October 17, 2013 8:00pm PT by Philiana Ng
'Covert Affairs' EP on Annie's Plan B, Calder/Auggie's Cover-Up and What's Next
[Warning: Spoilers ahead for the midseason premiere of Covert Affairs.]
Annie Walker's (Piper Perabo) deep undercover mission is proving more difficult than she thought.
"It's going to be messier, a little bit more chaotic," Covert Affairs co-creator Matt Corman promises The Hollywood Reporter of the next five episodes.
With a completely new look (dark hair!), a new name (Jessica Matthews!) and a new plan of action to take down Henry, Annie is approaching things with a no-holds-barred attitude. Completely separated from the once-stable CIA world, Annie is completely alone -- and that won't change any time soon.
Corman hints that the coming weeks will see "more Annie on her own, acting independently," pointing out that Annie going completely dark is a CIA goal. "That's what the CIA wants and wants their spies to aspire to, but very few people go to a level that we're now seeing where Annie is where she's totally autonomous," he says. "It's what everybody would want out of their job, where they're making decisions all on their own without any supervision. But when you're in that position, the mistakes are yours as well."
The co-showrunner talks to THR about where Annie goes from here, the thought process behind her new look, the sacrifices Calder and Auggie are making and much more.
How much discussion was there with how dramatic you wanted Annie's look to change?
There was a fair amount of thought that went into it. We realized that it was probably important to embrace it fully and everything that it represented. That's where decisions like actually having her dye her hair rather than wearing a wig came from. We wanted to commit to what this meant from a physical transformation standpoint but also from a storytelling standpoint. It's a little bit of a different paradigm. With things like that, you can't dip your toe in, you have to go all in.
Is there significance to the "Jessica Matthews" name that she uses?
Not really. It's just an innocuous name. She wanted something that wasn't going to draw a lot of attention to itself. It's a fairly common first name and a fairly common last name. Those decisions when you're a spy aren't arbitrary. They can save your life. If it's too distinctive or too specific, it can draw attention. That goes along with her wardrobe as well. It allows her to be a chameleon, allow her to blend in to situations. Her goal in the back six episodes is to not only bring down Henry, but to survive. When you're in survival mode, every decision matters.
With her new identity, Annie's gotten a lot more brutal with how she operates, which we got a sense of in the interrogation scene. Is that just a preview of more to come?
Yeah, she's definitely making decisions that she wouldn't have made in the past. I think being alone and the stakes force her to be a little harder, a little edgier and a little more brutal in certain instances. If she doesn't do these things, no one else is going to do these things for her. All this life as spy, all these missions, all the treachery and deceit, it's starting to make her see the world in a slightly darker way.
We don't see her interacting with Calder [Hill Harper], Auggie [Christopher Gorham], Joan [Kari Matchett] or Arthur [Peter Gallagher]. How does she go about communicating with them?
The short answer is it's important that she not communicate with them. Now in this last six [episodes of season four], she will have interactions with them but whenever she chooses to do so, it's going to become loaded with meaning, importance and danger. Let's not forget, Calder played a role in covering this up, so if she were to emerge alive, he would be in considerable trouble at the agency.
Speaking of the CIA, they're taking more measures to spy on their own with things like polygraph tests. How does this affect Calder and Auggie as they continue to keep Annie's whereabouts hidden?
It makes it much more challenging. You'll see an agency on a back tilt and a very paranoid agency. That certainly makes it very difficult to maintain a sophisticated cover-up, which is what Calder, and to a lesser extent, Auggie, have perpetrated.
Are the risks that they're taking with their careers and lives by doing this going to bite them in the butt later on?
(Laughs.) If it came out in the wrong way, they would certainly lose their careers and possibly be tried for treason. The risks are enormous. What you'll see is that these back six episodes build to a very dramatic place where literally more is at risk for all of our characters in [episodes] 15 and 16 than we've ever seen before. That's what we're shooting now. We sent a lot of crew and cast to Hong Kong, which is an enormous undertaking. It's going to be a roller-coaster ride and those last two episodes are absolutely filmic -- they're really big in scope and we're building toward that.
Calder is being put in a position to be a double agent, in a sense, by befriending Henry [Gregory Itzin] and his group while maintaining his loyalty to Auggie and Annie. Does that put him in a compromising situation down the line?
He's definitely in a complicated place. Interestingly, he has engendered a lot of good will from Henry, who's a pretty distrustful person -- at least in the beginning of the season. That's an interesting spot for Calder to be in. The first 10 episodes we were always wondering whether Calder was good or bad, and I don't think that's the case anymore. I think we know he's on the side of good. but that doesn't mean he'll always agree with Auggie or Annie. He's a very opinionated character; that's why we love him. He's going to be bring his own agenda to every situation.
Does he have another agenda that we don't know of yet?
It's more just about process and the way they're handling the Annie situation. He and Auggie are really going to have a lot of conflict about that but it's not that he's a true double.
What about Joan and Arthur?
They have a lot on their plate. Arthur and Joan still have a lot of legal issues, or at least Arthur does. Joan is increasingly pregnant and also relegated to a menial job at Langley. It's quite a dramatic change from where we saw her from at the beginning of the season. All of that puts a toll on their marriage, and there'll also be some new reveals that will put further strain on it -- or a better way of putting it, Arthur will be privy to some of the things that Joan did that we saw.
They're not aware of Annie's true status?
They're understanding of the situation at the beginning of the season is that she's truly dead, so they're mourning. They're mourning her and they're mourning Teo [Manolo Cardona], who's really dead.
Do they find out about Annie?
I think it'll be better to not talk about that. That will be a big part of this back six, but I don't want to give stuff away.
Annie's original plan that she had is now off the table, so what's her next move?
She continues to try to bring Henry down and Jai's mom is an integral part to that. The first 10 episodes our team is playing defense a lot, and now we're going to start to see them play offense and strike back in some dramatic ways. It's tricky. Henry's a master manipulator and a master chess player. It's hard to outflank him, but that's what this is about.
Right now Annie and the CIA are running on two parallel tracks, so how do these worlds collide?
At a certain point, Annie will emerge from the dark and it's going to be very dramatic. It's in the middle of these episodes, but they will collide through her actions.
Covert Affairs airs Thursdays at 10 p.m. on USA Network.