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Season 1, episode 10
Series 110
1st release: 12/16/01
2nd release: 06/30/02
Production number: E639
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

Miguel Sandoval (Russek)
Scott Paulin (Robert Stoller)
Aharon Ipale (Hassan)
Christopher Thornton (Neville)
Scotch Ellis Loring (Agent Gordon)
Sarah Shahi (Jenny)
James Warwick (Driscoll)
Conrad Gamble II (Bodyguard)
Erica Inez (Hotel Manager)
Kevin McCorkle (Agent)
Don Took (Agent Grey)
Scott Vance (Security Section Agent #1)
Nancy Wetzel (Amy Tippin)
Ken Olin (David McNeil) - uncredited

Written by J.J. Abrams and Vanessa Taylor
Directed by Jack Bender

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


The holidays take a terrifying turn as Sydney's cover is blown and she lands in the hands of the sadistic Sloane. Awakening in a top-secret SD-6 torture chamber, Syd realizes her double-agent days are over. But before Sloane can get her to crack, Jack pulls a fast one to save his abducted daughter, who then takes a risky mission to win back her boss's trust. Things go from bad to worse, however, once Syd discovers that her new assignment has put dear old dad in hot water with one of Sloane's most wanted foes. Meanwhile, Vaughn reveals a softer side by giving his comely colleague a very appropriate Christmas gift. Tvguide.com


This synopsis is by Sally Dye.

Teaser Scenes from previous episodes, culminating with Sydney's abduction from the hospital parking garage. Sydney wakes up on a cot in a filthy room, chained by the ankle to the wall. Sloane and Russek discuss the fact that Sydney is suspected of being the mole. Russek is to pretend that he and Sydney are both under suspicion and that he will be killed if she doesn't reveal who she's working for and what she's told them. They beat Russek up so he looks as if he's been tortured and take him to the room where Sydney is being kept. When they are alone, Russek tells Sydney that SD-6 suspects both of them since they detected a second communication while they were in Geneva. He begs Sydney to tell Sloane the truth. Guards come and ask if she's ready to talk. She looks at Russek and says, "No." Jack notices that Sydney's desk is gone and knows something is wrong. He goes to a colleague he trusts, who tells him about the detected transmission and SD-6's suspicions that Sydney is the mole. Jack goes to the transmissions room. Sydney is strapped to a chair, and a man enters and begins assembling various sinister-looking instruments. Sydney tries to talk to him, but he doesn't respond. Marshall finds more information about the transmission anomaly and takes the transcript to Sloane. Sydney's torturer fills a syringe and starts to inject the serum into her arm.

Act I Another man enters the room and says there's been a change of plans. Sydney is taken to Sloane, who explains that the transmission they had detected turned out to be from Russek. Meanwhile, Russek is strapped to the same chair Sydney was in. He screams to be taken to Sloane, but this time, no one stops the injection. Sloane tells Sydney that he never believed she would betray SD-6, and when Russek was discovered to be the mole, he felt vindicated. He holds out his hands to Sydney and, after a moment's hesitation, she takes them in her own. Sydney tells Vaughn that while they were in Geneva, apparently Russek was transmitting to the K-Directorate at the same time she was transmitting to the CIA. She says that Russek's erratic eye-blinking while they were in the cell together tipped her to the fact that he was lying. Sydney thinks there are three possibilities: either Sloane still suspects her (which Vaughn vetos as unlikely), or Russek really is K-Directorate, or Russek was set up to get her out. Vaughn denies that the CIA was involved. Before they part, Vaughn gives Sydney a sack containing a Christmas gift. That evening Sydney, Francie, Will and Amy are playing a word game when Sydney is paged. Will indignant when she says she has to go to work, and strongly suggests she should quit her job. Sydney tells him that he may think her job is pointless, but "if you knew what I deal with every day, you'd thank me for doing my job so well." Will is puzzled, and Sydney realizes she's said too much, and leaves. Sloane briefs Sydney on Ineni Hassan, who is in hiding, knowing that SD-6 is after him. Jack believes that information about Hassan may be found on Semba Island, a resort off the coast of Kenya, where a man named Severin Driscoll is staying. Driscoll is suspected of making Hassan new identity papers. Sydney is to go there disguised as the wealthy Victoria King and find out Hassan's new identity. Jack tells Sydney he heard about what happened. She asks if he somehow engineered it all, and he says of course not. Vaughn tells Sydney that Russek was killed. He wants Sydney to give Hassan's new identity to him, not SD-6. Will and Neville analyze the tape Will found in his glove box. They hear Eloise Kurtz being shot, but prior to that, they hear the question, "Did you tell him about SD-6?"

Act II Sydney goes to Will's place and apologizes for being so snippy with him over her job. She suggests that they all go to Lake Arrowhead next week. Will agrees. Sydney hears a noise and realizes Will is not alone. Jenny comes out wearing one of Will's shirts. Sydney says she'll just be going. Sydney arrives at the Semba Island resort. She spots Driscoll and flirts with him, learning his suite number. Will does research on SD-6 and the only reference he can find is in the transcript of an embezzlement trial. He meets the lawyer, Robert Stoller, who had represented a computer encryptionist named McNeil. Stoller implies that McNeil was innocent, but accepted a plea bargain after the death of his wife. Will asks if the wife was murdered, but Stoller won't reveal anything else, and seems afraid to talk about it. Sydney breaks into Driscoll's suite and looks for evidence of Hassan's new identity. She is checking through computer files when Driscoll's bodyguard comes in. He points a gun at Sydney's head and wants to know who she is.

Act III Sydney pretends she's supposed to meet Driscoll, and gets close enough to the bodyguard to disarm him. They fight and Sydney knocks him through a doorway. In the room beyond, she sees an operating table with photographs on a monitor beside it. The photos show "before" and "after" shots of Ineni Hassan. Sloane tells Jack that Hassan has been discovered living in Cuba under the name Nebseni Saad. He wants Jack to locate Hassan and kill him. Jack says he heard about Russek. Sloane says it's been a difficult week. He tells a cryptic story about a moment years before when he felt a "darkness" coming into his life. He says now when bad things come along he remembers that he foresaw it. We learn that Sloane feels he was betrayed by the CIA, but he gives no other details. Vaughn tells Sydney that Sloane discovered assan's new id even though she didn't give it to him and that Jack has been sent to Cuba. He also tells her about his own meeting with Jack before he left. Jack's countermission is to get Hassan's client list and then fake Hassan's death so SD-6 will be convinced Jack carried out his mission. Jack says it's a mistake to trust Hassan. Vaughn tells Jack he believes that Jack set Russek up to save Sydney, and Jack confirms it, but tells Vaughn to decline the next time he's asked to work with Jack. Will sees the gift sack Vaughn gave Sydney and comments on it. Sydney says it's from "a guy at work". Will is curious, but Sydney says the guy doesn't like her the way Jenny likes Will. Will beats a retreat to the kitchen, where Francie questions him about "you and the little cheerleader." Will says it doesn't mean anything. In the bedroom, Sydney unwraps Vaughn's gift. It's an antique picture frame. She gets out an old picture of her with her mother to put in it, but sees a picture of her and her father as well. She looks at it for a long time. Sydney tells Vaughn about asking her father if Santa Claus was real. He told her yes, but she knew he was lying. She says she knows her father was lying when she asked if he arranged Russek's death. Vaughn says Russek got what he deserved. Sydney doesn't think her father should have made that decision, but Vaughn asks what she would have done if it had been her daughter's life on the line. Then he tells her that Jack has been taken prisoner by Hassan's men in Cuba. Sydney says to help her get to Cuba.

Act IV Will goes to visit David McNeil in prison. He asks about SD-6 and McNeil becomes very uncomfortable. He won't answer any of Will's questions. When Will says he met with Stoller and knows about McNeil's wife, McNeil gets angry and tells Will to stay away from Stoller. He slams down the visitor's phone and leaves the room. In Havana, Jack is being held at Hassan's compound. He offers Hassan a deal -- if Hassan gives Jack his client list, Jack will tell SD-6 that Hassan is dead. Hassan seems to feel that he doesn't need Jack's help. Sydney finds Hassan's compound and sneaks in, but is caught by one of the guards. Hassan tells Jack he can prove he's willing to go against SD-6. They drag Sydney into the room and tell Jack he can prove he's trustworthy by killing her. They untie him and give him a gun. He points the gun at Sydney. She stares back at him.

To be continued.


This commentary is by Adriane Saunders.

Capture and difficult choices underline Episode 10.

Sloan has Syd on a short leash, literally. Syd is tethered to a wall by a rope, in a darkened cell, awaiting torture. This is the outcome to Sloan's "We got her" call ending last week's episode. Sloan thinks Syd is the "mole" in SD-6. Interrogation follows.

No witty comments from Syd this time. Syd shows fear. This is the "real deal". Torture--and likely death at SD-6 hands are distinct possibilities. These are not the "good guys", remember. SD-6 pulls no punches.

Syd, though, does attempt the smallest of "small talk" with her about-to-be torturer. "I've seen you in the office," she tells him. "I've always wondered what you did. I guess this is what you do." Strapped to a chair, Syd eyes the instruments of torture. A huge, just filled needle, is about to be injected into her arm.

Overlapping this dread to Syd is a conversation between Sloan and another SD-6 operative, Russek. Russek was with Syd in Geneva when the "mole" transmission was intercepted by SD-6 tech expert Marshall. Now, Sloan wants to use Russek as a decoy to fool Syd into confession. Sloan wants to know the "extent of the damage done to [SD-6]" by Syd-the-mole.

What Sloan asks of Russek is not an easy task. To fool Syd, Russek has to allow himself to be bloodied. Difficult choice number one. But, worse is to come, difficult choice number two. This one is from Jack, Syd's father. To save Syd's life, Jack switches computer data. Ever the expert at covering tracks, Jack not only covers Syd's, but puts someone else in those tracks. That is Russek.

Subsequently, Russek is tortured and terminated in Syd's stead, much to her confusion. Afterall, Syd knows she is the "mole", and torture and death are to be expected. So, how come SD-6 lets her go? This Syd puzzles out with Vaughan sufficiently to suspect her father's interference.

Syd later asks Jack directly if he is responsible for Russek being ID'd as the "mole", but Jack disavows all knowledge. A lie, of course. [See HIGHLIGHTS.] And, Syd is thoughtful.

So too am I, more and more, as this episode progresses. Hard questions are asked in Episode 10. What is "right", and what is "wrong"? Syd's father, in effect, murders Russek--an "innocent" man--to save Syd, his daughter. Is that acceptable? A pragmatist might say "yes".

Vaughan does, as he tries to soothe Syd by "framing" Russek as a "villian", a long time "bad guy" for SD-6, who "got what he deserved". Never mind that Russek is killed for something he did not even do, namely, be the "mole". Difficult choices, and hard questions are asked.

And, consider the title of this week's episode, "Spirit". What is meant by that word? Essence? Intent? Mood? Frame of mind? Underlying theme? Lots of possibilities. This is a richly layered episode both in substance--and style. I consider all the possibilities. And, that is a compliment to the writers of the episode: Vanessa Taylor and J.J. Abrams.

I know when I see those names, as writers, on the credits at the start, that this week's episode will be first rate. Complex yet clear. Not only will there be puzzle perfect fits to dialogue and action, but subtlety and emotional depth will characterize the real and difficult choices offered all characters.

J.J. Abrams is the creator of Alias, and Vanessa Taylor is often listed on the credits, and in particular as scriptwriter for an earlier memorable episode called "A Broken Heart". [See Episode 04.] Kudos to both writers. And, kudos to the actors who take the ball--of a really terrific script--and run goals continuously. A good script goes a long way.

In this episode Will, as reporter, follows more "Kate Jones"/Eloise Kurtz clues. The mysterious voice on the phone has given Will a tape of Kurtz's shooting and death. With the help of a computer expert friend and lots of high tech equipment, Will learns of SD-6. "What's SD-6?" he asks aloud.

Will's follow ups and research lead to a lawyer, Robert Stoller, and to the lawyer's now imprisoned client, David McNeil--an expert in computer encryption, and the focal point of yet another mysterious death, McNeil's wife. "Curiouser, and curiouser," as they say in "Alice in Wonderland.

Will also broadens his personal horizons by launching an affair--much to Syd's surprise--with his research assistant at the newspaper. Syd stops by Will's house to apologize for her impatient words earlier. [See HIGHLIGHTS.] Syd invites Will to join her, Francie and another friend, for a trip to a lake the following week. He accepts, but he is not alone. His "assistant" comes to the door in one of his shirts, which makes for some entertaining dialogue between Syd and Will later, at the lake. But, for now, Syd is a little stunned. Her "secret admirer" is admiring someone else.

The action in this week's episode is propelled forward, as usual, with driving and suspenseful electronic beats and background music. Music on this show is definitely and distinctively "Alias".

And, as usual, Syd travels--this week from the coast of Africa to Cuba, with stops in Los Angeles in between. Her mission this week is to track down Egyptian terrorist Hassan's new identity, and location.

This takes Syd to Semba Island off the coast of Kenya, a "safe haven" for bad guys, "for a price". Crime does pay, but we all know that.

On the Island Syd masquerades convincingly as a wealthy blond in "swank sunglasses". [See HIGHLIGHTS.] By the resort's swimming pool, Syd cleverly "picks up" the room number of the forger preparing documents for Hassan. She pretends a drunken night of loud music the night before was disturbing him. A deliberately intended mistaken identity. A clever ruse.

Syd gets the room number, and with yet another high tech gadget, compliments of SD-6 Marshall, Syd gets into the forger's room. She sees passport photos and a plastic surgery setup which clues her. Hassan's is the face on the photo, and his new "alias" is the name on the passport.

A guard discovers her in the room before she can leave --a big guard. But, Syd dispatches him in short order, through guile at first, then martial arts. With one of those great, straight out, and into the gut kicks, Syd launches him backward through a door. In the debris she finds out what she needs to know, Hassan's new identity.

Back in Los Angeles, Syd tells CIA--but not SD-6, what she has learned. Sloan, however, already knows, and he has dispatched Syd's father to Cuba to cut a deal with Hassan, Hassan's life for his "client list". Jack goes to Cuba, but is captured by Hassan's men--and taken to Hassan's compound for questioning.

Jack pretends he will help Hassan escape SD-6 attentions by faking a death for Hassan. This, Jack will do in exchange for the list. Hassan wants proof Jack can be trusted, and when Syd "happens" on the scene--having come now to Jack's rescue, an opportunity for proof is presented. Hassan only knows Syd is SD-6, not that she is Jack's daughter.

So, another difficult choice confronts Jack. This choice, though difficult, has--at least in "spirt"--a certain "poetic justice". Hassan hands a loaded gun to Jack and says, "Kill her," meaning Syd. Jack slowly raises the gun to aim at Syd.

Half sprawled on the ground, Syd says nothing, but her eyes move around--looking for opportunities to change the game, and then, back to her father and the loaded gun. A difficult choice. Will Jack pull the trigger?

I have only the tiniest of glimmers how Syd and Jack will escape this conundrum. But, watching Syd's reactions--the play of emotion across her face and in her eyes, I am struck again by what an expressive face this actress has--Jennifer Garner. Garner, as Sydney Bristow, is an unrelentingly believable and engaging double agent.

Whatever else is true of Alias, and this episode, watching is definitely not a "difficult choice". How could I not? More, more! Author, author! Bravo, Alias!


1--SYD'S EYE FOR A LIE: A bloodied Russek, thrown into the cell with Syd, tries to convince her SD-6 will kill him if she does not confess. "Do you believe them?" Syd asks twice, watching his face closely. His eratic blinks give Russek away to Syd. Clever girl. Syd is perceptive, attentive to detail--and certainly, among her "many skills", reading expression accurately is included. And, her "ear" is as good as her "eye". Suspecting her father is responsible for Russek's imprisonment and torture in her place, Syd says, "You didn't." "Of course not," Jack answers. But Syd knows by the flat, expressionless voice he uses, that he lies. She knew, as a child, when her father was not telling the truth. His voice tipped Syd every time.

2--SLOAN EXTENDS HIS HANDS TO SYD: After Syd's release from the SD-6 torture chamber, and her exoneration from blame as a "mole", Sloan--in his office, says, "Sydney, I never thought you would betray us. And, when I learned Russek was the mole, I felt vindicated." He then stands, and walks around his desk to extend his hands to Syd. I could hardly believe my reaction to this gesture: Revulsion. I guess Sloan [Ron Rifkin] has been a very convincing villian to this point. All I can think is "this guy is deadly! Syd's not really going to take hold of his hands!" Yuk! But, after a long hesitation, Syd does. A surprising moment.

3--VAUGHAN'S GIFT TO SYD: Syd says to Vaughan, "Sorry I called you again. I just needed to talk to you." And, Vaughan--to my loud cheers, says, "You don't ever need to apologize for calling me." What are friends for, afterall? And, more and more clearly, Vaughan is a "friend". I love the "spirit" (to borrow a phrase from the title of this week's episode) of Vaughan and Syd's friendship--and interactions, the smiles, the subtlety, and the sometimes almost shyness shown between the two. When Vaughan gives her a small gift he found for her in an antique shop, he says, "If you don't like it, don't tell me." Syd smiles and says, "OK, I won't."

4--SLOAN'S DARKNESS: Another Sloan surprise in this week's episode is Sloan's soliloquy about a "darkness coming". He remembers feelings on his first day as an agent, long before any events had occurred in his life to draw such a feeling. Hmmm..."To be or not to be, that is the question." Is Hamlet working in SD-6. If not Hamlet, for sure Sloan is no ordinary cardboard cutout villian. This guy has thoughts and depths unimagined, until now. Sloan says to Jack, who is listening to Sloan's remembrances, "When life takes an unfortunate turn, I just remind myself I could see it coming." Whatever else can be said of Sloan, he definitely does not avoid responsibility for his choices, nor does he take any of his actions lightly. I am amazed.

5--SYD'S SLIP OF THE TONGUE: As Syd is "beeped" yet again, in the midst of a gathering of friends, to report to her job at the "bank", Syd says in exasperation to Will--who is trying to talk her out of going, "If you knew what I dealt with every day, you might even thank me!" "What is she talking about?" Will asks aloud to the others in the room. "Forget about it," Syd responds, as she leaves. A good idea, that. Will bugs Syd so much about her job, I am only surprised that no "slip of the tongue" has occurred before now. A pat on the back to Syd for her long restraint.

6--SWANK SUNGLASSES: On the Island near Kenya Syd's "alias" includes sunglasses, described by SD-6 tech expert Marshall as "swank". These sunglasses take pictures with a telephoto lense, while in use. Syd just looks, sees her shot, and clicks the frame. Wow! Cool! Can I get a pair of these on e-Bay? For a commercial artist--like myself--such glasses are a reference and technical dream! I could save myself so many sketches!

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