With five episodes left in “Covert Affairs” season five, the stakes are being raised ever higher for Annie (Piper Perabo) and Auggie (Christopher Gorham). In the Nov. 13 episode, “Starlings of the Slipstream,” the duo discover that Auggie may be marked for death, following the murders of three of his former colleagues — but can they track down the culprit before it’s too late?
Variety spoke to “Covert Affairs” showrunners Matt Corman and Chris Ord ahead of tonight’s episode, and the pair previewed an “intense” run of episodes as we approach the finale, Auggie’s action-packed storyline, and whether there’s still hope for Annie and Auggie’s romantic relationship after a season full of secrecy.
You covered a lot of ground in last week’s midseason return, so what can you preview about the remaining episodes this season?
Chris Ord: Starting with this episode, things really start heating up for our season in terms of bringing all the storylines together and synthesizing everything we’ve seen up until this point. This week’s episode kicks that run off and things are only gonna get more intense from here on out.
It looks like Auggie is in for a particularly challenging episode this week — how important is this storyline for him?
Matt Corman: What we’re beginning to see is that Auggie is intimately involved in the overall architecture, and that really starts to come to a head in this episode. One thing we like about this season in particular is that all the different tendrils of storytelling weave together, as Chris alluded to, and this episode really starts to bring Auggie’s thread into the greater tapestry of the story.
Ord: This is an episode you really want to stay around and watch ‘til the very end; there are major things that happen at the very end that are really eye opening.
Auggie seems like he’s become a little more guarded and a little more manipulative in recent episodes — how would you sum up his mental state in the back half of the season?
Corman: Due to events that will unfold, he becomes very driven and very focused. You’re not wrong about some of the things that were playing out earlier, but he has a laser focus towards the end of the season, and an action element that is always fun for our fans to see. He’s definitely going to be Auggie: The Man of Action in the field in a very dramatic way.
Annie and Auggie have had a pretty tumultuous season so far, in terms of their relationship. Now Annie seems pretty serious about Ryan McQuaid (Nic Bishop) — is there much hope for Auggie and Annie romantically at this point, or is that on the backburner?
Ord: At this point, it’s complicated. You had a relationship with someone and then you’ve broken up and they’ve gone into another relationship and you continue to work together… that’s complicated, but it’s life. That’s, in many ways, what Auggie’s dealing with and what Annie’s dealing with. In this spy game, it’s extremely difficult, because trust is so necessary and Annie has lied to Auggie a couple of times this season or kept things from him. Trying to forge a new path going forward and to hold on to that trust is tricky, but at the end of the day, there’s a very strong relationship between them, there’s a very strong friendship and they’re kindred spirits in a lot of ways. The hope is that the strength and foundation of their relationship wins out.
Annie and Ryan have such great chemistry, and they’ve had some sweetly domestic moments together this season. Relationships don’t tend to work out well for spies, but do you see Ryan around for the foreseeable future?
Corman: Nic and Piper have such amazing chemistry together… He’s playing a big role and I think it’s always challenging to be in a relationship when you’re a spy, and as the events of these back six episodes continue to unfold, their relationship is going to be shaped and tested but also forged into a completely new dimension.
Chris Gorham is also stepping behind the camera again to direct this week’s episode. What does he bring to the table as a director?
Ord: Chris is a fantastic director — this is his third episode for us. He knows the show so well. He starts from a place of knowledge and he’s talented — he’s a visual guy, he knows how to direct. When he came to us saying he wanted to direct, you never know what you’re going to get when an actor gets behind a camera, but he does a lot of research, a lot of preparation, and he’s great. He did another great episode this season, so he’s three for three in our book.
Corman: It speaks to Chris’ ambition and talent that when he had this conversation saying that he wanted to direct, it was before we started shooting the pilot. It’s certainly something he’s been excited about and driven by for a very long time, and he takes it very seriously.
Caulder (Hill Harper) seems to have finally made a real connection with call girl Sydney/Stephanie, but he’s putting her into some fairly dangerous situations. What can you preview about their arc?
Corman: It’s going to get more complicated and more dangerous, and I’m glad you brought that up, because it is deepening on an emotional level. But with that deepening emotion comes greater stakes. But Caulder is good enough at his job to know that she can play a really significant tactical role in the spy landscape and he’s not going to let his feelings get in the way of that. But it’s gonna get more complex and dangerous.
Hayley (Amy Jo Johnson) has been another compelling addition this season; is there anything else coming up for her?
Ord: Not so much in the last six –- with the way our season breaks up into distinct packages, 10 in the summer and six in the fall, we did a run with her in the summer. She really popped as a character and Amy Jo is so great embodying that character, that she’s someone we continue to think about for future episodes.
It’s always a pleasure to see Eyal (Oded Fehr) return, as he did last week. Are there any other familiar faces coming back this season?
Ord: You will see a few familiar faces pop up, but to name them would be a bit of a spoiler. And we’ll also meet some new faces — we’ve got some guest stars that we’ve brought on; Kenny Johnson’s gonna be on the show, we’re very excited about him.
The show has evolved so far in scope and ambition since its early seasons. Looking back at where you started and where you’ve ended up, what are you most proud of?
Corman: I think we’re just proud of that evolution in general; the longer-arc storyline that’s more serialized is much more complicated to write and act and direct, but I think it’s a little bit more satisfying and that audiences really enjoys being able to dig in. It almost has the feel of a novel. We’re also very proud of the international shooting that we’ve continued to do, we saw Istanbul and at the end of the season we’re going to take a jaunt to South America.
Having come so far beyond Annie’s double life with her sister, Danielle (Anne Dudek), which really underpinned the first couple of seasons, are you ever tempted to revisit that relationship or has the show moved on now?
Corman: Our family is always a part of our life. For Annie, in her life, I think her sister is always there. She sent a postcard to her last year in a moment of great duress. So if you asked Annie, I think her sister and her nieces are always close to her heart, so it’s not inconceivable that they would circle back in a potential season six.
“Covert Affairs” airs Thursdays at 10 p.m. on USA Network.