I feel … weird … right now. And confused. And cold. And alone. Somebody hold me. Please. Tightly.
I finished this ep like 15 minutes ago and I think I’ve now set a new record for the longest time I’ve spent sitting on the couch post-ep, staring into space, trying to get my head around it and to decide whether I enjoyed it or whether I want to drag my TV into the front yard and set it on fire. I mean obviously, if you read my review of last week’s episode, you know that I was NOT particularly thrilled with the insertion of the “OMGAASH Helen’s really alive!!” storyline. But still, despite that, I went into this ep with an open mind. I swear. I gave the writers the benefit of the doubt that this Helen character could wind up being interesting for the storyline, and that her presence could force our main characters into confronting feelings and situations that they would not have otherwise. i.e., character development. I’m a *huge* fan of character development, so if that’s where this gets us, I can be extremely forgiving.
And after watching “Crackity Jones”, I see that this is indeed exactly where the writers were going with it – to push the story, to push our characters, and to give them some insight on themselves, their situation, and each other. Which is a GOOD thing. So then why did this ep feel so ODD to me?? So ... kind of ... off? I’ve been texting back and forth with my cousin while writing this and I think with her help, I’m starting to diagnose the sitch. Or at least some pieces of the sitch. Here’s my take: This episode required a LOT of exposition and flashbacks to get us up to speed on who Helen is, how Auggie wound up thinking she was dead when she really wasn’t, what Arthur’s doing with her, and why the hell we should give two shits about ANY of this to begin with. So as a result, we ended up with an episode of Covert Affairs that starred some random-ass chick who we’ve barely even MET before today. It was an ensemble effort, yes, but Helen’s screentime had to have been at least equal to both Annie and Auggie here.
So start with that jarring and foreign situation, and then add to it the fact that the amount of time that had to be spent on the flashbacks took away essential story time that was needed to show Annie and Helen’s relationship build and develop on that mission to Lyon. Crucial time that we did NOT get. Instead, we got a quicky mission, plus two and a half dialogue scenes. And this is between two characters who have not only never met before this mission, but have every reason to dislike and distrust the HELL out of each other from the get-go. Yet somehow it only took a couple chats with Helen to convince Annie that the entire way she’s living her life right now might need a complete overhaul?? Really?? It’s one of those things that ... I would imagine, when you’re mapping out a storyline, makes sense in theory. In the writer’s room you’re like, “Yeah ok so Helen shows up and she tells Annie her story, and then Annie starts to doubt her sitch,” and then yadda yadda yadda A&A break up. BUT when the rubber hit the road here, the writers didn’t allow themselves enough screen time to execute this in a convincing way. The dialogue between Annie and Helen even felt strangely forced to me at many points, like overly on-the-nose. I’m pretty sure this is because they needed to move these characters from 0 to 60 in their relationship with so few scenes.
So THEN, we get back home from the mission, and Annie goes to Auggie’s apartment for their H2H. And while Chris and Piper played the HELL out of this scene – major kudos to both of them for that - and it gave me plenty of angsty feels ... it still somehow didn’t seem ... right. It didn’t feel natural or organic to how I imagine *I* would be acting in that situation, or decisions I would be making. The events of this episode were plenty to plant seeds of doubt for both Annie and Auggie, sure. Even plenty for Annie to decide she needs time to herself to process all these crazy developments. But to call it quits for good?? If you put yourself in their shoes, is this situation even close to enough to make you decide, “Aiight. That’s it. Fuck it. I’m outtie.” (mic drop) ? After ALL that they’ve been through over all these years and that bond they share and everything?? Not even close, for me. Granted, I do get that in break-up type conversations, the way one person says a little something and then the other party kind of agrees with it, and once that little snowflake starts, you keep pushing each other until it becomes a huge snowball avalanche and you can’t get yourself out of it. Because neither of you has the balls to be the one to be like “OK JK JKaaaayyyy I didn’t mean it I don’t really wanna break up!!” I get that, and I think that’s part of what was at play here. But still, it just wasn’t enough to convince me that they’d go anywhere near this far. And I’m being 100% honest when I say that I don’t have an issue with A&A breaking up IF it feels organic to the progression of the story, and IF it’s something I can absolutely believe the characters would and should be doing, based on their circumstances. My issue with this episode is that this was not the case. It felt much more manipulated and manufactured than it did organic.
There’s another thing I noticed about that final scene too. It’s of very minor importance to the scene itself, but it reminded me of something I’ve been observing and irked by for quite a while now. And please forgive my comparisons to other spy shows again, but it’s how my though process works - One thing I always found interesting about ‘Alias’ was that Sydney Bristow was written as a tough character, but she was also allowed to be very “girly” in many ways. And that was nice, but she was almost TOO girly, in the sense that the woman bawled like a baby every damn time you blinked an eye. Going back and watching old eps now, the amount of crying Sydney does drives me INSANE. And that’s the main reason I loved Annie’s long-lost cousin Sarah Walker so much on ‘Chuck’ – She was tough as nails, and rarely showed her emotions, UNTIL the series progressed and the character developed *naturally* from a pretty cold and ruthless spy, to basically kinda opening her heart as a result of Chuck’s influence and impact on her. It felt right, it progressed naturally, and it was fun to watch. And she never came even CLOSE to being the weepy baby Sydney was. She was well-balanced in that sense.
And like Sarah Walker, one thing I’ve always appreciated about Annie Walker is her LACK of weepiness. Not only that, but she has a cocky swagger about her, that type of cockiness that’s actually even a level or two above what she probably deserves to give herself credit for, that I don’t recall seeing in female characters all that often. Maybe I’m crazy, but this seems like a traditionally very male quality to me, like Jeff Winger on ‘Community’. Or every guy on ‘Gigolos’. Point being, it feels like an interesting change of pace to me, and I like this about Annie as a character. And her tough-ness is a good thing, but sometimes she can seem like the exact inverse of Sydney Bristow to a fault. i.e. In the interest of the writers making her “tough,” she can almost border on beyond human sometimes. Like she’s some sort of robot who can get through anything with barely a quick brush of a little dust off her shoulders. Like that time she returned home from the Russian prison after the Simon/Lena/nearly-dying debacle and she was just like, “Ok well that was lame. Next? No prob. Back in action and better than ever.” She never had any sort of emotional breakdown, she never hit any rock bottom, she never had PTSD, nothing. She just kept on going. It’s always seemed very odd to me, and it’s hard for me as a human audience member to relate to someone with such super-human cyborg-like powers.
And then, in the break-up scene with Auggie, we saw Annie break down FAR more than she ever has before, that I can remember. And it was nice to see her finally having some real normal human emotions, BUT even this was quite interesting in terms of the way the scene was filmed. She started to break down but then she stood up and walked behind the couch, and we could tell that she was crying, but we couldn’t see her face. The point is that she was trying to hide it from Auggie, but at the same time it almost seems like the writers/director/etc. didn’t want the *audience* to see it either. And then when she left the apartment, the focus at the end was on Auggie. I think that was to show him breaking down after she left, but it still struck me as kind of interesting. Like the writers themselves are afraid to let Annie act like a normal human being with real emotions, every once in a damn while. I dunno, I could just be in a bad mood at this point and being too nitpicky. But it’s one more thing adding to my constant nagging feeling that CA’s lead character is the LEAST fleshed-out character on the entire show.
UGGH holy shit this review is so long already. Let me just do a few other quick random observations before my summary/grade:
- Watching Auggie look people in the eyes in flashback scenes is always weird, isn’t it? And in this ep we got him running too. Without tripping and stuff. Kinda fun.
- The transition from the Auggie->Arthur punch to the flash of the title screen thing made me LOL.
- The way Annie approached Sabino also made me LMAO – “I’m the owner of the missile launchers you stole?? I want them back.”
- Ha, I love that Myers-Briggs got a shout-out in this ep. I took one of those many years ago, but at my company they’ve run through several other assessment methodologies since then. We’re currently using one called LinkUp.
- Convenient that Helen’s cover for this ep’s mission gave an excuse to let Michelle Ryan use her real accent.
- Ok that was the best Barber scene EVER, right?? He even came within an inch of going full-on Abed. “Cool. Cool cool cool.” Frankly, he was probably the only bright point of this entire depressing episode!! Thank you, Barber. And Auggie took his words to heart, too.
- The fight scene underwater was kinda cool. With the bullets going through the water.
- Ok so it was already obvious to pretty much all of us that the flashforward they keep giving us from ep 10 is Annie faking her own death. This episode just punches us in the face with it 50 times in case we hadn’t already figured it out.
Ok. Now for the grade. I re-watched this ep while writing my review, thinking it might change my feelings on it. It didn’t. As a matter of fact, I was even more annoyed on second viewing.
GRADE: 77 out of 100
I’m so freakin’ tired right now I almost reverted back to my letter grading system on accident. Is 77 super harsh?? My network just went down so now I’m in a SUPER bad mood, right at the time I’m assigning the grade. That doesn’t help. What did you guys think of the ep? Will I need to fake my death to hide from you after this?? Will my network ever come back up so we can POST this review??