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October 9, 2015

The Prisoner: Many Happy Returns

by Michael Sciannamea, posted Jul 26th 2006 8:20PM

the prisoner(S01E09) This particular episode is excellent at playing with your emotions. You already have a good idea of what is going to happen at the end, but you still somehow continue to root for Number 6 to successfully escape from The Village and get back to his normal life.

What is really fascinating about "Many Happy Returns" is that there is no dialogue for roughly the first half of the episode. We see Number 6 awakening in his Village flat to find that nothing works--the water, electricity, etc. He gets dressed and walks outside, he notices the entire Village is completely deserted.

As we've come to see over the previous episodes, we're not sure if he's dreaming or is under some sort of drug-induced hallucination inspired by Number 2 in order to get him to reveal the details of his resignation. (SPOILER ALERT--We do not see Number 2's face in the opening credits. A portent of things to come?)

As Number 6 realizes that he is left to himself in The Village, he surmises (wordlessly, mind you) that he can make his escape. He builds a sailing vessel after chopping down a tree and he plans to set sail. He goes to the Village shop and takes all kinds of provisions, including a camera. He takes a number of pictures, and stores them away in a plastic bag for safekeeping.

So we then encounter Number 6 on his vessel in the middle of the ocean, and he's out there for a long time. (I kept thinking about the movie Cast Away at the same time.) He then spots a boat and climbs aboard. He realizes that the crew is running guns, and through a quick series of physical battle with the two crewmembers, he takes control of the boat. However, the two guys escape from their restraints and go after Number 6, who then jumps off the boat and swims away.

Next, he washes up ashore and begins walking through a forest area. He encounters a couple of gypsies who offer him something to drink, and then continues his quest. He comes upon a road and to his great surprise, it looks like he's in...England! He hops on a truck and after some time, he finds himself in downtown London. He then goes back to his old house, and then the dialogue begins.

He discovers that a Mrs. Butterworth is now the occupant of his home and car. After a period of suspicion, she is very nice to him and offers him food and the use of the car. He also divulges that the next day is his birthday (a key part of the story). He drives back to his spy headquarters (accompanied by the opening theme music) and finds himself back with old colleagues explaining his ordeal. Naturally, they are extremely skeptical, but they seem to come around and accept his story.

They then offer to help him locate The Village so he can prove to them that it exists but, of course, things don't go exactly the way he envisioned. We later see Mrs. Butterworth and the phrase "many happy returns" fused together, but you might guess what the end result of the story is.

This is a terrific episode. I would urge anyone who has not yet seen The Prisoner to make this one to watch after viewing the first couple of episodes to get a sense of what is happening. This one will make your head spin.

Until next time

Be seeing you!

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"Many Happy Returns" was indeed an excellent, mind-bending "Prisoner" episode. With no dialogue for the first twenty minutes, the impact lies in the visual story-telling aspect. One can almost sense the Prisoner's emotions during this sequence: anxiety, suspicion, and above all, hope. The climax was unexpected and threw all possible resolutions of the prisoner's debacle into a cocked hat. I figure the overall message was that you can't go home anymore. The strange beauty of Portmeirion (as well as the diverse location shooting) significantly added to the peculiar sinister ambience of the concept as a whole. "The Prisoner" remains as much a pertinent document of existence now as it did back in 1967. After all, we are all numbers. Be seeing you.....

October 14 2009 at 7:13 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
the singularity


July 27 2006 at 6:00 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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