A terrorist organization in Nigeria kidnaps bus full of girls. Charlie responds.

By Chancellor Agard
Updated December 02, 2014 at 06:08 AM EST
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Neil Jacobs/NBC

State of Affairs

S1 E3
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  • TV Show
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While I am a big fan of serialization, I can say that I was happy that State of Affairs dialed back on it in tonight’s episode. The far from compelling storyline involving Aaron’s murder/Charleston Tucker being blackmailed was sidelined in favor of delving deeper into the complexities of this week’s international crisis. Yes, the show still leaves much to be desired—most of the characters are still one-dimensional and nothing about the show stands out yet—but tonight’s episode showed some signs of life, mainly in the rapport between Charlie and Ray Navarro, the new director of the CIA, and between President Payton and her husband. Also, the promo for next week’s episode, which involves a smallpox outbreak, looks like it could be a really exciting episode.

FLASHBACK: 5 Years Ago

Midway through tonight’s episode, we flash back to the first time Charlie and Nick met. Turns out, they met for the first time when Charlie boarded a floating U.S. black site called Midnight City where Fatah is being held. (Creator Joe Carnahan tweeted that Midnight City was rumored to be a real place and was where the U.S. held Osama bin Laden’s number two). The Charlie we meet in the flashbacks is not the confident woman we see in the present. It’s clear this is her first visit to a U.S. black site, and definitely isn’t okay with how things operate here: mainly Nick’s use of torture.

As soon as she arrives on the ship, she’s taken right into the interrogation room, after having to convince Nick to let her in. Like Charlie, flashback Nick is a lot different from the calm, Bryce Larkin-esque spy guy we meet in the present: He’s more vicious. Charlie’s visibly uncomfortable with some of Nick’s initial tactics, but only moves to stop the interrogation once Nick goes all Reservoir Dogs on Fatah and starts pouring gasoline on him.

Angry with Charlie for interrupting him, he drags her out of the room and pins her against the wall. He makes it clear that if she ever does anything like that again, he’ll have her kicked off the boat. With his hands around her neck, Charlie argues that not only is torture illegal, but that it has proven to be ineffective, especially with someone like Fatah, who’s clearly traumatized. But, Nick doesn’t care and ignores Charlie’s alternative interrogation tactics. Leaving her to watch the interrogation from a monitor, Nick heads back into the room to keep working.

PRESENT DAY:

This week State of Affairs went the “pulled from the headlines route” and tackled their own version of the #BringBackOurGirls situation from a few months ago—except, thankfully, without the use of a hashtag. At the beginning of the episode, the militant Islamist group Boko Haram kidnaps a bus full of Nigerian girls on the way to a soccer game and holds them for ransom.

Back in Washington, D.C., Charlie is breaking from her established routine and has decided to get coffee instead of booze before going into work. After getting her coffee and being hit on by her barista, who promises to hook her up should she ever come to the bar where he bartends, Charlie runs into Nick as she’s leaving. Which leads to another “Charlie doesn’t trust Nick even though Nick insists that she can” conversation. However, their conversation isn’t completely pointless because Charlie manages to steal Nick’s phone, and once back at the office, she downloads all of the SIM card data onto an iPad.

Eventually, Maureen, a.k.a. Lady Briefer, calls Charlie into the main office space to plan today’s book. Top of the book, at the moment, is prepping POTUS for her meeting with President Chu of China. Kurt informs her that new CIA Director Ray Navarro (Nestor Carbonell) will be doing the actual briefing of POTUS, which surprises Charlie because she’s the POTUS’ favorite student. Lucas, a close friend of Ray, is also sad because he is the China expert. All of this goes out the window, however, when they find out about the kidnapping. Their main priority: pinpointing the girls’ location.

Once Ray is done briefing the president on China, she asks both him and David to leave the room so that Charlie can finish up the briefing. Because Charlie can’t help herself, she smugly says “Bye guys” to the two gentlemen, which clearly pisses off Ray. Once the men have left, Charlie briefs the president on the situation in Africa. As is to be expected, President Payton is not in the position to send American troops into Nigeria to save the girls, and the Nigerian government is both too scared of Boko Haram and too corrupt to be effective in this situation. And President Payton is not happy when Charlie tries to influence her decision-making by telling her that they’ve narrowed down a location.

Charlie exits the Oval Office to find Ray waiting for her. Following the president’s advice, she apologizes for being disrespectful toward the end of the meeting. While he accepts her apology, he doesn’t buy that the president authorized her team to search for the girls because they don’t have the resources or time. I’m definitely more interested in Charlie and Ray’s tension filled relationship than I am in anything else that happens is this episode, and luckily, the two share a few more moments together in tonight’s episode.

NEXT: A trip to Camp David

First Gentleman Marshall Payton cheerfully enters the Oval Office to talk about her upcoming trip to Camp David with President Chu, but Constance, in no-nonsense mode, cuts him off and curtly asks why he requested confidential papers on the convoy attack. Last week, State of Affairs established that Marshall was still not over his son’s death and had many questions he wanted answered. He reiterates this point again, but POTUS has no time for it and essentially tells him he will probably never see the Senate’s report on the hearing. It’s a wonderfully shot scene where neither Constance nor Marshall ever appear in a frame together, further heightening the distance in their relationship.

Back at the CIA, the briefers show Charlie photos of the last group of girls Boko Haram kidnapped: They were murdered and are now piled up in a mass grave. With this added incentive, Charlie seeks out Nick’s help. In exchange for a favor, Charlie asks Nick to see if he can find any private outfits stationed in Africa that might be willing to rescue the girls off the books.

Following their meeting, Charlie joins a frustrated POTUS up at Camp David. With all the power she has as President of the United States, POTUS still feels powerless. She can’t do anything in Nigeria because President Chu will view it as a sign weakness and poor leadership. Charlie starts to tell her about the possibility of sending in a private outfit, but POTUS stops here and reminds her of the most important lesson every fictional government character needs to learn: It’s better to ask forgiveness than to ask for permission.

In order for them to rescue the girls, they need to find some leverage to make China okay with the rescue efforts: Obviously, they go for China’s oil interests in the region. Luckily, Nick comes through with a private outfit named Controlled Outcomes.

I feel bad for Briefer Kurt, who keeps striking out with the newly single Maureen, who he’s clearly into. He asks her out to dinner and the Dashiell decides to tag along. Who thinks these kids will end up together by the end of the season?

Meanwhile in Africa, one of the girls tries to escape but is quickly recaptured. Impressed by the little girl’s fighting spirit, the leader of the group decides that he will make her his wife.

Once Charlie has secured the leverage and private contractors, she calls President Payton, who’s shooting with President Chu, with the information. This was probably the most enjoyable scene of the episode because not only did it feature the episode’s best line—President Chu saying “Maybe you should abolish Congress”—but it’s also the first time we get a sense of President Payton the diplomat. Once President Payton and President Chu have established that they’ve both profiled each other, they start to take a walk to discuss matters away from their advisors. China has several oil interests in Nigeria, but they are surrounded by areas that are prone to violence. In order to help China secure its interests and bring their nations’ piece of mind by rescuing the girls, President Payton offers to loan them Controlled Outcomes.

Back in Langley, Charlie and her team eventually figure out where the girls are being held. Ray comes in and lets her know that he’s been onto her plan ever since she asked Lucas to look up information on China’s oil interests. Charlie casually says she’s was lucky to know a private group that “took it upon themselves” to rescue the girls, which Ray clearly doesn’t buy. Moreover, Ray’s obviously not totally comfortable with how close Charlie is with the President, probably because he feels like it undermines his authority.

However, right before the mission is set to begin, Charlie is called away by Syd. Having gone through everything she sent him from Nick’s phone, Syd can confirm that Nick isn’t the one texting her, which means someone else knows about the black site. Syd’s also worried about Nick knowing Controlled Outcomes because this private contractor works way off the books.

But, there’s no time for more of that because there are girls who need saving. All throughout the rescue mission, I kept waiting for the other shoe to drop, but it never does; Controlled Outcomes successfully rescues the girls and takes out their main target. Break out the champagne!

The episode ends with a closing montage. Relieved by Syd’s information, Charlie can finally return to her nightly scheduled partying and she does just that and stops by the barista’s bar. Elsewhere, Nick pulls out a gun in his hotel room right as someone comes knocking at his door.

Episode Recaps

State of Affairs

Katherine Heigl makes a return to prime time in this NBC political/espionage thriller.
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