A pet store owner, Hudson, is working in a room full of caged birds. He goes outside to dump some garbage and hears an odd noise. When Hudson goes back inside, he discovers that all of the birds are gone from their cages and the doors are open.
Merton parks his car on a cliff in the countryside and hides behind the front. He glances back the way he came but sees nothing, and radios Steed. When Steed responds, Merton says that Hugh Rydercroft is going to be killed and the attempt will be made at noon that day. Steed asks for details, but before Merton can respond something comes up behind him and he looks up in horror. A few seconds later, he falls off a nearby cliff.
Later, Steed, Gambit, and Purdey arrive at the car with an ambulance, recover Merton's body, and check the scene. Steed comes over and confirms that Merton is in a coma and won't wake up for a few days, and plays back the recording he made of Merton's transmission. There's a strange noise in the background. Rydercroft is the controller for the Ministry of Ecology, and as Gambit and Steed go to the car, Purdey plays the tape again and notices the birds in a nearby tree react to it. After a moment she joins her teammates and they leave.
The Avengers arrive at an airfield, and Gambit and Purdey escort Rydercroft from his plane. He doesn't know of anyone who wants him dead, and Gambit tells him that they're having his single-prop plane checked. It's 11:44, and the security chief Turner says that Rydercroft is flying to Switzerland and they've thoroughly checked the plane. Steed isn't convinced.
Gambit goes to find Purdey in the airport office, and she half-jokingly points out that he could be a double or a robot. Unamused, he says that the plane is clean and Rydercroft can leave. They escort Rydercroft to his plane, and in the control tower a satisfied Turner tells Steed that everything is going as planned. Steed points out that it isn't noon yet, and Turner says that they've checked the surrounding air via radar and it's clear.
Rydercroft transmits once he's in the air, saying that everything is okay. The ecologist reports that there are no planes in sight over the Channel. He starts to say that he's seeing something, birds chatter in the background, and the radio goes dead promptly at noon.
Later, Turner checks the plane crash. The head tech, Lexington, reports that he doesn't know why the plane crashed. Turner insists that he'll notify Steed and his people when he thinks that it's appropriate. He finds a metal band on the ground and pockets it, and tells Lexington that he didn't find anything. Once he checks, Lexington checks the wings and dozens of bird feathers fall out.
Turner drives to the Sanctuary of Wings, a private preserve, and confirms that the words "Sanctuary of Wings" are on the band. He parks and walks ahead, and comes to a scarecrow in a clearing. Turner walks past it and continues to the manor, where the owner Zarcardi is working. A falcon that has been following Turner flies in and "reports" to Zarcardi that they have a visitor. Zarcardi spots Turner sneaking up to the manor.
At Steed's home, Steed, Gambit and Purdey listen to the recording of Rydercroft's last transmission, with the birds chattering. Steed has discovered that Rydercroft has led a blameless life.
Turner tries the manor's front door but finds it locked. He goes around to the back and goes inside, and someone bolts the door closed behind him. Turner has no choice but to go into the next room: a conservatory. As music plays outside, Turner sees something and screams in terror. Outside, Zarcardi continues playing a flute.
Gambit realizes that a flock of birds hit Rydercroft's plane and that it was planned by a human agency.
Zarcardi gets his falcon and goes into the conservatory where the bloody Turner is lying on the floor. He talks about finding a bird, wounded and terrified, after an oil spill. Zarcardi then tells Turner to tell him everything.
Steed discovers that Rydercroft was on his way to discuss the conservation of birds at a conference. There are two other men mentioned in Rydercroft's report, Foster and Bridlington. Gambit goes to Foster, Steed to Bridlington. Purdey says that she'll go check on Turner.
Turner shows Zarcardi the metal leg band, and insists that he didn't tell anyone. Zarcardi figures that the piece was logged and asks Turner where the log would be. Turner says that there's a temporary office and the details would be in a red tray.
At the office at the crash site, Purdey talks to Lexington and asks if Turner said where he was going. Purdey pulls up her motorcycle next to Lexington and says that he's afraid of crashing, not flying. Lexington remembers that Turner found something and Purdey has him get on the motorcycle with her to go back to the temporary office. Overhead, a pigeon sits on a branch and watches them.
Lexington discovers that the log is missing from the red tray. All that is there is an egg and a pigeon feather.
On the sanctuary grounds, Zarcardi is playing the flute. The pigeon drops the pages of the log around Zarcardi and flies off.
Inside, the falcon keeps an eye on Turner. He sees an open patio window, climbs out, and jumps to the ground a story below. Turner twists his ankle in the fall and runs off.
Zarcardi finds the falcon perched on the scarecrow and sends it after Foster.
Gambit is driving to Foster's home and sees the falcon fly overhead.
Foster is working in his office and a breeze blows through the window. He closes it and returns to his desk, He has stuffed birds mounted on branches around the room, and hears something moving. Dismissing it as nothing, Foster goes back to work. The falcon is among them, watching.
Gambit pulls up to the house. Inside, the falcon attacks Foster. Gambit hears the noise and runs in, and finds Foster's office in disarray. Foster has jumped out the window to his death, and Gambit finds a bird feather caught on the windowsill.
Turner runs through the sanctuary grounds and comes to his car. The tires have been pecked flat and the windshield is shattered. Turner continues running.
Steed arrives at Bridlington's cabin and finds signs outside warning against cats and singing. When Steed goes inside, Bridlington cheerfully greets him and finds the ecologist perched on a giant-sized bird swing. Bridlington says that he was working with Rydercroft and Foster on birds. Foster suggested a "cure" by mass-exterminating the birds, but Bridlington figures that it was too drastic. The ecologist says that he's working on control rather than extermination and demonstrates by playing a flute-like device. He summons dozens of birds outside and they come down the chimney.
Turner gets out of the sanctuary and runs across a field.
At the manor, Zarcardi sends his falcon out after Turner and then plays his flute, sending the others birds off as well. Turner hears the birds coming and continues running.
Back at Steed's manor, Gambit and Purdey compare notes. Steed arrives and explains Bridlington's experiments to attract bird, and Gambit and Foster tell him what they've discovered.
Turner runs up to Steed's manor and pounds on the locked door. The birds fly down and attack him. A few minutes later, the trio run out and find Turner crouched beneath Gambit's car. They pull him out and he mentions the name "Waterlow" before dying of shock. Later, the medics take Turner's body away.
Zarcardi goes to his desk and mutters the name "Waterlow".
Gambit identifies Professor Waterlow as one of the world's leading authorities on bird migration. He and Steed leave, telling Purdey to man the fort. Once they leave, Purdey finds the "Sanctuary of Wings" metal band on the floor where it fell from Turner's pocket. Steed and Gambit have already left before she can tell them.
Zarcardi goes to Waterlow's home, parks outside, and calls the professor. Waterlow is at the outdoor pool and picks up, confirming that he's there. Once Zarcardi hangs up, he gets out of his car holding his falcon.
Steed and Gambit arrive at Waterlow's home and ring the bell. Waterlow ignores it and continues his work next to the pool, and Gambit takes a look around. Steed does so as well and sees Waterlow by his pool, and goes over to talk to him.
Gambit spots bird gathering in the trees near the house.
Waterlow tells Steed that they face over-population and mass starvation, and there are 100 billion birds on the planet. Birds compete with humanity for its food, so they unfortunately have to be eliminated if mankind is to survive. Waterlow wants to limit them in the future.
Zarcardi sends the falcon to the house and plays his flute. Gambit hears the birds taking flight and runs to the house.
Waterlow insists that only a madman would object to their plan. Steed hears the flute and suggests they go inside as the birds approach. A minute later, Gambit arrives at the pool but there's no sign of Steed or Waterlow. A bird-pecked robe is lying on the deck, and Gambit calls to Steed. Steed emerges from the pool with Waterlow and notes that birds can't swim, and Waterlow says that someone used a sophisticated flute to control the birds. He says that there was one man, the Great Zarcardi, which did amazing things training birds. The ecologist tells them that Tomkins, Zarcardi's assistant, might know where he is, and explains that Zarcardi left show business and set up a bird sanctuary. Zarcardi watches from the bushes as Steed and Gambit take Waterlow somewhere safe.
Purdey drives to the sanctuary manor and goes around to the conservatory via the back door. A parakeet lands on her hand, and she sees dozens of other birds throughout the room.
Gambit and Steed drive back to Steed's manor, and Gambit drops Steed off before going to find Tomkins. Zarcardi pulls up down the driveway and tells his falcon to watch Steed. He then gets out of his car and leaves something in beneath a coat in the back seat of Steed's vehicle. Steed goes to the garage to get his car, and then drives away without noticing the item in the back.
Zarcardi returns home and one of his birds "reports" that he has an intruder.
Purdey walks through the conservatory and hears Zarcardi play his flute. The parakeet pecks Purdey's hand and flies off, and all of the other birds fly off as well.
A falcon emerges from the coat on Steed's back seat and attacks him. He tries to keep control of his car, drives into the back of a moving van, and tosses his hat over the falcon. The darkness acts to keep it quiet. He then backs out and drives away.
Gambit talks to Tomkins, who says that falcons are an intelligent breed and potentially controllable. The former assistant, blinded, says that they eventually become friends to most people but not to him.
Zarcardi enters the conservatory and tells Purdey to stay still. He says that she's amidst his friends but her enemies, and they'll go for the eyes.
Tomkins tells Gambit that Zarcardi was the only man he ever met who could exert total control on birds. He shows Gambit a poster of Zarcardi and says that he retired to devote his life to birds, opening a home for them.
Zarcardi tells Purdey that he's aware of her and her colleagues' work, and assures her that she's safe... for the moment.
Steed visits Hudson and says that he'll buy his entire stock of one type of animal... and more.
Zarcardi takes Purdey to his parlor and shows her around. He talks about controlling "his" army of birds. The falcon shrieks as Steed and Gambit arrive outside. They drive in through the gates and take out the baskets that they bought. Meanwhile, Zarcardi tells Purdey that there's nothing she can do to stop him so she should join him. Purdey knocks a chair over on him and runs to the conservatory to hide. Zarcardi comes to the door, apologizes, and plays the flute. Purdey ducks into a window alcove and uses a table as a barrier and the birds start to peck through it. They stop after a moment, and Purdey drops the table to reveal dozens of cats in the conservatory.
Purdey steps out as Zarcardi come in, and Steed and Gambit look at the cats that they brought. Zarcardi runs out, yelling in defiance, and ducks out the study window. The agents go to the window and discover that Zarcardi died in the fall, breaking his neck.
Written by Gadfly on Jan 16, 2019