COVERT AFFAIRS 1.7: Communication Breakdown

Auggie took the spotlight this week, as COVERT AFFAIRS viewers got a long look at him on a mission as a field agent. The problem with the episode was, while Auggie is a unique character, the plot they gave him was strikingly rote: Bring in a former flame. Oh, gee, where do Auggie’s loyalties lie?

There was a cyber criminal on the loose, one who demonstrated her power by bringing down the electrical grid in Washington, D.C. The No. 1 suspect was Auggie’s (Chris Gorham) former girlfriend, Natasha Petrovna (Liane Balaban). He was assigned to revive his old cover and visit DataTech, a sort of Comic-Con for true nerds. Annie (Piper Perabo) was assigned to go along as Auggie’s “eyes.” But first, Auggie had to get out of bed with his current flame: TV reporter Liza Hearn (Emmanuelle Vaugier). As they bantered, he fretted about being put on trial for espionage. She hinted that Auggie is not the only person at CIA she is sleeping with.

Joan (Kari Matchett) decided that Auggie should try to buy off Natasha for $2 million. Which would necessitate Auggie blowing his cover, which he was understandably reluctant to do. When he confronted his old flame, she slapped him. “Didn’t see that coming,” Auggie mumbled. Tasha railed about how she waited for Auggie but he never showed up on that fateful day in the past. Wow. Major – and I mean major storyline fail for going the Casablanca/An Affair to Remember route. It’s such a cliché, and one of the surest signs of lazy scripting imaginable: “Ah, I’ll just make it that she’s angry because he never showed up on that fateful day they had promised to be together, and now she’s holding a grudge.” Fail. The back story did not get any more interesting when Auggie revealed that he was first breaking in his cover when he met Natasha and fell for her (another cliché, *sighs*). She was the target of an FBI sting, and he could not protect her, so she got arrested shortly after he failed to show. (Yep, more fail.)

Anybody watching had no trouble predicting that Auggie’s loyalties would be doubted – with Jai (Sendhil Ramamurthy) carrying the water for the doubters and Annie (unsurprisingly) serving as his champion. I figured the romance would be rekindled, and Tasha would escape in the end, amid just enough questions to make it clear that Auggie still have feelings for her, but still did his job. Not that he should have been on the case at all, because of the clear conflict of interest. I know the-powers-that-be needed to generate some drama, but seriously, giving Auggie the case just made Joan look stupid and incompetent. Look, this hacker was powerful enough to knock out the nation’s capital, and was going to release her hack to anarchists of the world, yet Joan was willing to bet on Tasha still having a soft spot for the guy who abandoned her to be arrested. There wasn’t a lot of wiggle room for dicey judgment calls. But that was exactly what happened. It was storytelling paint-by-numbers.

On the plus side, the acting was uniformly excellent, with Perabo and Gorham leading the way. Gorham did his best to appear genuinely conflicted while minimizing the use of his eyes. Also, Annie showed some pretty remarkable powers of intuition and deduction as she analyzed and predicted Auggie’s moves. I loved it when Annie told her sister, Danielle (Anne Dudek) that Auggie is a bigger player than she thought, and his girlfriend was like “anarchy in a bottle.” (That was a surprisingly deft turn of phrase for a writer who relied so heavily on plot cliché.) In this story, Annie was the cool, smart professional, while Auggie made the missteps. Not that she was perfect. Annie was at Auggie’s place when a call came in from Liza. Annie wondered if he had called the reporter. “We’re dating,” he confessed. “You’re the leak,” Annie charged. Auggie denied it, and claimed to be working an op on Liza, trying to ferret out her leak on his own. Well, he certainly was working some kind of op on her, but I doubt it was wholly professional. He told her he’s going to pump Liza for all the info he can, and then turn it over to Joan. “I trust you, Auggie,” Annie claimed.

And she really did trust him. Later, with Auggie and Tasha on the run, Annie believed that her ability to follow Auggie’s clues meant he was leaving her breadcrumbs; Jai figured Auggie was just making mistakes as he tried to help Tasha escaped for real. (Unintentionally hilarious moment: While supposedly frantically chasing Auggie, Jai and Annie took time to strut to the CIA jet in slow motion while framed by a setting sun.)

As they fled by Amtrak, Auggie told Natasha that he still loves her. So she kissed him, and then climbed on top of him and they attempted to eat other’s faces. Their lovemaking was interrupted by some Russian thugs, who breached their compartment. Auggie fought pretty well for a blind guy. And when Tasha killed the lights, it went ever better. Auggie tossed one guy out the window, in what I assume was homage to James Bond in Live and Let Die. A grateful Natasha gave Auggie the source code on a thumb drive. “I love you, Auggie,” she declared, then jumped off the train, barely ahead of the pursuing feds. He did not follow her. Was it because he couldn’t, or because he wouldn’t?

Later, Aggie told Joan he wasn’t sure why he did what he did, but he didn’t think he would see Tasha again. Since she is still alive, I think he will see her again. Perhaps around the season finale? Or next season, for sure! I found myself wishing that Gorham had been given a better showcase than this predictable entry, but he still acquitted himself admirably.

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