A chemistry teacher named Anton Sabine gets kidnapped by armed thugs in Hong Kong. Shortly thereafter, Ben Mercer saunters up to the front gates of Langley, introduces himself as a former CIA operative, and surrenders, claiming he wants to come in from the cold.
Annie and Joan observe Ben’s interrogation. Ben confirms that he left the CIA two years ago during a mission in Sri Lanka, in which Jai was his handler. Ben’s assignment was to ingratiate himself to a dangerous arms dealer named Felix Artigas. Ben had planned to accomplish this by handing Anton Sabine over to Artigas for the purposes of making chemical weapons. After he fell in love with Annie, Ben was suddenly infused with a more noble spirit and decided he couldn’t ruin Sabine’s life in that manner. Instead, he went rogue and smuggled Sabine to Hong Kong.
Annie tries to grill Jai about his past with Ben. Jai claims he’d love to tell her everything, but the information is classified. (Annie grouses, “The problem with this job is that excuses like that are valid.”) I like how this scene plays out: Annie is enormously (and justly) ticked at Jai for withholding information from her, but she clearly doesn’t view it as a huge personal betrayal: She accepts that keeping secrets from each other is a necessary evil of their job. I’d been faintly worried all season that the Jai-Annie relationship would culminate in a huge, melodramatic scene filled with accusations of betrayal and preying on emotions; the show was smart to avoid this.
Ben talks with Arthur: He claims he’s been eliminating security threats -- like the arms dealer Hasaan Waleed back in the fifth episode -- on his own initiative since leaving the CIA. Now, however, he needs the Agency’s help in rescuing Sabine, who has been captured by Artigas’s goons and taken to Sri Lanka to develop chemical weapons against his will.
Ben’s story checks out, so Arthur decides to send Ben to Colombo, with Annie as his handler. Joan, Jai and Auggie are all horrified at the possible danger to Annie. Auggie equips Annie with a secret GPS tracker, which she places on the braided shell bracelet Ben gave her.
Meanwhile, the CIA’s General Counsel is concerned about an upcoming expose on Arthur that Liza Hearn is threatening to publish. Arthur sends Auggie to sweet-talk Liza into delaying submission of her article for three days to give Arthur time to assemble a proper defense. Auggie somehow manages to persuade Liza to go along with this, which seems journalistically unsound. Liza might be a bit of a softie at heart.
The General Counsel meets secretly with Joan and informs her that Arthur might be forced out of his job if the unflattering article is published. If that happens, Joan will be approached as his replacement, which would make her the highest-ranking woman in the history of the CIA. Well-deserved, too; Joan is a force of unstoppable awesomeness.
Jai visits his evil dad at the lavish Wilcox estate, where they have another of their customary tense, barbed father-son chats. Henry advises Jai to distance himself professionally from Arthur before Arthur gets dragged down in disgrace. Jai asks if Ben was secretly working for Henry at the same time he was supposed to be working with Jai; Henry refuses to give him a direct answer, but it’s clearly the truth.
In Colombo, Ben and Annie meet with one of Ben’s former assets, a Tamil warlord known as Lone Star who has had past dealings with Artigas. Ben and Annie are taken to a temple to see Lone Star, who is in the guise of a Buddhist monk. (In a bit of grotesque product placement, Ben brings him a can of Pringles, plus fifty grand, in exchange for information.) Of Annie, Lone Star says to Ben, “She’s much prettier than your last handler.” This is a polite lie. Annie is a total knockout, but she’s not prettier than Jai. No one is prettier than Jai.
Lone Star confirms that Artigas is forcing Sabine to weaponize sarin gas. Before he can elaborate on this, Lone Star keels over and dies, poisoned by his tea. Armed men converge on the temple; Ben and Annie hop on a convenient nearby motorcycle and zip off to safety.
They end up on the deserted beach where they fell in love two years ago. They sexily eat mangoes and roll around in bed together, and seriously, no matter how many times the show tries to tell me that Annie and Ben’s relationship is magical and special, I’m not buying it. Romantically, these two are kind of a dud couple.
In the morning, Jai arrives on the beach and interrupts their tryst: Ben and Annie missed a scheduled check-in, so Auggie provided Jai with Annie’s GPS coordinates. Jai and Ben snipe at each other awesomely for a while. When Ben points out that Jai’s presence in Sri Lanka hasn’t been sanctioned by the CIA, Jai replies, “Wow, you of all people? Really?” in the most blistering possible way. Ben and Annie together are a snooze, but Ben and Jai? They’re a barrel of drunken monkeys, and already this kinda-dull Sri Lankan jaunt has perked up enormously.
Liza meets with Auggie once again to return some items of clothing he left in her apartment. Auggie cautions Liza to be careful of her mysterious high-placed CIA source. Liza leaves Auggie and gets into a car with… Henry Wilcox! So Henry is the leak. Not a huge surprise -- the suspect list was pretty short, after all, and he’s the closest thing to a clear-cut regular villain that this show has -- but it’s still a fun twist. Best of all, it pretty much guarantees Henry will be around next season, too. Henry tells Liza, “Our next chat may get you that Pulitzer.”
Joan spills the news to Arthur that she’s his likely replacement. In a moment of mutual awesomeness, Arthur urges her to take the job and she flatly refuses, claiming the CIA is better off with both of them in place. She vows to help Arthur fight to retain his position.
Ben ditches Jai and Annie and takes off on his own. However, since Ben and Annie accidentally swapped bracelets after shagging, Auggie traces Ben’s GPS coordinates to a tall building owned by Artigas. As Ben has apparently gone rogue again, Arthur gives Jai permission to kill Ben, if necessary.
Annie and Jai sneak into the building, where they slink around in shadows and scamper up lots of stairs and look extremely cute together; after this episode, I hope some enterprising toy marketer comes out with a line of official Covert Affairs action figures. They spot Ben with Artigas, offering to smuggle Sabine to Indonesia. Annie prevents Jai from shooting Ben; Ben opens fire on Artigas, and a big, messy firefight ensues, with Annie and Jai and Ben all working together to get Sabine up to the rooftop so they can be lifted to safety by helicopter. Ben attacks Artigas with a lead pipe, Annie whacks one bad guy upside the head, Jai tosses another bad guy down an elevator shaft, and Annie throws Artigas off the side of the building before he can kill Ben. Everyone makes it to the roof and scurries for the helicopter… but Ben gets shot twice in the chest. Annie drags Ben onto the chopper and clutches him as they fly away.
Okay! Fun finale, and things are nicely set up for the next season. Ben looks like a goner, but there’s always a chance he’ll pull through, if the show decides to keep his character around for future episodes. There were a few bumps along the way, but that was a pretty strong first season overall; here’s hoping season two builds on the momentum.