Covert Affairs: Communication Breakdown

In what appears to be a deliberate prank, internet access is mysteriously disabled for several minutes all across DC. The CIA believes this is somehow linked to the Datatech conference, a huge annual convention noted for attracting mischievous hackers. The suspected culprit is Natasha Petrovna (Liane Balaban), an avowed anarchist and Russian national with an extensive criminal record for hacking. Natasha also has a colorful romantic history with Auggie. Hey, who doesn’t?

The CIA is desperate to own the source code Natasha used to cause the tech blackout, so Joan sends Auggie into the field to offer her two million dollars for it. Auggie objects at first -- Natasha doesn’t know he’s a Company man, and he’d like to keep it that way -- but Joan insists.

Auggie, with Annie in tow, approaches Natasha at the Datatech conference, where both the FBI and a gaggle of shady Europeans in expensive suits have been trying to sweet-talk and/or bully the source code out of her. Natasha wants nothing to do with any of them, Auggie included. When Auggie presents her with the CIA’s offer, she shoots it down, claiming she’s hacking for political reasons, not for money. In fact, in the true anarchistic spirit, she’s planning on releasing the code to the general public. The CIA, concerned that Natasha’s hack could make government servers vulnerable, is desperate to prevent this.

We get some backstory on Natasha and Auggie’s romance: He met her four years ago in a Laundromat, where they bonded over their mutual love of Snow Crash. They dated for a year, before the CIA kinda forced Auggie to break things off with her. Natasha was arrested for hacking, and Auggie was blinded in Iraq shortly thereafter.

Joan orders Auggie to make another attempt to win Natasha over to their side. When Annie stops by Auggie’s place to pick him up for their assignment, she discovers he’s been shacking up with Liza Hearn (Emmanuelle Vaugier), the journalist who’s been reporting on the information leaked by someone within the CIA. Auggie reassures Annie that he’s not the source of the leak -- in fact, he deliberately started seeing Liza as part of his own informal, non-CIA-sanctioned plot to smoke out the traitor in their midst. This doesn’t sound like his best plan ever. In fact, it seems like this might be an excellent way for him to get his ass fired by Joan, but let’s assume Auggie knows what he’s doing.

Annie gets snippy with Auggie about how he’s exploiting Liza’s affections under false pretenses. Not that her concerns aren’t valid, but it often seems like Annie joined the CIA without really considering what she was getting herself into -- I’m pretty sure “exploiting affections under false pretenses” was explicitly listed in her job description, right underneath “running around in great suits and stiletto heels” and “flirting broadly with smoking-hot Indian-American coworkers.” Annie spends much of the episode growing increasingly disillusioned by Auggie, who is revealing himself to be less cuddly and more devious than she’d originally thought. Well, good for Auggie. Nice to see the show giving him some layers.

In tedious Walker family domestic news, Danielle, who is trying to find another source of income now that her husband has lost his job, decides to start a catering company. Annie strikes a series of zany poses with food in photos for Danielle’s new website. This is maybe not her brightest moment, seeing how she’s an undercover operative who should be keeping a low public profile. Sure enough, when the CIA’s personnel department discovers the photos, they send Jai (hi, Jai!) to tell Annie to take them down. When Annie asks Danielle not to use the photographs, Danielle throws another of her patented hissyfits and accuses Annie of only caring about herself, then flounces out of the room.

Oh, Danielle. You’re so lovable.

Auggie meets with Natasha at an outdoor café to take one more shot at convincing her to sell him the source code, while Annie and Jai lurk across the street, providing half-assed backup support while looking all sexy and concerned. Annie and Jai are very, very good at looking sexy and concerned. An SUV careens wildly down the road and smashes into Auggie’s table. Auggie is unharmed, but in the resulting confusion, Natasha disappears.

Traffic camera photos of the SUV fleeing the scene reveal that the drivers are noted Russian mobsters. Back at DPD headquarters, Joan announces that the CIA is abandoning all attempts to find Natasha. Due to jurisdictional concerns, the whole matter is being passed over to the FBI. Enraged at this, Auggie flounces out of the briefing. This is a swell episode, but between Auggie and Danielle, it could stand to have less flouncing.

Auggie returns to his apartment and finds Natasha waiting for him. She still doesn’t trust the CIA, but she wants Auggie to protect her from the Russian mob -- she’s had hazy ties to them ever since she did some harmless tech work for them back in her student days, and now they want her to hand over the code for the hack. Auggie vows to protect her.

Auggie fails to show up for work the following morning. Whereas most workplaces would choose to deal with an unexplained absence by leaving passive-aggressive voicemails and a maybe stern reprimand in the errant employee’s file, the CIA takes a different approach: Annie and Jai break into Auggie’s apartment and snoop around his personal belongings. They find a receipt for the purchase of a prepaid credit card, which was recently used to buy a pair of Amtrak tickets to Montreal.

Jai and Annie zip up to Canada on a company jet to intercept the train. For a sad change of pace, they keep their customary flirtatious banter to a bare minimum and instead focus on some serious conversation about Auggie’s intentions. Annie believes Auggie is still trying to carry out his mission to get the code from Natasha, while Jai thinks he may have gone rogue.

On board the train, Natasha and Auggie swipe NEXUS cards (used by frequent travelers between the US and Canada to facilitate border crossings) from an unsuspecting Canadian couple. Auggie’s plan is to smuggle Natasha across the border to keep her safe from both the Russian mobsters and the FBI.

To pass the time, Auggie and Natasha whip off their clothes and get busy in their train cabin, which sure beats sitting quietly and reading magazines. Between this and the way he rolled around in the sheets with Liza earlier in the episode, Auggie’s heretofore unseen back tattoo is getting a great deal of exposure.

Their enthusiastic hanky-panky is interrupted by the Russian mobsters, who burst into their cabin and attack them. Auggie (shirtless) and Natasha (pantsless) successfully fight them off. Natasha gives Auggie the source code, then leaps from the train and disappears before FBI agents can board the train and apprehend her.

Jai and Annie, who have spent the entire episode being a handful of script pages behind everyone else, board the train too late to be any use to anyone at all. On the positive side, at least they both look fantastic.

Back at the DPD, Joan sternly tells Auggie never to pull a bunch of crap like that again, which seems like a very reasonable request, actually. And crisis is averted at the Walker household when Annie gets the brilliant idea of having Danielle’s daughters pose for photos for Danielle’s damn website.

Good episode. Could’ve used more Jai, and could’ve used more (any) Arthur, but we were overdue for some more development of Auggie’s character. This fit the bill nicely.

Comments

starrdust411 said…
I think the fact that Annie essentially did nothing this episode is an interesting change of pace. On the one hand, I want to say it's a bad thing that our heroine didn't even get to throw a single punch or jump into action at all, but on the other hand, Annie sitting aside left room for a lot of focus on Auggie. Even with that said, I like that this episode was Auggie centric, but to be honest I don't really care about his past loves. (Why does the CIA take such joy out of making their agents hunt down their exes or use them as bate for their exes? Are we going to get a similar storyline for Jai in the future?) Still it was interesting for Annie (and the audience) to see that Auggie isn't the cute, quirky guy that they made him out to be.

This doesn’t sound like his best plan ever. In fact, it seems like this might be an excellent way for him to get his ass fired by Joan

I agree. I thought the plan was kind of stupid. When did he come up with that anyway? After the lie detector interrogation? (But maybe I'm a little annoyed because when they showed Liza in someone's apartment I was totally ready to see Arthur) But I did find it funny that Auggie is clinging to his "project" because he doesn't want Joan to give it to Jai. (Joan knows that when you need a man to seduce the pants off of someone, you go to Jai)
Morgan Richter said…
to be honest I don't really care about his past loves.

Yeah, that's kind of how I feel about it, too. I thought Natasha was an interesting character, and we were past due to get an episode focusing on Auggie... but I'm not all that interested in his romantic history. Still, I'm glad he got a dose of character development. Much as I like Gorham, I've been fairly neutral on Auggie thus far; even though he did some fairly spectacularly stupid things in the episode, this was the first time I found myself feeling pretty consistently positive toward him. Giving him some added dimensions, above and beyond being the CIA's resident snarky blind guy, certainly helped.

But I did find it funny that Auggie is clinging to his "project" because he doesn't want Joan to give it to Jai.

Heh. Yes. I loved Auggie's assumption that Jai is the CIA's resident go-to operative for seducing people. This bodes well for future plotlines.
levitatethis said…
I've been rather indifferent to Auggie too, but I appreciated this episode fleshing out his character a bit more (and I'm not just talking about him being shirtless so much). I feel like I have a bit more of a grasp on him now...he's more interesting to me now. Like others, I'm not necessarily interested in Auggie's hook-ups, but I liked Natasha quite a bit and wouldn't mind seeing her return way down the road.

I like the banter that continues between Jai and Annie, but I have a question. Are we supposed to read it as major chemistry between them with an eventual hook-up being inevitable? Because I don't read it that way. I see the flirting as rather innocent with no real intention of anything coming of it.

With that said, given that Jai is supposed to get around, when are we going to see him get it on with someone?
Morgan Richter said…
I see the flirting as rather innocent with no real intention of anything coming of it.

Yeah, I think if Jai is really trying to pursue something serious with Annie, he's going about it completely the wrong way -- they're cute and flirty with each other (and I do think Sendhil and Piper have great chemistry in their scenes together), but nothing deeper than that.

With that said, given that Jai is supposed to get around, when are we going to see him get it on with someone?

I've been wondering this myself. What will all those remarks about Jai's exuberantly slutty nature on his character profile on the official Covert Affairs website (that whole "He has dated everyone from Congressional staffers to other CIA workers to a flight attendant..." business), it'd be nice if we actually got some evidence of this. Instead, it sure seems like Auggie is the DPD's resident trollop. Thus far, we've seen Jai flirt tamely with Annie, and that's it.
obscureviews said…
Yeah, I think if Jai is really trying to pursue something serious with Annie, he's going about it completely the wrong way

Ah, no. I mean, to fulfil his mission, it's probably best if he is friends with Annie, if she trusts him and this somehow enables him to spend time with her, get access to her things. Just seducing her for a one-night stand probably would not work well.

But I definitely agee that we need some proof of Jai getting around. I guess it's safest to assume he does sleep around, but isn't telling Annie.
Alternatively, I'm still waving the Ben/Jai flag... He's so excited to get to see Ben again, he isn't even interested in casual sex anymore!

Auggie is a whore...
starrdust411 said…
Are we supposed to read it as major chemistry between them with an eventual hook-up being inevitable?

@levitatethis You probably saw this posted on the Sendhil LJ community, but apparently the CA twitter account asked its followers whether or not they felt Jai and Annie should hook up. That makes me wonder if this is just a general poll (along the same vines of "Do you like the show so far?") or if they're actually testing the waters to see if their audience would actually approve of them as a couple. Personally I agree with everyone here that they don't seem to have any romantic chemistry and are basically just cutely flirting just to be friendly.

I liked Natasha quite a bit and wouldn't mind seeing her return way down the road.

The way she left I can't shake the feeling that she'll show up sometime in the future pregnant with Auggie's child. Maybe that's just the weird way my brain works, but the fact that Auggie randomly mentioned how he wanted children (and she didn't which was a factor for their break up) right before getting busy in the cabin makes me think she's preggers.

Instead, it sure seems like Auggie is the DPD's resident trollop. Thus far, we've seen Jai flirt tamely with Annie, and that's it.

I feel like we should have seen Jai flirting with someone else by now. Even if it doesn't lead to anything, he couldn't just randomly smile at someone in a suggestive way? I mean, in the pilot episode we get a basic break down of how Auggie's such a player.

On the other hand, I think this all might go back to what obscureviews was saying about how Jai is trying to make Annie feel comfortable enough to trust him: he might be laying a bit low with his relationships outside (or inside) the CIA until he's gotten what he needs from Annie.
Morgan Richter said…
I guess it's safest to assume he does sleep around, but isn't telling Annie.

Which would make sense (it certainly wouldn't be in his best interests to give Annie the details of his personal life), but it sure would be nice if viewers could see some evidence of Jai's allegedly slutty nature. I'm optimistic we'll see something of this in due course -- if it was important enough to mention in his official character description, it's important enough to depict it on the show.
Morgan Richter said…
That makes me wonder if this is just a general poll (along the same vines of "Do you like the show so far?") or if they're actually testing the waters to see if their audience would actually approve of them as a couple.

I was sort of wondering that, too. I wouldn't necessarily disapprove of an Annie/Jai relationship, if it was handled right (just like I wouldn't disapprove of an Annie/Auggie relationship under the right circumstances), but right now it doesn't seem like it would be a natural progression of events. As Obscureviews pointed out, rushing into something serious with Annie would be counter-productive to Jai's assignment, and we've really had little indication that a serious romance is something either Jai or Annie would be interested in pursuing. They're cute and fun -- I enjoy watching them running around on assignments together -- but that's about as deep as it needs to get right now.
levitatethis said…
starrdust411 - I heard about the poll and hope it was just a general thing rather than letting fans play "choose your own adventure" --

If you want Jai/Annie to hook up go to page 53.

If you think Jai/Annie should remain friends, go to page 14.


I am amused at the idea of Ben and Jai, however. We need backstory on these two asap. I got more out of them unexpectedly seeing each other and the chase than Annie's love story with him.

I can see Jai not blatantly flirting/hooking up with others as part of his job to make Annie feel comfortable.

Annie's sister is still driving me up the wall. When she got pissy about being asked to take the pictures down? The way that storyline was handled bothered me. All Annie had to say was that for professional reasons her employer asked that the pictures be removed. In response the sister should then be understanding since it's hardly an offensive or outlandish request. I feel like the home drama is always about making something out of nothing in an attempt to make the home part of the show more interesting. I don't think the writers need to do that and I wish they could go about the home portion of the show in another way...right now I find it brings the show to a halt every time we go there.
Morgan Richter said…
I feel like the home drama is always about making something out of nothing in an attempt to make the home part of the show more interesting.

Yes. I think this is exactly what's going on, and I feel like it's doing a disservice to Danielle, who keeps coming across as weirdly self-absorbed and immature in the way she handles conflict with Annie. I don't like seeing adults throwing hissyfits for very little reason, which she's now done twice. I want to like Danielle, but she's been pretty consistently obnoxious.

Jai and Ben... Yeah, I'm very interested in finding out the connection between those two. Like you, levitatethis, I thought their brief encounter/chase scene/Ben pulling the gun on Jai was one of the best parts of the series thus far.
Patrick said…
Enjoying the episodes and the recaps but haven't had much to add to the comments here. Agree that the home life stuff is not working, although I see what they are attempting. They are taking Annie's development slowly - rather than having her as a top agent after only a few episodes.

One thing did amuse me in the episode. When Jai and Annie boarded the train at the end - and heard the shot - it seemed to take them FOREVER to run through the train. Auggie managed to win the fight - and have time to catch his breath - and they still didn't arrive!

A show with potential, but could still go either way.
Morgan Richter said…
One thing did amuse me in the episode. When Jai and Annie boarded the train at the end - and heard the shot - it seemed to take them FOREVER to run through the train.

Heh, yeah, it was kind of odd how Jai and Annie arrived on the train... and then ended up being of no help to Auggie and his girlfriend. I'm not really sure how well Auggie's fight scene worked out, actually. The action was hard to follow (it didn't help that the lights were out, of course), and it seemed to wrap up pretty quickly and anticlimactically. I love watching well-choreographed hand-to-hand combat, or well-choreographed foot-chase scenes (I have a zero-tolerance rule for car-chase scenes, though), but this one didn't do much for me. The action sequences on this show are pretty rare, so I wish they'd take a little more time and care with them. I watched some behind-the-scenes promo recently where Doug Liman talked about how every episode is like an encapsulated spy movie with film-quality action sequences. I see where he's going with that, and that'd be awfully nice, but it's not there yet.

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