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Friday, October 19, 2012

Rockin' some more Covert Affairs

USA's Covert Affairs returns this week with "Rock 'n' Roll Suicide" after a mercifully brief hiatus. Merciful because of the heck of a cliffhanger, with Annie (Piper Perabo) trapped in Russia, having just murdered Lena (Sarah Clarke). As season two picks up, it takes very little time for Annie to be caught and tossed into an underground secret prison.

Annie's torture scenes are light, this being basic cable, sticking mainly to psychological discomfort. I think that USA does a pretty fair job of making the threat seem real, though, even while shying away from gratuitous violence. Perabo's handling of an Annie on the edge, slowly losing her sanity over a period of weeks, changing into a much more hardened person, is extremely well played, and nuanced. There is a point where one wonders if she will ever escape, even while knowing at the same she will.

And then Eyal (Oded Fehr), with some remote help from Auggie (Christopher Gorham), comes to the rescue! It's a smart move, illustrating the realities of the CIA not being able to actually get to Annie, but bringing back a beloved recurring character who has a reason to want to protect our protagonist. His jailbreak of her comes a little too easy, and the two taking a sweet moment in the street right outside the building doesn't seem all that smart, but overall, it works, making for very intelligent storytelling.

Annie is Annie, though, and she can never do things the easy way. She gives away her passport to help someone else, making Eyal's job of getting her home all that much harder. Many men might give up from frustration, and it's telling that Eyal doesn't, hinting at some stronger connection that could easily turn into a full blown romance in the near future. Instead, he sticks by her, and through a series of action packed scenes, they finally manage to escape.

Why does Annie throw away such a helpful item to save another? No one would have blamed her if she had just gotten on the train with Eyal, and maybe they would have been able to do so before the military swarmed the station. Yet, this is what makes Annie a Hero with a capital H, setting her above everyone else. No matter what the circumstances, she is the best.

It's interesting that Covert Affairs makes the actual twist that gets Eyal and Annie out of the country blackmail, rather than guns blazing. A lot of "Rock 'n' Roll Suicide" is running around, but in the end, it's brains, not brawn, that saves the day. This episode, more than any before it, proves just how smart and tough Annie is, taking her to the extremes in both arenas.

My only complaint with this part of the episode is, how come Annie's main captor (Goran Kostic, Grease Monkeys) shows up wherever she flees? He can only be so many places at once. Maybe he's just that good, but to guess correctly where Annie is going to go next over and over again? Come on! Why not have someone else catch her and hold her until he gets there. His omnipotence is completely unnecessary.

Back at Langley, the others are going crazy, not being able to reach Annie. While it is debatable whether a single operative would be worth so much hand wringing and planning sessions, there is no denying that Auggie, Joan (Kari Matchett), and even Arthur (Peter Gallagher) are taking her absence hard. They feel like they've lost a friend, and they all handle things differently. Arthur sticks to procedure, Auggie discretely, and without permission, goes through back channels to a foreign connection, and Joan pops pills.

It's a little sad to see Joan go down this path. Covert Affairs is a drama, and the characters are all going to go through challenges in their personal and professional lives. But she seems like such a strong female role model, and to see her reduced to something like this sucks. Of course, she'll kick the habit, showing her inner strength. Of anyone they could have given this plot to, however, it's too bad that it's Joan.

One thing that is said, and really sinks in, is that operatives cannot possibly understand what it means to be disavowed and on their own until it really happens. This is somewhat belied by Auggie's actions and Eyal's rescue attempt. But Arthur sticks to the rules and sits on his hands, not being able to come up with a "feasible" option, and if Annie's friends didn't have such fierce loyalty, they would have to let her go, too. Any normal operative, that's would have occurred. This is something way too close to happening in "Rock 'n' Roll Suicide," heightening the tension.

In summary, this mid-season premiere is a fantastic installment, with lots of danger, intrigue, and scary moments. It takes the characters to the brink of utter disaster, and almost makes one forget that, because it is a USA show, there's going to be a happy ending. Great acting, superb writing.

Covert Affairs airs Tuesdays at 10 p.m. ET on USA.

If you like my reviews, please follow me on Twitter! Check out my website, JeromeWetzel.com! First posted on TheTVKing

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