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Covert Affairs - Spit on a Stranger - Review

I really enjoyed this episode and felt it was actually a huge relief in some ways, after the somewhat frustrating, albeit entertaining, installment of Covert Affairs last week.  I'm not thrilled that  McQuaid is still a suspect in the Chicago attack, but the tense, emotionally fraught undercover op Annie ran in this week's episode was compelling indeed. Moreover, we saw more layers peel back on characters from Ryan to Caitlyn and even Annie herself, who was increasingly conflicted on whether to trust her instincts or her clues about  McQuaid, with fascinating results.

Annie tried to play it cool with Ryan after he came back inside from talking to Roger's fake neighbor, but there was a vulnerable aspect even to her "playing-along" attempt that revealed how emotionally confused she is about this situation.  As for Ryan himself, he's either innocent or the world's most convincing liar.  From his exceptionally sincere-seeming feelings for Annie to his pleas to her at the end of the hour,  McQuaid still doesn't seem like a bad guy.  As for Annie, she decided to take advantage of her problems, and subsequent suspension, from the CIA to tell Joan she was quitting the agency.  Joan could immediately tell that Annie was up to something, which was awesome, and of course Annie's departure was all in aid of her taking a job with  McQuaid to continue digging through his business.   McQuaid gave Annie a warm welcome in front of much of his staff, which was incredibly sweet, unless he's actually a brutal criminal (noo!).  Caitlyn was naturally miffed at Annie's new placement and suspicious about what she was up to.  And surprisingly, Caitlyn's character development was one of the most intriguing aspects of the episode.  Perrey Reeves is doing a terrific job with a previously very basic, limited character who is now getting a bit more nuanced.

While Joan voiced her concern about Annie being up to something (as she always is!) to Arthur, he wasn't so sure Annie might not have wanted to work at  McQuaid's company just to stay in the field.  But Annie began showing her hand once she asked Arthur for help investigating  McQuaid using his higher security clearance, and later read him into her op once Auggie helped her gain access to  McQuaid's personal files.  After Annie and Auggie learned about a secret file on former McQuaid employees called "Flint," (including the name Borz!), Ryan looked even more guilty.  Yet, unexpectedly, Ryan decided to confess about Flint to Annie soon after, claiming that keeping secrets from one another would only prevent him and Annie from growing closer, which was painfully ironic.  According to Ryan, Flint is a black ops division tasked with carrying out missions for the US government.  It all sounded reasonable enough, and Arthur even checked into it with seeming confirmation.  But once Arthur provided Annie with a physical address associated with Flint, the episode took a turn for the nerve-wracking.
From the moment Annie walked into that building, it was obvious that someone else would be there.  As she traipsed down a dark stairway (in her treacherously high red heels, which is just what anyone would rock in that situation), Annie was alerted to the presence of Caitlyn, who had followed her there to figure out what kind of underhanded prying Annie was up to.  Hmm.  It did seem as though Caitlyn's motives were genuine in this segment, and after she and Annie got into a fight with two mysterious thugs hidden in the basement, it later became clear that violent lackeys were the least of their problems.  After calling Arthur to the scene, the three of them discovered that the basement room had been used for a practice run on a planned bombing, and Annie noticed, in a stomach-sinking moment, that the building plan etched on the floor was the Chicago facility.  As damning as this seems, especially with Caitlyn claiming that  McQuaid always does a practice run-through when planning ops, it does seem almost too convenient that all that evidence would just be sitting there.  If  McQuaid was really a brilliant liar and smooth criminal, would he seriously leave this building outline and bombing evidence just lying around in his own facility?  Flint may be secret, but it wasn't that hard to find.

After Annie took this new information to the CIA, the agency was quick to begin closing in on Ryan.  Meanwhile, after threatening to open an investigation into Auggie's alteration of Annie's medical records, Calder backed down...was it because of Joan's well-placed comment that he'd be sure to "do the right thing" about Auggie (not least of all because Calder's own secrets make him hypocritical in the situation), or because Calder genuinely believes that Annie and Auggie are too valuable to lose?  I think the latter is true, although Calder did seem mortified by Joan's words, and hilariously so.  Calder is a strange mixture of loyal and aggressively type A, a character I'd like to see come into his own a little more.  That's why I loved the scene with Calder telling off his higher-up, smugly announcing his refusal to pursue the investigation into Auggie.  Awesomeness.
If there's one topic in the world that Annie seems to have a hard time lying about, especially to Auggie, it's Ryan.  Repeatedly, Annie kept denying to Auggie that she was emotionally compromised, with the deception of her words all too apparent in her face and voice.  By the end of the episode though, once the manhunt for Ryan began, Auggie rescinded his suspicions and apologized for thinking Annie was too involved with Ryan to carry out her mission.  Well, she was tough and stuck to her agenda...up until a certain point.  

That turning point came near the end of the hour, when Ryan (looking unfairly attractive, I might add) showed up at Annie's place to tell her that someone was trying to frame him for Chicago.  Once he was through the door, Annie dropped her facade of innocent concern and trained her gun on him.  However,  McQuaid flipped the script a bit by asking Annie if she truly believes he is capable of an "atrocity" like the bombing of the CIA facility.  He reminded her that the moments they had shared together since meeting were real.  And then he capped it all off by telling Annie to trust her notoriously sharp instincts - and shoot him or allow him to go.  Wavering, finally caving to her doubt that Ryan could truly be a terrorist, Annie lowered his weapon and allowed him to leave.  Then later, at the bar, she lied to Auggie about having seen McQuaid.

I admit that, like a number of other viewers, I was annoyed by this plotline about McQuaid possibly being evil when it first came to light.  However, this episode pleasantly surprised me by using the plotline to explore the complicated relationship between Annie and Ryan, as well as questions of trust among almost all of the other characters in a tightly paced, irresistibly suspenseful hour.  If Covert Affairs can keep up this pace and level of complexity, Season 5 will go on break after next week on quite a high note.  However, if Ryan is revealed to be a villain, I'll be really disappointed!  Time will tell.

Don't forget to catch an all new episode of Covert Affairs next Tuesday at 10/9c on USA!  And I would love to hear what you thought of this episode.  Let me know in the comments!

About the Author - Virginia Mae Fontana
Virginia is happy to be reviewing The Vampire Diaries, Nashville, Beauty and the Beast, Witches of East End, Covert Affairs, and Continuum for Spoiler TV. She enjoys obsessing over films and pop music - in addition to tv shows, of course! You can find her blog, SugarRushed, at and her Twitter handle is @SugarRushedBlog
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