TODAY'S SUBJECT:  The fragmentary briefing

Regardless of claims about Croder's alleged competence ("[Croder's] very good," insists Bracken [4:56]), it just struck me that this must be one of the most ineptly handled briefings in Bureau history.  Now, granted, it is not unusual to have the Bureau parcel out good info in dribs and drabs to his Ferretship, but what we have in TSS is surely one of the most fragmented, extended briefings in Bureau history.  In fact, neither Q *nor his DiF* is fully aware of the mission's parameters until Chapter 17, a little over two chapters from the end!

The first fragment is given Q in the form of an appeal to his friendship with Shapiro.  The second fragment is an appeal based on the alleged threat from exposing the Leningrad cell.  Of course, disclosure under implemented interrogation is always a danger when you use executives in the field who are well-trained, and therefore have a headful of really damaging information.  Despite the fact that the Leningrad cell had proven more productive than most, Schrenk's capture carries no more risk to active agents than Q's did when he was injected by Fabian or chucked into Aschau or yelled at by the Chinese interrogator on the oil rig/missile site.  I think the Leningrad cell threat is used as a hook, simply because Q had worked with three members of it (Shapiro, Comstock, and Whitman) before.  In fact, Croder tries to goose up the story a little too much when he Tells the Mark the Tale that it's thought that Schrenk has gone *back* to Lubyanka, when he clearly knows (we're told at [17:142]) that this story was always at the very least highly suspect.

When they're all assembled in Moscow--Croder, his six-man cell, Bracken, and Quiller--everybody *finally* gets on the same page.  But, as I've argued before, this seems unnecessarily late for so important a matter.

I am not certain why this should have happened.  There's something screwy about the atmosphere in the Bureau at the outset of TSS, something I've not quite put my finger on.  I've dwelt in earlier "Thoughts" on the unusually high level of knowledge about the mission, on everyone but Q seeming to know about Shapiro, and on the extremely rushed activity leading up to the jump across the frontier.  Those are all pieces of the puzzle, but they aren't quite it.

I'll keep working on it.  At the moment, my sense is that it has something to do with the verbal and nonverbal impact of the following statement:  "'Nothing ever happens in this place'--[Tilson] turned his bland pink face to me for the first time--'unofficially.'" [1:73]