State of Affairs recap: 'Ar Rissalah'
Charlie begins to search for Nick, Omar Fatah makes his move, and President Payton becomes suspicious of Charlie's history.
For an episode solely focused on moving the overarching Fatah plotline forward, this week’s State of Affairs was slow and fairly forgettable. Sure the flashbacks added more pieces to the puzzle and the case-of-the-week directly related to making Fatah a central player in both Charlie’s present and past, but the episode offered no resolution and didn’t lay enough groundwork for a convincing cliffhanger. I’m starting to get concerned that if the show takes a holiday breather, no one will remember to come back in the new year.
We open in a Cairo nightclub where some American with entirely too much swagger is telling his shit-faced companion he should lay off the shots. Some suit in the doorway is eyeing them suspiciously, and as the two leave, the American, with all the bravado one should probably keep under wraps when in a dangerous region, posits that “the Egyptian secret police are not going to mess with an American.” Eh, says his local friend. “We’re not in America.” As if on cue, a van pulls up, multiple armed men grab them, tape them, and drag them off to a compound in the desert. There, Fatah approaches them with a knife and pulls the “do you know who I am?” bit.
In D.C., it’s still the night of the state dinner, and President Payton is reeling from the leaked report regarding the attack in Kabul—the main bombshell of which was that her son, Aaron, was killed by a CIA-registered weapon. As she storms toward a meeting with the CIA heads, Chief of Staff David Patrick tries to convince her that the leak was a blessing in disguise. POTUS isn’t hearing it. She wants to know the source.
“Somebody tell me—who is Nick Vera?!” POTUS asks the room of higher-ups as she grills them about the report. Charleston Tucker, who shouldn’t look anywhere near as showered and put together this soon after Nick was pulled from her car at gunpoint mid-makeout (really, it’s been maybe an hour; President Payton is still in her state dinner gown!), immediately averts her eyes.
Payton directly asks Charlie about Nick, to which Charlie responds, “I wouldn’t call us friends…” Still, she states she doesn’t believe Aaron’s killing was Nick’s doing, regardless of whom the gun was registered to. Just then, CIA Director Navarro comes in with news of the American journalist being captured by Omar Fatah.
Charlie heads to the seventh floor, clearly spooked about Nick’s disappearance. She pulls aside her Girl Friday, Maureen, and asks her to compile everything she can on Nick, including the unofficial and classified. No problem! says Mo. I already did that! What a good secretary—knowing what the boss needs before she knows she needs it. There’s nothing of use about Nick though, and Mo, who spends 80 percent of her lines each episode playing the concerned friend who is incessantly trying to tie her horse to Charlie’s cart, is tasked with finding out where Nick is now.
On the Fatah front, the CIA now has footage regarding the American reporter who was kidnapped. His name is Thomas Logan, and it becomes clear that he wasn’t kidnapped so much as tapped for an exclusive interview with Fatah. Charlie is immediately suspicious. “Fatah wouldn’t risk this kind of exposure unless it served him somehow,” she says. Regardless, there is 90 minutes worth of raw footage, and the journalist will be landing in D.C. that morning. What?! They just heard about his abduction, like, 90 minutes ago! This show’s timelines are seriously a trip.
Briefer Who Is Always In A Three-Piece Suit At 3 a.m., Dashiell, has a theory about why Fatah might be making a public interview. He’s been tracking militant groups online, and the chatter has been referring to “Ar Rissalah,” which translates to “The Message” from Arabic. Dash calls these sites “radical versions of fanboy pages dedicated to Fatah,” and in the past 36 hours, they’ve been off the charts.
Over at FBI headquarters, the reporter is being debriefed from his not-kidnapping/interview of a lifetime. “He seems really relaxed for a guy who was almost beheaded,” Charlie notes, and she doesn’t believe his story that Fatah was unarmed. She’s right though—this asshole reporter does seem way too chill, like the victim’s frat-tastic boyfriend who is called in by Benson and co. on Law & Order for questioning, but knows they have nothing to hold him. Har har har, they were all totally cordial, he says. “I even gave the driver my cell phone as a token of gratitude,” Logan says. “He must have played ‘Thunderstruck’ a dozen times.” Of course this guy has AC/DC on his phone.
Charlie goes into the room to ask about the cameraman. Al, Logan says he’s called. A local hire, who he makes a point to not get to know beyond first names. Logan says he wants to air the interview within 48 hours. Charlie asks him not to in the interest of national security, blah blah blah, but he’s not moved. “I’m sitting on a Pulitzer,” he claims.
Back at Langley, images from a suicide bomber and a raided terrorist cell thousands of miles apart both happen to have the same symbol displayed—a zoomorphic calligraphy of an Arabic horse. It’s coded art, with the words “the message” hidden in the drawing. And, according to Logan’s footage, Fatah’s men were wearing patches with this symbol as well. Also, all that chatter that Dash mentioned earlier? It’s all Ar Rissalah talk, and it’s happening everywhere. All over the world—the Middle East, Europe, the U.S. “It’s a call to arms,” Charlie deduces. “Omar Fatah and Sheikh Hakam have just built the biggest terrorist network we’ve ever seen.”
NEXT: So how exactly did this reporter get an interview with Fatah, again?
In the Oval Office, President Payton, David, and Charlie preview the Fatah interview. The CIA sees it as a way to awaken waiting cells, Charlie says, and Payton tasks David with getting it canceled before it airs. First amendment? F— it. National security!
Update on Nick? There is none. All Maureen has found was that the CCTV feeds were killed before his abduction. Look into the Kreig Group, Charlie tells Mo—that shadow org she still doesn’t know anything about. Charlie meets up with Syd to hand off those documents she found in the burn bags yesterday. Syd doesn’t care about the docs, though, he wants Charlie to just leave Nick alone. “You know what he is,” Syd advises. “Hope he’s lying dead somewhere with a bullet in the back of his head.” Damn, man! No sympathy for a fellow black op! Syd warns Charlie again to get out of that world. Walk away, he says. I can’t protect you there.
Do you think Charlie’s going to listen to an OG like Syd? Nope. She goes straight to break into Nick’s apartment, which has been completely ransacked. She knows what she’s looking for though—an old globe, which she removes the northern hemisphere to reveal a hidden gun, wad of foreign currency, numerous passports, and a picture of her and Nick, smiling and laughing. Hmm. Begs the question of just how close were they back before Kabul?
Oh, insight on that: Flashback! Charlie and Nick are in Afghanistan discussing Senator Payton’s upcoming tour of Kabul. He tells her things are different there. “It’s not suburban D.C., playing house with a senator’s son.” He thinks the trip is superfluous. “What’s the plan? She puts on some Kevlar, strikes a few hero poses, and acts like she’s saving the world from evil?” Sounds about right! Payton is a veteran of the first Gulf War, and yes, that’s basically the plan. Drum up the votes. Kabul’s FUBAR, says Nick. He hands Charlie a gun—that gun. Don’t go on this tour unprotected, he tells her.
Charlie finishes up going through Nick’s globe, which includes at least three passports in her name. She seems in a little disbelief, but surely she was going there to get those out of his apartment, right? How close must they have been in this past life for him to have that much get-away material for her? As she heads out (while leaving the globe with the gun and other passports out in the open… Bad covert agent! Bad!), a pair of black boots step out of the hallway to watch her leave. Oh, dang! Who might that be? Kinda looks like Nick’s style of footwear, though not nearly scuffed up enough. This mystery guy seems to do more shoe polishing than ass-kicking.
Back at the office, Charlie goes through the Fatah footage and notices a poor edit, meaning Logan didn’t turn over all of his material. She and the FBI come up with a trumped up charge in order to arrest Logan and seize the tapes. Fatah is using you, she tells him. Yeah, well, Logan says, he said you’d say that. Uh… Seems as though Fatah was just as tactical as Charlie has been telling everyone, and he gave Logan a message to deliver to her personally. But first, Logan has to show off all the dots he’s connected. Charlie was Fatah’s targeting analyst; Fatah attacks the convoy, killing her fiance; this Senate subcommittee report has “some very powerful panties in a twist”; and the mastermind behind that attack is now passing notes to Charlie? It’s clear that he’s put together more pieces than Charlie intended for anyone to ever know, and he makes it clear that he’ll be back with real questions once that report is released. But, for the content of Fatah’s message? “Pegasus takes wing.”
NEXT: What the eff does that mean, “Pegasus takes wing?” (Hint: It means what you think it means.)
David is out to lunch with Jules, the television network owner whom David is trying to coerce into not airing Logan’s Fatah interview. Nah, not without a major scoop, says Jules. He wants the Kabul report. No dice, says David. But, his old friend deduces that it was David who pushed for the trip to Kabul in the first place. Point blank, Jules asks if Payton won the election because her son was killed. “It was unintended political capital,” David replies. (This is sounding very Scandal, season 3.) Jules holds firm that he doesn’t want to kill the Fatah interview without something better, so David gives up Nick Vera’s name and his CIA affiliation. It’s a big enough get that Jules decides to play along.
Back in the Oval, it looks like POTUS figured out who leaked that Kabul report. Surprise, surprise, it was Senator Green. (This is not a surprise. This was the most obvious thing ever.) Whatever, Green says, “I used it as leverage, and I gave you a heads up!” Lame. But, she does have real bombshell for the president. “Nick Vera and Charlie’s relationship was—and is—more than just professional.” Is that in the report, too? If so, things really might be getting scandalous for Charlie!
Flashback! On Midnight City, Charlie, Nick and Fatah are having a meal on the deck. As they go over the terms for his cooperation, Fatah still clearly has doubts about betraying his “brothers.” Nick doesn’t believe that they’ve turned him, but Charlie’s convinced. “He has too much honor,” Charlie says. “He’s recruited.” No, says Nick. He’s given us nothing, and he’ll do nothing. Who else knows about this, he asks. Just CIA Director Blake, Charlie assures him. The three of them will be the only ones with knowledge of this asset. And Fatah’s code name? Pegasus.
Back at Langley, they’ve all been hard at work figuring out who Logan’s cameraman was. Turns out Cameraman Al was a plant, a Wisconsin-born radical convert named Aleek Al Moosari who faked his own death two years ago in order to becomes a shadow in Fatah’s service. Everything was a set-up, just as Charlie surmised.
Elsewhere, POTUS and David are discussing the Kabul report when President Payton mentions that Senator Green said Charlie and Nick are romantically involved. “Fire Charleston Tucker immediately,” David advises. “My job is to shield you from harm and keep your blind spots clear. Charleston Tucker is the most direct threat to both.” He’s not wrong, and this is solid advice, but we all know Payton is not going to fire Charlie. Wasn’t that half the point of episode 1?
Skip to Logan, the reporter, cruising around at night in his convertible, congratulating himself over news that his agent just closed a seven-figure book deal for him. As he lights a celebratory cigarette, he starts coughing and hunching over. He jumps lanes, swerves into oncoming traffic, and then drives head-on into a semi. Huh. That seems convenient, Charlie.
At a bar, Jules tells David the news about Logan’s death. Officially? Heart-attack. “Thirty-six is mighty young to have heart trouble,” Jules points out. Don’t be a conspiracy theorist, David basically says, to which Jules replies that their deal is off. He’s running the Fatah interview.
The interview airs, which outlines Fatah’s terms for peace. But it also includes the warning that he has followers everywhere. “We are the friend you invite over for fellowship, the coworker you confide your deepest secret to,” he tells viewers as the camera jumps to various images of people from all walks of life watching his interview, all with the Ar Rissalah horse hanging from the cabbie’s mirrors or tattooed on the EMT’s wrist. “We have been waiting for a moment such as this, and now we have a reason. A storm is brewing, and retribution is at hand.”
Charlie takes their findings on al Moosari to President Payton on Air Force One (nice to see her getting to use some of the other perks of the office!). The CIA is looking into the possibilities of a larger U.S. cell, but Payton has been a one-question pony all episode—is this how Nick Vera is involved? No, mom, ughhhh, Charlie says. See, Nick gave me that gun, but something happened and it wasn’t on me during the attack. Uh huh, Payton’s eyes said. Any other secrets, she asks Charlie, giving her one last chance to come clean. Nope! Nothing else, replies Charlie!
“I want eyes on Charleston,” Payton tells David, as she starts quoting Sting. “Every move she makes, every word she utters. I want to know everything.”
– Charlie’s hairstylist has stepped up her game. This week’s ponytail was 100 percent better that the pilot’s. Long and lean—much more professional than that curly cheerleader updo from before.
– Aww, Friend-Zone Briefer Kurt is sweet. His card trick to ask Mo out to dinner was a nice try. I’m betting this will just lead to office awkwardness as she continues to coyly stiff-arm him and he continues to Not Get It.