'Covert Affairs' - Another Hit For USA?
There's no denying that recently, the USA Network has been on fire in terms of new shows. 'In Plain Sight', 'Psych', 'Royal Pains', and 'Law & Order: Criminal Intent', not to mention the hit series 'Burn Notice'. It seems like the cable network has a bit of a Midas touch. Can they strike gold again, this time with 'Coyote Ugly' star Piper Perabo?
It's not an instant classic, but the pilot certainly has the potential.
During a polygraph test, we meet CIA trainee Annie Walker (Piper Perabo). I enjoyed this as an opener as we're guaranteed to meet the "real Annie", a smart, sassy, sexy spy. Her one vice seems to be a 3-week fling with a guy in Sri Lanka, that hints at impulsive behavior, but assures us of fearlessness. These last two points are further backed up as Annie Walker is the first to volunteer to jump out of a plane. She has a parachute, but the freefall and landing does provide time for the credits to roll.
Of course, our lead character is special and sent on a special mission that seemingly only she can pull off. This would be standard fare, but her superior officer notes some of her accomplishments and they are pretty fantastic. Add in that Walker replies, "But I have a month of training left," when told to go on a mission and it becomes clear that Annie Walker is something of a big deal. While she's built up here as a top-notch spy, she's still relatable. When told to get to CIA headquarters immediately, she replies, "Now Now?" in disbelief. She has a very human moment in her car where she looks in the mirror with sunglasses on and says something to see how it looks (she ditches the sunglasses with a grumble).
There's an awesome paralleling of the oath Arthur Campbell (Peter Gallagher) makes to find the mole in the CIA's upper management and the oath to protect and serve that Annie Walker makes. They go back and forth between the two vows, before going split-screen for the "So help me god" part. The mole is not playing for the other side, no, it's far more sinister - they're talking to the media.
We then meet Annie's two man-friends, the potential love interest Conrad (played by Eric Lively) and the blind mentor Auggie (played by Christopher Gorham - Henry from 'Ugly Betty'). Auggie has some sort of laser-pointer that substitutes a walking stick... If you're scratching your head, I was too. They tend to push the limits of my ability to suspend disbelief with Auggie's techniques (laser-pointer instead of a walking cane, using a braile-strip as a... mouse (I think, it's not clear) for a computer to bring up images). They just don't seem practical and I don't see how they would work. However, Auggie's charming personality will keep you tuned into his scenes, questionable technology aside.
"You're not coming with me?" - Annie, going into Joan's office
"I'm not going in there if I don't have to." - Auggie, walking away from Joan's office
And then we meet the poker faced Joan Campbell (Kari Matchett, not to be confused with 'Fringe''s Anna Torv). Joan comes off pretty cold here and informs Annie she'll be making a deal with a Russian assassin by the name of Staas. She's revealed to be a replacement and told she'll be playing a call girl.
"Hookers in D.C. are pretty conservative, what you're wearing is fine." - Joan Campbell
After Annie makes small-talk with a man in the lobby, she's told to go upstairs. So, this guy is apparently not the assassin Staas. The drunken creepy guy in a bathrobe is, apparently. He completes the deal with Annie, syncing up Blackberry phones so the CIA can get Staas' information on the Russians. And then Staas is killed in certain terms (2 headshots and a few in the chest) by a sniper, who unleashes a storm of bullets on Annie Walker. The CIA back-up goes in and gets Annie out after a slow-motion frantic cover scene. Annie makes it back to CIA HQ a little shaken up.