Whoosh! ...


ALIAS

THE COUNTERAGENT


EPISODE NO. 29
Season 2, episode 07
Series 207
1st release: 11/17/02
2nd release: 06/29/03
Production code: E658
Last update: 08/09/03


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REGULAR CAST, GUEST CAST & CREDITS
TV GUIDE PROMO
SYNOPSIS by Sally Dye
COMMENTARY 1 by Adriane Saunders
COMMENTARY 2 by Zero and E
LINKS



REGULAR CAST
Jennifer Garner as Sydney Bristow
Victor Garber as Jack Bristow
Ron Rifkin as Sloane
Merrin Dungey as Francie
Carl Lumbly as Dixon
Kevin Weisman as Marshall
Michael Vartan as Vaughn
Bradley Cooper as Will
Joey Slotnick as CIA Agent Steven Haladki
David Anders as Mr. Sark
Lena Olin as Irina Derevko/Laura Bristow



GUEST CAST
Terry O'Quinn (Kendall)
Austin Tichenor (Dr. Nicholas)
Petra Wright (Alice)
Chris Ellis (CIA Agent Chapman)
Victor McKay (CIA Agent Rudman)
Stephen Davies (Sark associate)
Stephen Mendillo (Henry Fields)
Jim Hanna (Claus Richter)
Michelle Arthur (Abigail)
Reamy Hall (Nurse no. 2)
Don Took (Agent Gray)
Ivan Borodin (Lab technician)
Peggy Goss (Attending nurse)
Joel Guggenheim (Agent-on-call)
Mak Takano (Ryokan guard)



CREDITS
Written by John Eisendrath
Directed by Dan Attias



Broadcast on ABC, 9-10pm, Sunday nights.

TV GUIDE PROMO

The race for an antidote to Vaughn's virus locks Syd into a pact with Sark (David Anders) that could end Sloane's SD-6 days. But as time runs out, two betrayals change all the rules, including an unspoken agreement between the CIA's top double-agent and her doomed handler. Meanwhile, Will's look into the standardized-tests mystery nets him an unsettling sit-down with the quiz's creator. Irina: Lena Olin. Sloane: Ron Rifkin. Vaughn: Michael Vartan. TV Guide

Sydney races to find a cure for Vaughn, whose life hangs in the balance due to his watery encounter in Taipei. But in order to find the antidote, Sydney must make a deal with Sark that could endanger Sloane's life. Meanwhile, Will continues his research for Vaughn and discovers some disturbing inconsistencies involving 20-year-old standardized IQ tests. ABC




SYNOPSIS

This synopsis is by Sally Dye.

Teaser

Scenes from previous episodes, culminating with Vaughn discovering that he is infected with the mysterious virus after all. He calls Dr. Nicholas, who tells him to come in immediately. Vaughn makes a stop first, however, to see Irina. She says she knows he had a hand in proving her innocence in the Madagascar incident. She thanks him. Vaughn: "I didn't do it for you." He asks if there is a cure for the virus. She wants to know if he is in love with Sydney. He says if she helps him, he'll tell her.

Will and Sydney talk at Francie's. He says that all of the standardized tests from the year 1982 seem to be missing. Sydney gives him the background info on Project Christmas. Kendall summons Sydney to operations and tells her about Vaughn. He tells her that Vaughn visited Irina, but collapsed as he was leaving. Sydney goes to Irina, who tells her the antidote is located at a former nuclear testing facility in Paldiski. Kendall arranges for Sydney to go get the serum generator, which must use Vaughn's blood to create the antidote. The doctors say she only has three days. Jack says he'll cover for her with Sloane.

Sydney goes to see Vaughn, who is in an oxygen tent and barely strong enough to turn his head to see Sydney. Sydney tells him she'll get the antidote and takes a sample of his blood. Vaughn whispers, "Be careful." Sydney holds his hand. Suddenly an alarm goes off -- Vaughn is bleeding internally. He is rushed to surgery. As Sydney is standing outside the OR, she is approached by an attractive blonde, who introduces herself as "Alice, Michael's girlfriend." Sydney says she's Rita, and she works with him.

Act I

Jack tells Sloane that he has sent Sydney on a recon mission to Armenia. Sloane says that Emily's coffin was empty when he opened it. He believes that Emily is alive. He says that he told Christophe that someone is trying to make it look like he failed to fulfill his obligation to the Alliance. He is to meet Christophe in Tokyo. He says SD-6 needs a success to solidify his position. Jack suggests using Richter.

Sloane visits Richter, who is suffering from the virus but is still able to feel pain. Sloane asks where Derevko's base of operations is located. Richter doesn't answer, so they torture him. He finally sobs out one word: "Smila."

Will meets Abigail, who has done some research for him on the tests. She says the strange spatial relationship questions don't appear on the '82 test that she found.

Sydney enters the facility in Paldiski dressed in a haz-mat suit. She sees Sark and ducks out of sight. She gets to the computer room and hooks up a sat link. The CIA operative on the other end of the link tells her to abort, that there is a security system in place, and she will be detected if she continues. Sydney refuses and continues the download. Then she runs to escape, but Sark has locked down the compound, and Sydney cannot leave the area. Sark appears behind bulletproof glass and tells Sydney that the sprinkler system is rigged with a compound that will eat through her suit -- and her skin -- in a matter of minutes. He says they are destined to work together. He wants to kill Sloane, and she can help him. He turns on the sprinklers and Sydney's suit begins to disintegrate. She says she will help him get to Sloane if she can keep the antidote.

Act II

Sydney tells Kendall about the deal she made. She is to render Sloane unconscious and deliver him to Sark. Kendall refuses to okay the operation. Jack tells Sydney privately that they need to do this without Kendall's knowledge. Francie sees Will examining the 1982 test Abigail gave him. She looks at the test and says that a question is wrong because it asks about the Grenada invasion, which didn't happen until 1983.

Sloane asks Jack to find out more details from Richter because agents have been to Smila and can't locate the base. Richter is tortured some more and finally reveals that Smila is his wife's name. Sloane says to kill him.

Will visits the author of the tests and asks about the 1982 test. The author provides a master copy, and upon close examination, is surprised to see that certain questions on the test -- the spatial reasoning questions -- were not written by him. He says around 5 million children took the test in 1982.

Jack gives Sydney the info on Sloane's itinerary in Tokyo. He says he had hoped she would never face this moment -- deliberately causing someone's premeditated murder. Jack: "That is something you never came close to considering before getting to know your mother."

Act III

In Tokyo, Sydney is disguised as a geisha. She fights and defeats two guards as she approaches the ginza where Sloane is getting a massage. She relieves the geisha masseuse and speaks to Sloane in Japanese. Sloane mumbles something about watching a man die and how he had loved his wife, too, but had to take action. Sydney stabs him in the neck with a needle. Sloane collapses, and Sydney rushes out calling for help. Sark's men come in an ambulance and load Sloane into it. Sark calls his agent with the code that will release the antidote. He tells Sydney that it was nice working with her and drives off in the ambulance. Sydney stands watching them leave with a pensive look on her face.

Act IV

Back in LA, Vaughn awakens to find Jack at his bedside. Jack tells him that Sydney got the antidote by having Sloane killed. Sydney walks into SD-6 and looks for a long time at Sloane's office. She opens the door and is stunned to see Sloane and Sark standing there. Sloane says that Sark is now their ally, and Sydney is to debrief him. When Sloane leaves, Sydney wants to know what Sark is doing. Sark says he revived Sloane and told him he had foiled an assassination attempt so that he and Sloane could work together to solve the Rambaldi mystery. He gave Sloane a paper that supposedly proved his sincerity but wouldn't tell Sydney what it said.

Vaughn goes to see Irina. He says he's there to answer her questions, since she kept her end of the bargain. Irina: "I didn't do it for you." Vaughn says that knowing Sydney has made his life both better and worse. She wants to know why he hasn't spoken to Sydney about his feelings. He says there are rules he has to follow. When he leaves, he runs into Sydney. They hug, and Sydney cries a little. She tells him that Sloane presented Sark to the Alliance as their newest ally. Ironically -- thanks to Sydney -- Sloane's standing with them has never been higher. Vaughn says he heard that Sydney met Alice. He starts to explain that they had broken up, but then.... Sydney stops him: "Seriously.....don't explain." They smile tentatively and Sydney says she will see him tomorrow. She walks off. Kendall approaches and tells Vaughn he's glad things worked out. Vaughn excuses himself and goes after Sydney, but she is gone when he reaches the hallway.



COMMENTARY 1

This commentary is by Adriane Saunders.

Is Syd in love with Vaughan? Will she kill Sloane to save Vaughan's life? Is Vaughan going to die? Is Sloane? Lots of questions. But, these questions are "through the motions" only. These questions could all be predicted and answered without even following the plot. The only REAL question in this episode is NOT whether Syd will participate in murder, trading Sloane's life for Vaughan's, but whether she will admit to her own responsibility and free choice. Or, is morality only a rationalization for Syd?

All else is predictable and without suspense.

THE PLOT: Vaughan contracts a deadly virus from exposure to Rimbaldi's gigantic ball of red liquid. That was the liquid tidal wave that nearly drowned Vaughan in a Taipai hallway at the end of Season One. Now Vaughan has three days to live, and Syd jets to Russia for an antedote. Her mother Irina, happily returned to viewers and plot alike, provides Syd the lead. In Russia Syd is trapped by Sark (remember Khasinau's "representative"?). Sark offers Syd a choice: Sloane's life for Vaughan's. He will allow Syd to keep the antedote only if she delivers Sloane unconscious, so Sark can kill him. The rest is about choices and responsibility. Ultimately a cooperation is formed between Sloane and Sark, to Syd's consternation but to welcome by "The Alliance", Sloane's partners in crime. From start to finish, a presumed romantic connection is played up between Vaughan and Syd.

THE ISSUES: Is the issue Syd's first kill, her first deliberate, calculated murder? Or is "responsibility" the issue, and Syd's unwillingness to take that, or to accept that she always has choices regardless of circumstances?

Syd blames her father, in an earlier episode, for programming away her choices with Operation Christmas when she was a child. Now the threat of death to Vaughan provides Syd a seeming abolition of choice for killing Sloane. Rationalization rules for Syd. This is troublesome. "No choice" is a choice.

"Tell me that you agree with me, that we have no choice in this [killing Sloane]," Syd demands of her father. But, Jack denies that, saying, "Of course we have a choice." Then he proceeds to point out the difference between "self-defense" and "murder" and underlines "knowing you are responsible", only to toss that away in the next breath by blaming her mother Irina.

Jack tells Syd murder is "something you never came to considering before getting to know your mother." That is preposterous. For starters, if anyone is to "blame", that could in this instance only be Vaughan. Syd is contemplating murder to save Vaughan, not her mother. That is the first reason Jack's argument is flawed.

The second is that responsiblity and blame are polar opposites. Blaming is always a way to avoid responsibility, a refusal to make a choice and accept the consequences. We always have choices. No one else can be credited or blamed for our choices. That is precisely what "taking responsibility" means.

THE PRODUCTION: No real suspense or cohesiveness or tension or even fast forward motion to the plot describes this episode. Add to that my puzzlement. This is "Alias"?! Maybe the contrast between last week's brilliance and this week's "anything but" is too great a gap to bridge. The editing and direction seem loose, compounded by redundancy and heavy-handed lyrical background music--in words--explaining the actor's emotions or would-be-emotions. Overdone, or compared to the brilliance of the last episode, underdone. Even the script is flat, the dialogue dull and predictable. And this is astonishing from John Eisendrath, who is usually first rate with his scripts. What happened?

FOOTNOTES:

1) Welcome back, Irina! Derevko's return to the plot almost saves the episode, and is probably the only reason I sat through it all. The intensity with which she listens is remarkable. How often do people listen to one another with such attentiveness or perception? Every word from Irina, soft spoken though she is, is a challenge of power. Derevko's in jail and under guard, but characters come to her for "an audience" as if to a queen. Interesting character, this Irina Derevko.

2) Small detail: Add to Irina's earrings as "likely of importance in a future episode" a fact noted by tech expert Marshall, "Polar bear fur cannot be detected by infrared photography. The fur emits no heat." File that for future reference, or another piece in the Alias/Rimbaldi scavenger hunt. See what happens next.



COMMENTARY 2

This commentary is by Zero and E.

"You are so good. Do you know that?"

THINGS THAT WORKED:

-Textual Mutability: The essay we should have written...
...and maybe someday will.

We deeply admire the masterful timing and skill with which this show just picks up speed, blows past us, and leaves us peering from the tall grass. This was an episode of new beginnings. Like so many episodes before it, it completely reconstructed the premise of the show. Any other program would spend seasons dissecting the themes and dynamics of each episode. Alias just nails it and moves on.

-The Irina Arena

Who is this enigmatic woman? We know only enough to speculate, to dress her up in fabricated motives. After all, we see her only when someone is searching for her aid. Contained behind glass, she can initiate no interaction. More importantly, when her assistance is demanded, she relinquishes only the scraps of knowledge necessary to appease. By withholding what she knows, she maintains leverage over her captors, but to what end does she desire this sway? From the pieces of herself that she seems to reveal, we weave our own explanations, construct our own context for her decisions. But do our rationalizations seek to unearth some fundamental truth about Irina, or are we simply playing into her hands?

Having vindicated his father's murderer of an attempt on Sydney's life, Vaughn stands inches from the glass, tormented by unwelcome gratitude. And at that moment when Irina has lured his eyes to her face, she turns and fastens her gaze to his. "Thank you." What is lurking behind that fierce, penetrating stare? What truth resides in her piercing sincerity?

"I didn't do it for you." Twice this line is uttered. "I didn't do it for you." They did it for Sydney. From both sides of the glass, a loyalty is declared. And though it is the same declaration, can their allegiances truly overlap?

"The problem, Mr. Vaughn is that to the one person who matters... you haven't said anything."
"Listen, this may not mean anything to you. This may not be something you can understand or appreciate, but we have rules, very clear and important rules, that govern the relationship between a handler and his asset."
"And between a man and a woman?"

Again we are left with nothing but a fascinating silhouette. What prompts this insight? Is Irina toying with Vaughn, manipulating his weakness? Is she simply a mother trying to guarantee her daughter's happiness? Or do her words bear the weight of an untold regret? Did she violate the most crucial rule of all? Did she fall in love with Jack?

-"That not everything is gonna be the way/You think it ought to be"

When Vaughn wakes up to his second chance, to a new world, it is Jack, not Sydney, at his side. And as Jack tells him of Sydney's sacrifice, Vaughn comes to the realization that this game must end. He cannot hold his breath each time he opens his eyes, hoping that she will be waiting beside him. And he cannot let Sydney surrender her integrity in his name. It is not fair to either of them.

They cannot go all the way and going halfway will kill them. Someone has to back off and redraw the line of propriety. That someone is Vaughn. But before he goes to Sydney, he goes to her mother. This time we cannot see the glass that separates them. The dividing wall vanishes and they are left to play out the scene in an open arena. In an echo of their first exchange, Vaughn reveals himself. The two conversations mirror one another perfectly, merging into a single discourse.

"I know what you did for me ... Thank you."
"I didn't do it for you."

"You did help me. And I thank you for that"
"I didn't do it for you."

"Are you in love with her?"
"It's not that knowing her hasn't made my life better. It has. But it's also made it that much worse. I think I've said enough"

In the end, it is more difficult for Vaughn to face Sydney than his father's assassin. She is the last one he goes to. And it is such a bittersweet reunion. When consequences became meaningless in the face of an uncertain future, they took those last moments for themselves, cherishing the simple act of touching hands. But, never has it been more clear to Vaughn than after his recovery that his entire life is ahead of him, and that he cannot survive in a state of agonized anticipation. They cannot ask each other to wait. It is simply not fair to either of them.

'Come to me now
And lay your hands over me
Even if it's a lie
Say it will be all right
And I shall believe'

In a beautifully scripted, brilliantly acted, immensely heartbreaking scene, Vaughn and Sydney face the impossibility of their relationship. With a pained integrity, Vaughn tries to explain. But Sydney does not want justification. All she wants is to hear that everything WILL be all right.

'I'm broken in two
And I know you're on to me
That I only come home
When I'm so all alone'

Sydney DID come to Vaughn when she was in need of comfort. She began to take for granted that he was the one person who she could always call, to whom she could confess anything. But now that the lines of their relationship have been crossed and blurred and redrawn, can she still turn to him with that same openness?

As Vaughn winds through the hallway, catching glimpses of her back, as he halts at the end of the corridor and smiles, the only certainty is:

"I'll see you tomorrow."

-Alice: The right woman

Tormented by the unattainability of a relationship with Sydney, of course Vaughn turns to Alice. In the same way that Noah offered Sydney solace from her solitude, Alice represents a history and familiarity for Vaughn that he can take comfort in. Any other woman would have been a "Jenny," a meaningless substitute that doesn't fool anyone. The progression of Vaughn and Sydney's relationship had to stop. And it had to be abrupt. It had to be Alice because she is the only woman with whom Vaughn could just pick up where he left off. Because it is Alice, Vaughn can try to move on, and do so with his honor intact.

-I Grieve

"The one crucial thing, the one real responsibility you have is to not let your rage, and your resentment, and your disgust, darken you." (episode 01.04)

But what about her love? In "The Solution" Sydney articulated a fear that she was becoming what she despised BECAUSE of things she despised. But in the last two episodes we have seen Sydney fall from grace not out of hate, but out of devotion.

"Tell me you agree with me, that we have no choice in this."
"Of course we have a choice."

Whether or not Sloane died, she killed him. She made that decision. Under the blue light of SD-6, we trail Sydney in slow motion. She is searching for any affirmation of the reality of what she's done. But everything looks the same. Sydney seems so young, eyes wide, not understanding how the external world could fail to reflect the mark she bears.

'It was all so different then
Nothing yet has really sunk in
Looks like it always did'

She is grieving for her loss of innocence, for the dismantling of the familiar, of the world she knew. She is grieving for Sloane.

Beneath the ethereal flow of Peter Gabriel's song, Sydney rounds the corner. She has been saved from her own sin. Sloane is alive. But the consequences of her decisions run deeper than the physical. Is she any less guilty that he didn't die?

-Sark: Back in Black (remix)

Another walk-in.

The rules of the game have just changed. There are now two players strategically placed, one in the CIA and one in SD-6. And, whether the two walk-ins are working together or not, Sark's initiation into Sloane's sphere has completely shifted the flow of information and the dynamics of power.

But if this means more missions with Sark on point, we're all for him being thrown into the mix. We love the tension, the playful animosity. This was the first time that Sark maintained the upper hand in an encounter with Sydney and it was absolutely fascinating to watch him delight in the role. Sydney's impatience with his exuberance provides the perfect counterbalance.

-Go 'head Mr. Kendall

"There are just so many problems with this that I don't even know where to begin."

What a classic line, delivered pricelessly. Terry O'Quinn is just great. It's totally clear that, while Kendall can impose his authority in the Rotunda, he has no control over this operation whatsoever.

-Mission Tokyo: Hot Stuff

What an incredible mission. From Sydney's how-did-they-do-that geisha garb to the absolutely stunning garden, this was just unbeatable. The wafting oriental theme picks up speed, transforming into the smooth pulse of Tokyo Techno. The vibrant play of color against the operatic movement, the simple gestures of the other geishas, and the way that Sydney plucks the pin from her hair with such delicate precision fuse with the music and create an amazing aesthetic fluidity.

THINGS THAT DIDN'T WORK:

In this section we usually discuss elements of the current episode or the progression of the season in general that we feel are lacking in some way. This week, however, we having nothing to add that we have not already addressed in our previous reviews.

DETAILS WE APPRECIATED:

-Lena Olin has such presence. There is something truly chilling about the predatory manner in which Irina touches her mouth while speaking to Vaughn.

-Full circle:
"Arvin Sloane killed my fiancÚ."

"We broke up."
"Yeah, you mentioned that."

"Rambaldi's true aim is a puzzle."

-We loved hearing Jack provide Sydney's cover story to Sloane. It was interesting to see the casual context in which these lies can be delivered.

-Colors were used as such effective imagery and symbolism in this episode, accentuating moods and tone. There was that tainted, sick yellow in Paldiski, Estonia, a kind of mourning blue in SD-6, and the steel gray of Sydney's decontamination.

-The circular camera movement during the mission briefing in the CIA Rotunda added a sense of urgency to the situation, punctuating the intensity of the dialogue.

-Again, Sydney dons hazmat gear in order to save Vaughn.

-Internal Awareness:

Sloane may be distracted, but he's not blind.

"Since I was made a partner in the Alliance, SD-6 has consistently stumbled in its operations. We lost the terahertz wave camera. We failed to retrieve the formula for zero-point energy. We didn't acquire Derevko's operations manual."

"But it was the love he had for his wife that sustained him"

- "You were the last person I ever wanted to see again, and you were the ONLY person I ever wanted to see again." (epidsode 01.18)

"It's not that knowing her hasn't made my life better. It has. But it's also made it that much worse."

Interesting parallel.

-The Icon of Sydney's Ingenuity and the Show's Continuity: We extend a warm "Welcome back" to the Fire Extinguisher. We were on our feet.

CIRCUS MUSIC:

It isn't so much turning on a dime as slamming on the breaks... but here we go anyway.

Source Music (Part I)

Note: External quotes and dialogue from Alias are denoted by double-quotation marks (") and song lyrics by singe-quotation marks (')

"A film is - or should be - more like music than like fiction. It should be a progression of moods and feelings." -Stanley Kubrick

Music's intimacy, like the intimacy of all arts, emanates from the recognition of self within the extrinsic. It is the cultivated practice of sculpting lived experience into personal history. It is the encapsulation of moments. When we as individuals identify and take part in the nuance and connotation of these moments, the music resonates with us and becomes our voice, an individual expression of personhood uttered by a stranger.

The Alias Universe is, itself, an organic collection of personal histories. As viewers, we are entangled in the ebb and flow of textual ambiance but, even as we are enraptured by the narrative itself, it the music that infuses us with a complete sense of empathy and allows for us to fully engage with the text. When the evolution of the visual and textual "now" reaches a point of narrative acuity and is coupled with music that tells the same story, that advances toward the same moment, it is far more profound than either song or story could be alone. There are times in Alias when the auditory and visual coalesce so flawlessly that the music becomes inseparable from the moment and we ourselves become so ensorcelled that we cannot possibly look away.

"Truth Be Told" (episode 01.01)

Each carefully chosen song acts as a temporal marker, manifesting the range of emotion and theme that the pilot's narrative introduces. Go look at the lyrics for "Trouble" by Cat Stevens, "Here Comes the Flood" by Peter Gabriel, and "Give You Back" by Vertical Horizon. If you can, play the final scene. Watch the long shot of Sydney standing before Danny's grave, framed by the expanse of the sky. Watch Jack approach his daughter for the first time. Listen to the song. If we wrote about the music in this episode, we'd never finish. Go look. You'll understand.

Kate Bush "This Woman's Work" (episode 01.02)

-Give me these moments back-

"Danny... since my mother died, I always hoped I would find someone to give my life meaning. That person is you. I just met the agency first."

Sydney Bristow has lost everything. At 26, all she wanted was normalcy. She wanted Danny, she wanted simple moments with her friends, she wanted to live a life not predicated on a lie. When she tried to make that decision, however, she found that not only was it not hers to make, but that the lie she had been living was far more complicated and more tragic than she could have known.

"I just want to say... start with the teeth in the back." This was the first Sydney we knew. She had nothing to lose. But, in "So It Begins" we see just how much she's lost. Sydney returns from her first mission since Danny's murder and, like in the pilot, she bursts through the front door and lets her bags fall to the ground. But instead of searching for Danny, she reaches for the symbol of his absence. Slipping the ring back onto her finger, the sequence of events once again follows Sydney from living room to bathroom.

'I stand outside this woman's work,
This woman's world.'

The montage that follows grants us access to the emotional depth of Sydney Bristow and acquaints us with the themes that will be a driving force for Alias' first season.

'I know you have a little life in you yet.
I know you have a lot of strength left.'

Sydney sits broken and mournful in her bath. The simple swell of the music, the quavering power of the lyrics, and the soft lighting under which the camera slowly trails up her body are so sensual and so intimate. Her world is opened to us, and what we see is a woman searching for the strength to continue, looking for her will live this life.

'I should be crying, but I just can't let it show.
I should be hoping, but I can't stop thinking.

Of all the things I should've said,
That I never said.
All the things we should've done,
That we never did.
All the things I should've given,
But I didn't.'

Without this moment of weakness, without this internal struggle made palpable by music, there is no empathy for Sydney Bristow. She becomes just another hollow avatar of righteousness. This song is her doubt. Is she willing to sacrifice herself to her work a second time? Having lost so much to her trade, can she wear its masks again? This song is her confession. It is Sydney's regret, her grief, her guilt. She was too blind for too long and now it's too late.

'Oh, darling, make it go,
Make it go away.'

But it won't. It won't go away for ANY of these characters. It won't go away for Sydney. It won't go away for Sloane. It won't go away for Jack. The Alias Universe is about consequence. It's about losing yourself to some aspect of your life, about being consumed. It's about how your choices inadvertently affect the lives of others. It's about how, when you weren't looking, you gave more than you were willing to sacrifice. How, in the end, it doesn't matter whether you were blind to these decisions or not. The consequences are inescapable.

Sarah McLachlan "Angel" (episode 01.04)

-May you find some comfort there-

The Pier Scene in "A Broken Heart" is one of those moments when you can't look away. It is the merging of the characters' words with the words of the song, two works of art reaching the same destination at the same moment in time. It's beautiful, it's moving, it's extraordinary.

'spend all your time waiting
for that second chance
for a break that would make it okay'

Sydney is alone at her table, waiting to have dinner with her father for the first time in years. And as she sits, yearning for reconciliation, holding onto that hope, we cut away to find Jack, alone in his car, watching her. This was his opportunity as much as it was hers. He's been waiting for that second chance for so long and he forfeits it. He just doesn't show. He's there, he's in the car, he's outside the restaurant. This was his chance to be her father and he simply gives it up.

'you are pulled from the wreckage
of your silent reverie
you're in the arms of the angel
may you find some comfort there'

"I'm sorry to call you. I just didn't know who else to call."

Here it comes: that acute coalescence, when the words of the song and the words of the characters become one. It is a truly elegant moment of symmetry. We offer a portion of the lyrics and dialogue as they are heard together in the Pier Scene. They speak for themselves.

'so tired of the straight line'

"This isn't just about my dad. When I was in Morocco, the man who died, he was a friend of mine. He was a good man."

'and everywhere you turn
there's vultures and thieves at your back'

"He thought he was fighting for the right side-- he thought he was working for the CIA."

'and the storm keeps on twisting'

"He was lied to, and now he's dead. I had his blood on my hand."

'you keep on building the lie
that you make up for all that you lack'

"I feel like I'm losing my mind, like I don't know who I am anymore, or what I'm doing, or why I'm doing it..."

'it don't make no difference
escaping one last time
it's easier to believe in this sweet madness oh
this glorious sadness that brings me to my knees'

"Okay, listen to me. There's something you need to know. When you first walked into my office with that stupid Bozo hair, I thought you were crazy. I mean I actually thought you might have been a crazy person. But I watched you, and I read your statement, and I've seen... I've seen how you think, I've seen how you work, I've seen who you are. In this job, you see darkness. You see the worst in people. And, though the jobs are different and the missions change, and the enemies have a thousand names, the one crucial thing, the one real responsibility you have is to not let your rage, and your resentment, and your disgust, darken you. When you're at your absolute lowest, at your most depressed, just remember that you can always... you know. You've got my number."

'you're in the arms of the angel
may you find some comfort here'

The moment is perfectly orchestrated, and as the scene fades to black, the music hits its last note.

Jude "Everything's All Right" (episode 01.07)

-It takes me through the night-

"I'm glad to be home."
"Okay, but the turkey is really burning. I mean, it's burning."

'Can you tell me I want to believe
That you want to be with me forever
I need to know that you won't ever leave
And you won't run away from me never'

'Everything's all right
The way that you believe in me
It takes me through the night
I fall besides you softly singing
For the one who would be mine
I think it's time'

The Thanksgiving montage in "Color Blind" is an enjoyable and necessary respite from Alias' tragedy. The song is emblematic not only of Francie and Charlie's relationship, but also of how Sydney finds joy in the happiness of her friends. Their presence is a comfort to her. It keeps her anchored and sane. Because, at the end of the day, doesn't she want to believe that she can have this kind of life back? That everything really IS all right? This song takes us out of the sorrow and corruption and reminds us of the simple things. It's just dinner with friends, spending a holiday together, laughing together. It is one of those moments that we all recognize, and the exuberance of music punctuates the mood perfectly, giving it its vibrancy. It evokes our histories and makes us smile to ourselves.

Jeff Buckley "Lover, you should've come over" (episode 01.19)

-It's not too late-

With all the trauma in her life, Sydney is desperately searching for anyone to turn to, anyone to trust. She's seeking a moment of intimacy and honesty. And when her old lover, Noah Hicks, reenters her life, he is available to her in every way that Will and Vaughn and her father are not. They share a common history. Their love is familiar and comfortable, and when Noah offers her relief from her solitude, she accepts.

For the first time in what seems like an eternity, she feels she's regained a little piece of home. So, when Noah's life is threatened by Sloane's investigation, Sydney goes to her father. She is desperate. Blind to consequence, deaf to reason she implores Jack for his help.

"Sydney, you have no perspective on who that man is. You're as lost now as I was years ago."
"Wait, Dad, you don't know him!"
"And you don't know him either! That's the lesson in all this."

But this is a man who is learning what it is to be a father. And though he desperately wants to keep her from making the same mistakes that he did, how can he deny his daughter what she most desires? In a stunning sequence we watch the aftermath of Jack's decision. In slow motion, we trail Sydney as she strides through SD-6 and catches Jack's eyes.

'When I'm broken down and hungry for your love with no way to feed it
Where are you tonight, child you know how much I need it
Too young to hold on and too old to just break free and run'

This is Jack.

'Sometimes a man gets carried away, when he feels like he should be having his fun
And much too blind to see the damage he's done
Sometimes a man must awake to find that really, he has no one'

Sydney turns to Jack, eyes questioning him. Expressionless, he lowers the phone from his mouth and, with a glance, he directs her to where Noah sits, laughing, saved. And as a smile of pure joy and gratitude spreads across his daughter's face, as she crosses the room, abandoning his gaze, he feels the weight of his decision. There is such devastation in his eyes. He knows how this will end. But more than that, he knows that his daughter has chosen Noah over him and that, when the sky falls, she may still not return to him.

'So I'll wait for you... and I'll burn
Will I ever see your sweet return
Oh will I ever learn'
'It's never over, all my blood for the sweetness of her laughter
It's never over, she's the tear that hangs inside my soul forever'

'Well I feel too young to hold on
And I'm much too old to break free and run
Too deaf, dumb, and blind to see the damage I've done
Sweet lover, you should've come over
Oh, love well I'm waiting for you'

'Lover, you should've come over
'Cause it's not too late'

The soft lament of the words, the forlorn yearning of Jeff Buckley's voice, the delicate camerawork, and the subtle confession of Mr. Garber's eyes melt together seamlessly. We were floored.

Paul Oakenfold "Ready Steady Go" (episode 01.19)

-Wildly patriotic-

It's that rising-pulsing-pounding beat, that steady cadence with a kind of James Bond flair, pushing us to the edge of our seats, seducing us with the thrill of espionage. And as we watch Sydney and Noah maneuver through the Cape Town server room, we know exactly what it was that attracted her to him five years ago. In the days of idealistic patriotism, when she was still high off the adrenaline of adventure, before the novelty wore off and she stopped having fun, Noah is precisely the type of man she would have fallen for. He was a symbol of courage and strength to her, the seasoned agent, the archetypal Pro. So it is so fitting that the music driving this scene broadcasts these same sentiments, lending a punch of exhilaration and danger to the suspense.



LINKS:

Zentertainment Review

Television Without Pity Review by Regina
There's a whole lot of "why" going on in this episode. Namely because there's a whole lot of plot development going on that requires a healthy dose of "whateverthef---" just to get through. On a more positive note, Vaughn and Syd come thisclose to uttering the "L" word when Syd saves Vaughn's life. There's also Will's stupid educational test subplot, Mama Hari's Advice For Chickens--- Lovers, and Sloane's untimely demise at the hands of a kimono-clad Syd. But all we really care about is the loooooove stuff...

Graphics at jeffersonfreestate.org

Synopsis at abc.com

Synopsis by Dear Sally

Review from Altered States Magazine




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