This USA Network show (have I mentioned how well I love this network? No? Well, I do) is a “soft” version of the now gone ABC show Alias. Having now seen the latter, I can honestly make that leap and not just make educated assumptions; the similarities are not far-fetched. This network has standards and those consist of always producing shows that are whimsical and overall, cheerful. There can be realistic conflict but there does have to be a happy medium. With that being the case, we get to say: Hello, happy. Goodbye, suspense.
The reason she joined the CIA – and unbeknownst to her, the only reason she was recruited – is back. CIA novice Annie Walker (Piper Perabo) first joined the agency not out of a stoic duty to American patriotism but a guy. Come to find out, Ben was not just any guy Annie met while back-packing, he is Ben Mercer (Eion Bailey), an agent who is presumed to have gone rogue. Seizing their opportunity, the agency recruits Annie hoping she will lead them to Ben. Eventually that proves true. Following their joint mission in Sri Lanka with the assistance of the ambitious fellow field agent Jai Wilcox (Sedhil Ramamurthy), Annie remains with Ben at the Guam Navel hospital while he recovers from his gunshot wounds. While there recovering, Ben is again the target of assassins. Barely escaping with their lives, Annie takes him back to the states but just as she is being assigned her first job back, Ben disappears – again.
Back home, Annie is reunited with her sister (Anne Dudek) who believes she is nothing more exciting than a Smithsonian employee. Without the resources to find out where Ben is, Annie has to assume that her boss Joan (Kari Matchett) knows where he is, and that means Langley knows where he is so instead of trying to ply more answers out of her by-the-books boss, she focuses on doing the job she is set to – making contact with a Russian informant. With the assistance of her handler and friend, Auggie (Christopher Gorham), Annie is read in with what she’ll need to check in with the asset who missed her last two check-ins – the question is: why?
Before this show, I think the three-letter government agency that usually came to mind when in the mind-set of what makes good suspense was the FBI. This light, breezy show can hold its own in dishing out a bombshell or two and is really an intelligent serial. It isn’t your typical spy caper that blows things sky high or uses guns to escape their pursuers instead Annie uses her smarts to escape capture – and is even encouraged in her training program to rely on intellect not brawn. If that is true or fiction, I do not know but whatever, the show grew leaps and bounds from its freshman season. It knew how to better use its characters and to play to their strengths.
The writer’s of this show like to take us back into the past and re-introduce characters whom Annie met while on missions. Some may find this distracting because you get the feeling that you are supposed to know the character but cannot remember them. In my viewing, I felt like the story-telling and filming did a nice job in reminding us if we needed it but the episodes also stood alone so that it wasn’t imperative to remember in order to find enjoyment in the installment. Most of these characters are men who seem to fall over Annie – all of them like her in some way. If there is one subplot I am a tad irritated at, it would be her wishy-washy emotions. She seems to get better in this season (realizing Ben isn’t about to stay put) but writer’s give us multiple romantic possibilities and instead of settling on one – giving one room to develop, all of the relationships are just danced around, not drawn out to be anything “special.” A lot of fans want to see Annie and Auggie wind up together, and usually I’d be rooting for that also (they are cute together) but for once, I actually don’t mind that this subplot isn’t falling into the clichéd trap of best-friends-falling-for-each-other.
Covert Affairs comes across as a breezy piece of escapism set in an espionage world of spies gathering intelligence but it has grown in its two – now almost three years of television. There is something about the premise of the girl-next-door turning spy that is fun. Piper pulls that off with all the finesse that she needs to be both characters. I must admit that I don’t always love looks stylists try on her as she is an attractive actress but in the end, her character is what keeps us returning to find out what is next for the globe-trotting super spy, Annie Walker. Some of the characters fall this season but then some won’t be surprised as they didn’t like them to begin with anyway. Some of the characters I found myself second-guessing and others I empathized with on a new level. Fortunately, the finale isn't a cliff-hanger in the traditional sense but I have issues with its ending - there was nothing leading up to it that suggested what Annie was going to reveal. Given that, there is nothing overt about this gem of a series – everything is a mystery.
(Rated TV14 for the occasional violence [Annie doesn’t carry a gun]; weapons are drawn and fired on people – some barely escape with their life. Women wear inappropriate clothing, including Annie in her form-fitting business attire. Profanity is infrequent but there may be a few instances of it. A man engages in a fling with a stewardess while on an extended trip and then with a former Special Forces friend’s sister; there are some sensual scenes in this context with characters in states of undress. Annie attempts to seduce a man in order to keep him from a mission; there is a bit of foreplay.)