Charleston Tucker deals with a Russian submarine stranded in U.S. waters and tries to find the identity of her mystery texter.
This week, State of Affairs revealed what its modus operandi will be for most of its season: case of the week, with the serialized mystery over Aaron’s death sprinkled throughout. For something that’s supposed to be Katherine Heigl’s comeback vehicle, it all feels a bit too generic, which is unfortunate because when given the right platform, Heigl is a great actress. State of Affairs‘ generic-ness continued this week with a national security crisis whose outcome is telegraphed early on and there’s very little movement on the Aaron-pointing-a-gun-at-Charlie and Omar Abdul Fatah front.
Somewhere in the Bering Sea, a.k.a U.S. territory, floats an oil rig in the middle of a nasty storm. But, it’s not really an oil rig; it’s a Russian ship that’s meant to hide a submarine tethered to it under the sea. Russian scuba divers are trying to retrieve information from a CIA fiber optics line. Unfortunately, the storm becomes so violent that the tether is cut and the submarine starts sinking to the bottom of the sea, to depths it’s not built to reach. As the submarine starts to creak and make other troubling noises and the director uses a gratuitous amount of lens flare, Anatoly, a Russian intelligence officer, volunteers to go to the communication room to call for help.
Far away in Washington, Charleston Tucker (still can’t get over that name) is enjoying a meal with POTUS and her husband, played by Courtney B. Vance. It’s not clear how much time has passed since the pilot, but apparently Aaron’s death occurred relatively close to his birthday, which they have all gathered here to celebrate. As the First Gentleman says grace, Charlie remembers Aaron pulling a gun on her.
Since Aaron isn’t there to make a birthday wish, POTUS asks Charlie, who’s looking mad uncomfortable, to make one. Charlie says she hopes to never lose the feeling that Aaron is watching. When it’s POTUS’ turn, she says she wishes for justice to befall those who violently and prematurely took her dear son away. Because she has yet to inform POTUS that Fatah was a CIA—her—asset, Charlie just sits there with a blank and/or guilty look on her face, but no one notices.
Things get even more awkward for Charlie when the FGOTUS says he just wants the truth about his son’s death, and not secondhand accounts, but the actual truth. Clearly wanting this moment to pass, Charlie interrupts and suggests a toast in Aaron’s name.
Last week, we established that Charlie was a risk taker. This is reaffirmed tonight as Charlie, ignoring Washington D.C.’s no calling and driving law, calls super-secret spy guy Nick when she receives another text message that reads “Remember Me?” and contains a picture of her and Nick escorting Fatah.
Back under the sea, the camera lens is still flaring as Anatoly finally arrives at the comms room and instructs the operators to deploy the buoy so that they can use it to communicate. There’s just one problem: only the Americans will be able to hear whatever is transmitted through the buoy. And that‘s exactly what Anatoly wants. He quickly slices the throats of both men, takes over control, and deploys the buoy. Speaking with pretty good English, Anatoly sends a message in which he identifies himself as “Nightfall.” Surprise, he’s an asset for the CIA!
Mid-recap poll: Who actually thinks he’s going to be rescued?
Anatoly’s message reaches Langley right as Charlie stumbles in reeking of vodka. No one cares though because Charleston Tucker is a badass. Once Anatoly’s identity has been verified, Charlie’s team of indistinguishable briefers get to work on solving the problem. First things first, moving this to the front of the book. As Charlie is giving each of her minions tasks, the new guy walks in, which surprises everyone because they thought that Director Skinner getting fired meant that this guy was fired. Appears that’s not the case. There’s no time to dwell on this, however, because one of Charlie’s briefers comes running in to tell them that they have a big a problem: The data in the fiber optics cables contains not only weapons specs, but also the identities of all of their assets worldwide.
NEXT: Meet the new Director of the CIA
Later, Charlie briefs the president on the submarine situation. Her briefing also includes a quick explainer on the GRU because apparently it’s possible to become President of the United States of America and not know what Russia’s main intelligence directorate is. Once Charlie leaves, David Patrick, POTUS’ Chief of Staff enters and the president instructs that they must announce Skinner’s replacement today because they can’t have Russia thinking there’s a vacuum in the U.S.’ main intelligence body.
When Charlie returns to Langley, she finds Nick waiting in her office. Again, Charlie accuses him of being her mystery texter because there were less than five people on that ship and only two of them knew about Fatah. He denies that it’s him again and tells her that if she feels so guilty about lying to the president then to just tell her about Fatah. Unfortunately, Charlie’s oath to the CIA prevents her from doing so, and she can’t manipulate the president into asking her about it either until she pieces everything together—i.e. Aaron pointing a gun at her.
As he and Charlie are arguing about whether they ever actually converted Fatah, Other Lady Briefer is watching from her desk because she can’t stand Nick. Maureen doesn’t only hate Nick because he “corrupted the minds of analysts abroad,” but also because she saw him meeting with her customer, Secretary of Defense. As he left the meeting with SecDef, SecDef said to Maureen, “There goes one scary son of a bitch.”
There’s a ship on route to the submarine’s location, but everyone’s worried it won’t reach it in time. Eventually, Charlie and her team receive the information on Anatoly they were waiting for. Turns out his handler recently died and used to work for Charlie’s father, Oliver Tucker. The coincidences don’t stop there! Anatoly informs Charlie that he actually knew her father and once met her in a park near the Potomac when she was 13 or 14. As he met with her dad, Charlie played with Anatoly’s nine-year old daughter, Sabrina. Finding out he has a daughter means we’ll care about his survival more, right? (The answer’s no because the writers’ poorly veiled attempts at humanizing him give away the ending.)
Charlie calls to update POTUS on the situation and finds out the identity of President Payton’s CIA director replacement: former Governor of Wyoming Ray Navarro, played by Lost‘s Nestor Carbonell. There are very few words in the English language, when ordered, elicit as much as excitement as “played by Lost‘s Nestor Carbonell.” Unfortunately, Carbonell isn’t given too much to do in this episode. By the end of the episode, we find out that Ray and Lucas, the new guy, go way back and that Ray is the reason Lucas got his job in the first place. Skinner was on his way out even before the events we saw in the pilot. Oh wait, I lied, we found out one more thing about Ray: He may be a dick. As he’s heading out to the press conference, he makes a point of telling Charlie that she will not be working with him, but for him.
Meanwhile, Charlie meets with Syd, who we still know nothing about except that he does things really quickly. Charlie gives him her phone and asks him to track down her mystery texter, and he has results a few hours later. Not being able to identify the person informed him that Charlie was dealing with someone who has serious resources—like Nick Vera. Syd thinks Nick is playing her to some unknown end. Because Maureen’s warning earlier wasn’t enough, Syd reiterates that Nick is a liar and a manipulator—qualities that are great for a CIA operative, but bad for someone with whom you are tangled in a web of lies.
Following her meeting with President Payton where she learned that the U.S. ship won’t reach the submarine before the Russians do, Charlie returns to Langley with a new mission: convince Anatoly to scuttle the ship with him and everyone inside. Wanting to be someone essential and find a sense of self-worth, Anatoly joined the CIA because he saw that the world was on the verge of nuclear war and while here in college, he realized that the U.S. might be the only reasonable ones. Revealing herself not to be too different from Nick, Charlie uses this information to manipulate Anatoly into sacrificing himself for the sake of national security. First, she draws him in by saying that the president has selected him for a mission that only he can do. Then, she weaves this elaborate tale of how she remembers meeting him as a child and that her father called him a hero. We’re finally seeing what kind of operative Charlie really is. She’s definitely more than just a briefer. Like Carrie Mathison (although definitely not nearly as talented), Charlie is adept at turning assets.
Once she has him hooked, she informs him that the submarine can’t be recovered and that he must do what is necessary to make sure that information never reaches the Russians. He agrees to the mission, but asks Charlie to record a heartfelt message for his daughter, the one good thing in his life. At this point, the rest of the Russians are almost done blow-torching their way through the comms room door. Guns blazing, Anatoly makes his way toward the lever that will sink the submarine and is shot dead right after he pulls it. Back in Langley, Charlie is left in tears as Maureen reminds her that she cannot play that message for Anatoly’s daughter. (This doesn’t stop Charlie from creepily watching Sabrina and her boyfriend from her car as she replays the message to herself.)
Later, Maureen and Charlie are getting drinks together. As if it weren’t obvious already, Charlie reveals that she made up the entire story she told Anatoly. “Well, he died a hero,” says Maureen. Charlie replies, “No, he didn’t. He died a spy.” The two ladies then take a shot of vodka as Nick creepily watches them from his car.