Piper Perabo by Wolfworks2008

Covert Affairs

The “Covert Affairs” summer finale gave us a cliffhanger, a revelation and even a vocabulary lesson.

Spoilers: Really, must we warn you by now? Watch the show first!

What we've learned from the two-hour finale:

Part I: “I Can't Quit You Baby”

1. Anna Chlumsky – So that's what happened to the “My Girl” star. You know, even as Vivian Long, she kind of looks the same.
2. Wonk – (noun, slang) a “student who spends much time studying and has little or no social life” (according to Dictionary.com)
3. Auggie is better than Ben Stiller.
4. Annie is still very, very green despite knowing enough Turkish “to get by.”
5. Toothaches hurt like the dickens, but if you wait till next episode, you won't have to worry about it anymore.

Part II: “When The Levee Breaks”

1. Excruciating office parties are universal.
2. It's a cowrie bracelet not necklace. Oops.
3. Liza Hearn's leak is former Director of the National Clandestine Service, Henry Wilcox, that dog.
4. Joan and Arthur's marriage just might have a fighting chance.
5. USA is determined to leave us cliffhung with possible fatal shootings. First “White Collar,” now this?

All in all, we'd have liked more conclusions, but hey, there's still the second half of the season for that … in Summer 2011. Sigh.

[UPDATE: A previous version of the article erroneously listed the return date as January, which is actually when “Covert Affair's” sister show “White Collar” returns.]

How did you like the “Covert Affairs” finale?

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Photo credit: USA Network

In the duplicitous world of “Covert Affairs,” one's ex is never merely an ex.

Auggie Anderson's (Christopher Gorham) former girlfriend Natasha Petrovna, played by Canadian actress Liane Balaban, isn't just a disgruntled old flame, but a notorious hacker whose cyber attack on Washington catches the attention of the CIA on Tuesday's (Aug. 24) episode “Communication Breakdown.”

The combination of beauty and tech savvy is a lethal combination for lady-magnet Auggie, who seems to have never quite gotten over Natasha, who would fit into his line of work if she weren't so anarchic.

“In the script Natasha's described as 'chaos in a bottle,'” Balaban tells Zap2it. “She's headstrong and impulsive, but also a woman with deeply held beliefs about what's right and wrong. She is courageous, someone who speaks truth to power.”

Auggie and Natasha reconnect and — as expected when emotions are involved — it's not all just business.

“I would say there is a lot of love there. I don't know how much I can reveal,” says Balaban, demurring when asked for comment on the more romantic scenes or Gorham's hard-earned physique. She offers, “Chris was fantastic. Just so welcoming and down to earth. We laughed a lot, which to me is the ultimate chemistry test.”

The episode not only delves into Auggie's backstory and personal life, but does so in a stylish way. The plot veers into caper mode and feels classically cinematic when Auggie and Natasha hop a train.

Balaban says, “One of the most memorable moments for me was gazing over a bridge in rural Ontario, at midnight, down into this valley where they had the train lit from all angles, with flashing cop cars, FBI agents with flashlights and barking dogs. It really didn't feel like a TV show. It felt like a big budget action film.

“I think the whole cast had a secret weapon in this episode, and that was our director, Kate Woods,” she continues. “She was one of the most inspiring people I've ever worked with. She was just so precise with the storytelling moments, constantly adding layers of meaning to what was on the page. Making us feel free to play and explore and go deeper.”

For Balaban, inspiration is key for her craft. She received a special jury award at the Toronto International Film Festival for her very first role as an ambitious teenager in 1999's “New Waterford Girl” and she's followed that with acclaimed performances in “Seven Times Lucky” and “Last Chance Harvey.” She can be seen next as a guest star on “NCIS: Los Angeles” and the film “The Future Is Now.”

One of the attractions of playing Natasha was getting to put on a Russian accent again after Balaban played a Russian aesthetician in “The Trotsky.” She mainly does European accents and turns to dialect coaches or occasionally her father, a Polish Romanian, for some ad libs. Thanks to her half Chinese niece and nephews, she can also do a “wicked” Chinese accent.

She also gives good advice for a surprisingly fun way to brush up on Russian accents.

“To refresh, I watched dozens of interviews on YouTube with the girl band T.A.T.U.,” she reveals.

But in the end, it's not just the accent that drew Balaban to take on the “Covert Affairs” role.

“I find it easier to act when your character has such clearly defined motivation,” she explains. “Natasha is really active. She's got stuff to do, places to go, people to see — or not see as the case may be. Agency is usually reserved for male characters, so it's wonderful to play a female who is the star of her own adventure … a woman who is so politically aware and confident.

“But that's what 'Covert Affairs' is all about, isn't it? A smart, fearless woman saving the world.”

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Photo credits: USA