Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Covert Affairs: "The Outsiders"

Illustration for article titled Covert Affairs: "The Outsiders"

After a slight personnel shake-up last week, things are back to status quo on Covert Affairs in an episode epitomizing the bland competence of the series as a whole. Granted, I might have been the only one who considered last week a step up from bland competence. Still, “The Outsiders” was the type of installment that, to a person who wants the show to be better, is the most frustrating of all because of all the squandered potential. When you have armed kidnappings, chases by both helicopter, truck and on foot, all capped off by a jump from a cliff and it is as beige as wallpaper paste? Then there’s a problem.

Instead of starting things off in the office, we’re dropped right into Annie and Reva’s mission to place surveillance equipment on the Polish side of the Belarusian border. They manage to get everything in place before being captured by armed Belarusian men who illegally entered Poland to capture them and hold them for ransom. A $60 million ransom, at that. Anne and Reva pretend to be Canadian hikers, and the show somewhat deftly waives this cover story into the very real news stories of the American hikers captured when they strayed into Iran. So, obviously I now think they were all spies. Television told me so!

The big draw for this mission was its leader, played by the oddly nationality-free and notoriously hammy (but usually fun) Peter Stormare. Shows like Prison Break have gotten a lot of mileage out of his particular brand of scenery chewing, so I admit I was looking forward to his appearance. Sadly, the script didn’t give him much leeway to roam free, and aside from a decent scene with Perabo where she tries to leverage her release he feels a bit wasted, especially when Annie orchestrates her escape while he was off having a catnap or something.

Following their escape, Annie and Reva argue protocol versus the unexpected in regards to their intended escape route, which is very similar to the arguments they had last week. Once again, Annie overrules Reva’s insistence on following the rules and goes for the unexpected choice, with Reva only forced to go along because she gets injured. This choice ultimately doesn’t seem to be the right one, considering they are found rather quickly and put a nice Belarusian family in danger in the process. However, the show treats it like the right choice at every turn. In fact, I am having a hard time recalling any moment when Annie’s choice doesn’t turn out to be the correct one, or at least treated like the correct one. (I’m having recollection problems from the first season, so this might not be the case.) Annie is a bit of a bully when it comes to imposing her convictions on others during missions, so it would be interesting to see that impulse not be rewarded, and for once have someone else’s choice be the correct one.

Above and beyond anything mentioned above, my main issue with the mission was Annie and Reva never truly seemed to be in any danger. Hell, their escape wasn’t even really all that difficult at any point. Yes, they were kidnapped by heavily armed soldiers looking to sell them back to the U.S. government for a big payday. Yes, those soldiers were technically hunting them down once they escaped. But the biggest impediment to their eventual escape was not any sort of harrowing pursuit but a twisted ankle suffered during a pouty tantrum. I know one of my arguments against an episode earlier in the season was how putting Annie in false danger doesn’t work, but here they never seemed to bother to put her in ANY sort of peril, false or not. Tension has to come from somewhere.

Despite any frustrations or misgivings, I do want to like the show, which is why the little things they get wrong – which would be so damn easy to get right – bother me. Still, next week is an Auggie backstory episode and I must admit I’m looking forward to it as he is still the most compelling thing about the show. There’s no way they can mess up his story, right?

Stray observations:

  • I do like Reva, and it was a bit unexpected to see her here considering her exit last week. It looks like this might be an exit for real. Here’s hoping she pops up again.
  • Jai had things to do again! This time he was mired in some weird subplot about mechanical difficulties before magically making the rescue in the end. I think most of it was meant to be humorous? Oh well, at least he was wearing a tight t-shirt.
  • If Annie going through Belarus to the Ukraine (instead of directly to Poland) was so unexpected, why did the soldiers find them so easily?
  • Anne Dudek’s entire passport subplot here was painful. There should be moments where Annie’s cover comes into question, but this was beyond silly. I think we need to start a “Save Anne Dudek” fansite.
  • “I’m sure it’s also pretty when you look at it on Google Earth.”