Covert Affairs’ Third Season Starts Off With a Bang – Premiere Review and Recap
USA’s spy drama Covert Affairs wasted no time getting straight into the action in Tuesday night’s third season premiere episode, ‘Hang Onto Yourself.’ The episode begins with a quick establishing scene where beautiful undercover CIA operative Annie (Piper Perabo) attempts to make 4th of July cupcakes and fails horribly. Luckily Danielle (Anne Dudek) saves the day by pulling out a perfect batch of cupcakes that she made herself, just in case (she knows her sister too well), and then insists that Annie take an umbrella as she leaves. Annie tells her, “You went from mother to smother in two seconds flat.”
Annie distributes the cupcakes at the office, but doesn’t fool her blind co-worker Auggie (Christopher Gorham); he figures out immediately that they were made by Danielle, presumably because they were edible. Annie gets back at him by noting the bunch of small American flags he’s carrying: “Say, where did you get all those North Korean flags?” Blind people humor! Always entertaining.
And then, an Ominous Thing occurs. Annie receives an unsigned note telling her to be at the diner, alone. When she arrives, she sees it’s the incredibly attractive but utterly unlikeable Jai Wilcox (Sendhil Ramamurthy), who last season was placed in charge of the office of Special Operations. Jai tells Annie that he needs to talk to her about something that’s happening at the Agency, and that she should come with him so he can show her what she needs to know. Annie starts to follow him, but suddenly a helpful waitress points out she has left her umbrella in the booth, and Annie turns back to retrieve it.
At this point, anyone who has watched the myriad previews aired on USA for the last month, which have loudly announced “SOMEONE WILL DIE!” is breathing a sigh of relief: “Oh, thank God. Jai’s the one getting whacked! He was so annoying.” It’s actually quite the anti-climax when Jai’s car explodes, smashing the diner’s plate glass window and sending Annie flying … we know she’ll be fine, and now everyone has an excuse to be angsty and vengeful over Jai’s demise. Happily, however, the audience will no longer have to suffer through Jai’s obnoxious moods and tedious daddy issues with the woefully miscast Gregory Itzin (24) as Jai’s famous CIA spymaster father.
Following the explosion, Director Arthur Campbell (Peter Gallagher) pulls Auggie aside to tell him that he’s now in charge of Jai’s Special Ops office, and tells him in serious tones that they must find out who killed Jai, “before it happens again.” Annie, meanwhile, rushes home to check her own car for bombs (leaving me wondering if there wasn’t someone else at the CIA a bit more qualified to perform that task). When she gets back to work, Annie’s supervisor Joan Campbell (Kari Matchett) tells her that she has been reassigned, and Annie is immediately sent off to take a polygraph test for her new position. Shaken and upset by her recent brush with death, and fearing that she is now a suspect in Jai’s murder when she is asked repeatedly about forgetting her umbrella in the diner, Annie has a complete meltdown during the polygraph – at which point her new boss Lena Smith (24‘s Sarah Clarke) swoops in and takes Annie off for a much-needed drink.
Lena takes this opportunity to bash the male-oriented espionage world to Annie, and tells her that in her new division she won’t be treated as less of a person because of her gender. Female spy solidarity! Yay! Annie is then introduced to her new office, where she apparently has no desk. “Operatives should be in the field as much as possible,” Lena tells her, and proceeds to brief her on her first assignment, a suspected second-generation Russian spy named Simon Fischer who has been buying major amounts of land in poor countries, and the CIA would like to know why.
Following Joan’s parting advice to trust her instincts, Annie dives right into her assignment. Posing once again as a Smithsonian museum employee, she travels to Morocco to meet Simon Fischer, and contrives to have him rear-end her rental car. Annie does her usual Oscar-worthy acting job, feigning anger and possible shock from the accident. Handsome and charming (is there any other kind on this show?) spy Simon is a total gentlemen, whisking her away for a drink of water and a flirty conversation where they compare passport stamps. They are briefly interrupted by a strangely suspicious German couple asking for directions.
Meanwhile, back at Langley, Joan is upset with husband Arthur for assigning Auggie to take over Jai’s department without telling her. He pulls the boss card, saying that it’s ultimately his decision because he’s in charge. (These two really need to work out their issues somewhere other than at work, I think.) Auggie is discovering that Jai’s department is weirdly secretive, with much undocumented material floating around, and is determined to get to the bottom of the secrecy.
Annie checks in with her new boss Lena, who sends her to a shop where she can pick up a convenient piece of tech that will allow her to trace Fischer’s cellphone information. But – GASP! – she is followed by people with guns, who are the strange German tourists from the day before. While rushing to avoid her pursuers, Annie runs straight into Simon (which isn’t suspicious at all), and he gives her flowers and invites her to come sightseeing. Um, sure.
Simon, who drives very, very fast, takes a detour and shows Annie a different spot from the one she had intended to visit. “Do you trust me?” he asks, and though the answer should be a resounding “HELL, NO!” she stays in character and acts intrigued as he whisks her away to a beautiful hilltop picnic. Simon confesses that he owns this land – “40,000 acres, as far as you can see.” Annie makes an excuse to return to the car, during which time she attempts to hack into Simon’s cellphone with her cool techie device – but Simon rushes back to tell her they have to leave now, as there is a HUGE CGI SANDSTORM COMING! (Well, he didn’t mention the CGI part.) The sandstorm is indeed impressive; Annie and Simon are predictably trapped in the car now, but Annie sacrifices her pretty scarf to plug the exhaust pipe to the sand won’t damage the car. When Simon asks how she knew to do that, she answers, “Summers in Tucson.” Sure, I’d believe her!
Whether or not Simon buys her explanation, he takes Annie back to town after their little adventure, through gorgeous scenery (and now perfect weather), and straight to his even more gorgeous hotel suite. He pointedly throws his things into a safe, and then goes to take a shower, leaving Annie with her Magical CIA Techie Device and a safe, which doesn’t stay locked for long. Inside the safe Annie finds the passports of the German “tourists” from the day before, who we can now assume are spies that Simon somehow managed to dispose of. Simon returns suddenly, and Annie wastes no time getting naked with him (to distract him from her discovery of the passports, of course … or maybe it’s just an opportunity to show Piper Perabo without clothes? We may never know!). A sexy shower scene follows, during which we get a good look at an interesting tattoo on Simon’s left shoulder; and back in Langley, a box shows up on Auggie’s desk bearing an interesting symbol … yes, it’s the same geometric tattoo pattern from Simon the Spy’s shoulder!
What does it mean? How is Simon Fischer related to Jai’s Special Ops department (or even to Jai’s death)? Why is he buying up all that land for Russia? Who WERE those pesky German tourists? We’ll have to tune in for the rest of the season to see how it all plays out. But it’s clear from this premiere that Covert Affairs is the same lighthearted, fluffy spy drama that it’s always been, full of improbably attractive and talented clandestine operatives … which might be exactly what you need for an entertaining summer evening.
Catch Covert Affairs Tuesday nights at 10 PM ET/PT on USA Network.