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ALIAS

FIREBOMB


EPISODE NO. 38
Season 2, episode 16
Series 216
1st release: 02/23/03
2nd release: 07/20/03
Last update: 08/09/03


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REGULAR CAST, GUEST CAST & CREDITS
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)
Eli Danker (Ahmad Kabir)
Lina Patel (Alia Gizabi)
Yvonne Farrow (Diane Dixon)
Greg Grunberg (Weiss)
David E Kimball (Fleming)
Roy Werner (bomb squad leader)
Bonita Friedericy (Joyce)
Ken Lally (lead agent)



CREDITS
Written by John Eisendrath
Directed by Craig Zisk



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

SYNOPSIS:

This synopsis is by Sally Dye.

Teaser

Scenes from previous episodes, culminating with Sloane telling Sydney that she will be driving him out of there. The two of them exit through dozens of police, who hold their fire on Vaughn's orders. They drive off with Sydney at the wheel. Vaughn contacts Marshall, who tells him how much concrete to encase the detonator in so that the remote will not set it off.

On a mountain road, Sark pulls alongside Sydney and Sloane. Sloane leaps out of the car and into Sark's van. Then Sark's men shoot the engine of Sydney's car and it swerves to a stop. Sydney pounds the steering wheel in frustration.

Kendall is upset that Sloane got away. Sydney blames Kendall for not providing satellite surveillance to track Sloane. Kendall says that Sydney could have taken Sloane out and chose not to.

Sloane says he wants the Rambaldi device completed "by tomorrow". Sark says Caplan is close, and that he (Sark) will test the device when it is ready.

Vaughn and Sydney arrive at her place after a hockey game. Weiss calls and says Kendall wants to see them. As Vaughn is talking, he hears a staticky sound and short bursts of their previous conversation. He realizes that there is a bug nearby, and he and Sydney find it behind an outlet. When Sydney takes the device to hq, Marshall recognizes it as one he made for Sloane. Jack tells him to try and trace where it was sending its signals.

Sark comes to Sloane and says the device is assembled and seems to work, but he doubts that a "suitcase neutron bomb designed in the 16th century" could even be possible, let alone effective.

Act I

In Kandahar, Sloane meets with Ahmad Kabir, the powerful leader of a drug cartel. He tells him if he will partner with him, he will let Kabir choose the target for a demonstration of his new weapon. He brings Kabir a gift -- a valuable relic that is sacred to Kabir's people.

In LA, Sydney is exercising when "Francie" comes in. She tells Sydney that she never talks to her anymore. Sydney apologizes. Vaughn calls and tells Sydney to come in. When Sydney leaves, "Francie" calls Sark and tells him they found the bugs. He says to find someone to take the blame.

Kendall says that they have traced Sloane to Kandahar. He tells Sydney to ask Dixon for info on Kabir, since Dixon had infiltrated his operation for SD-6. Sydney knows that Dixon won't help, and she's right -- Dixon refuses to even consider it.

Kabir finds Sloane admiring a carving of an "arhat" -- someone who destroys one's enemies. Kabir wants to know how Sloane knows so much about his culture, and Sloane says he is a collector.

Vaughn brings Will in to make a presentation on Kabir, since he has researched him. Two other experts are also there -- from Harvard. The others suggest approaching an enemy of Kabir's who might then lead them to Kabir. Will disagrees and says they should talk to Kabir's ex-wife, Alia Gizabi, who now lives in Mexico City. Will then offers to give the Harvard experts the web address he got the info from. Sydney smothers a smile. Kendall says that Sydney and Vaughn are to go to Mexico City and convince Alia Gizabi to help them.

Sloane notifies Sark that Kabir has chosen his ex-wife as the target of the demonstration of the weapon. Sark is to leave for Mexico City at once.

Act II

In Mexico City Sark tracks Alia Gizabi to a wing of the Vatican Embassy church. He calls Sloane to protest that the smallest miscalculation could cause the demonstration to go very wrong. Sloane says to do it anyway. Sark: "Easy for you to say. You're 8000 miles away." Sloane just says he'll wait to hear from him.

Sydney, in disguise as an elderly lady, enters the Embassy and finds Alia Gizabi. She explains who she is and what she wants, but Alia refuses to help her. Weiss contacts Vaughn and says that the Echelon system intercepted a message about a terrorist attack, and the coordinates are Vaughn's location. Vaughn radios Sydney that they have to get out. Alia says she won't go with her, so Sydney knocks her out and carries her to the car, where Vaughn is waiting. Meanwhile, the Embassy chapel is being evacuated, but before everyone can get out, the Rambaldi device reaches zero. All the people left in the church spontaneously combust.

Weiss radios Vaughn that satellite surveillance shows a big "hot spot" right behind them, but Sydney and Vaughn can't see anything. Then the images cease, and the attack is apparently over. Vaughn and Sydney go back to the Embassy, where they find the charred remains of those who were still in the church. Nothing else seems disturbed, though. Alia Gizabi comes in and says she will help them find her husband.

Act III

Kabir is pleased that Alia's name is on the list of those who perished in the attack. He agrees to pay Sloane $40 million for the weapon. He also gives Sloane the carved "arhat" as a gift.

Kendall says that Sark was seen in Mexico City and tracked as far as Kabul. Sydney's assignment is to parachute into the Helmond Valley -- where they have now learned Kabir's stronghold is located -- and steal the weapon, which apparently causes the bodies of anyone near it to burn from the inside out.

Weiss reports that they have cleared all the bugs out of Sydney's place but still haven't got any leads on who put them there. Sydney calls "Francie" to cancel plans they had, and "Francie" says it's okay, she's right in the middle of something anyway. She hangs up the phone and turns to the repairman she has tied up and kills him. Then she plants some evidence in his locker.

Sydney parachutes into Kabir's compound dressed in a "cold suit" that keeps the heat activated security cameras from seeing her. When she reaches the storeroom, however, she sees that the layout has apparently changed. A guard surprises her. They fight, but more guards arrive and Sydney is captured.

Vaughn wants Kendall to send in a team, but Kendall won't do it as long as they don't have reliable intel on the true layout of the place.

Act IV

Vaughn goes to Dixon to ask for another access point to Kabir's compound. He tells Dixon and his wife that Sydney will be killed unless he helps.

Sydney is tied to a chair. Kabir tells her he wants her to make a video where she admits she is CIA and has entered his stronghold in violation of international law. Sydney refuses to speak. Sloane comes in and tells her that she was one of his proudest accomplishments. He kisses her forehead and tells her he can't help her now. Kabir returns later and takes a hammer and chisel to puncture her kneecap. Just as he is about to do this, a gunshot rings out and Kabir falls over dead. Vaughn comes in and unties Sydney. She asks how he found a way in, and another form appears in the doorway -- it's Dixon: "Let's go. We've got the device." They fight their way out of the compound and escape.

Back in LA, Jack congratulates Sydney, who is still upset that they didn't get Sloane. Jack says they found her plumber dead with evidence that he either planted the bugs or was set up. Sydney looks across the room and sees Dixon sitting at a computer. She goes over and thanks him again. He says in her position he might have done the same thing in not telling about SD-6. She asks about Diane. Dixon says he doesn't know.

Sydney is relaxing in the tub. Vaughn brings her a glass of wine. Sydney says she can't stop thinking about what they saw in the church.

Sark wants to know why they left the weapon in Kabir's hands. Sloane is holding the carved "arhat". He suddenly smashes it and pulls out a piece of parchement. The piece seems to fit exactly with another piece of Rambaldi parchement. It looks as though Sloane now has complete plans for another of Rambaldi's devices.



COMMENTARY 1

This commentary is by Adriane Saunders.

"You've been acting weird lately," Francie tells Syd. Syd responds, "I thought you'd been acting weird." The conversations are like that for most of the episode. Though Sloane duplicated the real, now dead Francie's DNA for an exact physical double, that double could not possess the real Francie's memories or knowledge. Memories are beyond DNA.

That same process could explain the trite, rather contrived and emotionless script from writer John Eisendrath for this week's episode. Eisendrath can usually be counted on for interesting and engaging scripts. Perhaps he had his "double" write this week's script. That could explain the inept result. DNA is definitely NOT everything.

THE PLOT:

Syd, under duress, drives Sloane from his Swiss bank heist (last week). Mid-escape, Sloane leaps from syd's car to a speeding van. Vaughan discovers an electronic bug in Syd's house. Sark has the fake Francie kill an innocent to deadend trace of the bug.

Sloane demonstrates the Rimbaldi weapon developed by mathematician Caplan on more innocents in a Mexico City church. His purpose: To win over Pashtun warlord Ahmad Kabir, and subsequently retrieve yet another piece missing from yet another page in Rimbaldi's manuscript.

The weapon is to be "tested" on Kabir's exwife but Syd extracts her before the switch is thrown. Lots of parishoners flap around in flames in her stead. Syd follows up by breaking into Kabir's compound, clued by his exwife "how to". Syd is captured. Dixon, who had turned his back on Syd and CIA recapitulates and, with Vaughan, comes to her rescue.

More innocents get blown away, and Sloane slaps down the missing piece to his Rimbaldi page. End of episode.

THE PRODUCTION:

The Rimbaldi page with a huge piece missing starts and ends this episode, and probably accounts for everything in between. A big hole. Lots is missing: Believable dialogue and plot and acting and direction, for starters.

I could hardly believe some (about 3/4's) of the lines Garner is expected to deliver. Is this a joke, this script? Syd's scripted observations are sometimes so immature, I would not be surprised to hear "baby talk" as the delivery. (Examples follow.)

EXAMPLE:

Kabir's location is only known to Dixon from an earlier mission. "These are bad people and need to be stopped," Syd says breathlessly to Dixon's wife. Who writes this dialogue? Corn is followed by more corn. Syd tells Dixon the CIA "may try to compel [him] to tell" what he knows. Duh. With dialogue like this to play to, Dixon's response is just as witless--and predictable.

Another EXAMPLE:

Syd rushes unannounced into the office of Kabir's wife, Kazabi. Syd says, breathlessly again, "I'm not going to hurt you. I work for American Intelligence. I need some information about your husband." No introduction. No ID is shown. Yeah, right. Remember who her exhusband is, Kabir-the-warlord. He could have sent Syd! Ridiculous approach. How could Kazabi respond but to refuse? "No one knows that I'm here. No one will ever know," Syd adds, all but gasping. What is with all the breathless delivery of dialogue?

More hyperbole follows: "A horrible dangerous man [The Boogie Man?] is here with your husband," Syd tells Kazabi. Did I mention keeping a straight face for this episode is a challenge? Similar exchanges are woven liberally throughout the script for this week's episode. This episode is CNN revisited. Lots of talking heads, but little of substance said.

Not just dialogue is over-the-top. Action is too.

EXAMPLE:

Rimbaldi's cum Caplan's cum Sloane's "neutrino" weapon is activated on a church in Mexico City. Though supposedly evacuated at Vaughan's warning, innocents remain. Several people burst into flame and flap around in their robes, (I guess to "fan the flames" for greater visual effect). Hoaky music kicks in as robed parishoners flap around in slow motion. Goofy. Unnecessary and unsuspenseful.

Another EXAMPLE:

Dixon and Vaughan, enroute to rescue Syd, obviously (since no alarm raised) sneak into Kabir's compound undetected. Why then not just sneak out the same way? Why leave instead through the front courtyard, blowing away so many guards? What ever happened to tranquillizing dart guns and stealth in this show?

Oh well, take heart. There is always next week. Duds are few and far between with Alias, a show where "over-the-top" usually refers to "excellence". Tune in next week.



COMMENTARY 2

This commentary is by Zero and E.

"All I have is a vision."

THINGS THAT WORKED:

-"All I have is a vision."

~A risky proposition

"I am a man with no country and few alliances." A collector of trifling charms, an evocator of faded manuscripts, Sloane waits, armed with faith or secret knowledge, unmoved and untouchable. Holding audience with Sark, he grows weary of his ambitious protégé's marked impatience and unguarded naiveté. Sark, too, seems restless, wary of his associate's audacious, headlong gambles: all risk and little payoff. Bound to an uneasy partnership by an inescapable reciprocality, Sloane strides forward with no consideration for his methods, and a disquieted Sark compliments his colleague's drive with an unyielding determination of his own.

Resigned to their pairing, the two men work with the swift fluidity of a tacit fidelity, reacting instinctively, collaborating with surprising dexterity.

As Sark extends a hand, pulling Sloane into the safety of the van, the two share a moment of smug exhilaration, expressions mirrored in taunting satisfaction.

The volatility of this coalition, the willingness to use one another and to be used, seems a horrifying portent of things come. They are such an unlikely pair, a disillusioned veteran and an unaccountably powerful youth, two lone wolves working in concert toward an amorphous end. It is truly an intriguing dynamic.

~Gethsemane Eclipsed

"I told you not to come after me, Sydney. I warned you that I will kill you if you interfere. If you knew what I have in here... if you knew what my plans are. This is bigger than SD-6, Sydney... than the CIA."

The episode hangs in the fog of a penumbral ambiance, a smoke-filled world illuminated by glaring lights and tragic fires. Sloane has darkened the present with the lingering specter of his past, offering up the multitudes in sacrifice. In his absence, we bear witness to the price of his crusade, paralyzed in the church, haunted by the devastating poeticism of... loss. There was such a heartbreaking hollowness, a pointlessness to this work of destruction, a disregard for the sanctity of life. And the enormity of the moment was made all the more piercing by the sorrowful elegance of symbolism and color and vibrancy. So much for so little. A half page. Another puzzle.

"And you being deceived by me and me being betrayed by you. If things were different."

Sydney's form emerges from the darkness, centered and symmetrical. Disembodied voices and fleeting images wander through the shadows, careless smoke curling into the light, the only measure of time the abrupt call of a door and the punctuated flood of vision.

"Sydney. Tell him what he wants to hear... or this will not end well. You know, in many ways, I will always consider you my proudest accomplishment. Please, Sydney... Unfortunately, I can't do anything about this."

Marked by a disorienting transience, we become confined, drawing nearer to Sydney physically as she draws nearer to her end. Sloane claims subjugation to his own design. Resignation to destiny. A fate relinquished. Another victim.

And with the kiss of Judas, he leaves her.

"Goodbye Sydney."

-As We Make Our Vow

'take your eyes off me
there's nothing here to see
just trying to keep my head together
and as we make our vow
let us remember how
there's nothing good that lasts forever'

In a world where the only tangible goal is revenge and all that was familiar has been displaced, where is home? The faces of loved ones have been distorted by pain and deception and those to whom our characters once returned no longer welcome them. Diane and Francie are turned to strangers and, though Dixon is touched by the grief of his loss, Sydney senses its presence, but cannot know it.

So, instead of seeking sanctuary in a dismantled constancy, they must take their friendships, their bonds, and their loyalties with them now on their journey.

'time out on the running boards
we're running
through a world that lost its meaning
trying to find a way to love
this running ain't no kind of freedom'

Sydney and her fellow travelers embark on an odyssey without destination, children of Atlas, holding a crumbling world on their shoulders, desperate to keep the grains from slipping through their fingers. They have no purpose of their own, instead finding direction in the movement of their enemies. And in their quest, they become destroyers and Sloane the only creator. He is a builder and a visionary with a frightening autonomy and they are but counters to a madman's advancements.

"I can't judge you for not telling me about SD-6."

And though, at present, they labor in dread instead of hope, they will derive their strength from going this distance together. As Dixon stands at his doorway, a choice is laid before him. Sydney comes to him with the promise of vengeance and he refuses. Vaughn comes to him with the duties of friendship and he cannot turn away.

Vaughn, too, reaffirms his allegiance. We once again find Sydney, broken and mournful in her bath. There was a time when she would have carried her doubts and fears alone, but now Vaughn sits beside her and, as he drinks her wine, the promise of his devotion expressed in the touch of her cheek, he is bound to her. He shares her burden. And, as the characters are aligned and intertwined, their compassion for one another stirs our empathy.

'fasten on my mask
I'm bending to the task
I know this work is never finished
and if I close my eyes
I can still see you dancing

laughing loud and undiminished'

(Freedom, David Gray)

-Confluence of signals

Much like in "A Higher Echelon" (episode 02.11), communication in this episode was conducted via broadcast and intercept. From the initial scene, stories and histories are set on a collision course, as signal upon signal interconnects and bridges the field of play. It is through surveillance and crosstalk that Sark charts Sloane's escape and with which Vaughn uncovers domestic espionage. Throughout the hour, characters inhabit their own perceptual sector, a voice in their ear and a satellite watching above. Sydney from Vaughn from Weiss from Echelon, a message sent from Rambaldi centuries ago.

-Regarding Mr. Eisendrath

"You're in bed with her right now, aren't you?"
"I'm trying"

"...footsie with the Taliban"

"It's been a while since I tried it on... or worked out apparently. Which makes me overwhelmed AND fat."

"The Kennedy School. Where is that?"
"Harvard."
"That's right."

"But, in the Hell-hath-n0-fury department, I figure this woman would pay us to mess with her ex."

Mr. Eisendrath not only writes moving and powerful scripts... he's highly amusing, as well. He has such a wonderful sense of the absurd. The Superman reference was a nice bit of intra-office tomfoolery.

DETAILS WE APPRECIATED:

-It was an interesting inverse to remove Sydney's youth from her identity in the Vatican Embassy. It was somehow so appropriate.

-Carl Lumbly has provided such a poignant role these last few episodes. Dixon's struggles have truly been amazing to watch and, when Sydney is overcome with emotion by his return to her, it is an incredibly moving moment.

-"No, we prioritized. We're doing everything we can do."
"No we're not. Not even close."

As the season wears on, Kendall and Sydney seem to be butting heads with more ferocity, not less. He always provides some good perspective, albeit overly dogmatic.

-We find ourselves far more invested in Vaughn's character than we once were. He has come a long way from the voice of "Joey's Pizza." His past is being fleshed out and he has developed an independence from Sydney through interaction with other characters. His desperate plea to Dixon was so affecting, not simply because we dreaded Sydney's fate, but because we were sincerely touched by his deep concern.

-a shattered arhat for a stolen mausoleum. a prophet and a painter met in march and then went their separate ways.

ETC.

-"What concerns me is that Sloane knows this kind of use of force is a deliberate provocation that demands a swift response. And yet he exercised it on the ex-wife of a petty warlord. Why?"

This is the second of Sloane's "public messages," tragedies turned to newsbytes. Why play out this saga on the world stage? Whose eye is he anxious to catch, or has his obsession led to true recklessness? Sloane is willing to sacrifice anything to this vision, but where does he fit into this prophetic memoir?



LINKS:

teleivsion without Pity. Recap The roof. The roof. The roof is on fire! Firebomb - Or it would be if all the people in this episode who go up in flames were closer to the ceiling. Sloane's Rambaldi device is a whole lot of power in an ugly art package. But that's not really the point of this episode. The point is...wait a minute...I know I had it for a second there...dammit. I really should stop picking my nose with a knitting needle. So, really, there's no point to this episode. Except that Sloane's a very bad man. And he's fond of bad Afghan art. And Syd's mad that she hasn't caught him yet. And Francinator's bugs were found. And she's a very bad woman. Oh, and seeing people burst into flames is never, EVER fun.




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