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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Covert Affairs: "Around The Sun"

Illustration for article titled Covert Affairs: "Around The Sun"
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Well, now that? That was not half bad. After several episodes burdened with somewhat lackluster missions and forgettable guest stars, Covert Affairs finally turned out a compelling episode in “Around the Sun.” The most interesting part of this success, though, was why it worked at all and what that means for the series as a whole.

So far this season, most of Annie’s missions have revolved around big setpieces like a trip to Paris or a trek across the Argentinean countryside (although Argentina did seem suspiciously like Canada). All of these plots effectively stranded Annie on her own with a guest star for the entire episode and relied on an immediately compelling bond to form between these characters in order to drive the audience’s emotional investment in the episode. Mostly, this has been a failure in both executing these relationships and cohesively tying the action in the field to what is going on back at the office.

Tonight, however, they switched things up a bit. Annie’s mission took place close to home, allowing her to spend ample time at the office. Adding to the office intrigue was the addition of operative Reva, who took Auggie’s place when he accepted his promotion. The new dynamic this gave the team, plus the additional scenes between Annie and Auggie as they explored their new working relationship, added up to an episode that felt balanced for the first time all season.

The mission itself wasn’t anything too special, but it consistently worked at driving the episode forward. One value all of the suspects on this show share is they are never what they appear to be on first glance, and Will the NASA employee was no different. This one did have a slight twist, in that he was actually guilty of giving NASA secrets to the rebel Colombian army. However, the twist was he was only doing it to cover for his son, who accidentally got ensnared by them at his high school science fair. You know, because that’s where rebel Colombian armies always get their best recruits. After a pretty fun foot chase through the woods and an even more fun girl fight behind the scenes at a planetarium, Annie catches the bad guys, but Will still has to go to jail for his crimes. Another thing Covert Affairs does, to its credit, is show the price paid by the people involved in its weekly missions, and Will’s son having to live without a father for the foreseeable future was one of the more poignant to date.

The entire mission was complicated for Annie when she learned Auggie was promoted and she would have a new tech operative, Reva. At first, everything about Reva seemed bound to annoy: the cliché meet-uncute between them before work, her obvious Bones-ian social awkwardness, her not being Auggie. However, beyond the initial groan-worthy scenes she brought a new energy to the team and developed a quick chemistry with Annie. This also allowed for some really fun Annie/Auggie scenes outside of the scope of a mission, most notably the one while they were waiting for an elevator. Both those and the relationship between Annie and Reva are something I wish could be explored further.

Alas, when it comes time for Auggie to take off his spy mask and reveal his true identity to the public at a press conference, he can’t bring himself to do it and quickly reverts back to his old job. What about Reva, then? The dialogue has her returning to her old team (with a promotion), but the promos from next week featured her character, so I do hope we do see her again.

But what does all of this mean for the show going forward? First, they need to work on better integrating and balancing the office storylines into the main story of the week. Aside from this week, too many B and C plots this year have felt like they belonged in different episodes, if not an entirely different show. Second, and this one is more troubling, they need to consider how much of an episode the character of Annie can carry on her own. The last two weeks made me question why I thought Perabo was a capable lead in season one, but perhaps it’s just that she can’t be expected to carry 95 percent of a show on her own with no support. There is nothing wrong with this – plenty of decent leads need a good supporting cast to make an hour-long television show work— but the first step in fixing the problem is acknowledging you have one, and this might be where others’ opinions and mine differ. Still, if they can consistently give us entertaining hours like this one, Covert Affairs will remain a very fun summer diversion.

Stray observations:

  • Hello, Jessi XY. I hope you have a belly button this time around because otherwise that would just be weird.
  • Is Arthur done with this completely obtuse “investigation” yet? It seemed like it, but nothing about this story has made sense to me so I am unsure.
  • Jai did things! And didn’t glower once! Which makes all of the stuff from the earlier episodes kind of strange, doesn’t it?
  • “Well, you went from thrilled for me to sad for you in two seconds.”
  • “All I ever wanted was a job with free food.”