Whoosh! ...


ALIAS

DEAD DROP


EPISODE NO. 26
Season 2, episode 04
Series 204
1st release: 10/20/02
2nd release: 05/25/03
Production code: E655
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
NON-ORIGINAL MUSIC SAYS WHO?
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 (FBI Asst. Director Kendall)
Marisol Nichols (Rebecca Martinez/SD-6 Operative)
Daniel Feraldo (Manolo)
Patricia Wettig (CIA Therapist Dr. Judy Barnett)
Jim Hanna (Claus Richter)
Carol Androsky (NA moderator)
Kevin Sutherland (CIA operative)
Dato Bakhtadze (Russian security guard)
Scott Donovan (American tourist)
Ira Heiden (techie)
Commodore James (American Tourist)



CREDITS
Written by Jesse Alexander
Directed by Guy Bee



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

SYNOPSIS:

This synopsis is by Sally Dye.

Teaser

Scenes from previous episodes, culminating with Sydney trapped under frozen ice in the Siberian cave. She sees one of the dead agents' body drifting down and gets his gun, shooting the ice above her so she can climb out. But she is so numb from the freezing water that she can't make it and almost slips under again. Dixon arrives just in time to pull her out.

Sydney reports to Sloane that, even though Sark got it, the music box was apparently corroded and therefore useless. Sloane is skeptical that Rambaldi would have allowed this to happen. Sydney: "Another Rambaldi mystery."

Vaughn reports that the recording Sydney made of the music the box played is at Langley being decoded. Sydney says the intel her mother gave was good again. Vaughn asks if Sydney will ever be able to forgive her mother. Sydney says she doesn't know. He tells her that Jack is trying to get Irina sent away.

Sydney confronts Jack. He says he's concerned about her. Sydney says she's not naive -- he doesn't have to worry about her. Jack says he hopes that's true, but doesn't look convinced.

Act I

Jack goes to see Sloane. Sloane tells him about the strange phone call he received from the Sonoma bed and breakfast. Sloane asks Jack to find out discreetly who made the call. He also says that Sark has been tracked to the Falkland Islands. SD-6 agents followed him and got the music box, but Sark escaped.

Francie says the Health Department is inspecting her restaurant today. When she goes to take a phone call, Will asks about the hypnotherapy session. Sydney tells him the info he provided helped the CIA to score a huge victory. Will is pleased to hear this.

Jack tells Sydney that SD-6 found a man named Richter at Sark's place. They believe Richter knows where "the bible" is. Sydney is to go to Moscow to retrieve a map that will lead to the book.

Will goes to a group counseling session and meets a girl named Rebecca Martinez. She and Will chat and she tells him that she has a website dealing with conspiracy theories. She speculates that Will's story on SD-6 really was true and they set him up. She wants to prove his story was real and expose SD-6..

Sydney goes to see Irina and tells her about Richter. She asks for any information about the map and how to get to it, or the location of "the bible" itself. Irina says she wants her earrings returned to her. Sydney says she will see what she can do. Irina tells Sydney to take another route to the map. She say to be careful.

Jack sees Barnett again. He says Irina is using the CIA and his daughter to gain her own ends -- whatever they may be. He says he's afraid he will lose his daughter.

Act II

Vaughn tells Sydney not to worry about him in regard to his feelings about Irina. He says he sympathizes with Jack but says he realizes how this makes it more difficult for Sydney. He tells her he is her ally.

In Moscow, Sydney is disguised as a major in the Russian army. Marshall has given her skeleton keys hidden in the medals on her uniform. She gets into the library and is just about to get the book when Sark appears, pointing a gun at her head. He asks what it would take to get her to work for him. Sydney: "You're cute, but I'll pass." She trips an alarm and Russian guards come running. Sydney gets the map and runs out, while Sark is apprehended by some of the guards. The rest chase Sydney. She radios Vaughn that she needs another way out of the building. Vaughn goes to Irina, who relays a way to access a secret exit. Sydney gets out. Irina (to Vaughn): "How do you say thank you to the woman who killed your father?" Vaughn: "You don't."

Act III

Vaughn says they are having trouble decoding the map. Sydney says if she goes to talk to Irina again she needs to take the earrings. She gives them to Irina, who says that her mother -- Sydney's grandmother -- gave them to her. She says if circumstances had been different Sydney would have liked her grandmother. She decodes the map.

Jack sends Dixon to Sonoma to check on the mysterious phone call.

Kendall sends Sydney and Vaughn to Madagascar to get the bible, over Jack's objections. Jack then goes to a mysterious operative and tells him to make sure that the building the bible is in is wired to explode if anyone enters.

At another group meeting, Rebecca insists that Will tell her the truth about SD-6. Will says that he wanted so much to solve his friend's fiance's murder that he just started making things up. Rebecca later reports to Sloane that Will would not be swayed from his story. She feels he is no longer a threat to SD-6.

Dixon reports back to Sloane that someone registered as Emily Sloane was staying at the inn the night the phone call was made. Emily's signature, which looks authentic, is in the guest register.

Act IV

In Madagascar Sydney and Vaughn approach the house where the bible is supposedly located. Jack and Kendall are monitoring via satellite. Suddenly Jack tells them to stop -- the infrared is showing that the building is wired to explode. Sydney finds the explosives and believes her mother lied to her. Vaughn says it might be Irina's way to ensure that the bible is not found. Suddenly, Sark and a team of soldiers appear and hold Sydney and Vaughn at gunpoint. He sends his men to the house, and when they enter, the whole building blows. Sark disappears in the confusion that follows.

Kendall says that Jack was right about Irina all along. He orders her moved to Camp Harris. Guards go to Irina's cell, shackle her and lead her out.

Sydney tells Jack that she was so wrong about her mother and she is so sorry she doubted him. She breaks down and sobs, and Jack holds her while she cries.



COMMENTARY 1

This commentary is by Adriane Saunders.

Fast forward through last week's remnant Syd-under-the-ice-scene. This scene, purportedly in freezing Siberian waters, looks more like a Los Angeles swimming pool. Syd, ever resourceful, rescues herself from her 'under the ice' entrapment, using a conveniently placed machine gun. A dead scuba diver, shot earlier by Dixon, provides the firepower. Whether such a weapon would in fact fire, under water in subzero conditions is probably unlikely. Fast forward. Whatever else these actors and scriptwriters do well, protraying cold or hypothermia inside a 'Siberian glacier' is not included. A small blip on the Alias screen.

The rest of the episode rates 3 out of 4 stars. Points for dialogue and acting. Scriptwriter J. Alexander adds, to those 'slings and arrows of outrageous fortune' (Shakespeare's phrase, not the scriptwriter's), the Alias touch. Points for surprise.

Some bits even surprised me. I did not anticipate that Jack's animosity and suspicion toward his once-upon-a-time wife Irina would lead him to such duplicity where Syd is concerned. Why I expect this character to 'play fair' with Irina Derevko, I do not know. Where Irina's 'loyalty' lies may be in question, but certainly Jack's, after this episode, is not. His loyalties are to himself first, Syd, second.

Rewind to CIA psychiatrist Barnet telling Jack last week, "I'm not in the habit of helping a father manipulate his daughter, no matter how good his intentions may be." That should have clued me from the outset where Jack is headed in Episode 26. Jack may not 'play fair', but Alias does. Clues are given.

His worry about Syd's growing emotional involvement with her mother, Irina, prompts him to try to have Irina taken away to another facility. "You've wanted a mother, your mother, all your life--and now here she is," Jack tells Syd. Her response is to say she is "not that naive." And, for Jack that is "something we both hope is true." That is the teaser.

Then the credits roll, and I am delighted to note that only Episode One of Season Two is missing the Alias signature ID, the letters shot bullet-like, one-at-a-time onto the screen, fast paced electronic music powering each letter. From Episode Two on, the Alias signature credits and ID continue to punctuate the start of every episode. Yippee! Welcome back!

Another 'signature' credit to mention: Emily Sloane's, Arvin's 'dead' wife. Sloane taps Jack who in turn taps Dixon to trace the origin of last week's phone call from the Baranka B & B in Sonoma, California. That is the same Bed and Breakfast Arvin and Emily haunted together when she was alive, or seen to be. "Someone is trying to leave me unsettled," Sloane tells Jack. Dixon returns with the B & B registration book and Emily's signature.

Though Syd tells Sloane the Rimbaldi music box was destroyed by 'corrosion' (actually by Syd), he still wants the box. An SD-6 team tracks down Sark, and though Sark escapes, another key player is on the premises. Sark's hostage is Klaus Richter, the man who hid 'The Bible', the operations manual for Irina Derevko's syndicate. From Richter the location of a map coded to show the location of the book is extracted. Richter also notes, "Irina Derevko is a great woman." From what we have seen so far, I am inclined to agree.

In Moscow Syd gets to don yet another wig, this time black. Garner never seems to have a 'bad hair day'. Whatever color or shape or style hair is put on her head looks great, though the bright red wigs are still my favorite. Particularly, it is the 'attitude' she wears when she wears those red wigs I enjoy so much. But, back to black and Moscow.

Back and forth, interjected between operations in progress, are conversations between Jack and Syd, Syd and Vaughan, all focused around Irina, her 'intel' and her 'motives' and Syd's involvement with her. Jack does not want Syd anywhere near Irina. Syd, on the other hand, tells her father, "I am willing to squeeze anything out of this woman to get out of this life," the life of a double agent. What?! Give up all those great wigs?! Jack's behind the scene machinations continue.

On the light side is Will Tippin at his 'AA' or drug-free weekly meeting, meeting a woman into 'conspiracy theories'. She has a website called hilariously 'conspiracy chick.com'. Actually, 'conspiracy chick' is a 'plant' from Sloane at SD-6, to test Will's 'unwillingness' to speak further about SD-6. Will acquits himself for now.

And, Irina continues to do the same with Syd. Although Syd recognizes that "the knowledge contained in that manual" (the Bible) is Irina's "only leverage" with the CIA, she still asks Irina for the location. Irina gives the information, in exchange for return of a pair of earrings with "sentimental value" taken when she turned herself in to the CIA. Irina asks Syd how she plans to break into the library in Moscow, then tells her a better plan.

Of course this conversation is juxtaposed to Jack and his continued rantings to Dr. Barnet about not trusting Irina. This scene is a bit of an 'overkill', the dialogue, or should I say monologue, repititious. Less Jack, more Irina gets my 'editting' vote. Irina after all is the one with all the secrets. We have been looking at Jack for more than a year now. Irina, on the other hand, is the 'new kid on the block', and fascinating besides. Jack tells Barnet, "She has destroyed countless lives," to which Barnet says, "Even yours." Mine she has improved, another great character added to the Alias pantheon.

"Be careful," Irina says softly to Syd, after telling her how to get into the Moscow library. Syd smiles as she leaves. In Dr. Barnet's office Jack says he is "afraid of losing his daughter" to Irina. Later, more concern is shown Syd by Vaughan, who tells her "You may not feel like you have an ally. I'm your ally." Syd says nothing, but her appreciation shows in her wordlessness. Artfully played scenes, all of these. Subtle.

On to the caper in Moscow. More fun. Skeleton keys from military medals compliments of SD-6 tech expert Marshall. Computer visuals to underground book storage and a huge crane that picks up Syd's selection and drops it through a slot to Syd's almost waiting hands. Impressive. But Sark, gun to Syd's head, intercedes. He tries to recruit Syd! After a long look, Syd says, "You're cute, but I'll pass," and trips the alarm. A fight, the book is grabbed and dropped. Russian guards come shooting into the room. Sark hides behind a desk, shooting back, while Syd grabs the map and runs. But, there is nowhere to run. So, Syd calls 'home' to Vaughan demanding to talk to mother Irina. All very fast, all very convincing, all very exciting. Another 'signature'--you go girl!--Syd running full out down hallways adds to the plotline. And we get more Irina!

Vaughan is messenger to Irina. Syd is on the phone line from Moscow. After the emergency instructions to Syd, about secret passages in the library, are relayed, Irina says to Vaughan, "How do you say 'thank you' to the woman who killed your father?" A conundrum, for sure. "You don't," Vaughan replies. Fantastic! Bullet-proof dialogue? Irina cuts to the quick. Nothing she says is extraneous or off the mark. That is one of the reasons I find the character so irrisistable.

Syd takes the earrings her mother wanted back to her. Then she asks Irina to decode the map showing the location of "The Bible". Irina tells Syd the building "is clean", no explosives. Jack, though, tells Syd Irina "doesn't want the book retrieved, because that will be her leverage gone." Syd thinks Irina may just want to "prove herself". That is what Jack is about to do, negatively.

Jack hires an explosives technician to wire the house in Madagascar where Irina's book is located. Nasty, and dangerous that. Syd is on her way to that house with Vaughan. What Jack tells the explosives expert he hires is "I want to make sure anyone entering that building will not survive." Say what?!

From CIA Headquarters--or wherever--Assistant Director Kendall and Jack, Syd's father, watch the computer surveillance of Syd and Vaughan on site in Madagascar. "We're at the door," Syd says, which cracks me up. I think her CIA observers can figure that out looking at the surveillance monitor. Jack asks surveillance to switch to 'infrred', then proceeds to explain what now shows on the screen are explosives. He should know. He put them there. He tells Syd, "Hold your entry."

Syd looks under the house. Seeing the explosives, Syd is shocked. "She lied to me," Syd says to Vaughan, meaning Irina. Vaughan thinks Irina is just using them to destroy the book. Then, Sark arrives, gun drawn. We thought Irina to be Syd's nemesis. But, everytime--and everywhere--Syd turns around in Episode 26, Sark is there. Sark is there with a gun to her head. He orders his operatives into the building to retrieve the book. Syd says nothing about the explosives. This is surprisingly out of charcter. Of course, the plot demands the building blow and Irina's book be destroyed--or at least 'believed' to be destroyed.

Jack gets what he wants. A furious Assistant Direction orders Irina "transferred to Harris Camp for unrestricted interrogation immediately." Kendall tells Jack he was right about her. Which he may or may not be, but Jack is playing dirty here. We see--on closed circuit television--CIA guards come to Irina's cell and shackle her for removal. Irina is uncomprehending, but does not resist. Wait! Wait! Bring her back!

Syd tells her father, "I thought there was a chance to believe [Irina] had no hidden agenda." Syd is saying this to her father in the place she usually meets Vaughan, metal mesh walls like a cage. Syd breaks down in tears, telling Jack he was "right about everything." this is the first time the two of them embrace. Too bad it is for a dishonest reason, Jack's deception. "I'm sorry that I doubted you," Syd sobs. Then we see Jack's thoughtful face.

End of a great episode, a rich and multilayered plot, character driven but fast forward all the way.



COMMENTARY 2

This commentary is by Zero and E.

"Sometimes a man gets carried away" (Jeff Buckley)

THINGS THAT WORKED:

-The tragedy of illusions

Alias' story is the story of human imperfection. It is about deceit, self-deception, and misguided ambition. It is about losing identity; burying selfhood beneath the masks we appropriate to survive. It is about the painful truths we find on the journey to self-discovery. In this episode we have seen the reemergence of this underlying sentiment as a forward force. The entire hour was laden with a placid sorrow that tinted everything with the familiar shadow of grief. It was damn moving.

-Jack-

"Good guys or bad guys?"
"Neither. It's my father."

Sydney said it best. He is neither intrinsically good nor inherently evil. Instead, he is a flawed man with good intentions and too much power at his disposal. Jack's fear that Sydney does not need him as desperately as he needs her drives him to risk it all: her life, her trust, her love. But there is an innocence to his selfishness that is heartbreaking. And though he has resources that others do not, his actions are essentially the actions of anyone haunted by such insecurities.

After all, he is just a man.

Jack, once stoic, is losing his ability to handle himself in a professional manner. He is failing compartmentalize his emotions, and his cards are showing. Jack is falling apart. Though there was always that explosive element just beneath the surface, there is a sort of desperation and fear that now drives his anger. In an early scene in the CIA Rotunda, Jack loses all composure, admonishing Vaughn with a cruel and tactless allusion.

His session with Dr. Barnett further emphasizes his growing vulnerability. For the first time, he blatantly makes an emotional declaration and is, shockingly, on the verge of allowing his feelings to overwhelm him.

"Sometimes a man gets carried away ...
Much too blind to see the damage he's done
sometimes a man must awake to find that really, he has no one" (Jeff Buckley, Ep 1.19)

It has never been in question: Jack is a flawed man. Even as he attempted to mend the damage done and prove himself worthy of Sydney's trust, there were times when his fatherly devotion led to morally ambiguous decisions. A daughter is every father's weakness.

It is overwhelmingly tragic to see Jack revert to his manipulative instincts, to watch these faults erase his cultivated selflessness, to witness him take what is essentially the easy way out. He set her up to take the fall so he could catch her. In the end, he needed a Sydney Hug more than she needed the Dad Hug. Jack stood before her, watching his daughter break down, as she asked for his forgiveness and looked to him for support. It was exactly what he yearned for, but it wasn't what he needed. The truth will eventually surface and we will be farther than ever from true reconciliation. Quite a powerful moment.

Movement toward a physical reunion has been building since the pilot. This was not it. The brilliance of this moment stems from its anticipation: a carefully scripted promise of hope transformed into the startling contrast of grief. The writers knew the implications behind this first embrace and, instead of presenting it as expected, they removed it from its context with all its weight intact, and chose to use it to maintain and amplify the complexity of Jack and Sydney's evolving relationship.

-Sydney's masquerade

At the end of last season and at the beginning of this one, Sydney's will to uphold an illusion of friendship with Sloane was waning. In "Cipher" she once again picked up her performance, somehow summoning enough empathy to produce the words "It's not your fault." During "Dead Drop", however, we see the return of this pretense, but it has taken on a feeling of total fraudulence. The conversation following Sydney's return from Siberia is consciously performative on both sides. They speak with a saccharine facetiousness that alludes to the unspoken battle of wits waged by the two characters.

Sydney does not have the resolve to play the same game with her parents. She is now doing favors for her mother and the ground rules she so firmly established in "Trust Me" are already disintegrating. She is continually putting her life in her mother's hands and is gradually becoming less and less hesitant to do so. With Jack, the story is different. They have developed a relationship in which she feels comfortable speaking with him on a more genuine level.

"We have both been betrayed by this woman. The difference between you and me is that I'm willing to squeeze her for everything she's got to take down the enemy. ANYTHING to get me the hell out of this life as soon as possible. Anything."

Though Sydney is honest with her father, she is not necessarily honest with herself.

"Sydney, she's someone you've idealized for almost twenty years. You didn't learn about her history with the KGB until recently."
"What does that matter?"
"That you've wanted a mother, YOUR mother, all your life. And now here she is."

-Family interplay

The intercutting between Jack's session with Dr. Barnett and Sydney's meeting with her mother was impressively executed. As Jack confesses his fear that his relationship with his daughter is deteriorating, we cut to the visible development of a bond between Irina and Sydney. The shift from Irina's casual enthusiasm and Jack's reserved anguish is telling, and the even larger contrast between Jack's tear-filled eyes and the smile spreading on Sydney's face as she leaves the holding cell is simply striking.

-Vaughn as Sydney's partner

In the field: Vaughn's position has changed. His initial role was to supply a rational perspective and provide protection from a distance. So when he would accompany her into the field, it was always a novelty. Now, however, in the new task force under direction of Assistant Director Kendall, he has become Dixon's CIA equivalent as Sydney's full partner.

In her life:
"I'm your ally. Never question that."

-Sark- Picture perfect

Despite Irina's warnings, Sark has yet to take any of the numerous opportunities he has had to kill Sydney Bristow. In fact, he has extended an offer of alliance, having often voiced his admiration of her skill. On top of this, he seems to be leaving her breadcrumbs. After taking a quick look at the map (an indication that our dear friend, Mr. Sark, has a bit of a photographic memory) he deliberately replaces the card for Sydney to retrieve. Sark is not careless. He is a calculating and meticulous spy. The implications behind this decision are immense.

THINGS THAT AREN'T WORKING:

-Will's Sacrifices

By de-emphasizing the magnitude of the sacrifices Will has made, his scenes fail to convey the internal strength that he is calling on to cope with this burden. Will is demonstrating enormous courage and poise. Despite numerous opportunities, he has not succumbed to the temptation of renewing his personal and public credibility. We love the humor with which Will handles his predicament, but we would also like for some of the weightier aspects of his decisions to come into play.

-Indiscretion

For most shows, acquiring details about upcoming episodes is a challenge. Alias is about espionage, so, yes, there will naturally be an abnormally large pool of individuals dedicated to exposing such information. Nonetheless, it seems like it ought to be a wee bit more difficult. In fact, we've discovered that it's actually become a challenge to AVOID foreknowledge. Not only do trailers and promotional photos divulge key plot points, but the official synopses are unnecessarily revealing and script pages can be often be found online. We fully approve of making such information accessible when it is discovered, but the casual viewer should not be inundated with premature revelations and those actively searching should have to search harder.

DETAILS WE APPRECIATED:

-"Because of you, the CIA scored a real victory" We seem to recall a very similar speech in the SD-6 lot when Sydney was losing faith in the feasibility of her goals.

-Both Jack and Sloane embrace Sydney in this episode. We find the parallel fascinating. As she is held by these two men, who have betrayed her in different ways, it brings to mind the thematic question "are those things you could ever forgive?"

-SD-6's test of Will provided the necessary clarification concerning his status as a threat. Now that he's been cleared, he has the freedom to move on with what is left of his normal life.

-Will relayed his cover story phenomenally. It was entirely convincing and contained more truth than lie.

-Sloane, much like Francie and Sydney, has difficulty parting with his rings. The writers draw such fascinating human parallels on this show.

-Sydney's mad dash through the FAPSI Headquarters is the first hallway scene of the season.

-Music. The final montage of scenes was beautifully underscored by a song that wholly captured the moment's tragedy.

Etc.

-Sark and Sloane- interesting choice for Sark to use Arvin's full name. Also, Sloane seems to be able to keep fairly strict tabs on someone who is clearly a talented spy. There is a strange underlying tone whenever one of these two men mentions the other. Implications?

-We'd just quickly like to mention that the cast is somehow becoming more and more impressive as a collection of actors. They really are extraordinary at portraying both their individual characters as well as the group's complex dynamics.

That was the bread, here's the (LONG) CIRCUS:

Internal Awareness

It's that line they walk, that finely tuned balance between realism and absurdity. The Alias characters are in a constant state of dreaming, real people thrown into a surreal situation. They have to be aware of their reality and our reality simultaneously, just as we are dually positioned spectators, suspending our disbelief only so far. And though they are constantly nagged by the reins of authenticity, the alarm clock must never go off, they must never fully awaken to the true absurdity of their lives, or we too will awaken from their dream.

Internal awareness is rarely utilized to its full extent in episodic television and is far from being a recognized standard. The Alias Universe, stepping from the confines of convention as usual, utilizes interior consciousness as a mode of self-exploration and self-definition on two distinct narrative planes. First, within the show's diegesis (the entirety of its literary universe) the characters are cognizant of their personal dimensionality and are constantly redefining the precepts of their universe by reacting to aggravations to internal logic. Second, the show exhibits extensive textual reflexivity both in motif repetition and narrative progression.

The premise of this show, by definition, lies outside the experience and plausibility of the vast majority of viewers. This is, in fact, one of its strongest draws: the complexity of plot, the vibrant aesthetics, and the unbridled physical energy are fundamentally intriguing. It is the characters, though, who anchor the audience to this fantasy, instilling validity and credibility into what would otherwise be an estranged action sequence. And while sympathy alone might be enough to captivate, the Alias writing staff has instead chosen to construct viewer EMPATHY by creating characters that are as much an audience to their own story as we are. When we are on the verge of disbelief, sure that some anomaly cannot reasonably go unnoticed, more often than not, a character shares our concern and asks our question for us. Just a sampling:

Conduct kept in check:

- When Jack is losing all perspective, when his concern for Sydney is beginning to affect his professional integrity, when we are left asking just how much more he can get away with, both Sloane and Devlin step in:

"This is becoming familiar, Jack. Your coming to me, requesting special consideration for the men in Sydney's life."

"I want you to stop. I hear your concerns and I will choose how to respond to them myself. You're a good agent, Jack, but lately, I find your methods reprehensible. If I hear of one more instance of you acting off book, you're done."

- Vaughn's judgment is similarly clouded by his affection for Sydney, and Weiss is there to keep him in line.

"But whatever it is, it's starting to affect me and if that sounds selfish to you, I was hoping to retire fully vested. I know you genuinely care for her. I do, too. But there is a line that we have been sworn not to cross. We're about a mile past that."

Friends don't let friends...:

- Naturally, we were skeptical of Sydney's ability to conceal the duplicity of her life so seamlessly, simultaneously pursuing a graduate education, a rigorous full-time career, and all the while maintaining a normal social and personal identity. But the truth is, a charade of this magnitude can NEVER be flawless, and her friends began to question the irregularities of her life as much as we did.

"You know, this IS Joey's Pizza. Want to hear our specials?"

"It doesn't make any sense any more. Nobody works as hard as you do. I mean, it's not like you're a brain surgeon, you get called in the middle of the night to save a life. These are bankruptcies. How much are they paying you to live like this?"

Character limitations:

- Yes, they seem like superheroes, but they have limits and are fully aware of them.

"Well, I figured it out. I was just never very good at Morse code."

"This is a charge of C-4. I can tell, because it says 'C-4' everywhere."

"But the truth is, it affects me. Never knowing who to trust, learning to expect betrayal, plotting in secrecy and hatred and anger. It's becoming a part of me. I am becoming what I despise."

Our rules/Their rules:

- Vaughn, though extensively trained in field protocol, is not a field agent. So, when his role in the show required that his character accompany Sydney on a mission and step outside his literary confines, Vaughn gets Devlin's, and therefore our, permission.

"We? You're proposing to go with her?"
"I -- I know I'm not a field agent, but SD-6 isn't in on this and Agent Bristow will need backup. She trusts me."

Each time a character speaks as the voice of the audience, it justifies our belief and renews our trust in their world, reestablishing the intersection between our lives and theirs. It borders on dramatic irony, but by allowing the characters to embody our concerns, we are vicariously implicated in the fantasy.

Similarly, the writers keep us entangled in the thematic literary subtext of the show through echoed symbolism and reflexive narratives. Sometimes they are clever details thrown into the mix, subtly reminding us of where we began and how far we have traveled. It is the renewal of red, the return to Taipei, the resurrection of the circumference. It is the circular narrative, which finds Jack once again behind the wheel of a car, bearing unexpected revelations. It is Sydney once again confronted with a parent she does not know. It is the fire extinguisher, an ever-present icon of Sydney's ingenuity and the show's continuity, a seemingly unfailing aid until, impossibly, it fails her.

Sometimes it is the show turned inward on itself, toying with meta-metaphors, playing games with its own texture. There is no better illustration of this than Page 47, episode 15 of the first season, in which every secret life and every tortured lie collides. Let's set scene: Sydney has been invited to a dinner at Arvin Sloane's house. In attendance are Sydney, Jack, Will, Sloane, and Emily.

Sydney - Working as spy for Sloane, unbeknownst Will. Working as a double agent for the CIA, unbeknownst to Sloane, using her dying friend Emily as a means of procuring an artifact in her employer's possession.

Jack - Also working for and against Sloane. But to further complicate things, he has to share the dinner table with Will, whom he has recently kidnapped without ANYONE'S knowledge.

Sloane - The murderer of Sydney's fiancÚ, lying to his wife about his life in espionage and continuing an unnecessary pretense about SD-6 with Sydney.

Will - Concealing from Sydney that he is in hot pursuit of any links to SD-6, he is completely unaware that he is surrounded by the very people for whom he is searching and, furthermore is in the presence of his kidnapper.

Emily - Unbeknownst to even the VIEWERS, she is far more informed of everyone's duality than her guests comprehend.

So, with all these characters united, awkward conversation ensues. To the dismay of her company, Emily begins to relate an article of Will's that encapsulates the absurdity of the encounter, brilliantly emphasizing that behind this seemingly domestic scene there lies a web of skewed and convoluted relationships of which no one character is fully cognizant. The article itself is a meta-discourse on the themes and dynamics currently in play. Sloane's own wife unwittingly condemns her husband's very way of life.

EMILY: Their boss was a monster.
WILL: He was the devil. He was literally the devil.
SLOANE: How's that?

And here it comes.......

EMILY: Well, if you spoke out against him, if you tried to leave, he'd have you killed. Now the other workers, they didn't know what they could do, but Luis Maroma could read. And he started to teach the others to read and he would find articles in the newspaper that they were wrapping the fruit in. Articles that taught them about their rights and what was right and wrong. Eventually, he led a revolt against this guy. I'm going to cry again, just talking about it.

WILL: What was amazing was this man had no future. I mean, he was caught in a horrible position, working for the worst person in the world. But he was resourceful and he was smart and today he's going to college.

EMILY: And the monster he worked for is in prison, rotting where he belongs.

Take a step back. It takes tremendous attention and dedication to write with such consistent awareness of the dynamics and implications of one's own text. It is difficult enough to successfully convey these elements, let alone reference them. What do we gain from this conscious internal awareness? We are allowed to stand within the borders of a self-contained, self-explained landscape, walking that line between realism and absurdity without losing our integrity as viewers.



NON-ORIGINAL MUSIC

The Innocence Mission, "Oh Do Not Fly Away". Label: W.A.R. Records

Michelle Featherstone, "Stay". Label: Into A Cloud



SAYS WHO?

10-21-02. "...Jennifer Garner and Lena Olin bring such subtlety to their scenes together that they are dramatically unlike anything else on network tv..."http://cherokee.thmedia.net



LINKS:

Television WIthout Pity. Recap If it ain't broke, Spy Daddy will BLOW IT UP. Dead Drop - Ah, to be young and hip and death-defying and the child of parents who simply can't work it out and resort to subterfuge and psychological warfare and blowing up buildings to win their kid's affections. There's a map and Moscow and Sark and sexual tension, but deep down, it's really all about the major malfunction known as "The Spy Family."




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