Scotty thinks Kelly is dead, and becomes emotionally involved with the woman and boy posing as his wife and son on a mission.
French title: La nuit la plus noire
Italian title: Un esperimento per una casa sugli alberi
Michael J. Pollard (Bernie), Cicely Tyson (Vickie Harmon), Raymond St. Jacques (Edward Prince Edward), Marge Redmond (Nettie), Jim Nolan (Colonel Shayne), James Anderson (Louis), Douglas Leonard (Randy), Sheldon Alman (McMahon)
Richard C. Sarafian
19 October 1966
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Scotty poses as Johnny Harmon, a machinist and ex-con working in a factory somewhere in California. His mission: to infiltrate a group of home-grown terrorists led by the suave Jamaican named Edward Prince Edward. As part of his cover, he is "married" to Vickie and has a son. He and Vickie don't get along; Vickie wants to avenge the death of her lover, an agent named Larry Brand, at the hands of Prince Edward's minions, and she's risking Scott's cover to do so. In order to prove himself to the bad guys, Scotty stages the killing of a government agent -- Kelly Robinson. On top of being tormented by the fact that he's not sure if Kelly survived, Scotty is unwittingly betrayed by the little boy posing as his son. Now he must either help Prince Edward blow up a power plant or see Vickie and the boy killed.
Anyone who doubts that Bill Cosby earned the three Best Actor Emmy awards for his part in I Spy should see this episode; his performance is accomplished and riveting. He's especially good in the dynamic scenes with Cicely Tyson; Vickie and Scotty have a nicely nuanced love-hate relationship, and Cosby handles a difficult acting assignment with skill. Culp has a rare opportunity to show off his acting skills, too, as in this episode Kelly poses as a factory worker, a biker, and an encyclopedia salesman. In addition to Tyson (who appeared in "So Long, Patrick Henry"), Trial by Treehouse is embellished with the talents of Raymond St. Jacques and Michael J. Pollard, with the latter playing his patented role of grinning sociopath. The climactic fight scene, in which Kelly and Scotty dispatch a half-dozen attackers while engaging in glib banter, is fun to watch, even though it seems a little incongruous in an otherwise deadly-serious episode. Though it lacks the exotic location shots that add to the appeal of so many I Spy entries, the performances in this one will hold the viewer's attention.