Human Target does what it does best again this week: a solid, entertaining hour of action, devoid of excessive bells and whistles, and interested mainly in showing us a good time. The chases and explosions remain minimal, but that doesn't mean the show skimps on the action. Instead, Chance (Mark Valley) lands in the middle of an ultimate fighting competition, part of a convoluted scheme to defraud an evil gambler (Peter Wingfield) and thus prevent him from killing their too-honest-to-take-a-fall client.
The bulk of the episode follows the gang as they set up their scheme, a sort of ultimate fighting twist on Diggstown where they trade barbs with their nemesis while figuring out ways to get the various fighters on Chance's docket out of the way. He needs to win the whole thing in order for the plan to work, and while he's got the skills, a head blow early in the proceedings leaves him a little too woozy for comfort. Winston (Chi McBride) has got his back and Guerrero's (Jackie Earle Haley) looking for dirt on the other fighters, but at the end of the day, he's going to be alone in the ring with guys who make a living knocking other guys unconscious.
As always, the best parts of the episode concern not the scenario itself, but the garnishes and twists provided by the screenplay. It delivers a suitable mix of straightforward action--where Chance basically has to pummel his way to victory--and more clever solutions to his various problems. He gets help from another Bondian beauty (Grace Park), the gambler's handicapper whose big hair and stunning cocktail dress are a long way from the Galactica. She establishes a good rapport with Chance, similar to those of other female foils in the series, which both actors parlay into nominal onscreen chemistry. She may not be on his side, but she's intrigued enough by him to give him enough rope to hang himself.
The screenplay also keeps Winston and Guerrero in fine form: the former with a cute bit of guy bonding with Chance, the latter with… well with his usual delicious cocktail of veiled nastiness. Haley has great fun playing off of the group's client, who's not the brightest of God's little creatures and can't quite keep up with the proceedings. We miss the new girl a bit, but there's enough going on let her absence slide.
Director Steve Boyum also takes care to show Chance's vulnerabilities. The complex plan entails him being two steps ahead of everyone, and yet we need to believe he's in danger. A few curves arrive to throw him off, along with a sense that he may be whistling past the graveyard as far as his physical abilities go. The fighting is intense enough to be plausible without distracting from the overall plot with a lot of fancy acrobatics. There's even a first-rate set piece in which Chance is tied to a concrete block and thrown into a swimming pool. None of it rises to extraordinary levels--Human Target has always been good but not great--but its resolute devotion to the task at hand scores more hits per minute than countless shows with higher ambitions. They make it look so easy, and their rock-steady reliance on formula never precludes the effort to elevate their game. Chalk this one up to the win column, and set your Tivos for next week!