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Season 2, episode 17
Series 217
1st release: 03/02/03
2nd release: 07/27/03
Production code: S02E17
Last update: 08/09/03

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SYNOPSIS by Sally Dye
COMMENTARY 1 by Adriane Saunders
COMMENTARY 2 by Zero and E

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

Terry O'Quinn (Kendall)
Richard Lewis (Agent Mitchell Yager)
Ravil Isyanov (Karpachev)
Thomas Urb (Shtuka)
Michael Yavnieli (Techie)
Yoshia Be (Chinese captain)
Michael Komurov (Russian bodyguard)
Jon Dixon (CIA officer)
Ryan O'Quinn (Local driver)

Written by Jesse Alexander
Directed by Ken Olin

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


Sydney begins to question where Vaughn’s allegiances lie when she learns that he is under investigation by the Agency. Meanwhile Irina and a crucial Rambaldi manuscript are used as bait to try to catch Sloane, and Sydney welcomes Dixon to the CIA. ABC


This synopsis is by Sally Dye.


A group of Russian-speaking men get on an elevator. Partway up, the elevator stops suddenly. They hear a ticking, and then an explosion, and the car drops and crashes at the bottom of the shaft. The elevator doors are pried open, and Sark enters, getting a wallet from one of the dead men.

Jack asks Irina about Yuri Karpachev, the murdered man in the elevator, who was a high-level arms dealer. Irina wants to talk about Sydney and why she is still in the CIA. Jack: "Sydney is stubborn. Where she got that from is anyone's guess." But he knows that Sydney will not leave the agency until Sloane is brought down. Irina says Karpachev had a Rambaldi manuscript, but sold it to a man named Shtuka, who is a former contact of hers. She says the Rambaldi ms is his study of the human heart. Irina says she could find out where Shtuka keeps it, if she is allowed to meet with him.

Vaughn is giving Sydney pointers on playing ice hockey. She manages to score against him, and he is skeptical that she hasn't skated in years. She says it's true -- her mother took her on her last skating outing at age 5. Vaughn clearly doesn't want to talk about Irina. Sydney says they will have to talk about her sooner or later. Sydney's phone rings, interrupting their conversation. She has to go in to hq.

Sydney goes to Agent Mitchell Yager's office. He has her sign confidentiality agreements. He asks about a man named Prokrowski -- a former KGB assassin. Sydney looks at a picture, but doesn't know him. Yager says he is there to investigate Agent Vaughn, who is suspected of having KGB ties, one of which is Prokrowski. He asks if Vaughn and Sydney have an intimate relationship. Sydney says it's none of his business. Yager says if she tells Vaughn about their conversation, she will be a target as well.

Act I

Jack asks Kendall about using Irina to get the Rambaldi ms so they can use it as bait to get Sloane. Kendall is reluctant, but Jack talks him into it. Jack: "Trust me. If she lies to me again, I'll know it." Marshall comes to Irina's cell to inject her with a tracking device. He is impressed with how tough she is.

Yager wants Sydney to copy the hard drive of Vaughn's laptop so they can see if he has illegally downloaded a decryption program called Xenon. Sydney is reluctant. Yager: "What's your priority -- national security or your new boyfriend?"

In Bangkok, Jack and Irina go to Shtuka's nightclub. Irina gets into Shtuka's private quarters. He is doing the knife around the fingers thing (that Xena did to Rafe in "King Con") to a young girl. Irina says to play with her instead. He is amazed to see her, since he and everyone else has assumed she was dead. She gets the knife from him and finds out that he traded the ms for opium rights. Irina kills Shtuka and two of his bodyguards. A third almost shoots her, but Jack kills him before he can.

Irina says when Sloane hears she was in Bangkok he will know she is the one who has the manuscript. Jack speculates that Sloane has some sort of personal connection to Rambaldi. Irina says she was obsessed with Rambaldi, too, and never understood how Jack kept from being caught up in it. Jack: "I had something neither of you did." Irina nods: "Sydney." As Jack is leaving, Irina thanks him "for raising our daughter."

Vaughn is upset that he and Sydney were not consulted about using Irina on the op. Sydney says they can't be part of every operation. Vaughn goes to take a shower, and Sydney opens his laptop.

Act II

Will tells "Francie" that Sydney works for the CIA. "Francie" seems skeptical. Will tells her he is also an analyst. "Francie": "Really?" Will wakes up from the nightmare he has been having.

The next morning Will tells Vaughn that he dreamed he told Francie everything. Vaughn says it's normal to dream about work, and that the dreams will eventually stop.

In Hong Kong, Irina and Jack pose as inspectors and get the key to a storeroom where the Rambaldi manuscript is kept. They have to cut the glass of the case it's in, but they get it and get away.

Sydney sees Vaughn put something in his pocket and asks him about it. He says it's just work stuff. She asks if he's keeping secrets from her. He says he doesn't like being questioned about his loyalty. Sydney says secrets between them will be a problem. He shows her what he put in his pocket. It was a key to his apartment that he was planning to give her later.

Sydney goes to Yager and gives him the disk. But it's blank. Yager says she is implicating herself by refusing to assist. Sydney asks if he would betray someone he loved. Yager: "Well, I guess that answers the intimacy question."


Sark comes to Sloane and tells him Irina was seen in Bangkok.

Jack tells Kendall that Sark has tried to contact Irina through untraceable e-mail. They plan to set up a meet between her and Sloane.

Sydney goes to see Irina. Irina says the meeting with Sloane will be dangerous, so there's something Sydney should know. She tells her she loves her. She says she just needed to say it. They touch hands through the glass separating them.

"Francie" talks to Will while he's asleep, hypnotizing him. She asks about the satellite he is using in his research. He gives her the operational controls on it. She counts backwards from 5 to wake him up. Will opens his eyes.

Jack fills Irina in on the plan to trap Sloane, which will take place in Panama. She wants the tracking device removed, saying that Sloane might find it. Jack removes the device. Irina turns to look at him. She leans forward and they kiss.

Weiss tells Sydney that Yager is planning to file charges against Vaughn. Sydney tracks Vaughn to a bar, where he is exchanging something with a large man. Sydney recognizes the man as Prokrowski.

Act IV

Sydney goes and sits by Vaughn after Prokrowski leaves. She asks what he's doing. He says it's research. Sydney tells him he's being investigated, and now she will be a target, too. She wants an explanation.

In Panama, Irina and members of Delta Force arrive in a van and get out. Jack drives away, but is monitoring by satellite. A limo arrives with Sark in it. He says he must take her to Sloane. She and the guards get in the limo.

Vaughn says there is something he hasn't told Sydney. He has been investigating Irina on his own and at his own expense, checking former lieutenants and contacts. He admits downloading the Xenon software so he could decipher KGB files.

The limo is being tracked by satellite, when all of a sudden the signal is lost. "Francie" contacts Sloane and asks if the codes were good. Sloane says they were. Kendall orders Delta Force to move in, but when they do, neither Sark nor Irina is in the car. During the blackout, one car was apparently switched with another. Jack radios Kendall to check the Rambaldi manuscript. Kendall has the case brought, but it is filled with empty notepads. Kendall says to track Irina through the tracer. Jack says he can't.

Sydney asks Vaughn if he found anything on Irina. Vaughn: "No. She's clean."

Sark drives Irina to a secluded location and kills the two guards. Irina gets out of the limo and goes to another vehicle. The door opens, and it's Sloane: "It's good to see you, Irina." Irina: "Thanks you for extracting me." She pulls out the manuscript and gives it to Sloane. Then she gets into the van and they drive away.


This commentary is by Adriane Saunders.

Right into action: Three men enter an elevator, conversing in Russian. A bomb cuts the elevator cable and then the safety brake. Screaming, the three plunge 40 stories to their deaths. At the bottom the doors are pried open. Sark leans over the dead bodies and lifts a wallet. Bam, bam, bam. That is just the teaser. From start to finish, "A Dark Turn" is riveting and fast forward all the way.

Syd's mother Irina is released from CIA lockup again. Jack partners her on multiple levels, strategic and intimate. Vaughan is "under investigation" for possible treason. Syd, under pressure, is obliged to choose between country and love. How all this unfolds, and how dazzlingly well, is what follows.


In a word, "fabulous". Garner and Lena Olin co-star in this superbly written and played episode. Kudos to everyone involved. Special mention to Jesse Alexander for the script, Ken Olin (always first rate) for direction, and Maryanne Brandon, editting. Even the musical accompaniment is bang on, engaging and effective throughout. The music is alternately energizing, suspenseful and upbeat. Bravo!

Four out of four stars. Particular merit from Lena Olin as Irina Derevko "in action". The entire episode is exquisitely well acted, visually intricate, and flawlessly segued. Everything fits. A script of incredible richness, depth and breadth, spotlights action and characterization alike. So much is going on in so little time. Bravo!


The wallet Sark lifts from the dead Russian arms dealer, Karpachev, holds a key to his safe. In the safe is a Rimbaldi manuscript. Or, so Sloane believes. Irina knows better. Karpachev sold the manuscript to Ilya Shtuka in Bangkok. Irina is released from CIA lockup again to retrieve the manuscript and lure Sloane. Jack partners her on multiple levels, strategic and intimate.

Irina dazzles with split second combat savvy. [See HIGHLIGHTS.] In Hongkong Jack helps Irina steal the Rimbaldi manuscript. Later he removes the tracking device inserted in her shoulder by Marshall and in fact helps her escape the CIA's monitor. Irina gives the manuscript to Sloane.

Meanwhile Syd has her hands, and feelings, full facing off with Vaughan about "keeping secrets" from her. [See HIGHLIGHTS.]Fake "double" Francie hypnotizes Will to ripoff security codes and shut down CIA "oversight" of Irina and Sark escaping at high speed. A tunnel trick also helps change the game. Sark and Irina and Sloane elude the CIA's "Delta Force", with Jack looking on.

"Thank you for extracting me," Irina says to Sloane.


1)IN BANGKOK Irina tells Shtuka, "I love games," and offers her hand for the fast knife between the fingers routine. She holds his eye, unflinching. In a single swift and fluid motion, she disarms him, chokes him for information, and follows up by slashing his throat and taking out two other guards. Jack shoots a fourth. All this happens in seconds. More razzle dazzle combat savvy from Irina. She is impressively good!

2)WIDE SCREEN INTERROGATION of Syd. When Syd is interviewed by Vaughan's investigators, her reactions can all be seen on a large televsion screen behind her. A hugely effective device, the back and forth view of her face from real to screen, screen to real. Like watching a rock concert. The interrogator asks Syd, "What is your priority, national security, or your new boyfriend?" This conundrum plagues Syd throughout the episode.

3) ANY AND ALL SCENES with Lena Olin, aka Irina Derevko front and center. This character never fails to fascinate and intrigue. Included are Syd and Irina, separated by the glass of Irina's cell, touching hands. Irina tells Syd, "I love you." Included is Irina's "Thank you" to Jack in the airplane, for "raising our daughter." Included is her taking Marshall's insertion of a tracking device in her back without a blink. "You're tough," says Marshall. Included is her flinch in the limosine when Sark turns and unexpectedly kills the two Delta Force guards accompanying her. Included is the delivery of her every line. Artful and memorable.

Enjoyed too is Garner in this episode. "A Dark Turn" could well be billed Garner and Olin "co-starring". Olin/Irina gets the "action", Syd, lots of reactions. Well done. Bravos all around for Alias!


This commentary is by Zero and E.

"What if the prize were worth it?"

PROLEGOMENON (i.e. An Absurdist's "Introduction")

"We shall not cease from exploration. And the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started. And know the place for the first time." -T.S. Eliot

Pulling away from Jack, his wandering form lost in a yellow-tinted landscape that must have seemed all too familiar, his wife once against reclaimed at the water's edge, we were struck by the enormity of this creation. It is a world inhabited by such fascinating beings, relationships spanning vast borders, lives bound together by the labyrinth of history. They live on the edges of normalcy and secrecy and myth, residents of each luring one another deeper into their own existence, convergence and divergence on a whim. Myth-people pretending to be spy-people pretending to be real-people, forging relationships on false pretenses. Irina and Sloane arrived as covert ambassadors of Rambaldi's vision, seducing Sydney, an orphan of the Prophecy, back toward her origins. Jack, the inadvertent architect of his daughter's future, seems somehow immune to that draw, firmly rooted in the sphere of espionage. Throughout the series, we have sunk deeper and deeper into the world of spies as it gradually usurped civilian reality. With the fall of SD-6, however, we find ourselves more closely aligned with Rambaldi's players, our old ties severed and redefined.

Likewise, as viewers, our positioning has been readjusted. Knowledge has become complicated. We are handed secrets with no means of confiding and, as characters develop a new dimensionality, it becomes increasingly difficult to trust their perspectives. It creates an interesting effect of doubt and disorientation, which is strangely appropriate for the current state of volatility. And, at every turn, Irina shakes things up. Vaughn, whose existence was once entirely reactive, has begun to initiate actions that are, at times, not only independent of Sydney, but in opposition to her. More importantly, though, his dealings have been hidden from us, the viewers. So, what was once a constant, is now something of a loose cannon, another element of unpredictability.

Similarly, Jack has become increasingly enigmatic in Irina's presence. What was once an indecipherable stoicism is now an openness unreadable in its unfamiliarity. Jack and Irina's relationship has grown far more complicated than simple questions of trust and betrayal. Their history predates our presence in their lives and their feelings for one another are more tangled than the straightforward vestiges of love or wrath. We are left with an intricacy of relationships that truly astounds. And behind all this are the workings of Rambaldi and Irina and Sloane, hidden in plain sight beneath the turmoil of interaction. It's so easy to lose sight of the pieces: The Circumference and its lethal contents, purportedly used by Irina on her own; the devout adoration of the diseases' victims and, by the same designer, a man and flower of endless life. Twice we arrive at the human heart, mirrored episodes on mirrored timelines, the pieces of Rambaldi's puzzle brought together by a mother and daughter working toward two very different goals. And what of Irina's bible? Sloane's own collection was amassed piece by piece, each artifact a map to the next: fading binary to a hollow Arhat. And, suddenly, worldly pursuits appear inadequate to justify their quest. Instead, the obsession alone seems the self-perpetuating cause.

Simply put: we are baffled, stunned, and enthralled. As we begin to examine and reexamine the facets of this history, the more we are astonished by how deep the story runs. Last episode, Sloane made reference to Mr. Dreyfus, a name first mentioned in the second episode of the first season. Every time we think we have divined the motives underlying an individual's actions, some visitation from long ago disrupts our present perception, whether to reform our conception of that identity or to force us to revisit the past with new wisdom.


-I'll know

"I'd appreciate it if you'd refer to Irina Derevko by name."

Hands planted against the thick frame of Irina's cell, Jack leans inward toward his wife, his arms spread as if to enclose her image. Unceremonious questions are traded for informal responses, an evasive dialogue driving toward a directed end. "Why haven't you tried to convince Sydney to leave the CIA?" Jack's arms fall to his side. Irina appoints Sydney as the cause, subtly guiding Jack toward her initial proposition. Now justified by a common aim, the two are free to plot Irina's release. "And give Sydney her reason to get out."

"We have a jet standing by."

Hair pulled gently back, her expression softened in contemplation, Irina's unaffected composure on the plane to Hong Kong plays as such a sharp contrast to the resurrection of her feral incarnation in Bangkok. Jack listens silently as Irina concedes her miscalculation, his thoughts unknowable. But, as the conversation turns toward their past, he quietly acquiesces to the swell of memory and acknowledges what he once had and has lived so long without. Consumed by Rambaldi's mystery, driven by obsession, his wife and friend abandoned him. But, though they left him with their legacies of a lost daughter and a broken faith, they also left him the very thing they lacked.

Irina takes Jack's hand and halts his retreat. "I never thanked you for everything that... for raising our daughter." Paralyzed by her touch and by the weight of her pained gratitude, he glances downward, self-conscious of the contact, and then raises his eyes to meet hers. "We land in four hours. Get some rest." Jack pulls away.

As they sit alone in the dim warmth of their hotel room in Panama, reviewing the mission's outline, does the part of Jack that pulled away already suspect the end to this story? Time and time again he voiced the mantra of her betrayal, but he suddenly stands outside the shadow of that pain and is, instead, the man who could not forget his love for her. There is a sense of waiting in the room, a tension in their gentle conversation, the innocent conspiracy of old friends. And there is a strange trust implicit in the willful vulnerability they both display, Irina's shoulder bared and Jack's one defense removed.

"We need to be up early."
"We should get to bed."
"Yeah, we should."

In every lie a little bit of truth and in every truth a lie. Parting with a hesitant nod in return for a steady glance, he feels the loss before she's gone.

"I've had twenty years to reflect on that woman's ability to deceive. Trust me. If she lies to me again, I'll know it."

-Red Tape

Irina's past waits as an inherited betrayal and inevitable dialogue visited upon her daughter. But, just as Sydney is blind to her mother's faults, she is blind to the consequences of those transgressions that have already been realized. Called into Yeager's interrogation, she is taken aback by the accusation of Vaughn's disloyalty and, though she adamantly denies the possibility, she herself seems unsure. When Vaughn can provide no answers, she follows him to the evidence of his concealment.

"I don't understand. You wanted us to work with her. You encouraged it. " "Because I believed your father was right about her having a secret agenda. I wanted to see what she was going to do. I mean, I did all this on my own. I paid for this myself; I had freelance agents retrace every step of every hour she's taken outside operations since her surrender. I surveilled prison guards who we assigned to her cell block, the kitchen staff who prepares her meals."

There is something so shockingly honest about Vaughn's desperation to divulge the obsession that has driven him for the past six months. He is frantic in his explanation, fixated on the exploration of every detail of this woman's life. Ironically, he has positioned himself as the reigning expert on Irina Derevko, in effect, further tying himself to his father's murderer. And though Sydney is horrified by this revelation, by the animosity of her partner toward her mother, she cannot help but search the records herself for some clue of what she fears. She cannot help but ask him.

"And did you find anything?"
"Nothing. She's clean."

-"Play with me instead."

This episode, we forgot Sydney at home. From Bangkok to Hong Kong to Panama, we follow the Irina of old as she reenters her own domain. With a vicious smile, she teases her former associate, the rising velocity of their game turned to fever by frantic inter-cuts. In Hong Kong, the precise symmetry of her movement and the sharpness of her focus punctuate the mission's forward motion. As she cradles the manuscript, however, her poise dissolves, the hunger in her eyes igniting. In Panama, she sits, chauffeured through a pursuit of agonizing tension, black helicopter looming. Incredible missions by an incredible woman. What an intense episode.


-"And yet it is waking that kills us." (Thomas Browne)

In many respects the placement of Francie's mimic is absolutely fascinating. Will's dream was filled with such anxiety despite our foreknowledge that the woman to whom he was confessing already knew Sydney's truth. We felt such relief when morning came. Yet there remains a pervasive sense of dread of when he truly does awake. The fall seems immeasurable.


-After the conspicuously branded high jinks of yore, the half-imbibed anti-sponsorship of Sydney's inquisition seemed equally glaring.

-The writers have clearly done their research. Try out some keywords on Google for a little bit of Monday morning fun! Locate the KH11 satellite for a quick brush up on international relations! See if you can find some Echelon action in your home state!

-Will and Vaughn's early-morning encounter was so satisfyingly awkward.

-It's interesting that the two men betrayed by Irina could find no evidence of her current duplicity.

-"Hey! How you doin'? You're Sydney's mom? That's really cool! 'Cause, uh, your daughter? Awesome, by the way!" Marshall, once again putting the perfect, inappropriate spin on things.

-"Jack, when the hell did we switch places?" Vintage Kendall. And the question is all too valid. Also, his squinting reaction to Jack's "Don't be silly." was simply perfect.

-Ken Olin never disappoints. This week's over-hyped-mini-scene: Sydney's tempo-driven arrival at Vaughn's bar. The attitude of the music coupled with the way the camera moves to accommodate her presence, framing her in the window of the car, created such a well-constructed moment. This week's truly impressive shot: the aerial image of Jack walking aimlessly away.


Artist: LaTour. Song: "Blue". Label: Mercury Records
Artist: Lucinda Williams. Song: "Righteously". Label: Lost Highway Records


Click here to read a transcript of A DARK TURN.


Review at Alias Fannesite

Review on Sd-6.com

Recap by Television Without Pity by Regina.
And it falls fast and thick and with almost no basis for explanation. Irina and Jack fall into an op together in an effort to nab the elusive Sloane. Then they fall back into a Panama hotel bed together in an effort to rekindle the toaster fires of days gone by. Unfortunately, this momentary lapse in concentration allows Irina to fall back into her old ways and betray both Jack and the CIA by hooking up with Sloane in the eleventh hour, handing him the mysterious Rambaldi manuscript. In an entirely unrelated subplot, Vaughn falls victim to revenge and winds up investigating Irina on his own, thereby prompting Syd to question his loyalty to the CIA. I fall into a swimming pool of grain alcohol and thank my lucky stars that Owen is an expert lifeguard.

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