Covert Affairs Season 4 Finale Review: In from the Cold

By MaryAnn Sleasman

Nov 22, 2013

Covert Affairs S04E16: "Trompe Le Monde"


"Trompe le monde" is French for "deceives the world," according to Google (IDK, I took Español), and it's also the last album the Pixies made before they broke up that one time—kinda like how Henry Wilcox broke up with maintaining a pulse. BYE FOREVER, HENRY. SEE U NEVER... except for maybe in the occasional flashback. Or in a miraculous (a.k.a. infuriating) resurrection because TV. Or in Annie Walker's sadface emo-girl PTSD nightmares because we're supposed to believe that deep down inside, Annie Walker is a sweet girl who just happens to have a badass job. 

Actually, I do believe that, which is why I didn't think Annie would actually waste Wilcox once she got the chance. Sure, Annie was all HBIC after Simon was snuffed last season, but that was kind of waved off as equal parts emotional trauma and an unfortunate side effect of being BFFs with Lena the Evil Feminist for half the season. Annie spent the first half of this season being the actual most irritating googly-eyed girlfriend ever, and I just didn't think she had the capability to pull off a potentially questionable in-the-field execution anymore. Or ever. My bad. 


I think most of us can agree (and if we can't, then we can't, and it's cool) that Season 4 of Covert Affairs proved itself to be a worthy successor to the uneven trainwreck of Season 3. Season 3 started out so great, with Jai's death reminding us that underneath the harmless appeal of the Spy Barbie Adventure Hour, what we have here is an actual spy show, where theoretically, our characters are in danger pretty much all the time and sometimes that danger catches up to them in the most unlikely of places. Jai's death; the subsequent rift between Annie, Joan, and the usual cadre of allies; and the whoooole messy, shady, occasionally WTF-y relationship with Simon began the process of ditching the Barbie Dream Spyplane and sort of rebranding Covert Affairs as a srs bsns drama. Season 3 started the process and came so, so close to getting there at various points in the season, but it was just so sloppy that it never quite got there. (Sry.)

Enter Season 4: Yeah. I think we got there. 


USA Network as a whole has been shifting the tone to darker or at the very least, more-mature-but-not-porn-mature programming, starting with Political Animals two summers ago and continuing with Graceland this past summer. It makes perfect sense that the shift would also extend to the ranks of the network's higher-performing shows, which can weather such change without alienating viewers. I mean, if Psych suddenly turned into a gritty crime drama, we'd have some issues, but White Collar could benefit from a little grit, and Covert Affairs has flourished after getting a few dings on the Barbie Spy Corvette. Maybe it's just the lingering sentiments from that lovely closing scene with Annie on the boat, heading back into her life after so long in the cold, but the writing felt a lot less constrained this season, as though the show had finally been given the freedom to be what it had always, deep down, wanted to be. 


The depth that was added to Covert Affairs' core characters this season will serve the series well into its fifth season and hopefully beyond. I mocked Walkerson a lot for acting like gross annoying teenagers whenever they were in the same room, but it was important for us to see that softer, dopier side of these two agents, especially as their situations forced them to toughen up as the season progressed. Arthur and Joan have never been more interesting than they are now, with the full dynamics of their relationship revealed, and their roles expanded beyond "hardass bosses with trust issues." Even Calder, upon introduction, was poised to become just another human obstacle for Team Annie, until he became not just a surprise ally, but an awesome one. Congrats on surviving the entire season, bro!

Henry Wilcox also underwent a quick and major change, falling from almost unparalleled power to a cockroach scurrying for cover in just a handful of episodes. I would have liked some more explanation as to why Henry was such an epic dickhead, but at the very least, his "scorpion" comment lent itself to the possibility that maybe Wilcox didn't need a valid reason for his actions. Maybe the dude was just awful. Sometimes, people just are


"Our relationships are what define us as spies" is what Annie said to Wilcox right before he traded her to the Chinese government for train tix (and probs a pack of smokes), and it was especially telling that despite Henry's taunt about Annie technically being dead, it was Annie who had the strong backing of her friends, coworkers, and her country—not Wilcox, despite his once-formidable presence. Annie Walker invests in her relationships and surrounds herself with flawed, but genuinely well-intentioned people, where Wilcox bought and sold allegiances like just another commodity. 

It's with a unified front and a clean slate that we close the book on Season 4 and look forward to Season 5 sometime next summer. With Wilcox off the table, theoretically, the possibilities are endless. We can go anywhere and do anything. What would you like to do? Where do you hope to see Annie when we catch up with her again?


SPY NOTES

– Calder bringing Joan into the CIA sleepover to suss out the Wilcox supporters was like FIND THE WITCHES! BURN THEMMMM! At least it was to me. Sometimes my brain provides its own narration. Whatever. It keeps things interesting.

– Can we talk about what a BAMF Joan is, walkin' into the hospital like her labor is no big? Or the fact that Covert Affairs resisted the urge all season long to turn Joan's pregnancy into this big, tense, melodramatic THING and I love them forever for it? Here's a pile of brownie points, don't blow them all in one place. 

– Do you think there are any Wilcox loyalists left to stir things up, or did that loyalty end when the paychecks stopped? 

– Will you be back for Season 5? 

– Can we keep Calder? I want to keep Calder. PLEEEEEEZE?

– Thanks for reading! It's been fun! XOXO BYE. 


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  • tvspyfan Dec 04, 2013

    Man, I'm in withdrawal! Did anyone notice how the writers gave Henry a line about Teo? I have believed Teo's story to be over, that he was dead. But why bring Teo up in the finale, if Teo's story doesn't continue into season 5? I wonder if Teo has been on Henry's payroll for a while. Perhaps Teo being set up in Geneva was an act??? Maybe that was part of Teo's cover with Henry, to act like he was going to assassinate Henry in Geneva, setting up Annie to play heroine and stop him, then Annie would observe his "set up" of launching the missile. Henry let her go to "save him". How did Henry capture Teo to begin with, unless Teo was in on the plan?? Annie took him to the hospital and Henry may have helped him escape. Nevermind, Arthur not seeing the body, Arthur and Joan didn't give Teo a funeral! If Teo is alive and working for Henry, he could be set to take over Henry's organization and that will really devastate Arthur. Henry still wins, He took Arthur's son away. Teo's loyalty is to Henry, not Arthur (Just as Jai chose Arthur over Henry, his father, when he exposed Henry's treason, getting Henry arrested). In every crime organization, there is always someone willing to take over. Annie may have killed the Boss, but there has to be a new one emerging. Could it be Teo? If Teo is not part of Season 5, then I don't understand the reference to him in the finale. Why would the writers bring him up? He has been "dead" for 6+ episodes and no longer relevant, unless he comes back in season 5. If he went Dark, I think it was for Henry's purposes and not for the good of Annie et al and he could be the new antagonist for season 5. - See more at: http://www.tvfanatic.com/2013/11/covert-affairs-review-trompe-le-monde/comments-2.html#new_comment

  • sylva101 Nov 30, 2013

    Meh I thought this would be a series worth following, I only found out about it earlier this year (I dont watch TV) but I'm up to speed and seen every episode to date.
    Season 3 was so poor. Season 4 had a chance to be worth it but the empty plot was covered with good action. I can write better...Henry was the perfect mastermind. Well connected and driven but all they did was give him access without reasoning.
    A simple twist that could have been added to make his actions make sense, what if Henry found out the former Agent who killed Jai was released by Arthur? Arthur helps release this former operative with the intention of giving him new work but the operative wanted to payback the man who abondened him thus went for his son. Eventually Henry finds out and seeks revenge on Arthur with the whole Theo saga. Henry never discloses this reason until the final episode at gunpoint .
    Annie thinks he is bluffing and pulls the trigger, she later checks for a pulse and personal effects. The "smoking gun" checks out. Arthur inderictly set the gears in motion for Jai's assassination, after all Jai was aiming for his wife's job. -Season ends.

  • sylva101 Nov 30, 2013

    One last thing I would like to point out is the complete lack of consequence in the series...which was hailed as a plus. At the end of season 4 they said "this season Annie has escaped death 3 times blah blah blah" Seriously that shows the fake nature of the story. As others point out, she can escape with 4 guards yet is afraid when there are only 2? There are many instances she should have been killed or at least fatally wounded but she always comes out with just a scratch. Joan blackmailed to get the promotion and no consequence, viwers see her as a heroine. This is one of the reasons I dont watch TV, good brainwashing material. Moral degeneration's main source.

  • francescahedr Nov 29, 2013

    Thanks for holidays and cable... I am doing the S4 marathon rewatch... Joan said it best- they are good liars and the CIA teaches them to be better, I will be back for s5 and hoping the are more bridges and more travel. Anne is a spy and is better out in the field not in DC. Auggie is best as the handler not the BF with relationship and anger problems. Calder is still on a learning curve but can learn a lot from Joan. Can't wait to see her running the show and Arthur as a stay at home dad. Need more intrigues and less goody goody... this is slowly getting to Jason Bourne and lovin it~

  • Penelope2 Nov 25, 2013

    Just watched the Mentalist finale and then this one, and decided that just about each episode of Covert Affairs is more exciting and interesting than an entire half-season of pursuing the end of Red John. Covert Affairs started as a case-of the week show and turned into something complex and awesome, and it is clever, heart-wrenching and heart-warming simultaneously. Just as I was beginning to warm up to Teo and just as Teo and Annie began to develop great chemistry and I began to develop a distaste for uppity, by-the-book Calder, Teo died, and Calder slowly, slooooowly started to be awesome. I think Calder has successfully replaced the void that Teo left when he died, and now I really appreciate Calder because he has proven himself to be logical, loyal, and trustworthy and to be honest, I wouldn't mind having the aftermath of the Auggie/Helen tryst lead to a breakup and something starting up between Annie and Calder.

  • alad Nov 24, 2013

    No mandatory pool of blood on the floor after Henry was shot.... wearing a vest maybe? Ready to re-surface in season 5? I hope not - although I enjoyed this storyline it went on long enough. Let's start S5 with a fresh new story.

  • Penelope2 Nov 25, 2013

    My first thought also was "VEST!! Why didn't she shoot him in the head!!!???" And I realized that might be too much for TV/too much for Annie's moral compass. Still, if I were Henry with a million enemies, I would have been wearing a vest for sure.

  • frwillia Nov 24, 2013

    Oh yes, please, lets keep Calder but make him head of the DPD - he doesn't have the knowledge to be DCS. That success against Henry wasn't because of Calder, it was because of Annie. He didn't come across as all that experienced an agent. Annie was way ahead of he and able to react in fractions of a second to change her plan (go to the police to get information and turn a high level MSS executive as a bonus while Calder just fumed) and snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. Auggie 'got it' instantly, Calder had to be told. That happened more than once. Calder was lost as soon as the plan went south, which it pretty much always did. He managed to get on a plane and escort the prisoner back to the right place, and he handled the slumber parties ... uh ... office politics fine after he got there, but in the field I wasn't very impressed with him compared to Auggie and Annie. What I'd like to see is Annie and Auggie turned loose on foreign terrorists plotting to stage a massive simultaneous terror attack against the US. It could take them all season with numerous wins and set backs, just like in real life before they foil it at the last minute. That would be a fun season, especially if they do it together with Calder trying hard to keep up and supporting them as much as he can.

    I'd also like to see more of the kick butt Annie. Her take down of the guy with the ugly looking brama bull size needle and his armed guard with her bare hands was awesome. Loved that and when she took out Hughes in the stair well. She's come a long ways since season 1.

    They do some of the best gun stuff on TV. She didn't rack a shell into the chamber, she just moved the slide enough to make sure there was a round chambered - a good idea when a click instead of a bang could be the difference between life and death. Every time Annie has taken a shot it has been aimed. That explains why she doesn't miss. Arthur and Joan did it right as well. The exception to good gun stuff was when Calder used two guns. Nobody does that. It makes no sense at all. Getting a hit with either of them would be better luck than good judgement exactly when he needs to be sure to not hit Annie in the head or some unprotected place. That one scene was really underwhelming in that regard. Calder also tends to use big shiny stainless guns. Not the best plan if they need to be concealed or you don't want the enemy to notice them.

    It was a really good season. The last six episodes were awesome. I really hope they continue to film in foreign countries. That makes the show both unique and realistic in ways none of the other shows can touch.

  • Blooner Nov 23, 2013

    I have said it before and I'll say it again; What was the point of chasing Wilcox all around the world and killing litteraly dozens of people to "get to him" when you end up just killing him anyway? They could've done that a multitude of times, starting even at the start of the season. Lame...

    Let's hope they go either into more episodic storylines like they did season 1, or get an actually well-rounded villain next season.

    And I too am definately up for some more Eyal, hopefully after Annie/Aggie breaks up.

  • tvspyfan Nov 26, 2013

    Because they could not prove Henry orchestrated and funded the bombing attempt in Medalin and the helicopter bombing in Copenhagen as well as other stuff Henry did. Henry not only covered his tracks to protect himself, but he framed Teo, Arthur and Sana's fiance. Therefore Arthur is charged with Treason, etc. The laptop that Annie got in Geneva is the first of the intel she gathered in the last 6 episodes. But they still had to prove more, by bringing Henry in alive for interrogation. However, once they safely brought Oliver Lee in to the CIA, they had a witness. Right now he is the only witness because Braithwaite hung himself. With Oliver Lee alive in custody, Henry is no longer needed alive.

  • luv4pits Nov 23, 2013

    I'm sure I'll return for the next season to, at least, have an informed knowledge of where the season is going and rather I would choose to invest any time into watching it.

    Season four was definitely more interesting than season three. After season three I had almost decided to bid the show a bon voyage, but,in the end, it proved to be more entertaining than I thought it would be.

    Because this is a USA network version of an "intense" spy drama, I recognize that much of the "suspense" and "drama" should be taken with tongue-in-cheek. But, in this finale, I had no clue what benefit Annie's "new plan" was to provide by her simply walking up to Henry Wilcox on the street and literally becoming his prisoner. The only thing she managed was to be traded to the Chinese. And, why did she allow herself to be taken so easily to the Chinese safe house when her only obstacles were Henry and the armed Chinese agent who was running down the stairs in front of her, with the unarmed Henry behind her??? She had no problem kicking every armed ass in the room when she escaped the Chinese safe house.

    Finally, I know Joan and Arthur are staples on this show, but they are completely ineffectual to me. For two high level, seasoned, professional agents they always seem like they are four steps behind everyone else. If not for Auggie and Annie, Joan and Arthur would look like the Lucy and Ricky Ricardo of the spy world.

    In my opinion, Joan should reinvent herself and present a more "I know what I'm doing so give me the ball" persona; Arthur should be retired; keep Calder, he was the best thing to come out of season four (next ti the death of the Henry Wilcox story line).

  • Derpanos Nov 23, 2013

    I'll probably be back for season five, and I think Annie and Auggie have some of the best female-male chemistry on television--platonic chemistry, that is. Their "romance" is unbelievable drivel and a waste of time.

    Things that should happen next season:

    1. Get rid of the Annie/Auggie romance. It feels like incest.

    2. Bring back Eyal. I don't care how or in what context, just have the guy return. He's arguably the best spy in the whole series, and he works well with the main duo.

    3. Bring back Annie's sister (Danielle, if my memory serves me well). She wasn't too important, but it was nice to see Annie open up to a family member every once in a while, someone who can listen and respond honestly without possessing the CIA "taint."

    4. Explain what the heck happened to Ben Mercer, who seemingly suffered a terrible case of Put on a Bus (unless I missed an explanation about his whereabouts).

    5. Create a menacing, yet actually believable villain. I only bothered with the Henry Wilcox nonsense because Gregory Itzin's role as Charles Logan was one of the best aspects to 24. With the Wilcox character, the writers apparently tried to recreate the image of Logan, except it fell flat because the viewer never received a clear understanding of Wilcox's rationale, what made him tick, what changes the events of the season had on his temperament, and so forth. That was, perhaps, the biggest letdown of the season.

  • Penelope2 Nov 25, 2013

    I second more Eyal and more intel on Ben Mercer, is he still in love with Annie and tracking her every move? If so, creepy. If no, why did he give up so easily?

  • tvspyfan Nov 26, 2013

    If I remember correctly, Annie severed ties with Ben Mercer. She out grew him. There was a scene in their last episode together where she decided not to go away into the sunset with him. She sent him away. It was on an airport runway. I don't know the episode.

  • Derpanos Nov 25, 2013

    Exactly. I could have sworn he had this borderline obsession with her.

  • Penelope2 Nov 25, 2013

    And he was the main mystery for like season 1 and half of 2 and then he just dropped off the face of D.C.

  • Derpanos Nov 26, 2013

    Classic case of a "Put on a Bus."

  • ffernandoc Nov 23, 2013

    I too am very curious to know more about Ben Mercer.

  • JT_Kirk Nov 23, 2013

    Ha ha, no, season 4 was the second train wrecking into the previous one. Season 4 felt like a knockoff of The Bourne Identity (the movie franchise, not the book which had little to do with it) only with an even less-believable protagonist and more ridiculous antagonist. It didn't really get darker, it just got dumber as it chased bigger deaths and James Bond castoff characters and plotlines.

    Anyway, this was a deus ex machina of a season finale where almost nothing mattered because after all the times of getting Henry in their sights, the good guys finally just kill him like they always meant to. Henry never learns anything, never shows his personal validation for his choices, he just spouts platitudes and shoots lasers at Mr Bond's crotch while twirling his mustache. Henry has been a downhill character since day one, since he was the ousted CIA chief, and he's been shedding depth ever since, which is good because Annie has also shed all character depth in place of this silly plotline.

    Henry as the scorpion on the frog's back was such an insult, he's arguing this stuff is just his nature, but real people aren't like that, real people are the heroes of their own stories and at no point did I believe Henry Wilcox was plausible, so his downfall was pointless once we got to him saving Annie in firefights.

    Ugh, and Annie, her big plan was to get in trouble and... um... trip and fall into success.

    I likely won't be back for season 5, but I can't say never with the promise of ANYTHING CAN HAPPEN NOW and next summer looking so dull in tv.

    Calder is a cheap character, but he's earned his stripes, you can keep him.

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