Since around episode three, I’ve been convinced that every recap I write of Undercovers is going to be the last. The show’s underwhelming ratings made cancellation seem likely, if not imminent, and as much as I wanted to like it, its quality never made me feel like it was deserving of a stay of execution. But on Monday, NBC granted the show a four-episode script order. Granted, seeing as how NBC seems to be giving away full-season pick-ups like AOL discs circa 1999, a modest script order is hardly an emphatic vote of confidence. But if I was really rooting for the show, the order would represent a momentary break in the cloud cover. The thing is, I’m not really rooting for the show anymore. I was after “Jailbreak,” even given its flaws, but after “Not Without My Daughter,” I’ve again lost confidence in this show.
In many ways, “Not Without My Daughter” felt like it had aired out of order, and I suspect it was originally supposed to have aired much sooner. “Jailbreak” represented a significant uptick in quality, and this episode was a step back. Not to mention every aspect of it, the week’s mission, the themes, the prickly demeanor of Major Dad, felt like we were back at episode two. Also, Leo Nash was completely missing, which would have made sense a few episodes back when his status as part of the team hadn’t been solidified and was a sticking point for both Steven and Sam. Now, having Leo missing from an entire episode without so much as a mention of him was incredibly odd. Sam having to deal with the guilt of living a double life and not being able to be there for Lizzy at an important time also felt like something they would have played with much sooner. I can only hope this was a misstep they decided to push back (not that the episodes they replaced it with were knockouts.)
The mission was elementary: Shin Won, a North Korean particle physicist responsible for a technology called The Delta swipes his device and flees to Geneva with it. He’s prepared to defect, and Steven and Sam are sent in to facilitate the flip, necessary given his security detail. It goes off mostly without a hitch—the North Koreans are tipped off that he stole the device before they can get him out totally smoothly—but the team still manages to spring him. The catch is that Shin’s daughter May is still stuck in Pyongyang, and he won’t turn over the device unless they’ll retrieve her. Major Dad, stickler for protocol that he is, won’t clear the mission, but Sam is moved by his desire to be reunited with his daughter, so they flout their orders as they’re wont to do. The mission was totally inert until another married spy couple, a French pair, saunters in and announces they have the same objective, turning a simple mission into an awkward double date.
I made the mistake of reading a synopsis prior to watching the episode, so I knew that at some point another couple was going to pop up and square off against the Blooms. I was expecting something fast and fun like “Welcome to Liberty Village,” a rollicking blast of an Alias episode from the otherwise rocky fourth season. This was certainly not that. Instead of the redundancy sparking an Amazing Race style competition between the couples, they immediately decided to cooperate with each other, leaving the Blooms shocked—shocked!—when the French double-crossed them. Was this honestly that big a surprise? These people aren’t one of the couples you’ve invited to your dinner party, they’re your direct competition. They have a vested interest in completing the task before you complete the task. What again was the advantage of working as a team?
Complicating matters for Shin and May was the fact that the French couple had gone rogue, and were planning to kill them as soon as they’d retrieved The Delta, which they intended to sell to the highest bidder. But by that time the episode had already been stumbling for so long I didn’t much care either way. Even the chase scene after Frenchie snatched The Delta wasn’t all that exciting. But whatever, the Blooms save the day yet again and even manage to wring a reluctant job-well-done out of Major Dad. Gah. So freaking boring. Where was the fizz? There was so little to like about this episode.
I can only hope my theory of episode switching is accurate and that the flicker of hope “Jailbreak” demonstrated will be back next week. Speaking of next week, it’ll be the last installment for this column, as readership for these posts have mirrored viewership for the show. I’ve asked if I can check back in come season’s end, on the outside chance the show gets a season pick-up. (Hell, Chase got one so who knows!)
- I assume we’ll get more info about Lizzy’s mysterious phone call at the beginning of the episode? Maybe that’s what’s become of Leo. They’ve started a romantic relationship and have yet to tell Steven and Sam. Which would completely blow my episode-sequence theory.
- Speaking of Leo, did anyone miss him?
- The accents were much, much better this week. Let’s say they never go to Ireland again, k?
- The title...my God the title. Are crappy Sally Field movies really the points of reference we want from a "cool spy show"?