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Sandbaggers, The (1978-80)


Warning: screenonline full synopses contain 'spoilers' which give away key plot points. Don't read on if you don't want to know the ending!

'Special Relationship', written by Ian Mackintrosh, directed by Michael Ferguson, originally transmitted 30/10/1978

An East German double agent offers British Intelligence photographs of a secret missile installation. Fearing that he is under suspicion, he insists that the British come and buy them from him directly. An agent from Bonn is assigned. Burnside concentrates on briefing his Sandbaggers Willie Caine and Laura Dickens. The head of the Hungarian underground movement is under suspicion and they both need to be able to extract him at the shortest notice.

Burnside's ex-wife Belinda attempts a reconciliation, but he ignores her and goes to lunch with Laura, with whom he has recently started an intense love affair. When the agent in Bonn is hurt in a car accident, Burnside has to find a replacement. He approaches Ross at the CIA, but all he can do is send an agent as back-up. It is suggested that the Field School be contacted to see if there are any suitable candidates, but Burnside rejects this. Caine offers to do the job despite the fact that he can't even speak German. Burnside realises that Caine is only offering so as to protect Laura. She is a recent graduate from the Field School and speaks the language and knows Berlin. Burnside thanks him and then orders Laura to go.

Sir Geoffrey Wellingham begs Burnside to consider seeing his daughter Belinda again, but Burnside refuses, saying the price is too high. Laura goes to Berlin and is captured. Burnside tells SIS chief 'C' that she knows all about the Hungarian Underground and must be extracted within two days before she cracks under interrogation. The only alternative is to offer to swap her for a Russian agent. As the UK and the US have no suitable candidates, Burnside goes to the French. They agree only on condition that he pass on all the CIA material he is given as part of the 'special relationship' with the US. Wellingham and 'C' sign a document agreeing to secretly pass on the information for a period of twelve months, knowing that this will finish their careers.

In Berlin during the exchange, Ross's CIA back-up shoots Laura from the Eastern side. To protect the 'special relationship' and the Hungarians, Burnside has made a deal with Ross not to pass the information to the French, but the CIA insisted therefore that the exchange not go through to ensure that Burnside not be in debt to the French.