Every time I watch a new USA show it starts out like a little experiment – will this be the one to genuinely hold my interest longer than a few episodes? At one point, I’ve been a regular viewer of every original USA series (except Royal Pains, due to Feuerstein issues) but, for reasons that are never very easy to pin down beyond “well, it got boring,” sooner or later they all get the dreaded deleted season pass.
I’m positive my eventual indifference to USA’s brand of television makes no actual difference to them, because it’s exactly why they are so successful. This is bright, sunny television, designed to entertain and be viewed without mental commitment, and a lot of people like watching entertaining, bright, sunny television without mental commitment. In his review of last week’s premiere, Todd mentioned Covert Affairs as the ideal show to watch while you’re doing something else – which is funny, because that is exactly how I consumed the entire first season. It was nothing more than pleasant background noise, with occasional flashes of something a little bit deeper, mostly due to its above-average cast and their chemistry.
Having tonight be the first episode watched without distraction turned out to be a bit of a serendipitous choice. The producers are obviously interested in expanding the scope of the stories they tell in season two, and sending their lead on a mission in Paris – and actually shooting in Paris – is a smart way to gain a great deal of authenticity and ambience without totally overshooting the budget. (Although one must ask: Was the excessive amount of greenscreen used in last week’s premiere to cheat the budget in favor of this episode?) Annie’s mission this week was to travel to Paris to gain an asset at the Syrian Embassy, which becomes even more urgent when they discover a faceless Syrian terrorist might be coming to Paris and their asset is their only clue to his location.
Here’s the thing, though. Once she gets there, she kind of messes everything up. She takes too long to approach asset Selma. When she does, she discovers her friendly rival from last season, Israeli spy Eyal Lavine has already gotten to her. They spar long enough for Selma to figure out what is going on, and work their agendas against each other, attempting to sell them both information about the Syrian terrorist’s arrival. Selma ends up dead for all of her troubles, but Annie figures out how to find the terrorist all on her own and snaps the only known picture. As soon as Annie gets this big victory, however, she immediately squanders it by losing the intel to Eyal after he pulls the most obvious and easy scam in the spy playbook – flirting. Yes, she loses extremely important and essential intelligence because she wants a boy to make out with her. Chalk one up for the ladies!
The mission itself was one of the more enjoyable ones they’ve done, mostly due to the Paris scenery and excellent chemistry between Piper Perabo and Oded Fehr. And yes, it makes sense that Annie shouldn’t be perfect at her job considering she’s a newbie. Still, the manner in which she mishandled things was troubling. Oded Fehr is a charmer and their antagonistic flirtation is a good runner to have in a spy show, but to have her so easily bested by a few measly scraps of affection thrown her way doesn’t inspire confidence in our main character. A big draw of this show is watching a confident woman take charge and kick butt, not get all giggly and lose her intel in the middle of a two martini happy hour.
Still, despite any missteps this was a pretty solid episode of Covert Affairs, and shows a lot of promise for the expansion of the world and type of stories the show wants to tell in season two. I have a feeling we’re all kind of just waiting around until they do an Auggie backstory episode, anyway. That’s what I’m waiting for, at least.
- What was the point of Joan’s jury duty story? I’m sure there were other, less annoying ways to put Auggie in charge of the mission. I wanted to smack the phone out of her hand myself.
- The chase scene on the Paris rooftops was sufficiently well shot and choreographed. It was also the first time I truly believed they sent Perabo to France, since there was no stereotypical “heroine in front of the Eiffel Tower shot” earlier in the episode.
- It was Annie’s birthday. In case you forgot. It was kind of a theme.
- Someone clear this up for me: Why does Annie live with her sister? Wouldn’t it be easier to lie about everything all the time if she had her own apartment?
- Another question: Why doesn’t Annie have a gun? Or shoot guns? Seems like that might be important.