Government minister Sir Clive Todd is wounded as he and other ministers try to steal top secret documents. He has no idea why he did it and hypnosis is suggested. All concerned belonged to a club for people with high I.Q.s called RANSACK, who are about to meet at a school. The Avengers join the club in order to expose the mastermind behind the next heist - the theft of a plane from an R.A.F. base. "The Master Minds" was just the second episode that Diana Rigg shot once she replaced Elizabeth Shepherd as Mrs. Peel, but already a fully formed character is etched in place. When she arrives with Steed at the country home of the injured Sir Clive Todd (Laurence Hardy), she removes her elegant coat, and the camera's eye simply ogles her shapely form from head to toe, in delightful slow motion! Even the stunning bikini-clad appearance of gorgeous Georgina Ward, as the flirtatious daughter of Sir Clive, cannot dim the luster of Emma Peel (be still my heart). Sir Clive was shot in the head during a successful robbery attempt, one of several that The Avengers are investigating, and the trail leads to an organization called Ransack (Steed refers to it as a "scrambling of eggheads"). Steed only manages to achieve genius level because Mrs. Peel supplies him with all the science answers beforehand (she calls him a genius at "cribbing!") Lovely Patricia Haines ("The Nutshell" and "Who's Who???") plays the archery expert Holly Trent, who would fully display her shapely form in the cult feature "Virgin Witch" (1971), directed by AVENGERS stunt double Ray Austin. While John Wentworth previously did "Six Hands Across a Table," other cast members would make return appearances, including Bernard Archard ("Split!"), the unbilled Harry Hutchinson ("The Rotters"), the unbilled Nigel Lambert ("The 50,000 Breakfast"), and the unbilled Harvey Hall ("The See-Through Man"), who gets to fight Steed in the gymnasium climax. There is also an acting turn from future MONTY PYTHON producer/director Ian MacNaughton (this episode was completed January 8 1965).
In the opening scene we see three men, dressed in the uniform of the Household Cavalry, committing a burglary; when one of them is trapped he is shot and left for dead. He isn't dead but when Steed and Mrs Peel question him he has no memory of the event. This could be down to his injuries but when he is killed by his psychiatrist, who also can't recall doing it, that man has no such excuse. The only link between the men is 'Ransack'; an organisation for the brightest in the land. Steed and Mrs Peel apply to join and are accepted. Ransack is holding an event at a boarding school, during the holidays, and here Steed learns the truth; somebody is hypnotising the members then using them to plan and execute break-ins at military facilities Steed was unaffected because he unplugged his radio; unfortunately Mrs Peel didn't and goes out on a mission later she is ordered to kill Steed!
This early Mrs Peel story is typical Avengers; a delightful combination of mystery, action and wit. The chemistry between her and Steed is developing nicely leading to some funny moments where we learn that Steed can only pass the tests with her help. The villain's plot was interesting and their identity was nicely hidden until the final scene where are heroes fight the bad guys while a film is projected onto a screen first normally then, after the projector is knocked, backwards. As a bonus the film includes some nice footage of Valiant bombers. As expected Patrick Macnee and Diana Rigg do a great job in the leading roles and they are ably supported by a cast that includes Patricia Haines as the attractive archery teacher Holly Trent and Ian MacNaughton who played the suspicious psychiatrist Dr Fergus Campbell. Overall a really good episode with a nice twist at the end.