'Covert Affairs' season premiere postmortem: EPs talk Annie's secret
Spoiler alert! If you haven’t watched the season 5 premiere of USA’s Covert Affairs, stop reading now. Co-creators Chris Ord and Matt Corman take us inside the twists and tease what’s to come.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: At first, you have us thinking that perhaps Annie did something shady in the four months she’s been off the grid since killing Henry Wilcox. But then she has a situation with her heart, and that seems to be the secret she’s hiding from Auggie and everyone else. I’m guessing that’s something stemming from when she was shot, but for now, can you at least confirm whether it’s physical or mental?
Matt Corman: It’s a physical condition that is gonna need to be managed throughout the season and is gonna cause complications well beyond what we showed in the first episode.
When Annie returns to D.C., she asks Auggie to be her handler again and says she needs to give everything to her work; she can’t be romantic with him. He’s good with that.
Chris Ord: For Annie to take this time and deal with what will be her secret for the season was gonna affect their relationship, regardless. We felt like we needed to honor that truthfully. And look, the great thing about Annie and Auggie is that their relationship is deeper, in many ways, than anything we have on the show. Auggie especially, and Annie now as she’s grown as a spy, they both really understand this spy life and how it affects relationships—that it’s not easy. So there’s maturity that comes with that, and I think you see that maturity in that opening scene with them both recognizing the complexity of what’s got them there and finding a way to go forward.
To recap: Annie is back at work. Khalid Ansari resurfaces in Chicago, gets killed by the CIA agents Annie teams with there, and is linked back to the Altans, three local Ukrainian-born Muslim siblings. The CIA thinks they’re planning a terrorist attack at the Chicago Board of Trade. They take Mykola into custody there and bring him to their off-book facility for questioning. They don’t know that his medically-trained sister, Oksana, surgically implanted a bomb in him—which brother Borz, who did U.S military service in his younger days, detonates via cell. Twelve people are killed in the facility. Annie shoots and kills Oksansa outside the building; Borz is in the wind. The Altans didn’t act alone. Someone who knows the CIA playbook orchestrated this. First thing: It’s not Henry, right?
Corman: [Laughs] He’s dead. We’ve said it in the past, we do a lot of twists and turns, but when people die…
Ord: [Laughs] Sometimes.
Corman: They’re generally dead. He’s definitely dead.
So is it a season-long mystery who’s behind the attack, or will we find out relatively soon and then it’s Annie and Co. trying to bring that person down?
Corman: It’s a little of both. That story of who did it and how to get them is what the 16 episodes are all about. Khalid was a pretty sophisticated terror mastermind himself, and in that opening scene, he alludes to the fact that if he can be tricked and manipulated by the mastermind like this, then Annie is going to have her hands full.
Ord: There’s more questions than answers in the early part of the season.
The episode introduces Ryan McQuaid (Nic Bishop), a private spy essentially, who works as a military contractor. Borz did security work for McQuaid’s company in Eastern Europe for four months in the past. Annie meets McQuaid when she asks him about Borz earlier in the episode. We’ve talked about how McQuaid and Annie will find themselves working together. After seeing news coverage of the bombing, Arthur takes a job with McQuaid.
Ord: Arthur knows exactly what that building is, he knows it’s not some industrial fire. So that was a call to action for Arthur. All our characters are patriots who want to serve in the way that they can. Arthur didn’t really have a path back to the CIA at this point in his career, but this is a way that he can get back into the game, and serve, and address the issues that he sees happening before him.
Joan was informed that Calder is keeping the big office. Will that cause any resentment toward Arthur, who affected her chances?
Ord: There’ll be shades, but that’s not their central [story]. We’ve spent four seasons seeing the challenges that one faces working at the same agency as one’s spouse. And this season with them we get to explore the opposite of that dynamic, which is what it’s like to work at separate companies and the challenges coming off of that.
Calder is now sleeping with a woman, Sydney (Nazneen Contractor), who he’s asked to use a scrambled cell phone when she communicates with him. I assume she’s what was being referred to when he was told to get his affairs in order before they go public with him being DCS.
Corman: Right. And it will emerge why. But that relationship is much more complicated than what you saw. There’s levels of complexity, danger, problems, and drama.
Returning to the subject of Auggie, you’ve said there’ll be a fun energy about him again this season, that he’ll have his hands full on the romantic front. I’m wondering if that involves the character Amy Jo Johnson will be playing: Hayley, an investigator with the National Counter Terrorism Center (NCTC). We meet her in episode 2?
Corman: You meet her very early on in episode 2. She’s gonna play a key role in the investigation, but she’ll also kind of orbit in and have an important role to play in Auggie’s life.
There’s also the new character Caitlyn, played by Perrey Reeves, who’s described as the smart, confident COO at McQuaid Security.
Ord: We meet her early on. She’s McQuaid’s No. 2. She’s very loyal. We’ll first meet her through Arthur and see him coming over to McQuaid. His interactions with her are going to be interesting, to say the least.
Last question: Where all is the show traveling to this season?
Corman: So far we’ve been to Colombia, the south of France, Paris. We plan on going to Istanbul, maybe Rio. So we’re gonna be all over the place. It’s gonna be a fun summer escape, as always.