Season 1, Episode 20
Date of airing: April 21, 2002 (ABC)
Nielsen ratings information: 8.9 million viewers, 5.7/9 in Households,
This episode was pretty solid. Thank the heavens that the plot around Noah and Sydney has been kicked to the curbs of death, and didn’t leave a lasting impression past the scene with Sydney and Francie, which means that the show can continue to dwell into the things that it does best, and stay away from the idiocy that is called love (which is something I don’t get myself, because I’m such a socially anxious weirdo). I liked what I saw here and how the story developed. With one random out-of-the-blue push, Will has been dropped completely into the Intelligence business, even if he still happens to have a million of questions about what the hell is going on here. And finally, after waiting for almost a whole season, Will is right in front of the complete picture. It was about time, after he dropped the story thanks to the kidnapping, and because the season finale is around the corner, so things had to happen quickly. Still, the way his source was pushing him back on the story after this long time of Will not having worked on the story is weird. What were they waiting for, the season finale?
I had a bit of a problem about how the episode needed too much time to set up Sydney’s CIA operation, and have Sydney face both Sark and Dixon during her CIA mission, because there simply could not be an episode without that premise happening during the first season. The way SD-6 found about the second valve of magic liquid that never existed might seem a tiny bit plausible, since the writers went through the Sark route (although Edward Poole conversing with Sark seems a little off — if Poole is already friendly with Khasinau, why would Poole have to deal with him via Sark?), though it’s definitely questionable and convenient that Sloane asked Marshall to find out the second phone number now, and not weeks ago, when Poole was in the focus of the story, and Sloane knew that Poole was in beds with Khasinau and his evil cronies (besides that, I did not get how Marshall was even able to find the second phone’s number in the first place — convenient storytelling is convenient). I can accept that storytelling though, because it brought the story to the fine cliffhanger scene (of course, Sydney will find a way out without Dixon seeing her here, this much is predictable). I know time was necessary to set up the CIA operation, and to explain how SD-6 knows about the switch, but still, the story was practically waiting for the last act of the episode, so that the writers could use the Dixon/Sydney moment as a cliffhanger. A little time wasted for all the time it needed for the setup, just so the writers can finally check one of their story ideas.
Anyway, I liked the smaller stories, especially Will finding out about Jack, even though he needed the help and a major conveniency push for the sake of the story. Now that he knows though, the writers opened up possibilities for new stories, we don’t even have to wait that long until Will finds out about Sydney, having him realize that Jack lied about Sydney not being involved. Unfortunately, Jack was way too “cool” about the whole situation. When he hears that Will is in contact with a mole who knows everything, Jack thinks of Haladki. But Jack didn’t even know what Will actually knew, therefore what the source actually knew, so why is Jack thinking that the leak is within the CIA? Okay, Haladki would normally come to you first, when you threatened him with a gun before he pissed himself, but does Jack really think Haladki is clever enough to let Jack jump into a deadly trap via Will and his story of SD-6? And why hasn’t Jack thought about the possibility that the leak happens to be within SD-6, since all Will’s source is talking about is SD-6 and not the CIA? And considering that Will was on SD-6’s radar for a while now, wouldn’t that be the most logical choice, that maybe Will’s source is someone who wants to wish harm on SD-6? Putting Haladki in the middle of this seems like another major convenience for the writers.
But whatever, it was a nice moment when Will sat down with Jack, had a beer, and told him his version of the story, as well as the fact that Will has already written the story for the paper, all while being scared shitless. Will having the leverage of the already written article was a bit convenient as well though, but in this case it’s simply necessary, so that the writers don’t have to worry about the logistics of placing Will back into the story, after he had been in and out and in and out and in and out again. But I don’t really know if all the information he gathered is worthy of an article. Let’s just say it this way: The viewers know everything, but they also know every detail that Will knows, and there isn’t a coherent article with the information Will knows, because he doesn’t have solid proof. He has coincidences and circumstantial evidence, and he can definitely feed the fans of paranoia and conspiracies with his article, while the actual government agencies could simply and easily deny the article and brand it as fake.
Sloane’s private problems were also fine. Finally he’s going through what Sydney was going through in the pilot, and the story was actually good enough to feel sorry for Sloane again, after his finger got lost in the Tarantino two-parter. His efforts to appeal for decency in this case, and let Emily die from her cancer, and not from a bullet in her body, were some nicely done character work, and it showed Sloane from a different side again, even if the writers were unable to put a contrast into the story, and have the viewers compare it with Sydney’s situation in the pilot. Anyway, it’s nice to see that the writers haven’t forgotten that Sloane is just a human being as well, that he has somebody to love, that somebody loves him, that he would fight for his love. It’s a different version of a series antagonist for sure, but until now the writers haven’t really gone that far. It’s a solid development, although I’m not feeling sorry for Sloane at all. He is still the supervillain in all of this.