There's a scene about 59m into Tinker Tailor Solder Spy (2011) where an operator is transcribing a recorded phone conversation between Bill Haydon and Toby Esterhase:

Haydon: I said, "You may fuck me, but you still have to call me 'Sir' in the morning."

Esterhase: Okay... Just need to let you know someone flew in to Paris last week on one of our escaped passports.

Haydon: And?

Esterhase: It was Rikki Tarr.

Haydon: Why are you telling me?

Esterhase: It could be coincidence but--

Haydon: You really are a poison dwarf, Toby. Why don't you fuck off to His Majesty and stop trying to involve me in your little cabaret.

The scene cuts to Percy Alleline in his office listening to the tape.

I've watched the film several times but this scene still eludes me. My questions:

  • What is the coincidence Esterhase suggests? What is Esterhase's "cabaret"?
  • Why does Haydon take offence?
  • What is the significance of Alleline listening to the tape?

Actually, now that I review the scene and the scene that follows it, I think I get it.

The next scene is the one where Guillam goes into "the lion's den" to steal the log book for the night Ricki Tarr sent his telegram regarding a double agent from Instanbul. As he's leaving, Esterhase spots him and calls him downstairs to talk with "the adults" (Alleline, Haydon, Bland, and Esterhase).

So I take it Esterhase is trying to implicate Peter Guillam in Tarr's apparent defection. His "cabaret" is to plant the seed of doubt with Alleline. Alleline listening to the tape shows Esterhase doing just that. And the following scene, in which Alleline accuses Guillam of "consorting with an enemy agent behind my back," confirms it.

As for Haydon's reaction, I think in part he simply objects to Esterhase's pettiness. Compare the earlier scene where Control resigns: Haydon scolds Esterhase for mockingly waiving at Control and Smiley behind their back as they walk out. But I suppose it could also hint at Haydon's status as the mole and his efforts to manipulate Esterhase to serve his own ends.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .