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Covert Affairs is a USA Network Spy Drama, starring Piper Perabo as trainee CIA agent Annie Walker, who is suddenly roped into actual field work.

As per USA formula, Annie is surrounded by a cast of quirky characters: Auggie Anderson, a field agent who was blinded on a mission and now works Mission Control; Conrad Sheehan (only in the pilot), Annie's superior agent; Joan and Arthur Campbell, the respective head of the Domestic Protection Division and CIA itself (and troubled married couple), Jai Wilcox, who follows in his CIA legend dad's footsteps, and Annie's sister Danielle, who doesn't know of her life in espionage.

The Myth Arc concerns Annie's Dear-Johnning ex-lover Ben, who influenced her decision to join the CIA and has a Mysterious Past.


This series contains examples of:

  • Action Girl:
    • Annie is more like an Action Girl in-training. Though it's brought up in "Bang and Blame" that though she was pulled early and primarily due to her connection to Ben, Annie actually was in the top if not at the top of her class previously.
  • Action Survivor: At least on Annie's first few missions.
    • Joan doesn't show it much since she is no longer a regular field agent, but in Welcome to the Occupation she and another agent take five armed kidnappers down while being unarmed.
  • All Women Love Shoes: Annie's cover story to go back to the scene of the shooting is that she wants to retrieve her Louboutins.
  • Angry Guard Dogs: Subverted. The contact is a Misunderstood Loner with a Heart of Gold and the dogs are part of the ensemble; all they do is bark a lot.
  • Badass Israeli: Annie's contact in the fourth episode.
    • Eyal Lavin makes a return appearance in season 2. And is again badass.
  • Batman Gambit: Jai pulls one in "The Wake-up Bomb."
  • Bathroom Break Out: While Annie escorts a prisoner he tries to escape this way, but Annie already waits for him outside the window.
  • Beauty Is Never Tarnished: Annie survives being shot at and covered in glass with only a slight case of mussed hair.
  • The Beautiful Elite: Actually referenced in 1x08 - according to her sister, Annie and Jai are this.
  • Belligerent Sexual Tension: Annie and Jai are moderately snarky to one another; that sparring/"fight" scene between Annie and Auggie in the third episode was pretty flirtatious.
  • The Bechdel Test: Pass.
  • Big Brother Instinct: Auggie has a bit of this for Annie.
  • Blind Mistake: Mostly averted with Auggie, who is highly capable and aware of his surroundings, although he did once accidentally bad-mouth Jai's father while Jai was in earshot, with Annie's warning coming too late:

 Auggie: I'm assuming by the silence and the stiletto in my shin, I'm assuming Jai has joined us. ...I'm off to do...anything else. (leaves)

  • Briefcase Blaster: In episode 4 a briefcase blows up.
  • Broken Bird: Annie spent most of her life putting up emotional barriers, and when she finally let them down and fell in love, her paramour left in the middle of the night with nothing more than a note. And so, she explains, she keeps her guard up.
  • Burn, Baby, Burn: The ultimate fate of Ben's note.
  • Busman's Holiday: The premise of "Fool in the Rain."
    • Referred to by name in "What's the Frequency, Kenneth?"
  • But Not Too Brown: Averted with Jai Wilcox, more so because most of the other characters the actor is known for are pure Indian. To boot, as the Unfortunate Implications mention, the color of his skin is never brought up in any fashion.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: The nice Spanish guy Annie has a chat with in the hotel is the real assassin.
    • The guy she talks with at the auction is the smuggler; his henchman was the person who actually bought the painting.
  • The Chessmaster: Jai is turning into one.
  • Chick Magnet: Auggie.
  • CIA Evil, FBI Good: Played with by nature of the show. The FBI agents Annie encounters are obstructive but only because they're doing their job and trying to catch bad guys. At the same time, the FBI is still shown to be basically the straightforward good guys compared to the CIA. Semi-justified in most cases as the CIA is supposed to be a foreign intelligence service with little to do with domestic affairs which the FBI is responsible for. Also brought up in "Bang and Blame" where the CIA instructor basically calls the FBI gun-toting nuts who shoot first. This is entirely consistent with the sort on inter-agency communication problems that exist in real life.
    • Most evident in "A Girl Like You". While the CIA gets their happy ending, the FBI gets screwed over on their investigation because the CIA decides -not- to read in the FBI and cooperate.
  • Combat Pragmatist: Sort of brought up in "Bang and Blame" by the CIA training instructor. When asked to escape from a building and offered a weapon to do so, all of the recruits pick up a gun and shoot their way out. Annie on the other hand takes a gun... to break a glass box that contains a map of the building. She then disappears on the course and walks back into class via the exit. The instructor promptly chews the rest of the class out and explains (much like Michael Westen) that guns are a last resort. The best weapon is your mind.
  • Combat Stilettos: Annie wears very high heels quite often. It's semi-justified as she's usually has a cover as a curator or businesswoman. Also semi-subverted/semi-played straight as Annie generally has not won many fights... but does almost everything else in them like repel down an elevator shaft and chase people.
    • Finally subverted in 1x08, when Annie tells another woman to take off her shoes as they're running through a warehouse trying to escape bad guys, and also does so herself.
    • Same episode and one a few episodes later, also has Annie win at least one fight... but again, she's not wearing her heels.
    • Joan on the other hand kicks butt with or without heels.
  • Consummate Liar: Everyone on the show can lie perfectly. It comes with the job. That said, as demonstrated in "Bang and Blame", just because you can lie well doesn't mean that someone will automatically believe you or that a lie will advance your goals.
  • Could Say It, But...:

  Auggie: I know what I'm supposed to tell you now. I'm supposed to tell you to let Joan run her op. I'm not supposed to tell you to go down to the warehouse and investigate and I'm definitely not supposed to tell you that code for the keypad today is 92762#.

  • Cunning Linguist: Annie speaks 6 languages fluently: English, Russian, German, Spanish, Hebrew, and Portuguese, and she knows enough Turkish "to get by." It's one of the reasons she was recruited into the CIA.
    • She also apparently knows at least some Italian as well, because in one episode she has to trade an Italian journalist for an American spy and she completely understands his ranting and even responds in Italian. She also understands Arabic, but she can only speak the cuss words. Estonian is her only weakness as she knows only the cuss words and not much else.
  • Cursed with Awesome: Crosses over into Running Gag. Auggie is almost never without a beautiful woman at his side, whether due to co-workers, his charm, or just random women approaching him. Annie lampshades this in 1x05. Also played with 2x07; in the flashback of him before his blindness, he seems to lack the same sort of magnetism despite acting essentially the same.

 Auggie: And leave me all alone?

Annie: Oh please, there'll be a pretty woman next to you before I even cross the bar.

Annie takes a half-step away and a pretty woman immediately steps into frame and takes a seat next to Auggie.

  • Dead Little Sister: Played straight with Eyal - it's revealed in 2x13 that he joined Mossad after a terrorist attack killed his younger sister, Sarah. Also played with Auggie, who feels definite responsibility for not catching the mole who blinded him and killed the rest of his unit in an attack.
  • Did Not Do the Research: Episode 7 has a Russian hacker called Natasha Petrovna. Petrovna is definitely not a last name, it's a patronymic, and this name sounds unbelievably silly for any Russian speaker. "Natasha" is also a diminutive form of "Natalia", such forms are never used in any official capacity.
    • Same episode also gets a lot of things... off with computers, the internet, and such.
      • And such being things like using a Texas Instruments calculator as a card scanner
    • The episode covering the death of Auggie's Army Special Operations team gets everything wrong with anything military related, whether it be hair length regulations, rank protocol, communications protocol, service weapons, tactics...
  • Disabled Snarker: Auggie.
  • Disability Superpower: Played with. Auggie notes that his sense of smell is better than sighted power or at least, something he pays attention to more. However, he's never shown to use it as a replacement for sight or to do unusual things, only helpful environmental cues.
    • Crosses over into Hyper Awareness.
    • It's occasionally subverted. In episode seven, an FBI agent visiting the office moves chairs around. Auggie enters and immediately trips, and he shouts "A blind person works here!"
      • Later in that same episode he finds himself in a combat situation - so he tells his ally to turn the room's lights off.
    • Subverted when Auggie has his talk with Arthur. Arthur explicitly tells him that "The chair's right in front of you." so that Auggie can sit down.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: In "Bang and Blame", the leak at the Farm that's revealing potential trainee's on line (and thus effectively destroying their career at any sort of clandestine organization forever)? One of the trainee who wants to be number one. Yeesh.
  • Doesn't Like Guns: Annie, technically, but it's justified in that 1) she's suppose to be a museum curator in most of her covers so guns would break her cover and 2) she never completed gun training before being brought up from the Farm so she probably isn't even allowed to use a gun unless she's forced to.
  • Mr. Fanservice: Episode seven features a lot of shirtless Auggie. And it's awesome. And apparently someone at USA knows how to play the fangirls, because episode nine has this as well.
    • Jai and Ben also.
    • Naw, Jai is a definite in-universe example.

  Danielle: "He's like the George Clooney of wherever he's from!"

  Want more scenes of shirtless Auggie? Go to our website!

    • Even Arthur (Peter Gallagher) to an extent
    • Most male guest stars seems to be tall, dark, ruggedly handsome, perpetual 5-o'clock shadow. (Recently: Eyal, Dr. Scott Weiss, Roy from the Farm).
  • Every Car Is a Pinto: Averted. In "When The Levee Breaks", the technical chasing Ben and Annie just goes squish when it goes over the cliff.
  • Everything Is Online: The premise of "Communications Breakdown".
  • Expy: It takes a while but you start to realize that the show has included several expies of famous fictional spies that Annie bumps into. Ben is Jason Bourne while Eyal, the Israeli spy that's appeared twice is a bit of James Bond.
    • Also, Del Gato from "Welcome to the Occupation" is pretty similar to Hans Gruber.
  • Fake Defector: Subverted, they thought someone was this in episode 2.
  • Fake-Out Make-Out: Sort of. In "Bang and Blame" when Annie is caught in Gaskin's office, Auggie comes in (shirtless of course) and pretends they were just getting it on - on Gaskin's sofa. Once they leave, Gaskin can only look at his sofa and squick.
  • Fan Service: There is no other reasonable explanation for making Auggie fight the Russian mob shirtless.
    • In the Flash Back with Auggie and his Army buddies, he's on the "skins" team for a football game. The popups Lampshade this Fan Service: "Want more scenes of shirtless Auggie? #covertaffairs".
    • Not to mention the fact that the show has gone out of its way to include a scene of Annie in a bikini in darn near every episode or, alternatively, putting her in short cocktail dresses showing off her legs.
    • Heck, the season 1 premiere starts off with a several minute long non-speaking sequence of Annie wandering around a beach in a bikini. Complete with Foot Focus.
  • Foot Focus: Annie has to take off her shoes when stepping into a stream where a retired agent was fly-fishing. The camera focuses on her bare feet for a full minute.
    • It happens again in an episode where she's in a bubblebath, and again in an earlier episode.
    • Actually, pretty much any time a woman is half clothed, the shot will be just wide enough to include her feet.
    • Not only barefooted woman, but in the episode Annie meets Eyal Lavine for the 2nd time, there is camera focus on his shoes and they're mentioned twice later in the episode.
  • Front Organization: The Smithsonian for Annie.
  • Gas Leak Coverup: Used in "World Leader Pretend" to clear the hospital wing housing Annie and her asset, who've apparently been exposed to radiation.
    • And again in "The Wake-up Bomb."
  • Geeky Turn On: Auggie met his ex Natasha at a laundromat where she was reading Snow Crash.
  • Genre Savvy: Escorting an outed Italian operative after being forced down in Argentina, they stumble across a farm;

  "And this is when you steal some poor hapless peasant's vehicle; his only worldly possession."

  • Grey and Grey Morality: Henry Wilcox
  • Government Agency of Fiction: The Domestic Protection Division. Notable since the CIA is a foreign intelligence service yet for obvious reasons the show takes place mostly in the States. Something of Truth in Television as the CIA has 90% of its employees in the States. Most of whom are likely support for the operatives, analysts for the information, management/administration, or counter-intelligence rather than any sort of shadowy internal espionage thing (which, as mentioned above, is the FBI's purview).
  • Handicapped Badass: Auggie. Just all the way through. He's the one who teaches Annie grappling, for one thing.
  • The Handler: Auggie is Annie's, similar to another spy show about a newbie CIA agent.
    • Two years ago, Jai was Ben's, in Sri Lanka.
  • Hero of Another Story: Whenever Annie teams up with a foreign agent for an episode, they're either this or The Mole. Examples include Eyal Levin, Agent Frank Rasabi, and that Italian guy from the Argentina Episode.
  • Hide Your Pregnancy: They're trying to hide Anne Dudek's second pregnancy, but it's really not working out too well.
  • High Class Call Girl: Annie impersonates one in the pilot.
  • Honey Trap: Kind of a popular trope for the show.
    • Alluded to in "No Quarter," where the safe house in Zurich contains bondage gear: "still the best way to flip a politician".
    • Jai has orders to flirt with Annie, win her trust, and get to her ex-boyfriend through her.
    • In "Communications Breakdown," Auggie asked to do this to a New Old Flame.
      • In the same episode, it's revealed that he's sleeping with Liza Hearn, hoping this will help him identify her CIA source.
    • In "A Girl Like You", Annie does this to Eyal in an attempt to stop him from going after 'Cardinal'. Notable in that it's lampshaded and discussed.
    • In "Good Advices," Oded Fehr as Eyal Levin is a bit of a two-way Honey Trap himself.
  • Hot Scoop: Auggie's girlfriend.
  • Hyper Awareness: One of Annie's skills. 1x04, "No Quarter", shows the problems with this; as Burn Notice's Michael Westen once noted, it's easy to become paranoid, interpreting even innocent gestures as evidence of a threat.
    • Auggie definitely has this as a Disability Superpower. He's able to smell different kinds of perfume, identify people from the sound of their shoes or their jewelry, and determine where a couple is from based solely on how they order breakfast.
    • Though it's more just a Superpower as the things he notices are things everyone would notice if they just paid more attention to those things, disability or no.
  • I Am Not My Father: Keep telling yourself that, Jai.
  • Idiosyncratic Episode Naming: With the exception of the pilot, each season's episodes are named after songs in one artist's canon:
    • Season 1: Led Zeppelin ("Walter's Walk," "Southbound Suarez," etc.)
    • Season 2: REM ("Begin the Begin," "Bang and Blame," etc.)
  • I Have No Son: Henry Wilcox to Jai. Jai's response? "I guess I don't have a father, then."
  • I Just Shot Marvin in the Face: Not yet by any of the main cast but Gaskin in "Bang and Blame" steps in front of Annie to comment on her shooting ability a mere moment after she shot a target with live ammunition. Annie lowers her weapon as soon as she realizes what an idiot the senior agent who should know better is.
  • Incredibly Obvious Bug: An MI-6 double agent plants one on Annie's phone.
    • Not that obvious, since it was a black half-inch sticker.
  • In-Series Nickname: Several characters have spontaneously come up with "Annie Oakley".
    • Somewhat ironic as up until "Bang and Blame", Annie technically hasn't completed gun training yet.
  • Interservice Rivalry: With practically every agent from another agency Annie comes in contact with.
  • In the Blood: The Wilcox ruthlessness.
  • Jurisdiction Friction: Intra-agency, and mostly because Joan and Arthur have trouble trusting each other.
  • Jury Duty: Joan is summoned in "Good Advice" and insists on going because it is a civic duty. After learning she will be stuck for three weeks to a year she has herself excused.
  • Just Friends: Auggie and Annie. So far.
  • Kukris Are Kool: Auggie has one.
  • Lzherusskie: Justified. He's not even really Russian. However, the actual assassin is a straight version.
  • Lampshade Hanging: "The IRA? Really? Is this 1987?"
  • MacGyvering
  • Making Love in All the Wrong Places: Auggie and his ex-girlfriend Natasha, on a train in episode seven. More like all the RIGHT places.
  • Moe Stare : Annie. What a gorgeous smile!
  • Nerds Are Virgins: Awesomely subverted with Auggie, who is most certainly a ladies' man.
  • Nice Guy: Auggie
  • Not Himself: Annie mentions this to Joan when Auggie goes to kill the terrorist who blinded him. The tipoff: Auggie never says goodbye.
  • Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping: When Annie impersonates an call girl in the pilot, she adopts a Southern accent and a grin. When the FBI agent she's talking to calls her a hooker, both the accent and smile disappear. The implication is that the call girl was using Obfuscating Stupidity until the agent pushed her Berserk Button.
    • But as potentially referencing another trope or two. Some people are into Southern Belles (and that itself carries any number of stereotypes) and so it could also be taken that she (as a call girl) was using the accent to project that idea and fantasy to her clients.
  • Overt Operative: Annie seems to give out her real name to EVERYONE, which is actually Standard Operating Procedure for the CIA (and most intelligence agencies in general). One's "cover" usually does not consist of a fake identity but rather simply lying about one's job. It's too easy for a competent foreign agency to uncover an entirely false identity, and (more importantly) it can often be difficult to remember who you're supposed to be (especially for a newbie). In practice, it really is enough to say that you work for (for instance) the Smithsonian under your real name. They've handled it quite well.
  • Part-Time Hero: Sort of but considering her normal job is a CIA operative, it's not really a part time thing.
  • Put on a Bus: Ben and Annie reunite and Ben gets his job back. Yay! Except it takes a while to realize that Ben getting his job back means he's back to being a shadow non-existent presence (just working for the CIA again). Subsequently, the amount of flirtation that gets sent Annie's way has increased significantly while the initial trait of her being very guarded has also increased to be an actual character trait rather than as the plot demands.
  • "Previously On...": Started popping up late in the season, so that the viewers were reminded of the Myth Arc.
  • Product Placement: The people behind the camera have yet to figure out how to do this subtly, so it can be kind of painful to watch at times.
    • Averted with the mention of the Five Guys Burgers and Fries franchise. Ben only uses a shorted "Five Guys cheeseburger" so unless you already knew about the franchise, you'd probably not realize it was an actual place.
  • Promotion to Opening Titles / And Starring: Peter Gallagher gets the coveted "And" credit when in the second season; he was only a "Special Guest Star" in season 1.
  • Reality Subtext: Several hikers have historically been arrested as spies. When Riva and Annie are arrested, they actually are spies.
  • Saying Too Much: If Staas hadn't called Annie "kiisu", she never would have figured out he wasn't the real Staas.
  • Sexy Shirt Switch: Natasha briefly wears Auggie's shirt after they hook up on the train.
    • And in 1x09, Liza walks in wearing Auggie's shirt.
    • Must be why Auggie is shirtless a lot of the time. Women keep taking/wearing all his shirts.
  • She's Got Legs: As with Foot Focus the show seems to give Annie a lot of clothing that clings to her legs pretty well. Even her jeans (see "Bang and Blame" for a good example) are ridiculously tight.
  • Ship Tease: Annie and Auggie. Hell, there are at least two commercials dedicated to how much UST they have.
  • Shout-Out: There's a very brief music snippet in "Communication Breakdown" that sounds like part of the X-Files theme song.
    • In "Bang and Blame", Auggie's fake cover when he's pretending to be faculty at a student training cocktail dinner is one Dr. Stephen, neurosurgeon, similar if not the same as one Dr. Stephen Strange. Their backgrounds are similar too.
  • Shown Their Work: They might play fast and loose with the CIA stuff, but Christopher Gorham has been going out of his way to do the research to accurately portray a blind person, including spending time at the Canada National Institute of the Blind.
    • At the same time, some of the smaller details are fairly accurate. For instance, CIA agents are always referred to as operatives and case workers.
  • Spiritual Successor: To Alias, so much so that several elements have been directly lifted from that show - most notably Jai Wilcox's father being a Magnificent Bastard of a Spymaster and his mother being a double agent.
    • The executive producer of the show is Doug Liman, who is also responsible for The Bourne Trilogy. In one of the preview videos before the show debuted, he likened the show to seeing what happened to Jason Bourne in between the movies.
  • The Spock: Riva, with shades of Straw Vulcan.
  • Spy Fiction: Dirty Martini flavor. It's a sleek, fun USA show, but going for the more nitty gritty of spy tropes.
  • Spymaster Couple : The Campbells. Arthur heads the CIA itself, Joan's the head of the DPD.
  • Strictly Formula: Like with many of its sister shows on USA, Covert Affairs is a story about a fish out of water due to conspiracy and/or their own personal history.
  • Suspiciously Similar Substitute: The Domestic Protection Division (DPD) was moved to a new set after the pilot. The in-show reason was that the DPD was moving offices after a memo sent three years ago said they were moving "in a week".
  • Switch to English: Annie will often find her contact, begin speaking to them in their native language, and then the contact will say something about being fluent in English and from there on out they will speak in English.
  • Techno Wizard: Auggie.
  • Teeth-Clenched Teamwork: FBI agent Rasabi and Annie, although there are occasional moments where it's more like Vitriolic Best Buds. Annie for her part wants to help Rasabi out; it's generally Annie's superiors that make life difficult for the FBI agent. Rasabi typically gets the short end of the stick regardless.
  • Troubled but Cute: Pretty much every senior agent Annie encounters or works with is this in varying degrees. Most of them note that this is generally a very common outcome for agents no matter what they do. Even those like Joan who avoid the sort of issues Annie runs into in others isn't exactly issue-free in the least. And to a lesser extent, the younger agents (Jai, Annie, Ben, and Auggie) have their own set of lesser issues giving them trouble.
  • UST: Pretty much Annie and any male on the show.
    • Auggie has some of this with Joan as well as Annie.
    • And Jai. With Auggie, with Joan...
      • Jai/Auggie UST is quite debatable, though there does seem to be some tension of a non-sexual sort.
  • Waif Fu: The show is rather fond of averting this; despite Annie's combat training, she struggles when up against larger opponents. Though in her defense, she usually is getting ambushed while in high heels and is fresh off the Farm with little actual combat experience. When she has something of an even fight, she wins (with Chekov's pepper spray, makeshift weapons, creativity, or rarely, brute strength & skill).
  • "Well Done, Son" Guy: Jai's dad has elements of this.
  • Western Terrorists: The Mexican "Los anarquistas de la tierra directa". (Meaning Direct Land Anarchists)
  • What Beautiful Eyes!: Annie. Come on, you didn't notice?
  • Your Cheating Heart: Actually portrayed semi-sympathetically with Arthur and Joan, as the two are now married. Doesn't mean they don't have trust issues, though.
    • This forms the B-plot of one episode with Annie caught between the two. Joan (her boss) orders her to keep an eye on Arthur under the pretense of being point on an operation involving a female love interest from Arthur's past. Arthur (her boss's boss) orders her -not- to follow Joan's orders and plays Cowboy Cop.
  • You Get Me Coffee: Annie. She gets upgraded to walk-in work, though! And then lunch duty! And then in "Bang and Blame", she's back on the farm to finish training!
    • Subverted on one occasion. A nameless jerkass agent disregards Annie's input and asks her to fetch him coffee. She springs up to grab the drinks, but Jai tugs her back into her seat.
    • Starting to be used less in the second season. Justified of course - given the amount of field work she's had, it'd be difficult to explain why she'd still be so low on the totem pole. That said, it still occurs when other agents get involved.
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