Bionic Woman: “The List”

Mr. and Mrs. Bionic

By Sarah Stegall

Copyright © 2007 by Sarah Stegall

Bionic Woman

NBC, Wednesdays, 9 PM

“The List”

Written by Bridget Carpenter

Directed by David Boyd

If there’s one plot that all spy stories eventually get around to, it’s the couple who has to pretend to be married for the sake of the mission, with resulting sexual tension. I don’t suppose Bionic Woman could have avoided this any more than it can avoid the mandatory fight scenes, so it’s just as well they got it over with. Jaime is sent to Paris to recover another list of undercover agents in the hands of a Bad Guy. Apparently this is a different list than the list of undercover agents she was sent to retrieve in “Face Off” only a couple of weeks ago. Is Bionic Woman already recycling its own storylines, or are our highly trained spy agencies simply unable to keep confidential lists confidential? Judging by these plots, security at our top cop agencies resembles a sieve.

So Jaime goes to Paris, and must take along a CIA agent since there are CIA operatives on the list. Naturally, she asks for Tom, the CIA Agent from last week’s episode (Jordan Bridges, Conviction), and despite misgivings, Jonas agrees. Jonas has turned into the Complete Softy; he was a cold-blooded bean-counter in the pilot, and now has turned into Uncle Fred. It’s an interesting transformation, not unwelcome, but unexpected. So it’s off to Paris, where Jaime and Tom decide that pretending to be married, dressing to the nines, and sipping champagne at a swanky diplomatic reception is their best option for catching the elusive “Victor” (Callum Keith Rennie, Battlestar Galactica). There’s some playful banter, an almost-kiss, a fake kiss, a real kiss, and plenty of fighting. Tom gets captured and Jaime begs the team to go after him. Victor demands an $8 million ransom; Jaime calls Jonas for the money and he casually says yes. I laughed at his offhand approval of the outlay—isn’t this the guy who keeps complaining about how he’s not getting his money’s worth out of his $50 million dollar baby? But apparently $8 million is peanuts. Guy must work for a major network. Anyway, Jaime rescues her $8 Million Dollar Man (and gets a 50% rebate!) by disarming a bomb and executing a very fine flying takedown of Victor. And she does all this without revealing her bionic status to Tom.

None of this is groundbreaking TV, and would have been deadly dull, if it weren’t for the hilarious running commentary by Nathan (Kevin Rankin, Friday Night Lights). Nathan the tech head gets funnier with every show. He’s also proving invaluable as Jaime’s backup; by linking to the camera in her bionic eye, he can run iris scans on suspects in seconds, download instructions to her on how to defuse a bomb, and get a front-row seat (whoops!) on Jaime kissing Tom. Probably Nathan would have been happy to skip that part. When a French liaison (Beth Broderick, Lost) chastises him for actually talking like a spy in a movie, he snarks back that he’s “Just trying to bring back the cool.” Because, honestly, don’t all spies drop one-liners like James Bond?

The B story should have been a D story; left behind when Jaime goes to Paris, little sister Becca naturally gets into trouble and has to be literally bailed out by Jonas. Who gets to be Uncle Fred again. While I like these two together onscreen, I still don’t understand Becca. There’s nothing wrong with Lucy Hale, the actress who plays her, but Becca adds absolutely nothing to this ensemble. She’s supposed to provide angst but she only provides shallow melodrama. She’s an irritating distraction. Please make the Becca stop.

We’re still getting some really clunky dialogue and scenes. I mean, the fight scene at the embassy—we know the bad guys are Frenchbecause they’re wearing berets? What next? They attack Tom and Jaime with baguettes and bad cigarettes? Jaime delivers a “let’s be friends” speech to Tom that comes straight out of eleventh grade breakups. Her swanky embassy dress looks like a prom dress—this is almost a capital offense in Paris. Tom gets to deliver lines like “God, you’re beautiful.” Maybe the writers for Bionic Woman went out on strike months ago. While I liked seeing Jaime finally stand up to her corporate masters by demanding that they let her go back and rescue Tom, that moment of backbone is just not enough to outweigh the massive fromage factor of so much of the rest of this episode. Or this series. I really, really want to like Bionic Woman. Why do they have to make it so hard, week after week?

Bionic Woman earned a 4.1 rating/6 share Wednesday, which means it tied with Kitchen Nightmares for third place. Let’s say that again: it tied for third place with a cooking show. A cooking show. I really don’t think there’s anything I can add to that, so I’ll just note that, like every other showrunner, Jason Cahill has pledged not to work during the WGA strike. We probably won’t have but one or two more episodes of Bionic Woman before it is forced to go on hiatus. Let’s hope the strike settles soon, and that Cahill has a show to come back to.