UnderCovers Watch: Xerxes

Alright, UnderCovers. That's how you do a done-in-one spy thriller. There may be hope for you yet.

We start in the Outback, where a tour bus gets hit with a biological weapon and everyone dies. Uh, okay. This is actually a huge bump-up from the usual cold opens of this show, where there's an intro to a mustache-twirling villain and...that's about it. This raised the stakes. People are dying. DANGER! We then move on to Tuscany, where a painting's being auctioned off to an arms dealer named Xerxes...and the painting contains the bio-weapon. After an uber-brief set-up briefing from Shaw, Sam reactivates an old cover identity from her previous career...the catch being, this cover was married to Clive, an MI-6 agent who re-pairs with Sam for this mission, leading to all sorts of ruffled feathers on Steven, who's shoe-horned in as a bellhop with Hoyt. Clive's got his own cute femme partner named Tessa, who Hoyt insta-crushes on. Right off the bat, we've got a really interesting structure to this episode, which is why it's my favorite of the series thus far: the team has to figure out which painting contains the weapon-formula, swap out that painting with a fake, and then take out the buyer. The extra twist, though, is that Sam and Clive get a neat break-in sequence to the auction director's office to nab a file on all the available paintings. Hoyt gets to work his gadget-fu, and there's a heightened bit of tension where they're almost caught. Nothing too mind-blowing, but enough to really add some bang for the buck.

The painting's found, and Steven and Hoyt create a fake, but are caught by "Xerxes" when they attempt the swapout. The thing is--this older gentleman ISN'T Xerxes, but a bit of misdirection--TESSA is Xerxes, who stabs Clive and gets rid of both the painting and the buyer. Sam and Steven get an actually awesome cat-and-mouse chase of Tessa...who gets cornered and caught by a remorseless Hoyt. Nothing super-frilly and AMAZING here, but a really solid, cool spy thriller this week, with some nice twists and fun excitement. That's all I wanted, guys! See--was that so hard?

This also may have been the first episode where the juxtaposition of the Blooms' married life and the mission didn't clunk at all. The old cover and marriage plot actually created some interesting tension, especially when Clive starts to blab about Steven's veiled troubles back in the academy. The good wife would just end the conversation--but Sam continues to push and discover a new element to the man she loves. It felt like an honest and real character choice, as opposed to something written to be cute or clever. I'm still wondering why Leo's been written out of the show, and thankful that this week's Lizzy presence was almost nonexistent, but I have hopes again that this show can really stabilize and find an audience.

Here's hoping that happens before the boom drops, fans. See you in seven!