“Tonight’s episode of NTSF:SD:SUV is a prequel to the series NTSF:SD:SUV in which all the characters from the existing show coincidentally meet within a 24-hour period.”
Rarely has the title card of NTSF provided more accurate and humorous commentary on the episode it introduces than tonight. “How Piper Got Her Groove Initially” is presumably the one episode this season that puts Piper into the main spotlight, giving June Diane Raphael some well-deserved focus with the episode’s best lines in a story that shows how she first began to work for NTSF.
Raphael’s character got a featured episode last season, the wedding-centric “The Return Of Dragon Shumway,” which dipped into some Kill Bill references with Rob Huebel. This time around, it’s Alias that gets the homage treatment, as Kove picks up Piper after a dustup at a bar—some obnoxious guy keeps telling her she’s not attractive enough for his friends to be hitting on her, so she sticks him to the wall with darts. Much like “Unfrozen Agent Man,” Piper fixates on her physical appearance, picking out the operative word when Kove mentions she’s an “attractive candidate” to become an NTSF agent. But I was fine with that immature and previously disheartening character trait in this prequel
And those prequel tropes are pretty great. The episode opens with a montage of events in 2003—Arnold becoming Governor of California, the invasion of Iraq—and then continues to beat the on-the-nose “period” details whenever possible. Piper’s first mission is simple: infiltrate a Korean nail salon that is actually a front for a West Korean terrorist (yes, West Korea, it’s west of Korea) who graduated from the University Of Phoenix in order to rescue Kove’s husband. She’s been married 11 times—also revealed back in “Shumway”—but it has to be Trent.
What supposedly makes prequels so interesting is being able to see where character interactions began and how different they were to the chemistry that exists within the normal timeline of the series. At least, that’s how I tend to look at prequel episodes on comedies, like the flashbacks on New Girl or “Flackback In The Day” on Workaholics.In this episode, the only extended reveal is that Sam and Piper knew each other before getting involved in NTSF. Sam was hopelessly in love with her, and Piper made it increasingly clear that she did not and would never reciprocate those feelings and he would always be just a friend.
The confrontation in the nail salon doesn’t last long, and since the episode is running out of time, it rushes to put together a bunch of things about the team that need to show how everyone got there. Trent’s spell as a hostage left him enough time to come up with puns for any situation; Sam barges in and serendipitously does something good with computers (deactivating a bomb, big deal) to earn a spot on the team, plus he’s no longer attracted to Piper after seeing her without eyebrows. And then Alphonse shows up, on spring break from Alaska, and Kove offers him a job on the job—prompting Piper to again question whether she’s special for getting plucked from the bar.
So yes, this is technically an NTSF prequel that provides a hurried origin story for everyone from the first season still on the show, but one that mocks prequels and cheap stories of how a bunch of characters randomly got together at the right moment. It sticks its nose up at the very desire to see just how every single person met. As a devoted fan of Suits who is always frustrated by the show’s incessant need to flash further into the past into of developing the present, that resonated with me and made me laugh a lot. The fact that it gave the very busy June Diane Raphael another featured turn is just icing on the cake.
- Kove simply puts on an eyepatch at the end of the episode, giving a hilarious non sequitur explanation for the now non-mystery of what happened to her other eye.
- I presumed Karen Gillan wouldn’t appear in all the episodes this season, and a prequel is a pretty smart way of ensuring she wouldn’t appear. Though it would’ve been really cool to see some kind of little nudge that she somehow bumped into one character 10 years ago.
- On a related note, I am sad they couldn’t bring Rebecca Romijn in for a guest turn
- “Well, I never tip them, so…”