‘Covert Affairs’ 1.03 Recap: You Know What’s Remarkable? How Much Venezuela Looks in No Way Like Southern California

So much potential wasted. Already, that’s how I feel about ‘Covert Affairs’. We may only be three episodes in, but it seems pretty clear that this show is just not going to live up to the promise of its quite exciting pilot episode. There was a sudden and distinct drop-off in quality with the second episode, but I was still willing to give the series the benefit of the doubt that it would pick up again. Perhaps I even still am. But the third episode, last week’s ‘South Bound Suarez’… well, it just kind of stinks. This isn’t a good sign that we’re getting episodes this bad so soon.

Even the episode title is lame. The plot of the week has Annie befriending a Hispanic college student named Diego Suarez (played by Michael Steger from ‘90210’). Actually, the episode opens with the assumption that they’ve been friends for a long time, even though we’ve never seen him before. It’s not five minutes into the episode before the “covert” part of ‘Covert Affairs’ goes out the window. Annie spills the beans about her CIA job in order to recruit him. Diego’s sister Julia (the very lovely Lana Parrilla from ‘Swingtown’) is a bank manager in Caracas, and the mistress of a crime kingpin of some sort named Victor Ponces. Through her job, she’s been illegally funneling money to Victor, and he’s been using it for whatever evil scheme a nogoodnik needs money for. Annie needs Diego to help her connect with his sister, so that she can get the dirt on where the money is going.

So they fly to Caracas, posing as boyfriend and girlfriend. All of the scenes in Venezuela are blatantly cobbled together from stock footage establishing shots intercut with regular exteriors oh-so-obviously filmed in Los Angeles. Julia’s apartment, which is allegedly in the middle of a favela (you know, a slum) is a laughably spacious and posh studio set that looks like it could have been used in a few episodes of ‘Friends’. It’s really bad.

Once again, Annie gives up her cover within minutes of meeting the sister. Of course, Julia actually has a heart of gold. She uses her portion of the skimmed money to help the poor kids in the slums, and refuses to believe that Victor is really a bad guy. Yeah, but he is. He figures out Annie’s cover pretty quickly too (she kind of sucks at the spying, doesn’t she?) and tries to kill her.

The episode is very talky, with very little action. The biggest set-piece has Victor racing his Ferrari through an empty stretch of countryside, and then forcing Annie to drive while he holds a gun to her. She pulls a sweet spin-out maneuver and tosses him out the door, but not before he shoots her in the shoulder.

And, well, that’s about it for action. Annie gets Diego and Julia out of the country, but Julia still pines for Victor, and lets him know where they are. Then Victor comes to the U.S. and tries to kill everybody, until a random CIA agent that Annie’s working with takes a shot at his car and blows his brains out, in an exact copy of the ending to ‘Chinatown’.

The episode’s plotting is dull, and a lot of the dialogue is really poor. (There’s a ton of repetitive pontificating about, “This is the hardest part of the job” and, “This is what we do, Annie.”) Suresh from ‘Heroes’ is back again, mostly just to stand around and not do anything. Also, Christopher Gorham’s blind act as tech-ops guru Auggie has been getting worse from episode to episode. He’s constantly looking directly at people when he talks to them. I don’t think he’s even trying anymore. (Not that it’s really the show’s fault, but the PSA that the network made him do for the Americans with Disabilities Act was also kind of embarrassing.)

In other words, the third episode of ‘Covert Affairs’ is pretty much a stinker. The promos for this week’s new episode look a little promising, however. So I guess I’ll stick around a little while longer.

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