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Season 2, episode 19
Series 219
1st release: 03/30/03
2nd release:
Production code: S02E19
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

Christian Slater (Neil Caplan)
Tracy Middendorf (Elsa Caplan)
Yvonne Farrow (Diane Dixon)
Yosen Peyankov (Morgan Nickovich)
Greg Grunberg (Weiss)
Eve Kagan (Sorority girl no.1)
Stacey Scowley (Sorority girl no. 2)
Arthur Young (Aaron Caplan)
Jess King (Cell block guard)
Justin Wade (Drug store employee)
Sean Casey (Sedan agent no. 1)

Written by Sean Gerace
Directed by Perry Lang

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


Sydney defies her father in her attempt to rescue a kidnapped scientist (Christian Slater), while Sloane, seeking revenge, becomes more dangerous than ever. Meanwhile Dixon joins the CIA and Francie manipulates an unsuspecting Will for his agency connections. ABC.com


Dixon apologizes to Sydney for taking the shot that killed Emily and says he has requested reassignment. In hiding, a vengeful Sloane, no longer interested in the Rambaldi quest, tells Irina that he wants to know who murdered his wife.

At the CIA, a restless Sydney suggests to Elsa Caplan that she be hypnotized, for lack of any other leads. Elsa angrily refuses and is upset that Syd thinks she isn't doing enough to find her husband Neil. Meanwhile, Irina gives Neil an encrypted database of DNA taken from 10 million people, with the expectation that he can find one specific person.

Working at home, Syd significantly gives Vaughn a drawer in her bureau. While poring over records, Syd notices 3 calls to Caplan's house at odd hours and traces them to Gregory Ivanov, a reporter working for an organization known to give cover to Russian SVR agents. After Ivanov is put under surveillance, she discovers that he has just received a fax that says "endgame." Later Elsa admits that Ivanov was her handler and that she married Caplan in order to monitor him. She also implanted in his arm a cyanide pill, and the meaning of the fax is that the pill has been activated and will kill her husband in 42 hours. She tells Syd that she really does love Caplan.


1st RELEASE: 03/30/03
Rating: 6.8


This synopsis is by Sally Dye.


Scenes from previous episodes, culminating with Sloane crying over Emily's dead body. Later, Dixon tells Sydney he's putting in for reassignment. He says he knows Sydney was close to Emily. He says he's sorry. Sydney says she might have taken the shot, too.

Sloane tells Irina he is no longer interested in the genetic database. He only wants to know who murdered his wife. Irina says they both have to make sacrifices, and they are so close to finding out Rambaldi's secrets. Sloane says he wishes he'd never heard that name.

Sydney is impatient about locating Sloane. Jack says they are still working on figuring out how Irina's earrings were able to receive a signal. Sydney says they should be interrogating Elsa Caplan. Jack says if she thinks she can do better, to go talk to Elsa herself.

Sydney goes to Elsa Caplan and asks her to undergo hypnosis to see if something she saw could give them a lead. Elsa is indignant, thinking Sydney is implying that she is the reason they haven't recovered her husband. She gets her son and leaves.

Irina talks to Caplan to get him to decode a catalog of DNA. Caplan says since he doesn't know if his family is even alive, she should just kill him. Irina says they let his family go. She has him call his house, and Elsa answers. Caplan can't be heard on the phone, but he is convinced that his family is safe.

At her house, Sydney tells Vaughn that she failed to get Elsa's cooperation. Vaughn gets his clothes out of his backpack, and Sydney tells him he can use the middle drawer of her dresser. Sydney continues searching her notes and finds a suspicious number amongst the Caplan's phone records. The number is traced to Gregory Ivanov, who is thought to be Russian intelligence.

Sydney confronts Elsa with the evidence of the phone calls, telling her that Neil may have been working for the Russian government. The CIA intercepted a message to Ivanov that was translated "Endgame." Elsa begins to cry and confesses that she is the Russian agent. She was sent to seduce and marry Neil Caplan to keep tabs on his research. She implanted a tracking device in his arm which had a dual purpose -- it also contained cyanide, which could be triggered remotely. The message means that it has been triggered. If they don't find Neil in 48 hours, he will die.

Act I

Sydney tells Jack they need to find Caplan immediately and they can use the tracking signal to do so. Jack doesn't want to rely on Elsa's intel, and forbids Sydney to pursue it until they can corroborate. Sydney goes to visit Elsa in her cell. She uses a private signalling device -- while having a seemingly normal conversation -- to tell Elsa she is going to find Neil and needs the code for the tracking device. Jack sees her on the monitor and sends a guard to get her. Elsa taps out the numbers in Morse code with her fingertip just as the guard arrives and makes Sydney leave.

Caplan tells Irina that he needs access to a Cray computer. Irina says he just needs to work faster. He grabs her and chokes her with the chains attached to his wrists. Sloane comes in and shoots Caplan in the leg. Irina stops him from killing Caplan.

Dixon tells Diane that he may transfer to an analyst job. She tells him that he is not to blame for killing Sloane's wife. She says whatever he decides she is with him.

Sloane calls "Francie" and tells her he needs something from her "source."

Sydney is driving along and sees a car tailing her. It's agents that Jack has put on to follow her. She stops at a drug store and goes in. She calls Vaughn -- knowing the call is being monitored -- and tells him she is picking up pictures and wants to hang one of them in his hallway next to the coat rack. This clues Vaughn that she is sending some sort of message, so he writes down her next statement: "I should use a slower roll." Sydney then buys a wig and changes her clothes in the bathroom. She sees some coeds at the makeup counter and joins them, saying that she belonged to their same sorority in West Virginia. They invite her to lunch and they all leave in a group, fooling the agent watching for her. Vaughn deciphers the message, the first letters of her statement: RUSSIA. Vaughn: "She's going to Russia."

Act II

Jack tells Vaughn that if Sydney contacts him again, he must report it immediately. Vaughn says he would have advised against her going, but since she has, she should be given support. Jack: "This is not a debate."

In Moscow, Sydney arrives at a western-themed bar, complete with mechanical bull. The man she approaches says to fit in there, she must stay on the bull for eight seconds. So she does, to the cheers of the other patrons. She tells the man she is a friend of Elsa Caplan's and she needs a tracking device.

Jack goes to see Elsa. She recognizes him as Sydney's father and Irina Derevko's husband. He says he is the one who can really understand her. Elsa: "I am not Irina Derevko!" Jack tells her she will never see her son again, and Elsa breaks down, sobbing.

Sydney calls Vaughn and says she has located Caplan in Spain. Vaughn tells her Jack knows, and she says she will go ahead anyway. Vaughn says he will help her, and to meet him in a particular alley there. Weiss: "Jack is going to shoot you in the face." Vaughn says to just give him a head start. Weiss says that if they end up sharing a cell in prison, he will not give Vaughn a drawer.


"Francie" gets Will's cell phone from his jacket pocket and puts a device in it before he heads off to work.

Will runs into Marshall at CIA hq. Marshall wants to know where Will gets to park. They are interrupted by a phone call from "Francie". She asks Will to pull up a cooking website for her and read her a particular recipe. He does, and she is then able to access the Tuscany surveillance images on her own computer.

In Spain, Sydney meets Vaughn as arranged. She tells him they only have twelve minutes to get to Caplan. They put on protective gear.

Sloane watches the Tuscany satellite footage and sees that the shooter was Dixon. He makes a phone call: "I need you to do something else for me."

Caplan asks Sark why he's working for Sloane. Sark says he's ambitious and just wants what he's never had.

Sydney and Vaughn get into the area where Caplan is. They disarm some guards, and Sark hears the commotion. He sends more guards, then takes the disk Caplan was working on and leaves. Sydney and Vaughn find Caplan. Vaughn goes after Sark, but he gets away. Caplan says he is NSA and has always known Elsa was a spy. He is surprised, however, when Sydney tells him they have to remove the chip or he'll die in 60 seconds. She cuts into his wrist and uses tweezers to remove the chip.

Act IV

Back in LA, Sydney escorts a limping Caplan to Elsa's cell. They embrace.

Sydney asks Jack to leave Vaughn out of whatever he does to her for disobeying. He says he is granting defector status to Elsa: "She is not Irina Derevko." Sydney says they downloaded the DNA database Caplan was working on, so they now have a lead on Sloane and Irina. Jack says that if she ever goes against him again he will transfer her away from the search for those two.

Sydney and Vaughn go out to eat with the Dixons. Diane tells Sydney she owes her an apology. Dixon says he is not going to transfer after all.

Marshall tells Jack that he has found a discrepancy in the computer system and that someone on the inside somehow hacked into the Tuscany surveillance footage.

Dixon and Diane say goodbye to Sydney and Vaughn outside the restaurant. Diane is headed to pick up their kids, so she gets into her car and drives off. Dixon starts to tell Sydney something when a huge explosion knocks them all down. Diane's car is a huge fireball. Across the street, "Francie" puts her detonator down and drives away.


This commentary is by Adriane Saunders.

A lemon. Lots of grimacing goes on in this episode. That is from me, cringing at the dialogue. Episode 41 of Alias is awash in trite and corny exchanges. Who wrote this script?! Back to re-writes please. Give us another draft.

Direction and editing and acting are little better. Clearly, this is Alias forgeting how to be Alias, namely "first rate". On a scale of 1 to 10, with ten the highest, this episode is about a "2".

THE PLOT, or THE WHO WHAT of characters:

Dixon, remorseful for having "purportedly" killed Emily Sloan, apologizes to Syd, requests CIA reassignment, informs his wife, dinners with Syd and Vaughan, and is nearly blown up by a car bomb.

Dixon's wife Diane, after reaffirming her love and loyalty to him, dinners with Syd and Vaughan and Dixon, and may or may not be blown up by a car bomb.

Francie, the fake "double" installed by Sloane as mole and confounder in Syd's life, uses a gadget and Will's gullibility, hacks CIA computers for the surveillance tape of Emily Sloane's death, wires a car bomb and drives away looking smug.

Vaughan, also at the ill-fated dinner, gets a drawer for his clothes at Syd's, decodes a phone message from her, refuses to tell Jack the contents, flies to Spain to help Syd extract Neil Caplan, captive mathematician to Sloane and Derevko.

Elsa Caplan refuses CIA regression, admits to Syd being a Russian SVR agent who married Neil Caplan as an "assignment" and planted a tracking device and cyanide tablet (about to be activated) in his arm, wonders why she is jailed, argues with Jack Bristow that she is not the same as his wife Irina, and reunites with her love, her husband, after he is rescued by Syd and Vaughan.

Neil Caplan, more than a mathematician but less than a SVR agent, turns out to be a NSA agent who knows his wife Elsa is a spy but does not mind, refuses Irina Derevko further cooperation without knowing his wife is safe, overpowers and nearly chokes Irina before Sloane shoots him in the leg, is retrieved by Syd who slices open his arm to remove the time-release cyanide tablet, and then returns to his wife, now granted defector status.

Irina Derevko reminds Sloane how close they are to solving the Rimbaldi puzzle, considers Emily Sloane's "purported" death merely a "sacrifice", reassures Caplan his wife--unlike Sloane's--is alive and well, finds herself surprised by Caplan's quick moves and is nearly choked before Sloane shoots.

Sloane, either grieving or pretending grief (his wife's "purported" death may prove false yet again), tells Irina his is sorry he ever heard Rimbaldi's name, demands the Tuscany surveillance tape from cardboard cutout Francie, and guns Caplan in the leg to stop his attack on Irina.

Jack Bristow, Syd's father still in charge at CIA Headquarters (where is Kendall?), operates throughout on "thwart Syd mode", telling her if she does not like CIA progress locating Caplan, then take action herself, tries to stop her, has Syd followed, and tells her if she ever goes around him again, she will be transferred.

Syd, the line through all the dots in this episode, plods ahead, disregarding CIA and fatherly protocols and any other obstacles for her having her own way. Afterall, even if no backup is forthcoming from CIA, boyfriend Vaughan fills in.

SLICES of lemon: Flat. Predicatable. Trite characterizations. Little suspense until Caplan's rescue, then short lived. Continuity, more disjointed than flowing. More a collage than a puzzle. No real forward motion. Exceedingly dull.

These words and phrases describe the lemon. Here are a few slices, starting with the lyrics to the song playing in Syd's bedroom as she and Vaughan wake. "I wake up with my girlfriend in the next room. Coffee's on." Corny and hit over the head obvious. Next, the all too frequent monotone delivery of dialogue from cardboard cutout fake Francie. So little character shows in the woman, feeling any interest in her is difficult. And, what is with Dixon moaning about not having a "clean shot" being his explanation for "purportedly" killing Emily Sloane? How clear a shot does he need? Two people running in a wide open field with his line of sight from high above is not clear?! A little hard to believe.

When Elsa Caplan confesses to Syd her Russian agent status and cyanide in her husband's arm, Syd says, "And you're not authorized to be telling me this." Duh. Is she kidding?! Or, does she expect Elsa Caplan to say the Russian SVR wants the CIA to know? Give me a break! In a cowboy bar in Russia Syd is obliged to ride a mechanical bull for 8 seconds before entitlement to the "8 second table" and an interview with a Russian contact. "Bull" is right. This script is definitely full of that.

Unlike old horror movies which can be so "bad" they become "good" (for hilarity, not horror), this episode is more a grimace and head scratcher. Like, what is this?

The only plus in an otherwise dismal script is Syd's clever impromptu "alias" at a downtown drugstore to elude a CIA tail. Syd applies the principle: "If it looks like a duck, quacks like a duck, it must be a duck." Her Sigma Gamma sorority disguise gambit is witty and well played. Quick thinking on Syd's part.


This commentary is by Zero and E.

"Spelunking on the CIA network."


-Do-It-Yourself Spy Kit(tm) (just add Shelf-Paper)

Sydney's Rite-Aid-escapade was outstanding. Everything, from her casual stroll down the aisles, chatting offhandedly with Vaughn as she loads her basket with self-styled spy-goods to her animated ruse regarding a West Virginian sisterhood, was fun and clever and intense. But, more importantly, it was Sydney taking charge of her life, throwing a bit of her red-haired recklessness back into her step.

From the onset, this mission was hers and hers alone. Hindered by her father's newfound authority, she dodges his scrutiny with artful skill. As she approaches Elsa Caplan, stands before her mother's forsaken cell, Sydney is once again her own woman, disregarding father and country, determined to prevent another ruined life. What began as a desperation to regain her mother's trail transforms into something far more compelling and compassionate and admirable.

The effect of Sydney's voice drowned out by her own directed monologue, the relay of inscrutably set expressions as the two women conspire in code, and the tense moment of hesitation as Sydney stalls for Elsa's tapped communication were fantastic. Jack watches and listens, but cannot see or hear his daughter's ploy.

And the indescribable irony of seeing our well-seasoned, world-traveling, polyglottic intelligence officer stop by the local drugstore and traipse out in full-fledged sorority-girl splendor was simply hysterical. There was something so pleasing about seeing her amass the components of her disguise from everyday products, watching her construct her persona piece by piece with Martha-Stewart-style craftiness. And don't think for one second that we're not trekking over to our local Rite Aid next chance we get.

There was a joyful absurdity to her two solo missions that has been lacking in recent excursions. The bar scene at the wonderfully Russian, preposterously Western 8-Second Stable was tops. The rowdy gusto of the club's music, Sydney's bewildered acceptance of the establishment's standing challenge, and the sheer jubilance of the bar's patrons as they cheer her on in jeans and leather boots created such a terrific atmosphere. The staging and cinematography nicely emphasized the understated ridiculousness of the scene, disorienting at times and firmly pointed at others. And everything was perfectly punctuated, perfectly summed up by the simple, flippant toss of her contact's glass.

-The Middle Drawer (add 1 sack of Clothes)

There was something so sweet about Sydney's gesture, the way she casually offers Vaughn a piece of her home, the innocent nonchalance with which she hides her uncertainty and the slow-spreading smile that creeps across Vaughn's face as he realizes what she's saying. They have expressed their affection for one another in countless simple ways, but the barriers that once separated them are still a source of friction, and the immeasurable complexity of the lives they led before their paths became inextricably intertwined continues to circumscribe their willingness and ability to share themselves entirely. Though Vaughn was prepared to offer Sydney free access to his home, he was not yet able to allow her full admittance into his life. His failed intentions made it clear that, though circumstances threw them into a union already heavy with expectation, their alliance is plagued by the obstacles that burden every new relationship.

But it is also punctuated by the giddy elation of small achievements, of small steps forward. And really, that is what makes their relationship fresh, what makes every tiny interaction so uniquely pleasing and new. They are now struggling to construct a life together, to build a space for themselves between the professional and the personal. We suspect that they will meet resistance both from within and without, but the loaded simplicity of what Sydney offers this episode, the unspoken implication that the future could hold more for them, is such an important reminder that they are still discovering one another, that their evolution did not cease with the fall of SD-6.

-"She's not the first."

The scene between Tracy Lynn Middendorf and Victor Garber was absolutely phenomenal. The power of their performances, the rising intensity as Elsa defies Jack and Jack defies the image of his wife, was stunning in a way that left us deeply affected by their heartbreak. Jack's confrontation bears the markings of an anger no longer containable by stoicism. His fear for his daughter's well-being has resurfaced and intensified with the disappearance of Irina and the evasions of Sloane, and the presence of this woman, this cruel reminder of his past, only serves to aggravate his latent emotions. Approaching Elsa, patronizing her in her native tongue, Jack becomes unable to refrain from speaking all those bitter words with which, twice over, he must have craved to assail Irina.

"It started as a job, a duty to your country. But it required you to prostitute yourself. It was a small price to pay for serving the motherland. At first everything went as planned. Then--surely an accident--you got pregnant. You considered terminating the pregnancy but, selfishly, you didn't. You hoped, somehow, that becoming a mother would redeem you, would absolve your guilt."
"You're wrong."
"But you continued to lie and deceive both your husband and your son."
"I am not Irina Derevko!"
"I probably care more about your son than you do!"
"That is not true!"
"If I have my way, you're never going to see your son again."
"Don't you dare take my son away from me! Don't you take my son away!"

Though Jack predicted Irina's flight, his loss is still manifest. He seems all too willing to threaten those around him with what they fear the most, which is a cruel and desperate hand to play. But as Elsa's anguish overflows, as her tormented sincerity proves the honesty of her love, Jack is silenced, horrified by what he has done.

-Dixon and Diane

The scenes between Dixon and Diane were incredibly poignant.

"When you first told me the truth, I said I didn't know who you were. I was wrong. I just didn't know what you did. I have always known who you are. You are the most decent man I know."

Dixon watched one woman recede into the rain and another engulfed by fire, Emily lost to a battlefield's single, errant bullet and Diane, his wife, lost in a moment of peace, victim to a furious retribution. To watch the innocence leeched from such a life is truly tragic. Dixon has always been the symbol of honor, of steadfast integrity in the face of corruption. And though it has often haunted him, he has always sought to live up to the principles of his morality, has always struggled against betraying that which he believes to be true. With his doubts regarding Sydney, his reservations concerning Sark, his heartbreak from the truth of SD-6, and his need to mend his love, Dixon has proven his worth as a man not simply through the decisions he has made but through the care with which he has made them.

DETAILS WE APPRECIATED (add 12 cups shredded bits of Our Admiration):

-It seems as though we ought to grow weary of praising the sharpness of writing for this show, but we figured we're allowed to indulge, since this episode was penned by a first-time Alias scribe. Sean Gerace's script was wonderfully impressive. He can certainly turn on a dime with the rest of 'em. He crafted some truly piercing scenes, as well as some spectacularly timed humor.

-It seems as though we ought to grow weary of praising the sharpness of directing for this show, but we figured we're allowed to indulge... since this is our review. We loved the two rooftop scenes in Spain, with Sydney's silhouette preceding her through the smoke, and the camera's circling confusion as Vaughn whips around in search of Sark. Another solid episode by Director Perry Lang.

-"Unless you want to kidnap a smarter genius than me... it's gonna be a little while." And, despite some stiff competition from Mr. Bristow, Neil Caplan wins for Best Sarcasm.

-"Dad, we have to get ahead of them." We were thrilled to see Sydney working toward an achievable goal this episode, acting instead reacting. Recently, she has been moving toward an end that, if reached, would leave her marred by her success. She has been seeking blood that we fear to see on her hands. What differentiates this hunt from the quest for SD-6's downfall is that, before, every acquired bit of intel brought us closer to a distant aim and in that perpetual continuum we hung on every victory. This manhunt, however, is win or lose, yes or no, with no forward motion but another chance to chase. And while the pursuits are as highly involving as ever, it was great to live a small triumph once again.

-"If we end up sharing a cell in federal prison, I'm not giving you a drawer." We loved how Weiss zeroed in on the drawer runner. Much like at the end of last season, he seems to be growing wary of the lines Vaughn is willing to walk.

-Again with the absurdly talented guest stars. It is truly a feat to hold one's own in a cast composed of such incredible players, and both Tracy Lynn Middendorf and Christian Slater were exceptional. Their boy was also a lovely excuse for some more recreational red.

-"Let's get lunch or something... at the CIA... lunch... place." There's something so great about Marshall taking the extra step to make Will's acquaintance. Like Sydney and Dixon, Will seems to have a patience for Marshall's awkwardness that other do not. The two of them share a common down-to-earth flavor and, if Will ever gets over his bewilderment at Marshall's bumbling affability, we hope that they do have lunch sometime. We'd like to hear some cafeteria gossip.

-"Who are you anyway?" After having shared a filial glass of wine with Khasinau in Paris, after tagging along with Sloane, becoming his henchman, after dropping not-so-subtle insinuations that his relationship with Irina extends deeper than employer and courier, that is precisely our question. A young man with such power clearly has a past worth examining. But, as always, we discover more questions than answers. Left in England, another child raised on self-sufficiency, Sark isn't kidding about ambition. If lack is the ultimate motivator, what was "That which I never had"?

-Will has sprung another leak at the CIA. Guess it's just that time of year again.

-It was interesting to learn that Irina Derevko is a household name among household spies. Also of note is that, when Sydney gave her name to Elsa several episodes ago, she was revealing far more of her identity than was evident at the time.

-"This is 8 Second Stable. Everybody has ridden bull for eight seconds." We want to shake the hand of the man or woman who decided it would be a good idea for Sydney to visit one of Russia's world-famous Cowboy Bars. Next time we journey to the Motherland, we'll be sure to stop by.

-To: X? T-C Residents
From: ZeroSum
Subject: Cipher-text Recipe

You've got the ingredients. Let us know when it's finished cooking. We think it smells delicious.


Artist: Luce Song: "Good Day" Label: Nettwerk records

Artist: Turin Brakes Song: "Rain City" Label: Astralwerks Records

Artist: The Breeders Song: "Cannonball" Label: 4AD/Elektra

Artist: Bering Strait Song: "Porushka-Paranya" Label: Universal-South Records


Click here to read a transcript of Endgame.


"You've got as fine an hour of television as you're liable to find..." Review from Zentertainment.

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