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Reef Break - Pilot - Review - The Shadiest Sunny Place In the Country

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The first day of summer brought ABC's newest frothy summer offering with it. You'd be forgiven for not knowing, because ABC has forgotten to promote it. That's a pity. Reef Break is everything a summer show should be, from its sassy opening scene to its madcap closing shootout. Poppy Montgomery outshines even the sun-drenched setting with her portrayal of Cat Chambers, a fallen Reef Island local who escapes being a cliché by virtue of largely having her life together and still very much enjoying life on the edge. She's spent the last five years trotting the globe to catch waves. Her return home is to testify against her former boss Doug Jones being released on parole. Don't you worry that this part is too serious. For now, its main function is to introduce the sweet relationship between Cat and her husband Jake Elliot. Did I mention she discovered he was an undercover FBI agent on their honeymoon, which led to among other things Jones taking out a hit on the couple? The past is in the past, except not really. Cat and Jake might be separated, but their interactions are full of warmth. One almost expects Jake to bite the dust, but the show doesn't go there. Divorce papers or not, they are still a formidable team.

The fun dynamic between Cat and Jake doesn't mean the show lacks sizzle elsewhere. Her first night back Cat meets Detective Wyatt Cole (Desmond Chiam), and they ignite some sparks of their own. Cole also escapes the usual characterization that the law-abiding partner gets in this kind of show. We learn he got promoted to detective because his Lieutenant Governor sister Ana (Melissa Bonne) pulled strings. He's seemingly by-the-books, but he's also the type of handsome scoundrel who earns his badge and goes to a hotel bar to pick up chicks with the badge on display. Speaking of the island government, Reef Island is a totally made up place that looks like part of Australia but is a fictional US territory for the purposes of this story. The semantics are irrelevant. What matters is that Ana hires Cat to be a case-by-case basis (Cat's terms) fixer for the unseen Governor. It's only a matter of time before Cat's past life with the island version of a crime syndicate clashes with her new responsibilities. At least she has a dream beach house to ride out the storm in.
The aforementioned beach house is a hush payment from "kidnapping victim" Tori Eastland's father. After Cat inadvertently reveals the police think Tori was kidnapped, the culprits send a video demanding she deliver the ransom. Naturally, Cat worries this could be a setup from a past associate to take her out. She sets out to find Tori before that can happen. A body in a freezer. A greasy sandwich bribe for an old friend. And all for naught, because she ends up on the water delivering the money anyway. Tori is suspiciously underwhelmed to be rescued, but considering there's a bomb on the boat Tori is adrift in, Cat sinks the money as instructed and gets Tori safely back to land. Yes, Tori faked the kidnapping to boost her social media followers, but she didn't count on Cat dumping the ransom money into a bucket and dropping a nearly empty bag for the kidnappers. Tori's partner comes after her, hence the shootout that Jake and Cat handle.
Reef Break doesn't smash any molds with its pilot, but it's welcome lighthearted summer fare. It doesn't aim for comedy or grit. Instead, it ops to focus on entertainment, letting its lead dazzle. Cleaning up political messes could weaken the show down the line though. Let's hope it keeps the focus on Cat and Montgomery's candid charm.
Seashells by the Seashore. 

Cat goes out of her way to befriend local teenager Petra who openly despises Cat. Based on shared personality traits, I was ready to call it for Petra being Cat's daughter. However, it seems their history is darkened for another reason:  Cat had to kill Petra's father Mike back in the day for reasons unknown. Whatever the story is there, it didn't keep Petra from accepting Cat's hospitality by the end of the episode.

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