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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Bionic Woman: "The Education Of Jaime Sommers"

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Illustration for article titled Bionic Woman: "The Education Of Jaime Sommers"

Why didn't they just make Jaime Sommers British to begin with? Was it out of concern that audiences wouldn't take to a foreigner fighting for truth, justice, and the American way of life? (Haven't they ever seen a Bond film?) Think of all the sarcastic commentary it would open the door for on America's rampaging ego or its tendency to throw money at a problem. So many of the issues I have with the show's tone and Jaime's character in general could have been solved by allowing Michelle Ryan to use her natural, dry British wit to cast withering aspersions on some of the more ridiculous elements, which as we well know are about 90% of the story. Not to mention Ryan would have seemed as cool and confident in every episode as she was tonight–and no one would ever again have cause to snicker at her iffy Yankee drawl. It could have been a much different, much more entertaining show.

That said, tonight's episode was a dramatic shift from what we've seen up until now, and not only because Ryan spent most of the show sounding like Bionic Spice. The complete, blessed absence of Sarah Corvus and brooding Jae allowed this show to breathe and finally have a little fun with its ridiculous premise, and to them I say good riddance. While I initially came to this show expecting a dark, serious reimagining similar to Battlestar Galactica, we all know how poorly that's turned out. So I say why not abandon those pretensions to heavy drama altogether? In comparison to the episodes that preceded it, "The Education Of Jaime Sommers" positively crackled with energy. Sure, having a standalone episode that seemed to exist in its own vacuum outside the main storyline may have been a little jarring (so did that whole dust-up with Antonio last week never happen? Or did they just, like, shake hands and call it even?) but when the overarching plot is as ponderous as Bionic Woman's, I'm all for abandoning it.

Those who have compared this show to Alias probably had their opinions reinforced by "The Education Of Jaime Sommers", what with the whole "Jaime poses as a (blank) to infiltrate (blank)" premise, and while I was never really that into Alias (due primarily to my strong aversion to Jennifer Garner), it seems to me like that may be the most positive direction this show can take. Judging by the preview for the next episode, now that Jaime has met a new romantic foil–the Dane Cook-type who also turned out to be a secret agent–and it appears they'll be crossing paths again, it looks like Bionic Woman is threatening to turn into a frothy Mr. And Mrs. Smith-style spy/comedy hybrid. Which is something else I've never seen, but I have a feeling it will be a lot easier to take than the oppressively somber tones and faux-deep philosophizing of the show until now. Although I guess if it goes too far in that direction, they may as well just combine it with Chuck, right? (And if they do that, maybe I can just foist this job off on Steve Hyden and go watch something I genuinely like.)

Lightening the tone certainly makes all the bullshit a lot easier to take, and the once-maddening leaps of logic become part of the "fun"–like having Jaime suddenly shacking up in the dorms for no reason, trading quips with a stock quirky Asian girl who's always scarfing down junk food ("I feel like Felicity!"). Or the fact that she never once told Becca where she was going or bothered to check in with her. Or the idea that Al Qaeda has started surgically implanting neural transmitters in captured American soldiers. Or the fact that Agent Dane Cook somehow knew that Jaime told the professor that she was there to clean the monkey cages, or that he didn't even question her when she exclaimed, "This is like my college fantasy!" despite the fact that she supposedly transferred in from Oxford. Or this week's team of nameless baddies who just happen to show up five minutes before the show ends so Jaime can bionically kick a little ass right out in public. Again. Stuff like that goes down a lot smoother when it's obvious that the show isn't asking us to take it all so damn seriously, something Bionic Woman has struggled with since its pilot. Of course, it could also make the show somewhat (more) disposable, but I'm all for this taking a walk on the lighter side. It's still not too late for reinvention, Bionic Woman. I'm willing to forget I ever heard the names Anthony Anthros and Sarah Corvus if you are.

Grade: B-

Stray observations:

— Did Antonio's subplot with the generic Islamic terrorist make any sense? Maybe it's just the hangover, but I didn't catch the connection between the guy he was following and the profiteering student that Jaime and Agent Dane Cook captured. And was Antonio trying to personally negotiate the end of the Iraq war in that apartment with his whole "Too many people have died" speech? Is a little Isaiah Washington gravitas all it takes to stop the jihad?

— "Plan B is you're bionic. Figure it out."

— Jaime certainly has moved on from Will's death pretty fast. Did they also give her a robotic heart?

— The wisecracking tech guy works best in small doses, but I have to say I did enjoy his line about Jaime being "Manchurian Candidated." That was a relatively smart joke for such a stupid show.

— I can't tell you how excited I am that we're getting a break next week.