Now that the new TV seasons are in full debut, you may not care much about old shows. However, if you’re interested in the cat and mouse game of spying between the United and the Soviet Union, you should look to “The Assets” for some real spying. “The Assets” is a one season TV mini-series with just eight episodes. But don’t be fooled, it will keep you entertained. At times, you’d feel jumping into the scenes to help those who could not figure out what was going on. That’s interactive viewing at its best.
Aldrich Ames (Paul Rhys), a CIA senior analyst began selling intelligence to the Soviets in order to satisfy his wife’s expensive taste (go figure). As fate had it, soviet defectors were mushroomed left and right, passing classified information to the CIA as well. One defector in particular, colonel Peter Guinness (Peter Guinness) played a Soviet double-agent, passing information to the CIA, asking for nothing in return except a fishing hook; weird huh! CIA mole, Aldrich, informed his soviet handler that there were quite a few soviet double-agents that were passing information to the CIA. The Soviet KGB paid Aldrich handsomely to provide the names of the Russian double-agents. Aldrich obliged. KGB mercilessly executed every double-agent that was caught, close to 30 of them.
When Jeanne Vertfeuille (Harriett Walter), a CIA team lead married to her job and relentless in being right, came back from her vacation, things were about to take a different turn. Jeanne was meticulous, methodical; best of all, Jeanne trusted no one. She double-checked everyone’s information and questioned everyone’s motive. She was not much liked at the office; “the bitch is back” was the way she was greeted back from her vacation. It didn’t seem to phase her. Aldrich was uncomfortable with Jeanne around but he managed to survive several suspicion inquiries. At one point, a soviet defector whom Aldrich recognized, vice-versa, walked into the CIA office and pointed the finger at Aldrich. As of this writing, I am unsure why CIA didn’t pick up on that. You’ll get frustrated too, I promise. Jeanne knew the soviets were getting information coming from the CIA; the task was to find out how. Three possibilities were proposed, one of which a mole within the CIA. Sandy Grimes (Jodie Whittaker) along with another colleague were tasked to investigate the other options while Jeanne took upon herself to investigate the mole. Sandy’s conclusion eliminated all options except the mole. And the hunt for the mole was on. Ironically, as time went by, Aldrich became more confident, bold, audacious even. He even told his wife that CIA would never find out he was a mole because they put two women to investigate. The nerves!
Despite being novice, Aldrich passed two polygraph (lie detector) tests, courtesy of his soviet handler who taught him how to beat the machine. Sandy was convinced that the only possibility of a mole within the CIA was Aldrich but with nothing to back up her claim, the director would not budge to bug Aldrich’s home. Sandy was furious but determined. She even handed her resignation at some point if the bureau would not help her investigation. The director handed her a carrot; she went for it. Thank God she did! Sandy, almost at the cost of her marriage, spent countless hours at the office, looking for info that would incriminate Aldrich. In the meantime, other events that evolved helped to strengthen her suspicion along the way. When she found out that every time Aldrich visited the Soviet Embassy, a large deposit was made into his account, it was enough to warrant wiretapping Aldrich’s home. It would however take more than a year before conversation between Aldrich and his wife incriminated him. Everyone at the office was happy; Sandy was elated. It was the first time that her husband would learn what she really did at the office. He was shocked but proud.
Aldrich was arrested and will spend the rest of his days in jail; his wife was also arrested and given a sentence of six years in jail. His son was placed into the grandparents’ custody until the wife’s release. The most exciting part of “The Assets” is that it is a real-life story. Watch it over a weekend; you won’t be disappointed. You may be frustrated at times, hoping they caught the mole earlier but if you can hold your frustration a bit, you’ll enjoy every episode of the show.
Follow Mike Ducheine on Twitter: @mducheiney