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.