'Covert Affairs': The safe house around the corner

covert-affairs-wake-up-bomb.jpg "Covert Affairs" began the second half of its second season with some changes in the air. Annie has moved out of Danielle's house and hit a rough patch at work. Jai is threatening to spill his guts to Congress.

The slightly down mood at the start suits the show pretty well, actually. We're not so naive to think this signals a sea change for the show -- and after all, plenty of people like it just the way it is -- but the incremental steps "The Wake-Up Bomb" took felt like the right ones at this stage of the show. The mission of the week kind of goes nowhere, but the stuff around the margins worked.

After a botched assignment in Venice (shot on location, which is cool and all, but a trip to Italy just for three minutes at the start of the show? Hope there's more to come later in the season), Annie gets orders from Joan to downshift and take it easy. She's understandably a little weirded out by the directive, taking it as punishment, but Auggie convinces her to use the time to set up her safe house.

Which, as it turns out, is around the corner from a sweet new restaurant ... that happens to be run by a chef (guest star Santiago Cabrera, sharing no screen time at all with his former "Heroes" co-star Sendhil Ramamurthy) who has ties to the Basque separatist group ETA. Presto: new assignment.

The actual dangerous guy turns out to be the chef Zavier's brother ... except he's only out to get Zavier, over a long-held beef about who was more dedicated to the cause. Annie helps save her chef, but in terms of CIA wins ... not so much.

And as far as Jai's maneuvering himself into a bigger job and bigger office? I'm kind of with his dad -- it's a nice bit of gamesmanship, but it says very little about his character, and none of it good.

But in between all that, it really did feel like Annie has taken a step or two toward establishing her own life, with or without a bottle opener. It's also allowing Piper Perabo and Anne Dudek to give a different shade to their relationship, which is welcome -- Dudek is too good an actress to keep playing variations on "Oh, honey, it's OK." The final scene between them hints at Annie being able to be (a little) more open about her life, and Danielle maybe accepting that idea. More of that, please.

What did you think of "Covert Affairs'" return? What do you want to see in the second half of the season?
Photo/Video credit: USA