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'Strike Back' moment of the week: Stonebridge vs. Bisping

Season 4 | Episode 1 | “Episode 31” | Aired Jul 31, 2015

Who else needs a breather after that Strike Back season premiere? I do, and so does Michael Stonebridge after going toe-to-toe with UFC veteran and The Ultimate Fighter winner turned coach Michael Bisping. With Bisping cast as Ray McQueen’s (Max Beesley) right-hand man, the fourth act of Friday’s season premiere gave us one of the best fight sequences Strike Back has ever produced. And we set the bar pretty high around these parts.

Kudos to Bisping for coming onto Strike Back and fitting perfectly into the show, and to the show for unleashing him to do what he does best: hit people. When his character squared off against Stonebridge, it was a match-up that would’ve fit brilliantly on any UFC card. In one corner was the 6’2″ Bisping, the first British fighter ever to headline a UFC event, with 14 years of MMA experience. In the other was 6’1″ Philip Winchester, who is probably the best physically equipped actor on television, having trained so extensively and done so many of his own stunts for the last four years that it’s been said he could really join Special Forces. This is a guy I’d trust with my life. Strike Back put the two together, got out of the way, and let the fireworks explode.

The fight was such a richly rewarding sequence because there’s something purely brilliant about just letting two capable athletes go head-to-head. It’s the action equivalent of putting two award-winning actors into the same scene. They know what they’re doing, you know that they know, and you can just sit back and enjoy it. Bisping is a professional fighter who’s been in the ring most of his life, and Winchester doesn’t get enough credit for a lot of things, especially how much of a physical machine he is. This wasn’t just another staged TV fight.

This was two guys who were pretty evenly matched just let loose to go after each other. They gave us a fight that was difficult to watch in the best way; you winced with every blow and never quite knew how it was going to turn out. Even though you figured Strike Back wouldn’t kill off Stonebridge in the first episode, there was so much back-and-forth that you were still shoving your heart back down your throat. And when it ended, you were almost sad that it was over.

At the same time, it was a small microcosm of what we’ve come to love from Strike Back. This show is tough, in every sense of that word. It is full of people who aren’t going to be pushed around—and that’s not just the characters, but the actors as well. It’s no secret anymore that this cast is really getting down and dirty. The show also doesn’t hold back when it puts action on the table. This is war, and people get hurt and killed regularly, violently, and often right in front of us. When Winchester threw down with Bisping, it was as intense a fight as it gets, and it left us as drained as Stonebridge afterward.

Runner-Up Moment of the Week: The Embassy Bomb

So, how about that ending?! Strike Back fans are used to explosive cliffhangers, going back to the days of Cinemax season one, when Damien Scott ended an episode with a bomb strapped to his chest. But while blowing a massive hole in the embassy was suitably jaw-dropping, that wasn’t what made the conclusion of “Episode 31” so impressive. It was everything leading up to the fateful explosion.

As soon as Ambassador Foster (a brilliant Tim McInnerny, doing a total about-face from when he played Oliver Mace in Spooks) picked up that bomb, you knew what he was going to have to do with it. And you didn’t stop wishing that he wouldn’t have to. The show did a fantastic job of playing on the audience’s dread, pacing things so that we were biting our nails, hoping that Colonel Locke (Robson Green) would be able to do anything to stop his old friend. The desperation was palpable, which of course then made us feel exactly like Foster was feeling.

While Strike Back has always delivered remarkable action, it never does so without intent and meaning and character development going on at the same time. As much of an adrenaline rush as it was to watch the Stonebridge vs. Bisping brawl, that’s how much of an emotional blow it was to realize Foster was going to detonate that bomb and Locke had run out of time. This series is brilliant because it has such a strong heart underneath it, and that was one of its most heartbreaking moments. Get your Kleenex ready, because it won’t be the last.

Strike Back airs Fridays at 10 p.m. on Cinemax.

TV Families | EW.com
Mark Harris
February 23, 1990 AT 05:00 AM EST

The Bradys are back, with a passel of 90’s hassles. Do they represent the typical American Family? Did they ever? Who does? Stare and compare!

Kind Of Family
TheBradyBunch 1969-74: Blended
The Bradys 1990-: Enormous
Married…With Children 1987-: Postnuclear
Thirtysomething 1987-: Extended
The Flintstones 1960-66: Modern Stone Age

Family Pet
The Brady Bunch: Tiger
The Bradys: Alice
Married…With Children: Buck
Thirtysomething: Grendel
The Flintstones: Dino

Typical Guest Star
The Brady Bunch: Davey Jones
The Bradys: There’s no room
Married…With Children: Sam Kinison
Thirtysomething: Carly Simon
The Flintstones: Ann Margrock

Expression Of Joy
The Brady Bunch: Groovy!
The Bradys: Ritual hugging
Married…With Children: ”Oh, great.”
Thirtysomething: ”Of course I’m happy for you. Really. But what about me? Why does it always have to be about you?
The Flintstones: ”Yabba-dabba doo

Expression Of Rage

The Brady Bunch: ”Hmmm…”
The Bradys: ”If you back away from something you really want, then you’re a quitter!” (the angriest any Brady has ever been)
Married…With Children: ”Aaagh, God, take me from this miserable life!”
Thirtysomething: ”I’m not angry, OK?”
The Flintstones: ”Willllmaaaa!”

Typical Problem
The Brady Bunch: Marcia and her rival both want to be the prom queen.
The Bradys: Bobby gets paralyzed.
Married…With Children: Al doesn’t buy his family Christmas presents.
Thirtysomething: Nancy gets cancer.
The Flintstones: Fred and Barney are staying out too late.

Typical Solution
The Brady Bunch: The prom committee decides to have two queens.
The Bradys: Bobby gets married.
Married…With Children: They hate him.
Thirtysomething: If only we knew…
The Flintstones: Wilma and Betty decide to follow them.

House Style
The Brady Bunch: Conservative but mod, circa ’69
The Bradys: Conservative but mod, circa ’90
Married…With Children: Roach motel
Thirtysomething: Enviable
The Flintstones: Suburban cave

Clothing Style
The Brady Bunch: Early Osmonds
The Bradys: Made in the USA
Married…With Children: Flammable fabrics
Thirtysomething: Eclectic earth tones; nice ties
The Flintstones: One-piece

Most Annoying Character
The Brady Bunch: Alice’s cousin Emma, the substitute housekeeper (too strict)
The Bradys: Marcia’s husband, Wally (chronically unemployable)
Married…With Children: Steve (supercilious)
Thirtysomething: Ellyn (goes through Hope’s drawers, babbles, changes hairstyle every other week, generally mistreats her friends)
The Flintstones: Mr. Slate (bossy)

Attitude Toward Sex
The Brady Bunch: Never heard of it
The Bradys: Omigod — even Cindy does it!
Married…With Children: Peg: Yes. Al: No.
Thirtysomething: They didn’t get all those kids by accident.
The Flintstones: Prehistoric

How Spouses Fight
The Brady Bunch: They don’t.
The Bradys: Infrequently, but it happens
Married…With Children: Tooth and nail
Thirtysomething: They stop talking
The Flintstones: Fred and Barney go bowling while Wilma and Betty max out their charge cards.

How Kids Get Into Trouble
The Brady Bunch: Greg takes a puff of a cigarette.
The Bradys: Carol’s grandson steals her business cards and sticks them in the spokes of Bobby’s wheelchair.
Married…With Children: By committing felonies
Thirtysomething: Ethan plays with a forbidden toy rocket.
The Flintstones: They don’t.

How They’re Punished

The Brady Bunch: ”It’s not what you did, honey — it’s that you couldn’t come to us.”
The Bradys ”Next time, ask.”
Married…With Children: By the authorities
Thirtysomething: It blows up in his face.
The Flintstones: They’re not.

What Family Does For Fun
The Brady Bunch: Takes special three-part vacations to Hawaii and the Grand Canyon
The Bradys: Has flashbacks
Married…With Children: Exchanges insults
Thirtysomething: Talks
The Flintstones: Attends showings of The Monster at the Bedrock Drive-In

Unsolved Mysteries
The Brady Bunch: How exactly did Carol’s first husband and Mike’s first wife die?
The Bradys: What’s with Marcia’s new face and Bobby’s blonde hair
Married…With Children: What kind of hair spray does Peg use?
Thirtysomething: Why did Nancy take Elliot back? What do Gary and Susanna see in each other?
The Flintstones: How does Barney’s shirt stay on if he has no shoulders? Where do Fred and Wilma plug in their TV?

Worst Behavior
The Brady Bunch: The Brady children once made Alice feel under-appreciated.

The Bradys: Marcia’s son Mickey watches Bobby’s car-crash tape for fun.
Married…With Children: The Bundy’s kill their neighbor’s dog.
Thirtysomething: Elliot has an affair and talks about it.
The Flintstones: Characters don’t wear under-clothes.

Best Reason To Watch
The Brady Bunch: This is what life should be.
The Bradys: They’re all grown-ups now!
Married…With Children: Terry Rakolta hates it.
Thirtysomething (Tie) This is your life. This isn’t your life.
The Flintstones: This is what life might have been.

Best Reason Not To Watch
The Brady Bunch: Blurred vision from rerun overdoses.
The Bradys: You’re all grown-ups now.
Married…With Children: She has a point.
Thirtysomething: After a while, you think it’s real.
The Flintstones: The Simpsons

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