Why anyone should think that the village was actually deserted is quite beyond me. Obviously the village wasn't deserted. That the citizens were kept sedated, and all village personel kept out of sight, until No.6 had finally set sail aboard his sea-going raft. And then, so to maintain the illusion, once word of No.6's imminent arrival back in the village, the same effect was played out again. There's nothing complex about Many Happy Returns, except for that village cat - that's the only surreal, enigmatic thing about the episode. Because there was the black cat sitting on a table on the lawn of the Old People's Home when No.6 set out on his sea voyage. And then when No.6 was so unceremoniously returned to the village, that same black cat is still sat in the same place some 27 days later!