By Mandi Bierly
Updated July 30, 2013 at 04:10 PM EDT
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Annie (Piper Perabo) returns to Colombia on tonight’s Covert Affairs (USA, 9 p.m. ET) after receiving intel linking Arthur’s son Teo (Manolo Cardona) to a bomb plot. While Annie tries to determine Teo’s true allegiances, the local “sheriff,” CIA station chief Calder Michaels (Hill Harper), is prepared to torture Teo until he reveals his target. “Our Zero Dark Thirty moment” — how Harper describes the exclusive clip below — is a perfect example of how this character differs from the earnest role he played on CSI: NY for nine seasons. “He does not mind being very nasty and throwing his weight around, his ego around, his swag around, if need be to get the job done,” Harper says. “Annie and Calder see the world differently. Even though they both have the exact same goals — protect our country, serve our government — they have two completely different views about what’s the most effective way to do that. He believes that there are bad people in the world that can’t be changed, and sometimes you have take drastic measures and/or even eliminate people to make the world safer; she believes that people can be turned and changed, and sometimes it takes a wink and a smile and sometimes it takes giving someone information they didn’t know. The dichotomy of those two ways of looking at the world make for very interesting storytelling.”

As for the tense scene below, Annie has to watch as Calder beats Teo. “I want everything to look realistic. At first, we were gonna put a pad on [Cardona’s torso], but we couldn’t hide a pad because his arms were up above his head, so his shirt pulled up,” Harper says. “I mean, I’d really hit him, and after every take, I’d be like, ‘Are you okay? Are you okay?’ And he’d be like, ‘I’m fine, come on, let’s do this.’ Everybody was onboard with doing it in a big, realistic way. I think he had some bruises and some welt marks, but, you know, those went away.”

Harper also loves the nonsexual tension the show is creating between Calder and Annie. “That kind of shake-your-ass, wink-and-smile — that’s not gonna work on him,” he says. “It’s not that type of party. He’s savvy enough to see that a lot of that is manipulation, and he won’t tolerate it or fall for it. I love the line in this episode where he says, ‘I still don’t trust your ass.’ There’s no other character on the show that’s saying that to her.” Through his Twitter, the actor has already learned how protective fans are of the new Annie-Auggie relationship. “They’re like, ‘They finally got together, and it looks like you might be messin’ things up! What the hell are you doing? Who is this guy that’s gonna come in and rock the boat?'” Those are good questions to be asking, Harper says. “Does Calder have it in for the Annie-Auggie relationship? If so, why? And what the hell is he gonna do? You have to remember, he’s a real professional. I think he thinks that personal relationships get in the way of business. Like, we have a job to do. This isn’t kissy-kissy at the office; this is saving lives of people around the world.”

Oh, he is gonna hear from fans now. “Let’s see what happens,” he laughs. “Tell people to tweet me, and I will tweet them back.”

Covert Affairs

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