This week’s installment of COVERT AFFAIRS felt even fluffier and more ephemeral than usual. And not in a good way. The episode felt incomplete; like viewers weren’t filled in on everything. Who, exactly, was Annie trying to get information about, and why did he matter? If viewers were informed and I missed it, then that’s not very effective storytelling. On the other hand, if viewers were not told, then that’s even worse storytelling.
Apparently the story that the-powers-that-be wanted to tell involved getting Annie and Eyal Lavin together in Paris and letting the sparks fly. Sadly, the episode was so rushed that the undercovers were barely given time to glare at each other, let alone smolder or strike sparks.
Annie (Piper Perabo) was dispatched to Paris to cultivate a new asset (as opposed to last week’s mission, which saw her taking over an existing asset): Salma Devrient (Helena Soubeyrand), a secretary at the Syrian Embassy, because Joan (Kari Matchett) wanted to find out when an important Mysterious Stranger was coming to town. Problem: Eyal (Oded Fehr) was assigned to recruit Salma for Mossad. Salma tumbled to what was happening and sold her information to both Annie and Eyal – but she ended up dead. Annie figured out where the Mysterious Stranger would pop up, and threw in with Eyal to get a photo of him. Then starry-eyed Annie let Eyal steal the memory card out of her camera. Luckily for Annie, Eyal was kidnapped before he could escape. And, luckily for Eyal, Annie rescued him – giving him a chance to return the favor and save her life during their escape. In the end, Annie (and Eyal) came away with a photograph of the Mysterious Stranger, and that seemed to satisfy her bosses.
Everything happened so fast that the episode felt like it was over before it began. It was weightless. Maybe TPTB were simply so worried about showcasing the return of dashing Mossad agent Eyal that they viewed the episode’s plotline as a necessary evil. Like, “It doesn’t matter why Eyal is here; he just is!” On the plus side, the episode really was filmed in Paris – which all TV viewers know is the required dream destination of all female TV characters. So Perabo and Fehr really were running through grotty sections of the City of Lights as well as landmarks like the Louvre and real locations such as Gare de Lyon rail station – not a back-lot green screen.
Annie was supposed to celebrate a birthday, and Auggie (Christopher Gorham) sweetly arranged an office surprise party before she was sent to Europe. In a hint of subplot development, Annie confessed to clueless sister Danielle (Anne Dudek) that she actually went to Paris for her job – but neglected to specify that she works for the CIA, not the Smithsonian. Well, at least that’s a bit of progress. Eyal is still the stereotypical “I work alone and I don’t ask for directions” lone wolf, but he did display a bit of heart by scribbling Annie a birthday note before vanishing mysteriously.
The biggest mystery of the week, however, was how Joan got into a jury pool. Okay, so she was using a cover story about working at the World Bank instead of the CIA, but still – what sort of high-powered intelligence officer cannot ditch jury duty? Sure, the subplot was intended to be played for laughs, but that borders on not respecting your own universe. Take the “comic” bit when she was ordered to surrender her smart phone to the bailiff: Isn’t that device a national security risk, since it doubtless contains many classified phone numbers (at least Auggie’s direct line)? Surely she cannot simply hand it over? The whole endeavor was ludicrous and distracting. And when did Joan become comic relief, anyway? She seemed completely void of bitchiness. How much time has passed since last week’s mission; she was at least semi-bitchy then. By the time Joan finally made the call that got her sprung, I was already wishing it was over.