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ALIAS

SALVATION


EPISODE NO. 28
Season 2, episode 06
Series 206
1st release: 11/10/02
2nd release: 06/22/03
Production code: E657
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
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
James Handy (CIA Director Devlin)
Stephen Markle (Senator Douglas)
Austin Tichenor (Dr. Nicholas)
Amy Irving (Emily Sloane)
Daniel Faltus (Jan Spinnaker)
Kevin Sutherland (Agent)
Hope Allen (Waitress)
Glenda Morgan Brown (Flight attendant)
John Patrick Clerkin (Priest)
Timothy DeHaas (Doctor no.2)
Ira Heiden (CIA techie)
Mette Holt (Nurse)
John Koyama (Patient zero)
Alex Morris (Homeless vet)
Cliff Olin (Cliff)
Robert Martin Robinson (Doctor no.1)



CREDITS
Written by Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman-Counter
Directed by Perry Lang



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

SYNOPSIS:

This synopsis is by Sally Dye.

Teaser

Vaughn tells Sydney that Irina's trial is beginning. Sydney wants to watch, so Vaughn says he'll arrange for closed-circuit coverage. Sydney asks for a joke, and Vaughn tells her one. They laugh for a moment, but then are somber again.

Sloane says that Sark may be developing a bioweapon. They have discovered that Richter, the man apprehended at Sark's, may have been exposed to the virus. Sydney and Jack are to infiltrate Sark's facility in Geneva and acquire info on the virus.

Jack tells Sydney he tested Project Christmas on her so she wouldn't become a victim. He says he never intended for her to become a double agent. He had planned to recruit her for the CIA after college, but Sloane got to her first. Sydney says she'd like to believe him, but she doesn't trust anything he says now.

Sydney goes to watch the trial over the closed-circuit feed that Vaughn set up. Instead of opening arguments, they see Senator Douglas announce that Irina has pled guilty to all counts of espionage and murder. She is to be executed in three days.

Sydney sends a letter to Devlin detailing Jack's role in the Madagascar incident. She hopes to halt her mother's death penalty proceedings.

Sydney talks to Will at Francie's restaurant. He is proud of his 30-day sobriety pin, even though he was never really a drug addict. He says he is going to have to sell his car because he can't get anyone to hire him. Sydney offers to loan him money, but he says no.

Vaughn shows Devlin some info on tests used by the Soviets in identifying children that could be programmed to be spies. He says the tests are very similar to IQ tests given to American first graders. Vaughn wants to investigate further, but Devlin says they can't spare any agents for a wild goose chase.

On the plane to Geneva, Jack tries to talk to Sydney, telling her that Irina is still manipulating her by pleading guilty. He says Irina doesn't want Sydney to see a trial because any sympathy Sydney had for her would be negated by the descriptions of her crimes. He gives Sydney back her letter to Devlin, unopened. Sydney says she knows he looks at her as his greatest mistake -- if Irina hadn't fooled him so completely, Sydney never would have been born.

Act I

Will asks Vaughn for a job. Vaughn says that, ironically, the CIA can't hire him because he has a criminal record. Will asks if he knows anyone who wants to buy a car. Vaughn offers to pay him -- off the books -- to do some investigating on the standardized tests given to first graders.

In Geneva, Jack and Sydney enter Sark's facility -- which is actually a medical clinic -- as a man who needs a kidney transplant and the daughter who is going to donate one of hers. When they are wheeled into the operating room, they release a gas that knocks all the doctors and nurses out. Jack and Sydney have taken an antidote to the gas, so they are not knocked out. They leave the OR in surgical garb. Jack accesses the computers while Sydney goes to take a blood sample from a dying patient, who looks up at Sydney and says, "Irina?" The patient grabs Sydney's hand, and Jack comes to up his morphine dosage and put him out. Meanwhile, some of the unconscious staff are found, and an alarm is set off. Jack and Sydney prepare a compound of iodine and ammonia, which explodes just as the guards are apprehending them. They run for the extraction point, the roof, pursued by guards. Jack rigs an elevator to take them up, while Sydney covers him with gunfire. They reach the helicopter on the roof and fly off. Jack tells Sydney that he skimmed the computer info as he was downloading it. He learned that Irina had deliberately had some of her operatives exposed to the virus so they could study its effects. Jack: "Ask yourself if that's a person worth saving."

Act II

Back in LA, Sloane tells Jack about what was found in the glass of wine that appeared in his bathroom. Jack says there are two possibilities -- either Emily predicted what he was going to do and took the antidote beforehand, or someone is trying to make either him or the Alliance think she is still alive. Sloane says that if the Alliance decides that he didn't fulfill his condition of membership, then he and all of SD-6 would be considered rogue and would be in great danger.

Sydney tells Vaughn that she doesn't really know what or whom to believe anymore. Vaughn commiserates with her. He says she did a good job in Geneva. Then he tells her about hiring Will. Sydney is grateful.

Jack and Sloane come out of a luncheon meeting, and Sloane sees a woman he thinks is Emily standing across the street. He runs across the street and follows the woman into a church. The priest there says no one else has come in. Sloane is very shaky, and Jack tries to calm him down. Jack says there's one way to know for certain if Emily is still alive.

Sydney talks to Devlin about halting Irina's execution. He says Jack had already confessed that morning. Before he can answer her questions, he gets a message that she is to come to the medical center. There they tell her that the Rambaldi device in Taipei may have contained the virus. If so, both she and Vaughn were exposed. They want to do tests. Sydney goes to a room where Vaughn is already waiting. He puts his arm around her and they sit in silence together.

Act III

Sydney and Vaughn wake up, having dozed off in the hospital room after their tests. Vaughn says she talks in her sleep. Sydney is about to tell him something when Dr. Nicholas returns. He says that Sydney's tests are fine, but Vaughn's are inconclusive. He needs to stay longer. Sydney asks what the initial symptoms of the virus would be. Dr. Nicholas says that hemorrhaging of the fingernails would be the first sign.

Jack is summoned to an inquiry to address his confession to lying to the CIA and endangering other agents. Sydney watches over closed-circuit tv. When pressed to give his reasons for his actions, Jack says that his intent was to protect his daughter. He says that Sydney has grown into an amazing person and one of the finest agents he has known. He says that turning himself in was his only way of proving that he loves her.

Sydney goes to a restaurant, where Vaughn calls her on her cell phone, even though he is standing nearby at the bar. He tells her that he got a clean bill of health, but also has other news. Jack is being sent to prison, and Irina's execution is to proceed as scheduled -- tomorrow at 8 a.m.

Act IV

In Washington, Senator Douglas is riding in his limo and notices that his driver missed the exit. He is driven to a deserted area. Sydney, who was posing as the driver, confronts him and asks him to reverse his decision concerning her parents. He refuses. Sydney gets a very detemined look on her face.

Emily's grave is dug up and her coffin brought out. Sloane opens it and finds it empty.

Sydney tells Jack that she's not proud of lying, but she persuaded Senator Douglas to reverse his decision by telling him that a US Senator was in league with the Alliance, and without her mother and father and their assistance, she would be forced to turn the investigation over to the FBI. Jack says he doesn't agree with her decision to interact with her mother, but he respects her right to make that decision. Irina is brought back to her cell in shackles.

Vaughn is shaving. He looks down and sees that his fingernails are bleeding.



COMMENTARY 1

This commentary is by Adriane Saunders.

If televsion was this good all the time, I would never leave the house. Bravo! Bravo! I am on my feet. This is perfection--even for Alias as riveting as Alias so often is. This is perfection! Bravo! If this episode is not nominated for an Emmy Award for 2002, I will wonder why. Not just one award but in several catagories.

From the start this episode is edge of the seat all the way, shock after shock, twist and surprise and speed. Applause for a grownup script (writers Orci and Kurtzman-Counter), believable bang on dialogue, mind bogglingly apt responses and interactions between characters, artfully played by all--and I do mean all--the actors. Ensemble effort though Alias always is, for sure everyone was "in the zone" on the days this episode was filmed. I am speechless. What to say about perfection but wow!

Well done to all involved. Scriptwriters and actors I have already applauded. Add now the film editor and director of cinematography, the filming and camera crew. Awesome! This episode is a visual treat. Even the smallest of details fit seamlesslly into the puzzle.

In a nutshell, in this episode we are treated to a breathtakingly closely timed action sequence in a Geneva hospital. This sequence is so artfully done I am fearful at one point something will do wrong and Syd and Jack will lose a kidney in an operation. Marshall's segue relieved me on that count but did not stop my heart beating as fast as the action that follows. Could this be a "teaser" from me?

I will play "spoiler" minimally for this episode. This episode is too good to "spoil". "Salvation" is off the charts. Shock after shock! Slaone chases his maybe not-so-dead-afterall wife through the streets of Los Angeles. He sees her, and later unearthing her coffin finds her coffin empty. Jack is arrested and imprisoned at Syd's behest. Her mother is condemned to death. Vaughan contracts a lethal virus. Will is set loose to investigate "Project Christmas", and Francie hires a hamburger to sandwich board her restaurant. Oh yes, and Syd kidnaps a Senator! That is the plot.

Episode 28, "Salvation": Watch, just watch. Remember to breathe. Do not blink or lose a word. The Greek philosopher Aristotle defined "art" once as something to which "nothing can be added and nothing taken away." This Alias is art. Enjoy! Applaud!



COMMENTARY 2

This commentary is by Zero and E.

"Ask yourself if that's a person worth saving."

THINGS THAT WORKED:

-A guy walks into a bar...
...and orders his woman a drink.

The intimacy of Sydney and Vaughn's relationship, their habit of sitting just a little too close, sharing the same space, the innocent way their bodies brush up against each other, the subtle change in tone when no one else can hear their words; these are such simple gestures of sincerity, obscured by the convolutions of espionage and double lives. These subtle expressions of affection may seem indulgent, may appear too simple, too easy, too soon. But the truth is, characters all too often become victims of the conditions of their relationships and are exploited as impotent puppets of torpid happenstance. By allowing Sydney and Vaughn to develop an overt affection for one another, the writers empower these characters, granting them permission to be active participants in the evolution of their relationship. And while this relationship is circumscribed by the circumstances of their lives, they are conscious of these limitations and are allowed to explore the associated implications with liberty.

On the rooftop, they take a second to enjoy each other's company, and though Sydney expresses frustration during the bar scene, there is still a moment that passes between them. They are salvaging whatever bits of normalcy they can. When Vaughn offhandedly reveals Will's supplication, it is a celebration of his integration into Sydney's social community. Vaughn's long-standing adoration of Sydney has transformed into an unfettered, unembarrassed give and take between the two. Lying across from one another, separated by the length of a room, the intimacy of their exchange is so natural that these gulfs are erased. It is as though they are in the same bed. As Sydney catches Vaughn's gaze, meeting his eyes, neither looks away. They are allies.

-"I see only the promise of my own redemption."

In an episode laced with romantic undertones, it is so unique to Alias that the complexity and emotional potency of a familial relationship is kept in focus. During the height of their struggle, Jack and Sydney are forced to mask their displeasure under the pretense of contented propinquity. Yet this facade is not as artificial as it might appear. It is, in fact, the depth of their love for one another that fuels this battle. On the plane to Geneva, Jack and Sydney tear at each other with a passionate and reckless ferocity. They throw the low blows, deliver devastating, undiluted truths, expose and exploit one another's vulnerabilities. Their words are articulated with the kind of vicious callousness reserved for family and close friends, when you know exactly how to break them, and you say it because you're angry and you're selfish and you're hurt.

"And guess what? You fell for it."

"I thought you deserved a second chance to think things over. Here's your letter."

"I think you loved Mom so much that when she left you... you lost your soul."

"... is the kind of man who looks at his daughter and sees his greatest mistake."
"You can't honesty believe that."
"It's true, isn't it? If mom hadn't fooled you, if you hadn't been so gullible, I never would have been born."

It is with patronizing sarcasm that Jack tosses Sydney's letter back in her face, and it is with cruel bitterness that Sydney lashes out at him. The whispered accusations of his shortcomings, of her own fear that she IS his greatest mistake, are enunciated with such brutality that they strike with a heartbreaking precision. The tortured anguish in their eyes speaks not of an unattained love, but of the despair of a love unhinged. Jack, struggling to rectify the situation, twice acknowledges his faults.

"Yes, you're right ... Sloane got to you first, and that is a mistake that I will never live down."

Though his admission does not satisfy Sydney, it is strangely valid.

And then, in a monologue that rivals Mr. Eisendrath's "But the Truth Is It Affects Me" speech that Sydney delivered at the beginning of "The Solution," Jack at last confesses, speaks the truth he could not summon.

"Sydney Bristow, my daughter, has come to believe that when I look at her I see the embodiment of all my flaws. This afternoon, when I learned she may have been exposed to a life threatening disease, I realized she might die believing that. But nothing could be further from the truth. When I look at her, when I look at the little girl who raised herself to become one of the most extraordinary human beings and one of the finest agents I've ever had the privilege of knowing, I see only the promise of my own redemption. Turning myself in was the only way I could think of to make that clear to her, to prove that despite my limited abilities as a father,"

And here it is...

"I love her more than I could ever say."

-The Redeemer

Here Sydney stands with the fate of both her parents in her grasp and all they ask of her is their salvation. Why is it that, so often, one person possesses the power to judge another, to determine who is worth saving and who is unredeemable? And why have Irina and Jack forced this authority and responsibility upon their child?

Sydney is struggling with this unfathomable dilemma. She hesitates. Passes her drop point. Pauses. Returns. However, the decision to expose her father's duplicity is not made in bad faith. It is reached with the intention, not to condemn Jack, but to save Irina. So, when both her parents offer themselves as sacrifices, when Sydney is threatened with losing Jack AND Irina, instead of choosing one, she embodies what they have taught her to become and liberates them with a lie.

At the same time Sydney possesses this power, she is also powerless, a child pulled in two directions. Yes, her parents are manipulating her. But to what extent? As people, do we not subconsciously present ourselves in a specific manner in order to craft a desired impression? On some level, are Jack and Irina not simply looking for their daughter's acceptance through carefully chosen gestures? But how deeply do their calculations run? Is there a point at which their words and actions become meaningless tools of their endgames?

-A man without salvation

Ron Rifkin is amazing.

The instability of an antagonist rarely leads to anything other than perversion and disgust. Why is it, then, that when we watch Sloane slowly break under the weight of his guilt, we see only a deepening of his humanity? What tragic past, what bitter disillusionment, what cruel betrayals led him down this road, where he has given up on his own redemption?

It was unnerving to watch Sloane interact with the everyday, to see him rise from the underworld of his own making and attempt to reintroduce himself to the world. The cinematography of the street sequence is perfectly overbearing. It shares Sloane's scattered panic, his skewed reality. He looks so small and broken and frail and somehow menacing pressing through crowds and traffic toward the only part of himself that he recognizes. The whole city threatens to crush him. When he unwittingly stumbles into the church, the very icon of salvation rises up and the weight of his transgressions looms above him. Sloane is fighting for his sanity. He is desperately trying to cling to anything real.

"Arvin. You've walked into a church."

Wherever Jack's loyalties truly lie, there is an undeniable bond between these two men. In some distorted manner, Jack IS Sloane's friend. As Arvin crumbles beneath his guilt and paranoia, Jack is at his side as a companion and emotional ally. Their common experiences have imparted them with a sense of mutual understanding that no divided allegiance can mar.

"Arvin, I can't judge you for what you do. I was never there. I was never faced with the choices you had to make, and I have never- What I'm trying to say is... I forgive you." (episode 01.22)

Emily was his salvation. In poisoning her, he admitted defeat. Sloane believes that his soul has already been sold. Yet this question haunts him, plagues his moments of silence, speaks of a hope that he does not know and perhaps has never known: can he still be redeemed? Emily's continued presence, metaphysical or otherwise, reminds us both of how much Sloane gained as a character when we witnessed his profound love for his wife and of how much he lost as a person when he lost her.

-"Well, you were right about one thing. I'm not having fun anymore." (episode 01.18)

This mission had an entirely different feel to it. There was a friction between Jack and Sydney that muted the action. It leeched the passion and the thrill out of it, leaving only a bleak and dangerous reality. It possessed an overriding sense of gravity. And though we didn't experience the same pull of suspense as in other missions, it perfectly captured the underlying tension between father and daughter. This mission was unglamorous, unromanticized, and unfun. We loved it.

THINGS THAT AREN'T WORKING:

-A poverty of innocence

This episode was so saturated with information that it could not possibly have contained anyone else, and the pace of the season as a whole has left little room for excess. But Dixon is NOT excess, and his general lack of screen time is disappointing. We feel that his relationship with Sydney had a great deal of importance last season and would hate to see it replaced. Dixon is untainted by the corruption that surrounds him. He is a man of honorable intentions and, by not incorporating him into this season's dynamics, we lose an invaluable moral balance. Go back to the end of "The Box Part II." SD-6 is comprised of loyal, patriotic, passionate individuals who sincerely believe that they are doing the right thing. Without Dixon, there is no central character who is not lost in the fog of ethical ambiguity.

-Tempered criticism

We feel a bit awkward mentioning this, because it was an absolutely fascinating episode to analyze, but there was a strange ambiance to the hour. We can't put a name to it, can't quite decide whether it was the tone of the story, the pace of narrative, or a subtle difference in production. The scenes were fabulous, the writing was superb, and the acting was incredible as always... but for some reason, when the pieces were put together, something felt just a little off. Regardless, this was still an amazing episode.

DETAILS WE APPRECIATED:

-Off the books: Not a lot to say yet, but we're thrilled to see that Will still hasn't learned his lesson. You have to love the nonchalance with which he says, "I don't need to be an agent."

-Victor Garber makes a hysterical southern gentleman. What a tie. What. A. Tie. It was so much fun to see Jack lighten up a bit, even if it was a pretense. And, not since Cuba has Jack been so hardcore.

-They've been buried in the basement for so long this season that it was a brilliant shock to the system to find Sydney and Vaughn once again in open air, hazarding the sunlight. There's something great about the tension of meeting in public that can't be captured in Mikro Self-Storage.

-"I trust that this won't be too much of a stretch for either of you." Sloane once again speaking in that all-knowing/does-he-know voice.

-"His intentions are irrelevant. It's his decisions that matter." Isn't that precisely the question, though? Are intentions relevant? Can we judge the moral validity of an action without fully understanding its context? Another nice bit of intratextual consciousness.

-"Arvin. You've walked into a church." Yeah, we've already used this quote, but we just wanted to point out what a spectacular example of internal awareness this is. The symbolism of Sloane's destination is removed from its purely literary function, and is actualized as a symptom when Jack recognizes it from within its context.

-Apparently SD-6 has only one photograph of Sark. Interesting, considering he was briefly detained in their facility. We like it, though, as the picture evokes memories from "The Coup" that remind us of just how audacious and ambitious this young man is.

ETC

-Last season a vast majority of Sydney's missions were Rambaldi-centric. This year, however, there seems to be a strange amalgamation of Ramaldi, Irina, and Sark-centric expeditions. It will be interesting to watch these three converge.

-A point of interest (at least as far as we are concerned) is that neither Patient Zero nor Klaus Richter spoke Irina's name as though she were the cause of their afflictions. Instead, their intonation expressed admiration, perhaps even affection, for this woman.



NON-ORIGINAL MUSIC

Kim Richey, "A Place Called Home". Label: Lost Highway
Violent Femmes, "Blister in the Sun". Label: London-Sire Records Ltd.
Andy Hunter, "Go". Label: Nettwerk America/Sparrow Records
Gus, "Violent Rain". Label: NA



LINKS:

Television Without Pity. Recap Doctor, Doctor, Gimme The News! Salvation - I got a bad case of an antibody-based virus that vaguely resembles Ebola to get through! Syd's dispatched, along with her explosives-loving father, to Geneva in order to retrieve some precious info about some virus that Irina & Company were developing as a potential bio-weapon. Will and Vaughn continue their male bonding over a little off-the-books employment, which, we can all assume, will lead to them discussing Syd's ass over a couple of Sierra Nevadas in the near future. Most importantly, however, is Syd's near-declaration of lurve to Vaughn as his impending death by fingernail-bleeding approaches.




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