I Am Not A Jobnik

Covert Affairs is my new favourite show.

It’s got Piper Perabo in it. Piper. Perabo. How great is that? They should make a show called Piper Perabo, starring Piper Perabo, the human tongue twister. Just before you read any further, stop and say the name Piper Perabo six times quickly. My head’s still spinning.

So Piper Perabo stars in the show and she’s got these giant teeth that she takes everywhere she goes. Giant. Teeth.

Covert Affairs has got spies and CIA and international travel and yadda, yadda, yadda. The truth is you don’t need to know anything about the show. There’s some kind of supporting cast doing things in an office but you don’t care about that stuff. All you want to do is see Piper Perabo in the field doing cool spy stuff. Piper Perabo has charisma. She has a great smile. Lots of giant-ass teeth. Covert Affairs is pretty much a show about Piper Perabo’s teeth.

There’s a well known rule that every show even tangentially connected to spy work has to mention the Mossad. Sometimes the Mossad is good. Sometimes the Mossad is bad. It doesn’t matter. If it’s about spies then sooner or later the Israelis will turn up.

That’s what happened in this week’s episode of Covert Affairs. Piper Perabo is in the airport in Zurich to swap suitcases with a Mossad agent, but it all goes wrong and the two of them have to go on the lam.

Enough exposition. Here’s why I liked it. Usually when the Mossad turns up, they have someone mumble something in terrible Hebrew to prove that they are Mossad. They probably shouldn’t bother. It always sounds odd. On NCIS there is even an Israeli recurring character called Ziva David. She’s played by an actress who is not Israeli and who cannot speak Hebrew. Whenever the actress tries to speak Hebrew it’s like fingernails down a blackboard.

In Covert Affairs, the Mossad agent can actually talk Hebrew. In the middle of a rousing argument he switches to Hebrew. Proper Hebrew. He raises his hands to his forehead and exclaims:

“…לא יאומן! שולחים לי איזה ילדה מטומטמת” (“Unbelievable! They sent me a stupid little girl…”)

It’s very convincing. It sounds like an Israeli talking. The funny thing is that it plays without subtitles. If you don’t understand what he’s saying, you just get a sense of his exasperation.

Ten seconds later Mossad man says in English:

“You’re just a jobnikit, aren’t you?”

I’m sorry. When did that word enter into the wider English lexicon?

From the essential Urban Dictionary, here’s the definition:

Jobnik – Israeli slang for a non-combatant soldier who serves his nation by doing secretarial work, clerking, counting inventory, or some other “job”-like function. Generally used with a hint of derision, as if the jobnik is lazier than a fighter. Female form: jobnikit.

Then, just when Mossad Man thinks he’s won the argument, Piper Perabo and her teeth step it up a notch:

“אני לא ג’ובניקית”

Wow. Nice one Piper. She shows Mossad Man that she understood every word of his Hebrew and that she too can handle herself in the language. But what did she say? What was her match-winning comeback? Luckily this time there are subtitles. For the first time in the scene something is subtitled for any non-Hebrew speakers that might be watching. Check it out:

I (Piper Perabo) Am Not A Jobnik!

I’m pretty sure it’s the first time that sentence has ever been said during primetime. You can watch the whole exchange here:

So Piper Perabo and Mossad Man have a slightly fractious relationship. For most of the episode we’re supposed to be unsure whether Mossad Man is from the good Mossad or the bad Mossad. But it plays itself out easily enough.

In the end the two agents swap suitcases and Mossad Man leaves us with one important message: “Did you hear, neshama? Everything’s better in Israel.”

Like I said at the start, Covert Affairs, it’s my new favouite show.

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13 Responses to I Am Not A Jobnik

  1. Svenska says:

    Eyal returns on the 16th of October for 5 out of the last 6 episodes of this season’s Covert Affairs.

  2. They did it again a few weeks ago – the return of Eyal Lavin, and this time, they went to “Jerusalem.” Well, really, they shot in Morocco, but the story focused on Jerusalem. I just finished a piece about it here (and linked to your post, so thanks): http://estherkustanowitz.typepad.com/myurbankvetch2005/2012/09/covert-affairs-goes-to-israel.html

  3. Bernadette says:

    ‘Mossad man’ can speak proper Hebrew because the actor is originally from Tel Aviv. Those of us who are dedicated fans of Oded Fehr are quite thrilled that the guy FINALLY got a role playing his own heritage. I fully support actors playing across race and nationality or else I’d never get to see Oded act at all.

    • guiltyfeat says:

      Thanks for stopping by, Bernadette. I love that there are dedicated fans of Oded Fehr. I wonder if they will bring him back into Covert Affairs. I think his character had the best chemistry so far with Ms. Teeth.

  4. Mel says:

    Wow. Who knew there were other folks staring at Piper Perabo’s teeth? :-) I don’t speak Hebrew, & used cctv to check out what Oded Fehr was saying so I could look it up. That led me to you and the definition of jobnikit (thank you for that!) but there’s no explanation for neshama, which on other sites says it means “soul”? Could you give a girl some help? And for the record I HATE when an actor who is a non-speaker of a language pretends to be fluent and butchers it. Can you say James Bond? Thanks for the help! :-)

    • guiltyfeat says:

      Hey Mel. Yes, “neshama” literally means “soul”, but here it’s just a general term of endearment like “sweetie pie” or “pumpkin”. Hope that helps.

  5. Hi says:

    Just saw your post and I have enjoyed it very much
    Please let me know if you need any help with Hebrew or Hebrew slang

    Take care,
    Leeor

  6. Benjamin says:

    Ok. Am convinced. Need I start from S01 E01? Or can I jump in?

  7. alison jacobs says:

    this is my favorite at the moment too. she was great in coyote ugly too, but I think b her teeth have grown since then. Mossad episode was awesome!

  8. Jehuda Saar says:

    Oy vey. I had given up on that show. But with a line like that: “everything’s better in Israel” not watching is like being a traitor to my nation.

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