Alias (“Masquerade”)

Season 1, Episode 18
Date of airing: April 7, 2002 (ABC)
Nielsen ratings information: 10.5 million viewers, 6.7/10 in Households

I think this episode is the best example why a romantic relationship on ALIAS probably would never work that well, which mean Sydney and Vaughn would never be able to happen without looking a little ridiculous, because it would always be in the way of other stuff the writers seem to be more interested in than the human drama of the premise. AIAS is spy-fiction, and while those are allowed to have romantic stories developing in the characters’ lives, it kind of didn’t fit the already established show in this very episode. This episode was not the best, and it gets even a little worse for someone like me, who has read some of the prequel novels that came with the show, in which Noah was a central character, who was nothing more than the sexy and mysterious superior and only n the story to give Sydney some heart flattering every once in a while. You have to know I was so into ALIAS when it premiered on German television, I bought the novels — some were released in German, but others weren’t, so I had to import those from England, which is probably the first thing I ever imported from another country. Knowing the back story developed for the novels, it doesn’t really make this episode fly, but even without the back story from the novels, this episode felt like the sequel to a teen romance ALIAS never had, in which romance and the obvious sex at the end of the episode were born before the plot of the episode was. Which begs the question: Did the writers come up with Sydney having sex at the end before they started breaking this episode?

Lie detector tests never work when the questionnaire creates this angry face.

It wasn’t really the best of hours, but at least it was straight-forward. It was mostly about Sydney and Noah, and it pushed everything else into the back seats, considering this episode was supposed to be all about hearts and romantic, as if this was an episode originally set on Valentine’s Day, showing that Sydney can be full of love as well an can still have sex after the brutal slaughter of her fiancé. I didn’t really care about Noah being her love interest, and he would have been a better character, if he would have been treated as a real agent of SD-6, but his cool attitude and platitudes were so on-the-nose, it made me wonder if the guy was ever someone else for the writers than just Sydney’s love interest suddenly getting back into her life again. Yes, there were the prequel novels, but was he ever more than just a plot device for Sydney’s love life that was essentially dead before this episode began?

Apart from all that, Noah was at least a light and sometimes funny character. His “debriefing” with McCullough was amusing, when Noah mentioned that the K-Directorate were listening into their conversation right now. It’s always a solid effort to have a little comedy in the program, even though it never really fits and the show isn’t known for comedy. But Noah being treated as the love interest from the past only makes his character almost entirely useless, as he was the character plot device for Sydney to deal with something else than just her missions and get her head away from her mother for a few seconds. As if Noah was an obstacle in Sydney’s story to find out more about her mother. As if he was put into the show to prolong Sydney’s search for her mother, although you could think that Sloane would try and do the same by telling her lies about Khasinau being her mother’s KGB superior.

One forgotten storyline is the counterfeit page 47. Two episodes ago, before Sloane went to London to shoot one of his Alliance friends, he wanted to speak to Sydney about the counterfeit page. At this point though, the story has gotten lost in Mandyville, and there is quite the chance that it will never recover itself or find a way back into the narrative. The story was killed from the show, because too much has happened over the course of the previous two episodes, there didn’t even seem time to think about a counterfeit page in the biggest and most mysterious book of the world which is also being used as a plot device. That makes me a little disappointed in the writers, because Sloane wanting to “talk to” Sydney two episodes ago was about to open up a new storyline threatening the characters involved in the double agent business. Which might have even been a story the writers had planned after the Tarantino two-parter, yet they chickened out and dropped the plot like a hot rod.

Cracked helmets make you freeze to death.

On the other side of Los Angeles, Francie and Will find a ticket to Italy and wonder out loud if something is wrong with Sydney. So, Sloane’s suspicions about Sydney get squashed, but that doesn’t mean Sydney still has to explain herself later as soon as her friends will speak to her about the ticket to Italy. Also, I can’t imagine that Sydney would forget her return ticket in her jacket pocket, after Will almost made her Kate Jones alias in the first half of the season, which was about to freak Sydney out and should have given her a look at what could happen if she isn’t careful with her aliases. Convenient plot device is convenient, and probably just another way to bring Will back into his story of investigating SD-6. Because maybe that story has been gone for a little too long now…

Also, Sydney’s search for her mother confused me. During the mission with Noah, she was looking in the database about her mother, and entered her real name Irina Derevko. Since that name has never been established in the show, it can only mean she learned it from the CIA (maybe Sloane). With her mother’s real name alone, Sydney could have figured out some stuff, because I’m almost sure the KGB still has some records, especially when the CIA is involved, and especially now that the Soviet Union doesn’t exist anymore, which means a few spies may have gotten some of the intel over the Atlantic Ocean. Trying to find out about your KGB assassin mother should actually be easy, especially when SD-6 (or the CIA) decides to get a recon mission going, although I’m also sure no one is really giving a damn about the past and their realization that Irina was still alive. The CIA panel 20 years ago realized that and they did … nothing? Why would they do nothing about a KGB agent who betrayed them? Were they so shocked to find out that Laura Bristow was really just a KGB agent that they couldn’t even move their asses out of their seats? In addition, now that Vaughn was kind of affected by Sydney’s mother’s activities 20 years ago right before the Tarantino two-parter, finally knowing who killed his father, it’s now Jack who is affected by the information that his ex-wife is still alive. The only one not dealing with this information is Sydney, which might be interesting, but only because she decides to look directly for her mother, and doesn’t wait to get told not to do that. That’s how she is dealing with the revelation.

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