• title card: white all caps text reading ‘LOBSTER QUADRILLE’ superimposed on Williams’ body lying face down on the floor
  • A shot of the strange Alice in Wonderland themed restaurant, the diners dwarfed by the enormous illustrations
  • Mason talks to Cathy about chess as she holds a book on the subject
  • Katie and Steed return to his place from their date; she’s wearing his bowler hat and a rose at her cleavage
  • Cathy kneels in front of Quentin, facing us, as Quentin prepares to set fire to the hut and her with it
  • Steed gestures at a Modernist portrait of Cathy that he had commissioned

Series 3 — Episode 26
Lobster Quadrille

by Richard Lucas
Designed by Patrick Downing
Directed by Kim Mills

Production No 3625, VTR unknown
Production completed: March 20 1964. First transmission: March 21 1964.

TV Times summary

In which Steed goes fishing, and Cathy hunts a knight

Plot summary

An unusual chess piece in a dead agent’s pocket leads Cathy to a dealer who also peddles dope. Meanwhile, Steed investigates the fishery where the agent’s body was found, burnt to a crisp. He discovers the Captain’s son Quentin did not die at sea, but merely staged his death to escape arrest for drug smuggling. However, when Quentin tries to kill Cathy with a second inferno he is trapped in it and dies. For Cathy, it is her final case as she departs for a well-deserved holiday, never to return, and Steed promptly rings her replacement…

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Quentin Slim (Corin Redgrave) sits morosely in a fishing hut while Jackson (Valentino Musetti) removes crates behind him; Arnold Bush (Gary Watson) arrives, worried about a journalist called Williams who has been snooping. Slim says he’s already arrived and he was amazed how much he had found out - but has been dealt with; he indicates a corpse dressed like John Steed,1 lights a cigarette with an oil lamp, then throws it into some straw, hiding the evidence by burning down the hut.

Act 1

John Steed (Patrick Macnee) and Catherine Gale (Honor Blackman) examine the corpse at the morgue – Williams was actually an agent who normally worked in France – and they find a rare chess piece2 in his personal effects.

Steed goes to inspect the hut, and finds Dr. Stannage (Norman Scace), the pathologist,3 already there; he says Williams was shot with a .38, and he’s searching the remains of the hut for the bullet.4 Steed claims to be from the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, and says Williams was investigating if waste material from a new power station was affecting local lobster fishing.

Stannage leaves, leaving Steed to poke about – he picks up a burnt lobster and mutters “Lobster thermidor”. Bush arrives and accuses Steed of trespassing as the hut belongs to his boss, Captain Slim. Steed claims he’s Ag. & Fish. and Bush confides that Slim blames him for the fire, then suggests a tramp dropped a cigarette. Steed leaps at the opening to invite himself to talk to the Captain that afternoon despite Bush’s reluctance.

Cathy meanwhile goes to “The Chess Shop”, which is run by Mason (Burt Kwouk). He quickly offers her an expensive reproduction of a Sixteenth Century chess set but she says it’s not what she wants.

MASON: For a lady of your intelligence and beauty this has to be the one for you.
CATHY: Isn’t there a proverb in your country that says everyone…
MASON: Not Confucius, please. What was wisdom to my ancestors is now mere pomposity in this enlightened age. Today we need new rules.

She asks for a set like the knight she’s carrying, and claims Williams lent it to her. Mason recognises the piece immediately and asks how Williams is. She airily claims Williams is staying with her which surprises Mason, who has been playing chess by correspondence with Williams, whom he thought was in France. When she leaves, he gives her his next move to save him posting it.

Steed visits Captain Slim (Leslie Sands),5 who claims to know nothing about the fire, or Williams and doesn’t even know what he looks like; Bush concurs but reveals that the coast guard saw the fire at 2am, just on low tide. As Bush takes his leave Slim asks if Mason is coming down that night; he then explains to Steed Mason is a friend with an insatiable appetite for lobsters, even if he eats them with soy sauce.6

The Captain goes to get Steed some lobster7 and Steed immediately takes the opportunity to search the office and is looking behind a painting when Katie Miles (Jennie Linden) enters; Steed quickly pretends to be just looking at the painting and, thinking it was the Captain coming back, is surprised when Katie says her husband painted it; he turns and recognises her, and they flirt.

STEED: I know the face but not the name.
KATIE: (LAUGHS) Katie Miles, currently appearing at the Alice Club.
STEED: That’s right, I passed there the other night. Your name is up in lights.
KATIE: Well next time don’t pass, drop in.

The Captain returns and explains that his son Quentin, Katie’s husband, is dead after his boat capsized in a storm. Steed takes his lobster and leaves, leaving the Captain to admonish Katie for disrespecting her husband’s memory by flirting with Steed.

Cathy and Steed try Mason’s list of chess moves8 and find they don’t work – they must be a cipher; meanwhile, Mason is discovering from Bush that they discovered his friend Williams was a spy and had to get rid of him. Mason is concerned and tells him about Cathy, saying he gave her Williams’ mail. Quentin enters and grimly observes they must find out who she is, and might have to deal with her as well – and holds up a lit match!

Act 2

Captain Slim tells Bush to push the men harder, they’re behind on the catch and he wants them to work the weekend. Bush complains that it’s not the Navy but Captain Slim replies that he’s in command and they have to run it like the service. This just makes Bush snigger at him so Slim reminds him that both sides of the operation depend on efficiency, so they have to give them orders… 9

Steed meets Katie at The Alice Club, where she reveals that she heard Bush mention Williams once, and assumed they were dealing in lobsters but claims she doesn’t really know. Steed promises to return later for a dinner date and they pass Bush and Quentin’s table on the way out. Quentin asks Bush who Steed is, then orders him to find out all he can about him.

Cathy revisits Mason and asks if he can provide her with an opponent. He goes to get a notebook and reaches instead for the pistol in his desk but someone else enters the shop so he puts it down. Cathy gives him Steed’s address as her own. When Mason looks up after writing it down, he is face to face with Quentin.

Bush meanwhile intercepts Dr. Stannage and tells him Captain Slim is anxious to talk to Steed privately and, after a bit of prompting, obtains Steed’s address from him.

Cathy is writing letters on a chess board to decipher the code while Steed is preparing for his date with Katie. A phone call confirms that Quentin Slim was under suspicion for smuggling when he disappeared; he’d have been arrested otherwise. Cathy notes it was a convenient time to disappear and Steed adds that a channel storm is a cheap way to do it – you lose a small yacht and charter a fishing smack to pick you up; they’re now searching the Continent for him.

Bush meanwhile gives Mason a glass bottle of heroin that had been hidden in a lobster, then gives him Steed’s address and they realise it’s the same as Cathy’s.

Steed has a date with Katie and they banter happily but she reveals she won’t marry again, even though she will happily let him take her home for coffee.

Meanwhile Bush tells Quentin that Steed’s a threat and not from the Ministry of Fisheries. Quentin wants to go to London to warn Katie as Steed is pumping her for information, but Bush warns him he might be seen by someone he knows. He suggests instead they bring Steed to them and plans to abduct Cathy and have Steed come after her.

A short time later, Cathy has just deciphered the message10 when Mason arrives and claims he has found her a partner for the chess tournament. He’s pleased that she seems to have been practicing and he holds up the knight from Williams’ set.

MASON: One piece can decide the whole game.
CATHY: So I believe.
MASON: One unexpected move from your partner can mean ‘check-mate’, Mrs. Gale.

At “check-mate”, Mason turns and draws a pistol which he points at her.

Act 3

Steed returns home with Katie for a bit of nookie and she falls backwards on the sofa submissively as they chat.11 When she gets up, she scatters Cathy’s notes which were hidden under the cushion and hands them apologetically to Steed. He is concerned by Cathy’s notes and the rare knight among the scattered chess pieces, which he picks up quizzically.

STEED: It’s a message from a friend of mine, she wants me to go round.
STEED: It’s not like that at all. She’s a very old friend. Look, we’ll have to postpone the coffee and brandy. I’m sorry.
KATIE: (EXASPERATED) You are sending me home!
STEED: I’m afraid so. This matter’s very urgent.
KATIE: A matter of life and death, I suppose?
STEED: Could be.

Steed then breaks into Mason’s shop and finds the heroin, which he tests in a candle flame; it smells of lobster and once again he mutters “Lobster thermidor”, remembering the burnt-out hut.

Katie returns to Slim’s house at 2am and is berated by the Captain for being out to dinner on the anniversary of his son’s death. She tries to tell the Captain the truth about Quentin but he won’t listen, and suggests she find somewhere else to live. Steed meanwhile informs his department that he found heroin in the chess shop, and Cathy has gone missing.

The next morning, Slim frowns when he comes in late having been up all night and finds Bush in command of the office, arranging the transport of the lobsters. He reminds him that he’s not a member of the family but the arrogant Bush just tells him off for sending Katie away.

Steed goes to the Alice Club to catch up with Katie and she phones his table, putting on a bad French accent in an attempt at disguise. She tells him Quentin’s still alive and living in Le Havre but Steed isn’t fooled for a second; he walks over to her table and asks her if she wants that postponed brandy. Cathy meanwhile attacks her guard in the fishing hut, Jackson, but Mason appears and prevents her escape.

That evening, Katie and Steed visit the Captain,12 telling him about Quentin’s contraband smuggling13 which has escalated to drug running. The Captain doesn’t believe it and blames Katie for telling lies.

SLIM: I don’t care what Quentin was or what he did. He was my son and I loved him.
KATIE: You didn’t even know him. (SHOUTS) I know him. I’m married to him.
SLIM: Were – married. Quentin’s dead.
STEED: I understand your feelings, Captain, but, er, we have a strong suspicion that may not be true.

Bush arrives and is accused of knowing where Quentin is when Katie explains that Bush helped Quentin plan his faked death – when Steed says the French police have found letters from Bush at Quentin’s hideout, Bush pulls a gun, but is quickly disarmed by the Captain.

Down at the hut, Quentin orders Mason and Jackson to the boat, then pours kerosene from a lantern on the ground. When Cathy suggests he won’t be able to get her to talk, he sets a match to the straw but Cathy has loosened her bonds and they fight as the flames rise…

Some time later, a body is removed from the burnt out hut, and they all gather at the morgue, anxious to discover who died. Steed worries greatly for Cathy’s safety. When the body finally arrives they find it is Quentin and a dishevelled Mrs. Gale arrives behind it; she’d tried to get him out, but failed.


Some days later, Cathy plans to take a holiday in the Bahamas, so Steed gives her a swimming costume, suggesting she investigate some trouble out there while “pussy footing”14 along the shores; she tells him firmly “Good bye”.

CATHY: You see I’m not going to be pussy footing along those sun soaked shores, I’m going to be lying on them.
STEED: Not pussy footing? I must have been mis-informed.

After she leaves, Steed phones another woman, proposing a Caribbean holiday…

  1. I’m sure the intent was to make user initially think it was Steed as the body wear his style of overcoat, and there is a dropped bowler hat and whangee cane-handled umbrella lying nearby.
  2. Steed takes the knight from Cathy and mutters “Knight Errand” as he examines it. When he tries to twist it open, Cathy says she’s already tried and she can tell it’s genuine and valuable, and there are only two places in the country that would sell it.
  3. Dr. Stannage warns Steed that the locals think they know everything and hate interference from the Fisheries ministry, then adds:
    STANNAGE: Same trouble with medicine these days. Patients think they know more than their doctors. That’s why I turned to Pathology.
    STEED: Corpses can’t argue.
  4. Dr. Stannage says Williams was shot with a .38 between the seventh and eighth ribs then adds, “That’s what I’m looking for”. When Steed humorously asks, “The ribs?”, Stannage smiles and replies “No, no, the bullet.”
  5. When this scene starts, there’s an overhead shot of Slim crossing the checkered floor of his office, imitating the chess piece Mason just moved.
  6. Steed remarks, “That’s terrible, it’s like, er, mustard with lamb.”
  7. The offer of free lobster is painted to seem like a bribe but turns out to be a red herring rather than a red lobster.
  8. Not the single move you’d expect in correspondence chess but two lists of moves. One purporting to be M. Wright vs D. Brunelleschi (surely a reference to the architects Frank Lloyd Wright and Filippo Brunelleschi), which Cathy says doesn’t work. They try the moves for white in other one: 1. P-Q4, 2. P-QB4, 3. (Cathy says it brings out the Queen’s rook, which doesn’t work).
  9. He seems to be talking about smuggling across the Channel here, but is he?
  10. The board is covered in letters and she says “A, Y … Ten pounds due Marseilles Wednesday!” to herself as she works through the moves.
  11. Kim Mills uses a lovely overhead shot as she lies suggestively on the sofa. I guess Quentin was right when he though Steed would be pumping her for information.
  12. The Captain rudely ignores her when she tries to speak as they enter, and talks to Steed instead.
  13. Captain Slim says he knew that Quentin would bring in cigarettes or brandy, maybe a box of cigars, but nothing more.
  14. Honor Blackman was leaving The Avengers to take a starring role in Goldfinger, playing the character Pussy Galore.

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