Department S

Season 1 Episode 25

A Fish out of Water

Aired Unknown Feb 24, 1970 on ITV
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Episode Summary

A Fish out of Water
LOCATION: Beruit, Lebanon DATE: March 22nd The body of an Interpol agent is found near the shore shortly after he arrives in Beruit for vacation. Stewart is upset, not only because the man was a friend but also because Sir Curtis accepts the report that the death was accidental. Stewart rejects that, claiming his friend was an expert diver. Stewart must control his emotions and work around his supervisor's order to not work on the case in order to discover the truth.moreless

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  • A rift between field leader Stewart and diplomat/official head Sir Curtis over investigating the death of an Interpol agent is highlighted by some exceptional acting -- even for a series filled with exceptional acting.moreless

    "Department S" stands as one of the best of the ITC classic series from the late 1960s because it had consistently solid stories and good acting. Due to this fact, it is difficult to pick one episode out as "the best." "A Fish Out of Water", while not the "best", is certainly a noteworthy episode.

    The story is centered around an emotional Stewart Sullivan. An Interpol agent, a close friend of Stewart's, goes to Beruit on vacation and turns up dead two days later. The cause of death is listed as "accidental drowning", but Stewart knows better (as does the viewer: the man's body is found with his hand tied to a wire by a couple of young lovers on the beach). Sir Curtis accepts the official position, which sends Stewart into a rage. His friend was an accomplished diver, so there is "no way" the listed cause of death is correct. Sir Curtis relents and agrees to allow the Department to dig deeper. However, he orders Stewart to remain in Paris and send Jason instead. Sir Curtis' rationale: "You're far too emotional, Sullivan."

    In a lovely twist, when Jason arrives in Beruit he, too, becomes "far too emotional" by falling for the femme fatale that a drug supplier sends. Her job is to lure Jason, notorious for his love of whiskey and women, into a trap so he, too, can be killed. She, however, also becomes attached to Jason and hides him on the ledge outside her apartment so he can escape the assassination attempt. Later in the episode Jason tells Stewart he cares deeply about this woman, not as a one-night stand but because she reminds him of his late wife.

    In one of the great moments of this episode and the series as well, Jason -- usually an aloof playboy -- poignantly tells Stewart how much Michelle (the temptress) looks like Marion. This few seconds of exchange shines thanks to the superlative performances of the always great Peter Wyngarde (Jason) and the very underrated Joel Fabiani (Stewart).

    Another shining moment for Fabiani is in the office when Stewart, in a heated exchange, confronts Sir Curtis (masterfully portrayed by the late Dennis Alaba Peters) with an ultimatum: either Sir Curtis allows Stewart and Annabelle to go to Lebanon through a back route (since they are convinced the Beruit airport is watched by members of the drug cartel) to assist Jason, whose life is obviously in danger, or Stewart will hand in his resignation on the spot. Sir Curtis relents, although he states Stewart's promise to resign did not influence the decision. This is an electrical scene, and both Fabiani and Peters deliver the performance so intently one could swear the two men were truly angry with each other when filming the scene. This scene also sadly tells that the acting talents of Dennis Alaba Peters were greatly wasted in a number of episodes where he appeared for only one scene to tell the Department what their assignment was before heading off to a state dinner or a diplomatic conference. In the episodes where he was prominently featured (including "Death on Reflection" and "The Bones of Byrom Blaim"), he showed his skills as an actor.

    This episode, featuring two of the best scenes of the entire series, is featured in the seven-DVD box set that is available from Umbrella Entertainment in Australia. All of Umbrella Entertainment's DVD releases have no region code, meaning fans all over the world can enjoy the programs.


Trivia, Notes, Quotes and Allusions


  • TRIVIA (1)

  • QUOTES (1)

    • Jason(preparing to go to Beruit): What's my cover?
      Annabelle: Jason King, author.
      Jason: Best-selling author.
      Annabelle: Oh, I'm sorry.
      Jason: That's original.

  • NOTES (2)


    • Jason (upon rendezvous with Stewart and Annabelle): Dr. Livingstone, I presume?

      This quote is reportedly Henry Stanley's greeting to Dr. David Livingstone. The history behind this quote is that, when Stanley found Livingstone, the latter was the only white man around. The 1939 film, Stanley and Livingstone, chronicles the adventures of the two. Spencer Tracy played Stanley and uttered the famous line.