Covert Affairs picked up the thread right where it left off this summer with its mid-season premiere, “The Wake-Up Bomb.” The half-season approach has worked well for USA shows like Burn Notice and White Collar, which have used these imaginary bookends to stage tantalizing cliffhangers only matched by their subsequent returns. Covert Affairs, back last night from its first mid-season hiatus, refrained from the do-or-die cliffhanger and the premiere felt a slightly less explosive than one would expect for a three month wait. All in all, when Season 2’s episodes are watched contiguously (say, on DVD), the mid-season pause will be less discernible than in other shows.
But that’s not to say that it wasn’t a good time getting reacquainted with our pouty-mouthed heroine. When we last saw Annie Walker, she was dealing with the fallout of “reading in” her sister Danielle with the news that she’s a CIA spy. The episode, which started with a nifty on-location Venetian foot chase, expanded on that fallout and also revealed just what Jai was up to when he made that clandestine call right before the credits last rolled in the Summer.
The biggest adjustment that we’ll have to make familiar with isn’t Annie’s change of residence, rather the effect is has on her. It can’t be pure coincidence that she fails her first mission just as she has the blow up with Danielle. And yes, Danielle was for real when she kicked Annie out of her house – now she is set up with a new safe house that no one, not even Auggie, knows the location of. I can imagine that in the life of a spy, ‘reading in’ loved ones is merely one of several levels that need to be eclipsed in order to become successful at the profession. The flashy part of the job – the shootouts, the foot chases – are important, but mental dexterity is only for the best of agents. For Annie, this process of telling Danielle, repairing her trust and then moving forward, however gut-wrenching it may be, is a necessary evil if she wants to be a legendary CIA Agent.
Danielle’s doghouse isn’t the only one that Annie believes she’s in, however: a failed mission has her second-guessing her ability to get the job done. And she believes that Joan notices the same thing. This doesn’t bode well for her latest escapade, where Joan sends her to woo a chef/former terrorist named Zavier, played by Heroes’ alum Santiago Cabrera, who has a brother that’s building a bomb. Scoring the guy is no problem for her, but reading him in and getting him to turn on his brother proves to be problematic and just as painful as disclosing the same info to Danielle.
Meanwhile, Jai was busy using his father to avert the exile to Arizona that Joan ordered. Just when we are led to believe he was unsuccessful in doing so, the twist appears that he was given a promotion, Director of the Office of Special Projects. Since he’ll now be reporting to Arthur’s boss, that means he’s no longer under Joan’s purview. What remains to be seen is if Jai will play a more prominent role in the main arch or if he’ll stick to the periphery as in the first season and the first half of this season. Aside from being on a few missions, he’s been relegated to background noise. That said, I’ve yet to see a compelling reason to root for him, other than the fact that he and his dad are about as slimy and conniving as they come. For shows like Covert Affairs, being slimy is always good for staging some drama for the real heroes.
Again, “The Wake-Up Bomb” felt like a middle-of-the-road episode, nothing too mind-blowing or grandiose for the fans . Its main purpose was to reacquaint fans with Annie’s saga and just how much of a mental game she’s playing as a spy. It will be interesting to see how far the writers ride the rift between Annie and Danielle, though they appeared to back off it in the tail moments of the episode. Danielle is far too nice of a person to continue being a jerk and I think she’s a necessary component of the narrative. That said, I don’t want Annie to regress and move back in, because I feel like her being independent is a necessary part of her growth as a spy. Hopefully, the writers will come up with a clever way to keep Danielle in the fold, without her involvement feeling too forced.
* The Venice scenes were impressive and I can’t imagine that the cast and crew complained about going on location in Italy, even if for a shoot for just the episode’s opening scene.
* There were no Arthur scenes at all. Boo.
* The show kept up the theme of naming its episodes after R.E.M. or Led Zeppelin songs.