‘Covert Affairs’ – ‘In the Light’: Everytime I think I’m out…

Now that I’m mostly recuperated from my Comic-Con/press tour odyssey, it’s time to start getting back into the episodic reviewing groove by checking in on some shows I had to skip while I was out in California. First up: “Covert Affairs,” which I hadn’t written about or watched since the pilot. I spent a few hours on Monday catching up on the episodes that aired while I was out west, then I watched last night’s episode live. Some thoughts on the series so far, and “In the Light” in particular, coming up just as soon as I change a tire in heels…

Five episodes in, my opinion of “Covert Affairs” hasn’t changed much from the initial one. I like Piper Perabo and (particularly) Christopher Gorham. I think the show is doing a good job of balancing Annie’s rookie learning curve with letting her be good enough to justify all these assignments. I wish Anne Dudek (who I interviewed at press tour, and will post that sometime in the next few weeks) had more to do. And I think the show is just solid enough to hold my interest without necessarily being something I’ll write about every week.

One thing in particular came across in my two-night mini-marathon: like most of USA’s other character-driven procedurals(*), the show really rises and falls based on the guest characters. You know what you’re going to get from Perabo, Gorham, Kari Matchett and Peter Gallagher, and you know that they’re mainly going to be working in service of that week’s standalone storyline, with a sprinkling of ongoing issues like the Campbell marriage or Annie’s mystery ex. That’s the baseline, and while it’s engaging enough, the guest stars play an important enough role each week that I’m interested when we get an Oded Fehr or (this week) Gregory Itzin(**) and Eriq La Salle, less so when, say, Annie’s interacting with the fairly generic British guy from the second episode.

(*) Because “White Collar” has had so much trouble making its procedural storylines interesting in spite of some great leads, it’s especially susceptible to this – note how much better the show was with Tim Matheson as the bad guy a few weeks ago – but I find it’s true of all the USA shows. I enjoy “Burn Notice” every week, but the show tends to perk up when it get someone like Jay Karnes or Garret Dillahunt to play off of Jeffrey Donovan.

(**) Though he played what seemed (in the few episodes I watched) a relatively straightforward boss character on “The Mentalist,” I wonder if every character Itzin plays for the rest of his career will automatically seem suspect because we associate him with President Logan from “24.”

Specifically on “In the Light,” I thought it did a couple of good, course-correcting things. It actually made the Jai Wilcox character feel relevant and vital, when to this point he’d seemed an unnecessary distraction from the Annie/Auggie dynamic. And it also made me somewhat interested in the Eion Bailey character – and not just because he and Jai have a parkour-style chase through the docks. (Like Michael Scott, I am a sucker for parkour.) I complained after the pilot that Bailey was filling the same role on this show that the Kate character unfortunately did in “White Collar” season one, but this one episode has already made him feel more present and relevant than Kate ever did. I’m at least somewhat interested in his agenda, why Jai and Arthur are so gung-ho to catch him, etc.

Again, don’t expect “Covert Affairs” reviews every week, but this seems like a show I’m going to check in on from time to time.

What did everybody else think?