you to do it. You're told something, you test the opposite." So Bishop follows that because Callan was not told why Medov was chosen, Callan has tried to find out, and has also tried to find out why the British junior cultural attache was expelled from Moscow by using Kane to sniff around.

    Bishop says they don't have to discuss the first two points - Hunter must do as he is told to do. But the third point... Bishop says, "We chose you for your talents, your ability - but not your ugly chip on your shoulder. It's alright, Callan, we love you. Complete knowledge is absolute power and that is dangerous. Not even I know everything." Once Medov leaves the country, preferably under a pall of shame, the job is done. That is all he needs to know.

    Vasayayev pressures Medov to find out why the British are harassing him, trying to find out what Medov has done, visited, seen... Vasayayev says Medov is either an intelligence man he knows nothing about - this is a bit of a joke - or he is innocent. And if innocent, then to whom? In other words, is he a British spy or a Russian one? He may be British and they are harassing him to throw them off the trail.

    When Medov complains he knows no secrets, Vasayayev says if you are intelligence then simply your training is of interest. Medov considers then asks, "What if I am an intelligence man of vastly superior rank to yourself, with sufficient standing to be unnoticed by the embassy security section, and I am being harassed...?" Suddenly Vasayayev looks more subservient and meek. "Then they are on to you... Sir. And we'd better get you out."

    Well then, Medov asks in a cold, officious tone, which am I? Out of three hundred staff why pick on you, Vasayayev asks, but Medov says that is not his concern.

    Cross and Callan are in the back of the taxi. Cross tells him things are moving - the embassy senior security official Vasayayev was with Medov for hours. We just have to get him out, says Callan. "By whatever means?" Cross asks, eagerly.

    Callan grumbles. "You heard."

    "Oh, no, Sir. I want a firm directive from you. How far can I go?"

    Callan is reluctant to give him a free hand but relents. "Alright." Cross smiles. "fine." Cross leaves and Lonely gets in the back with Callan. He wants to know who his Guvenor is - Callan or Cross?

    "I'm like a bit of knicker elastic stretched all ways," Lonely whines, because Callan tells him to stay in the taxi whereas Cross has had him watching the girl, Danera. Callan has heard nothing about this and he's not happy, but he realises he has just given Cross permission. Sadly he tells Lonely to do as Cross says.

    Near Medov's house, Cross watches as Medov and Danera get in their trusty Volvo. As they drive by Danera points out the men who are watching their house every day, showing her father Cross loitering and Lonely washing his taxi. She says she will tell Vasayayev, but Medov says he will do that.

    Cross calls Callan and says he wants permission to 'lift' the girl as nothing else has even made Medov twitch. Callan doesn't like it but agrees and tells him where to take her. Callan will be there to supervise - not trusting Cross one bit. He tells Cross to watch himself and not take chances, which just makes Cross grin all the more.

    Medov talks to his wife on the balcony of their bedroom - in case the room is bugged by Moscow or Britain. Medov tells her at all costs they must protect Danera and they must be wary of Vasayayev as well as the embassy staff. Medov goes to Danera's room and kisses her. Back with his wife, he tells her to pack their daughter's clothes.

    Callan is talking again to Kane in Hunter's office. Kane is a little more aware of things now and says it is no wonder Callan wanted no cross-section contact - Kane was hardly able to keep their own people away. Even people he trained with, thought he knew, were right there keeping an eye on him. Still, Kane did manage to find out something. The man who died of measles is genuinely dead.

    The only other person not going back to Russia in the next couple of days is a reporter called Neville Dennis. This name sounds familiar to Callan. He gets Liz to check for the name but the Dennis file is sealed and cannot be opened. Callan picks up his gun and gets the address from Kane and they go to visit Dennis.

    At the flat of Neville Dennis the buzzer rings. The man inside sneaks away and hides. Callan breaks in quietly and searches the place, but when he reaches the bathroom he is attacked and knocked out. When he comes to, his gun is gone. A voice from the other room calls him David and says the gun is with him - and offers Callan a coffee. Callan puts a cold compress to his bleeding mouth and heads into the loungeroom.

    There is Dennis, an effeminate upper****gentleman in a silky dressing gown pouring out coffee and apologising that it is only instant. Callan shakes his head and says he knew something about the name Neville Dennis rung a bell. Dennis apologises for biffing Callan but he didn't know who it was and he's become very suspicious of late. Callan remembers his real name - they were in government courses together. Dennis was good at cryptography, while Callan was good at killing. They drink coffee together. It's almost like a pleasant reunion of school buddies... but not.

    Then Callan picks up his empty gun and is told the bullets are on the mantlepiece. As he slowly loads it, Dennis slowly becomes more concerned by his old friend and lets slip he knows Callan has been promoted. Callan wants to know who told him. Dennis looks worried and finally asks Callan why he is there. "Don't you know?" Callan asks softly.

    When he says no Callan wants to know why he is not going back to Moscow. Mission is over, Dennis says - can't keep getting planted in Russia. But Callan won't be deterred. Why can't Dennis go back?

    Coathangers, Dennis explains. The KGB had trumped up evidence about his car which they could use at any time. Because of this, he was allowed access to other places as he could be arrested over any discrepancy. He was then told to go to a hotel, write a report on the place, steal a coat hanger and come back. The coat hanger was actually made from scrap of a new supersonic metal designed for a fighter aircraft. He brought it back for them. Dennis is sweating now as Callan leans in close, gun in hand, and asks about the press briefings in Moscow.

    Back In the Medov house, Danera is woken by her father and told to dress.

    Meanwhile in Dennis's flat, Callan is busy slapping Dennis in the face with a wet flannel, putting the hard word on him. Dennis says he doesn't know anything but Callan persists with his water torture. He wants to know if any British were harassed over in Moscow. Fact or gossip, Dennis asks nervously. Anything.

    Dennis says he heard nothing, and no one was being deported. Callan says Dennis is the only person not going back to Russia and he isn't the junior cultural attache. "My dear, I'm too old to be junior, too thick to be cultured and we're both unattached." Callan is unamused and keeps on slapping him.

    Eventually Callan puts a situation to him."Supposing you were to harass one of their people here in reprisal for them harassing one of ours over there, and then you find that no body on our side was being harassed over there, what would you think the whole point of that exercise was? Dennis, I want a straight answer, please. Now, it can be your own, or one you have been told. But just remember - nobody, but nobody, is going to miss you."

    Dennis understands what he means - Callan did well in the killing part of their courses, after all. So he has his own 'suggestion'. Maybe the British are doing it to find out who Moscow would push in retaliation, to find out if there is one of the British they want to get rid of, one of our spies. Which would mean they are on to the genuine article. Of course they could be too late - the genuine article might have left already. He could have had urgent orders to leave Moscow in the last two days and not to return. He gasps. "Like me!"

    An embassy Volga (the car of champions) waits near Medov's house as he gets into his car with Danera. The Volga driver radios someone and his passenger nods. Medov's car pulls away and passes the limo. Medov stops beside Cross and asks him the time. Cross seems bamboozled but comes nearer, giving the nearby Lonely in the taxi a signal. Cross stands before Medov who agains asks for the time, but then adds quietly that he wants asylum. He tells Cross the Volga is watching them. Danera starts to panic and yell as her father is talking to the man that shot at her mother. Medov says there is no time - he would not bring his daughter if there was another way. Cross makes a decision. He shoves Medov into the back with Danera and jumps into the driver's seat.

    As the Volga gears up to follow Lonely blocks the car off and does his cranky cockney taxi driver routine, abusing them for cutting him off.

    In the Medov car Cross has his gun out for protection and is trying to drive them to safety as well as find out where Medov's wife is. It's all a bit panicky. Medov says his wife is safe with a friend. Danera becomes hysterical, though, screaming she hates Cross and tries to hit him. Medov can't restrain her. She scratches Cross's face and he reacts like a killer would by hitting her once with the butt of his gun. She falls back into her father's arms. Cross asks if she is okay but Medov can only wipe the blood from her face.

    In the safe house, Callan is shown down to a corridor. He is told the wife is in one room, Medov another, and Danera is still unconscious in yet another. Ouside Cross is standing, watching Callan approach. Barely looking at Cross, Callan goes in to see the weary, broken Medov. Callan puts on his official, impersonal Hunter voice and says he's sorry about Medovs daughter but their fate is not his department's concern.

    He just has two questions for Medov - are you an intelligence agent? No. Why are you asking for political asylum? Medov answers it is because he was harassed that his embassy security officials wanted to know why, what he had done to warrant it. Suspicion breeds suspicion and no one ever recovers from being suspect. He just wanted his daughter protected. Once he was suspect due to the harassment, he lied to his embassy and said he was a KGB colonel, but they would have checked it out in two days.

    He looks at Callan searchingly. "But surely, if you harass me it means you want me?" All he does is organise music and loves languages. But at the moment he hates the world and everything. Because of political machinations which have nothing to do with him his whole world has been destroyed. "I hate you, sir..." Medov only just manages to hold back his tears. He may hate Callan and the British now but they are also all he has got.

    Callan walks away. He finds a pensive Cross waiting outside. "I'm sorry," says Callan. Then snarls, " I am sorry!" and storms off. Surprisingly, Cross also looks sorry... which leads to the next episode quite nicely.

    An interesting episode in several ways. We see a shift in Cross from the cocky, young, arrogant man into someone who suddenly starts to see his actions having an affect - particularly on the young girl Danera, who does not recover from the blow to the head. It also shows us Callan flexing his muscles as Hunter and still being confined by the usual red tape and secrets, although his standing with Bishop improves and he starts to get one up on his boss.

    Callan also strives to keep his scruples, his little bit of humanity that has set him apart from his fellow agents, but now he is Hunter he is less able to indulge. It pains him to be so cold with Medov when the man's daughter is critically ill and his life is in pieces, but all Callan can do is shrug it off as not being 'his department's concern'.

    It also allows us to see the dirty tricks being played with people and their lives in the little political games of one-upmanship. As in this case, no one really wins but everyone loses something.moreless
Mike Pratt

Mike Pratt


Guest Star

James Cossins

James Cossins

Neville Dennis

Guest Star

Virginia Stride

Virginia Stride


Guest Star

Lisa Langdon

Lisa Langdon


Recurring Role

Geoffrey Chater

Geoffrey Chater


Recurring Role

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Trivia, Notes, Quotes and Allusions


  • TRIVIA (0)

  • QUOTES (14)

    • Callan: Dennis, I want a straight answer, please. Now, it can be your own, or one you have been told. But just remember — nobody, but nobody, is going to miss you.

    • Dennis [ re junior cultural attaché post ]: My dear, I'm too old to be junior, too thick to be cultured and we're both unattached.

    • Callan: You were always good at cryptography.
      Dennis: While you were always good at killing.

    • Bishop: Complete knowledge is absolute power and that is dangerous. Not even I know everything

    • Bishop:We chose you for your talents, your ability — but not your ugly chip on your shoulder. It's alright, Callan, we love you.

    • Callan: I was trained never to take any one or any thing on trust. You start off with one simple premise — everything smells. Yourself, the job you're doing, and the man who tells you to do it. You're told something, you test the opposite.

    • Bishop:Good men in the field don't get caught. You were.
      Callan: Good men in the field are not bought and brought back by Her Majesty's Government, Sir. I was.

    • Bishop: Sit down, Hunter. Aggression somehow always looks less dangerous when seated.

    • Callan: Why don't you think about it? It says in your file you're flexible… Imaginative…
      Cross: …Will do better next term…
      Callan: …Provided he keeps away from the little girls. I want Medov pushed and pursued. I have no orders to stop. So we both better push.
      Cross:Right, Sir. I'll push.

    • Cross:Oh, under the new management we are allowed to have scruples?
      Callan: Section policy hasn't changed, you know that.
      Cross: Yeah. It's a Callan job.

    • Callan [ assigning a task to Cross ]: Well, it's not a hard one to start with. A nice, mucky little job. Harassment. Right up your street. Should enjoy it.

    • Callan: I think I should remind you, Cross, that from now on there is no special relationship. There's no holding hands under the desk.
      Cross:I never knew you cared.

    • Bishop [ on Medov ]: Found him an extremely pleasant man when I met him.
      Callan: Is he a spy, Sir?
      Bishop: Aren't they all?

    • Bishop [ to Callan ]: It's usual in the service to address one's superiors as 'sir'. You'll find there's compensations. Your subordinates will treat you in exactly the same way.

  • NOTES (0)