Six Hands Across A Table (Episode 02-25, March 1963).
Following Venus’s departure, Cathy Gale returns for an episode more or less on her own – and for the first (and last) time, romance is in the air! Cathy has become involved with shipyard owner Oliver Waldner (Guy Doleman), ostensibly on the strength of her schoolgirl friendship with his sister (?) Rosalind (Sylvia Bidmead). But there are nefarious dealings afoot when one of Waldner’s business colleagues dies a suspicious death after refusing to participate in a deal that would give Waldner and friends control of a large section of British shipbuilding. Steed is on hand, of course, to prove that Cathy’s boyfriend is a killer.
Six Hands Across A Table suffers from a number of confusions between characters, both personally and professionally. Waldner and his colleagues are apparently attempting to push through a deal that would keep British shipbuilding in their control, while the murdered man and his son, who takes over his father’s company, attempt to work with a French firm that would take some shipbuilding out of the country. The plot is a little complex for an hour episode, and unfortunately focuses a bit too much on some rather complex backroom business deals to be interesting.
The other source of confusion appears in Cathy’s relationship to Oliver and Rosalind. At first I thought Rosalind was Oliver daughter, based on the way they relate, but Oliver is far closer to Cathy’s age and her and Rosalind were meant to be at school together. Some of the confusion is a result of Cathy visibly being in her early to mid-thirties, while Rosalind looks much younger. It is at times difficult to understand the relationship of the characters as a result.
Beyond confusions in the plot, however, Six Hands Across A Table hangs together rather well. It is the only time that Cathy has a romantic interest – and she makes quite a terrible choice. Waldner is a cold-blooded killer who treats murder like a business venture. When Steed warns Cathy of her lover’s possible criminal activities, she attempts to dismiss him – but is obviously shaken. Blackman gives an excellent performance here; she’s gotten in too deep and made the mistake of falling in love with a man she’s supposed to be investigating. While Steed offers little solace, couching his suspicions in his usual flippant manner, he’s earnestly concerned to keep her out of trouble.
There’s a touching scene that highlights Steed’s increasing sensitivity, and inherent decency, as well as Cathy’s intense guarding of her emotions. More and more we see that these are two people who protect themselves from emotional pain, but actually care very deeply for one another. The episode is worth it for that scene alone.