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Throwback Thursday - Ringer - Pilot

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Throwback Thursday is a weekly article in which we look back at our favorite TV episodes from the past.

The shortening of “Dynasty’s” recent season left me wanting for some more CW-style soap. So for this Throwback Thursday review, I am revisiting a guilty pleasure of mine from 2011, the Sarah Michelle Gellar-starring “Ringer.” Its “Pilot” isn’t perfect, but it’s a good setup for how bananas and fun this show would get over the course of its one and only season.

(Author’s Note: Another reason I picked “Ringer” for this review is because it was streaming for free on CW Seed, which would make it easy for people to give it a watch if they wanted. But between when I rewatched last week and this week, CW Seed pulled the show off its site. It’s possible it’ll pop back up on there or another streaming site, and it is available to buy online, but I’m sorry it’s ended up being less convenient to lay your eyes on this episode.)

It begins in medias res on the face of Sarah Michelle Gellar, hiding in the shadows of a luxury NYC loft being renovated. We know she’s not playing Buffy Summers anymore when, instead of staking the masked stranger who’s stalking her through the place, she unsuccessfully makes a run for it. And as her attacker overpowers her, she desperately screams that he’s “got the wrong girl!”

Backing up nine days to Wyoming (and sidebar – this is something the show did a lot, flashing back and then flashing back again to reveal some new information we didn’t see), we officially meet Bridget Kelly. With her sponsor Malcolm (played by Mike Colter pre-“Luke Cage”) by her side, she’s acknowledging six months of sobriety and happily reporting that she’s finally heard from her estranged sister Siobhan. But she’s got bigger problems than drug addictions and family schisms, as we also learn that she’s under the protection of FBI Agent Victor Machado (Nestor Carbonell post-“Lost”) because she’s set to testify against Bodaway Macawi (Zach McClarnon, “Westworld”), a local mob boss. Bridget assures Machado that she’ll come through for him, but in the night, her nerves get the best of her and she flees. When next we see her, she’s in the Hamptons reuniting with Siobhan...who’s also got Sarah Michelle Gellar’s face.

Siobhan seems to be doing well for herself, particularly compared to Bridget. She’s stylishly coiffed, has a stunning weekend place in the Hamptons, and reports that she’s been happily married for five years. But though she’s welcoming, there’s a chilliness to Siobhan’s behavior. And though she claims to have forgiven Bridget for her past sins, she’s adamant that she doesn’t want to discuss “Sean” with her (later revealed to be Siobhan’s son). Bridget is still shocked, though, when she and her sister go for a speedboat cruise (featuring some infamously bad CGI) and, upon waking from a nap, finds Siobhan gone, apparently having committed suicide via drowning.

And that’s when a crumbling Bridget comes up with the sudsy premise of the show – she can hide out from both Bodaway and Machado by assuming Siobhan’s identity. Siobhan left behind everything she’d need to pull off this crazy idea – her driver’s license, her wedding ring, and the knowledge that nobody in Siobhan’s current life knows about Bridget. So she ditches her flannel for some designer duds, pins up her hair, and heads to Siobhan’s penthouse in NYC, and nobody clocks the switch. “It was so easy,” Bridget sobs to a flabbergasted Malcolm when she manages to sneak off and call him, “they all think I’m her!”

But Bridget quickly discovers, as she stumbles around in her sister’s shoes, that Siobhan’s life wasn’t as perfect as she projected. Her husband Andrew (Ioan Gruffudd, who I know best from the “Fantastic Four” movies) is icy in their interactions, insisting that he’s just “playing by the rules.” Stepdaughter Juliet (Zoey Deutch, “Set It Up”) is suddenly underfoot because she got kicked out of boarding school. And no sooner has best friend Gemma (Tara Summers, “Mercy Street”) disclosed that she thinks her writer husband Henry (Kristoffer Polaha, “Life Unexpected”) is cheating on her than Henry shows up at a gala to smooch all over “Siobhan.” Bridget even gets trapped into pretending she’s pregnant!

And that’s all before we loop back to the beginning of the episode, because when she manages to turn the tables on her assailant and shoot him dead, Bridget discovers he wasn’t after her, he was after the real Siobhan! Who, speaking of, the audience sees is alive and well in Paris, lounging with a cigarette (so we know she’s an evil bitch) and getting a call that Bridget’s still alive! Dun dun dun!

“Ringer” wasn’t a perfect show, but from this starting point, it leaned more and more into ludicrous soapy shenanigans that were highly entertaining (versus the Bodaway/Machado storyline, which got convoluted and felt disconnected from everything else as the season went on). There were affairs, blackmail, catfights, cliffhangers, double-crosses, murders, and, of course, plenty of scenes of the twins pretending to be each other, being mistaken for the other, etc. It also had a plethora of great guest stars and recurring players - M├Ądchen Amick (“Riverdale”), Amber Benson (“Buffy the Vampire Slayer”), Justin Bruening (“Grey’s Anatomy”), Misha Collins (“Supernatural”), Jason Dohring (“Veronica Mars”), Jaime Murray (“Dexter”), Sean Patrick Thomas (SMG’s “Cruel Intentions” co-star) and, best of all, Andrea Roth (“Rescue Me”) as Andrew’s bitch queen of an ex-wife. The episode titles were also amazing; examples include “Shut Up and Eat Your Bologna” and “It’s Called Improvising, Bitch!” And lastly, while it does end on a cliffhanger teeing up a season two, most of the stories are wrapped up so it’s still a satisfying watch today.

Speaking of wrapping up, I’ll do just that with my Throwback Thursday take on “Ringer.” Did you watch the “Pilot” back in the day? Did this review make you curious to check the series out? Switch places with me and share your thoughts in the comments section.

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