25 June, 2014

The Plopper Reviews COVERT AFFAIRS 5.01: 'Shady Lane'

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.

GRADE: 84/100

Again it'd be higher if not for the logic issues and overly convenient plotting.  Plop all over me in the comments.


  1. I am watching it right now so I can't read your review yet... but thanks for doing this and for being the first to post a blog posting here in MONTHS!

    Because I'm super lazy.

    1. P.S.

      The cat finally arrived. You're "fired".

      As for the episode and review... you pretty much nailed it. Though, you failed to mention that no human being could have a bomb of that magnitude put inside their body. If you put a bomb inside a human body, some of the force will be absorbed by the body. And there was a lot of burn/fire in that room after-the-fact. IMPOSSIBLE. It would have had to have been a fuel explosive which would have had to have been bigger than the fuckin' dude it was inside to make that much of a mess.

      Also, the resolution to THE AMERICANS storyline was so transparent I called it halfway through the season.

    2. HAHAH! Holy shit good catch on the THE AMERICANS I didn't call it ahead of time at all, but I also wasn't attempting to solve the mystery there either. There are some shows where I purposely put zero effort in because I just want to be surprised hahaha. Even still though I'm not sure if my mind would have gone there if I was trying to figure it out.

      Also yes the bomb in the body on CA I totally forgot about that when I was writing the review, but I also know exactly jack shit about explosives so I couldn't have offered expertise on it anyway haahha. Thanks for pointing that out.

    3. I only know too much about these things because I'm currently writing a series of books where I have to know a lot about the physics of things. Part of that is studying the effects of explosives. I'll probably never finish writing these damn things because I'm trying to be annoyingly accurate.

  2. "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". This was my biggest pet peeve with S4, as I really want to watch shows that are grounded, have that 'ordinary people' thing. I'll focus more on A&A, because I haven't really studied the others too much and, like you, I'm not really into the spy plots. So, with that in mind, you had these two characters that seemed and acted real and then...they weren't.

    Derived from this, the sole aspect I have to work hard to get over of this show is Annie's super super super being. Even Joan does what she says. I have to tell myself over and over that she's the main character, it's normal, etc, but just everyone is kissing her up. She's a bit borderline Mary Sue. A bit.

    The Khalid thing - totally agree. All that hype and he's a ghost now?

    As one guilty of being a Walkerson (I do prefer A&A) shipper, I can't wait to see how these two are gonna be pulled back together. They do have their issues and my heart broke for Auggie when he told Calder he was expecting a warmer reunion with Annie (just shows how big of a liar he is, making it all so casual when Annie dumped him - now for the 2nd time).

    I do, however, expect mistakes a la Helesa bang from Auggie, because, as CG pointed out, he's lonely and emotional vulnerable at times. Last year, the whole thing with Annie and ex dead wife messed with his head and hopefully this year he'll find a woman who can be there for him and not leave him behind (like both Helen and Annie have done).

    1. In relation to Annie's "superhero" thing, the thing that drives me insane is the fact that she NEVER gets taken to task for the dumb impulsive stuff she does. The only characters who ever call her on her b.s. are Eyal (thank god for him) and Joan in previous seasons (though she seems to be over that now). But even Joan used to back down in the end most of the time.

      It has always driven me nuts the way Auggie soft-pedals her and just reassures her for every insane thing she does. I was glad that in least in season 4 he did tell her a few times early on in the season, "I don't think this is a good idea" and like "I think Arthur is taking advantage of you." But that's pretty much the most vocal he's ever been in that area. It also plays into the the issue of Annie and Auggie never calling each other out for ANY of the shitty things they've done to each other in the past season. Normal human beings do not act like this.

      I have some other thoughts on this too but just wanted to call that out for now haahh.

    2. Agree. The fact that not only she never gets taken to task, but even Joan (who I immensly love) & Arthur, two very, very superior officers, take her directive, not the other way around. I'd let it slide if it were only Auggie (he loves her, bla bla), Calder or any other of her peers. But ArJo...seems too...off. Or McQuaid instantly recognizing her as superspy.

      Luckily, I can ignore it enough to enjoy the show :)

  3. Like always we're on the same page.

    They sure like blowing things up. With that regard WTH we have scanners for this kind of things. Even malls have them at entrances so a hidden black site wouldn't!? That's just sloppy writing. considering they made a point of showing the security process during the pilot it is even more sloppy.
    For a minute there I was really excited about Khalid, middle-easterns will do that to me :-P
    But then Hello Hottie sorry you're extremely dead one minute later. They did that a lot last season as well. I wont change my stand though, I need the time to care for a character so develop them properly. Then maybe I'll care when you're blowing up 12 of them or at least be shocked.
    I actually haven't read those spoilers but I had a feeling they would reference in a way to the Boston marathon bombing. It kind of was like well couldn't you figure something a bit more original? But with terror all over the world and extremist in every corner it's an easy plot -> sloppy.
    Also I knew whatever his name was is a dead man the minute they entered the car and that toy...

    I hate how everything is so personal for Auggie like they keep piling his plate and I want him to break and reach out and not with his you know... But still poor guy. That smashed monitor and referencing that he was glad that Annie wasn't there is a good start I suppose.
    Now Annie, it still doesn't feel like it is personal for her. I'm happy we got to see some emotion out of her, mainly at that alley scene (which I'll tackle next) but she's too robotic too in control. It may be her trying her hand at separating her life and detaching. But that doesn't work ever. You've got to have someone in your life that will understand what you're going through at work and vice-verca even if they don't have full knowledge of it.
    So, about that alley scene what the hell was that? She starts running her chest hurts her vision is blurred and she has difficulty breathing. It all seemed like a panic attack but something was off. the onset of it and the injection. Especially the injection. In whole honesty I don't know of a panic attack being treated with an injection or an intramuscular one. As for some heart conditions for pain relief a sub-lingual drug would work faster.
    Now lets say that it was a heart condition the only thing I can think of that would require immediate action is a block. That's just temporary and she'll need artificial pacing. So again I'm stumped. I only hope that they did the research properly, because figuring this out already gives me an headache.
    Arr that was long I'm hoping that my spelling and grammar are readable it's already 1 am

    1. Oh also forgot Dr. Cohen I mean really there are a lot of those in Israel. just sayin Turkey and Israel are pretty close

    2. LOL I can spoil you on what I think Annie's condition is related to (based on spoilers I read) ... IF you want (privately obviously, not in these comments). ;-) Finding out what it's related to might just make your headache even worse though (because I don't have great confidence in these guys' medical research/accuracy based on their track record) hahahah.

      "With that regard WTH we have scanners for this kind of things." Are you referring to the bomb in the guy's abdomen? In the U.S. we don't generally have scanners at malls or anything like that ... well, at least not at the malls I go to haha. I think maybe there's some that have metal detectors for guns? I'm thinking we're a lot more lax here with that stuff than you guys are in Israel. I'm not sure what kind of scanner you even need to detect a bomb inside an abdomen though. Would there be metal in there? I'm not even sure lol.

    3. When this will be out in the open (or if you decide to take the discussion further), I'll have many, many medical related Qs for AfterThoughtLife because I'm both extremely curious about possible outcomes and I can't wait for the writers to explain things to me.

    4. AfterThoughtLifeJune 26, 2014 at 8:17 AM

      I was referring to the hidden bomb. I've visited the states so I know how it goes. Admittedly most of the places here don't have scanners but security man. It's just that I would have thought that a high security facility would have something that resembles the scanners at airports and such.
      I'm not sure what exactly they detect and I assume there are different kind. I could ask around, I know people who know stuff ...
      I really dont want to be spoiled to much. last season I checked the # over instagram and saw the shooting of Henry. Mind you it wasn't that surprising but still. So now I'm staying clear for the most part.
      Andrejia my twitter handle is my_afterthought I considered signing with my wordpress but it's linked to a different twitter ( a boring more "professional" one) which I don't mind anyone from the covertcrew to know about but the other way around is trickier

    5. Oh, I know (I mean I figured, since it's similar), mine's Andrejia_ and we follow each other. :) I meant that after her medical problem will be taken overt - aka we'll find out on screen what's wrong with her, I might have some medicals Qs (because it's nicer/more accurate to find out directly from a professional than just plain Google).

  4. Annie may be in from the cold, but she's really rusty. If she continues to move exotically atmospheric, gauzy curtains so they stay in motion and follow marks in alleys without cover, they're going to have to enroll her in a remedial session of Stalking for Spooks 101.

  5. Warning: I'm writing this comment on zero drugs at all. No Tylenol PM's or melatonin since it's 3:33pm. LULZ.

    Okay....so I've now watched this episode 6 times. Gotta admit that after the first watch I was a little mehhh about the whole thing, but that's so not CA's fault. I was completely spoiled so it hardly seems fair for me to expect more than exactly what I was expecting, right? Err...umm...what? Maybe.

    My biggest biggest biggest hugest ginormousest problem with this episode is that I have to suspend my grip on reality during the first 8 minutes when she steps in from the cold, into the polygraph room, and then straight into a mission. It actually infuriated me the hell out of me. Oh how convenient that no one but the unstoppable Annie Walker could handle this Khalid mess. We're not really sure where the fuck you've been or what the fuck you've been doing or how the fuck you eluded us or why the fuck you want to come back now but hey WELCOME BACK, ANNIE! GRRRRRRRRRRRRRR.

    OKAY. PAUSE. STOP. RIGHT HERE. In a real world logical scenario wouldn't the CIA want to....ohhh I don't know....give her a physical? a psych exam? Wouldn't a polygraph be like at least #5 on the list of things she'd have to get through?

    And I'm with you 10,0000 million percent on the shitty dialogue. Some of it was damn near cringe worthy. I find myself going, "Please don't speak and ruin this scene for me. Please." I hope that gets better as the season goes on.....we'll see.

    I gotta admit that if you take out the fact that I was spoiled on everything, take out the shitty dialogue, and take out the fact that I have to suspend reality with Annie going back to work thing that I'm kind of excited about this season.

    2. McQuaid. I didn't want to dig him but I kind of do. Damnit.
    3. Calder. It's 29 shades of hot as hell up in his bedroom. I think I'm going to enjoy watching him struggle with his job and going overt and his extracurricular activities.
    4. Barber's back!
    5. Walkerson reset. It's not really "the talk" I wanted. Hey Auggie I wanted to meet you hear and talk only to you so I could explain myself without telling you jackshit, but you're cool with that, right? Friendzies? Oh and could you get Calder off my back and tell him to STFU with the questions? He's a meanie and I can't be stressing about it right now. LOL. It's going to be fun as hell watching these two just try and keep things with "no emotional attachment" b/c we all know that's IMPOSSIBLE. Hey Annie, do you remember what got you all fucked up 8 months ago? It was that blue folder that just had the mention of Auggie's alias. Newsflash: You're so emotionally attached that you couldn't detach even you wanted to.

    Hold onto your hearts, folks, and catch your breath because I think we're in for a fun feeling exciting explosive banging wild time.

    1. "OKAY. PAUSE. STOP. RIGHT HERE. In a real world logical scenario wouldn't the CIA want to....ohhh I don't know....give her a physical? a psych exam? Wouldn't a polygraph be like at least #5 on the list of things she'd have to get through?"

      LMAO seriously and you'd have thought the same thing after Russia in season 3. But they threw her right back on the job then too. Riddic.

      And yeah the dialogue thing is so weird because ... well we know this show has provided us with plenty of cheesy lines in the past hahaha, but it's usually one or two per ep, not one every 2 minutes. Thankfully I think the cringe-worthy lines kinda died down halfway through the ep so I could stop wincing. The worst one for me was "She's a different operative now" and I'm pretty sure it had literally been a matter of a few HOURS in TV time since Annie had been thrown back on the job. "She's a different operative now" would be something a showrunner would say in a post-premiere interview with TVLine, not in the actual show ITSELF. Cheese-tastic. It would make sense a week plus into Annie being back, but not the same damn day.

      "Oh and could you get Calder off my back and tell him to STFU with the questions? He's a meanie and I can't be stressing about it right now. LOL."

      HAHA that was funny ... I noticed that in that moment, Annie had the same look on her face that she did in "Let's Dance" after she had bounced out of that hospital bed and sparred with Auggie ... "The jab is back ... right!? RIGHT AUGGIE!?" And "I'm not! [pushing myself too hard]" Hahaha like an obstinate teenager begging their parents for something that they know full well is ridiculous. We may be in for a lot of that this season.

      But yeah despite the gripes I had with the premiere, this season actually looks like it has a ton of potential at this moment. Let's hope they don't screw the pooch again.