• title card: white all caps text reading ‘HOUSE OF CARDS BY BRIAN CLEMENS’ superimposed on Perov crashing through the glass door trying to catch his quarry
  • Jo looks at Steed’s photographs of Cathy, Emma and Tara
  • Low-angle shot of Purdey leaping into the air in her gold silk karate gi
  • Steed and Gambit visit Roland, who is more interested in the roses he has tied together in order to make a new hybrid
  • Perov stands atop a hill among the fields and steadies his pistol with his other hand around the wrist as he takes aim
  • Purdey and Gambit flank Steed who sits on the ground, holding the shield which saved his life

The New Avengers, Series 1 — Episode 2
House of Cards

by Brian Clemens
Directed by Ray Austin

TV Times summary

When suave Steed, aided by pretty Purdey and gallant Gambit, attempt to outwit sinister spy Perov, it sets up a game of cards in which the stakes are life or death.

Plot summary

The New Avengers rescue Professor Vasil from being forcibly repatriated by Perov, who is demoted. Perov fakes his own suicide and activates the House of Cards - the reactivation of sleeper agents by sending them half a playing card with the name of an assassination target on it. Gambit and Purdey thwart the assassination attempts and race to save Vasil, who has tracked Steed to where the professor was hidden. Steed takes Vasil’s place and survives the attack courtesy of a shield under his coat.

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John Steed (Patrick Macnee) and Purdey (Joanna Lumley) inspect a platoon of miniskirted teenie-boppers at an airport, Steed reminding them that they are screaming for England, the girls turn to camera and all have t-shirts emblazoned “MIKE”.
Inside the terminal, Ivan Perov (Peter Jeffrey) is forcibly repatriating Professor Vasil (Gordon Sterne), assisted by Boris (Dan Meaden) and another minder, Kristos (Terry Plummer). Before they can march him aboard his plane, Mike Gambit (Gareth Hunt), disguised as a pop star, is chased into the room by the swarm of teenie-boppers. Chaos ensues, and in the confusion Vasil is freed by Purdey. Outside, Steed bundles him into a car driven by Roland (Frank Thornton) and they make their escape from an enraged Perov.

Perov’s second in command, Olga (Ina Skriver), tells him that he will be demoted for his failure; Perov tells her she will take over from him, then commits suicide with a syringe. Steed attends the funeral, but while he’s talking to Olga, Perov gets out of his coffin, congratulating undertaker Cartney (Lyndon Brook) for his heart and respiration suspending drug, then offers to show him a card trick…

Sleeper agent David Miller (Murray Brown) receives half a playing card - the King of Hearts - in the mail but as he’s no longer brainwashed he knows they’re in danger and immediately sends his worried wife Suzy (Annette André) to their country cottage. Cartney and Perov are waiting outside, but he escapes on horseback and rides to Steed’s house. Steed is entertaining Jo (Geraldine Moffat) - confusing his horses with his ex partners - and sees Miller arrive, but Perov shoots him and all Miller can gasp is “Beware - King - Heart” before dying.

Perov orders his ‘ashes’ to be delivered to the embassy, and another card to another sleeper. Purdey is practicing karate with Spence (Mark Burns) when Gambit arrives to find a squash partner, handing him a letter found of the doorstep. Inside the letter, the Jack of Hearts wakes up Spence and he proposes a fight instead of a game of squash. Gambit quips a “fight to the death”, but it very soon is as Spence slashes him with a dagger. Gambit sees the card and realises what he’s up against, but eventually prevails.

At the embassy, Olga is throwing out all of Perov’s accoutrements when she notices that the hearts are missing from the sleeper pack. Meanwhile, the New Avengers gather at Miller’s house and find the playing card, with “Steed” printed on the back - Spence’s card has “Gambit” written on it. Purdey is sent to find Suzy, as her bishop stepfather will know the church in a photo of the cottage. Cartney delivers the 10 of Hearts - with Roland written on it - to the bishop’s church.
The New Avengers think Roland dead when they find him lying on the ground, but he’s contemplating a hybrid rose he’s trying to breed. They show him the cards and he remembers Perov’s “House of Cards”. At that moment, the Bishop (Derek Francis) arrives - his chauffeur, Frederick (Anthony Bailey), told him he owed Roland a visit and rushes over to the cross-pollinating roses. Gambit and Steed leave, but rush back when they hear a gunshot - Frederick has tried to kill Roland, but the Bishop intervenes, Purdey-style, with high kicks.
Olga hears of the attempt on Roland and knowing Steed will be next, takes a revolver from a drawer and says she’ll take care of him personally…

Purdey finds the cottage, but Suzy shoots at her, then pursues her through the grounds. Purdey wrests the gun from her and Perov spies them crossing the lawn, deep in conversation. She knows David is dead and says had told her to use the gun on anyone who used their real name - they’re known locally as the Joneses. He had said if a card arrived he’d have to go to work again, to a job from which he’d been “put to sleep”. Steed meanwhile interrogates Frederick who says he was “just one of a pack” who had to kill. Suzy meanwhile reveals that David had been shocked to meet someone he knew in his old life at a recent Hunt Ball, Steed’s date!

Steed is entertaining Jo again, she pours a few drinks when Purdey bursts in, holding her at gunpoint. Steed finds half a Jack of Hearts in her purse with his name on it, and Purdey a half-dissolved poison capsule in his drink. Steed hands Jo over to Purdey to take in, then hears Olga cock her revolver at the window; he sneaks outside and knocks her out.

Dr. Tulliver (Jeremy Wilkin) is summoned to Cartney’s funeral parlour and told he has to go back to work by Perov; reactivated with a Queen of Hearts. Meanwhile, Steed profusely apologises to Olga and puts a steak on her black eye, then quizzes her about the House of Cards.

Gambit finds Cartney removing Perov’s nameplate from the coffin and forces him to talk, while Olga confirms the House of Cards is thirteen assassins infiltrated into Britain twenty years ago. Purdey comes home and starts disrobing, but is shocked to see Tulliver sitting in the corner with a gun. She’s annoyed a moment later when she finds Gambit there, and he’d already knocked Tulliver out. They convene with Steed and realise Perov’s still alive, and seeking revenge on those who humiliated him over Professor Vasil - he will be the next card. Outside, Perov sprays Steed’s Jaguar with a clear lacquer that he’ll be able to see from the air with special glasses, and follows Steed by helicopter when he goes to protect Vasil. Purdey suddenly swallows Jo’s poison capsule and, jumps in her car, telling Gambit Perov never meant to kill Steed - the capsule was fake - to make him go to protect Vasil and they pursue the chopper, hoping to save Steed and the Professor.

Perov traps the Professor and Steed in a windmill and tells Steed he won’t be harmed if he surrenders Vasil. To the professor’s horror, Steed agrees and Perov guns down the bespectacled figure just before Purdey and Gambit arrive - Gambit in the helicopter and Purdey on the ground - to detain him.
Turning over the body, they find Steed, disguised as the professor and protected by an ornamental shield inside his overcoat.

Production details

Produced:May, 1976
First broadcast:
  • London: 26/10/1976
  • Midlands: 21/11/1976
  • Sydney (ABN-2): 23/02/1977
  • Melbourne (ABV-2): 23/02/1977
  • USA (CBS): 20/10/1978
  • France (TF1): 1/01/1977

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