While I am a big fan of serialization, I can say that I was happy that State of Affairs dialed back on it in tonight’s episode. The far from compelling storyline involving Aaron’s murder/Charleston Tucker being blackmailed was sidelined in favor of delving deeper into the complexities of this week’s international crisis. Yes, the show still leaves much to be desired—most of the characters are still one-dimensional and nothing about the show stands out yet—but tonight’s episode showed some signs of life, mainly in the rapport between Charlie and Ray Navarro, the new director of the CIA, and between President Payton and her husband. Also, the promo for next week’s episode, which involves a smallpox outbreak, looks like it could be a really exciting episode.
FLASHBACK: 5 Years Ago
Midway through tonight’s episode, we flash back to the first time Charlie and Nick met. Turns out, they met for the first time when Charlie boarded a floating U.S. black site called Midnight City where Fatah is being held. (Creator Joe Carnahan tweeted that Midnight City was rumored to be a real place and was where the U.S. held Osama bin Laden’s number two). The Charlie we meet in the flashbacks is not the confident woman we see in the present. It’s clear this is her first visit to a U.S. black site, and definitely isn’t okay with how things operate here: mainly Nick’s use of torture.
As soon as she arrives on the ship, she’s taken right into the interrogation room, after having to convince Nick to let her in. Like Charlie, flashback Nick is a lot different from the calm, Bryce Larkin-esque spy guy we meet in the present: He’s more vicious. Charlie’s visibly uncomfortable with some of Nick’s initial tactics, but only moves to stop the interrogation once Nick goes all Reservoir Dogs on Fatah and starts pouring gasoline on him.
Angry with Charlie for interrupting him, he drags her out of the room and pins her against the wall. He makes it clear that if she ever does anything like that again, he’ll have her kicked off the boat. With his hands around her neck, Charlie argues that not only is torture illegal, but that it has proven to be ineffective, especially with someone like Fatah, who’s clearly traumatized. But, Nick doesn’t care and ignores Charlie’s alternative interrogation tactics. Leaving her to watch the interrogation from a monitor, Nick heads back into the room to keep working.
This week State of Affairs went the “pulled from the headlines route” and tackled their own version of the #BringBackOurGirls situation from a few months ago—except, thankfully, without the use of a hashtag. At the beginning of the episode, the militant Islamist group Boko Haram kidnaps a bus full of Nigerian girls on the way to a soccer game and holds them for ransom.
Back in Washington, D.C., Charlie is breaking from her established routine and has decided to get coffee instead of booze before going into work. After getting her coffee and being hit on by her barista, who promises to hook her up should she ever come to the bar where he bartends, Charlie runs into Nick as she’s leaving. Which leads to another “Charlie doesn’t trust Nick even though Nick insists that she can” conversation. However, their conversation isn’t completely pointless because Charlie manages to steal Nick’s phone, and once back at the office, she downloads all of the SIM card data onto an iPad.
Eventually, Maureen, a.k.a. Lady Briefer, calls Charlie into the main office space to plan today’s book. Top of the book, at the moment, is prepping POTUS for her meeting with President Chu of China. Kurt informs her that new CIA Director Ray Navarro (Nestor Carbonell) will be doing the actual briefing of POTUS, which surprises Charlie because she’s the POTUS’ favorite student. Lucas, a close friend of Ray, is also sad because he is the China expert. All of this goes out the window, however, when they find out about the kidnapping. Their main priority: pinpointing the girls’ location.
Once Ray is done briefing the president on China, she asks both him and David to leave the room so that Charlie can finish up the briefing. Because Charlie can’t help herself, she smugly says “Bye guys” to the two gentlemen, which clearly pisses off Ray. Once the men have left, Charlie briefs the president on the situation in Africa. As is to be expected, President Payton is not in the position to send American troops into Nigeria to save the girls, and the Nigerian government is both too scared of Boko Haram and too corrupt to be effective in this situation. And President Payton is not happy when Charlie tries to influence her decision-making by telling her that they’ve narrowed down a location.
Charlie exits the Oval Office to find Ray waiting for her. Following the president’s advice, she apologizes for being disrespectful toward the end of the meeting. While he accepts her apology, he doesn’t buy that the president authorized her team to search for the girls because they don’t have the resources or time. I’m definitely more interested in Charlie and Ray’s tension filled relationship than I am in anything else that happens is this episode, and luckily, the two share a few more moments together in tonight’s episode.
NEXT: A trip to Camp David