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Series: Covert Affairs
Auggie and Annie are ready for work.

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

Covert Affairs has four seasons aired in the past. A fifth season is now airing in North America; the first episode came out on July 24, 2014.

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. By Season 4, it's clear she's earned the Action Girl rating for real.
  • 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.
  • Adorkable: Eric Barber. Also, briefly, Reva Klein.
  • Adventures in Comaland: "Suffragette City" has Annie go through this.
  • All Women Love Shoes: Annie's cover story to go back to the scene of the shooting in the first episode 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.
  • Artistic License: There's always going to be a few in shows like this, but a somewhat glaring one is Auggie being given Landsat TM data and asking instead of ASTER data. ASTER data is 15 meter resolution, and is obtainable by almost anyone. Google Maps, however, has Digital Globe imagery, which is a commercial company that sells 50 centimeter resolution imagery, and DG has been selling imagery of that quality for years. For those Tropers not familiar with satellite imagery, that's 900 times better resolution. It's a pretty safe assumption that Auggie could access better than ASTER data, much less need it delivered on a hard drive.
  • Author Appeal: There are a lot of shots of Annie's footwear. Not just fully body shots but low level shots focusing on her feet.
  • Badass Israeli: Eyal Levin, Annie's contact in the fourth episode, and recurring character since, who has been described by the creative team as "the Israeli James Bond".
  • 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.
  • Big Brother Mentor: Eyal though there is something of a UST to it as well. Certainly, at any rate, he goes above and beyond the call of duty for Annie.
  • Big Damn Heroes:
    • Eyal on occasion and Annie for him. It helps that despite being a spy from a foreign service, he's among Annie's few true friends and certainly the only one with whom she has something of a stable and honest relationship with so he's more than willing to help her out even when it's not his business and not in his country's interests.
    • Episode 10 of Season 3, in which Eyal staged a prison break (with planning support from Auggie) to rescue Annie.
  • Big Damn Kiss: Annie and Auggie. And it is awesome.
  • "Blind Idiot" Translation: In "Letter Never Sent" part of the Stockholm train station is covered by a banner. In Swedish it reads "Dasg för ett hröseltest?", basically something like "Tiem for a hreaing test?"... -Maybe they should throw in a spleling test while they're at it.
    • Oh, and no, Arthur, you can't turn Copenhagen into København just by pronouncing it with an "aah" near the end. It's actually closer to "cuh-ben-houn".
  • 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; -Jai has joined us. ...I'm off to do...anything else. (leaves)
    • YMMV on this; arguably it's more of a Right Behind Me played entirely straight, as Jai walked up literally right behind Auggie, who just happens to also be blind.
    • Also invoked all the time deliberately by Auggie, just to coincidentally happen to be there just when Annie needs help or a pep talk.
  • Brick Joke: In the pilot, Auggie refers to a phone filled with outdated intel as a "nice Samsonite" and explains that Samsonite (a popular brand of briefcase) is an old spy term for a suitcase stuffed with paper to make it seem like there might be something valuable in it. Fast forward to episode 1x05, where Jai and Annie are robbed by a rogue agent who swaps the bundles of bills in their suitcase for two New York phonebooks...
  • 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. And in season 5, we see that she has been experiencing panic attacks and this is what delayed her return to the States for four months.
  • 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.
  • Cannot Spit It Out: Annie wanting to read-in her sister, but only for a short while.
    • Annie telling Auggie that she likes him.
  • Career-Ending Injury: Partially averted: after he was injured in Iraq, Auggie continued to work for the CIA, but his blindness means that he spends very little time in the field.
    • The heart condition Annie picked up
  • Chekhov's Gun:
    • In the second episode, rookie Annie is put on "walk-in duty", debriefing random people who contact the CIA, a job Auggie calls "crackpot city". She is shown a panic button and given a pepper spray, just in case. Later in the episode, she has to use the spray during a fight with a double agent.
    • In "The Wake-up Bomb", Annie stabs a terrorist with a bottle opener, which she only had on her because Auggie gave it to her as a "Safehouse-warming present" moments earlier.
  • 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 language professor who told her not to join the CIA was actually in the CIA.
  • Chick Magnet: Auggie.
  • Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: Conrad Sheehan III, tech guy Stu.
  • 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.
  • Cluster S Bombs: Season 3 seens to be sauntering through the door that Suits first opened for USA.
  • 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 rappel 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.
    • 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.
    • In 3x02, Henry even attempts to insult Arthur with the suggestion that Arther is terrible at lying.
    • Annie's life basically becomes this in several contexts - first with Danielle, then later when she and Calder cook up their plot to "kill" her so she can go dark.
  • Continuity Nod: So many. For a show that's mostly episodic in the first two seasons, they've really got a handle on their continuity.
    • In the Pilot, Annie asks Auggie to wish her luck. He replies that she doesn't seem the type to need it, but wishes her luck all the same. It becomes a Running Gag between them.
    • Season three's Adventures in Comaland features a dance between Annie and Auggie. When she wants to keep dancing, he says they'll dance again when the music is right. Fast forward to 4x01 when they're on a mission and waiting for their contact. Annie hears a street performer and suggests they dance. This time it's Auggie who wishes the dance could go on.
    • Eyal Levin's past life as a med student is revisited in 5x04, when Annie goes to him for a consult on a heart infection, which she picked up from getting shot by Lena.
  • 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#.
  • Crazy-Prepared: How Lena was able to get away from the CIA when her FSB allies assassinated CIA operatives trying to look for her thanks to the information she provided.
  • Cunning Linguist: Annie speaks, well, at least 6+ languages fluently: English, Russian, German, Spanish, Hebrew, and Portuguese, and she knows enough Turkish "to get by." (Her French may or may not be in this category, as the only time she's used it, her cover was an American expatriate.) 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. Also, her Swedish is rather hard! to decipher.
  • Augie probably qualifies, seeing as how he's spoken, what, arabic, spanish, French and Chechan so far on screen.
  • 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: I'm going to sit here all alone, by myself.
    Annie: Oh please, there'll be a girl here before I cross the bar.
    Annie takes a half-step away and a pretty woman immediately steps into frame and takes a seat next to Auggie.
  • Destroy the Evidence: Braithwaithe deploys a covert SOG team into Hong Kong in "Trompe Le Monde" to prevent anyone from knowing about his connection to Henry by having him assassinated in Kowloon.
  • 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, a techie (-Barber!) visiting the office obliviously moves chairs around. Auggie enters and immediately crashes into one, and shouts "Dude! A blind guy works here!" Later in the same episode Auggie 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.
    • His sense of smell is what allows him to learn that Lena is the true mole in the CIA.
  • 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.
    • Henry doing this to Arthur. Even though it was pretty clear that Arthur couldn't have been responsible for Jai Wilcox's death, Henry decides to bring the Humiliation Conga and begins slowly picking at Arthur's career and personal life until by the end of Season 4, Arthur's lost his son, his job, is about to go on trial, and had a hit put out on him and his wife (Heavily pregnant at the time with Arthur's second, unexpected, late-life son) by Henry.
  • 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. This is true until post-"Horses to Water" in season 2, she specifically asks Joan to get "shooter and bodyguard" training. Blown totally to bits as of season 4's "Dig for Fire, when it's revealed that she's now routinely carrying on US soil, technically against the CIA's rules, because she nearly died from a gunshot wound received in season 3's "Glass Spider".
  • Double Agent: Generally averted in-verse, but Season 4's arc seems to be shaping up with Annie effectively becoming one with two "handlers" - Arthur and Henry.
  • Driven to Suicide: Jai's assassin immediately eats his gun when he's cornered by Annie. After the assassination on Henry failed, Braithwaite hanged himself in his office before he could be arrested.
  • Dropped After the Pilot: The show introduced Annie to Conrad Sheehan, a fellow CIA agent set up as a potential romantic interest/rival, and Conrad subsequently disappears. In his place, we get Jai Wilcox in the second episode, who takes up that mantle.
  • Eloquent In My Native Tongue: In "Letter Never Sent" Annie and Danielle's Swedish is almost impenetrable. Of course, they only spent one year in the country as kids. Contrast with the tall Finn in the heavy sweater for a Bilingual Bonus, he's swearing and complaining (in Finnish-accented Swedish) about having to "climb like a monkey" to fix his lamp.
  • External Combustion: Kills Jai Wilcox in the third season premiere.
  • 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 who's a recurring character is a bit of James Bond. Also, Delgado from "Welcome to the Occupation" is pretty similar to DieHard's Hans Gruber.
  • Fake Defector: Subverted, they thought someone was this in episode 2.
  • Fakeout Makeout: 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.
  • False Flag Operation: Henry Wilcox uses one in Denmark when he gets one of his moles in the CIA's SOG to stage the shooting of a chopper with a Stinger MANPAD to frame Teo and Annie for being terrorists. And it worked.
  • Fanservice:
    • 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 Fanservice: "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.
    • And the dresses they've been putting Annie in show off her figure amazingly well.
    • Season Four ramps this up by showing Annie and Auggie having sex.
    • "Hang Wire" continues this by having Auggie change his shirt in his office, showing Christopher Gorham's amazingly well-developed chest and torso.
  • Flower Motifs: In "Suffragette City" Auggie identifies the scent of Lena's perfume as lavender, which can represent devotion or distrust. Given the events of the episode, it's clear which meaning applies to whom.
  • Fridge Logic: invoked Used in-universe, actually closet logic. This is how Joan figures out the truth about Arthur's affair in season 4. Specifically, that he never really had one.
  • 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."
    • Arthur tells Henry at the beginning of Season 3 that this was the way they explained why Jai's car exploded.
  • Geeky Turn-On: Auggie met his ex Natasha at a laundromat where she was reading Snowcrash.
  • 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." (Averted when Annie buys the truck instead of stealing it.)
  • Grey and Grey Morality:
    • A large part of Arthur's work is surviving the controversy from Wilcox's doings that is spilling over onto him.
    • Annie is less grey then others; at least she tries to bring some humanity into the trade. But she often finds herself on the lam from cops who have every reason to arrest her, because she is kind of, you know, a spy.
  • 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).
  • Hair of Gold, Heart of Gold: Annie and her sister (as well as her season 3 boyfriend's sister) are generally warm, bubbly, young, good, beautiful, sweet, wholesome, kind, and feminine. Brunette female characters who have recurred have thus far been a reporter working with the CIA's leak, an annoying foil for the main character and a Wicked Stepmother archetype. Referring, of course, to The Mole who was revealed in episode 9 of season 3. Thus far, you can tell the sympathetic, likeable female characters from the antagonists simply by whether they are blonde or brunette.
    • Notably, when Annie fakes her own death and goes dark, she dyes her hair brunette. Which, unfortunately, leads to Auggie's ex-wife being mistaken for her and killed.
  • Handicapped Badass: Auggie. Just all the way through. He's the one who teaches Annie grappling, for one thing. Justified in-series by the training he underwent for the CIA and he was US Army Special Forces.
  • The Handler:
  • Headbutt of Love: Annie and Auggie, constantly.
  • 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 Rossabi, and that Italian guy from the Argentina episode.
    • Very prominent example comes in "Rock 'N' Roll Suicide". Annie is captured by Russians. Eyal is the one to ultimately free her (single-handedly at that) but the scenes we see? They're of the CIA office trying to figure out how to save her and of her interrogation. All we see of Eyal's rescue is a lot of sound, some gunfire, and the two of them crawling out of the prison.
  • Hide Your Pregnancy: They tried to hide Anne Dudek's second pregnancy, but it really didn't work out too well.
    • In season 4, Joan Campbell is revealed to be pregnant in the very first episode, but it should be much too early to tell. Once you know, it's hard not to see that Kari Matchett actually is!
  • High-Class Call Girl: Annie impersonates one in the pilot.
    • Calder Michaels is apparently regularly seeing one.
  • 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", Eyal Levin is a bit of a two-way Honey Trap himself.
    • In Season 3, Annie is asked to do this to Simon. It then degenerates into more of a Honey Trap Mexican Standoff, with Annie trying to do a Sex Face Turn to Simon, Simon trying to do the same to Annie, and Lena using their growing attraction to each other as a cover for her own nefarious doings.
    • Also seen is 3.05, "This Is Not America", where a spy seduces a scientist to gain access to his research.
    • And then Eyal's boss questions him as to why he isn't doing this to Annie yet.
  • Hot Scoop: Liza Hearn.
  • 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.)
    • Season 3: David Bowie ("Hang on to Yourself," "This is Not America," etc.). Note that one episode is titled "Hello Stranger," which is a Barbara Lewis song that Bowie covered with The Mannish Boys but didn't release.
    • Season 4: The Pixies ("Here Comes Your Man," "Vamos," etc.)
    • Season 5: Pavement ("Shady Lane", "Silence Kit", etc.)
  • Idiot Ball: Most of Annie's decisions in "Rock and Roll Suicide". The worst being giving Simon's sister her passport, which was her only ticket out of the country. Subverted in the end when she blackmails her interrogator into letting them go.
    • Also, Khani, the terrorist who blinded Auggie and killed his Special Forces team. In the middle of a hand-to-hand fight Khani suddenly realizes his opponent is, in fact, blind. Armed with this newfound advantage, he... wades back into the fight sure he's going to win. -Against a former wrestling champion and ex special forces commando who thinks the CIA's fight instructors don't know what they're talking about.
  • 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.
  • In Love with the Mark: This has happened to Annie with Simon and Auggie with Tash. This also happened to Arthur during the Cold War with Elsa and is implied to be one of the reasons why Joan doesn't like Lena. She holds Lena responsible for the death of an asset whom Lena says Joan had feelings for. Averted most of the time, though.
  • 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. Also, Calder is "the Sheriff", and Auggie is known as "Mingus".
  • Interservice Rivalry: With practically every agent from another agency Annie comes in contact with.
  • In the Blood: The Wilcox ruthlessness.
  • It Gets Easier: Auggie implies this after Annie kills a person for the first time in the second season finale.
    • By the end of the fourth season, Annie is able to murder a unarmed man (albeit a villain) in cold blood without hesitation.
  • It's Personal:
    • Joan and most of Annie's CIA colleagues think this when she wants to pursue Lena in Moscow after recovering from nearly being killed in her hospital room.
    • Henry Wilcox versus Arthur Campbell. Wilcox blames Campbell for the loss of Jai and has retaliated by suborning agents within and outside of the CIA to mastermind Teo's death.
      • Annie after Henry stages events that led to Teo's death and Annie being accused of being a terrorist. She is "declared" dead and in hiding from the world as she personally hunts Henry down.
  • Jurisdiction Friction: Intra-agency, and mostly because Joan and Arthur have trouble trusting each other.
    • Poor, poor Agent Rossabi.
  • 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. Arguably it's Like Brother and Sister, although certain subtle hints point to the contrary.
    • Shot to hell as of the third season finale: they are together and it's adorable.
  • 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?"
    • During Annie's coma dream, she reenacts the opening credits by sliding a keycard into a door, then grinning slyly at the camera before entering.
  • Love Makes You Crazy: The reason Annie joined the CIA. Sort of the way other people are supposed to join the Legion of Lost Souls.
  • 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.
  • Mama Bear: Joan shows some of this for her subordinates and friends.
  • Moe Stare : Annie. What a gorgeous smile!
  • Moral Dilemma: Tends to come up by nature of the topic. A more specific example is Eyal being asked to get close to Annie by his agency and thus being forced to choose between betraying his friend or advancing some nebulous goal of his agency.
  • 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 is a definite in-universe example.
      Danielle: "He's like the George Clooney of wherever he's from!"
    • S02E07 had this Commercial Pop-Up:
      Want more scenes of shirtless Auggie? Go to our website!
    • This also extends to Arthur, as well as most male guest stars - they all seem to be tall, dark, ruggedly handsome, perpetual 5-o'clock shadow (Eyal, Dr. Scott Weiss, Roy from the Farm).
  • Myth Arc: Annie seems to be at the center of... something that justifies not just the CIA's interest in treating her well but other foreign agencies. And that's about as much as we know. This, for better or worse, contributes to some of the listings in YMMV.
  • Nerds Are Virgins: Awesomely subverted with Auggie, who is most certainly a ladies' man.
  • Nice Guy: Auggie
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Annie's enactment of a plan to trap Henry Wilcox by making think his operative has kicked off his plan to discredit David, Sana's current love interest. However it goes sideways badly, and Annie's left with egg on her face, an angry Sana and an innocent man in police custody.
  • Not Himself: Annie mentions this to Joan when Auggie goes to kill the terrorist who blinded him. The tipoff: Auggie never says goodbye.
  • Official Kiss: Annie and Auggie in the season 3 finale.
  • Off The Wagon: Joan in the second half of season 3.
  • Opening Shout-Out: In "Suffragette City" Annie is dreaming in a hospital bed after being shot by Lena. In the dream, she dances and then swipes a key card to open a door while smirking at the camera.
  • 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.
  • 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. The few times she hasn't, she gives out her sister's name, banking on the fact that her sister has a legitimate identity that she can easily remember.
  • 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 shadowy 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.
    • As of the third season, Eyal and Danielle have been put on buses.
    • But the bus came back for Eyal in the fourth season (briefly).
  • 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. Particularly irritating (though absolutely in-character) example: Calder Michaels' Jaguar.
  • 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.
  • Private Military Contractors: Topaz Security, Westbridge Consulting, and of course, Mc Quaid Security.
  • Punch Clock Villain: A lot of Annie's opponents, especially foreign police but also sometimes foreign intelligence agents are treated that way. They are not really villains, they are just doing their job like Annie.
  • Ruthless Modern Pirates: "The Last Thing You Should Do" is all about Auggie getting captured and held for ransom by Somali pirates, and trying to escape without blowing his CIA cover.
  • Sacrificial Lion: Jai is a definite example, while Simon is somewhere between this and a posthumous Mauve Shirt.
  • Saying Too Much: If Staas hadn't called Annie "kiisu", she never would have figured out he wasn't the real Staas.
  • Scully Box: Annie frequently wears very high heels, even in situations where they would seem counter-indicated. Piper Perabo is 5'5" (166 cm), most of her co-stars have several inches of height on her.
  • Sexy Shirt Switch: Probably why Auggie is shirtless a lot of the time—women keep taking/wearing all his shirts:
    • In 1x07, Natasha briefly wears Auggie's shirt after they hook up on the train.
    • And in 1x09, Liza walks in wearing Auggie's shirt.
    • In 4x03, Annie takes Auggie's favorite T-shirt with her to Colombia, as a comfort blanket and just, y'know, so he can pretend to be worried about the shirt. Apart from the initial meet she wears it through the entire mission including under her tactical vest during a CIA raid on a terrorist compound, and during the brutal interrogation that follows, and then all the way home...
  • She's Got Legs: 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. The network seems to ship it a great deal more than the actual show does, at least so far.
  • Shipper on Deck: Although she doesn't push them together, Joan does seem to be happy when Annie and Augie are together in Season 4 and does what she can to encourage the relationship.
    • [[Adorkable Adorkable]] Eric Barber seems to have a crush on Annie, but when rumors start circulating about Annie and Auggie getting together romatically (-there was even a betting pool!) he's just happy for his two friends.
  • 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.
  • Shower Of Love: Annie and Simon enjoy an exaggerated version in the third season premiere.
  • 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.
    • "The wake up bomb" is possibly the first researched, non-eye rolling appearance of ETA in American TV fiction. There is mention of the group being in its last throes and going through a third truce in a decade; Annie gets herself and the CIA involved by accidentnote , with the CIA trying to stay on the fence; and the Necessary Weasel of having ETA plotting attacks on American soil, out of Spain and France (a big no-no through its history) is justified as it being the work of a splinter cell who wants to force the rest of the organization back into fighting.note  The actors even make an effort to speak Basque, some with better accents than others.
  • 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.
    • Also, like Alias, it takes until season 2 before Annie is shown directly killing someone.
    • 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: Reva, 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.
  • The Spymaster: The Campbells. Arthur heads the CIA itself, Joan's the head of the DPD. This is probably lifted directly from the Foleys of Clancy's Jack Ryan universe
  • Steel Ear Drums: Averted—after Jai is killed by a car bomb, Annie, who was present, asks Auggie how long it will take for her ears to stop ringing, and he replies that it takes a while.
  • 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.
  • Television Geography: That is not Helsinki-Vantaa Airport's border control, as troper knows from personal experience.
  • Teeth-Clenched Teamwork: FBI agent Rossabi 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.
  • These Hands Have Killed: Annie does the verbal equivalent when she relives the moment of her first kill when talking to Auggie.
  • Torture Always Works: Averted, as in the sister show Burn Notice. In Season 4, Annie tries to torture an operative who turns out to be Too Kinky to Torture and actually gives her tips. The situation ends up with the guy dead, shots fired, no information gained, and both her and her sidekick forced to leave. It probably didn't help that Annie's training is mainly in HUMINT, not interrogations.
  • Treacherous Advisor: Lena.
  • 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.
    • The younger agents get this pretty straight in the third season. Jai's dead. Ben's basically been Put on a Bus. Annie's spent a good portion of the season being a Honey Trap only to get transferred back to the DPD after the mission is blown and her sister was Put on a Bus. Auggie proposed but his fiance couldn't handle the complications of being read in and the subsequent questioning of their relationship that it caused.
  • 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). A good example is 3x2 where a man twice her size is threatening her. So she siccs Auggie on him... but only to get the initial drop and force their attacker to focus on Auggie which gives her the opportunity to get in cheap shots and holds.
  • "Well Done, Son!" Guy:
    • Jai's dad has elements of this.
    • Annie's relationships with warring mom-figures Joan and Lena suggest the female version of this. At least until Lena shoots Annie and kills Simon.
  • Western Terrorists:
    • The Mexican "Los anarquistas de la tierra directa". (Meaning Direct Land Anarchists)
    • Basque separatists in Season 2's "The wake up bomb".
  • Wham Episode:
    • "Glass Spider" - and how! Lena has either gone rogue and doing a lot of stuff "off book", or is an out and out traitor. Either way, the twist ending of "Glass Spider" is a real shocker. She clearly had the intention of executing Annie, after portraying Annie as a hero to her face, and then insinuating something bad about Annie to Arthur.
    • "Levitate Me". Annie is framed for murder and has to "go dark".
    • "Shady Lane": In a rather literal sense as a CIA black site is blown up with everybody in it killed.
  • What Beautiful Eyes: Annie. Come on, you didn't notice?
  • Will They or Won't They?: Annie and Auggie. They Do.
  • Worthy Opponent:
    • Eyal — sometimes. Depending on the situation. He is usually an ally, but he is Mossad's agent not the CIA's, and sometimes interests diverge.
    • The police, whenever Annie is on the lam. From their point of view, Annie is a foreign agent on their soil. However, they aren't personalized often enough to be a specific rival to Annie.
  • 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.
    • Auggie cheating on Annie with Helen. Puts Ben's "It's complicated" note to shame, just try to follow the convoluted logic; Helen, Auggie's wife, supposedly died seven years ago, breaking his heart badly in the process. Annie is now supposedly also dead, something which by then only five people in the world know is a lie. So when girlfriend B is away being "dead", "late" wife A comes back three months after she thinks he lost her, trying to win him back. They finally have sex after she learns that girlfriend B is still alive. The very next day Helen is mistaken for Annie and shot to death, for real this time, by Henry Wilcox. Cue Annie working out that Auggie had a one-day affair when he seems to know his way around Helen's appartment. Still with us? Seriously, who needs soap operas!
  • 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.
    • Inverted of course when she runs into other field agents, to varying degrees. Most assume she must be fairly competent (at least as competent as themselves) and act to some unspoken code among field agents. Eyal less so, but mostly because he knows how relatively inexperienced she is, and so tends to take on a Big Brother Mentor role to her.
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alternative title(s): Covert Affairs
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