By Stephan Lee
Updated June 08, 2011 at 02:45 PM EDT
Credit: Steve Wilkie/USA
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After last season’s agonizing cliffhanger — is Ben Mercer alive or dead? — the opening shot of season 2 doesn’t quite answer any questions other than “Does Piper Perabo look good in a bikini?” (You know the answer to that one). CIA trainee Annie Walker emerges from the sea in a picturesque tropical setting to plant a lingering kiss on … you guessed it, Ben — but is this all a dream? [SPOILER ALERT]

Lucky for us, it’s not. The ever-elusive Ben is healing up from his multiple gunshot wounds in a hospital in Guam, and for once, he and Annie have a moment of peace, which, when these two are involved, doesn’t have a chance of lasting for very long. Soon enough, Annie and Ben are running — well, in Ben’s case, limping — through the hospital from thugs, and suddenly Washington, D.C. seems a bit more relaxing than Guam. Annie and Ben return to the States, but they hardly get to spend any time together. Ben disappears from his D.C. hospital room without a trace, but it’s clear to Annie that Joan and Arthur know exactly where he is. Joan sums up to Annie Ben’s appeal and ultimate drawback as a love interest: “[Ben] represents a high risk, high reward individual.”

Annie returns to work, and almost immediately she’s on a case to protect a civilian informant, who also happens to be an Estonian tennis star. There’s still a leak within the agency who’s making Arthur’s life more difficult, and Joan certainly hasn’t lightened up any since last season. Also returning is the best part of the show: Christopher Gorham as Auggie Anderson, Annie’s visually challenged protector and guide to the agency. He comes up with a great cover story to tell Annie’s sister to explain her absence (Annie was supposedly researching an exhibit in Lamar, Missouri) and interrogates the two teenagers who broke into Annie’s house.

In the end, we learn where Ben is, and Arthur offers him a legitimate role within the agency, which doesn’t seem like the sort of thing that Ben, who likes to work off the grid, would go for. In some ways, we’re back to where we left off, only with the stakes raised. Tonight’s tennis pro case wasn’t nearly as interesting as some of the best cases from last season, but that’s forgivable since the focus of the episode was more on advancing the central arcs of the series. While this was a solid episode, it mostly just piqued my curiosity about events to come. Apparently, we’ll finally get to see more of Anne Dudek as Annie’s sister Danielle, who becomes increasingly suspicious of Annie’s lies. I’m also kind of hoping for more of a Ben-Annie-Auggie love triangle: Ben is the mysterious one, always out-of-reach, while Auggie is the always available best friend who’s secretly way hotter than the guy who’s probably going to end up with the girl.

What did you think of the second season opener? What do you hope to see this season?

Covert Affairs

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