Charlie and Nick learn where the texts are coming from, and Jack Dawkins comes to the rescue in Central America.
Credit: Colleen Hayes/NBC
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State of Affairs (and Katherine Heigl!) saw signs of life that have been missing in the past couple of weeks. Somehow, the primary question mark of the series—who killed Charlie’s fiance, Aaron?—remains the least interesting plot point. But, some intriguing character development (finally, some insight on President Payton’s past!) and advancements on the connections between major players is starting to make for an interesting story map. Honestly though, if NBC could just give Syd a spin-off prequel right this minute, I could overlook any slight qualms I have with the show.

This week, we start in Colon, Panama, where American aid workers from the World Health Organization are trying in vain to pass out malaria vaccines among the sick in a slum hospital. Some armed thugs come in demanding drugs (pain killers), which the Americans say have already been stolen. Street gangs want their oxy, man! An earthquake hits mid-robbery though, and as everyone recovers from the scare, the camera pans to the hospital’s basement. A long-abandoned metal cabinet has broken vials lying all around. Variola major. Smallpox.

Back in D.C., Charlie tosses and turns. She’s having flashbacks to Midnight City, that black ops ship that doesn’t exist where she met Nick and Fatah. She enters the cage that Fatah is chained to, swollen and bloodied from Nick’s version of interrogation. Playing the good cop, she switches between English and fluent Arabic. “I know everything about you,” she tells him. “I want to kill people, too.” Uh, okay, Charlie. “Despite our differences, the desire to hunt, and hurt and kill is just as alive in me as it is in you.” Wait, who exactly is she talking about here? Is she just being manipulative, or did she have a kill-trigger long before her fiance’s murder?

Anyway, she’s interrupted from her reminiscing by a text: a picture of a black handgun with the words “Bang, Bang.” Well, then. First thought: Doesn’t that gun look suspiciously like the carefully wrapped one Nick pulled from his bedside table at the end of last week’s episode?

Of course, Charlie heads straight over to Nick’s on her way into the office (props to whomever chose David Bowie’s “Bang Bang” to soundtrack her walk here… I was afraid it was going to venture into the obvious Nancy Sinatra/Kill Bill territory). Development: Turns out, Nick got the same text! “I’m exceedingly good at this stuff,” Charlie humblebrags, “and I can’t see the angle.” Don’t worry, Nick tells her. He’s working a lead. And also, they have half the equation solved! They might not know the purpose or the players, but they know the targets: them.

NEXT: Who do you think is responsible for that little smallpox problem?

Back at the office, some bearded I.T. guy is annoying everyone with his app that’s teaching him French. I mean, props to the guy for trying to learn another language, but, um, you work at Langley. Shouldn’t you already know French? (I clearly have possibly unreasonably high standards for government employees who work anywhere near analysts/classified intel.) Charlie, who is not in the mood for this today, tells the guy to turn that shit down before she tosses it down the burn-chute.

So, what’s on the agenda for potential book-inclusion today? Sheikh Hakam, some international gangster type, is hanging with other terrorist types in Manila. Boring, deems Charlie. Next! Well, Mo has info about that smallpox issue in Panama. The Department of Defense detected it as they were sniffing around for nuclear damage from the quake. Back-of-book info though, unless there’s a development.

In the Oval, as President Payton and Chief of Staff David Patrick wait to begin the morning briefing, an unscheduled appointment pops by. It’s Senator Kyle Green, whom the president is reluctant to see. Seems they have history, and Constance is quick to take credit for the senator’s entire résumé. Turns out, Senator Green was on the committee that commissioned an investigation into the convoy attack in Kabul that killed Aaron. The report is going to committee this week, and the senator tells Constance, “There is something in that report that could hurt you, gravely.” Regardless of whatever their falling out was, she doesn’t want the president to be blindsided by bad news regarding her son’s death. “I can’t speak to the substance of the report,” the senator teases, “but assume the worst.”

During the briefing, Charlie brings up the possibility of smallpox in Panama. Oh yeah, that’s totally real, the president tells her. CIA Director Navarro started saying something about the smallpox being there because of an abandoned research hospital, blah blah bioweapons research, blah blah I have no idea what else because I got lost in his beautiful eyes. Basically, the smallpox is American. We left it there. Good job, us. Charlie and Navarro do the walk-and-talk out of the Oval (finally! There is life in the White House!), and he says some things and Charlie recites a Peter Piper Picked a Peck line about a “president of a country with a potential pandemic sitting in the middle of a Panamanian slum.” Request for the end-of-season bloopers reel: I’d like to know how many takes that took.

On the seventh floor, the briefers are grabbing a lunch of salad and taquitos—Charlie’s signature bribe for getting her team to work overtime. Looks like they have a mission: recover those vials of smallpox. Restricted access, agency eyes only. This sounds like a job for… you guessed it! Jack Dawkins! Yes!

David stops by the president and first gentleman’s lunch to chat about that little meeting with Senator Green. Constance’s husband, Marshall, is pretty succinct in his feelings about the senator: “Just a friendly visit, lacking any and all ulterior motive, I’m sure.” (That’s a classy bit of shade there, Marshall. I like you, Mr. First Gentleman. I like you a lot.) David wants to look into what’s going on, and POTUS approves his snooping.

Meanwhile, Charlie is briefing everyone’s favorite man in the field, Jack Dawkins. This mission isn’t happening and no one can know about this, she tells him. Leave no footprints at all. Welp, now we know this operation isn’t going to go exactly as planned. Dammit! Be safe, dear Jack Dawkins, as you rush off to your preferred method of transportation (a helicopter, duh!).

Where, you might ask, has Nick been all day? Why, stalking someone, of course. He pops up in this guy’s home after dark, just seconds after his wife heads off to bed. Turns out, the guy was a guard on Midnight City. “Why are you taking pictures of people you don’t know on a boat that doesn’t exist?” Nick asks him. For the money, obviously. He took the pictures and sold them to the Creig Group. Judging by Nick’s face, this is bad news.

Charlie meets a woman in the parking garage, a friend who Syd sent. She installs an infiltration program on Charlie’s phone, which gives her access to the external mic of the person sending the texts. Looks like she should be able to get to the bottom of this texter problem soonish! Unfortunately, Nick shows up to dampen the mood with the news that the guard sold the photos to the Creig Group. Are they a PMC, asks Charlie. Ha! As if, replies Nick. “Calling Creig a private military company is like comparing a stealth bomber to a paper airplane,” he informs her. They are in deep shit.

NEXT: Which news will be worse? More intel on the Creig Group, or what’s in that Kabul report?

Flashback to Midnight City: Charlie watches the monitor as Nick slowly realizes beating the crap out of Fatah isn’t working. She takes notes: “Vera appears to be affected by intensive interrogation. No visual signs of progress.” Shocker: Kicking Fatah’s ass didn’t elicit any information. “Losing faith in op.” Looks like this is why Fatah became Charlie’s asset: Her psych games worked where Nick’s brutal beat-down didn’t.

Back in Panama, Jack Dawkins and co. repel from their helicopter, break into the hospital, and recover, like, six unbroken vials of Variola major. (What? How is this mission complete? What were all of those broken vials on the ground? Aren’t they going to clean that mess up somehow?) Anyway, on their way out, they run into the American aid workers and realize there’s a large group of exposed individuals. Symptoms of smallpox won’t show up for 12-14 days, and the inoculation window is just four days. Jack, the hero that he is, wants to go even farther off-protocol and bring vaccines back himself (to a location that he is definitely not already at, officially). Charlie gives in and authorizes his prolonged undertaking. Jack Dawkins is a good person, and I have a bad feeling about this.

Nick is back to stalking. This time, he’s had his eye on Syd. (Woo! Syd!) The still-mysterious Syd is feeding pigeons—which is a terrible cover because who in their right mind, besides tuppence-a-bag lady, would purposefully feed pigeons?—when Nick approaches. They engage in a bit of one-upmanship over who’s the better spy (“You’re slick, I’m slick,” Syd sums it up. “So what.” Ha! Love you, James Remar), and then get down to it. Turns out, Syd worked for the Creig Group. But, so did Nick! They’re both in deep with illegal orgs! Syd’s not working Charlie though, he asserts. “I’d protect Charlie til my dying day,” Syd proclaims, though still not telling us why exactly. Is he a secret uncle or something? Anyway, he adds “Creig’s a phantom. Trying to pin them down is like trying to drive a nail through smoke.” Nick’s lead is a dead-end.

Charlie, however, is following her lead: the infiltration program on her phone. What is that French coming out of the speaker? Could it be… THE CALL IS COMING FROM INSIDE THE HOUSE!! She attacks the I.T. guy, but he’s an innocent. Briefer Who Always Wears A Smart Vest, Dash, made good on her threat and threw the I.T. guy’s tablet down the burn-chute. So Charlie rushes to the basement where the burn-bags are just hanging out in trash bins, just like normal trash. This is some inside-the-sausage-factory info that is very unsettling. You can’t just put classified information in sealed bags and toss them down something called a burn-chute and have them not head directly to an incinerator! Well, now we just know that anyone can waltz into the mailroom and pick up some high-grade CIA intel because they don’t get around to burning it for a couple of days. Not cool, Langley. Not cool.

Charlie, now distrustful of her staff, heads off to a state dinner where she orders a club soda (have they already abandoned that party-girl persona, four episodes in?). President Payton has strategically invited Senator Green to the event so that she can deliver some choice words. Thanks for that warning about the Kabul report, she smiles through her teeth, but don’t think you can use info about my son’s murder as political currency.

Suddenly, behind the scenes, shit is hitting the fan: The Panamanians have captured Jack Dawkins, thinking he’s a spy. Noooooo! “He pulled me out of hell in Kabul,” Constance says when told the news. “Get him back, Charleston.” Yes, get our man back, Charleston!

A distracted Charlie is driving home from another long days of crises when Nick hops in her passenger-side door at a stoplight. He’s not remotely surprised it’s someone close who is sending the texts. The sexual chemistry though, which has been slowly building since the first episode, boils over. Charlie may be pissed at him, but those occasional flashbacks of her lounging in bed with Aaron aren’t enough to shut this down. “It’s still there, with us,” Nick tells her, alluding to the forever-lingering heat. And… they begin making out in her car.

More bad news though: That Kabul report has leaked. Syd frantically tries calling Charlie, who’s too preoccupied with Nick unzipping her gown to notice her phone. Mid-makeout, armed men break the windows of Charlie’s car, pull Nick out, put a bag over his head, and toss him in a van. Charlie is left with bullets in her tires and a message from Syd: “The bullet that killed Aaron came from a CIA-registered weapon. I know for a fact that gun belonged to Nick Vera.”

Miscellaneous thoughts:

— At one point, CIA Dreamboat Navarro warns Charlie to remember where her loyalties lie: She might have an unusually close connection to POTUS, but “the agency—our agency—it outlast presidents.” Note this for later. It’ll definitely come up again.

— New Guy Briefer Lucas did a really nice thing for Lady Briefer Maureen this week, by nonchalantly galavanting around town, tracking down something her ex-husband stole from her. His niceness didn’t go unnoticed by Kurt, the established Nice Guy Briefer, who doesn’t seem to realize he’s already been Friend-Zoned by Mo. Sadface, Kurt.

— Hot damn, the ladies brought it with their state dinner apparel! POTUS, Charlie, and Senator Green: A+ work, all around!

Episode Recaps

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