This question is based on the 2011 film of "Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy" with Gary Oldman (which I just watched). As for the 1979 BBC series with Alec Guinness, or the original novel, I haven't watched or read.

How did Smiley capture Bill Haydon, the mole?

So in the airport Toby Esterhase was scared and revealed to Smiley the address of the London safe house of the Witchcraft operation.

Then Smiley started to lay the trap that eventually unmasks the mole. But how was this done indeed?

Seems Smiley sent Ricki Tarr to Paris, releasing some false information that he knows who the mole is, "to shake the tree".

Then Smiley stand by a phone all the time, someone (who?) informed him that "a full house" is, ie all the suspects gathered at the safehouse.

Then Smiley holds a gun in a room, and Peter outside the building -- where are they? at Alexei Polyakov's place?

So how did Bill Haydon ("Tailor") stepped into the trap? Did he come to Alexei's place to inform him?

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Some says Bill and Alexei met at the safe house: "Fearing that he is about to be exposed, the mole meets Polyakov at the safe house where they are arrested by Smiley, revealing himself to be Haydon." But wouldn't that be risky?

  • Welcome to Mavies&TV. If you have more than one question maybe consider opening an other question for each of them. The fact that you are seeking for an answer for the movie, the novel and the original movie could be an issue too. While based on the same novel, both movie can have a story that differ from the original material.
    – M.Polo
    Commented Aug 23, 2021 at 10:23
  • 1
    @M.Polo thanks, i've edited the post to be only about the movie. as for there are multiple questions, actually they are all the detailed steps of how Bill Haydon is unmasked by George.
    – athos
    Commented Aug 23, 2021 at 10:27
  • 1
    Be careful in identifying locations. When you say all the suspects were gathered at the "safe house", you are wrong: they all gathered at The Circus (intelligence HQ) which is where they worked. The "safe house" is where they exchanged information with the russian agent. Smiley was in that safe house and had it bugged so he ended up with evidence of who the mole was from multiple sources.
    – matt_black
    Commented Aug 23, 2021 at 17:53
  • @matt_black thanks for the explanation, now i got it :)
    – athos
    Commented Aug 24, 2021 at 14:16

1 Answer 1


"Fearing that he is about to be exposed, the mole meets Polyakov at the safe house where they are arrested by Smiley, revealing himself to be Haydon." But wouldn't that be risky?

Would it be risky?

As far as anyone knows, Haydon is meeting Polyakov at the safe house as part of his job.

It's only the audience who know that, in fact, Haydon is giving Polyakov valuable information as the mole in return for trivial information in return.

Smiley informs Lacon and the Minister that Alleline, Haydon, Bland and Esterhase have been exchanging low-grade British intelligence with Polyakov, the Witchcraft source. In reality Polyakov is receiving valuable information from the mole, and his intelligence is trivial "glitter", to lure the CIA into sharing intelligence with Britain, which the mole can then leak.

Smiley threatens Esterhase with deportation to obtain the Witchcraft safe house address. Tarr visits the Paris station and informs London that he has vital information. Smiley waits at the safe house for the mole to alert Polyakov that Tarr is about to blow their cover, and arrests Haydon at gunpoint.


  • Ah , so smiley hid in the safe house when he listen to the phone?
    – athos
    Commented Aug 23, 2021 at 15:03
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    @athos Yes, and Smiley bugged the house so could listen to the conversation which demonstrated that Haydon wanted to get out before he was exposed.
    – matt_black
    Commented Aug 23, 2021 at 17:55

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