TVLine: "There was a feeling in [the S5 finale] that the characters are growing up and reaching their natural end point with Annie contemplating marriage and Auggie leaving the CIA. Would you be happy if this was the ending?"
Chris Ord: "No, we wouldn't be happy. We want the show to continue." (Via TVLine)
Well, Covert Crew, we are now living our Darkest Timeline. And sadly, it's the only timeline we're gonna get.
As an expensive (for USA) & aging show with declining ratings, I don’t think anyone was expecting Covert Affairs to go more than another season. Two would be an absolute miracle. But given that White Collar, a show NOT produced by UCP, was granted a short final season by USA, I think we all expected at least that much for Covert Affairs as well - if not a bit more, given that unlike WC, CA is owned in-house.
Given the situation, I was prepared to be bummed by the shitty season 6 renewal scenario we were about to get. I think most of us were. But what I was absolutely NOT prepared for was to find out that we would get nothing. Literally nothing at all. I was really really really not prepared to find out that the cliffhanger we saw last month would be IT. Forever and ever. Eternity. Never will we find out any of the following:
- Will Annie go back to the CIA?
- Will Annie marry McQuaid?
- Will Auggie get bored and annoyed with Tash after a few months and come begging Joan for his old job back?
- What in the name of The Holy Puma will Annie do about her heart condition? Is it fixable through surgery or does she have to live with it forever? How life-threatening is it?
- Will Sydney live?
- Will McQuaid’s dead wife eventually rise like a zombie from the grave? Is Annie destined to live her life in a nightmarish Groundhog Day sitch of boyfriend after boyfriend's respective dead exes rising from the dead repeatedly on a continuous loop?
- Will Annie & Auggie ever find their way back to each other romantically?
- Does Danielle still exist or did she trip and fall off the Golden Gate bridge shortly after arriving in San Francisco in early season 3?
- What college will Baby Mack attend?
- Did Barber stick with his kale diet?
- WHAT IN THE HOLY GODDAMN HELL HAPPENED IN THE BALKANS!?
Here is the answer to ALL of those questions folks:
Yup. And the thing is, I really blame no one for my current pain and suffering more than Magnus a.k.a. Head Geek Furious himself. That's right. It’s his fault I ever considered watching this damn show to begin with.
When Covert Affairs first premiered, I was angry at it. Like literally as angry as I am about the existence of Katherine Heigl’s stupid shitty spy show right now. To me it looked like nothing more than a generic Alias rip-off starring that ditzy blonde from Coyote Ugly. Piper Puh-RAB-o?? Who the hell does she think she is?? And just to add insult to injury, this show gave its lead character the name WALKER!? Really?? Do the people at USA not even watch their big sister network’s shows at all?? AGENT SARAH WALKER IS THE ONLY FEMALE AGENT WALKER I WILL EVER CARE ABOUT, THANK YOU VERY MUCH.
But then Magnus had to go and write this gat-damn review of “Sound and Vision” in season 3. Chuck had recently finished airing by that point. It was summertime and I was getting bored with most shows being on hiatus. So I thought, fine, maybe this dumb Covert show has improved since it first aired. Let me try it out. So I caught a replay of 3.02 on USA. And it was ... pretty aiight! Nothing mind-blowing, but decent enough. It didn't hook me in immediately, but it was entertaining enough for me to consider it the next time I was feeling extra bored on a summer night (Note: Obviously I realized later that 3.02 is indeed a great ep once you actually know who the characters are.)
Then a few weeks went by. I kinda forgot about it. I caught like 20 minutes of ep 3.06 while on vacay in a hotel room as I was about to go to bed. Then immediately upon returning from that vacay, I learned that my 33 year-old friend Jaspreet had cancer. Like, BAD cancer. Weird, random, aggressive cancer. We were work buddies but we were close and had just finished a very stressful project together. We were kinda like foxhole buddies after that. We hadn’t seen each other in a couple months because we had both just gotten new jobs in other departments within the company. I went to her house to visit her. She looked more ill than anyone I’ve ever seen in my life and she was in horrible pain 24/7. She was already in liver failure. Her mom and sister had flown in from India. My other friend Crystal and I chased after her 2 year-old son who had no idea what was going on and was undergoing (quite understandably) not-quite-100% supervision while the family raced against the clock to try to save his mother’s life.
Before Crystal & I left the house, Jaspreet’s mom begged us desperately to pray for her with everything we had. She pleaded tearfully that she could not bear to lose her 33 year-old daughter in the prime of her life. I’m no medical expert, but I could see that my friend’s situation was extremely grim, so to say that this moment was heartbreaking-slash-gutwrenching would be the understatement of my life. I drove home and sat on my couch for hours and stared at the wall in complete shock, feeling traumatized in a different way than I had on any of the rather oddly frequent other occasions that I’ve lost family and close friends to tragedy. Possibly because it was the first time one of these situations truly gave me the “this could JUST as easily be me" feeling of how cruel life can be, just picking people off at complete and utter random.
That was Friday, August 31st. September 4th was the following Tuesday (thanks to my email inbox and Wikipedia for these dates), and I was at home after work surfing the web and catching up on emails. I grabbed the TV remote and flipped through the channels at maybe like 5 minutes after 10pm, and saw that Covert Affairs was on. So I flipped it on there to provide some background noise while I was on my computer. But I found that as the hour progressed, my attention was drawn more and more to Covert and less to my computer. As Auggie pinned the mic on Annie’s blouse in the surveillance van and refused her request for an H2H, I thought, “Huh. This feels foreboding.” As Annie and Simon were chased by security through the mall, I was drawn in further. As Auggie pressed Annie for what the hell had happened when she purposely smashed that mic, and about whether she was in love with Simon, I was drawn in further still. And by the time “Blowers Daughter” began to play, I was absolutely fucking glued to my TV screen. As Lena walked into the kitchen, I thought, “Oh shit she’s gonna arrest them for trying to make a run for it; Annie’s gonna be in big trouble now.”
If you watch the series from the beginning, you can see that Covert Affairs’ dark turn began with the one-two punch of Jai’s car blowing up + Annie jumping into that shower with Simon, who was nothing more than a very dangerous mission at the time. But the darkness didn’t officially throw its own glorious coming out party until Lena Smith walked into that kitchen, black boots first and gun blazing. The idea that this (as far as I knew at the time) fluffy little spy show would suddenly murder its spunky blonde lead and her boyfriend violently in her own kitchen at the hands of her boss was both shocking and quite impressive in just how much it had thrown me for a loop.
It’s natural to immerse yourself in fiction when real life feels too shitty. Many people go straight for the happy feel-good stuff to brighten their mood. I have a friend who had a very rough childhood (and adulthood even) who is physically incapable of watching any movies other than Disney cartoons and very light heartwarming fare. I, on the other hand, tend to do the exact opposite. I enjoy darker grittier fare even when I’m in a great mood, but when I’m in a bad mood, I sometimes tend to turn to it even more so. I mean look, obviously Covert never had any intention of becoming gritty anywhere near a SOA or GoT level. But what intrigued me was the fact that its showrunners had taken the conscious risk to change their show up very significantly, smack dab in the middle of its run. THAT is a rare thing in television. And yes, it also made me oddly giddy to see that this plucky lil’ novice spy gal was about to be corrupted permanently and taken on a much rockier path. Life experience makes you a more interesting person, right? "Glass Spider" made me realize that this show was letting Annie progress from milquetoast into someone I’d actually like to watch on my TV screen.
Jaspreet died on October 4th at age 33 after only having first gotten sick on like, Memorial Day weekend. Barely more than 4 months total. Her funeral was on Oct 6th. I felt really, really shitty about it all, to put it mildly. Once again Covert Affairs came back to provide a welcome life-escape for me with its fall season a week or so later with “Rock ‘n Roll Suicide”. Prior to that, in the middle of the real-life shitstorm (mid-Sept), “Let’s Dance” had aired, and it was the crack hit that fully cemented my addiction. It also may still be my favorite ep of this series.
The show took risks in season 4 to try to up the ante, and we know it stumbled through a lot of that. Unfortunately I think those stumbles lost it the modest amount of critical good will that it had finally started to gain in season 3. And once you lose it, especially when you didn’t have it to begin with (i.e. in seasons 1 & 2), it’s virtually impossible to get it back. And critical attention is a huge factor in gaining attention from general audiences.
And then of course we have the fact that Covert Affairs was an entirely different TV show in seasons 4 & 5 than it was in seasons 1 & 2. How do you convince the world of that? This is another nearly impossible feat, and the only way to achieve it would be through great promotion and marketing. Covert Affairs, sadly, got none of that. USA Network continued to promote it the same lame idiotic way in season 5 as they did in season 1 – “Spunky blond spy in skimpy outfits and heels!!” Just ... uggh. No. WRONG, USA. FAIL.
So here we are. And what I’m left with now is that the absolute only thought process that can make me feel better about this is to assume the show would’ve sucked in season 6 anyway, hence we’re not really missing much. Of course you'd hope that wouldn't be the case, but it’s entirely possible that USA would have forced these guys to slash their budget, stop doing the foreign shoots, maybe even make creative changes, who the hell knows. Chuck fans watched that show lose its ENTIRE original writing staff (other than the showrunners) between seasons 3 and 4 as NBC dragged its feet on renewing it. We watched as budget cuts forced characters to be cut and major story elements (like the Buy More scenes) to be reduced. We saw the impacts the unpredictable episode orders (13 eps! Oh wait here’s a back 6! Here’s a couple extra!) took on its quality (coupled with its turnover in writing staff). Community fans watched as that show’s showrunner was fired in a misguided attempt to make the show more mainstream, and it resulted in the show becoming a creepy bizarro shell of its former self. It was an utter miracle that NBC/Sony realized the error of their ways and re-hired Dan Harmon for S5, only to finally cancel it at season’s end (still to return on Yahoo! but with half its actors gone).
My point is, many times you have to ask yourself, what kind of zombie version of my favorite TV show am I willing to live with? Would I want to see it continue in a weird hollow half-ass form? It’s quite possible that these are the questions Matt Corman and Chris Ord have had to ask themselves in these past couple months for Covert Affairs. Maybe they made the decision that they didn’t want to continue the show unless they could do it right, and in that hypothetical scenario, I agree with their decision wholeheartedly, even if it means we have to live with eternal cliffhangers.
And as for those cliffhangers, I will add: I have never once, throughout this entire process, felt annoyed with the showrunners for their decision to take the risk and end season 5 this way. And that is because ending the series on a cliffhanger is still FAR preferable to me than doing some rush job to try to close an entire series out with only 6 or 8 eps’ notice. While I’m still extremely pissed at USA for cutting us off mid-funk, I actually respect the writers for keeping the story at the pace it needed to be at to remain believable, no matter what.
But I’m immensely fuckin' bummed it had to come to premature cancellation at all. I’m constantly disappointed that female-driven shows, particularly when they are action-oriented shows, seem to have to fight such an uphill battle to get noticed and respected by wide audiences. I’m pissed that a lady action show’s audience potential seems to always be cut drastically from a male-driven action show’s audience, because so many dudes write it off as “chick stuff”. The only way this type of show seems to be able to transcend this barrier is when it gets HUGE critical acclaim, a la Homeland, pre-suckage. I can’t tell if I just have a complex when I theorize that IMDB and Amazon user/buyer ratings almost cannot physically ascend past a certain level when the movie or TV show is female-driven. Am I insane? Because I constantly notice it and am endlessly annoyed by it. At least I can keep myself warm with the knowledge that Catching Fire was the highest-grossing movie (domestic) of 2013. Progress?
Uggh. Maybe in the end it’s somewhat fitting that Covert Affairs, a show that gave us such constant storyline blueballs (what was the pill addiction about, what happened in The Balkans, where did Annie’s PTSD go?), has now ended its entire series run by leaving its audience with – what else? – a MASSIVE case of a blueballs.
C’est la vie. Au revoir Covert Affairs. I will miss you hardcore, Annie Walker & team. And USA Network, go fuck yourselves. I didn’t watch you before Covert Affairs and I won’t watch you afterward. I don’t care if Playing House made me laugh that one time I caught it by accident. I’m sure as hell not gonna invest myself in another one of your shows now that I know how this story ends - prematurely. No thanks.
p.s. If the question of “Whatever happened to that steamer trunk key??” still keeps you up at night, I have great news - I caught it on an episode of Portlandia during last year’s winter hiatus. I’m so glad it found a good home. Or some kind of home, at least.
p.p.s. To Piper PER-abo: I now know how to pronounce your name and I now love you. Fuck the haters who still make jokes about the Golden Globe thing (I used to be one of them). You are awesome and I hope you get that one key role you need to get the damn respect you deserve in Hollywood. (Note: I love Chris too but I was already a bit more familiar with him when I started watching Covert, so it didn’t require any sort of “revelation” for me to realize his charms).
I'll end this with a virtual toast, Covert Crew. To Jaspreet, whose death set my brain on a strange and unexpected path that may only now be ending ... to us, to what we each loved about Covert Affairs, to heart explosions, to Barber's tattoos, to Joan's pills, to Seth's swampy flash drive, to Henry's goatee, to Eyal's smoldering hotness, and of course, to blueballs. Adios Neshamas and I’ll see y'alls on Twitter. Oh and please, by all means, feel free to vent in the comments here, sans-140-character limit.