By John Keegan
An episode that rubs salt in the wound that is the Annie/Auggie non-relationship sounds like it ought to be a step in the wrong direction for "Covert Affairs". Instead, it feels right; this is what we've come to expect from the show this season. Annie remains competent, the character dynamics remain strong, and the episode itself was gripping, to say the least.
The question wasn't whether or not Auggie would survive; that was a given. It's more a question of whether or not Parker would survive, or remain with Auggie once his true occupation came to light. Keeping Annie on the outside looking in, forcing her to use her deep friendship with Auggie as an asset, gave Auggie and Parker the room to maneuver. Had Annie been present in the Sudan, her presence would have been disruptive.
That may sound odd, given that I want the two characters together (and the writers clearly use their chemistry to the hilt), but since they've made it clear that Parker is a long-term complication, I want them to do this right. And that means letting the Auggie/Parker couple fall apart at some future date without Annie being the cause. Nothing will undermine the progress of Annie as a character more than becoming the "other woman", explicitly or implicitly.
Annie's role in this episode presents her as the competent expert in her field that we've always wanted to see. While I accept that this justifies, to some degree, her original portrayal, since it provided her with a satisfying developmental arc, this still feels like what she should have brought to the table all along. It's especially gratifying in relation to the conflict between Joan and Lena, which has dimensions that have yet to be fully explored. Annie's confidence in the face of office strife make her look stronger on the whole.
I maintain that the new status quo opens up the story in such a way that Annie can grow tremendously in a short amount of time, while bringing Joan and Arthur more closely into the operational fold in an organic fashion. That offsets my concerns, voiced throughout the second season, that Danielle's absence from Annie's life would take away an important touchstone in her life. By eliminating the plot silos of the earlier premise, the writers make it possible for Annie to have balance without Danielle to provide it. Or, alternatively, this could be used to take Annie in a more complex direction, should Danielle's absence lead to issues.
Three episodes in, this is easily the strongest start to a season of "Covert Affairs" yet. It's gone from a guilty pleasure to a genuinely good show, and it stands as an example of how a series can steadily improve, if the creative minds behind the production are willing to adjust based on constructive criticism.John Keegan is Editor-in-Chief for Critical Myth, a partner site of SciFi Vision.