In an earlier "Thought," I dwelt on the subject of pride and what it causes you to lose, looking at the cases of Croder, Shapiro, and Vader. Today, I'd like to take a look at our man Quiller's pride and how, in TSS, he uses it, both for and against the Bureau's best interests.
On the more positive side, Q is actually hooked into the mission as a point of pride (or as he characterizes it to his contact in Moscow, "vanity"). Croder plays on Q's pride, first by implying that Shapiro needs him, and later, by expressing contempt when Q appears to balk ("What more do you want, for God's sake?" [2:74]). Then, when Q is still hesitant, Croder goes for the jugular: "All you want...is just one good reason for getting the next plane back to London with what's left of your conscience, and the problem is that you won't find one because we've been hard at it setting the whole thing up, and it works, it really does. The odds, of course...are not in your favor..." [2:98] That of course is the last straw, since Q would never admit to being afraid just because the odds are long. Thus, his pride gets him into a mission that, even more than usually, is one only he can bring to conclusion.
On the negative side, in Schrenk's apartment, Q almost comes a mucker over pride. It has always been a little difficult for me to understand Q's moral reasoning in pushing Schrenk to the extremity of either killing him or having him killed. For example, consider Q's claim that he can't lie to Schrenk: "If I gave him my word I would have to keep it. It didn't matter if he were half out of his mind and needed protecting from himself, so forth: those arguments were rational but not admissible." [15:115]
Could someone please explain to me why Schrenk is any different from anyone else Q comes into contact with in the field? Let's face it: Q lies to contacts, DiFs, controllers, romantic partners, interrogators, those who imprison him, and any number of others. In fact, his usual mode of expression is deception, truthfulness (to others, as well as himself) being the exception rather than the rule. So whence comes this sudden obstinate refusal to tell a lie?
It has to be laid, again, to pride. It's as if Q's saying that it is okay to tell a lie if you're lying to ordinary folks, but not if you're doing so to an elite shadow executive, which seems rather a snobbish position to take. It seems Q's taking a rather indefensible moral high ground here; he is pitting his convoluted personal code of ethics against, (a) the life of himself (perhaps the only agent capable of averting the disaster Schrenk is planning), (b) the life of his old comrade-in-arms (who stands to die if any of a number of things go wrong), and (c) the life of the target Q knows Schrenk is planning to hit. That this almost gets him killed should, I think, be a lesson he'd take note of: when two proud people confront each other, neither can emerge the better for it. At least Q realizes that just before Schrenk sends him out with Ignatov: "Call it pride, would you, not enough guts to face the fact that for the first time in my life I'm failing a mission, I don't give a damn what you call it, it's none of your bloody business." [15:117]