“It’s Her Business to Be Suspicious”: Cathy Gale and Steed’s Identity in “Man With Two Shadows”

“The Man With Two Shadows” hinges on an enemy plot to create doubles of various important people and have the doubles kill and then take over the lives and roles of their originals. Steed and Cathy find out that Steed is one of the people who is going to be replaced, and Steed admits that at one time he had been captured by the bad guys who are making the doubles but that he escaped after four days. They also discover that a man named Gordon who is at the holiday camp where most of the action takes place isn’t really Gordon, but is in fact his double.

After Cathy returns to London to see what Charles, Steed’s supervisor, has come up with, Steed is attacked by his double in an attempted murder that Steed manages to foil; the double is killed instead. But the possibility of Steed being a doppelgänger weighs heavily on Cathy, and by the end of Act II she has become uncertain that Steed is, in fact, real-Steed. She gets orders from Charles to kill Steed if she thinks that he could be the doppelgänger. But Cathy also is unconvinced that Steed is fake-Steed. So she engages in a tour-de-force of logic by which she convinces herself that Steed is who he says he is, and also outs one of the other doubles involved in the plot, a man posing as a member of Parliament named Cummings.

So how exactly does Cathy figure out that Steed is really himself and that Cummings is one of the doubles?

First, let’s consider the evidence she has to work with:

  • she already knows that Gordon is a fake
  • she believes that she was talking to the real Steed before she went back to London
  • she knows that there were to be three switches:
    • Gordon (whom she already knows about)
    • a “public man,” possibly a politician (from the tape of Borowski’s interrogation)
    • a British agent (also from the interrogation tape)
  • she knows that it is unusual for Steed to admit to things like having been tortured
  • there was an attempt to swap Steeds before she gets back to the camp (Steed tells her)
  • Steed is unable to answer questions about her identity that she thinks he should know
  • she knows that Gordon and Steed discussed “something important” (Julie tells her)
  • she knows that Cummings is a politician
  • she knows that Cummings, Gordon, and Steed talked together (Cummings says so)
  • Charles wants her to kill Steed if there’s any doubt as to his identity
  • when she and Cummings go to Steed’s chalet, they find Steed being attacked

Cathy might be uncertain of Steed’s identity, but she’ll be damned if she shoots him without making absolutely sure. Let’s take a detailed look at how she connects the dots.

♦  ♦  ♦

“but for borowski planting the seed”

When Steed recounts his interrogation of Borowski, he wonders aloud whether someone could really fool the people who love them. Cathy says that it certainly would be possible, if those people weren’t expecting a swap. She also says that she knows that Steed is not a doppelgänger because she has been given warning that one might exist: Borowski told Steed, and then Steed told her. If a swap had been intended, she would have received no warning about it. The bad guys wouldn’t have wanted her to be on her guard


Steed: That’s not Gordon.

A similar line of reasoning obtains with respect to the information Steed passes her about Gordon. When Steed and Cathy meet in the Vienna Room after the doctor and dentist complete their exams, he tells her that “Gordon” is a double and that the real Gordon is dead.

Therefore Cathy feels certain that the man she is talking to up to the point of her departure from the camp is indeed the real Steed.

♦  ♦  ♦

“quis custodies custodebit?”*

When Charles comes to visit Cathy in her flat, he plays an excerpt from a tape that was made during a long interrogation of Borowski. In that excerpt, Borowski suggests that one of the doubles will be “a public man.” Charles tries to get him to say what kind of public man, and suggests “a clergyman? a politician? a Trades Unionist?” He also prods Borowski to give a name, but Borowski is unable either to state what kind of man it is or to name him. The next double Borowski mentions is “a British agent,” but after he says this he slips into the persona of a Gestapo officer and gives no further information.

The mention of a British agent and some of the things Charles says plant in Cathy’s mind the possibility that the Steed she has been talking to today wasn’t her Steed but rather was his double. The thing that Cathy used as evidence that Steed was real-Steed in their first conversation about the case now gets turned against them: what Charles says makes her think that Steed’s admission about having been captured and tortured might be the very thing that the double would say as part of an attempt to avert suspicion from himself.

Cathy: You mean Steed might have been switched already?
Charles: They had him for four days. With all their resources, they could have made a perfect blueprint for Steed in four days.

Then Charles asks Cathy some random questions, apparently to prove that she is really herself: what she ate and drank during a recent dinner out with Steed, and about her uncle’s bulldog. Cathy gives answers, and Charles pronounces himself satisfied with these.

The thing I find odd is that Cathy, although she understands the purpose behind Charles asking her these things, seems to unquestioningly assume that Charles would know the correct answers to these rather personal details of her life, she doesn’t find it at all creepy that he does, and she doesn’t ask how he found out. She also doesn’t question whether he might not know the answers, but rather is collecting that information so as to be able to pass it on for use by others. And Charles seems not to question whether or not Cathy is telling the truth, which indicates either that he really does know the answers and she is being truthful, or he doesn’t know the answers and it simply doesn’t matter for whatever reason.

At any rate: one of the results of this interview is that Cathy becomes very unsure of Steed’s identity. She wants to believe that he really is her Steed, her true and dear friend, but she also needs to be absolutely sure that he isn’t a doppelgänger. It poses a nasty problem for Cathy, and her wavering confidence is a blow to Steed.

*The Latin exchange between Cathy and Charles can be translated thus:
Cathy: Quis custodies custodebit? (Who watches the watchers?)
Charles: Rem acu tetigisti. (You have hit the nail on the head.)

♦  ♦  ♦

“have you ever looked at yourself objectively?

“You do believe me, don’t you?”

Cathy returns to the camp to discuss the case with Steed. Cathy already is concerned about Steed’s identity, and this meeting does nothing to reassure her. She tries to confirm one way or the other who Steed is by asking him the same questions Charles had asked her. Except Steed doesn’t remember what Cathy ate, and although he remembers her uncle’s dog, he can’t remember its name and seems to accept Cathy’s statement that the animal is already dead (Cathy had told Charles that the dog was still alive). Then Steed tells Cathy that he was attacked by his double, and that he managed to kill him. Now Cathy is feeling really unsettled about Steed. Steed picks up on this, and although he acknowledges that Cathy is right to be suspicious of him, it still cuts him to the quick that she is.

Later, Cathy phones Charles and tells him that she’s not sure that Steed is Steed. He tells her that if she’s not absolutely certain that it’s the real Steed, she has to kill him. Cathy agrees, but it’s clear that she is conflicted about the idea.

Immediately after that phone call, she searches out Mr Cummings. She tells him about the doubles plot and that she thinks Steed is a traitor. She asks him for his help in dealing with the problem. At first he declines, but she convinces him to check it out for himself. They go to Steed’s chalet, where they find him fighting with a large man. Cathy produces a revolver, waves it at the man who attacked Steed, and tells him to get out.

Cathy asks Steed a series of questions about what happened when they tried to make the switch. Steed explains that he used an old trick with a piece of thread to tell him whether someone had gotten into his chalet. Cathy suggests that Cummings make a phone call to report the fake Steed, but Cummings says that she should do it, and asks for the revolver. Cathy hands it to Cummings, asking him to keep an eye on Steed. Cummings agrees. Steed of course is frantic by this point: he thinks that Cummings is likely to shoot him and says as much.

Cathy: Will you be able to watch him?
Cummings: Yes, I think so. I’ll need the gun, of course. I’m quite a fair shot.
Steed: And I’m quite a fair target. As soon as you go out of here he’s going to kill me.

Then Steed asks Cathy about her uncle’s dog, “the one that died.” Here he’s remembering a question she asked him earlier in an attempt to confirm his identity. She tells him that the dog’s name is Sam, and that he is still alive, and leaves. As soon as Cathy is gone, Cummings tries to shoot Steed. Except the gun turns out to be empty. Steed jumps Cummings and subdues him.

Cathy knows that one of the doubles will be some kind of “public man.” This description fits Cummings, since he is an MP. She also knows that Cummings knows Gordon, that Gordon had a tête-à-tête with Steed not long after the attempted swap, and that all three of them had a conversation together. Cummings admits to knowing both Gordon and Steed, and it is possible that Cathy saw the three of them together. So Cathy needs to suss out whether Cummings is real or a double, and whether Steed is real or a double, and it will all come down to what happens when she leaves the two of them alone in Steed’s chalet with Cummings holding a revolver.

There are four possible permutations for who is actually in that chalet after Cathy leaves. Only one of these permutations is correct, and it’s possible for several of these permutations that someone might end up dead, possibly an innocent someone. This is why Cathy uses an unloaded revolver. What is done with that revolver will tell her both who Cummings is, and whether Steed is really himself or not.

Here’s how that works, for each permutation:

  • real-Cummings + real-Steed
    • doesn’t matter whether the gun is loaded or not, because neither has a reason to attack the other, but
    • if real-Steed does try to escape, neither of them can use the gun against the other
  • real-Cummings + fake-Steed
    • doesn’t matter whether the gun is loaded or not, because fake-Steed isn’t going to blow his cover by attacking real-Cummings, but
    • even if he tries to escape he won’t be able to use the gun against real-Cummings
  • fake-Cummings + fake-Steed
    • doesn’t matter whether the gun is loaded or not, because fake-Steed and fake-Cummings are colleagues and won’t hurt each other, and neither wants to blow his cover or that of the other man
  • fake-Cummings + real-Steed
    • important the the gun be unloaded because fake-Cummings likely will try to kill real-Steed
    • fake-Cummings will out himself by attacking Steed
      • Steed fighting back will confirm that he is real-Steed because
      • the two fakes would have no reason to attack each other

Of course this plays out pretty much as Cathy expected: fake-Cummings tries to kill real-Steed, who fights back. Ergo, Steed is real-Steed and Cummings is a double.

Cathy does this partly to prove to herself that Steed is who he says he is. But it’s also a thumb in the eye to Charles, in a way. First, if Cummings is real and Steed is real, there’s still a possibility that Steed might attack Cummings in an attempt to escape. Steed can’t know by looking whether Cummings is who he says he is. Steed might think it more to his advantage to attack Cummings to try to get away. This is also possible if Steed is fake and Cummings is real.

If Steed is real and he gets away, he has another opportunity to prove to Cathy who he is, so she won’t have to kill him. If Steed is fake and he gets away, Cathy can wash her hands of it and tell Charles to do his dirty work himself. Another possibility is that if Steed is fake, he might try to kill Cathy next, whereas a real Steed would try again to make her understand who he is. If fake-Steed attacks Cathy, she has every right to defend herself, and if fake-Steed is killed in the process, then that end of the case will have been dealt with.

It doesn’t really matter which way any of these play out: Cathy will have sussed whether Steed is the genuine article or not, and if she catches the “public man” double at the same time, so much the better.

That Cathy is later attacked by the man who just tried to kill Steed is actually immaterial. If Cummings is fake, he would naturally try to bump Cathy off to prevent her from giving away the game, he may have already given the order even before Cathy speaks to him, and whether Steed is real or not makes no difference. If Steed is fake, it doesn’t matter whether Cummings is real or not, since a fake Steed would be equally likely to have arranged to get rid of Mrs Gale by proxy and then claim that it was the bad guys who did it.

tl;dr: Mrs Catherine Gale has a mind like a goddamn steel trap, and it’s lucky for John Steed that she has.



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