‘Covert Affairs’ 1.05 Recap: “Sucked in by His Evil Vortex”

While ‘Covert Affairs’ continues to live in the shadow of ‘Alias’ and not really live up to its own potential, the show keeps skirting by from episode to episode with just barely enough entertainment value to make me watch for another week. It’s OK, but I’m already more excited for J.J. Abrams’ new spy series ‘Undercovers’, which will premiere on NBC next month. In the meantime, at least last week’s ‘Affairs’ was livened up by a pair of interesting guest stars.

‘In the Light’ sends Annie on a fool’s errand to seek the help of a former CIA agent named MacAuley (Eriq La Salle from ‘ER’). When intel arrives that African arms dealer Hassan Walid is en-route to the U.S. with a shipment of Surface-to-Air missiles, it’s believed that MacAuley (who used to work the case) may still have contacts that can track down Hassan’s entry point. Unfortunately, the burned-out MacAuley has no interest in helping the CIA anymore, and has turned away countless previous agents. Hence the presumed futility of Annie’s assignment.

Naturally, Annie manages to charm him. When she does a little research and discovers that Hassan murdered MacAuley’s girlfriend, she uses this to motivate him to help bring the arms dealer to justice. (Seriously, nobody else in the entire CIA thought of this before?)

Meanwhile, the DPD must host the arrival of former Director Henry Wilcox (Gregory Itzin, the oily President Logan from ’24’!), who’s there for a dedication ceremony. The Department’s new facilities are being named in his honor. Current Director Arthur Campbell (Peter Gallagher) pretends to act the gracious host, but clearly doesn’t approve of his predecessor’s reputation for running dark ops.

If the name “Wilcox” sounds familiar, that’s because Henry is the father of Jai Wilcox (Sendhil Ramamurthy). So that explains the whitebread surname. Some backstory tells us that Jai’s mother was one of Henry’s assets in India. The two had a legendary love affair, until Henry dumped her for a younger woman. Jai has a lot of daddy issues to work out. He jokes that his nickname is “Satan’s Little Helper.”

Henry is… well, basically he’s President Logan. There’s no sense pretending otherwise. But that’s OK, because nobody plays a morally compromised authority figure as well as Gregory Itzin. He’s a good fit for this show, and should be made a regular.

It turns out that Henry also has some ulterior motives for wanting to insinuate himself back into the CIA at this particular point in time. During his reign, the CIA used Hassan as an asset. They funded his operations and provided him weapons. The SAMs he’s bringing are almost certainly of American manufacture. If Hassan is arrested, those details might come to light and cause a scandal. Henry convinces Arthur to take down Hassan quietly, and without bringing in the FBI (who would legally have jurisdiction). The assumption is that they’ll just ship him back to Africa and continue using him.

Naturally, MacAuley is already two steps ahead of the game. He knows that the CIA won’t arrest Hassan, so he goes rogue to kill the arms dealer himself. Annie has to talk him down. Which she does successfully, only for Hassan to get assassinated by someone else. Annie doesn’t see who, but it’s…(Gasp!)… her ex-boyfriend Ben!

So, is Ben working for Henry Wilcox, or have his own agenda? We don’t know that yet. While Annie doesn’t see him there, he sees her, and looks very surprised by it. Jai spots and chases after him, only for Ben to Parkour away. We’re supposed to believe that Jai does a competent job keeping up with him, but the stunt doubles for both actors are very obvious.

Oh, I should also mention that Jai and Annie flirt a lot this episode, which also seems ridiculous because the two of them have zero chemistry.

At the end of the day, the Eriq La Salle storyline really leads nowhere. He does precisely nothing of significance in the episode that Annie couldn’t have found another way to do on her own. If she were actually competent, that is. That’s still not especially proven at this point. It’s nice to see Gregory Itzin, though. I hope the producers find a way to bring him back again.

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