“Covert Affairs” recap (1.01): You’re a wanker, CIA!


I have a secret. A secret that is going to make you judge me as you’ve never judged me before. Shoulder your flaming pitchforks and hear me out, OK?

Deep breath.

I have always had a hard time thinking Piper Perabo is sexy.

I think she’s adorable, and I think she’s endearing. I would even say she’s often enchanting. But it always makes me feel squicky to think about lusting after her. Yesterday, my bestie ran through the reasons I probably feel the way I feel — she was so young in Coyote Ugly; she was Lizzie McGuire’s big sister in Cheaper by the Dozen — and yeah, that’s all true, but I’ve watched Imagine Me & You 300 million times like every other lesbian with nothing to do on a rainy Sunday afternoon. I’ve seen the way she looks at Lena Headey.

I think maybe my issue is the way she sort of exudes vulnerability. So you’re like, "Piper Perabo, get in my bed!" And I’m like, "Piper Perabo, let me wrap you up in this plush terry cloth robe and tuck you into bed with some homemade noodle soup."

Covert Affairs is going to cure my Platonic Perabo Affliction, though.

I love TV pilots. It’s like watching writers do one of those obstacle courses on Wipeout. They’ve got to tell one 42-minute story wrapped inside a 13-episode story while running as fast as they can, hurdling cliche pits and dodging critic axes and leaping through rings of network fire. And at the same time they’ve got to reach behind them to grab enough backstory, and forward to grab enough anticipation — and then they’ve got to carry it all in their arms and cross their fingers and leap off the edge of the world. It’s dangerous. It’s a good time.

Covert Affairs cleverly gets a lot of the exposition out of the way right up front, via CIA polygraph. Annie Walker is 28; she’s new to the CIA; she speaks six languages; and she fell in love backpacking through Sri Lanka. It ended abruptly with a cryptic note on her pillow in the middle of the night. How was the sex? It was awesome.


Annie is called up from CIA training early. She thinks it’s because she’s super qualified. Her new boss, Joan Campbell (Kari Matchett, who looks remarkably like JK Rowling from the right angle), says that yeah, she’s qualified — but also she can pass as a call girl. Her task is simple: Meet up with a Russian mole at his hotel and synch their phones. (Simpler probably than synching an iPod, with all those damn iTunes software updates every half-hour.)

Annie flirts with one of those guys that looks like a tuxedo model in the lobby of the hotel, then goes upstairs to make the Top Secret Data trade. It’s a setup, though, and her informant gets blasted to smithereens by a sniper. After displaying perfect precision when murdering the mole, the sniper then goes ballistic and causes a glass shrapnel megastorm! Windows and wine glasses and chandeliers exploding all over the place! Annie barely makes it out in one piece.

Back at CIA headquarters, her boss thinks she’s an epic failure for leaving her phone behind, but her new best buddy, Auggie Anderson (Christopher Gorham), gives her a pep talk and tells her it’s not so easy working for the most dangerous, covert organization on the planet, but she’s doing a really nice job. So she goes back to the hotel and actually pretends to be a call girl this time so she can get up into the FBI investigation and steal the data from the phone. She does — because if Piper Perabo tried to seduce you with a gazillion-watt smile and fake southern accent, you’d be distracted too. (OMG, maybe I’m cured already!)

On the way home, Annie realizes she’s being tailed, so she employs some of the defensive driving she aced at CIA training (i.e. that whole "From the Producer of the Bourne Trilogy" thing starts to matter) and she engages in an awesome car chase. She loses the guy, and makes it home in time for an awkward first date with a dude her sister pulled out of a tiny hat.

Annie uses her superior language skills and deduces that the guy who was killed in the hotel room isn’t actually the Russian spy. She drags Auggie to the morgue to have a look at him — well, not exactly, because Auggie is blind — and they get caught by the same FBI agent. It’s all very, "You work for the CIA!" "No, I don’t!" "Yes, you do!" "No, I don’t!" And then she gets to go free because someone made a call because yes, she does.

Joan is ready to shove Annie out of a window (or whatever the CIA does when they fire you), but Annie realizes the real spy is after a Russian journalist, so they rush to his book signing and save his life. Annie sees the tuxedo model from the hotel lobby and is like, "D’oh! Of course you’re the baddie! I’ve seen White Collar; I know how this works!" She chases him through the museum and the kitchen and down into the subway (more Bourne bsns!). He ends up ambushing her from behind and nearly chokes her to death, but then! a hero in the night appears out of nowhere and shoots the tuxedo model in the face. The hero jumps on the train and Annie is like, "Gasp, it’s my Sri Lankan lover!" But alas, he is gone.

Joan is married to Peter Gallagher‘s eyebrows. They both work for different departments of the CIA. Joan thinks Gallagher’s eyebrows are having an affair. Gallagher’s eyebrows insist they are faithful. Joan and Gallagher’s eyebrows can’t agree on anything except they should give Annie an award for saving the day.

Wait, no. They agree on one more thing: If they keep throwing Annie in over her head, her Sri Lankan lover will keep coming to save her. And then they will catch him.

Tricksy little eyebrows! See, Annie didn’t get called up early because she’s the most qualified agent. She didn’t get called up early because she looks like a hooker. She got called up early because Joan and Gallagher’s eyebrows want to use her as bait.

Verdict: I’m sold. Now all I need is to see Annie shoot a bad guy in the head and maybe I’ll be able to lust after Piper Perabo like a normal lesbian.

What did you think of Covert Affairs?

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