Covert Affairs Roars Onto USA!

1st day on the job

As you might expect from executive producer Doug Liman, USA’s new series, Covert Affairs [Tuesdays, 10/9C], is a high-tempo ride that somehow manages to maintain a solid balance between character and action. Premiering after White Collar’s second season opener, Affairs introduces rookie CIA agent Annie Walker [Piper Perabo] – a gung ho trainee who is smart, uniquely attractive, speaks six languages and knows a fair amount of Krav Maga.

The premiere opens with Annie taking a polygraph examination prior to being accepted into the CUA training program. There are some unorthodox questions – pay attention here, you’ll be glad you did – but Annie manages to get through them after one particularly shaky moment. With a month left in her training, she gets called up to the big, so to speak, apparently because of her language skills – she is to contact a Russian walk-in and obtain some intel. It does not go well, but afterward, she reflects on a word she’s never heard before and this leads her to darker, more dangerous situations.

Working with Annie is Augie Anderson [Christopher Gorham], a blind tech wizard [and source of most of the premiere’s humor]. Her boss is Joan Campbell [Kari Matchett], head of the Domestic Protection Division [“What do you know about the Domestic Protection Division? Never heard of it.” “Good. That’s the way we like it.”] – and wife of Arthur Campbell [Peter Gallagher], head of Clandestine Services – and her boss, in turn. The Campbells are in marriage counselling. Life in The Company is interesting…

Unlike a lot of spy shows, Covert Affairs places almost as much emphasis on Annie’s social life as her job. In short order, we meet her sister, Danielle [Anne Dudek, House’s Cutthroat Bitch] and niece. In an inspired bit, Danielle sets Annie up with one of the all-time bad first dates [made worse, because the first date at actually dinner at home, with the family].

Like most USA series, Covert Affairs quickly establishes its format and characters – right down to giving us a closed adventure and the beginnings of an ongoing arc that will thread throughout the season’s episodes.

The premiere, written by series creators Chris Ord and Matt Corman, has a lot of good character stuff and a ton of action – gunplay, car chases, hand-to-hand – and does have a mix of comedy and drama. If there’s a problem here, it’s that the comedy/drama balance needs to be tweaked to fit more closely with USA’s house style. As it is in the first ep, the comedy is not as plentiful as we’re used to on the network – and the drama is considerably darker than even Burn Notice. Like most USA series, Covert Affairs quickly establishes its format and characters – right down to giving us a closed adventure and the beginnings of an ongoing arc that will thread throughout the season’s episodes.

That, though, is a matter of fine tuning. The premiere, directed with both muscularity and panache by Tim Matheson [who owns this particular Tuesday night after the fine season premiere for White Collar], effectively transports its audience into a new, unique world. Matheson’s deft touch with character development and bold action sequences highlight the manner in which detail in the workplace [none of the women carry purses; work stations have burn bags rather than trash receptacles] with the more outlandish action film-style flights of imagination.

The cast is uniformly excellent, but even so, Perabo and Gorham stand out as fresh and intriguing characters that can carry the weight that comes with being the central support of the series. Between the characters and the intelligence community setting, Covert Affairs looks to be capable of holding an audience’s attention for a good, long while.

Note: To learn more about Covert Affairs, check out the show’s website at:

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