Covert Affairs Bosses on Premiere's Shocking Death: "We Had to Do It"
[SPOILER ALERT: The following story contains major spoilers from the Season 3 premiere of Covert Affairs. Read at your own risk.]
Covert Affairs promised a big death during its Season 3 premiere and it delivered in the opening minutes when a car exploded outside of a diner. But who was in the car?
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That would be none other than Jai (Sendhil Ramamurthy). After asking Annie (Piper Perabo) to meet him at the diner, Jai cryptically tells her that he uncovered some big scoop about the CIA and asks her to go with him elsewhere so he can tell her. Only a forgotten umbrella in the diner prevents Annie from meeting the same fate as Jai.
In the aftermath of Jai's death, the DPD as we know it is broken up. Auggie (Christopher Gorham) replaces Jai as director of Special Projects and Annie is reassigned to Lena Smith (Sarah Clarke), whose laidback approach is a breath of fresh air to Annie, compared to the tough love she used to get from Joan (Kari Matchett). In her first assignment for Lena, Annie tails Simon (Richard Coyle), a suspected KGB spy, in Morocco who, unbeknownst to her, may be connected to Jai's death.
So, why was Jai killed off? Is he really dead? What kind of influence will Lena have on Annie? Will Annie and Auggie get together? Co-creators Chris Ord and Matt Corman answer our burning questions about the premiere and tell us what we can expect this season.
Is Jai really dead? We never saw the body.
Chris Ord: I don't think you want to see the body! [Laughs] But yes, he's dead.
Matt Corman: In the world of our show, when people die, they're dead. There's nothing up our sleeve here. From the earliest conception of the show, we wanted the world of the show to have real stakes. We always recognized that we'd have to kill people because that's how you invest the audience and make them realize that week in and week out, this is a dangerous job that these people are doing. This seemed like a really dramatic way to do it that would really kick off a season with a mythology.
Ord: It was a hard decision. We love Sendhil as a person and as an actor, but in order to prove there are real stakes here, we had to do it. ... It was extremely hard telling him. He's such a great guy and such a great actor. We tried to be honest with him and tell him the same things we've told you. That doesn't make it any easier. What's great about Sendhil is that he's a classy guy; he took it very well. We wish him only good things. He's already getting a bunch of things going, which is exciting to see.
When did you decide to kill him? Last season, you talked about how there was a big story line coming up for Jai with Special Projects and how he was going to go after Joan's job. Were you just bluffing?
Ord: [Laughs] No. As Matt said, we decided on some form of this before Season 1. We wanted to have real stakes and we knew this was gonna have to happen. It was a matter of when and then we started planning the season, we realized Jai's death could be a catalyst for an entire season. In many ways, even though Jai is gone, his memory and his death will resonate throughout the entire the season.
Will we see Jai again in flashbacks?
Corman: No. That's it. As hard as it is for us and for the audience, I think at a certain point, change and loss can make for richer stories. It's about moving forward.
Was the bomb meant for Annie too or was it solely targeting Jai?
Corman: That question's lingering in her mind and hopefully audiences are wondering that. I would say by the end of the season, people will understand everything about what was intended, who was doing what and why. We can't say what he found out, but it is something big and it will unravel slowly. This season we're doing a lot more long-arc storytelling.
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There's obviously a connection with the diamond emblem on his research boxes and it being tattooed on Simon's back.
Ord: Yes. Simon will play a major role. Richard Coyle has been tremendous addition to the show. He and Piper found a great on-screen chemistry. We love how he's playing Simon. You can't tell if he's good or bad, and that's the whole point. Right now, the symbol is a puzzle piece and Annie has to put it together. And remember, we see the symbol on the boxes Auggie has, but he doesn't.
Is Henry (Gregory Itzin) suspected in Jai's death even though he's in prison?
Corman: He plays a role in the story. As Jai's dad, he's gonna be interested in what happened and have his own theories and agendas even though he's in prison. And we'll see him in prison — he's not out.
Auggie replaced Jai as director of Special Projects, so is he in danger?
Ord: Hopefully this death proves that they're all in danger. [Laughs] Our goal is not to be killing everyone, but our core characters have really become a family and Jai's death kind of tears this family apart from one another. Our hope is that people will be rooting for them to get back together over the course of the season and ultimately hopefully they will.
Corman: I think they do feel the vulnerability that will come with a colleague getting killed. Auggie may have had his differences with Jai, but the principle of Jai being killed and the need to find out who was behind it is still very important to Auggie. What was Jai up to? What was he looking into? How did this happen? Auggie is gonna dig deeper into it.
Annie now works for Lena, who is completely different from Joan. Are we gonna see her more independent this year without someone always on her back?
Ord: Exactly. We've always looked at this season as Annie's teenage years. The first few years, she was young and figuring out how to do the job. I think by now she knows she can do the job and she's entering this teenage phase where you ask the more personal questions, like, "Who am I in this job? What does this job mean to me? Who do I want to be 10 years from now?" Annie's making decisions because of those questions and those aren't always the right decisions.
Is Lena's approach gonna bite Annie in the butt? Does she need someone on her all the time like Joan?
Ord: She doesn't need it, but they are very divergent approaches. Joan is very supportive, but also very present. Lena gives you a lot more leeway. Sarah's amazing. She's got a fantastic energy. It remains to be seen which is the best approach for Annie. ... We love Joan and Kari, and she's definitely gonna continue to be a presence in Annie's life. It's just a question of when she'll realize that. ... And Lena and Joan have a complicated past too. They were in Nairobi together in '98. By Episode 3, you learn about them and what happened there that led to this kind of frosty relationship.
Parker (Devin Kelley) is still in the picture, but where do we stand with Annie and Auggie?
Corman: Episode 2 is about whether Parker's in the picture. We will see Parker again, but Annie and Auggie go out in the field together in Barcelona and it's them wrestling with their feelings for one another and where their heads are at. ... We know what the trajectory is for them for the full 16 [episodes].
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Auggie will see a therapist (Daniella Alonso). Will she make him realize his feelings for Annie?
Corman: I think that would be further down. It's certainly not gonna happen right away. But that's what's really great. Here's a guy who eschewed therapy even after he's blinded. You'll find him in therapy and I think it's interesting to see how someone deals with this who may or may not be ready to talk to somebody. It takes a very skilled therapist to pull stuff out of him.
How about Annie's love life? She's got her hands full with Simon now.
Ord: Yeah, Simon's gonna be in a bunch, so that's a major factor.
Corman: Oded Fehr is back. He's in Episode 5. He'll be a bigger part of our back six. ... Ben (Eion Bailey) won't be in the first half. Back half, TBD.
What's in store for Danielle (Anne Dudek)? She and Annie seem to be in a good place.
Corman: The fact that they got things of their chests has changed their relationship. It's a different dynamic. But there are some changes in store for Danielle. Her marriage will have some ripple effects in Annie's life.
What else can we expect this season?
Ord: We're working on Episode 8 right now and 8 is good. ... No deaths, but it'll be very exciting. I really wish we could say, but you'll be well-rewarded if you tune in on Sept. 4.
Corman: Something happens and it's not something shows generally do. We're telling something that you don't see not just on spy shows, but all shows. So do with that what you will.
Ord: In the history of TV, we'll be the first to do this! [Laughs]
What did you think of the Covert Affairs premiere?