classic episode
fastlane: "strap on"

1.11 / Original air date 17 January, 2003

Written by: Kim Newton
Directed by: Greg Yaitanes

If there was ever a lesbian episode meant to titillate the male audience (a perfect example of what Liz Friendman coined "Sweeps Lesbianism") it is this rather amusing episode of Fastlane, an expensive show that never quite made it out of the starting blocks before Fox pulled the plug. (Something that became an annoying habit over at Fox over the years actually. See Firefly.)

The only reason it even remotely works probably has something to do with the fact that the writers wisely kept it ambiguous whether or not the lead character Billie (played by Tiffani Thiessen) actually could be bisexual. Stories have since leaked that the makers of the show deliberately dropped hint after hint of Billie's fluid sexuality during the show's 22 episode run. I can't confirm this, having only seen a few episodes of the show, but the fact that this undercover assignment came so easily to Billie was a plus and it played as a sexy and fun piece of television for both men and women.

Each hour-long episode of Fastlane, created by Charlie's Angels director McG, revolves around a single case where Billie, Van and Deaq, an elite undercover police squad, take on the rich and famous at their own game. The three cops use the tools and clothes of busted, rich criminals in order to mix and mingle in the glamorous criminal underworld. In this episode they take on a couple of female house robbers who have inconveniently stolen $500K from Deaq's house that the unit was going to use to bribe and bust a corrupt witness and send a murderer to jail. Usually Van and Deaq would swing in and seduce the cash from under the women's unsuspecting noses, but this time there's a twist. The robbers are lesbians.

Cue the oh-so-sexy Billie to save the day. She successfully manages to seduce one of the robbers (and who wouldn't be seduced by Tiffani Thiessen in that dress?) and convinces the gang to pull off a job on Billie's made-up ex-husband who is supposedly screwing her over in their divorce. After they're busted, Sara is persuaded to give up the $500K in exchange for a deal.

The best parts of the episode are undoubtedly the seduction scenes. Billie works overtime on the unsuspecting Sara (guest star Jaime Pressley), dragging her into a web of lies and gaining her trust. The two women have some cool chemistry, better than most lesbian stunt episodes I've seen, and they seem to come together in a way that is believable, despite the obvious time constraints. They're not in love, but they could be one day, and Billie seems genuinely sorry to have to betray Sara when the time comes.

Billie is the aggressor, the one who initiates almost all the sexual contact. If she isn't bisexual, then she's a damn good undercover cop! Even when she isn't being watched by her target she shows no discomfort in the lesbian world, she brushes off another woman's advances with kindness not disgust and never seems to have anything but respect for these women and their sexuality. I was impressed and more than a bit seduced by her myself.

Of course, this side of the storyline couldn't take up the entire show. Annoyingly the narrative had to keep going back to Van and Deaq and their attempts to procure more cash in case Billie's seduction attempt fails. The entire storyline about extracting money from the crippled bookie just left me cold. I can understand on some level why the show was eventually cancelled. These guys, played by Peter Facinelli and Bill Bellamy, have no charisma at all. It is however admittedly difficult to take one episode out of context of a series and make informed judgements. Let's just say I was not really that inspired to expand my viewing of Fastlane much beyond this and a couple of other episodes.

It's flashy, it's sexy, it's designer bubblegum for the eyes for those people who sat through The Fast and the Furious and enjoyed it. It is even well written in places. But for all we're offered here, I think definitely catch it if it pops up in late night reruns, but don't break something trying to hunt this episode down if you missed it first time around. Tiffani Thiessen is all grown up from her 90210 and Saved By the Bell days and looking for a project that suits her many talents. We can only hope she finds something better than this.

Got a comment? Write to me at nancyamazon@gmail.com