Maxwell Smart takes to the pool table in “The Dead Spy Scrawls.” Squint and you can see Mr. Spock over his shoulder.
The Dead Spy Scrawls (original air date: 1-22-66)
Cast: Shark – Jack Lambert, Stryker – Leonard Nimoy, Professor Parker – Milton Selzer, Informer – Don Brodie, Willie Marconi – Harry Bartell, Vendor – Roy Engel, Agent 46 – Clive Wayne, woman in bus terminal – Rose Michtom, pool parlor groupie/bus terminal guy – Robert Karvelas, man at pool parlor – Hans Moebus
Director: Gary Nelson
Writers: Stan Burns and Mike Marmer
Producer: Jay Sandrich
Filming Location: Paramount Studios, Hollywood
Synopsis: Max and 99 are tasked with finding an “Electronic Brain” Kaos is using to intercept Control’s secret messages. The device is operated by The Shark, expert pool player and proprietor of Mother’s Family Pool Hall.
The one moment we see Leonard Nimoy in the same frame as Don Adams and Barbara Feldon.
The Dead Spy Scrawls is a “what’s not to love” episode.
This is the episode where Leonard Nimoy has a part as a Kaos agent. That’s about all you need to know. Well, actually there’s more to it than that. We’ll get to Nimoy in a bit. Something more important must be discussed first.
The crux of this episode is pool — a plot device many a TV show finds itself revolving
Leonard Nimoy as a Kaos assassin? This seems illogical.
around. Given this is Get Smart, we would certainly expect our star character, the all-thumbs Maxwell Smart, to be a disaster at this game — and he is. He destroys pool cues, tears the felt on the pool table and injures his instructor. It’s painful to watch – especially if you’ve ever had to re-felt a pool table.
Here’s the catch, Don Adams was actually an expert pool player. This is evident in Max’s pool game with the Shark. Be sure to look for the trick shot Adams makes at the end before the table opens to reveal the electronic brain. The scene also gives a nice homage to Adams with the “Three Fingers Yarmy” reference. Adams would go on to make a guest appearance on Celebrity Billiards with Minnesota Fats.
Now back to Leonard Nimoy. He makes a not-exactly-pre-Spock appearance as Stryker, an assassin that eliminates his targets with a bullet-firing briefcase. He’s in a handful of scenes in this episode, but other than killing Agent 46, whacking the informer, shooting at Max and being berated by the Shark, that’s about all we get. There’s one scene in the whole episode where we get to see Adams, Feldon and Nimoy in the same frame. While Star Trek wouldn’t air until the fall of 1966, Nimoy had already donned his Vulcan ears for The Cage — the first Star Trek pilot which was filmed in late 1964 and early 1965.
Agent 46’s dying declaration.
The episode opens with Max and 99 seeking out Agent 46 in a bus station – they need to provide him with $2,000. He initially communicates via the silent signal system. Max confuses the signals for ones in the spy baseball handbook. By the time they determine that 46 is signaling a blue alert (extreme emergency condition) he ends up shot by Stryker. He then leaves his dying declaration scrawled in wet cement.
Stryker returns to the Shark’s Kaos front – Mother’s Family Pool Hall. Its marketing phrase is “The family that plays together, stays together.” After being chastised for interrupting the Shark’s game, Stryker proceeds to report that he eliminated 46 and plans to do the same to 86. The two then intercept a message from Control using Kaos’ electronic brain. The device is neatly tucked inside the Shark’s pool table and can only be opened when the proper sequence of balls land in the correct pockets.
Back at Control, Parker explains 46’s markings in cement are code from The Dead Spy Scrawls, a message system used by dying Control agents. The scrawl in question translates to PI for “Paid Informer” as well as a Washington, D.C. phone number, which Max traces back to to the informer 46 was supposed to meet. The Informer agrees to sell his information to the tune of $2,000.
Max, who is being tailed by Stryker, treks back to the bus station where he confuses a vendor for his contact and ends up with a $500 pack of gum. The informer then makes his presence known – only to be shot by Stryker. Max is at least able to get three words from the informer before he dies: Shark, pool, mother. The Chief connects the dots that the Shark is their man.
Max manages to convince the Chief to let him infiltrate the pool parlor. The Chief reluctantly agrees, but lines up pool lessons with pool expert Willie Marconi. This does not turn out well — especially for Marconi. As for Max’s buffoonery, well, at least that’s on point.
All hope for the mission, however, is not lost. Just before the Chief can pinch the bridge
The Dead Spy Scrawls – decoded.
of his nose in frustration, Parker and 99 arrive to save the day. Max is outfitted with a Pool Cue Gun and a Remote Control Cue Ball. 99 gets to operate a Lipstick Remote that controls the cue ball.
The episode buttons up exactly how we’d expect. Decked out in a flashy jacket Max, with 99 posing as his girlfriend, show up at the pool hall and challenges the Shark to a game — little do they know Kaos is about to intercept a Control message so the Shark has to be goaded into playing. The scene shows some absurd shots as well as a few legitimate ones. The Shark is none too happy that Max’s trick shot (or should I say Don’s) opens the up the electronic brain. A fight ensues. Stryker ends up shot and the Shark gets a knot on his head.
By the way, Max would still like that $13,000 he’s owed from the pool game.
• Aunt Rose appears in the bus terminal.
• Robert Karvelas is noticeable as one of the Shark’s pool groupies. He also shows up in the bus terminal, but you may have do a double take and squint to catch him.
The Shark accesses the Electronic Brain. Kaos went to a lot of effort to hack Control.
• The episode’s title refers to the Dead Sea Scrolls, a collection of manuscripts discovered in 1946-47, 1956 and 2017 in the Qumran Caves near the Dead Sea.
• Three Fingers Yarmy, who Max mentions, is a nod to Don Adams’ real last name. Yarmy is also mentioned in the third season episode “Don’t Look Back” and, if you count it as Smart-lore, the name is one of the Easter eggs in the 2008 feature film.
• The character Willie Marconi is a nod to professional pool player Willie Mosconi, who, between 1941 and 1957, won the World Straight Pool Championship 15 times.
• Jack Lambert appeared in a load of westerns, usually playing a tough guy – most notably as compulsive killer Steve “The Claw” Michel in the film Dick Tracy’s Dilemma. He appeared in multiple episodes of Gunsmoke, Daniel Boone and Wagon Train
• Leonard Nimoy is best known as Star Trek’s Mr. Spock and as Paris in Mission: Impossible. Post Star Trek TOS, Nimoy hosted In Search Of. He would later go on to host other similar shows – Ancient Mysteries and History’s Mysteries. He had a reoccurring role as Dr. William Bell in the TV series Fringe. Nimoy has quite the TV résumé pre-Star Trek, having appeared in Dragnet, Sea Hunt, Wagon Train, The Virginian and Gunsmoke. He also appeared in a 1964 episode of The Man From U.N.C.L.E., “The Project Strigas Affair” with future Star Trek co-star William Shatner.
• Don Brodie also appeared in the first season episode “The Day Smart Turned
Be careful not to confuse the Silent Signal System for the hand gestures in the Control Baseball Handbook.
Chicken.” His character rented Max that creepy chicken suit. He began appearing in movies starting in the 1930s and his TV series appearances ranged from the 1950s to the 1980s.
• In addition to a career as a character actor, Harry Bartell was also a radio announcer. He made TV appearances in Gunsmoke, The Wild Wild West, Dragnet and The Partners. He also appeared in the second season episode “Cutback at Control” as Dietrich.
• Roy Engel had a reoccurring role in The Wild Wild West as President Ulysses S. Grant. He appeared in numerous TV shows including Maverick, Have Gun – Will Travel, My Favorite Martian, The Andy Griffith Show, Lassie, Bonanza and Mission: Impossible.
• Both Get Smart appearances by Hans Moebus, as with a lot of the parts he had, are uncredited. In “The Dead Spy Scrawls” he’s seen in Mother’s Family Pool Hall. He also appears in “Back to the Old Drawing Board.” He can also be seen in Bonanza Gunsmoke, Ironside, Bewitched, Mission: Impossible and Batman. He is known for Psycho, Gone with the Wind and North by Northwest.
Glick meter: We get an “And Loving it” as well as a “Would You Believe” which references Steubenville, Ohio. Poor Max is kind of a disaster in this episode.
Oh Max meter: There really isn’t any flirting going on between 99 and 86. Sorry about that.
Control Agents: Agent 46, Professor Parker
Kaos Agents: Shark, Stryker
Gadgets: Remote Control Cue Ball, Lipstick Remote, Pool Cue Gun, Micro Camera, gun briefcase, Electronic Brain (hidden in a pool table).
Episode Locations: Mother’s Family Pool Hall, bus terminal.
The old trick shot in the 60s TV sitcom trick.