Yvonne Strahovski appears in two shows Monday night. Isn’t that wonderful? It is if you happen to be a Strahovski enthusiast, as I am.
It may even be more wonderful if you don’t know her yet, and take the opportunity to watch FOX’s 24: Live Another Day, premiering at 8 p.m. ET/PT, and the second of two back-to-back episodes of FX’s Louie, which begins a new season at 10 p.m. ET/PT.
I first became intrigued by this Australian actress during season 7 of Showtime’s Dexter, starring Michael C. Hall. She played serial killer Dexter Morgan’s soul mate, Hannah McKay. Hannah also had a string of murders to her credit, but she killed with rational premeditation, not for kinky satisfaction.
Strahovski’s Hannah was a cool, composed femme fatale. Played with a slight difference, she might have seemed affectless, but Strahovski made her a minimalist: a pale blonde beauty who knew how much energy to expend to gain her goals. Hannah was always emerging from a greenhouse – she ran a gardening center – with the distrustful look of a plant that preferred shade to sun.
It was an understated performance, and a regrettably underrated one.
At any rate, let’s look at her latest work.
24: Live Another Day
On the revived, 12-episode season of the Kiefer Sutherland action classic, Strahovski plays the rather blandly named Kate Morgan. She’s a London-based CIA analyst who quickly figures out that the resurfacing of legendary operative and renegade Jack Bauer is not simply a case of a fox having been forced out into the open.
Kate is smart, then, and able to anticipate many of Jack’s moves. Her problem is that her significant other sold secrets to the Chinese, and in the CIA this is bound to come up in your annual evaluation.
Strahovski, who also played a CIA agent in the NBC action comedy Chuck, isn’t too far off from her Hannah McKay mode here: Kate is observant and emotionally muted, but seems to like a little adrenaline in the course of the day.
By the end of the premiere, we can imagine that she and Jack, who keep running into each other as bullets ping off the walls, could become a romance. Or maybe she’s playing a double game and will sell Jack to the Chinese (it’s happened before).
For now, Kate is a beguiling mystery dressed, oddly if attractively, in tasteful shades of light blue. For an active anti-terrorist, that must mean high dry-cleaning bills.
Strahovski appears in only a handful of scenes here, for a total of roughly 10 minutes, but she’s sensational. In this episode, Louie (Louis C.K.) lands a last-minute gig at a swanky Hamptons charity event headlined by Jerry Seinfeld (doing a very funny version of himself as a condescending creep). He bombs, earning laughs from only one woman in the crowd. That woman is Strahovski, as a model who likes Louie’s humor and hates the Hamptons.
She whisks Louie off into what could be a dreamworld. She’s radiantly beautiful (her blondness here seems to absorb sunlight and glow with it), she’s enchanted by everything about him, and she’s probably too good to be true. Which makes her a somewhat stressful, suspect creature, too (as women often are on Louie).
This is an old type: the privileged, madcap beauty – it includes Katharine Hepburn in Bringing Up Baby, if you care to travel back 700 years in time – but Strahovski makes her both sexually vivid, very much of the moment yet somehow slightly unreal.