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STRIKE BACK 1.07 ‘Episode 7′

Stonebridge and Scott embark on a dangerous hostage rescue in Kosovo, only to end up trapped in enemy territory.

Episode Title: "Episode 7"

Writer: Simon Burke

Director: Paul Wilmhurst

Previously on "Strike Back"

In their continuing mission to track down the terrorist known as Latif (Jimi Mistry), Section 20 went after Gerald Crawford (Iain Glen), Latif's weapon supplier. But when Damien Scott (Sullivan Stapleton) and Michael Stonebridge (Philip Winchester) captured Crawford, he claimed that he was forced to bring weapons to the African warlord, Tahir (Adewale Akinnuoye Agbaje) in exchange for the safety of his daughter, Dr. Clare Somersby (Laura Haddock). During a botched attempt to recover Clare, Scott was shot and badly wounded while Tahir made his escape with Clare.

While being treated for his life threatening wound, Scott and Major Oliver Sinclair (Rhashan Stone) were arrested by troops loyal to a corrupt government official; forcing Col. Eleanor Grant (Amanda Mealing) to personally see to their release. Out in the desert, Crawford claimed that Latif had a spy inside British intelligence but he refused to give up the name until his daughter was safe. Stonebridge and Crawford eventually freed Clare, but Tahir's men caught up with them and Crawford was fatally wounded. But before he died, Crawford gave the name to Clare to pass on to Stonebridge.

In the aftermath of the firefight, Grant and Scott arrived by helicopter and took Stonebridge, Clare and Crawford's body to safety. And Stonebridge told Grant that he had the information from Crawford.

Story:

In Kosovo, five European Union representatives including, John Allen (Adrian Rawlins), Rob Bailey (Dorian Lough), Mrs. Heath (Gillian Hanna), Dana Van Rijin (Annabelle Wallis) are taken hostage by a terrorist/heroin kingpin, Hasani (Mel Raido). In Vienna, the real star of the show, Sullivan Stapleton's ass makes its first appearance of the hour while Scott has a sexual encounter with a very pretty young woman named Marianna (Natalia Avelon). However, their time together is cut short when Scott is called into Section 20. Along the way, Scott and Stonebridge have some funny banter about Scott's latest conquest before they learn about the hostage situation.

Col. Grant orders them to escort European terrorist, Agim Rama (Zsolt Nagy) to his cousin Hasani in exchange for the five hostages. Making the situation critical to Section 20 is the fact that John Allen was the man identified by Crawford as Latif's spy inside British intelligence. Their priority is to get Allen out safely. As they pick up Rama, Scott dryly notes that it is very convenient that Allen changed his travel plans just when they were closing in on him. Before they leave, Scott notes that they should expect trouble ahead. Sure enough, an assassination attempt is made on the armored truck holding Rama.

Scott and Stonebridge take out the attackers after they bomb the truck, one of whom dies on impact and the other commits suicide by cyanide pill. At the rendezvous point, Grant is pissed until Scott and Stonebridge reveal that they stuffed Rama into the trunk of their own car because they suspected treachery. On the plane ride to Kosovo, Scott sells Stonebridge on the idea that they should deal with the mission unconventionally to avoid more betrayal. On the ground, only Scott greets Donoghue (Peter O'Meara), the American escort from the KFOR peacekeeping force who gives Scott a jeep and the location of the extraction point while Stonebridge makes his own way to the hostage exchange.

Stonebridge takes out a sniper lying in wait while Scott uses a gun hidden in Rama's pants. However, the mission goes haywire when another sniper takes out Rama before the exchange is made. Stonebridge provides cover for Scott and the hostages as they make their way back to the jeep and drive off. Stonebridge has to run when Hasani's men close in on him. Scott picks him up moments before Stonebridge's pursuers catch up to him. But their jeep is running out of fuel and when they get to the rendezvous point, Donoghue isn't there with the promised escort. With no other options, Scott and Stonebridge continue driving until they run out of gas.

Forced to go on foot, it soon becomes clear that most of the hostages won't be able to make an extended walk. Scott also takes the time to hit on Dana, who seems receptive to his advances. The only vehicles within walking distance are under heavy guard at a heroin plant. Scott and Stonebridge leave the hostages behind as they stage a two man assault on the complex and nearly get overwhelmed by the sheer number of men out to kill them. Just when the only viable vehicle is destroyed, Donoghue shows up with the KFOR peacekeeper troops. The hostages also come out of the woods and join them.

Back at Section 20, Grant and Sinclair voice their distrust of Scott. And it turns out that Marianna was a military asset working directly for Grant to spy on Scott. Marianna presents her report in person and Scott passes because he didn't spill any secrets and wasn't too weird in bed. Back in Kosovo, Scott gets the back of the truck to himself with Dana as they begin making out. But when they arrive back at the peacekeeper base, Hasani is there waiting for them with Donoghue's forces clearly working with them. As Donoghue's men disarm Scott, he angrily calls Donoghue a "piece of s***."

Breakdown:

It's good that even the characters in "Strike Back" expect betrayal at every turn. When Donoghue finally showed up, I kept waiting for the other shoe to drop and end the episode on a cliffhanger. Otherwise this would have been the first single episode story of the entire season.

The chemistry between Stonebridge and Scott has finally gotten to the point where the banter between them is easy and even really funny when they start mocking each other. Stonebridge actually got the best joke of the hour by building up Scott's latest girl and then asking if he remembered to deflate her when he was finished. Scott and Stonebridge clearly trust each other, as shown by their willingness to keep their true plans between themselves and the way that they back each other up during the missions. This is the complete dynamic we've been waiting to see from them all season. Up until now, there wasn't a fully formed bond between them.

The one thing that was really off-putting about this episode was that Sinclair and Grant are suddenly distrustful of Scott. Grant even sent in a female operative to test Scott and make sure he wasn't a security risk. That was a little extreme, but not as bizarre as Grant wanting to know if her operative found Scott attractive. That only confirms that "Strike Back" takes place in an alternate universe in which all women are automatically drawn to Scott. Even Dana the hostage girl is making out with Scott by the end of the episode. At this rate, I wouldn't be shocked if he beds the older hostage, Mrs. Heath as well.

There is actually an interesting mystery in this episode that isn't fully explained. Someone is going through a lot of trouble to make sure that Scott and Stonebridge can't make the exchange, first with the assassination attempt on Rama in Vienna and during the second attempt at the hostage exchange that did kill Rama. My initial suspicion was that Hasani had his cousin killed, but he seemed genuinely remorseful when he saw his body. That means there is another faction in play and the audience is being kept in the dark about who they are what their goal is.

As usual, the action sequences were very entertaining, particularly during the first assassination attempt in Vienna. The firefight at the Heroin plant was also well handled. The show does get a little unbelievable when Scott had numerous men shooting at him and doesn't even get scratched. Who taught those soldiers to aim? Cobra troops? Stormtroopers?

Regardless, "Strike Back" continues to outshine every other action series on TV. It's not "24," but it's the next best thing.

Crave Online Rating: 7.5 out of 10.