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'Mi-5,' Episode Thirty-Four Recap: 'The Russian'

Miss an episode of this spy-centric BBC One series? Then read our 'Mi-5' recaps here!

Previously on Mi-5

Fiona (Olga Sosnovska) heads a case involving the Syrian Foreign Minister, but when her ex-husband reappears, she pays with her life.

This Week's Episode: "The Russian"

Written by: Howard Brenton
Directed by: Omar Madha

With the National Health Service (NHS) £100 million in the red, the U.K. faces a countrywide crisis. The government may have a solution, having been approached by Russian billionaire and entrepreneur Oleg Korsakov (Ben Daniels) interested in buying up their debts, but Mi-5 thinks it may be more trouble than it's worth. The notoriously press-shy Korsakov, who grew up in an orphanage and created his empire out of nothing, has allegedly used brutal and illegal means to make money and is known for buying up assets quickly, stripping them for parts, and abandoning them. Not only that, Mi-5 received a tip that Korsakov has a mole inside GCHQ, one Sally Curtis (Jo McInnes), who is selling information on British and American health firms. So it's safe to say that keeping on Korsakov and hopefully exploiting one of his weaknesses, thus ending the NHS deal, is in everybody's best interest.

While many at Mi-5 are on the case, no such luck for Adam (Rupert Penry-Jones). Still reeling from watching his wife be murdered in the line of duty, he has been put on another, quieter case, in which he is to keep an eye on old Hugo Ross (George Baker), a Communist and convicted Soviet spy just getting out of prison after 30 years. Adam finds the operation tedious and chore-like, but Harry (Peter Firth) will not reassign him, fearing that he's not mentally ready, especially since he hasn't told his son or Fiona's parents that she is dead. Adam, however, feels that the operation they're keeping from him is exactly the kind of distraction he needs, a big case to put his mind off of his woes. Exploiting her sympathy, Adam gets Ruth (Nicola Walker) to reveal the Korsakov case to him, known as Operation Songbird.

Ready to assert control over the operation, Adam forces himself into a stakeout on one of the London hotels Korsakov owns, a hotel whose top floor has been turned into a high-tech (and difficult to hack) center of operations for the billionaire and his workers. The rest of the team tries to shake Adam, but that's not going to stop him. Believing that the government agency should protect Sally Curtis, should any harm befall her, Adam proves himself right when he follows her into a nightclub, only to see her "boyfriend" (really a Korsakov plant) stab her with a syringe. Racing her to the hospital, they find that she has been injected with anaoxide diethylamide, a drug developed during the Cold War that destroys the frontal lobe memory center of the cerebrum. In short, the injection wiped Sally Curtis' mind completely. It's too late for her, for the antidote, and for the case. Having deliberately disobeyed orders, Adam is sent to a psychiatric facility, where he will stay until he is given a clean bill of health. But when Adam finds he is among spies who have been out of the field for months, even years, he becomes angry.

Operation Songbird turns even more sideways when Harry and National Security Coordinator Juliet Shaw (Anna Chancellor) meet with Major Benchback MP Malcolm Stackley (David Fleeshman), who tells them to drop the case. The British government has expedited Korsakov's bid for British citizenship, and Stackley explains this is because, in no uncertain terms, the NHS problem is bigger than anybody realizes, and Korsakov may be their only hope. Believing that Stackley is being paid off, Harry and Juliet secretly agree to continue with the operation, realizing that they likely only have 48 hours left before the government notices.

Harry makes a visit to Hugo Ross with a proposition. Once a friend, Ross was arrested when found to have sold Ministry of Defense secrets to a Russian named Boris Kandinsky, secrets that exposed and ultimately cost the lives of British spies planted in the Soviet missile program. Ross refuses to apologize, believing that this information kept the nuclear stalemate between the West and East during the Cold War, so why should he listen to anything Harry and his capitalist government have to say? Always one to have a trick up his sleeve, Harry fills him on what he missed during his 30-year incarceration: Kandinsky, whom Ross idolized, and Kandinsky's wife died in 1985, leaving behind a young boy. That young boy grew up to be Oleg Korsakov. "That rabid young dog of a capitalist is Boris' son?!" Ross yells, and when he is asked to spy on Korsakov for Mi-5, he readily agrees.

Ross and Zaf (Raza Jaffrey) meet with Korsakov at his hotel, where Ross immediately starts harping on him for being an enemy of his father's ideology. But the thick-skinned Korsakov brushes off the insults and offers Ross a job: write a biography of Boris Kandinsky, and in turn raise Korsakov's public image. Ross returns to Mi-5, refusing to proceed, until Harry hands over sensitive documents about Operation Songbird, saying that bringing Korsakov down is basically the same thing as attacking the capitalist system Ross so despises. Just get Korsakov to admit to illegal activity, and Ross will be set for life.

Having escaped from the psychiatric facility, Adam contacts Ruth and learns that he was integral to the case after all. Knowing deep down that Adam is the best man for the job, Harry reluctantly puts him back on duty, just in time for the big meeting between Ross and Korsakov. With computer whiz Malcolm (Hugh Simon) able to break through Korsakov's rigid firewalls, Mi-5 listens in as Ross tries to get the billionaire to talk about politics, going so far as to express a desire to join Korsakov's operation. Korsakov finally shows his true colors and holds Zaf at gunpoint, explaining he's known all along that Ross has been working with Mi-5. Ross manages to keep the conversation going, saying that it's in Korsakov's best interest to allow Ross to be a double agent. Liking what he's hearing, Korsakov admits that he's only buying NHS to squeeze them for profits and has no interest in socialized medicine. When Korsakov brings outs a syringe of anaoxide diethylamide to use on Zaf, Adam and Mi-5 storm the hotel and capture Korsakov. Alas, Korsakov turned the needle on Ross, and though they administer an antidote at the hospital, it's no use. Ross' memory has been wiped clean, a byproduct of serving the government he once fought against.

With Korsakov no longer a buyer, the government is forced to raise income taxes by 5% to cover the NHS debt.

Having received a clean bill of health from the psychiatric facility and reenergized after an accomplished mission, Adam visits his parents-in-law, who have been looking after his son Wes, and tells them the truth about Fiona.

Hey! I Know That Actor!

George Baker, who played jailed Communist spy Hugo Ross, is best known for starring as D.C.I. Reg Wexford on "Ruth Rendell Mysteries," David West on "Triangle," Login on "Doctor Who," and Tiberius Caesar in the internationally renowned BBC production of "I, Claudius." His film roles include "The Dam Busters," "Sword of Lancelot," and three separate characters in three different Bond films ("You Only Live Twice," "On Her Majesty's Secret Service," "The Spy Who Loved Me.") He passed away in 2011.

Ben Daniels, who played Russian billionaire Oleg Korsakov, has appeared on "Law & Order: UK," "The State Within," "Outside Edge," and the American remake of "House of Cards."


About the Author

Marcus Gorman is a pop culture writer and the author of the novel triceratops.
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