‘Covert Affairs’ 2.04 Recap: “God, Country and Panna Cotta”

I don’t ask a lot from ‘Covert Affairs’. I recognize that it’s not a serious or intellectual show. All I want is a little bit of spying intrigue, a little bit of action, maybe an exotic location or two, and (in a best case scenario) a plot where Annie doesn’t come across as completely incompetent at her job. A lot of episodes fail even these modest standards. Fortunately, last week’s episode delivered just about the right mix of elements, with only a touch of annoyingly bad writing to distract. I can live with that.

In ‘All the Right Friends’, Annie is assigned to transport an Italian spy named Carlo to Argentina for a prisoner exchange. All she has to do is hand him over to her Italian counterparts and walk away. It seems like an exceedingly simple mission, until the Italian agents are delayed and an assassin shows up gunning for Carlo. Annie and the prisoner have to go on the run, avoid the assassin, and make their way to the Italian embassy in Buenos Aires.

This objective is complicated by three things. 1) Annie doesn’t have a weapon; 2) the Argentinean government has decided that it doesn’t like American agents operating in its country, and will arrest Annie for spying if she gets caught; and 3) Carlo is an obnoxious ass who keeps trying to run away.

This last part is where the show’s bad writing comes into play. Carlo is that annoying TV stereotype of the foreigner who can only ever talk about how great his country is and how much better things are there than anywhere else. The wonders of Italy are all he talks about, and he talks a lot. Annie would have a much easier go of things if she’d just shoot him herself. Nonetheless, the script requires that she find him irresistibly charming, because that’s what happens to TV characters.

Carlo claims that he’s a journalist working on a story to expose a corrupt oil conglomerate, not a spy. Annie assumes that this is just his cover, but eventually realizes that he’s telling the truth. So, rather than take him to the embassy (where people from his own country may want to silence him), after his 80th escape attempt, she brings him to a local newspaper where he can relay his story to the editor and get the truth out. Indeed, the Italian liaison who was supposed to coordinate the prisoner exchange turns out to have been dirty all along.

Meanwhile, back at Langley, Arthur offers Auggie a big promotion that would make him a public face for the Agency. He’ll be overt, not covert. Hiring a handicapped person for the job is of course a PR move for Arthur, but the promotion would be a huge opportunity for Auggie. Still, he hesitates because it would mean that he’d never be able to do field work again. Arthur reminds him that he isn’t doing a lot of field work now.

When all is said and done, ‘All the Right Friends’ has exactly that little bit of spying intrigue, little bit of action, an exotic location or two, and a plot where Annie doesn’t come across as completely incompetent at her job. The final fight scene where Annie has to take out the assassin while still handcuffed to Carlo is pretty inventive and exciting, actually. That’s all I want. I’ll forgive the lazy writing of the Carlo character. Give me more episodes like this, and I’ll be happy.

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