Whoosh! ...



Season 1, episode 17
Series 117
1st release: 03/17/02
2nd release: 08/18/02
Production number: E646
Last update: 08/09/03

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SYNOPSIS by Sally Dye
COMMENTARY by Adriane Saunders

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

Terry O'Quinn (FBI Agent Kendall)
Joey Slotnick (Haladki)
Jon Simmons (FBI Officer)
Andrew A. Rolfes (Guard)
Lisa Dinkins (FBI Agent Baker)
Frank Hoyt Taylor (FBI Agent Dunn)
Greg Grunberg (Weiss)

Written by J.J. Abrams
Directed by Ken Olin

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


This synopsis is by Sally Dye.


Scenes from previous episodes, culminating with Dr. Evans quoting Rambaldi's prophecy to Sydney as she is taken into custody by the FBI.

In the next scene, a high-speed chase is taking place. In one car, Sydney, in a short curly wig and dark glasses, is speeding down the freeway, pursued by several police cars with lights and sirens going. Sydney pulls into a dock area and stops the car. The police get out of their cars and cover her with their weapons. She looks out at the harbor, and then guns the car and crashes through a barracade and into the water. The car slowly submerges.

The rest of the show is a flashback. Sydney is seated in a brightly lighted room, handcuffed to her chair. An agent brings her a milkshake. She asks him to remind "them" that she cooperated -- that the restraints aren't necessary. He says he'll tell them.

Vaughn questions Haladki about what is happening to Sydney. Haladki says he knows nothing. Weiss commiserates with Vaughn. Vaughn asks if he believes the prophecy. Weiss says he doesn't know what to believe. Vaughn tells him that an FBI tribunal is flying in from D.C. to question Sydney and decide what to do next.

The tribunal -- Agents Kendall, Baker and Dunn -- arrive to question Sydney. The first question: "How did you come to work for the CIA?" Sydney describes how she was recruited by SD-6 and was led to believe that it was a "black ops" division of the CIA. She relates how she was taken to SD-6 headquarters and felt "wildly patriotic" at the thought of serving her country.

Vaughn and Jack meet. Jack is concerned that Sydney's cover will be blown with SD-6 if she doesn't make her meeting with Sloane on Tuesday. He says if the prophecy scares them enough, the FBI could keep Sydney in custody for the rest of her life.

Act I

Kendall's next questions cover Sydney's early days at SD-6. Then comes the question "Who was Daniel Hecht?" Sydney reluctantly describes her engagement and Danny's subsequent murder at the hands of SD-6. Kendall expresses skepticism that Sydney could possibly have thought this was a US government agency she was working for. Sydney then describes how SD-6 tried to have her killed and how she learned what SD-6 really was and that her father worked for them, too.

Vaughn remembers something that Weiss told him that makes them both realize that Haladki was formerly FBI. Vaughn confronts Haladki, who finally reveals that 47 of Rambaldi's predictions have come true, so they believe the one about Sydney to be true as well.

Sydney explains to the tribunal about the Alliance of Twelve, who run SD-6 and all of its sister organizations. Their purpose is to steal military and government technology and information to sell to the highest bidder. Sydney describes how she swore to destroy SD-6 and proceeded to gain back their confidence by stealing something Sloane wanted and bringing it to him -- a device based on a design by Milo Rambaldi. Then she tells how she went to the CIA and offered her help in bringing down SD-6 and how, in the process, she learned that her father was also a double agent.

Vaughn studies the prophecies of Rambaldi and finds that the description of the mysterious woman in the portrait includes the fact that the effect she has will take place before she sees Mt. Sebacio. He summons Jack and shows him the prophecy. They decide that if they could get Sydney to Mt. Sebacio, it would negate the prophecy. Vaughn says Haladki knows where Sydney is but won't talk. Jack: "He'll talk to me."

Act II

Kendall returns after a break and asks about Sydney's mother. Sydney explains that she had always thought her mother was a dedicated literature professor, but recently discovered that she was actually working for the KGB. She tells how her mother died in a car crash while being pursued by an FBI agent. Both cars had gone into the river.

Sydney then details how missions are assigned at SD-6 and how she then contacts Vaughn and receives her countermissions. She gives examples of several recent missions.

When Haladki goes to his car in the parking lot, Jack grabs him and puts a gun to his head. Haladki spills everything he knows about where Sydney is and when she will be transferred. Jack tells Haladki if he reports their conversation, "you'll never wear a hat again."


Kendall asks what SD-6's priority is, and Sydney replies that, at the moment, it's Rambaldi. She repeats what she knows of him -- he was Pope Alexander VI's chief architect, but his designs and inventions were so advanced that he was executed as a heretic. And now many -- including the entire intelligence world -- believe him to be a prophet as well. They assume he had some sort of master plan involving an as yet unspecified device. Everyone wants to be the first to discover what it was. Kendall says he has just one more question -- does Sydney believe Rambaldi was a prophet? Sydney: "Do you?"

As Sydney is taken from the building, a van pulls up and masked men leap out. The guards are overpowered and Sydney is hustled into the van, which then speeds away. Sydney is stunned to see Vaughn, Weiss and Jack when they take off their masks.

Act IV

Sydney is a little perturbed at what the others have done. She knows the FBI will now assume she is guilty of some wrongdoing. Jack explains that once they get her to Mt. Sebacio, they will notify all agencies, and she will no longer be suspect. Sydney is not so sure. She wants to know what if Rambaldi was right. Jack replies that if that turns out to be the case, then everything is already predetermined and nothing they do will make any difference. Vaughn tells Sydney to get in the trunk of another car, and he will take her to where she can get to the airfield.

Haladki calls the FBI and tells them he was forced to reveal Sydney's whereabouts to Jack. He also gives the makes and license plates of all cars that have been taken out of CIA headquarters.

Sydney changes into a disguise in the trunk. Through a transmitter, she asks Vaughn if he even considered the possibility that Rambaldi could be right. He says no, he believes in her. They arrive at the second car, and Sydney gets into it to drive to the airfield. Almost immediately, she is spotted by a couple of police cruisers and the chase is on.

Watching on TV, Will and Francie see news coverage of the chase and marvel at the craziness of whoever is in the car.

Sydney gets to the dock and stops the car. The police jump out of their cars with guns drawn and point them at her car. Suddenly Sydney accelerates the car and crashes through a fence and into the harbor. The car slowly sinks. Sydney holds her breath as the car goes completely under, and then rolls down the window and swims out of the car. She goes to one of the tires and pulls off the hubcap. She stays underwater by breathing the air from the tire.

Later that evening, Jack receives a phone call -- it's Sydney. He goes to meet her at a deserted location. She says she needed to see him before going to Italy. She says that, as the car filled with water and sank, she realized just what her mother did when she was in a similar situation -- she used the air in the tires to stay alive underwater. She reminds Jack of the details of Rambaldi's prophecy -- the DNA sequencing, etc.-- things she inherited from her mother. She knows the prophecy can't refer to her, so "Mom's alive -- I know it."


This commentary is by Adriane Saunders.

Syd sits in a car, motionless--her hands on the wheel. All around are police cars, stopped. With cars as shields, the police--rifles to shoulders--take aim at Syd. Barely moving, Syd looks left and right--then ahead. Her only chance is straight ahead.

Slowly, Syd removes her sunglasses, then guns the engine. Accelerating continuously, Syd speeds down the dock and crashes through the guardrail at the end. Boards splinter and explode at impact, as Syd's car plunges into the ocean. This week's episode starts at the end, then moves backwards.

There is no lead in, or repeats of who is who, or what happened before. This episode leaps straight into action. But, "fast forward" this week means "fast backward" to the highlights of all that has come before--so far, in Alias. For those who may have blinked during any of the previous 16 episodes, here is your chance to fill in blanks. This is a "clip show", complete with flashbacks and reminders of the "who, what, where, when and how" of Alias.

In memorable Alias style all scenes, forward and back, fit seamlessly. Unlike the more usual "clip shows" for a TV series, Alias "flashbacks" add bits of "new" to the old. For those of us who are already "up to speed" with plot and content, such nuggets are appreciated. Here are samples of what is added: 1) What the initials SD-6 stand for; 2) Who raised Syd--if not her parents; 3) What her initial CIA training looked like, and why--in more detail--she joined.

But, back to the end--at the start: As Syd's car plunges into the ocean, the scene shifts to shackles on her wrist. She is restrained and about to be interrogated by the FBI. Her interrogator is Special Officer Kendall--an exceptionally well played character, as interesting to watch as Syd herself. His timing and facial expressions are astonishingly astute. Watching Special Officer Kendall, I hope for a long, very long interrogation--just so I can observe his reactions, and his delivery of questions. Kudos to the actor.

Syd's interrogation, the "Q&A" (Questions and Answers) of the title, provide the frame for flashbacks from earlier episodes. All is revealed and reviewed, summarized--and illustrated. For this we could all be in a "graduate course". This is our course review for an exam. At the end we will be tested. How much can we remember of the "facts" of Alias?

All major plotlines, characters and relationships are flashed before our eyes. Here are samples: Credit Dauphine transition to SD-6, death of Syd's fiance, her refusal to return to SD-6, the ever riveting underground parking garage windows blown out of her truck fight scene, truth from her father about the Alliance, double agent status, Syd's mother revealed as a KGB assassin, SD-6 mission briefings with tech expert and comic relief Marshall, paper bag communications to CIA, Vaughan, and Syd's blue rubber dress disc switch, and Dixon blowing up a building in Baden Baden not knowing CIA are inside.

We see Syd running--lots of running, fights, leaping off railings and cliffs, Syd in different disguises (witty background music playing the words "every night is Halloween", referring to all Syd's costumes), and Syd underground in Argentina for Rimbaldi's manuscript.

This last "flashback" Syd describes to her interrogator, Kendall, as the "Rimbaldi scavenger hunt". Apparently, all Rimbaldi's clues refer to a "single construction" that everyone--all covert ops and organizations--want. This is, according to Syd, "before the other guy" gets it. We get it too now, all the "facts" through flashbacks. Well done.

This is one of the few "clip shows" for any series I have seen that did not strike me simply as "filler", a way to take up slack during budgetary "short falls", or while the crew is on "hiatus". This clup show is actually helpful.

Now that all the Alias "facts" are reviewed, bring on "the test"! At the end, that test comes. But, the test is not for us--the viewers, prepared though we may now be. The test is for Garner--yes, Garner, the actress who plays Syd. And, this test at the end of this week's episode is a doozie! Raise this woman's salary! Add "danger pay" to her credits. This week's ending Garner does all herself. No stuntwoman appears--not for a second. Hold your breath! Garner holds hers!

The whole, almost to the end, last sequence happens underwater. Remember, Syd's car plunged through a guardrail into the ocean (at the beginning "ending"). Hopefully, a stuntperson drives Syd's car through the railing, but after that Garner, alias Syd, is on her own.

This is the most extraordinary scene I have witnessed, so far, in Alias. Remembering to breathe is a challenge. The action is riveting! Why? Everything comes to a--at first literally--screeching halt, as Syd's car plunges into the ocean. Then, figuratively, film-wise, that "screeching halt" becomes a switch to "slow motion". This is shocking and amazingly effective. This is Alias, after all, where usually not only Syd runs though scenes at breakneck speed. We, the viewers, do too--to keep up.

Not this time. Not for this ending. Everything stops and holds its breath--like Syd (and Garner) underwater in the submerged vehicle. This actress is incredible, gutsy and focused--and, as Syd, ever resourceful. We watch, hypnotized almost, as Syd's car slowly sinks into the ocean. "Slowly" is definitely the watchword.

Even the police, now watching from the dock above, move in slow motion. No one makes a move toward the sinking car. Everyone just watches. The whole scene is hypnotic, meditative almost--like watching fish in a tank. But, there is no relaxation here, only tension. What is going to happen? How is Syd going to escape? Everything in this scene--through slow motion--becomes startling and intense.

Even after the car is completely submerged, Garner/Syd does not, right away, make a move to get out. She looks around inside the car, slowly, eyes wide open. This actress is as skilled "emoting" underwater as on dry land. Watching her is fascinating. Clearly Garner is not claustrophic. This scene seems to go on for a long time, even though engaging throughout. Finally! Syd rolls down a window, and slowly swims out of the submerged car.

Then, another "wow" of quick thinking by Syd! Syd rips off a hubcap--on the submerged car--and breathes air from the tire!

All this continues in slow motion. The police on the dock wait for Syd to surface, but she does not. We all hold our breath. Then, the scene shifts again to a phone call from Syd to her father, Jack. She tells him, though she is supposed to be on a plane to Italy: "I need to see you now." He meets her after dark on the docks, where she tells him her shocking news.

Syd tells him, "As that car filled with water, I knew what my mother had done in the same situation." Syd thinks her mother planned her own "death", her own car "accident". Further, Syd tells Jack, "In Rimbaldi's prophecy, he uses details like that DNA sequencing," which Syd inherited. "It's either Mom, or me. I know it's not me. Mom's alive. I know it." So ends this week's episode. Can we breathe now?


1--After Vaughan and Weiss and her father, Jack, "extract" Syd from FBI custody with hoods over their faces and guns in hand, Syd is outraged. She does not want to be rescued. That makes her "a fugitive". This is hilarious! This is Syd, who routinely "breaks and enters", steals, and beats up combatents round the world. Syd is basically "law abiding"! Wow! That must make for a few psychological conflicts.

2--Syd changes into another disguise in Vaughan's car trunk, as he drives her to the airport. She asks why he does not believe the Rimbabldi prophecy could be true of her. He tells her: "I believe in you. You don't think I throw anyone in my trunk." Syd smiles.

3--Will and Francie--courtesy of live "reality" TV coverage--watch the entire chase and escape scene at the end. They are in Syd's own house, watching her own TV! Of course, neither knows the car being chased by police is driven by Syd. The two of them are eating popcorn while they watch. "Oh, my god!" Will exclaims as Syd's--though they do not know that--car plunges into the ocean. "Wow!" says Francie. Wow, indeed!

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