Season 3, episode 14
Series 314
1st release: 02/22/04
2nd release:
Last update: 04/24/04

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SYNOPSIS by Sally Dye
COMMENTARY 1 by Adriane Saunders

Jennifer Garner as Sydney Bristow
Ron Rifkin as Sloane
Michael Vartan as Vaughn
Carl Lumbly as Dixon
Kevin Weisman as Marshall
Melissa George (Lauren Reed)
Greg Grunberg (Eric Weiss)
David Anders as Mr. Sark
Victor Garber as Jack Bristow

Patricia Wettig (Dr. Barnett)
Fritz Michel (Vault manager)

Written by Lawrence Andries
Directed by Lawrence Trilling

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


Blowback? Blow me. Blowback - I'm sorry. If you title an episode "Blowback," you're just begging for a headline like that. Syd and Vaughn chase down a bomb, with Sark and Lauren following closely behind. Sloane and Dr. Nancy's lack of cleavage share a glass of wine and a secret: Sloane is Sydney's real father. And, because nothing says "cutting edge" like "repetition," we get to watch the entire first half of the show over again when it's rewound and told from Lauren and Sark's POVs. I'm all for recycling, but this is ridiculous. TWoP


This synopsis is by Sally Dye.


Scenes from previous episodes, culminating with Lauren telling Sydney to "stay the hell away from my husband."

Lauren awakens and finds Vaughn already up. He says he was looking for his keys and found his father's old watch (the one that stopped the day he met Sydney, but he doesn't share this info with Lauren.) Lauren asks if he's all right, and he says he's fine -- he's going for a run.

Marshall shows off pictures of his new son, Mitchell. He mentions that he now hardly gets any sleep.

Dixon tells the team about a new secret organization, "The Shining Sword", which has acquired a plasma bomb. He believes it to be on its way to a storage facility in Vancouver. Sydney and Vaughn are to go there pretending to be looking for storage space and send info back to Marshall so he can hack into their computers and find the location of the bomb. Dixon also mentions that they are looking into leaked information from their area.

Dr. Barnett gets a call from Sloane. He suggests that they meet at a restaurant and continue their discussion. Dr. Barnett is hesitant, but Sloane says he will be there and hopes she will join him.

In Vancouver, Sydney and Vaughn arrive at the storage facility and are taken to the vault area. The manager leaves them there. Sydney connects to their mainframe and contacts Marshall to set up a connection to the info they need. As it is downloading, suddenly the connection fails, and Marshall knows that a virus has been loaded into the connection. Sydney and Vaughn grab what they have and leave the vault, but the manager stops them. He seems totally unused to holding a gun, much less firing it, so they are able to get back into the vault. They hear shots and come out to find the manager has been shot. They chase the shooter, but a car speeds away as they emerge into the garage. They get in a truck and give chase, but the car gets away.

Act One Marshall reports that they only got 63% of the information they need, but he might be able to extrapolate the rest. He is exhausted now from being up all night again with Mitchell. Sydney realizes Vaughn is sad and remembers that it is the anniversary of his father's death. He marvels that she would remember something like that. Dr. Barnett comes to the restaurant and meets Sloane. She says he made a remarkable transformation -- master spy to humanitarian. She asks about the "secret" he almost told her. But he says he is not a lab rat, and "there are some truths you will never hear from me." Dr. Barnett apologizes and gets up to leave. Marshall determines that the bomb will be delivered in Lisbon in 14 hours. He gives them a remote detector which will "sniff out" the bomb. Sydney and Vaughn go to Lisbon and find the ship that is carrying the bomb. They use the detector to track the location to the engine room. Two masked figures ambush them, and Vaughn is shot.

Act Two (Now we see the events of the story from Lauren and Sark's point of view.) Lauren awakens to find Vaughn already awake, examining an old watch. She asks if he's all right, and he says yes. When he leaves, she phones Sark because he had paged her earlier. He wants CIA intel on a new weapon. She tells him not to tell her how to do her job. Sydney and Lauren talk. Sydney says Lauren's assumption on her and Vaughn's relationship is unfair. Yes, they have a history, but if Lauren has any further problems than that, she should take it up with Vaughn. Lauren calls Sark and sets up a plan to foil Sydney and Vaughn's mission to Vancouver. They plan to go there themselves. Sark and Lauren get to the facility before Sydney and Vaughn. When Sydney and Vaughn get to the vault, Lauren plants the virus and tells Sark to get the car ready. She tells the vault manager to kill the two people in the vault when they come out. When Sydney and Vaughn emerge, the manager is holding a gun on them, but is clearly unused to using one and so they are able to escape back into the vault. Lauren then shoots the manager. Sydney and Vaughn hear the shots, come out and chase Lauren. We see the car chase from Lauren and Sark's pov. When they are safely away, Lauren tells him to pull over, and they kiss passionately.

Act Three Lauren calls Vaughn from bed, with Sark next to her. She asks Vaughn how his mission went, and he says there were a few problems. When Lauren hangs up, she tells Sark they should get going -- the boat docks in 16 hours. Dr. Barnett leaves Sloane in the restaurant, but he follows her and apologizes. He says he will tell her his secret. He has betrayed many people who deserved it, but one didn't. He says he had an affair with Irina Derevko. Neither Jack nor Emily ever suspected. Dr. Barnett asks if Sydney is his daughter. Sloane says he never tried to prove it, but he liked to think her strength came from him. On the boat in Lisbon, Sark and Lauren, wearing black ski masks, find the crew tranquilized. They see Sydney and Vaughn and shoot at them to keep them from going belowdecks. Vaughn is hit, but was wearing a vest and so was just knocked down. Sark and Lauren split up. So do Sydney and Vaughn. Sydney finds the bomb and begins freeing it from its packaging. Lauren starts to shoot Sydney, but Vaughn comes up behind her and tells her to drop her gun. She does. Then he tells her to turn around and take off her mask.

Act Four Before Lauren can remove her mask, Sark calls up to Vaughn to drop his gun. He is holding a gun on Sydney. Sydney calls, "Don't!" But Sark says, "If you love her, drop the gun." Vaughn drops the gun. Lauren watches, wide-eyed, and then slugs Vaughn and runs off. Sydney struggles with Sark, but he gets away with the bomb. Sydney chases Lauren, who is still masked, but loses her. Vaughn catches up with Sark and tells him to give him the bomb. Sark sets the timer and then throws the bomb at Vaughn and gets away. Marshall talks Vaughn through disarming the bomb, which he does, with 2 seconds to go. Vaughn and Lauren meet at a restaurant. Lauren says Washington was awful, and she's happy to be with him now. They are interrupted when Lauren's phone rings. It's Sark. He taunts her, saying he knows it killed her to see Vaughn drop his gun to save Sydney. She hangs up and kisses Vaughn. He asks what that was for, and she says she missed him. Back at CIA hq, Jack comes to talk to Sydney, who is working late. Sydney is bummed that they weren't able to capture Sark. Jack asks her to dinner at a restaurant they ate at when Sydney was little. She says she'd like that. They walk out with Jack's arm around Sydney's shoulders


This commentary is by Adriane Saunders.

Remember the Joni Mitchell song "Both Sides Now"? That is exactly what we see in this week's Alias. Both sides now. The episode is a half hour long twice. The first thirty minutes are from the point of view of Vaughan and Syd. The second thirty is Lauren's (and Sark's). For those who have trouble keeping up with Alias plotlines, seeing the exact same scenes with just a bit added twice in sequence may help. .


The first half of the episode moves quickly, is skilfully orchestrated and well-played. Then, after the midpoint commercials, the whole first half is repeated again. What is this? A mistake by the television station re-running the same clips again? Nope. The "mistake" is just a plot device.

What works well in a novel, on the written page, does not work well in a visual medium like television. The "both sides now" of the plot would be better done through montage or overlapping scenes. Repeating nearly all the scenes from the first half hour in the second, just to highlight Lauren's viewpoint or actions, is ridiculous.

For example: the only person who could have beaten Syd and Vaughan to computer information about the "supposed to be theoretical" plasma bomb is Lauren. That is a no-brainer. There are so few characters just now in Alias plotlines that if it's not this one, then that one is the only other choice. Lately, the pantheon of Alias characters is squashed to a handful. Regulars are recycled rather than new characters introduced. Why?


Michelle George is so memorable and convincing as Lauren Reed, she almost replaces Garner as the star of Alias in Season Three. Definitely a first-rate actor. Whatever twist or spin writers give the Lauren Reed character, George is right on top. What Sydney Bristol was in Season One now Lauren Reed becomes, double agent extraordinaire: resourceful, duplicitous: deadly yet irrisistible. Cool

Meanwhile Garner's character Syd Bristol only gets to sigh a lot about the bad guys that "got away" (Sark, Covenant et al), or to harp about her lost love Vaughan. This is the same Vaughan who is mostly always in her face (and ours, the viewers) as her partner for capers that look more and more identical in location and target. Even Garner's "aliases" have become rather unimaginative and routine in Season Three. Opportunities are few for Syd Bristol to stretch or challenge herself, or us (the viewers). Sad.

Victor Garber (Jack Bristol) only gets to take his daughter to dinner in this episode. A waste of skilled actor and the chemistry that exists between Garber and Garner, parent and child. Carl Lumbly aka Dixon is given even less to do. In fact, Lumbly has not been given much of anything to do for the past several episodes but read from the phonebook, i.e., give monochromatic "briefings" in CIA conference rooms. Another waste of good actor. Too bad.

Marshall (Kevin Weisman) plays throughout the episode: upbeat, conversationally rapid fire tech expert, father of a new baby, and all round brainiac. A consistently delightful and engaging character, Marshall. Applause for actor Weisman. Clap, clap.

Arvin Sloane's (Ron Rifkin's) manipulations of CIA syncophantic psychologist Barnett are puzzling and erratic. Why the Sloane character is even still included in the plot escapes me. Dialogue and actions for the character seem strained and rather irrelevant. Is this the acting, the writing, or simply a character in need of retirement? Tiresome.


The first half is fun. But, one time through is plenty for Alias these days. For this episode thirty minutes twice would have played better as one hour once.


Television without Pity treatment

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