After tonight, James Bond's got nothing on Annie Walker.
In what may just be the best episode of the series to date, "Bang and Blame" brought everything to the table and then some. A true undercover mission! Intrigue! Romance! Action! Humor! Jai with a pulse! Shirtless Auggie! GUNS!
Unlike last week's rather weak intro leading into the opening credits, Annie's meeting with Joan and Auggie outside the hospital to which they had somehow tracked her was the perfect prelude to the excitement that would come later. Once Annie uttered the words "I'm in" and the theme song started, I was right there on the edge of my seat alongside her.
For the first time since the series began, Annie Walker felt like a real spy.
The best thing about her mission this time out - a real mission, not some overseas babysitting expedition - was that the stakes involved were personal. Failure to use her instincts and carefully honed skills with perfect precision would have resulted in Annie being burned, her future at the CIA lost forever. That provided the basis for a story with some teeth.
Even more fitting was that Annie was a cadet not so long ago herself and the idea of someone tearing the rug out from under these young people who were just starting to forge a life for themselves hit a little close to home, which made the mission all the more meaningful to her.
It also gave us a chance to see Annie in a place she once excelled. Since her time with the DPD, she's fared well enough, but there's always still a hint of reservation in her step. At The Farm, though, she was the top gun in her class, and going back there to solve a mystery on her turf showcased a more confident, capable Annie and underscored why she earned her early position alongside Joan and Auggie.
For as much as I've ragged on Annie's lack of firepower, I couldn't have been more pleased when she showed up the other cadets by opting for the map instead of taking her pick from the displayed arsenal. As Gaskin indicated, in true clandestine operations, spies rely more on their soft skills to accomplish the mission, something at which Annie has proven herself more than adept. Physical confrontation, whether by firearms or fisticuffs, she can handle, but she uses it only as a means of last resort.
The resolution to the mystery of the leak probably wasn't as strong as it could have been, what with the feeble explanation of Gaskin's late night trips (babies, really?) and the loose reasoning for Corey's betrayal, but everything else worked so well, quibbling over minor details just doesn't seem right - especially when it delivered an airplane fight between Annie and Corey that carried over into a thrilling parajumping freefall.
It's impossible not to be fascinated by the Annie and Auggie dynamic. These two, if not destined to be together romantically, are developing a symbiotic relationship on some level, learning to need and rely on each other more and more, which I stated last week is something this show has lacked. It's just icing on the cake that this growing central relationship is portrayed so deftly by such charming and polarizing actors as Perabo and Gorham, who have an immeasurable chemistry.
During the cocktail party exercise, Auggie's coded relay of instructions to Annie on how to get to Gaskins office was so slick, it felt like it was ripped straight out of the pages of a spy novel. How Auggie managed to save Annie's cover was also amusing, as it seems someone there on the Affairs set just can't get enough of Chris Gorham without a shirt. No doubt his many female fans are likewise appreciative.
Jai even had a moment of welcome gravity, albeit brief, where he seemed to be leveling some type of subtle threat against Arthur through Joan. It's beginning to feel like the apple doesn't fall as far from the tree as one might have hoped where Jai is concerned. It will be interesting to see where Jai's story takes him once it begins to kick into full gear.
Getting back to Arthur's political woes, which as of yet hasn't yielded too much new information, seems to have put him in the doghouse. Taking the same advice from the the ex-wife that you already rejected from the current Mrs. Campbell doesn't exactly seem like a move the head of a prime division of the Central Intelligence Agency should make. It might not get Arthur killed, but it sure may land him back on the couch for a while.
It seems Annie has a new potential love interest in Dr. Weiss, and I already like him more than Ben. He has a great sense of humor, he's good with kids and he's a big fan of having dessert with dinner. The one down side? The doctor's without borders thing means he, too, might conceivably dash away in the middle of the night to some unknown destination to tackle some international emergency. Annie might be best served finding herself someone who prefers sticking a little closer to home.
At least for this week, it appears my concerns that Covert Affairs was heading into a sophomore slump have been allayed. I thoroughly enjoyed Annie's trip back to The Farm, and hope that this is the level of quality we can expect throughout the rest of the season.
Jeffrey Kirkpatrick is a TV Fanatic Staff Writer. Follow him on Twitter.