TODAY'S SUBJECT:  Leningrad cell

Thought I was done venting about the Leningrad cell?  Not nearly!  The more I think about the Leningrad cell, the more bogus it becomes as a reason for Quiller to take on Scorpion.

In that hyperdramatic scene in the Tempelhof airport, to Q's question about what Schrenk has to give away, Croder simply says, "The Leningrad cell," and then [pause for organ music and flash of lightning] Q thinks:  "Mother of God."

Okay, call me cynical, but I can't really believe that the Leningrad cell is, despite its proven productivity, all that different from other cells in other sensitive areas round the world, any one of whom could be blown by having an active agent in the field picked up by with the wrong information by the wrong people at the wrong time.  Sure, it makes a wonderfully dramatic textual moment (and after all, isn't that why we love Hall so much?), but from a mission-planning point of view, I have to think that if Q'd been reasoning straight (that is, not overcome with shame for wimping out when asked to help Shapiro, having been shot from hang-gliding to helicopter to high-priority mission, so forth), it would have been clear that the threat to the Leningrad cell is not at all out of the ordinary.

In fact, it's interesting how Croder equivocates on the question of whether Shapiro actually *has* given anything away:  "But Norfolk isn't Lubyanka. We do not know, you see, how bad the position is, because we don't know how much he gave away." [2:47]  Well, this seems rather a no-brainer, doesn't it?  We assume that, if known, the Leningrad cell (having cut the heart out of Soviet intelligence for quite a time) would be an immediate target for liquidation by the KGB (I can't imagine Auntie KG letting the Leningrad cell members have enough time make their travel plans).  Thus, if the Leningrad cell is intact, then Shapiro's not blown them.  QED.

And never forget this:  at the time Croder is feeding Q this story, he *knows* of raw intelligence which strongly suggests that Shapiro's abduction from Steinberg's office (which supposedly preceded his "return" to Lubyanka) is a sham (after Croder's arrival in Moscow, Bracken remarks, "One of the reports said that Schrenk faked his abduction at the Hannover clinic with the help of his friends: he meant us to assume the KGB had got him back inside Lubyanka, so that we'd give up and leave him alone. I wasn't told of this until today, butó" [17:142]).

If not to provide evidence of a "real," extraordinary (that is, atypical) threat, then, what's the Leningrad cell brought up for?  It has to be Q's connection with one of its principals (Shapiro) as well as two others (Comstock and Whitman).  Q's protective instincts are brought into play, perhaps because Croder's real purpose all along has been to prepare Q for the possibility that he's going to be called on to murder his old friend.

--IM