Release Date: February 23, 2018
In late-2010, television maven J. J. Abrams brought the world UnderCovers, the story of ex-CIA agents Stephen and Samantha Bloom who are drawn back into their black ops world… for some reason or another.
In UnderCovers: Reviewed, celebrated author Geonn Cannon (Riley Parra, Underdogs) muses on what went so wrong with a show so full of possibility as he details the missions, the money troubles and the many, many missteps across all 11 aired episodes.
Season 1, Episode 3
Written by: JJ Abrams & Josh Reims
Directed by: Tucker Gates
US Airdate: October 6, 2010
The episode opens with a beautiful German nurse watching Porky Pig like it’s some kind of training movie. When two men enter and kill her, I’m stunned by the loss. (Even Porky looked upset after she died, but that may have been because of the blood on the screen.) The nurse was watching over a hospital ward, and the murderous Becker (Philippe Brenninkmeyer) is there to bust out his cousin Mathias (Alex Schemmer), which he mostly does with jellybeans.
Back at the Blooms, Samantha chides Stephen for being too reliant on technology or some other blah-blah, then Shaw is there, eating their French toast and mocking their security before sending them off on a mission to stop the sale of a code-breaking device capable of hacking the CIA. Every agent, every mission, would be compromised. The CIA thinks that would be bad.
Getting ready for the mission, Samantha suddenly wonders if it will be odd to work with her husband. This will be their third mission together; shouldn’t this have come up before now? Stephen assures her they’ll be fine, and they have to take every job that comes their way since their catering business is still failing, apparently.
In Germany, Stephen meets with an informant who is soon assassinated, and Stephen risks his life to get the intel. Samantha thinks he was foolhardy, and he argues she’s only saying that because they’re married. Ahh, drama. Only… not really. Because even when they fight it’s like they’re the Greatest Couple Ever.
Hoyt, in bizarre and worrisome silk pajamas, uses security camera footage of the meeting to find the car used by the snipers. They notice a crest on the windshield that leads them to a private club, because elusive arms dealers who can’t get caught love going around with big flashy stickers that tell their enemies where they hang out. They also like those T-shirts with their names written on the back of them.
Stephen goes into the club, and look who’s here: Leo! Together, they neglect to get the name of the elusive arms dealer that no one can get close to until it’s too late, even though Stephen happens to know his buyer. I hate when that happens.
It is now revealed to our heroes that the still-anonymous Becker is using Mathias to test the code-breaking device. Although at this point I’ve realized the only reason they need Mathias is because he IS the code-breaker. (Don’t worry, the Blooms will catch up to the plot eventually.) They’re plying Mathias with jellybeans to ensure his cooperation, because Mathias really loves jellybeans. Last episode, they used the lady’s husband. This time it’s candy. Next episode, the bad guys will entice their hostage to cooperate by promising to set their TiVO.
The Blooms climb a twenty-story building to fetch the code-breaking device – Samantha is also a mountain climber, of course! – and Leo knocks out a guard and steals his uniform, because Leo is still in this episode, it seems. They retrieve the device, pat themselves on the back and go home expecting Shaw to shower them with backhanded compliments. Instead, he berates them for not getting Becker, and informs them that the “code-breaking device” they grabbed is just an ordinary laptop. He takes them off the mission and threatens to kick them out of the CIA again.
The Blooms go over security footage and belatedly realize that Mathias is a hostage and also supergenius, and therefore HE is the code-breaker. (What? No way!) They stage a daring rescue in Germany, where Becker puts a gun to Sam’s head—since she’s a lead, he takes her prisoner rather than just… you know, killing her. Luckily, Stephen bursts in and, with Mathias’s help, takes Becker down.
So, um, they captured this highly elusive bad guy by walking in his front door and holding a gun on him. Okay. Makes sense.
And then technology is a good thing, say the Blooms in an entirely unnecessary epilogue. Thanks, Blooms!
Here’s a question. If the Blooms are so rusty, why are they still fluent in every single language they need to speak after five years of not using those skills? I only speak one language (except for ig-pay atin-lay), but still I feel that there should have been some decay, or at least refresher courses, involved. The fact that they seamlessly speak any random language is proof, to me, that they’re not rusty. At all.
And I thought Leo was supposed to be a member of the team to watch the Blooms, because he knew how to work it and hadn’t been out of the game for five years. So why are they still doing all the heavy lifting? Leo’s entire presence doesn’t make sense, except to be the wisecracking white guy. But they have Hoyt for that. What’s Leo’s point, then? Eye candy?
This episode is where I decided my biggest problem with the show. Everyone is just so damn good at their jobs. Leo, Stephen, Samantha, Hoyt, Shaw. There’s no drama when they go out into the field. People compared it to Chuck, but there’s no fumbling. No stuttering when they have to come up with a cover story. You know as soon as they step into the room that they’re going to win. Because, despite continuously pointing out how rusty the Blooms are supposed to be, they carry themselves as well as Leo does. There are no missteps. There’s no solid reason for Shaw to distrust the Blooms abilities. It just comes off as way too perfect.
It was at this point, as the show aired, that we began to hear a lot about it possibly getting cancelled. This episode is Exhibit A of why.
- No, this was not a repeat of the previous episode. I had to keep reminding myself of that, because it was basically the same formula.
- Leo decides they shouldn’t warn Sam that her cover has been blown because she “can take care of herself.” (Um, I’m sure any spy could take care of themselves in such a situation, but any spy would also appreciate a heads up, jackass.)
- Mathias wants to spare Samantha’s life because she’s “pretty.” But that didn’t help the German nurse!
- If their business is in so much trouble, maybe Stephen and Samantha could sell that amazing James Bond car they never seem to use and get something more practical? Just a suggestion.
- Here’s a tip: if you’re a ruthless arms dealer, maybe have more than two guards in your palatial lair.
Shaw hates his life: Check
It’s a Conspiracy!: Not so much, this time.
Catering Disaster: Check. Lizzy reveals that she made out with their client, and got caught by his mother, who then refused to pay. Oh, Lizzy.
Mad Libs Spy Plot: Check.
LEO: The bad guys get the bad thing and the bad stuff will happen.
(laying out the template for the scripts, apparently)
20 000 words
Release Date: February 27, 2018