They've traveled to Tuscany to capture a biological weapon formula and to England to recover an important hard drive. But now Undercovers' married spy team, Steven and Samantha Bloom, will face their biggest mission yet: finding out the real reason they were recruited back to the CIA.
Starting in Wednesday's episode, airing at 8/7c on NBC, the spy drama will diverge from its mission-of-the-week format to explore this new serialized storyline. Although the Blooms were supposedly brought back for a very specific assignment, they will soon discover their boss, Shaw, has a very different agenda.
"The mythology is represented by Shaw and his boss, and the plan they have for the Blooms," star Boris Kodjoe tells TVGuide.com. "Every episode we find out new elements and new aspects about this master plan that was in place even before they came back to the CIA."
"They're kind of upset that they were sent into this dangerous field without knowing the exact reason why they were there," co-creator and executive producer Josh Reims says. "So that lights a fire underneath them to find out what those real reasons are."
Cast and crew are hoping this mythology storyline will light a fire for viewers.
Despite the show's strong TV pedigree (co-creator J.J. Abrams is responsible for Alias and Lost and Reims helped him create Felicity), the most recent episode attracted 5.4 million viewers and a 1.4 rating in the 18-to-49 demographic. While NBC has picked up fellow freshman series such as The Event and Outsourced, the network opted to just order four additional scripts for Undercovers.
"Obviously, we would have liked for [the network] to say, 'Go ahead and shoot your back nine episodes,' but I understand our ratings aren't exactly going through the roof," Reims says. "I'm hoping that when they see the episodes that are airing in the next few weeks, plus the scripts they are going to get, they'll realize, 'Oh, wow there's a lot going on in this show and we don't want to give up on it yet.'"
Back in July at the Television Critics Association conference, Reims was adamant about avoiding the heavy and complex mythology storytelling Alias was so well known for (see: Rambaldi). Although the first several episodes have been largely self-contained, Reims was persuaded to delve into the Blooms' history by Abrams.
"When I sat down with J.J. way back at the beginning of the show, I had said something along the lines of, 'Let's not confuse the audience completely, like Alias.' He agreed whole-heartedly," Reims recalls. "Of course at some point he said, 'But you know we have to do some mythology right?' There's no getting him away from his mythology."
The introduction of a more serialized storyline runs the risk of alienating casual viewers, but producers insist it will be still be easy to jump into individual episodes, and hope this new mystery will get fans more deeply invested in the series.
"Audiences are not to be underestimated. We want to be entertained and there has to be some sense of escapism. On the other hand, people want to be challenged," Kodjoe says. "I think that's part of the reason they made that adjustment. Obviously we want to challenge our audience and make sure they stay with us."
The new plot also plays into the writers' efforts to focus more on the Blooms' spy missions rather than their domestic life, to keep the show's energy high, Reims says. However, there's plenty to mine when it comes to the Blooms' marriage, especially as the two discover more and more about each other's secret spy pasts.
"It's just incredible that when you go to work, you can do so many different things every day," Kodjoe says of the series' mix of drama, action and comedy. "It's the best job I've ever had, but it's the hardest job I've ever had."