Covert Affairs: Walter's Walk

We open with exciting news from the CIA’s Domestic Protection Division -- they’re moving into new offices! Spies: they’re just like us -- they have to schlep boxes filled with their personal crap to their new cubicles, too. Anyway, I guess they upgraded the DPD HQ set since shooting the pilot, because here we are, in a shiny new facility, which looks not terribly dissimilar to the shiny old facility. Still, everyone seems pretty happy about this development.

Joan gives newbie Annie the usual rookie assignment: debriefing the various civilians who walk into the CIA from off the street claiming to have valuable intel. Cue the usual montage of babbling crazies. Discussion topic: Can anyone name a montage -- of bad auditions, bad job interviews, bad blind dates, anything -- from any film or television show that was genuinely funny? It’s the nature of wacky montages to fall flat, and this one is sadly no exception.

One of the walk-ins is a woman named Helen, who claims her brainy young son Walter has been monitoring an old numbers station on short-wave radio. Walter decoded one of the messages transmitted by the station, which led him to stake out a local post office box. Walter saw a man removing an envelope from the box; unfortunately, the man also spotted him, and now Walter is scared for his life. Annie makes a note of the bandwidth for the numbers station and promises to look into it.

Oooh, there’s a new opening credits sequence! Kind of artsy -- color-blocked and silhouetted moving images. Not quite sure what I think about it yet. I’ll have to watch it a few more times before weighing in. Peter Gallagher, by the way, is not a member of the main cast -- he’s listed as a “Special Guest Star.” I’m pretty pro-Gallagher (the eyebrows alone are worth their weight in gold), so I’m hoping it’ll be a situation like Heather Locklear on Melrose Place, where she was in every damn episode without ever officially belonging to the regular cast.

Aaaand we get our first appearance from new cast member Sendhil Ramamurthy, who plays sexy and mysterious agent Jai Wilcox, newly assigned to the DPD. For those who’ve been mentally mispronouncing his name, it’s neither Jai as in “Jai Ho,” the insanely catchy theme song from Slumdog Millionare, nor Jai as in jai alai, the insanely dangerous Basque ball sport. It’s pronounced “jay,” as in “naked as a jaybird,” which Ramamurthy is regrettably not. Maybe next episode.

There’s some not-terribly-subtle pre-existing tension between Jai and Auggie (more on Auggie’s end than on Jai’s, actually). This will probably be explained away in a later episode, but for the moment, I’m going to go ahead and assume this is because Jai kept dodging Auggie’s calls following that one memorable night during that unexpectedly erotic undercover mission in Kuala Lumpur all those years ago. Look, the official Covert Affairs website describes Jai’s character thusly: He has dated everyone from Congressional staffers to other CIA workers to a flight attendant he met while flying to a buddy's bachelor party in Reykjavik. Surely “everyone” also encompasses a cute blind technical operative from the DPD. In any case, that’s my story, and until it’s explicitly refuted, I’m sticking with it.

We get a chunk of exposition about Jai: He’s the son of the legendary former head of the Clandestine Services department, he’s something of a legend himself, and he’s the new special liaison between Joan’s and Arthur’s departments. Joan does not seem entirely thrilled about this development.

(Wow. Sendhil Ramamurthy is really, really pretty. Nice to have that bone structure back on my television screen on a weekly basis. Unlike Heroes, where all the characters seemed weirdly oblivious to Mohinder’s phenomenal beauty, his looks are not lost on the Covert Affairs gang: Even the blind guy remarks on his hotness.)

Auggie tunes into the old numbers station to see if Walter’s tip pans out. He overhears a woman reciting a string of numbers. Hey, I saw this episode! It turns out she’s this crazy French lady who’s been trapped on this freaky island for the past seventeen years! Don’t investigate those numbers too closely, Auggie; they’ll bring you nothing but pain. Anyway, Auggie determines the numbers station is indeed broadcasting active spy transmissions. He thinks he can decode the messages, but he needs the tapes that are still in Walter’s possession.

Helen calls Annie and says she and Walter have been followed ever since leaving CIA headquarters, then disconnects the call.

Joan holds a briefing: The messages provide the locations for dead drops for still-active IRA members, who might be planning an attack on US soil. (It falls to Jai to point out that this whole IRA plotline seems very 1987.) The CIA believes the intended recipient of the messages is one Michael Cahill, a former IRA head honcho who moved to the United States after being released from prison following a lengthy sentence for terrorist activities.

The CIA is working in conjunction with MI-6 on this. Annie has a rendezvous with a suave British agent, James Elliott (Steven Brand). Annie meets Elliott in a crowded market and exchanges some incredibly strained and suspicious coded spy banter about jars of honey. Having established their bona fides, Annie and James team up, compare high-tech spy devices, and break into Helen’s apartment to search for the tapes.

While they’re snooping around, a strange man busts open the front door and attacks Annie. Fisticuffs ensue. Well, finally! We’re twenty-four minutes into this episode, and this is the first action scene! The stranger gets the upper hand, but Elliott shoots him in the head.

Back at Langley, Joan bursts into Arthur’s office and interrupts his important meeting with representatives from the Finnish intelligence agency to confront him about transferring Jai to her division without her knowledge. Joan is ostensibly peeved about her husband going over her head with this, but she’s more likely concerned about the very real danger of Jai turning her seasoned operatives into a gaggle of pheromone-addled ninnies. And justly so. Conrad, by the way, is dispensed with in a vague reference to him being “gone.” Transferred to another department? Killed in the line of duty? We’ll probably never know, so I’m going to assume he quit the CIA to become a racecar driver in Europe, a la Farrah Fawcett’s character on Charlie’s Angels. It seems like the most logical alternative.

In other Joan-and-Arthur news, we discover Joan originally started seeing Arthur when he was married to someone else. So, y’know, her suspicions that Arthur is having an affair might not be completely unfounded.

And there’s a big tedious scene between Annie and her sister Danielle. Danielle and her husband are making a new will and want to appoint Annie guardian of their two daughters. Thinking of her dangerous job, Annie turns Danielle down. Danielle throws an epic hissyfit and flounces off. I’ve had quite enough of Danielle already, thank you. This scene just sucked up a couple of valuable minutes that could have been better spent examining the sexual tension between Auggie and Jai in greater detail

In a sequence sponsored heavily by Adidas, judging by the visible logos on everyone’s exercise togs, Annie and Auggie grapple with each other and roll around on the mats in the CIA’s fitness center. Ah, sweaty attractive people getting horizontal. Yeah, I like this show.

The CIA peacefully apprehend Michael Cahill when he arrives in DC. When Joan interrogates him, Cahill claims he has no more ties to his violent past.

Annie tracks Helen and Walter to a rental cabin in the woods, where they’ve been hiding from miscreants. Walter turns over the tapes to Annie, who plays them for Auggie back at Langley. While Auggie decodes the messages, Annie discovers James Elliott is a double agent working for the IRA, who has placed a tracking device on her phone and thus knows where Helen and Walter are hiding.

Elliott and his henchmen converge on the cabin. Annie hustles Helen and Walter to safety, then unplugs the gas pipe and sparks an electric fire, blowing the cabin and the henchmen to smithereens. Dangerous woman, that Annie Walker. Annie gets into a down-and-dirty scuffle with Elliott. Using the tips on fighting dirty that she picked up from Auggie in the gym, she blasts Elliott with pepper spray, bashes him over the head with a rock, and emerges triumphant.

Wrap-up: Auggie decodes Walter’s tapes, which concern a planned bombing outside a British bank in DC. Cahill was innocent all along; Elliott was setting him up to take the fall. Jai meets secretly with Arthur, who instructs him to get close to Annie, presumably in a between-the-sheets way, and find out all he can about her. And Annie finally agrees to be named the potential guardian of snitty Danielle’s kids.

A perfectly decent episode. Not as action-packed as the premiere, and with the exception of the business with the numbers station, there wasn’t much cool spy stuff. Still, they’re setting up some interesting ideas that might be paid off later, such as the presence of sex bomb Jai setting off potential shock waves in Joan’s department. We’ll see where it goes.


Meaghan said…
Argh, typos!!

Mabes here! In San Diego and after traveling for 24 hours straight to get here for Comic Con, I fell asleep and missed the episode :( But thank you so much for writing this up, because I was dying to know what happened!!! I so want Jai and Auggie to get together...come on USA, don't be afraid!!
Morgan Richter said…
Hi, Mabes! I hope you're having a great time at Comic Con -- wish I was there, too. Don't feel too badly about missing the episode -- you'll have plenty of opportunities to catch it online, and while it was cute (and great to see Sendhil back on our screens), it wasn't can't-miss material. Still, my hopes are high for the rest of the season.
Patrick said…
I liked the opening credits - thought very stylish.

As for the plot...

Ok, I don't mean to get too defensive here, but the IRA army council has disbanded, and even then it would NEVER have attempted a terrorist attack on US soil as it dependend too much on the support of Irish-Americans.

The only time it ever happened was in 'Patriot Games', the book was published in 1987 so Jai's line was very clever.
Patrick said…
The sister-in-law was very annoying.

I don't think it is selfish of someone to be reluctant about becoming guardian of their sister's children in the event of something happening. Since when was that an obligation? If Annie was a man she would never have been expected to step in.

Jai seems like he could be an interesting character - not obnoxious, but a bit edgy, and looks like he could be about to embark on a relationship with Annie.
Morgan Richter said…
Patrick, I was hoping you'd weigh in on the IRA business. It seemed highly improbable, especially in 2010, but most of my IRA knowledge comes from, like, reruns of Spooks, so I might not have the full picture.

I have no patience for Danielle. Her tantrum over Annie's unwillingness to agree to be named guardian was ridiculous and weirdly spiteful. I thought it was reasonable for Annie to refuse -- secret spy job or no secret spy job, being a guardian is an enormous responsibility.

I liked Jai, what little we saw of him. I like how he was unfazed (and maybe a little amused) by Auggie's obvious hostility toward him, I like how he seems cocky without being obnoxious, and I, uh, like his bone structure. A lot. I think he adds an interesting dynamic to the cast. Also, Piper Perabo has mentioned in interviews how Jai will be doing some parkour in an upcoming episode, which is awesome. Sendhil + parkour = two of my very favorite things to watch.
Patrick said…
It was pretty misleading (and I think a little irresponsible). The Belfast Agreement was 1998 - that's 12 years ago - so it is a bit late in the day for storylines about IRA attacks on the USA (which, to repeat, would be as likely as Bin Laden bombing Mecca).

The USA did so much to help bring peace to Northern Ireland and storylines like this are just silly.

Meanwhile I'm going to work on my tv show about an Irish intelligence agency that every week deals with threats from groups such as the NKVD, and the Weathermen.

All my agents will have iPhones. There really isn't a security requirement that means your phone must be 5 years old - my show has a decent budget.
Patrick said…
My show stars Hayden Panetierre as a young intelligence agent, and Skulky the Wonder Turtle as her brilliant tech support. Whenever Hayden gets into real trouble she is rescued by a mysterious older agent who tells her that he's just doing it to protect her, leading to Hayden complaining that she doesn't need to be protected.

This never gets tedious.
Patrick said…
Adam Garcia plays the complicated love interest.

I like the way Covert Affairs corrected two of the weaknesses of the pilot - one was that Annie learned that the hand-to-hand fighting techniques of the Farm needed revision, and the other was that the CIA can now pull strings with law enforcement types. The game-playing with the FBI in the pilot was just silly.
Morgan Richter said…
Meanwhile I'm going to work on my tv show about an Irish intelligence agency that every week deals with threats from groups such as the NKVD, and the Weathermen.

Excellent idea! Throw the Stasi in there, and you've got a show.

All my agents will have iPhones. There really isn't a security requirement that means your phone must be 5 years old - my show has a decent budget.

Heh. Yeah, I was sort of wondering what earthly point it served to have the CIA so thoroughly vet all new technology before issuing it to agents. If we're talking, say, invisible jets or hydrogen bombs that fit inside ballpoint pens, sure, it's probably a good idea to take a lot of time testing them out before using them in the field. But phones? Really? We're going to jump through all those hoops just for phones?

For your show, Patrick, make sure you give all your characters elaborate backstories that change completely from episode to episode, depending upon the needs of your plot of the moment. If you've got a good villain, make him turn heroic with no explanation, while simultaneously making your heroic characters act inexplicably dickish. Viewers love that. Just remember: If you mess up a character too badly, you can always kill that character off and bring the same actor back as a fresh new character. Problem solved!
Patrick said…
I'd love a scene where the tech people explain to Auggie the bit about phone security and he asks what would happen if someone just stuck a tracking device onto the back of it...

You'd notice that on an iPhone...
obscureviews said…
Excellent idea! Throw the Stasi in there, and you've got a show.

I'd take that over Nazi scientists, any day... and at least Stasi agents can realistically be alive today. Alive and under 80.


I liked the episode. I liked how Annie went all MacGyver on that poor cabin. She used everything that she had available as a weapon, I always find these things so inspiring. More so than generic shoot-outs.

I find myself enjoying the Joan/Arthur stuff and the vague but interesting references to Annie's ex. It is cool that Jai is connected to that side of the CIA, also as a contrast to Auggie, who seems primarily on Annie's side and equally clueless about the reason why she was breught in. Or did I miss this?
I'm curious to see more of their dynamic. The three of them.
Morgan Richter said…
Yeah, if Auggie has any knowledge (or even suspicions) of the real reasons why Annie was brought into the CIA, we haven't seen it. I think the whole Annie/Auggie/Jai dynamic has the potential to be really interesting (of course, it also has the potential to become a dreary love triangle, but I have faith that the show will avoid that), what with Auggie and Jai possibly working at cross purposes. Similarly, Joan and Arthur's plotline could go terribly wrong, if it bogs down in the drama of their struggling marriage, but it doesn't seem like this will happen -- they're both strong, intriguing characters, and I'm interested in where it will go.

I liked Annie's rough-and-tumble fight scene with Elliott, and I liked her blowing up the cabin with the gas pipe. She's quick-thinking and resourceful, which makes her fun to watch. The action sequences are good on this show -- can't wait to see what happens when they get Jai out in the field, too.
Patrick said…
the title of the episode comes from a Led Zeppelin song from 1972. Presumambly the writer is a fan of the band as the title had nothing to do with the episode!
Morgan Richter said…
Good catch, Patrick. I've heard a report that other upcoming episodes will be named after Zeppelin songs, which does seem to be the case -- next week's ep is titled "Southbound Suarez."
Lou said…
Ahh cool stuff. I figured the episode title was related to the kid Walter's walk-in to the CIA (well I suppose it was his mom's, strictly). I like that it has more depth.

Great recap Morgan. I very much enjoyed seeing Mr Cheekbones. It will be great to see him more involved in future storylines. It's just nice to see his prettiness back on the small screen really. Twas much missed.
Morgan Richter said…
It's lovely having Mr. Cheekbones back, Lou, especially after his vanishing act during that shoddy final season of Heroes. He's just so pretty.
Patrick said…
thought title was a bit odd so Googled it. wouldn't have known it otherwise.

also did a range of searches to see what phones are standard CIA-issue, but no luck.
Patrick said…
There is a very funny montage of bad interviews in 'Trainspotting' if I recall rightly.
Ingrid Richter said…
Good one, Patrick! In a smiliar vein, Shallow Grave had a great "interviewing flatmates" montage...
Morgan Richter said…
Very true, Patrick and Ingrid. I should amend my statement to specify montages not in films directed by Danny Boyle.

Actually, I'm sure there are plenty of other, equally valid examples of genuinely funny/witty montages out there. It just seems like I've seen a lot lately that, like this one, have been used as somewhat sloppy shorthand for comedy.
Noaf said…
Episode 4 - more Zeppelin - In The Light.
Morgan Richter said…
Good catch, Noaf -- thanks!

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