Another week of COVERT AFFAIRS, another babysitting episode with yet another crybaby asset who wants nothing to do with Annie or the CIA. It’s a wonder the agency considers these people assets. Well, in this case, Italian reporter Carlo held some value as trade bait, so it didn’t really matter if he had any specific knowledge that would have to be extracted from his unwilling head. But would it kill the writers to have somebody want to cooperate?
The twist on the formula this week was that Annie’s mission on foreign soil was kept off formal government channels, so she was not “officially” on a mission for the CIA – meaning she had no protection if she were involved in any altercation and captured. You can see where this story is going, can’t you? Of course you can…
One thing I really liked this week’s episode of COVERT AFFAIRS is that Annie’s mission was relatively low-key. While the issue of CIA losing top recruits because their identities were exposed is a big deal to the agency and the hopefuls who saw their dreams crushed, the fate of the entire world was not trusted to Annie, who, let’s face it, needs a little more seasoning to really deserve the high-profile missions she’s been getting, such as last week’s Paris trip.
And, in this case, Annie (Piper Perabo) really was uniquely suited for the mission: She actually needed to complete her firearms training after being plucked from the academy prematurely, so she was sent to Camp Peary, the CIA training facility known as the Farm, to discover who was burning new recruits by posting their identities online. Suspicion centered on grizzled instructor Roy Gaskin (Tim Guinee) because he was acting…well, very suspiciously. Meanwhile, Arthur (Peter Gallagher) was having trouble with nosy Senator Godfrey (Greg Ellwand), and Arthur’s ex-wife, Gina (Rena Sofer), tried to act as intermediary – when she wasn’t simultaneously needling his current wife, Joan (Kari Matchett). Annie was able to avoid being burned herself long enough to figure out that fellow trainee Corey (Sebastian Pigott) was exposing his rivals in a bid graduate at the top of his class. Annie also made another key discovery when she ran into handsome emergency room doc Scott Weiss (Ben Lawson): He likes cute, flighty aunts who bring nieces to the ER.
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.
Last summer’s guiltiest pleasure for me was USA’s COVERT AFFAIRS, a sort of ALIAS-lite that featured likeable tyro CIA agent Annie Walker, played by Piper Perabo (of Coyote Ugly and Lost and Delirious fame). Your appreciation for COVERT AFFAIRS pretty much depended on your appreciation of Annie/Piper as she undertook the mission of the week, bungled it, and then saved the day through desperation, pluck and charm. Annie did not rely on sex appeal to the same degree as Jennifer Garner’s Sydney Bristow on ALIAS, but Piper can rock a bikini with the best of them when she must. My tolerance for Perabo is pretty high; your mileage may vary. (Don’t judge me; WHITE COLLAR coasts on fans hypnotized by Matt Bomer.) So I am happy this frothy series is back.
Annie had a mysterious love interest, one Ben Mercer (Eion Bailey, of Band of Brothers), who just happened to be a former CIA operative. Or maybe he still was on the payroll; nobody could really tell. And it sort of didn’t matter, because Annie was also drawn into the orbit of the charismatic Auggie (Christopher Gorham), a fast-talking/quicker-thinking CIA agent who just happened to be blind.
The second hour was not really a “dramatic finale” of a two-parter so much as the denouement of the season as a whole. But there was a recurring theme in both hours: each episode began with seemingly mild-mannered men running for their lives. In the opening hour, it was that pharmacist/mule at the airport. And in this installment, it was a science teacher at a private school in Hong Kong.
Ben Mercer (Eion Bailey) was not doing any running when he surrendered himself at Langley. “My name is Ben Mercer. I’m a former CIA operative,” he declared. “I want to come in from the cold.” He didn’t exactly get the cold shoulder after two years in the wind, but his reception was hardly heart-warming. He was immediately strapped into a polygraph. Please. As if a superspy like Ben would even break a sweat beating such a phony and useless device.
Can you believe it? This week’s episode of COVERT AFFAIRS is exactly what I was begging for last week: a mission that did not hinge on Annie screwing up and then recovering!
This week, the agency was searching for another pesky leak – at least I think it’s a different leak than the leak who is feeding information to Liza (Emmanuelle Vaugier). This mole was suspected to be in the Senate Intelligence committee itself. Annie (Piper Perabo) was assigned to investigate Sen. Jarvis (D.W. Moffet), the committee chair. This brought her into contact with his wife, Madeline Jarvis (Lauren Holly), and Ashley Briggs (Anna Camp), the senator’s chief of staff. Turned out the senator was a serial philanderer, and perky, pretty Ashley was his latest fling. So there was plenty of suspicion to go ‘round. As Jai (Sendhil Ramamurthy) pointed out, senators are not supermen. “They’re fallible, just like you and me.”
I guess Annie impressed someone over the course of her last few missions, because this week’s assignment was much more complicated then the simple contacts and exchanges she has managed to bungle so far…
Annie (Piper Perabo) was asked to convince a former operative to return the fold and help bring in an arms dealer. Turned out the retired asset, one Christopher McAuley (Eriq La Salle), had a history with said baddie, Hassan Waleed. Only McAuley had no intention of capturing Hassan; he wanted to kill him.