‘Covert Affairs’ 1.02 Recap: Walk-Ins Always Welcome at the CIA

I suppose this shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise. After a pretty exciting series premiere filled with plenty of action and slick feature-film production values, the second episode of USA’s new spy series ‘Covert Affairs’ dials things way down. While the episode isn’t “bad” per se, it sure seems like the producers must have shot their wad with the pilot. If this is an indication of things to come, it would appear that, from week to week, the show is going to be more of a formulaic procedural. Depending on how well it’s handled, that may not necessarily be a disaster. The second episode is… well, it’s OK. (Spoilers to follow.)

In ‘Walter’s Walk’, Annie’s bosses at the CIA give her the newbie drudge-work assignment of debriefing walk-ins. You know, people who just randomly show up at the front gate claiming to have important information to share. Naturally, most of them are nut-jobs with stories of alien abduction and the voices in their heads being proof of foreign mind control. But one woman stands out from the rest. She claims that her young son (who happens to be a cryptography genius and a lover of Cold War spy novels) discovered encrypted messages being broadcast on an unused radio frequency. He cracked the code and followed the instructions in one message to a dead drop location, where he may have been spotted. The mother thinks they’re being followed and that their lives are in danger.

Annie feels inclined to believe this story. Looking into it, she finds that there may be a connection with a former Irish Republican Army big shot who happens to be on his way to Washington D.C. The CIA assigns her to work with an MI-6 agent to investigate. Cutting to the chase here, he’s actually an IRA mole who tries to use Annie to get to the kid and destroy all of his recordings.

In a side story, Annie’s sister has drafted a new will and wants Annie to sign some paperwork about becoming a legal guardian for her kids in the event something should happen. Annie hesitates, because she’s afraid that her job would prevent her from being a good parent. Of course, she can’t tell that to her sister, who thinks she works at the Smithsonian. The sister thinks she’s just being irresponsible and gets pissed.

Also, Sendhil Ramamurthy (Mohinder Suresh from ‘Heroes‘) joins the cast as Jai Wilcox (really, “Wilcox”?), a kind of douchey CIA suit who’s been placed into the Domestic Protection Division, presumably to report on them to Agency higher-ups. He doesn’t do much in this episode, but nobody likes him, least of all boss-lady Joan (Kari Matchett).

Overall, ‘Walter’s Walk’ is just fair as an episode. The plotting here feels a little generic and routine. The episode also has substantially less action than the pilot. It basically comes down to a couple of mild fight scenes. After getting her ass handed to her in the first one, Annie actually has to get hand-to-hand defensive tips from Auggie. Yes, the blind guy has to teach her how to fight.

I’m not ready to give up on the show yet or anything. But I’m certainly disappointed in the sudden downshift. We’ll see how the next few episodes do.

One last thing of note: This episode gives the show a formal opening credits sequence. It’s animated in a style that feels like a cross between the credits for ‘Chuck’ and ‘Mad Men’, with a distinct ’60s spy movie flair. They seem fun for a moment, but the cheesy insertion of live actors kind of kills it, and the lame theme music doesn’t fit at all.

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