viernes, 15 de octubre de 2010

TV Review: Undercovers - "Jailbreak"

"Article first published as "TV Review: Undercovers - "Jailbreak"" on"

This week's target for our Undercovers Agents Bloom (Gugu Mbatha-Raw and Boris Bodjoe) is travelling to Ireland and England to recover a CIA hardrive in danger of falling into enemy hands.

Before talking about the mission itself, let's focus at Sam's sister, Lizzy. As in every episode, we can see the action moving to the catering company that Sam and Steven own as part of their cover. There, the couple find Lizzy working hard at 7 a.m. which seems really suspicious for Steven. We know that Lizzy is a bit of a troublemaker and always has second intentions. Steven has the right to be suspicious and he even has the guts to joke about Lizzy's past alcoholism in order to understand why she's working in the business that early in the morning. Steven, don't be bad! There's a reason she's there; she needs money for her cooking classes! Do you believe that? I don't! Steven doesn't help her, and warns Sam that Lizzy is going hit her up for money. In the end, Sam, always the very nice and supporting sister, gives $700 to Lizzy with the promise to pay them back soon.

So are we getting a bit of mystery in this week's episode? The answer is yes but just a little! We see Agent Shaw (Gerald McRaney) speaking on the phone with an unidentified male about the Blooms and the need to be careful or else they will find out the true reason of their reactivation. Nice way of teasing us but we want to know what's behind!! Please, try to be more specific!

Another hint is dropped during the mission when Leo (Carter MacIntyre) asks Sam why she hasn't told Steven her true reason for leaving the agency five years earlier. So, does this mean that Leo knows the real reason? Does that reason involve him? Still, we have to thank Leo because at least, we got to know something new about the Blooms. It turns out Sam and Steven made a pact about not talking about their past. Whoa!

Overall, this week's mission is much more interesting than those we've seen so far. There are some turns in the storyline, but what's important to point out is that the Blooms are doing their job way better. We discover that they are excellent interrogators (especially Sam) and Steven is a human lie detector. It is clear that the couple has things more under control, and despite Leo's presence to help them, I felt they could have solved the mission without him.

One moment really surprising to me was when Leo is taken hostage. Facing the dangerous situation, Sam allows no negotiations with hostage takers, despite the fact that the victim is her friend Leo. What if it was her husband in the same situation? Do you think Sam would act the same way? This kind of behaviour made me think that we don't know Sam's personality at all.

We are not the only ones, Steven doesn't know his wife as well as he thinks he does either. He can be a lie detector and find out if Sam has given Lizzy the money she wants but the mutual communication and understanding he shows off in front of Agent Shaw once the mission is over is not that apparent from Sam's side.

At the end of the episode, a nervous Sam mentions the "non-speaking about the past" pact and wants to tell Steven something about her past because she feels not telling is no different than lying. Sam is not able to tell him the real reason why she left the agency because Steven assumes and only accepts that Sam left because she fell in love with him and wanted to live a normal life. It's clear that Sam wants to confess but Steven shuts her up with nice and romantic words. Keep insisting, Sam! Do it for us, we want to know!!

What do you think of this week's episode? What do you think Sam is hiding? Share your thoughts!!

TV Review: Undercovers - "Devices"

"Article first published as "TV Review: Undercovers - "Devices"" on"

This week's mission of Undercovers centers on recovering a code breaking device that could crack open the identities and covers of all CIA agents around the world and put them in jeopardy.

The episode opens in Germany where two armed men infiltrate a secluded hospital and extract Mathias, a psych patient who loves jelly beans, with the promise that he'll back to the hospital safe and sound if he does what they say. This beginning could ring a bell because the procedure (entering-killing-kidnapping) is exactly the same as last week's episode "Instructions". I truly believe writers should change this format as soon as possible because the audience will get tired of the same old story over and over again. Think about more possible scenarios!

The action moves to Samantha and Steven Bloom's (Gugu Mbatha-Raw and Boris Kodjoe) bedroom where they are enjoying the aftermath of a nice morning loving. it seems the couple has brought back the sparkle they used to have in the very beginning of their relationship.

In the pilot, we saw a very different picture of the couple. We saw them as a young beautiful couple who had fallen into a monotone relationship pattern, and by the way Samantha moved around Steven, they only had sex every so often. What on earth happened between these two? A five year old marriage suggests they are not in the so-called honeymoon phase but why acting so cold? Now, everything has taken a turn; they are both more passionate and devoted to each other, and despite all the bantering, their relationship is healthier and solid. So deep down, the Blooms must thank the agency for reactivating them as spies because it has mended their marriage.

I think we are able to describe Agent Shaw (Gerald McRaney) as a sarcastic, witty and tough boss that is able to do anything to make a point. His point being that the Blooms are not qualified for the job. His breaking and entering into the Blooms' residence in order to brief them about their new case (going to Germany, talk with Hans Bauer about the code breaking device and stop him) makes us smile but at the same time, it makes us believe Shaw's point somehow. Five years off the field is not such a long time for the Blooms to forget what is like to be spies and what precautions have to be taken.

After Shaw leaves the premises, Samantha expresses her concern about working with her husband, worrying that their marriage could get in trouble if they work together. Steven assures her that nothing wrong is going to happen; they have worked with many people in the past and this time won't be different. They are married, yes!, but when they're working, they are partners. Period! Do you want to know my opinion? There's no way this couple will be able to separate their personal and private lives.

In the Bloom Catering, we are introduced a new character, Lance (Jay Scully), a gay cook who has a rather tense relationship with Lizzy (Mekia Cox). They are all the time bantering making their interactions very funny to see. Now, why does it seem that Lizzy is a much more interesting character than Samantha? Last week, there were hints about Lizzy's possible past alcoholism. This week, we discover Lizzy's dating problems. What's best, real dating or online dating? Sam thinks dating and advises her sister to try to look for someone in the real world rather than virtually. It's not going to be easy, I'm sure.

Lance's introduction to the show adds an element of tension in the kitchen. His constant disapproval and concern about how things run in the business when Lizzy is involved proves that Sam treats Lizzy as her protegée. Ok, they are sisters but it's a fact that Lizzy works in the catering because her sister is there and not for her skills as a cook or as someone who can be in charge of a client's catering.

In Berlin, Bauer dies during the meeting and Steven put himself near death for not obeying Sam's orders which causes another moment of tension between the couple. One of the things I truly adore about the show is the nice touch of the writers when relieving moments of tension like this one with smart dialogues and hilarious situations. In this episode, the change of tone happens thanks to Hoyt (Ben Schwartz), our Gadget Man, who appears in his pajamas (96% silk and 4% Lady Gaga) and tries to put some peace between the couple.

In my opinion, Hoyt is a very endearing and funny character, he always seems to be in the middle of the Blooms when they are scolding each other. In a way, he acts as their peacemaker when it comes to marriage issues and as their guardian angel in missions. His abilities as tech man are unquestionable but why do I have the feeling that he'd like to be Steven's skin every now and then? He always shows such admiration and respect towards the Blooms - he never refers to them as Steven or Samantha but as Mr or Mrs. Agent Bloom - that makes us think he really thinks of them as mentors.

Leo Nash makes his entrance to the mission as extra support for Sam, Steven and Hoyt again. We can see there's a very good comradeship between the Blooms and himself as it's seen in the scene at the club where Steven asks Leo to follow the lead they used in a past mission in Budapest. Leo is also a very interesting character to explore. He was their partner and he even dated Sam in the past but are his feelings towards Sam a thing of the past? Does Leo really want to help the Blooms to restablish the good status as spies they used to have or does he want to win Sam back?

Despite Leo's help, the Blooms fail at the mission and as you can imagine Shaw is not happy about it. Shaw takes them off the case but the couple doesn't surrender and keeps working in the case on their own. Don't miss Steven standing up to Shaw, it's priceless!! Deep down, the Blooms are good spies, they speak several languages, they have experience, they know how to use gadgets and everything but they are not efficient.

The mission takes a turn when they realize the code breaking device is not machine but a person, Mathias. Once the mission is over, the baddies are taken into custody, Mathias is safe and the Blooms are able to save the identity and covers of all the CIA agents.

The episode ends the same same way it started: in Sam and Steven's bed, reprising the conversation about separating their professional life from their private one. It's clear that both tried their best to stay focused on the mission, but let's face it, they are married and care about each other: that's the deal, no matter what.

I think it was a nice episode but it seems the show is (so far) very formulaic. I really hope we get to know about the real reason why the Blooms left the agency five years ago and how they both were as independent agents. Ratings show the series is not doing as well as expected but I have the feeling that Undercovers is going through the same thing Fringe went through in its first season. Quite regular ratings and then a big boost as the plot developed. It seems next week some of the issues from the Blooms' past will be dealt, so stay tuned, please! J.J Abrams' shows never tend to disappoint.

Meet Gugu Mbatha-Raw: J. J Abrams' Fresh New Face

"Article first published as "Meet Gugu Mbatha-Raw: J.J Abrams' Fresh New Face" on"

Not only is J.J Abrams well known for his successful and smart productions but also for taking talented "newcomers" and turn them into successful, popular, and prolific stars, see the examples of Keri Russell (Felicity), Jennifer Garner (Alias), Evangeline Lilly (Lost) and most recently, Anna Torv (Fringe). He has always made good choices when casting the leading ladies of his shows and I'm sure Gugu Mbatha-Raw won't be an exception in Undercovers.

Mbatha-Raw is yet another example of British actress who trying her fortune with a role in TV across the pond, following the footsteps of Hugh Laurie (House), Tim Roth (Lie To Me) and Stephen Moyer (True Blood). Born in Oxford (just like Laurie), the actress is definitely a newcomer in the U.S but she’s had a quite intense career on TV in shows like Doctor Who and MI5 and in theater in her native England. There is no doubt that her Broadway debut next to Jude Law in Hamlet is her best letter of presentation to the American audience.

Now, every Wednesday, Gugu Mbatha-Raw embodies Samantha Bloom, a sexy former spy who is reactivated next to her spy husband, Steven Bloom (Boris Kodjoe) after years out of the field in NBC's Undercovers. Expect action, sexy chemistry, bantering, and Abrams' trademark essence in the new show.

Reading her recent interview on Essence's website, it seems clear that we're going to be seeing a lot more of Mbatha-Raw in the future. The piece covers her debut on U.S TV, how she's prepared for her role, her opinion about her co-star Boris Kodjoe, and more. It's definitely good reading for those wanting to find out more about this actress.

domingo, 3 de octubre de 2010

TV Review: Undercovers - "Instructions"

"Article first published as TV Review: Undercovers - "Instructions" on"

With the second episode of Undercovers, we can see that the show seems to follow the formulaic path we all know: first a teaser about the mission to come followed by the assignment itself, and then its development and conclusion. Nothing new.

As in many spy/action shows and movies, one of the things that can make the path more dynamic is to take the action into new and different locations. This week, the action starts in Pakistan, where a pair of armed men escort some business men into a science lab located in the middle of the desert. What seems to be a business meeting turns into a massacre when one of the men (John) suddenly opens fire, surprising his comrades (John's brother, Bruce and Hollis Krueger) killing the business men and all the scientists working in the lab. With everybody dead, John finds what he had been seeking: Dr. Nassir, the only survivor of the massacre, a scientist whom John hopes to coerce into creating a bomb once she learns that they have her husband.

The action now moves to the Bloom's catering company, the business Samantha and Steven Bloom opened together after marrying and leaving the espionage; now it serves as cover-up after they got reactivated as agents in the pilot episode. In this scene, we see Samantha and Steven bickering over a coffee machine he broke after not reading the instructions. It's impossible not to smile at this situation because it is so domestic and fun, plus the chemistry between these two make it believable. As you probably can imagine the bickering could continue on and on but Lizzy (Sam's sister, who also works in the catering) interrupts them by announcing Carlton Shaw (Sam and Steven's boss at the agency), or as she calls him, the "hotel guy".

In Bloom's little office, Shaw informs them of Dr. Nassir's kidnapping and presents them the suspects (John, Bruce and Krueger). Once he explains the mission, Shaw shows some distrust to the couple's spy abilities, which are a bit rusty after years off the field.

Shaw has definitely a point; after all, if Steven doesn't even know how to make a coffee machine work, how can he complete this complex mission successfully? Afterwards, Sam announces that she must leave for a trip again, leading Lizzy to believe that they are planning to sell the catering business to the "hotel guy" (you know, spies, they always have that double life!), which could leave her without a job and, possibly relapsing to alcoholism.

(Is Lizzy a former alcoholic? What happened to her in the past? I guess we'll have to wait and see.)

Before travelling to Turks and Caicos to find Krueger, we see another domestic scene of Sam and Steven at home packing and mission planning. This time, the lady takes the lead in the mission.

Once in the exotic location, Sam approaches Krueger using her charm while Steven supervises from a distance. A third party, Hoyt (the Gadget Man and backup support for Sam and Steven in the missions) enters the game, which later gives Steven access to the tools needed to enter Krueger's room while Sam keeps "distracting" him.

The tropical action takes a brief break and moves to Stockholm where we see Dr. Nassir being rushed to finish the bomb. Back in Krueger's room at Turks and Caicos, Steven cracks a safe and finds some documents in Arabic that he cannot read — but his wife can.

I'm starting to wonder what Steven's abilities are in this game; his wife seems more prepared for the job. Steven asks Sam to lure Krueger into the room while he plants a tracking device into Krueger's watch without following Hoyt's instructions on how to do it properly. You know what is going to happen, right?

Sam and Krueger get into the room, Krueger gets knocked out and after Hoyt joins the couple, the interrogation starts. Krueger blames everything on John Sidel and tells them that he has to deliver the Arabic documents to an unidentified contact tonight at the bar. While examining the documents, Sam discovers the address of John's residence in Caracas, and Steven suggests Sam and Hoyt to travel there while he supervises Krueger's meeting with the contact. As you can imagine, the debate of who goes where and with whom starts another bantering moment between the Blooms.

In Caracas, Sam and Hoyt pick the lock of John's residence and after doing some search around the house, they find nothing, but they encounter John's brother Bruce, initiating a chase between him, Sam and Hoyt. Hoyt stops him with their car and the two agents urged him to tell them what is really going on. Bruce reveals that initially everything that took place in Pakistan was John's plan but once they got Dr. Nassir, everything turned and Krueger took the lead and shot him and his brother resulting in John's death. The target of the agents is not John or him but Krueger. In the meantime, Steven, who is supervising Krueger's meeting with the unidentified contact in the bar, gets distracted when a bunch of ladies approach to seduce him and loses sight of Krueger.

Back home, Shaw again questions the espionage abilities of the couple (especially Steven's) because not only did he let Krueger go but the tracking device isn't activated. What did I say? Oh, yeah, it was bound to happen.

Shaw's patience has a limit and brings Leo Nash in to activate the tracker and finish the mission. As you can imagine, Steven is not really happy with this decision because Leo has a kind of romantic past with her lovely wife. Leo exploits his charm in flirting with Sam's sister, who happens to be in the room asking them to try the quiche she's cooked. Of course, Sam doesn't really like the flirting because Leo is an alcoholic and Lizzy is recovering from her alcoholism. Whoa!

At the Bloom's house, Leo tries to reactivate the tracking device which is in silent mode while Steven tries to fix the coffee machine. While doing that, both men start talking about Leo and Sam's former relationship and about what was the real cause that led Sam and Steven to leave the espionage in the past. Steven says it was because they wanted to have a normal married life but Leo doesn't buy it at all. The tracking device activates and locates Krueger in Stockholm.

In Stockholm, Krueger tries the effectiveness of the first bomb, which causes a big explosion and confirms Dr. Nassir's abilities. Later, he urges her to prepare the other bomb but she demands to see her husband, which Krueger refuses. Sam, Steven and Leo pick up Hoyt and lead their way to the location the tracking device indicates, a ship. There they find Dr. Nassir on the floor bleeding after Krueger shot her. She tells them Krueger plans to detonate a bomb in the Global Business Summit taking place in the city.

Hoyt stays with Dr. Nassir while Sam, Steven and Leo dress up to infiltrate into the summit. Once there, they learn the bomb is attached inside Krueger's cell phone, which he has left at the metal detector entranceway by security request. Sam decides that she'll find the cellphone and asks Steven and Leo to go after Krueger. Sam finds the place where all the cellphones are taken into custody, but the problem is, which one is it?

While Steven and Leo chase Krueger and fight against him, Sam finds the cellphone, takes it into a rather safer place and tries to deactivate the bomb with Hoyt's help. Moment of tension: which wire should Sam cut? Two red wires, which one of the two? One of the red wires doesn't deactivate the bomb, oh, wait, there's a black wire, let's cut it! Deactivation completed! Well done, Mrs. Bloom!

Mission completed! Everybody is safe at the Summit and Krueger is not longer a menace. Shaw appreciates Leo's input to the mission and announces to the Blooms that he's going to be joining them in future missions as his expertise is a lot more proficient than theirs together. Leo keeps flirting with Sam and Steven gets upset. These three together in further missions could lead into... trouble in paradise? At home, Steven - after he fixes the coffee machine and serves a cappuccino to Sam - voices his concern about Leo to her because he has the feeling she still feels something for him. At that, Sam tells him that her relationship with Leo was something from the past, and what happened in the past, remains in the past. If you ask me, I really don't find this explanation very convincing. We gotta stay tuned!

So what did you think of the episode? Did you like this one more than the pilot? What do you think it's going to happen with this triangle?