Written by James Mitchell
Directed by Piers Haggard
Lonely is attacked in his rooms by a mysterious stranger who we later learn is called Loder (Derek Newark). Loder works for the Section and along with Meres they are minding a man called Pollock (Jon Laurimore). Lonely broke into the safe house that was being used by Pollock and his description of him (or rather the smell of him) convinced Meres that he knew exactly who the burglar was.
Pollock’s a Russian spy who’s currently front page news – as someone’s just broken him out of prison. He believes that Meres and Loder are Russians – which is exactly what Hunter wants him to believe. Before Pollock was captured and sent to prison, Hunter is convinced that he stowed away a nerve gas formula – and Hunter wants that formula.
With Callan still not back in the Section, it’s fair to say that You Should Have Got Here Sooner does require a chain of coincidences in order to bring him into the narrative. The first is that of all the houses in London to burgle, Lonely should choose one that’s being used by the Section to guard a Russian spy. The second is that Pollock’s description of Lonely is enough to convince Meres that there’s only one man it can be (presumably Lonely is the only thief in London with a personal hygiene problem).
The initial attack on Lonely does highlight the growing relationship he has with Callan. In A Magnum for Schneider Callan seems to have barely concealed contempt for him, but by this story there’s certainly more than a spark of affection. When Lonely thanks him for looking out for him, Callan responds that someone has to. Although later he does tell Lonely that if anybody’s going to beat him up then it’s going to be him (and it’s said in such a way that it’s impossible to tell if he’s joking or not).
Callan meets with Hunter and Hunter agrees to leave Lonely alone as Callan insists he’ll keep quiet. However, Meres decides to make sure and attacks Lonely, much more thoroughly than Loder. When Callan reaches Lonely’s rooms, he’s barely conscious and can only mumble “You should have got here sooner, Mr Callan”.
The following exchange between Callan and Hunter is an interesting one as it highlights the subtleties of the main character dynamics. What’s the overriding reason for Callan’s anger? Is it that Lonely was brutally attacked or is it that by attacking Lonely, Meres was making an indirect attack on Callan?
CALLAN: Somebody duffed Lonely and you promised me that wouldn’t happen.
CALLAN: Somebody called Meres.
HUNTER: You’ve no evidence Callan.
CALLAN: Who else could it have been? Anyway, since when have you needed evidence?
HUNTER: What do you want me to do?
CALLAN: Nothing I’m coming over.
HUNTER: That little man’s so important?
CALLAN: Yeah. Yeah he is to me. Besides, Meres knows I look after Lonely. So when he was beating him up, he wasn’t just attacking him – he was getting at me. Now he’s not going to get that kind of edge on me, Hunter. And neither are you.
HUNTER: What a relief, for a moment you sounded like a knight in armour, it’s only selfishness after all.
The dynamic between Callan, Lonely, Hunter and Meres is the driving force behind this episode, whilst the story of Pollock and the formula is very much secondary. But although Jon Laurimore doesn’t have a great deal of screen time, he’s such a solid actor that he’s able to make something out of Pollock. Russian spies (such as George Blake, who had escaped from Wormwood Scrubs in 1966) were familiar news stories at the time, so this story (like many episodes of Callan) was very topical.