Covert Affairs Postmortem: Creators on Finale Game-Changer, and Annie's and Jai's Futures
Covert Affairs, Anne Dudek and Piper Perabo
[WARNING: The following story contains major spoilers from the summer season finale of Covert Affairs. Read at your own risk.]
No, those bruises weren't from stapler accidents.
After being cleared of polonium poisoning on the Covert Affairs summer season finale, Annie (Piper Perabo) decides to finally come clean to her increasingly suspicious big sis Danielle (Anne Dudek) about her secret spy life. Danielle's reaction? Stunned and hurt, she kicks Annie out of her guesthouse.
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Annie, of course, wasn't the only one forced to take a hike: Joan (Kari Matchett) dispatches a disgruntled Jai (Sendhil Ramamurthy) to the DPD's Southwest station in Phoenix (not Asia), prompting him to make a cryptic phone call by episode's end.
Who was Jai calling? And where do Annie and Danielle go from here? Co-creators/co-executive producers Chris Ord and Matt Corman answer our burning questions about the finale and what's ahead in the six-episode winter season. (A familiar face is returning!)
How and why did you decide now was the time for Annie to read in Danielle?
Matt Corman: I think in our minds, it was just a question of when. You can't sustain that for too long. It starts to push credulity. At the very beginning of the season, when we were sort of breaking the arcs, we said, at a certain point, we want this to happen. It's a momentous moment in both of their lives and their relationship. It sort of felt finale-worthy.
Chris Ord: We felt our own pressure to do it [not just from the fans]. As Matt said, you can only sustain a lie like that for so long before you start losing sympathy for the person that's being lied to. You just can't believe that they could be so blind. It was a matter of figuring out how to do it.
I like that Annie just flat-out told her when she walked into the house. Was it important for you that Annie read in Danielle instead of Danielle finding out herself somehow?
Corman: Yeah, I think that was really important and I think that allowed for more dramatic tension. First of all, we loved how Annie and Piper played it. It was really nuanced and they spent a lot of effort in perfecting their performance. As far as crafting the scene, we thought about how one reacts when they're told something totally seismic or incredibly traumatic, or life-changing news comes down. The normal person's reaction is shock and disbelief and only later do you process it and start to ask questions.
Ord: We knew we wanted to do this polonium episode and we felt it really lent itself to the reading-in story. You could create that moment where Annie wants to read her sister in and doesn't, but because of this health scare, has to start to read her in under very different circumstances. By that point, there was no recourse.
Corman: And the allegory is there. At least in Danielle's mind, Annie's sort of radioactive for the family and so she kicks her out. That's sort of the meaning behind the meaning and that was the other thing that was important for us. She needs to stick to her guns. Danielle claims she's not feeling safe with Annie there and we needed to honor that sentiment. She really will be kicked out. That's not a TV thing where you come back and she's back in the house.
Ord: I think she will regret [kicking Annie out] to some degree. She has a very close relationship with her sister and that's going to not be there. Annie's absence will affect her and Annie's gotta re-earn her trust.
How much of Danielle will we see going forward? The presumption may be that her presence would be diminished or obsolete now that Annie's out of the house.
Corman: We still intend for there to be a really vigorous and vital role for her. It's just going to be different. We love Annie Dudek; we love the character of Danielle. It's not all about Annie pretending to bob and weave and pretending she's doing something else.
Ord: Just because you've been read in to what your sister does, you can't know anything beyond that. So in some ways, it could become more difficult once you read your family in. We felt that gave us more grist, in the same way you see at the end of the episode, Danielle now knows the bruise on Annie's face is not a stapler accident. And she can't find any solace in that sort of naivete. ... We're going to have an Annie-Danielle story line [that] will be more emblematic of the challenges they have going forward now that she has read her in, not because of. We're really excited about the stories we can do now.
Does Danielle have or have you considered her having a secret she's kept from Annie?
Ord: I think that's the interesting thing — it could be a two-way street. [We haven't thought of] anything specific, but that's a really good notion. I think everyone has secrets, not just people in the CIA.
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What about Jai? Is he actually going to Phoenix and who is he calling? Henry (Gregory Itzin)?
Corman: We can't say who he's calling, but it's someone he's familiar with and somebody with whom he's trying to change his paradigm by calling. ... Will he be in Phoenix? Let's put it this way: His role is changing in a very interesting way.
Where do his loyalties lie now? His dad's blackmailing him and he's forced to relocate with no room for advancement...
Ord: Jai — he's been loyal to Arthur (Peter Gallagher), to his dad, to Annie — now recognizes that he can only rely on himself, so he's most loyal to himself. But he has goods on Henry as well. They're sort of locked in a stalemate and things are going to get more complex with them. ... We're sort of seeing the repercussions of the leak rather than the ongoing nature of it too, so we may see Liza Hearn (Emmanuelle Vaugier) as needed.
Is he going to turn on the DPD? Sendhil said he's never pictured Jai as a bad guy.
Corman: That remains to be seen. What we love about Sendhil as an actor and what we love about the character is that you want to see him challenged and tempted by these forces. He's taking matters into his own hands. He wants to be everything his dad was and more. He's not going to be satisfied until people see his dad in the context of just his dad.
Ord: I'm not sure Jai is satisfied without some sort of world domination. ... He's definitely going to be much more of a force to contend with. No more sulking! Every marathon begins with a step and that phone call was a step.
Auggie (Christopher Gorham) is going to have a girlfriend, Parker (Devin Kelley). What kind of impact will she have on him and Annie?
Corman: I think they just want each other to be happy. Annie and Auggie have a very strong relationship and a very strong friendship. They will continue to orbit one another, even though other romantic things will go on. They're stronger than the romances they have independently. ... We're very excited about [Parker]. Devin's really terrific. We feel she and Chris are going to interact in a really fun way on screen. They make a good-looking couple!
And Annie will have her share of suitors too now that Dr. Scott (Ben Lawson) is out of the picture.
Corman: Definitely her share of suitors! We had great chemistry between Piper and Oded Fehr, so he's going to be back in the [winter] premiere. He's a great actor. ... I wouldn't say it would never [be romantic between them]. You never know. There's always going to be suitors circling around. We have Santiago Cabrera from Heroes in the first one back. He'll come into Annie's life and he's a good-looking, charismatic guy.
Ord: We want to explore other relationships now, which was how Dr. Scott came about, but Ben (Eion Bailey) is always going to be the guy through which Annie judges all other guys. Their love was so powerful and so strong and defined so many other things in her life. It drove her into the CIA on many levels. He's the prism through which she sees everything. Even when he's not around, he is around.
Are you still firm on not pairing Annie and Auggie together yet? When is the right time?
Ord: It's not now! Thankfully, it seems the fans also recognize it would really be a disservice to the show to go there too quickly. Obviously we know there's a great chemistry and great friendship there, but I think we're going to bide our time. ... Piper and Chris really recognize those little moments between Annie and Auggie. They can see the forest for the trees.
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What's next for Joan and Arthur? They seemed a bit more stable this season.
Corman: Yeah, that was the goal. Their marriage gets tested every day just by going to work. We'll see more of that. I think it can get exhausting watching a couple snipe at one another and I think, although they were tested in the first season, there is a strong core there, and they have a shared history, a shared ambition that's very real. ... We have a really exciting Arthur-centric episode. We'll revisit some of his past. Part of his romantic past will resurface. We're going back to when he was new to the CIA. It wouldn't be [flashbacks], but someone coming out of the past.
Ord: It's set in Berlin because that's where Arthur was stationed. We're going to shoot on location.
Matt: He was stationed there right before the Wall fell, so it's got kind of a Cold War feel, but still contemporary. It's a great episode.
What do you have planned for the winter finale?
Corman: We're building toward something as big as this finale was in Annie's life. We have something in mind that will be life-altering for her. Our goal is to give the audience something big. Not just big cliff-hangers, but big stories that are satisfying in their own right because they contain textual bombshells, like this [summer] one — it was a game-changer.
Ord: And emotional bombshells. I think people identify with Annie and want her to be OK, physically and emotionally, and this [winter one] will definitely play into the emotional side.
Chris said he's pitched to you a prequel movie for Auggie showing his recovery after getting blinded.
Corman: Yeah, he told us that! The Auggie character is certainly interesting, but I think right now we're just focused on the stories that are right in front of us. But it could be really fascinating.
Ord: We'd be up for it. I think for us it's about figuring out whether it would work. We're kind of up for any and all of it. We love doing the show and we love exploring all the different story lines. Something like that, it's a cool idea, so let's think about that.
What did you think of the finale?