'State of Affairs' recap: 'Here and Now'
This week’s episode, “Here and Now,” was also about the now and then. We got plenty of flashbacks to the earlier, more innocent days of Charlie and Nick—the ones before they got themselves into this particular life-or-death situation. But, it was also about all of the hard choices the president and Charlie needed to make because of their “kill them all” pact. Smartly, this episode managed to keep most of the B-plots on the sidelines and focus on the task at hand: the mission, and all the messy emotional turmoil surrounding it.
We begin with a flashback to three years ago in Afghanistan. Charlie has been in the country for eight months, and Nick takes her on a hike to look at some poppy fields and then to his little shack. His words of advice, which has always been his mantra, is that the game changes as you play it. He’d initially been sent to Afghanistan to burn the fields and cut off the money supply to Sheikh Hakam, but eventually, that plan changed. Find something you can count on, he says. He’s clearly chosen her as his constant.
Present day, at Langley, Charlie and the team are in the operations center. They’ve found the compound that Nick, Fatah, and Hakam are hidden at, and Jack Dawkins is on alert. First problem of the day? A typhoon is headed that direction, which President Payton is fully aware of. Acting Director Banks, a.k.a. most-excellent guest star Matthew Lillard, astutely sums up the situation: “She’s got a whole bunch of people pissed off about how she got here, and now she needs to take out these two pricks just to stay president. Which is cool by me.” Banks is also cognizant that Nick is in the thick of things down there, and that he is not a priority to the president. “He’s one of ours,” he tells Charlie, who is already looking beat and distressed. “Do everything we can to get him home.” Just then, Nick manages to get a call through to Charlie, and urgently tells her the mission must happen ASAP. Hakam is there, and he leaves that night. Charlie promises that this will all end today.
The weather is turning worse by the minute, and even with Jack’s stealth bombers, it’s becoming too dangerous for the ground operation they’d been planning. “Anyone think we should just drop a bomb on the whole mess?” asks Earl, the ever-present computer guy who, until now, has just been a friendly, reliable face in the ops room. This comment though? Silence. Obviously he’s not wrong, but the core team knows to avoid that talk because of Charlie’s relationship with Nick. To her credit, Charlie has a smart, reasonable, non-“my boyfriend is down there!” answer: This is a precise mission. They need proof of death, i.e. identifiable bodies of Fatah and Hakam, not just a “black scar on the ground filled with body parts.”
Charlie leaves the room and Maureen follows. Mo tries to initiate some girl talk (“Hey babe, I know Nick’s down there, you need to chat?”), but Charlie’s not having it. She doesn’t want sympathy or a shoulder to cry on, she wants an alternative plan to get Nick out. Charlie knows POTUS is going to authorize an airstrike, and if that happens, Nick’s a goner.
Kurt The Traitor is in a nice, sterile computer lab at the Krieg Group. Melissa is explaining how she makes sure she leaves a backdoor open in the code programs she sells to clients so that she can always hack into their goings-on. Omnipresent bossman Victor Gantry wanders in to pull Kurt aside for a talk. Gantry calls Melissa Emily though, which, okay? Did we know her TKG name was Emily? Kurt had a look on his face like he still thought she was Melissa? Whatever, that chick is smart and conniving and bad news and probably has more aliases than Sydney Bristow. We’ll just let that one slide.
Anyway, from the sound of it, Kurt was running the intel-gathering that was happening in that room (which happened to be covering a particular location with bad weather…), and Gantry doesn’t want him there anymore. Evolve with the changes, Gantry tells Kurt, or die. Metaphorically of course, hahaha. Right. Gantry sends Kurt off to use his personal contacts to get more info on the mission. What do you bet Maureen is going to get a call for a coffee date in 3… 2…1…
Senator Burke is sitting in his office surrounded by those CIA boxes. Everything is redacted, but he has managed to find a certain picture of Charlie and Nick with Fatah. Oh good, more people know about this. “Investigating the CIA is a fraud,” he tells someone over the phone. “I have something rather newsworthy,” he says, while stroking his imaginary Snidely Whiplash mustache and looking at the photo. All of my money says he’s talking to Jules, the recently jilted network executive.
NEXT: How long can Charlie hold off an airstrike? And how long is this day going to last?!
President Payton is in the Situation Room watching the typhoon on the monitor. She calls Jack, who is all “nah ma’am, this is just a little drizzle, no biggie!” “Jack, I’ve flown hawks, and I hear stealths are even trickier,” Payton says, touting her bona fides. “Keep pushing, find a way.” Charlie patches herself in just then, trying to be the voice of reason. She expresses her concern about the weather, while again, Jack is like “I can do this! Let me fly my airplanes!” Charlie counters: Dead SEALs, pissed off Philippine government, and no dead terrorists sounds like a bad bet to place. It’s a suicide mission, and the CIA targeting team advises Payton to call off the mission. Remarkably, she does.
Charlie and her team start weighing the options now. Airstrike is now the only contingency, but it doesn’t solve their problem of getting proof of death. Also, they’re concerned that if word gets out that they’re moving in on Hakam, those 12 detonation vests that went missing from Professor Ahmadi’s closet could go off anywhere, because they have no idea where any of them are. Just then, Mo gets a call: The President is ordering an airstrike.
“The universe chose quite a night for all of this,” Chief of Staff David Patrick says to Payton in the Situation Room. “How long before I have to speak at the Correspondents Dinner?” she asks. Wait, hold up. Time out. Did they just decide that tonight was going to be the White House Correspondents Dinner out of nowhere? That was not mentioned last week. In the last episode, President Payton spent the entire day prepping for that live, tell-all TV interview—the one that she is still dressed for and that she just skipped out on maybe an hour or two ago. Now, we’re supposed to believe that it is the same night, that she is still wearing the same outfit, and one of the biggest celebrity events hosted by the White House of the year is supposedly happening simultaneously? The Correspondents Dinner is a huge deal and is basically the annual bipartisan roast of the government, which the president amicably takes part in and which is always broadcast on some network station. No effing way is that an afterthought. For some reason, to me, this is the most egregious plot-hole yet.
Anyway. Banks goes to tell David that the Philippines op is “reckless and stupid.” Never one to mince words, that guy. “You gonna sacrifice my guy on the ground?” he asks. “It’s a distinct possibility,” David replies. Some grandstanding goes back and forth between them, and they both threaten to be around in positions of power for a long time.
Mo gets that urgent text from Kurt that we were expecting; she ignores it. Charlie, meanwhile, marches into the Situation Room and tells POTUS that she can’t send in the F18s. “Oh yes, I can!” is the president’s basic response. “But, Nick!” See, here’s where Charlie could have used all of those great arguments that she’d worked up about needing proof of death and etc. Instead, she leads with “But, Nick!” You know Payton doesn’t care about him! You’re smarter than that! Payton tells her that one man isn’t worth aborting this mission over, while Charlie counters that one man—Aaron, Payton’s son, her fiance—was all this mission was about in the first place. Of course, they’re having this pretty private family drama in front of all of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (or, at least, that’s who should be in that room. None of these people get names or titles on this show). This is like an episode of Maury playing out in, as Payton called it, “the most secure room on the planet.” Excellent use of real estate, ladies.
The takeaway? Payton won’t stand down. She’s going to get Hakam and Fatah, and she’s going to get them tonight.
NEXT: How many people will see that photo by the end of the night? And can Nick get himself out of this mess?
Flashback! Nick and Charlie attempt to spend a lazy day in the Afghan countryside, but she’s too high-strung. They stop in a bodega for wine, and the television is showing footage of Hakam’s latest bombing. Nick is fine letting it go, but Charlie is too worked up. Working Fatah and getting Hakam is their mission, and she can’t take a breather from it the same way Nick can. They’re like Elizabeth and Philip Jennings on The Americans—she is firm and absolute about their cause and their work, while he is jaded and sees how quickly the tides can change.
Back in the present day, Charlie is desperate. She calls Jack to beg him to get Nick out, but Jack is the firm voice of tough love that we’ve been needing. It’s too late, he tells her. The opportunity to pick him up passed. “There’s nothing we can do; it’s Nick or the mission. Those are our options. This is what we do.” Yup. And, deep down, Charlie knows this, but she can’t emotionally separate the necessary mission from her personal relationship to the man stuck with the target. This is why you don’t date people at work; it always muddies the water.
Burke and Jules are at the Correspondents Dinner, sidling up to the bar. Yup, Burke definitely gave Jules that photo. Jules has his people putting together a whole package—TV, social media, the works—which will go live that night, during the dinner. Boom, ROASTED! Banks caught wind of their little meeting though and decides to confront Burke in the restroom. “Taking a leak, Senator?” Ba-dam, ching. Get it? Yeah, Burke completely ignores him.
David goes to get the president and to take her to the dinner, and she tells Charlie to see the mission through. Of course, two seconds after Payton leaves, the targets disappear. The Japanese had built escape tunnels during the war, and now Fatah, Hakam, and their crew were running to the tunnels to escape.
Burke takes a minute to confront the president—who is just standing around like she hasn’t a care in the world—before the dinner. Interesting thing about this investigation that I literally just started three hours ago, he says; the press has some info about Charlie and Fatah. Blame the press! By this point, Mo has seen it, too. The picture in on the Internet, and Charlie is at DEFCON 1 panic-mode. The only solution at this point is to kill Hakam.
In the Philippine tunnels, Nick follows from a distance as Fatah helps the kinda elderly Hakam along. Fatah is still bleeding from that self-inflicted slash across his torso. Merely a flesh wound, he tells Hakam, as the older man wastes valuable escape time futzing over this being the end. Fatah glances back and leaves behind a walkie-talkie for Nick, while saying that yes, all of this will end, but it will renew again. Sounds like a not-so-veiled threat to me, but Nick grabs the device and calls Charlie. Lock onto my signal, he tells her. “My signal will paint the target. I am the target.” Charlie realizes what is happening—Nick is surrendering to the cause and asking them to bomb the tunnels. He knows he can’t get out, and he’s sacrificing himself for the sake of the mission. Charlie cries as she, and Payton give the go-ahead to Jack.
Then a montage: There’s a flashback to when Charlie leaves Nick a “Dear John” letter in Afghanistan. Her words play over the airstrike—she wanted to let the mission go and make it work with him, but she can’t give it up. I can’t go down without a fight, she wrote to him. The monitor in the Situation Room shows the bomb landing on the targets. “You said that this would make killers out of both of us,” Charlie says to President Payton, referencing their conversation at Aaron’s memorial service in episode 1. “You were right.”
Debriefing in the Oval Office, Banks is pissed about that photo being leaked. “In the history of colossal screw-ups, this is right up there with weapons of mass destruction and monogamy.” David wants to spin it, but Payton thinks the truth will set them free. She wants to just tell the American people that yes, Fatah was their asset, and he helped them kill one of the most wanted men on earth. And Nick and Charlie are heroes! Charlie is deep in thought though and leaves without a word.
Through all of this, Kurt has been getting himself into a little trouble. He breaks into CIA Director Navarro’s house to steal some classified files from a safe and then gets into a street chase with a couple of black SUVs. He’s cornered in an alley by TKG man-for-hire Syd, who pulls a gun on him and leads him to an empty house, where… Charlie comes in. She relieves Syd from duty; “Call if you need me to dump him somewhere,” he says on his way out. So why did she have Kurt kidnapped? Because she knows TKG had a shadow on Bellerophon (though she must not have figured out that Syd was there… why didn’t Nick ever mention that?). Anyway, that’s what’s been sticking in her craw—how did Hakam and his group know to run when they did? Someone had to have told them to flee, and that someone had to have been Kurt. He protests his innocence and says he’s still CIA. His story is that Navarro sent him to infiltrate TKG as an undercover op, and that’s why he broke into Navarro’s home—he needed the proof because no one on the 7th floor would talk to him anymore.
But Kurt’s bigger reveal? He’d thought TKG was trailing Bellerophon to discredit the CIA, but he realized they were protecting Fatah. This whole time they’d thought Fatah was the No. 2 behind Hakam, but according to Kurt, he’s been No. 1 in TKG’s books. They’ve been tracking Hakam too, but the only places Hakam exists is in the CIA’s and TKG’s files. Literally everything they know about Hakam was through what Fatah told them. Hakam was not a person—he was a myth, a made-up deity. Fatah was the prophet, the No. 1 all along. And he’d been playing Charlie the whole time.
- The song playing during the scene where Charlie approves the airstrike while Nick confirms his location sounded suspiciously like the Album Leaf’s song “The Light,” i.e. Liv and Fitz’s theme on Scandal. It wasn’t, but it certainly had that feel.
- Nice move to put Charlie in a black turtleneck and high bun for the whole episode. Dark and somber, but put-together and chic.