The USA Network wants to make its summer series ‘Covert Affairs’ into a fall series. This seems like a mistake to me. Even at its best, the show is lightweight, disposable fluff that skirts by in the summer months due mostly to a lack of competition from any major network heavy-hitters. It doesn’t seem suited to the stiffer competition of the fall. Nevertheless, after a few months off since its August “summer finale,” the series returned this week with a new fall premiere episode. Is the show ready to play with the big kids now?
Technically speaking, episode ‘The Wake-Up Bomb’ (another R.E.M. song reference, I assume) has been designated the eleventh episode of Season 2, not the start of a new Season 3. In this one, Annie is feeling pretty down about her incompetence as a spy, as she probably should. An op in Venice goes badly when her contact is murdered and baddies steal some documents from her. It doesn’t make Annie feel any better when she learns that the documents weren’t particularly important in the first place, and that the CIA has all sorts of redundancies in place that made her entire mission… well, redundant. When she gets back home to D.C., Annie finds that her sister Danielle still isn’t speaking to her, and her boss Joan tells her that it’s time to take a break from spying for a little while.
After moving into her new safe house, Annie goes to a Spanish restaurant in the neighborhood, where she’s promptly hit on by the swarthy chef, a guy named Zavier. She has too much to drink and wakes up in his bed the next morning. He swears that he was a perfect gentleman, and that she took her pants off all on her own. Well, it turns out that Zavier was formerly a member of a Basque separatist rebel group, and the FBI finds it very suspicious that he would come to American and open a restaurant a couple blocks from the Spanish embassy. When his even more radicalized brother Gorka, who was just released from prison, shows up at the restaurant, the FBI and CIA believe that the Spanish ambassador’s life is in danger.
At this point, Annie’s vacation is cut short. Joan basically orders her to sleep with Zavier to find out what’s going on. Because Annie believes that he’s innocent and reformed, she defies her orders and tells Zavier that he’s being investigated (really unprofessional, amateurish behavior on her part). Then she finds a bomb attached to a wine bottle, and just manages to pull Zavier out of the restaurant before the whole place goes boom. It seems that Zavier’s restaurant was the real target the whole time. His brother believes that Zavier ratted him out years earlier, and wanted to teach him a lesson. In short order, Gorka kidnaps Annie. Then Zavier has to rescue her and beat up his brother.
In a side story, Jai is pissy about being transferred to Phoenix, so he offers to testify to the committee investigating the leak at the CIA. This makes his daddy Henry (Gregory Itzin), who happens to be the leak, really upset. Henry pulls a lot of strings to get Jai a promotion so that he won’t testify. He tells Jai that he’s very disappointed, both for betraying him and for caving on his ideals for the sake of a bribe. But when Jai reveals that he’d been playing his daddy the whole time, and that his end goal all along was to get this promotion, that makes Henry strangely proud of his son.
By ‘Covert Affairs’ standards, ‘The Wake-Up Bomb’ is a fairly decent episode. It opens with some nice scenic location work in Venice, including a well-staged and exciting foot chase. Later on, there’s a car chase in D.C. that isn’t too bad either. The plot has logical consistency, and actually addresses the fact that Annie isn’t such a great spy a lot of the time. Even so, I still think that ‘Covert Affairs’ belongs in the summer season. This just isn’t a fall show. With so many other programming choices to watch right now, this one is a low priority. It won’t be long before I let it get backlogged on my DVR.