Oh my how time flies. Has it already been 7 months since I last wrote one of these? There was actually a nasty rumor during the break that I had been “fired” from GeekFurious and replaced with a cat, who was going to take over The Plopper moniker. The cat would be filmed pooping on various items (suggestion: pics of Helesa?) each week and those videos would be posted here in lieu of my normal Covert Affairs reviews. Thank god that one turned out to be false, at least for my sake. Whew. I’m back baby, and I just watched the season 5 opener, “Shady Lane”. So let’s get right to it.
Well wait, maybe we should just take a quick checkpoint of where we are coming out of season 4. Those of you who read my season 4 reviews know my pain points with it. Many of you share this pain. The season 4 rollercoaster had flashes of great stuff, but it was also a bumpy, frustrating, and at times confounding ride. On the positive side, I was thrilled that it continued on the path into deliciously dark and murky story territory that had begun at the start of season 3. Season 4 only got darker, and I was pleased as punch with that, as well as with Annie’s overall character trajectory. But oddly, while the show progressed on those fronts, it seemed to regress a bit in other areas. Suddenly a show that had always been refreshingly coherent, grounded and reliable began to kinda lose its grip on logic, real world behavioral rules and consequences, and even its characters, at least in some respects. It also felt at many points that shock factor was prioritized over good storytelling. So we were then left with a show that COULD be super awesome, if only it had made more logical sense.
So given this, I’m coming into season 5 treading quite gingerly. Season 4, with its uneven nature and extremely open-ended final scene, left me with zero clue of what to expect from season 5. Where did Annie sail on that boat? Did she have any intention of going home? What does Covert Affairs want to be as a show at this point? Does it want to get deep and explore its characters? Does it just want to blow shit up and throw in some twists and turns? Will season 5 be Lena Smith levels of badass amazing, or will it be Parker levels of mediocre? Will it be a trip to the #ForeheadBandage cloud of heaven? Or will it dump us into a steaming pile of Helesa hell? (Hell-esa?) Will their lead character remain the almost completely closed off enigma that she has been since late season 3, or will the writers allow her to morph back into a three-dimensional human being again?
Based on the season 5 premiere, it seems that Covert Affairs wants to both blow shit up AND explore its characters ... I hope. The latter part, I mean. I hope the latter part is true. The blowing shit up doesn’t generally interest me unless we can fully get the human component of it. Speaking of which, Covert did that typical TV thing where they introduce brand new characters in ep 1 of a season and then kill them by the end of the same episode and expect you to be super broken up about it. Like, bummed enough that you'd want to hunt down their killers for the entire rest of the season. As I type this, I’m realizing that The Americans did the exact same thing this season and I was kinda rolling my eyes there too. But the death scene in the Americans season premiere was so horribly jarring and disturbing that it worked at little better for me in the moment. Still though, same concept. It’s not that it didn’t work for me here; I suppose it worked well enough. The overarching spy plot of the season isn’t nearly as important to me as what’s going on with the characters anyway.
My bigger problem here is that I read spoilers about the bombing storyline ahead of time. So from the second Auggie’s new/old bestie told Annie, “Well [Auggie] was the best man in my wedding!!” I was like BAM, he’s a deadman. And then the next scene in the car with the kid toys and stuff felt a bit like piling on. But again, probably my fault. Had I not known, I likely wouldn’t have noticed that stuff ahead of time.
But the best man line does bring up what I think is a more legit gripe I had with this ep: Clunky dialogue. Specific lines I’m referring to:
- Annie to Auggie: “I’d like you to be my handler again. I’d like to go back to when things were simpler …” Like 5 seconds into the episode. Wow Annie you just went ahead and jumped right into that one. And Auggie, “Why did you wanna make out or something?” I know Auggie loves the snark, but it was a little too much for me too quick.
- Annie to Auggie’s Wedding Bestie: “You’re right, you don’t know me. I don’t quit.”
- Auggie to Joan: “[Annie]’s doing alright. She’s a different operative now.” (Seemingly 5 minutes into her first mission back).
- Wedding Bestie: “Well now I get it.” Annie: “What?” Wedding Bestie: “Why Auggie was so into you.” Annie: Sassy face hair flip. Me: “UGGH.”
- McQuaid to Arthur: “You'll think about it, and you'll give me a call when you realize that you really can have it all.”
Plenty of the dialogue worked just fine for me in this ep, but there were juusst enough awkward lines that I was screaming at my TV by the time the ep was halfway through. It kind of also plays into the ridiculousness of the idea that they’d throw Annie back on the job 5 seconds after she waltzed in the door after being missing for 4 months straight. I shouldn’t be surprised about this after the absurdity of the CIA working with Henry Wilcox – a man who had been imprisoned for TREASON – last season, but still. It’s riddic nonetheless. I also tend to get annoyed when the character stuff is glossed over in 5 seconds and they just throw everyone right back onto the next mission. Like, Castle is a master at this: In the opening scene of S4, Beckett is flatlining during emergency surgery, and literally 15 minutes later she’s back on the job working a new case. Covert will hopefully never be that ridiculous, but I felt like I barely blinked before Annie was working her next mission.
Oh my god and speaking of blink and you’ll miss it – Poor Khalid!! Or I should really say, poor actor who plays Khalid. “Hey guess what, Covert Affairs wants you back this season!! Yeah you’re in one scene and then you die.” Hahahah, ouch. Interesting to know that he really DID kill his daddy after all though, based on the info Annie gave him in the season 3 finale. I suspect that tidbit might come up again later this season.
Now, let’s get to something I absolutely loved about this episode: The fact that Annie did NOT come running back home after Hong Kong. Praise the Baby Puma Jeebus. When I watched that weirdly upbeat final scene of the season 4 finale, I tried to telepathically will her to sail anywhere on that boat other than home. Because if I were her, it’s the absolute LAST place I’d want to go at that point. What did she have to come home to, after all? There was an employer who had tried to kill her per the advice of Henry Wilcox, for one thing. And then there was the loyal best friend-slash-handler who was also a loyal-ish ... boyfriend. A bit of a wandering ... stick, that one. Cane? Insert any phallic Auggie-related term here.
Point being, the sitch at home was not looking suuuper inviting at that point. So when Annie was on that boat in Hong Kong, I wanted to tell her, “Annie, honey, keep your options open on your next move here. Even if you disregard all the crap situations at home - there's also that minor incident where you just killed a man in kinda sorta cold blood in the street a few minutes ago. Maybe it’s time to just take a minute, girl. How ‘bout a little ‘you’ time? Take a step back, consider your options. It’s a big world out there.”
So WAS she really taking some “Annie time” while she was away? Has she ever in her life taken time to work through any issue she’s ever had? Err, no. That doesn’t necessarily mean she’s incapable of it, it just means that given her track record, it's clear that there was more to her time away than just sipping mai tais, scoping hotties on the beach, and pondering her life strategy. I’m dying to know what she was doing during that time, so props to the Covert writers for hooking me back in with this mystery.
And speaking of mysteries, holy SHIT what was the deal with that scene in the alley mid episode while Annie chased Borz!!?? Look, I’m gonna be honest with you here, this is essentially the entire episode from my perspective: Annie in from the cold, Auggie’s all wtf (rightly so), Khalid mission blah blah blah, oh ok baby Mack is cute, terrorist blah, Borz yadda yadda, ANNIE OMG WTF IS WRONG WITH YOU ARE YOU OK!? Ohhhh McQuaid’s pretty hot ... blah blah Borz’s brother, some file on Borz, a body in a car, McQuaid still charming me, big explosion, people dead ... holy shit wait can we go back and talk about WTF is going on with Annie!? This episode for me boils down to, what’s the deal with McQuaid, how is Auggie feeling about Annie’s lying to him, and that I absolutely need to get to the bottom of what’s going on with Annie. I made the horrible mistake of reading some spoilers on this topic a while back, so I have a slight hint of what’s coming in this area, but not very much. Piper played the SHIT out of that scene though ... super intense. Bang-up job, Piper. Color me sucked back into this goddamn show now.
Now guys, let’s talk about Auggie for a minute. Or rather, the burning topic that’s been eating away at the hearts and souls of “Walkerson” shippers everywhere: A&A. Again, if you read any of my late season 4 reviews, you know how I feel about them. They were so damn fantastic, until they were terrible. The writers made them do such bad things, and I don’t know what kind of crack they were smoking when they made those decisions. But it all happened and here we are. So how are Walkerson doing now that we’ve picked back up with them 4 months later in TV time? Do they still act like they’ve just taken handfuls of Xanax before every single interaction they have with one another? Well, kind of, but per usual they didn’t give these two much time to work anything out in this ep. At the very least, Auggie probed a couple times to get a straight answer from Annie about wtf she was doing while she was gone. But he gave up pretty damn easily. I’m fully expecting he’ll try again in future episodes, and he damn well better. These two have yet to even scratch the surface of all the dysfunction in their relationship since midway through season 4, and they bloody well need to do that eventually if I’m to continue believing that they are real human beings with feelings and real blood pumping through their veins.
Shit how is this review already so long!? Aggh it’s time to get back to practicing brevity with these; it’s been a while. Let me get to my final bulletpoints and then my grade:
- I’m not gonna lie and say I’m super pumped to see the trials and tribulations of Mackenzie Campbell this season, but I have to admit that baby Mack, played by Kari Matchett’s real life son Jude, is as adorable as they come. He charmed me.
- Calder: “Annie we need you on the job immediately due to an insanely convenient turn of events, now that you’ve completed a total of 1 polygraph test where you lied on every key answer. But don’t think we’re done here, Missie!!” Right. Just like Bluebonnet in season 3.
- Arthur working with McQuaid could be interesting. Bringing in the private contractor angle could be fun this season.
- McQuaid. HORRIBLE name. But despite that, I’m interested. I’d be perfectly fine with him and Annie having some romantic sparks this season. They played well off each other in this episode.
- My first thought about the CIA facility being blown up was, Homeland. Because it's on U.S. soil it feels familiar, just on a much smaller scale. But the details and story around it are different enough that I'm not really bothered by it.
- Oh shoot, I can’t get through this review without giving props to the Covert writers for having great taste per usual in their band/singer choices each season for episode titles. Season 5 is Pavement. A few of us had fun a while back throwing out a bunch of ridiculous guesses - we knew the theme was 90’s so there was a lot of Hootie & the Blowfish and Chumbawamba-level ridiculousness being thrown around for our own amusement. But at that point I said, “I may not have faith in what the hell these writers are gonna do with season 5 of their show, but if there’s one thing I DO have faith in, it’s the fact that the title theme will NOT be lame.” They didn’t let me down.
So, here’s the thing about this episode. It wasn’t real tight in terms of logic and it felt rushed and clunky at times, but the character stories have me interested. Probably more so than I was with the S4 premiere. At that point I was interested in the Annie and Auggie thing, but beyond that, I wasn’t really sure what to expect. And the first 10 eps of that season ended up not really being about the show’s lead character at all, other than the Walkerson angle. It was more about everyone else’s problems and secrets and Annie was just running around trying to help everyone else out. I’m glad to see that in the back 6 of season 4 and now again in the season 5 premiere, they’ve put the focus back on their main character, AND they’ve actually given her an intriguing storyline. This gives me hope for season 5. So I’ll add points to this episode for that, despite its story and dialogue issues.
Again it'd be higher if not for the logic issues and overly convenient plotting. Plop all over me in the comments.