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TV Review: Covert Affairs – “World Leader Pretend”

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“World Leader Pretend” is the summer finale of USA’s Covert Affairs. As Annie (Piper Perabo) helps Chinese citizen Shen Yue (Benedict Wong, Moon) defect, he is poisoned. Annie searches for who is responsible, even as Shen Yue slowly dies. The emotional impact of what happens to her asset spurs Annie to tell her sister, Danielle (Anne Dudek), about her real job. Danielle doesn’t take it well. Meanwhile, Jai (Sendhil Ramamurthy) grows increasingly unhappy with his position in the agency, but Joan’s (Kari Matchett) solution isn’t to his liking, either.

It seems that the CIA isn’t sure what to do with Jai. He is an extremely talented agent and son of a high ranking official, but they bounce him around, and can’t decide where he will be most useful. He isn’t enjoying working under Joan, but promoting him into the Phoenix office, as he is told will happen in “World Leader Pretend,” doesn’t get him excited either. Jai’s issues seem to mirror Covert Affairs‘s, as they don’t quite know how to use Ramamurthy. The former Heroes star has mostly been confined to moping about how unhappy he is this season. Not exactly thrilling drama. Either the writers are planning some great development for him, and this meandering approach is a tactic, or he is poised to exit the series, which would be a shame. Either way, viewers will have to wait until next season (or half season) to find out.

More gratifying is Joan and Arthur’s (Peter Gallagher) renewed relationship. While they fought for much of season one, Arthur now appears to have Joan’s back completely. Not only that, he makes efforts, such as cooking her a romantic dinner and writing down his feelings, as a way of apologizing in a recent episode when he thinks he might have stepped on her toes. He is putting effort into showing her how much he cares, and she welcomes the positive attention. As interesting as their tumultuous pairing might be, it is far better to see the strength of the power couple when they are united.

It is time to bring Danielle into the know, and while it takes a sad circumstance to convince Annie to do so, it’s something she is considering already, at least partially because of a friend’s advice. Auggie’s (Christopher Gorham) support of the choice is invaluable. While Covert Affairs hesitates to start up anything romantic between Annie and Auggie, their deep level of concern for each other, especially on his end, indicates there may be something there. It is certainly worth exploring. How many more seasons will fans have to wait before this issue is raised on screen?

“World Leader Pretend” marks a big turning point for Covert Affairs. Thus far, Danielle is on the outside of everything. Now, the information she gets is limited, but at least she doesn’t still believe the lie about Annie working for a museum. It’s not perfect, but it’s a start. It’s time to wait for the mission that Danielle will surely get involved in.

It’s inevitable that Covert Affairs will be compared with Alias, which is the gold standard of a great spy show. For now, Covert Affairs is still lagging. Bringing in a civilian is an Alias-esque plot turn. Unfortunately, CA is still largely a spy procedural, lacking the depth that serials carry. USA occasionally flirts with serial elements, and Covert Affairs would be wise to include more of them.

Is anyone else amused that the actor playing the Chinese traitor, in the eyes of his home country, in “World Leader Pretend”  is named Benedict?

Covert Affairs will return to USA soon.

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About JeromeWetzelTV

Jerome writes TV reviews for BlogCritics.org and Seat42F.com, as well as fiction. He is a frequent guest on two podcasts, Let's Talk TV with Barbara Barnett and The Good, the Bad, & the Geeky. All of his work can be found on his website, jeromewetzel.com
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