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Season 4 Episode 9

The Carrier

Aired Saturday 9:00 PM Apr 26, 1972 on ITV
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Episode Summary

The Carrier
Callan and Lonely break into a altruistic government scientist's house to copy the plans he intends to give the Russians, but Lonely can't resist stealing something unimportant - which jeopardises the whole mission.

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  • Callan and Lonely break into the house of an altruistic and misguided scientist's house to copy plans he intends to give to a Russian assassin posing as a Dutch publisher. All goes well - except Lonely can't resist stealing one small insignificant thing.moreless


    It's night time. Lonely and Callan drive up in the taxi to the outside wall of a large house, wait for the owner to leave and then break in. With Callan's help, this is what Lonely does best. They work in silence, taping up the doors and heavy curtains so no light shows, then photographing the interior with a Polaroid camera. Callan opens the safe, photos the inside, then removes a file and they film each page with a camera. When they are done they clean up and everything is put back in place according to the photos. These blokes are good. No one will ever know they were there - unless one of them did something stupid, but who would do that?

    Back in Hunter's office, Liz brings in Hunter's dinner on a tray and he is chuffed. When Meres comes in asking how long Callan will be Hunter is more eager to boast about his meal that Liz made. Meres bursts his balloon - it was Dial-A-Banquet. Hunter tells him Callan will take about an hour to do the job and Meres worries about Professor Rose returning too soon. Hunter assures him Rose has been invited to stay overnight with another scientist, Sir Charles Braden.

    Meres asks Hunter what the Professor Rose is offering – it's a low level radar, the only one which can detect a low attack. Rose is an idealist though and disapproves of governmental powers, and he has a contact who is a Dutch publisher called Amstel through whom he intends to give these plans for general circulation amongst the opposition. Rose wants all governments to share the same technology. Hunter shows Meres the photo of this Amstel and Meres instantly recognises it as the Russian assassin Tamaresh.

    While Callan and Lonely do the heist of the century, P.C. Ballentine is out plodding the beat in the street that night and finds their taxi. He pokes around in it and finds it suspicious - but nothing is amiss. He notes down the details and continues on his plodding way.

    As Callan and Lonely are about to leave, Callan checks everything is back in place and then plants a bug in the telephone receiver. While he's doing this Lonely spots a small, insignificant trophy. It gleams and glistens and that magpie part of his brain starts to drool. When they leave the house, pile into the taxi and drive back to base there is almost nothing that went wrong.

    Hunter checks the screen on the camera and is pleased with the results of the expedition. Callan is nonchalant in front of Meres – of course there were no problems, Rose is a scientist not an agent. Meres sneers that Callan is looking tired. Callan says he's just been up half the night breaking into a place, but Meres puts the blame on old age. Callan is too full of himself to bite back. None the less, Hunter is uncharacteristically generous in giving Callan a day off. Hunter adds it is so they can evaluate the footage. Callan sighs, 'I didn't think it was because you were concerned about my welfare'.

    Next morning at the professor's house, Rose pulls back his curtains in the study and is surprised to find his little trophy is missing. How could that happen? Suspicious, he checks to see if he has been robbed and examines his doors and the safe contents. Everything seems fine except for that trophy... so he makes a phone call to the police.

    Hunter shows Sir Charles Braden the photos that were taken of Rose's file in the safe. Sir Charles is concerned this British research information should never make it's way into Russian hands as it would be a disaster. Yes, the Russian might develop technology that works. Sir Charles is reluctant to say it but Hunter will have to bring Rose in. Hunter has a plan, though, and wants to keep Rose out for a bit longer because they want to catch the agent being sent as a carrier. Sir Charles is a realist and understands Rose will probably have to be eliminated - a shame because he was also doing some fine medically-related research. Bearing this in mind, Hunter says he'll see what he can do for Sir Charles.

    Meres walks into the office when Sir Charles goes. Meres says they've got a phone intercept from Rose who has reported a break-in at his house to the police. Meres asks if he should warn the police off but Hunter says as long as the meddling police find nothing more they will let it slide. But he doesn't look happy.

    Professor Rose is in his study talking with a police detective, Vanstone, who has found minute traces of a break in. The thief was very professional. Rose says he was away all night staying with a colleague, Sir Charles Braden. Vanstone asks if Rose, being a government scientist, works on ****fied material. Rose admits they all do at the research centre but they can't take it home because that would break security. he does have some confidential papers in the safe but that was untouched. Vanstone has his theory - a spy of some sort broke in. No highly professional thief would break in, steal a relatively inexpensive item and then clear up before leaving. Rose laughs this off – what sort of spy would risk everything by stealing something which has value only to the rightful owner?

    In his grubby little bed-sit Lonely gazes admiringly at his new treasure on his pillow.

    In Hunter's office, Hunter meets Chief Superintendent Brown from Scotland Yard, a colleague and acquaintance. Hunter asks how things are at work in Special Branch – the usual, he replies. Brown gets down to business; an old friend of his, Inspector Vanstone, is investigating a little break-in on his patch with a Professor Rose and he thought the Yard might have an interest in the area. But they don't. How about Hunter's section?

    Hunter does his best bit of acting - no, never heard of the chap but he'll ask around. He calls on the intercom for Callan to come in. Callan does and greets Brown cordially, then Hunter asks if they have anything at the moment with a Professor Rose at Hampstead. Callan is equally convincing. No idea, never heard of him either. Smiling, Hunter allows him to go and Brown apologises for wasting their time.

    P.C. Ballentine arrives at Inspector Vanstone's desk and says he heard about the break in and he noted down the number of a taxi that was parked out front at the time – and he's even traced down the address of the driver. Vanstone is impressed and they head off together to...

    In his bed-sit, Lonely is stuffing stuff into a paper sack but when he opens the door to leave there is the PC and Vanstone, waiting. They open the bag and pullout various items of dirty laundry (a horrible thought coming from Lonely), and then the trophy. Quick-thinking Lonely promises he can explain this.

    Callan is painting his model soldiers when Lonely knocks on the door and calls to him. When Callan opens it a crack there is Lonely's sad little face – and a police warrant card. With a sigh Callan unchains the door and lets the police and Lonely in.

    Vanstone asks if Callan knows Lonely and he reluctantly admits he does. How about the little trophy, does he recongnise that? Callan says no and glares daggers at the thief. Lonely claims he bought it from a stranger in the pub but Vanstone doesn't believe him and asks where Callan was the previous night. With Lonely, Callan says and after seeing Lonely blink twice he adds they were together from eight till about two in the morning. In that case, Vanstone says, you're both under arrest for breaking in and stealing the trophy. Callan winces. Hunter is not going to like this.

    It is a British airport - Luton perhaps? It looks like someone's shed. Despite this, customs officials are hard at work checking the arriving passengers. One of them is a balding, bookish Dutchman called Amstel, at least that's what the passport says. He is cleared and goes off to hire a car. Behind him the two most obvious agents in the world, a young man and a woman in trenchcoats, follow.

    Callan and Lonely enter Vanstone's office. At the desk sits and unsmiling Vanstone and an equally grim-looking Brown. Lonely is given his dirty laundry and Callan his personal possessions in an envelope. Lonely scuttles off as soon as he is allowed. Vanstone tells him the trophy will be returned and Callan reminds him to not give a true explanation of where he got it from.

    Vanstone is obviously irked to have to let them go because they are criminals but is under orders from Brown. Callan is equally annoyed to have been pulled up by a copper. Vanstone harps on about the government using agents with criminal records to maintain national security. What sort of background should they have, Callan asks. When the jobs involve breaking and entering and killing, you can see his point.

    Out on the road to London, Amstel/Tamaresh is driving towards the city with his two tails following in separate cars. He spots them. A blind man could. Tamaresh decides to lose them.

    When Callan reports back to Hunter he accepts the responsibility for Lonely's bit of thievery and promises to 'talk' to him about it. Hunter is still unimpressed - he doesn't like to deal with other agencies, especially the police and Special Branch. Brown was particularly annoyed, which in turn annoys Hunter... Once they have simmered down, Hunter shows Callan a photograph of Amstel and Callan recognises him instantly. "Tamaresh"

    Hunter explains that Tamaresh is using the name Amstel and is meeting sometime soon with Rose to arrange a pick up of the plans. Hunter thinks Special Branch have an all-points warning out for Amstel/Tamaresh who may already be in the country. Callan wonders why the opposition have sent a section head to do a courier job? Hunter thinks it's because only he had the credibility to appear to be a successful publisher which is what Rose is after, and besides the task is far too important.

    Callan thinks it could be a pleasure to meet him in his professional capacity even though the last agents that did failed to enjoy it. Now he is on British ground and he is vulnerable. Hunter agrees, but says Tamaresh knows he is vulnerable so he will be even more dangerous - like a cornered snake.

    Tamaresh stops at a pub for lunch and subtly observes his two tails, the Allan and Mary, as they slink in. Tamaresh has a pint and makes a phone call in the kiosk. The tails can only watch and wonder what he's saying.

    Tamaresh is calling Rose. He tells him he just bumped into some people and will be a bit late as he has to get rid of them. He'll meet Rose at nine that night. Meres is listening in on the tap and reports it to Hunter, especially the bit about 'getting rid of them'. Hunter is concerned about the Special Branch agents that have been seen.

    "I hope Special Branch know what they're doing," Hunter says.

    Meres is doubtful. "It'll be the first time Sir."

    Tamaresh drives off into a forest ahead of the tails, pulls a gun from the glove box, and walks into the forest on foot.

    There is a knock on Callan's door as he is unblocking the kitchen sink with his plumber's friend. Lonely announces it's him and Callan barely contains his rage, plumber's friend in hand like a big suction-cuppy weapon. Look s a little like a prototype Dalek. Lonely tries to be friendly but Callan threatens him and tosses him around the room and into his dishes, shoving the plunger at him hard. Lonely whimpers he is sorry but his fingers simply couldn't help pinching something. Callan says he nearly got killed because of Lonely and his sticky fingers and he isn't ready to die because of that.

    He thumps Lonely who whines pathetically that Callan is hurting him. It makes Callan pause for a moment and then the phone starts ringing. His rage settled for the time being, Callan hands the plumber's friend to Lonely and tells him to unblock the sink. Callan answers the phone and it's Charlie – Hunter – telling him to come in at once.

    In the forest, Allan, is poking about looking for Tamaresh while Mary looks through his car. They think he's either trying to shake them off or he's got a meeting in the forest. Allan calls up on the radio to tell Special Branch where they are and that the suspect has entered the forest. They request instructions as they have no idea what to do next. The fact that they've parked two cars beside the target's car is probably a bit of a giveaway that they are following him. They really are not experienced at this.

    In the radio room of Section, Meres and Callan listen in and find the place on the map.

    The two tails receive their orders – Allan is to follow and Mary stays with the car. Meres and Callan shake their heads, bemused. Bloody fools, Meres mutters. Callan is less succinct, "Like lambs to the slaughter."

    Meanwhile at Professor Rose's house Vanstone is returning the ugly little trophy. Rose wants to know if they caught the culprit but Vanstone can barely bring himself to mutter 'there was insufficient evidence'.

    Back in the forest, Allan is blundering along noisily - the only way he could be more obvious is to call out the target's name and a 'yoo hoo'. Tamaresh lies in wait and shoots him dead. Easy.

    Mary is waiting back at the cars. Like all women in such positions, she is preoccupied staring in a mirror adjusting her make-up. Suddenly she's Tamaresh in the reflection behind her and he's holding a gun. She spins around and warns him she is a police woman and her colleague...

    ...Is dead, Tamaresh finishes and shoots her, too. if only she had been packing heat, not lippy.

    In Hunter's office, Brown is angry that two of his officers are dead. He wants this Amstel fellow badly and he knows Hunter is involved in the case somehow. Special Branch thought this Amstel man was a harmless go-between but obviously not and he wants to know what Hunter knows about him and where he is. Hunter bluffs and says he knows nothing. Brown warns he will put all his men onto finding Amstel and put him in the dock of the Old Bailey, and absolutely no-one is going to get in his way. He glares at Hunter with a malevolence that rivals Hunter's on his good days.

    Tamaresh drops off his car at a train station and pretends to board a train to London – except at the last second he ducks away and gets into a waiting chauffeur-driven car and speeds off.

    Callan is horrified as he tells Hunter how easily Tamaresh killed his pursuers. Whose idea was it to send to unarmed learners after a man like that, he asks, and Hunter says it was not his. He tells Callan not to be too concerned – it was a Special Branch operation and they take their risks just like Section does. Then Callan has a thought - Special Branch knew who they were tailing, didn't they? They knew who Tamaresh was? "They didn't think they were just following some red bookseller from Holland...? You did tell them he was a KGB executioner?"

    "Actually, no, You're well aware we do not share information with Special Branch nor they with us."

    Callan groans, his conscience kicking him. "Oh my god... Well I hope you sleep well tonight. There are two people in the morgue thanks to you."

    "You're being over-emotional again, David." Hunter glowers.

    Callan is on a conscience tirade, though. "Well that is something nobody could accuse you of, is it? Look, mate, I go out in the field and I meet them face to face. Not you. You sit there in that comfortable chair. You say one bloody word and some bastard dies a thousand miles away, you say nothing and two kids end up on a slab. That chair, that bloody chair!"

    Callan goes to storm out but before he can Hunter orders him to eliminate Tamaresh who is due at nine that night at Rose's house. "No mistakes. No mess."

    "No blood on the Professor's carpet." Callan sneers.

    "Nor on the Professor, he is not to be touched."

    "I wasn't exactly planning a wholesale massacre."

    I have something in mind for him, Hunter says, which might appeal to you. A kind of poetic justice. If I were Rose I'd be worried.

    Lonely drives Callan in the taxi back to the scene of the crime. Callan tells him to wait but Lonely is ansty in case the copper turns up again. What should he do? Callan says he should keep him there, away from the house. Callan jumps over the fence leaving Lonely worried and smelling.

    At the front of the house the car pulls up and Tamaresh gets out and is greeted by Rose. The chauffeur drives off and the two retire into the house. Callan slinks along through the garden to the French doors of the study.

    In the study Rose wants to be sure Tamaresh has the right contacts to get the papers to the Russians. Tamaresh assures him all will be well as he has contacts at a top military level. Isn't that what Rose wants? Rose agrees – he is an internationalist and believes they should all have access to the same technology to maintain an equality of scientific knowledge. It is the only way to prevent politicians from destroying us, he says.

    The assassin smiles reassuringly. "You know, Peter, I have worked for peace in my own way for many years now. Just... trust me."

    Callan unlocks the French windows behind the curtains of the study, listening to the men talking inside, making sure he is undetected.

    Rose wants to know who the people were Tamaresh said he was with earlier. "Just some people I bumped into, he says, but I got rid of them." Rose seems a little hesitant but Tamaresh is quietly insistent and asks for the papers. Rose hands them over and Tamaresh promises they will be at their destination by tomorrow.

    At the French doors, Callan is waiting with his gun in hand when he hears a noise – the chauffeur is behind him with a gun pointed at him.

    From in the study the two men hear a shot. Tamaresh runs to turn off the light and investigate while Rose is dumbfounded. Tamaresh lies in wait, watching the curtains, gun in his hand. As the curtains rustle he fires – and the chauffeur tumbles to the floor. As Tamaresh moves to check the body Callan steps in and shoots him dead, heart and head.

    Efficiently, he checks Tamaresh is desceased, turns on the light, orders the professor to sit and then makes a phone call to Charlie.

    Hunter answers and Callan says he is at the 'salesman's house'. Successful purchase?

    Yes. "Two cans of meat to be collected."

    Hunter is concerned by the amount but Callan assures him the cans are both the same brand. Callan peers over at Rose and reports that the salesman has had his first taste of a hard sell and doesn't seem to have enjoyed it very much. Hunter signs off and Callan hangs up the phone. I do love coded conversations - you never know at the end if you really know what was said.

    Rose breaks out of his shock and becomes angry. He wants to know who Callan is. Does it matter? asks Callan, but to Rose it does.

    "You're a murderer." Rose is horrified.

    Callan isn't. "What's more, a professional. Just like him," he points to Tamaresh.

    Callan introduces the corpse to Rose as a KGB colonel and killer who has murdered a number of British agents, including two Special Branch that afternoon. Rose blubs and claims he had no idea and thought he was a publisher. Callan sneers at him and his ideals.

    "You're not even a real traitor, are you? You're just a woolly-headed do-gooder trying to play god."

    Callan tells him they have to wait for the undertaker to arrive now, but Rose is more concerned what Callan is going to do to him.

    Nothing, Callan says. Rose says he knows they will not let him continue his work at the centre and Callan agrees, but he will be allowed to keep working on some un****fied projects – it's just that for the rest of his life no one will ever, ever trust him again. Rose starts to contemplate what this truly means and shudders.

    In Hunter's office Meres and Callan loiter while Hunter pours drinks - for him and Callan. Tough luck, Meres. Callan thinks Rose might defect but Hunter thinks the opposition will assume Rose set up Tamaresh in a sting for Section to eliminate him, so they won't trust him. Hunter is sure Britain will get as much work as they can out of Rose… until the opposition eliminate him. Hunter is smug. "Every time he turns a corner he'll be wondering if there is an executioner waiting for him. One day there will be."

    Callan doesn't feel too sorry for him, he feels more sorry about the coppers who were killed.

    Meres remembers Callan owes them a pound – they're all putting in for a wreath for the funeral of the two. It will be anonymous, of course, but Hunter will tell Brown it is from the Section as it will be good for interdepartmental relations. One whole pound, Callan snarls, you really are all heart aren't you? They drop their money on the table.

    This was a good episode for showing people at their best and worst. Lonely as a highly professional thief - but he can't stop nicking stuff even if it's irrelevant and likely to get them in trouble. Callan is a killer but he is upset that unarmed young agents were sent on a highly dangerous mission without full intelligence and were killed. Hunter orders Tamaresh's killing but does his best to keep Rose alive for the sake of Sir Charles and the medical research Rose is doing.

    It also shows the inevitable empire building between departments which prevents full communication of intelligence for the good of each department - regardless of any detriment to the individuals of the departments. this is something Callan is vehemently against. Even the relationship between Callan and Lonely is good and bad - work well together but when something goes wrong Callan beats up his 'friend' and intimidates him. The idealist Rose is made to look an idiot for having such altruistic motives and believing too easily the words of foreign agents.

    The episode is an interesting one to think about for these points. Well written and still topical.moreless

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Trivia, Notes, Quotes and Allusions


  • TRIVIA (0)

  • QUOTES (9)

    • Hunter: Every time he turns a corner he'll be wondering if there is an executioner waiting for him. One day there will be.

    • Callan [ to Rose ]: You're not even a real traitor, are you? You're just a woolly-headed do-gooder trying to play God.

    • Professor Rose: You're a murderer!
      Callan: What's more, a professional.

    • Hunter [ ordering the killing of Tamaresh ]: No mistakes. No mess.
      Callan: No blood on the Professor's carpet.
      Hunter: Nor on the Professor, he is not to be touched.
      Callan: I wasn't exactly planning a wholesale massacre.

    • Callan: They didn't think they were just following some red bookseller from Holland…? You did tell them he was a KGB executioner?
      Hunter: Actually, no, You're well aware we do not share information with Special Branch nor they with us.
      Callan: Oh my god… Well I hope you sleep well tonight. There are two people in the morgue thanks to you.
      Hunter: You're being over-emotional again, David.
      Callan: Well that is something nobody could accuse you of, is it? Look, mate, I go out in the field and I meet them face to face. Not you. You sit there in that comfortable chair. You say one bloody word and some bastard dies a thousand miles away, you say nothing and two kids end up on a slab. That chair, that bloody chair!

    • Hunter: I hope Special Branch know what they're doing.
      Meres: It'll be the first time, Sir.

    • Callan [ of Tamaresh ]: Here he'll be more vulnerable.
      Hunter: And he knows it. He'll just be all the more dangerous.

    • Callan: You're quite right.
      Hunter: It's a refreshing change to have you agree with me about something. I suppose you think that absolves you from all blame?

    • Vanstone: You both have criminal records.
      Callan: I was wondering when that would come up.
      Vanstone: Unlikely qualification for an agent.
      Callan: Do you know of a better? It's not everybody's cup of tea, you know.

  • NOTES (0)