Last week, one of the big questions I had after Annie’s mission in Paris was why she doesn’t carry a gun. It seemed like an important plot point, considering she’s an active spy who occasionally gets in gunfights with nefarious individuals. A gun could come in handy when someone’s trying to shoot you in the face, is all. This issue was obviously on the writers’ minds as well, as the central plot of “Bang and Blame” revolved around Annie and her lack of formal gun training since she was pulled from the Farm early in the pilot order to start her job at the CIA.
The goal of this week's mission is the find a mole they think is burning recruits at the Farm by releasing their names. Their best lead as the culprit is Farm instructor Roy, who had a few shady encounters in the Middle East and was possibly turned by the opposition. Annie’s mission is to go back under the guise of completing her training and find evidence so they can prove Roy is the mole. The catch? If the mole burns Annie while she’s there, she’s out of the CIA for good.
Let’s just take a minute and let that sink in as the central driving force for the episode. Annie is the lead character. The show is somewhat of a hit for USA. It’s the second episode of the season. Also, and most importantly, Covert Affairs is perhaps the most risk-averse show on television. Do we really think Annie is in danger of being burned, here? Is this really what they want to use to drive narrative tension? I was honestly more concerned the guy making my bagel this morning wasn’t going to achieve my desired perfect toast level (spoiler alert: he did, and it was delicious).
Once Annie gets to the Farm, we are immediately introduced to a group of fellow classmates who only have about thirty seconds to make a character impression, which is of detriment to the plot because as soon as one of them opens his mouth you immediately know he is the mole and not Roy. Still, the show takes us through the motions of Annie’s investigation and they admittedly aren’t all unworthy of our time. Some are even a little bit fun, most notably Annie’s domination of a gun-oriented challenge by using her intelligence as the only weapon and Auggie’s turn as a guest speaker-slash-creepy sexer of students. Still, I figured out the true culprit long before Annie wrapped her head around what was really happening, so the mission itself was much less than thrilling. At least she finally graduated from the Farm and now she can go on missions that require firearms.
Besides gaining important career skills, Annie also makes some inroads in her personal life as well for the first time since her super secret spy boyfriend skipped town. In shows of this ilk there is an automatic temptation to tie the protagonist’s personal life to her professional in some sort of symbolic way with the storytelling, and Covert Affairs has decided to dive right into that shallow pool this week as well by introducing a new love interest for Annie, an ER doctor she meets while caring for her nieces.
Giving Annie a life outside the CIA is a smart idea, especially because the missions don’t have enough gravitas on their own to carry an episode, and Eion Bailey is obviously only going to show up for a few long-term storytelling arc episodes a season. Tying her personal life into her missions is also acceptable if done in a careful way, but for this go-around it was just clumsy, with Roy lamenting putting off his personal life for his job and telling her, “End of the day it’s just a job, remember that.” In case we were confused. I’m holding off judgment of the ER doctor and how he will fit into Annie’s life until we see how it plays out in future episodes, but I do have hope they will find a way to handle the clunky metaphors in a less obvious way. Less obvious doesn’t seem to be the storytelling style of the show, however, so mark me down as skeptical.
- Was it just me, or did Sendhil Ramamurthy spend the entire hour wandering around, acting bored and refusing to do work? I hope he does that for the entire season, and they never explain why.
- Just like the situation with Annie and the guns last week, I literally have no idea what’s happening with Arthur this week. The entire plotline feels dropped in from another, even more boring show.
- I was going to give this episode a C+ but Christopher Gorham took his shirt off, while simultaneously kind of making me chuckle. Automatic half grade inflation for titillation and momentary amusement!
- Poor Anne Dudek. She had one scene. I hope they are paying her well for her wasted time.
- Normally the action sequences are decently acceptable considering their budget, but that skydive fight was completely lame.