While lately the entertainment industry has seen the rise of females in spy roles, such as Jennifer Garner in “Alias,” it is safe to assume that spy fiction is still dominated by the opposite gender. When the idea of spy fiction is mentioned, allusions to James Bond and Jack Bauer from “24” are instantly brought to mind. Although female spies are few and far between compared to males, Jack Bauer could be getting a run for his money soon. The USA series “Covert Affairs” brings together a great cast to reinforce the idea that if there’s anything TV needs more of, it’s female spies.
Tuesdays at 10 p.m.
“Covert Affairs” centers around Annie Walker (Piper Perabo, “Coyote Ugly”), a highly ambitious, overqualified CIA trainee who specializes in linguistics. Annie finds herself yanked a month early from the completion of her training and put right in the field on day one. In the pilot, Annie is asked if she will be able to keep her private and work lives separate, to which she gives a resounding “Yes.” However, things might prove more complicated than what Annie signed on for, as her recent ex-boyfriend (Eion Bailey, “ER”) shows up randomly and appears to have a mysterious connection to Annie’s superiors that she does not yet realize.
It seems like the last time we left Perabo, she was dancing on bar tops and strutting her stuff for drunken, adolescent men in “Coyote Ugly” (surely “Cheaper By The Dozen” and “Beverly Hills Chihuahua” don’t count). Ten years later, she’s playing a completely different role. After this series premiere, the most appropriate question to ask her would be, “Piper, where the hell have you been all this time?”
Perabo’s character does an amazing job reinforcing the idea that females in spy fiction should no longer be automatically labeled the “damsels in distress,” as oftentimes actresses were in “James Bond” and other spy franchises. After only one episode, we’ve seen Annie get shot at, embark on high-speed pursuits and make use of a little hand-to-hand combat in a D.C. subway station, while at the same time maintaining the bedazzling charm and seductiveness that allows her to talk her way out of two arrests by the same FBI official.
Perabo is not the only actor who brings life to this show. Her married superiors, played by Joan (Kari Matchett, “24”) and Arthur Campbell (Peter Gallagher, “The O.C.”), bring about a great sense of enigma, with their dubious connections to Annie’s ex. What they really want from him, as well as from Annie, remains unclear. Gallagher and Matchett let the viewer know that perhaps Annie should be looking for enemies not just outside the walls of CIA headquarters, but inside as well.
For a pilot, “Covert Affairs” has asked questions quite well; however, there is one question that did not seem to register. It seems unusual that Annie must keep her job a secret from her sister. It’s understandable that she would need to keep much of the details a secret, but the whole job itself? What happens when Annie’s sister comes to visit her at the Smithsonian, where she thinks Annie works? That would make for an interesting dinner conversation that night. While a degree of secrecy is necessary, should it really be to this level in the show?
Annie Walker is not the next James Bond. But after only one hour-long episode, she has given her audience quite the spy experience and the reminder that we need more female Jack Bauers out there. Welcome back, Piper. You have been missed.