For some odd reason, USA decided not to release any promo pics for ep 5.14. So I had to go scrounging through social media for a pic for this review. If they're gonna make me jump through hoops, then Barber and Joan are gonna get the headline treatment today. Aww Barber. He was so cute, all sad and anxious for his beloved BFF. I still feel like Barberson is kind of a unidirectional relationship (Barber mostly gives, Auggie mostly takes), but I don't have time to analyze it now. I just re-read that sentence and suddenly it sounds sexual. Oh well, I'm letting it stand.
Remember the Auggie Affairs bit in my last review? Turns out it got me into some mild trouble on Twitter (extremely mild – it resulted in no more than one fan's proclamation that they would never again tweet about Covert Affairs as long as they shall live. Other than that it simply spurred a couple convos re: the different things people are looking for in this show). But of course, many of us have known full well for a while now that for all the lack of Auggie last week (2 weeks ago), tonight’s ep would make it up to those AA fans with a loonng and juicy Auggie Affairs ep this week.
Covert tends to do at least one “Auggiesode” per season – An ep that moves Auggie to the forefront of the story, and sometimes includes some flashbacks to his past. S4 is the only season that I can’t recall them doing one of these, but I presume that was because his character was heavily involved in the Walkerson and Helesa and Teo Braga Sagas for most of that season. Season 5 though, in a sense, has had a couple eps that might qualify – Ep 5.05 had an Auggie-focused mission, but was also a bit of a Walkerson ep. I think I may have made the “Auggiesode” reference in my 5.12 review too, but that ep was really just a lead-in to tonight’s ep, the true Auggiesode of season 5.
And while the Auggiesodes of previous seasons were generally just bottle eps or quick detours from the larger story arc to fill out his character, season 5 has actually stepped it up BIG time by making it the most pivotal part of the entire season-long spy mission arc. This is what brings it all together, ladies and gents. I expect that this should be quite satisfying for the Auggie Affairs fans, especially given that his character did feel somewhat underserved in the summer season, what with the sexcapades-of-questionable-import and his lowered involvement in Annie’s adventures.
So was “Transport is Arranged” a worthy Auggiesode? Yes, I would say so. Up until now, I think the best one they've done has been season 2's offering, which gave the backstory of how Auggie was blinded. Season 1's was fun with Tash and season 3's was decent too, but not super meaningful especially given what a useless wet blanket Parker was. I shall proclaim now that 5.14 has given 2.07 a run for its money. This one was a bit different in that it gave a lot more intense drama for Auggie in the present-day scenes. I liked the way the flashbacks were filmed in this one, maybe more so than 2.07's flashbacks. Though that's mostly because it's hard for a show like this to make Iraq war scenes look super authentic. The flashbacks here didn't require quite as much of an elaborate setting.
Because this ep brought together the Chicago bombing story arc that's been going for 14 eps now, it requires more work than usual to analyze how effective the storytelling was. After 14 eps of wondering what the hell the deal was with the Chicago thing, does this a) make logical sense and b) make some level of emotional impact? Well, I swore to myself after ep 5.04 that I was NOT going to look at any more major spoilers for the season. And I did a damn great job at that ... until the fall break. The one episode that I spoiled the shit out of myself on was this one. And because it's the one that ties everything together, I've known the basics of how this Belenko/Auggie stuff was going to play out ever since shortly after the summer season ended. Stupid, silly me. So it's hard for me to get perspective on how impactful it would have been if I had watched it properly.
While I can't say how surprised I would have been about any of it if I were spoiler-free, I will say that it does seem logical and plausible to me that Chicago would have stemmed from a person who was harmed in the fallout of past CIA operations, and is now seeking revenge for that. Though I very often wonder how in God's name Auggie was able to get himself into THIS many different kinds of clusterfucking pickles in such a ridiculously short time period - all the crazy stuff with Tash, training Arthur's crazy son to be a superspy (R.I.P. Sweet Puma), marrying a psycho who fakes her death only to resurface later and take a huge diarrhea dump all over season 4, killing enough Chechens to kick off a future revenge plot involving mass casualties, and being blinded in the Iraq war, all with in a period of what ... 2 goddamn years!? 3, tops? Weren't all of these events between 2005 and 2007? It's absurd, right? I actually just got about 300% more pissed off while typing this paragraph than I was beforehand. I hadn't really gotten the full extent of it before typing it out. Hmm. O.k., multiply Auggie into at least 3 different people who could have been doing all of these things in parallel, and then yes, it completely makes sense.
How about emotional impacts? On the Auggie side, I would say, yes, effective. Like I said, after spending much of the summer season just kind of wandering around poking his peen into all the wrong places and watching his buddies die one by one, it was nice to see it all become much more meaningful for his character. In the summer season it was a lot of random angst, but now it's meaningful angst. I enjoyed him remaining his typical smart-ass self throughout the torture session as well. Smartass Auggie is the best and most authentic kind of Auggie. So that was fun. Well ... in an extremely uncomfortable and bloody way.
HA and I gotta say, although I had been spoiled that Tash would somehow show up in this ep, I honestly did not expect it to be in the way it ended up happening. Granted, I hadn't put much thought into it ahead of time, but they still managed to surprise me with the way she entered the picture. Her character had unfortunately turned a bit obnoxious earlier this season, but luckily she was in classic Tash mode tonight in a good way - fearless and steadfast in her convictions even when facing a painful death as a consequence. When her "Fuck you I won't do what you tell me" Rage Against the Machine mode is pointed in the right direction, i.e. against the bad guys, it's a lot more fun than it is when it's pointed against Auggie himself.
So how bout miss Walker? Well, given that it was an Auggiesode, I fully expected Annie to take a backseat, which she mostly did, other than a few gems along the way. The two Annie highlights here for me were: 1) Obviously, Jessica Matthews rearing her badass-bordering-on-legit-psychopath head with poor Omar. All I have to say is, hooo-ho-ho-ho-leee shit hahhah. Aahh ddaayyuuuummnn girl. The look on McQuaid's face in that scene said it all. And then the mini-confrontation in the car afterwards between those two was pretty hilariously uncomfortable.
And then 2) Annie sneaks into Russia. Subtlety can be a great thing, but the Covert writers and directors employ it to a fault. To a MAJOR fault, a lot of the time. In their hands, "subtlety" often turns into complete and utter failure to communicate the story to the audience. So I fully expected zero reference here to Annie sneaking into Russia whilst already being burned there, even though they made such a big deal of it in ep 5.06 at the embassy. However, while no verbal reference was made, there was a strong visual reference, with the guard uniforms giving us (and I think Annie?) flashbacks to "Rock 'n Roll Suicide" with Eyal. McWalker snuck into Russia out of absolute desperation this time, so I get it, and at the very least, the director seemed to handle the subtlety here better than they have on this show in many other instances. Either that, or that's just the uniforms all Russian border guards wear, and it meant nothing at all. What the hell do I know.
Here's the deal with Walker though. While I have no issue at all with her taking a backseat in an Auggiesode, which is always the case, I do wish it wasn't within the last 3 eps of the entire season. The reason I say that is this: I started watching this show in mid-season 3. Season 3 was also the first season these guys used long arcs with the serialized storytelling structure. And every single season from that point onwards, without fail, I have found myself around ep 13 or 14 going, "How the fuck are they gonna properly do justice to all the major threads they opened up this season in only a couple more damn episodes left??" And the answer, without fail, has been, they WON'T. They will NOT do them justice. They will simply leave half of them hanging. Indefinitely, a lot of the time. I'm at that point again now, and once again it's the same pattern. There's a lot of huge stuff they opened with Annie this season that I'm just ... I don't know where they're going with it, and I can see now that I'm gonna end the season going, "WTF was the point of all that??" And I'm already preemptively annoyed by it. Even more so this time, because USA has decided that rather than announcing a season 6 renewal or a cancellation, they're just not going to ever say anything about Covert Affairs again, and just hope everyone forgets it ever existed. UGGH.
Random thoughts before I wrap this beezy up like the Christmas presents I have yet to purchase:
- Here's the thing with Sydney - Dog Walker showing up at her door was quite effective for me in its "oh shit" factor, even if her getting hurt was telegraphed from miles away. But they devoted SO little time to this storyline tonight that it felt like not much more than an afterthought. It really felt like the typical case of the Covert writers trying to tell too many stories in too short a window, and it lessened the impact of the story developments.
- The Arthur->Wheeler "Let me appeal to you with our dead sons" bit was also a bit obvious and felt a bit tacked-on like they just wanted to give Arthur something to do in this one.
- Joan jumping into her classic "I shall protect my CIA family" mode was fun as always. Will her Balkans thing be yet another permanently hanging thread?
- I'm glad Kenny Johnson is guest-starring in the final eps of the season. I like him and while I haven't seen The Shield, he always gives me nostalgia for the days when Sons of Anarchy was still a decent show. I'm sure the Stephen Kay connection there is no coincidence.
- I'm not sure if being blind while tortured would be make things better or worse. On the bright side, you don't see what's coming till it hits you. On the crappy side, you don't see what's coming till it hits you.
- Given that Auggie spends so much time shirtless, I have always found his complete lack of body hair to be disturbing and bewildering. He's not Ryan Lochte for Christ's sake, why the need to shave everything?? So the stubble here was a very welcome change for me.
- WTF is happening in that preview for next week!!?? I'll avoid getting too spoilery because not everyone watches the previews, but what exactly is Annie, umm ... looking for ... there?? A head wound? A tracking device? I may have spoiled the shit out of myself on 5.14, but I am almost completely in the dark about the last 2 eps.
What did y'alls think of Auggie Affairs? How does it rank for you against the other seasons' Auggiesodes? Throw me in a pool of water and electrify me with jumper cables in the comments.
Recent reviews by the writer, below:
21 November 2014
The Plopper Reviews COVERT AFFAIRS 5.13 'She Believes'
14 November 2014
The Plopper Reviews COVERT AFFAIRS 5.12 'Starlings of the Slipstream'
7 November 2014
The Plopper Reviews COVERT AFFAIRS 5.11: 'Trigger Cut'