‘Covert Affairs’ 1.04 Recap: “This Is Somewhere Safe, That’s Why They Call It a Safe House”

Well, this is at least a little bit more like it. I wrote in my last recap that I found the third episode of ‘Covert Affairs’ to be a huge disappointment. The show simply can’t afford to have episodes that bad this soon. Fortunately, last week’s fourth episode seems to be more or less back on track. I wouldn’t say that it’s a great episode, but it’s is certainly more in line with what I expected the series to be at this point in its run.

The plot of ‘No Quarter’ sends Annie on a mission to Zurich. While I’m sure that all the scenes set in Zurich were actually filmed in California, the production does at least a passable job of faking it this time – unlike those laughable Venezuela scenes in the previous episode. Annie’s there for a routine assignment, a simple briefcase drop with a foreign agent. They’re both carrying similar briefcases. She just has to covertly swap hers with the other agent at the airport, and then turn around and get on another plane back home. It should be pretty easy. Except that bad guys somehow find out about the briefcases and cause a big scene at the airport, then try to steal Annie’s.

Annie gets out of the airport with her briefcase and follows protocol to go to ground. She stashes the briefcase at a hotel and makes her way to a CIA safe house, only to find that her foreign contact – a Mossad agent played by Oded Fehr from those stupid ‘Mummy‘ movies – is already there. She finds this suspicious and doesn’t trust him. But he seems to check out, so she agrees to work with him until they can do the swap like they were supposed to.

We’re meant to suspect that he’s a double-agent, but he’s really not. Turns out that some rogue Mossad agents found out about the mission and wanted to steal whatever was in the briefcases for themselves. The briefcases and their contents are just the episode’s MacGuffin. We never find out what was in them.

Back at Langley, Arthur (Peter Gallagher) initiates a witch hunt to find the leak who’s been feeding stories to the press. (This guy should have run CTU. Seriously.) His wife Joan (Kari Matchett) isn’t happy about this at all, because she feels that it undercuts her authority. Nevertheless, everybody has to undergo a polygraph test. Auggie is especially upset about it when he’s pulled away from helping Annie to be interrogated. He passes the polygraph, but only after demonstrating that he could fool it if he wanted to. This leaves us with the suspicion that Auggie is the leak, but I’m pretty sure that’s a red herring. I think Joan will turn out to be the real leak.

‘No Quarter’ has a couple of notable action scenes, including a car crash and shootout. The action may not be especially innovative, but it’s competently done for a cable drama and reasonably exciting. The episode also has a fun scene where Annie discovers that a wedding party is being staged at the hotel where she stashed the briefcase, and that the bride is sitting right on top of it. She has to cause a distraction, so she shamelessly flirts with the groom until the bride gets really pissed off and finally moves from her seat.

What doesn’t much work is the flirty bickering and banter between Annie and Fehr’s character. It feels forced, mainly so that he act like a mentor and teach her inexperienced agent some tricks of the trade. What this really does is emphasize how bad Annie is at being a spy. Piper Perabo’s acting is also a little too broad this episode. She’s kind of annoying in many scenes, actually. All I could think while watching is how much better Jennifer Garner was at this.

Still, while ‘Covert Affairs’ may be a low-rent ‘Alias’ knockoff, at this with this episode it returns to being a watchable low-rent ‘Alias’ knockoff. If ‘No Quarter’ isn’t perfect, it’s at least decent enough to keep me watching for another week.

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