Season 1, Episode 6
Date of airing: November 18, 2001 (ABC)
Nielsen ratings information: 9.2 million viewers, 6.1/9 in Households, 4.1/9 with Adults 18-49
Tell me when a stand-in actor actually had an “important” role in a TV show before. Okay, Nancy Wetzel didn’t have much of an important role here, but she had a speaking part (even if it was just one word). It’s always interesting to note that stand-ins get some actual dialogue action in the shows they stand in for, and I believe it needed to be mentioned here, since ALIAS is somewhat more of a drastic example here. This show and Disney Channel’s LIV AND MADDIE, who used the stand-ins for Dove Cameron’s twin characters and for the characters of Linda and Heather later on, which happened to be the names of two co-producers of the show.
Anyway, this was a good episode. Not as overly complex and heavy on the story as the last one (which is always a good thing), but not really interesting either, after the cliffhangers from the previous episode always make the rest of the episode look a lot more different than it might have looked like at the beginning — as if the writers wanted something similar for ALIAS like the first minutes of THE SIMPSONS, whose episodes always start in a complete unrelated manner to the actual story of the episode, but at one point serves as the setup to the story. Same goes with the mission briefings in the show, which are starting to annoy me a little, like the greeting card that was handed to both Sydney and Dixon in this episode. A Smiley Happy Birthday card with annoying music that would have riled me up already just sitting there and having to listen to Sloane talk — yeah, it’s not really something I would love to see ever again in the show, but at least it was the lead to the cool mission in London. And the cool mission in London brings Sydney to Bucharest, as SD-6 chose to find out where a dead person is buried. Sometimes I think that the actual missions and how they are set up in this show are completely random, and even the mission briefs seem to be. A singing happy birthday card leads Sydney into a mental institution? There must be a lot of coincidences at play.
But whatever, like I said the mission in London was cool. I was almost laughing when Dixon brought out his cigar and started to smoke in the middle of the art gallery, or how everybody reacted to him smoking (coughing, watching in shock and disgust, only the art gallery owner didn’t give a damn, because he was smelling dollar bills, y’all). I was even more laughing, when Sydney came back and acted like the innocent rich girl that voice and accent made her out to be, and she and Dixon just walked out of it like they just bought the building for real and decided they don’t like it, so off they go to burn a little more money. That reminds me of all kinds of rich spoiled brats, and the scene was a nice little moment of comedy — moments the show needs more often, although I have no idea if some of the serious drama can be kept when one of the characters happened to have a funny bone, and isn’t as awkward as Marshall is most of the times.
This time, the mission in Bucharest is actually built for little screw-ups mountain to a snowball turning into an avalanche. It was the first mission of the show, which really looks like it brought Sydney into complete and actual danger, and there might not be a single way out for her, if she wouldn’t have a couple of teams on stand-by, ready to break her out of that place, if needed. A prisoner in a mental asylum, under the leadership of the K-Directorate (although this twist came literally out of nowhere, just to get to the cliffhanger of this episode and make things more gruesome and threatening for the next), Sydney completely alone, and Shepard doesn’t want to answer her questions, which makes this mission pretty much a bust — all interesting “cliffhangers” for the next episode, which will make it clear that it needs more than one act for Sydney to get out of the house and back home. On the other hand, the missions could be a little more straight-forward. Six episodes into the show, and they really feel random. Sloane wants something, we mostly don’t know why he wants that something, and it’s always Sydney and Dixon who go out to get it. As if SD-6 doesn’t have a second team (I know there was a team trying to retrieve the codebreaker from the ship, but it was nothing but a side note), and Sydney and Dixon are the only ones capable of doing anything. They basically run SD-6. It’s like the SG-1 team, which always gets the best adventures, while the other SG teams are only side mentions or redshirts. I seriously hope Sydney and Dixon get the fattest of paycheques for their hard work.
The L.A. storylines were also fine. Eloise Kurtz is on Will’s radar, and then she isn’t anymore, which looks more like holding the story for Will (so that the writers don’t go too deep into it after six episodes) than a development, but it was still interesting, because it was never to be expected that he “solves” the “Kate Jones” mystery so fast and finds out who “Kate Jones” really is. If Kurtz was hired by government “officials” though, it seems ridiculous that she was driving around in her own car, easy for everybody to get her licence plate and pull a reverse look-up, instead of giving her a government car or maybe even a rental. On the other hand, she might be a better throwaway character, if written as a loser actress, who can’t get a job and had to take the two grand, just to pull herself above the median. She might have been hired by SD-6 to throw Will off his scent or confuse him a little. And now, Will is nowhere, and he was practically nowhere over the course of the last four episodes, as all of his leads so far ran into a wall.
Meanwhile, Charlie wants to be a singer, and not break up with Francie. That was a bit of a silly plot to resolve him dancing around Rachel, and Francie thinking that he cheats on herm but it kind of puts the notion on Sydney having a normal and relatable life with her friends. But in hindsight it seems weird, and even a little alienating, since Sydney is dealing with all this spy games bullcrap, yet she also has a normal life, in which she celebrates the beginning of a musical career of her best friend’s boyfriend, and goes to a club to see him perform.
Best part of the episode: The death of the CIA agents in Badenweiler wasn’t just a random story, it happened to be an emotional arc for Vaughn. The guy we don’t know much about yet, but has to be straight and an emotion-less authority figure for the families of the fallen. I don’t know if the idea for the funeral story came randomly to the writers after breaking the previous episode, or if the Badenweiler mission was the lead to Vaughn’s story in this episode, but I must say it was a great story for the minute or two it was on. It put more importance to what the CIA does in-between manipulating their enemies.
Worst part of the episode: Charlie sings “Have a Little Faith in Me,” which he practically sings to Francie to teach her a lesson and have her thing that whatever Charlie does in relationship off-times, she should have faith in him. That’s kind of a crappy message.
Weirdest part of the episode: Since Kate Jones is one of Sydney’s aliases for SD-6 missions, why would Jack use it as her alias to board a plane to Singapore and fly to safety with Danny? SD-6 could have tracked all of Sydney’s aliases after she escaped from the company, which means they could have tracked her to Singapore and then killed her, because Jack was too stupid to realize that with the alias also comes a social security number. If it was this easy for Will to find out who “Kate Jones” really was in this episode, it would have been child’s play for SD-6 to find Sydney in Singapore.
Player of the episode: Dixon was able to pull the stunt with the cigar without getting a fist into his face. Him being black, among almost all rich white people, one might have thought that racism could easily be at play here. But Dixon was apparently too much of an authority figure here. Was it the fact that he chose to smoke a cigar and not a pipe?