Aw, crap. I knew I should’ve joined the CIA, but noooooo, I had to pursue that important screenwriting degree instead. Just going by Covert Affairs, the CIA looks like great fun. Shootouts! Skydiving! Fistfights! Fabulous outfits!
We open with new CIA recruit Annie Walker (Piper Perabo) taking a pre-admission polygraph test. This gives her a handy chance to divulge a few chunks of her backstory right off the top: She’s 28, she speaks six languages, and her last relationship ended two years ago when the hot guy she met on a Sri Lankan beach (Eion Bailey) abandoned her without explanation, leaving an enigmatic note on her pillow: “The truth is complicated. Forgive me.” We see flashbacks of Annie frolicking around Sri Lanka with her beau while speaking fluent Sinhalese, so, y’know, she’s probably not kidding around about this “six languages” business. Perabo, by the way, is great in the role: She’s smart, she’s athletic, she’s goofy, she’s gorgeous. Thumbs up for the casting.
A month shy of completing her training, Annie gets mysteriously yanked off the Farm -- the colloquialism for the training facility at Camp Perry -- and sent to CIA headquarters for an immediate assignment. Upon arrival at Langley, she meets smug young agent Conrad Sheehan (Eric Lively), who flirts with her in a condescending way and announces, “I’m both lazy and predatory.” I have this sinking suspicion we’re supposed to find Conrad roguish and charming instead of dickish and off-putting. This is a bit worrisome, but there’s no sense getting too worked up about it: Conrad, rumor has it, is around for this pilot episode only, then will be replaced by some other actor. I’m not clear on the details. Hang on, let me do a quick search here… Sendhil Ramamurthy? Mr. Cheekbones? He’s going to be in this?
Why, I had no idea.
Annie dives right in to her new position in the DPD -- Domestic Protection Division -- which falls under the auspices of the DCD -- Department of Classified Services. Icy, brittle Joan Campbell (Kari Matchett) heads up the former, while her icy, brittle husband Arthur (Peter Gallagher) heads up the latter. There’s an attempt to explain away the problems in the Campbells’ crumbling marriage (Arthur might be unfaithful; Joan might be paranoid) as an inevitable byproduct of their high-stress Agency careers, but really, it seems far more likely the strife is caused by them being -- and I say this with love, because both Joan and Arthur seem sort of awesome -- moderately horrible people.
Annie also meets Auggie Anderson (Ugly Betty’s Chris Gorham), who works in Tech Ops and appears to be her new partner/mentor/confidant/best friend/prospective love interest. Blinded during a mission in Iraq, Auggie has a talking watch, a laser-pointer walking stick, and a Braille keyboard. He’s also got faint traces of Conrad’s smug skeeziness about him, but he comes across as a fundamentally cool, decent guy, so I’ll let it slide for the moment.
Annie’s super-important mission: Purchase vital intelligence from Stas, a Russian assassin. Joan instructs Annie to meet with Stas at his hotel suite. “Did you call me in here because I can speak Russian?” Annie asks. “Yes, and you can also pass for a call girl,” Joan blithely replies, then goes on to say, in response to Annie’s flustered query as to how she should dress to look appropriately whorish, “What you’re wearing now is fine.”
Yeah, I sort of love Joan.
At the hotel, Stas and Annie make the exchange: Stas transmits spy secrets from his fake Blackberry/super-spy device, while Annie simultaneously transmits payment from her own identical device. In the middle of this, a sniper in a nearby building riddles Stas with bullets and tries to take out Annie as well. Annie gets out of the hotel in one piece, though she leaves the vital information behind. Joan is not pleased about this.
Ever plucky, Annie waltzes back to the crime scene and flirts her way past the FBI agents investigating the case, then waltzes back out with the intelligence. The intelligence turns out to be completely worthless, but nonetheless, full points to Annie for style and moxie.
(Insert unnecessary, lengthy, and inadequately explained car chase scene here.)
Acting on her own initiative, Annie investigates and determines that the man she thought was Stas was Estonian, not Russian, and thus might’ve been an imposter. To confirm her suspicions, Annie and Auggie break into the Federal morgue and examine Stas’s corpse. A series of wacky hijinks ensue, which I don’t especially feel like summarizing. End result: Annie confirms that the man who was shot in the hotel suite was an imposter, and that the real Stas murdered the fake Stas as part of a needlessly elaborate scheme to assassinate a Russian journalist at an awards dinner held at the Smithsonian.
The CIA thwarts the assassination attempt. Annie takes off on foot after Stas and chases him into the subway system. They have a rather splendid scuffle on the platform (Annie jumps on his back, he pulls her hair, they kick and scratch each other, he tries to throttle the life out of her), which ends when Annie’s mysterious ex-boyfriend pops up out of nowhere, kills Stas, and disappears onto a passing train.
Well! That was delightfully random.
Annie receives a commendation and a permanent assignment to the DPD. Joan tries to convince Annie she was saved by another agent, not by her ex-boyfriend. Joan then has a clandestine conversation with Arthur about their long-range plan: Use Annie to smoke the boyfriend out of hiding.
Annie returns home, where she lives with her sister (Anne Dudek) and her sister’s husband and kids. Annie’s sister, by the way, believes Annie has a dull desk job at the Smithsonian; I strongly suspect there’ll be a running zany and/or poignant plotline about Annie hiding her double life from her family while worrying about placing them in danger. Annie, my friend, perhaps it’s time to find your own apartment. Maybe something on the other side of town?
And in the final moments, we see Annie’s mysterious ex-boyfriend in a car parked on the street outside the house, watching her through the windows.
Good stuff. Pretty slick and fresh and entertaining. The script, by Matt Corman and Christopher Ord, is strong overall--snappy dialogue, crisp action scenes, nice pace, good characters. I’m looking forward to seeing where it goes from here.