Image Credit: Steve Wilkie/USA NetworkIt’s official: Covert Affairs is my new favorite show. After a way-better-than-expected premiere last week, the spy dramedy’s second episode, “Walter’s Walk,” built on all the things that made the pilot great, while showing us what kind of series Covert Affairs may turn out to be: think a cutesier version of Alias with a strong focus on characters, some pulpy serial questions, and a way better soundtrack. Seriously, I haven’t had this much fun with a show in a very long time—the episode ended thirty minutes ago, and I’m still smiling. So naturally, I’ve got to recap it! Let’s pretend we’re Annie Walker’s swinging punching bag, and break this hour down, blow-by-blow.
The episode began with a quick dream sequence reminding us of what happened last week: Annie fell in love with a man (Ben Mercer, we learn, is his name) in Sri Lanka. After three wonderful, shell-sharing weeks, he disappeared completely from her life. Now, years later, she’s positive that the mysterious man in a leather jacket that saved her in the subway was her long lost love. It was exciting to see this scene open the program, for it showed that Covert Affairs‘ central story would not simply be the mystery-of-the-week. We should care about Annie, her past, and the serial mystery around her assassin-beau, Ben.
But that will all come later, I presume. For now, we’re sticking to simpler themes like “family,” which was the running thread through this week’s episode. Annie’s sister, Danielle, asked Annie to sign her and her husband’s will, declaring that Annie would take care of their two popsicle-eating daughters if anything should happen to the couple (the male half of which we still have not met). Unfortunately, Annie had a case of Spider-Man-syndrome—now that she’s subject to constant danger in the field, she’s afraid of getting too close to people. She evaded the offer and headed to work at the “Smithsonian.”
Upon arriving at CIA headquarters, where it happened to be the Domestic Protection Division’s day to upgrade offices, Annie was swiftly given orders by Ice Queen Joan that it was her job to handle the “walk-ins” that day. Translation: “Keep the UFO-seeing wackos busy while we do real work.” We got a fun, quirky montage of some various conspiracy theorists, set to a song that’s destined for Apple commercial fame (whoever chooses the music on this show, I like you!), before getting to the main yarn.
But first—cue the new spy-themed, cartoony introductory credits, which I loved! Some of you on Twitter weren’t as enthusiastic, but the James Bond-esque sequence gave me hope. It seemed like Covert Affairs was boldly saying that it would not settle for being the typical, boring procedural—this is going to be an adventurous secret agent story that’s not afraid to have fun.
We then got to the episode’s mystery, which went like this: An adolescent boy named Walter had discovered and decoded a broadcasting message from a Lost-like numbers station. (Also very Lost-like was Walter’s book, The Parsifal Mosaic. A quick Wikipedia search reveals a spy love story not unlike Annie and Ben’s. Perhaps this is foreshadowing?) Walter wanted the CIA to look into the problem, but he didn’t want to hand over his tapes. Annie got on the case. In the end, the mystery wasn’t all that complicated. Basically, there was a message being broadcast—the Irish Republican Army was planning on bombing a British bank in Washington DC. But frankly, I wasn’t all that interested in figuring this out, and neither was the show—there was too much fun stuff to learn about the characters in the agency! Here’s a quick character breakdown:
Like a rare steak: mostly cold, with some warm spots
Let’s start with Arthur and Joan Campbell, the unhappy power couple of the CIA. We already knew that their marriage was on the rocks, so Joan was not happy when Arthur assigned Jai Wilcox (Mohinder!), whom everyone apparently has a problem with, to her department. It also didn’t help that Joan called her husband out for “putting Annie in the field to draw out Ben Mercer.” Say WHAT?! I love that the show keeps building the storyline around Ben—I can’t wait until we get to meet him. Later in the episode, Joan and Arthur went out to dinner (shout out to Music Guy—great dinner music!), and it was nice to see them display some real intimacy. Joan alluded to the Affair that began their relationship, Arthur told his wife that he wanted their relationship to work, and they reminisced about his history with rare T-bone steaks. It was sweet. Everything on this show works much better outside the office.
Auggie got a lot more interesting, as well. Rather than the slightly grating wisecracker we got in the pilot, the blind computer nerd was less sarcastic and much more charming this time around. He offered Annie an impromptu sparring lesson, which quickly turned into a giggly flirt-fest on the floor. Anyone else sense a romance brewing? He also kept the mystery moving along briskly. I’m not sure why Auggie disliked Jai so much—perhaps he seemed like competition?
Piper Perabo, where have you been all my life?
And then, of course, there’s our endlessly endearing protagonist, Annie. Despite the fact that she was busy trying to learn how to follow protocol, please Joan, handle murder attempts, blow up cabins, and take down criminals in the woods, Annie really only had one thing on her mind: her relationship with her family. In the midst of all the chaos, she still took the time to speak with Walter’s mother about parenting and ask an already-convicted James whether he meant what he said about family and spy life not mixing. She ultimately reacted against James’ words, and decided to sign her sister’s will over a piece of lasagna (Music Guy, you did it again!). I have to give credit to Piper Perabo, who has been playing the insecure-but-sassy outsider wonderfully. I’m truly on board with her character.
Lingering questions/Notes of interest:
++ Who is Ben, who is he working for, and why does Arthur want to find him so badly?
++ Who chased down Annie’s incredibly durable VW last week? What makes her a target?
++ Is the cop from the crime scene just a regular cop? Why did he let Annie and James go?
++ Can we trust Jai? Why is he under orders to get close to Annie?
++ Did we all notice the transition from the “Spruce Knob” sign to the door knob? Good.
++ I’m hoping that the “Special Guest Star” title over Peter Gallagher’s name goes away soon–I want Sandy Cohen as a regular.
++ Sendhil Ramamurthy is a much better actor with an American accent. (It also helps that he’s no longer on Heroes…)
++ Quote of the night: “Classic spy novels weren’t about flash and gadgets. They were more about the human element—the life.” Thus far, so is this show!
++ Next week, Annie is going abroad. That’s exactly the kind of secret agent stuff I’m excited for.
But now it’s your turn, PopWatchers. I know I’m not the only one geeking out over Covert Affairs, so I want to hear what you think. Take to the comments with your thoughts, theories, and questions!