Alias (“Almost Thirty Years”)

Season 1, Episode 22
Date of airing: May 12, 2002 (ABC)
Nielsen ratings information: 11.3 million viewers, 6.5/10 in Households, 5.1/12 with Adults 18-49

So, this was the season finale, eh? I don’t really know what to say about it, because there was a lot happening, and a lot was also cut down to make room for stuff I didn’t quite care about. Sydney is not out of school, since she didn’t decide to drop the classes and probably hasn’t given up on her dream of becoming a teacher, yet her school adventures are completely forgotten by now. Francie is practically just a side note in Sydney’s life at this point of the show, but a side note who has decided to open up a restaurant. And generally speaking, Sydney doesn’t seem to have a private life anymore, since anything is defined by her work for SD-6 and the CIA. In recent episodes, she did a lot of double work, doing missions for SD-6 and countermissions for the CIA

Still, it was a good episode, but not really much of a season finale, despite a minor part of the characters hanging by a threat here, creating metaphorical cliffhangers. With the exception of Will, who got rescued, and Jack, who got hugged, characters have been placed in front of a crossroad (yes, even Francie, who wants to open a restaurant), which I kind of found interesting, because the previous episodes were all about pushing Will straight into danger and having the narrative be all about him and his rescue. In a way, it could almost be hilarious that Will is the one who gets the “happy end” at the end of the episode and that his story was the only one finding something of a resolution here. Except of course the thing with the article he left behind in Los Angeles, which is about to be published.

She gets the story of a lifetime, ad it will most likely kill her.

The cliffhangers feel a little forced though, thanks in part to the fact that this is the season finale. Dixon’s story in this episode looked like it could have come much earlier to screw up Sydney’s life, but as expected, Dixon was only allowed to remember the Argentina mishap, which happened more than half a season ago, in this episode, just so it can be a tense cliffhanger. I am wondering if the writers knew they would use that back story to close the season with when they wrote the Argentina mission, or if it came to the writers late in the season, realizing they need something involving Dixon and that arc was essentially left behind. I can accept his distrust of Sydney after realizing or remembering her unsanctioned code name during the Argentina mission, but it seems a hell of a lot convenient that Dixon remembered it now and not a week or two after he got out of his little coma after getting riddled with bullets sponsored by the K-Directorate. Still, the writers gave themselves a choice whether to change the premise of the second season via Dixon’s decision: If Dixon reports her, Sydney’s cover is blown, the series arc is blown wide open, and the second season would be entirely different in its set-up. If Dixon doesn’t report her, this whole scene at the beach could backfire on Dixon, which changes his character arc and may even become the catalyst for him becoming more of a central figure in the show. He was a boring character so far, because he follows the rules, doesn’t question orders, and has something of a normal life with family and friends. That is all about to change now because of his decision to follow Sydney to the pier and confronting her.

Sloane’s troubles with Emily were okay. It’s great that he told her everything about SD-6 (because maybe Sloane really loves his wife, and before he kills her he tells her the truth and nothing but the truth), but I didn’t really get why she would still hang around with her husband after that. The dinner scene felt like as if nothing has happened between the two, as if the conversation between the two was forgotten or Emily accepted everything about her evil husband. The dinner scene became all about Sloane trying to kill his wife, because he favors a seat with the partners on the Alliance table more than he does his wife (so, he doesn’t really love his wife?), which is a kind of awkward position to put your biggest series antagonist in, because wouldn’t this part of the show be the time to make the decision whether to make Sloane truly evil or not? Is that gonna happen by letting him make the decision on Emily’s fate? If the Alliance forces Sloane to kill Emily because he objects, wouldn’t that make Sloane the enemy of the Alliance, and Sloane and Sydney suddenly were fighting the same fight? Things are really about to become intriguingly awkward for the next season.

What a shame that the mole hunt within the CIA was never really a story though. First of all, I don’t get how Jack realized that Haladki is the mole. The whole circumference name drop seemed too random to me to make Jack think that Haladki works for Khasinau, and in addition to that, I don’t even know why Jack would give Will intel about the circumference, when he heard it from an unsubstantiated report coming into the CIA, when the circumference could have been about anything. Also, why would Sark and Khasinau try to find out what the circumference is when they already built the entire thing? Did they build it without knowing what it is or what it does, what the great red ball means and what powers it can have? Does it mean Khasinau had a device built, spent money on it without knowing what it does? Damn, if I were a scientist, I would love to work for Khasinau, simply because they guy throws money into projects without knowing their value or tasks. You could save world hunger or beat cancer and AIDS with the help of Khasinau’s hunger for spending money on projects. Yeah, convenient storytelling is a bit convenient here, but at least it led to Haladki getting killed off. The bitch was always annoying, because he was written like the asshole everybody hates, who had to know more than you do, which made him a freaking dick. Jack killing him in rage and cold blood was kick-ass, and he should do that more often to people who threaten the status of his daughter. That is usually a scene you don’t see much in television, outside of hard spy action and 24. With the CIA mole hunt being a bigger story for the last couple of episodes, Haladki’s death would have had a better meaning though. In the final version, Jack killed Haladki, because he risked Sydney’s life. That’s pure old-fashioned revenge. And the CIA probably won’t care, because why would anyone want to investigate the murder of a CIA mole? And why would we care about the CIA mole hunt now? Will Jack have to pay for this murder in the second season?

Cool secret agents don’t look at explosions. They run from them.

Will’s program of physical torture was also nice. I hate the dentist because of ALIAS (thank you for that, J.J. Abrams!), but I smiled when the man in suit and glasses came back to look at Will’s teeth, even treating them to a nice cavity removal (I would have said “Thanks for taking care of that for me, doc,” but only because I would be too scared to cry for my life). Also, Will jumping on the suit guy was awesome. Like Jack, Will can do the revenge thing as well, although maybe he was a little too much on adrenaline and all that stuff, considering his repeated “one out of five, ” which is just one quick way to say “Fuck you, asshole,” only without using the expletives. And yeah, I almost teared up when Will hugged Jack after the successful switch. It was like a miniature father/son moment, especially when Jack answered that hug with his hand on Will’s back, which was almost cute. Jack was almost not ready to handle this display of affection.

And finally, there is Sydney and her almost one-woman show in Taipei. It was nice to see that Vaughn decided to jump on the train as well, and make amends with Sydney and not forget that Sydney and Vaughn are partners in all of this. The mission itself was mostly defined by rescuing Will anyway, so I didn’t really care about Sydney finding the (bigger) circumference, the red ball of water, and her being stunned about the size of it. Not much of a twist, because I really didn’t care, even if it conveniently led to Vaughn’s cliffhanger ending. By the way, it seemed weird that a somewhat big ball (but not too big) was able to produce this much water to flood an entire hallway, almost knocking out Vaughn cold. Does it mean the laboratory was flooded as well? Is the circumference really just the Abrams version of Pym particles, considering how much water there had to be in that red ball? Is the whole device a way to store molecules and stack them together in a small space, before they can be blown up into something bigger? Is it a doomsday device?

And finally, the real cliffhanger of the show, which is basically just a reveal. The writers definitely worked towards revealing Irina Derevko as the Man, or at least as being alive right in front of Sydney. It took the writers eleven episodes to state that she was a KGB assassin. Another six episodes to let the viewers and characters know that she might still be alive. And five episodes later, we actually get to see her silhouette and hear her speak in a fake Russian accent well done by casting director April Webster. That’s one of the slowest ways to bring a twist into the show, and considering all the other twists, respect has to be paid for the writers giving this much time to the final reveal of the season. One thing the writers knew they wanted to do, and they had the patience to wait until the end for the reveal. For that I raise my body and put my hands together repeatedly, which I thing you call “clapping.”

Alias (“Rendezvous”)

Season 1, Episode 21
Date of airing: May 5, 2002 (ABC)
Nielsen ratings information: 8.1 million viewers, 5.0/8 in Households

This was a really good episode. A lot of stuff was happening, a lot of revelations were twisted into the story, a little game changer was put into the episode midway through, antagonists were actually threatening for a change, and this episode great cliffhanger, even if it is a bit of a confusing one — I’m not sure if the writers wanted to make it look like Will was killed, but there is no way that Will was killed, after Jack repeatedly told him that Will was too important to be killed right now, and this would kind of be the wrong episode to kill off the character, right after he learned the truth about Sydney, which opens up so many story possibilities. Anyway, every episode of ALIAS should be like this one, and not just because the mission in Paris was more than just part of the episode’s narrative, thanks to Will’s involvement in it (but don’t think about it too hard, or you might find yourself in a bath full of plot inconsistencies), let alone Sydney’s undercover duties at the club. When she started to sing and seductively dance around Sark and Khasinau, I had one the proudest moment of my life in that second. Sydney was exquisite in that scene, and Jennifer Garner was wonderfully flirtatious, even if it was all just show, and even though I maybe should not think of Garner as that type of actress in this episode. But when a moment brings me joy, I shall mention it.

This is a pretentious way of drinking a glass of wine.

So, SD-6 had Sark, because Vaughn decided to save Sydney from Dixon. Well, you can see it from both sides: It’s a bit of a convenient twist, since SD-6 was the party who gets out of Denpasar with all the good stuff, and the CIA usually comes home empty-handed. It was also the twist that led SD-6 to a conveniency in the plot, which involved a second blank Rambaldi page, because apparently everything comes in doubles these days — the liquid to make invisible ink visible, and blank Rambaldi journal pages, because why the hell not, right? I’m actually surprised that Sloane forgot all about the original page 47 which he did not have and needed to see Sydney about, which is a story that got mysteriously dropped over the course of the past few episodes. In addition, the CIA, as repetitive as they are, told Sydney to exchange the blank page with a counterfeit. And like Sloane forgetting about the counterfeit page 47 which he sent to Germany for analysis, the writers made Sydney’s countermission useless in this episode, as she wasn’t even close to even switch the blank pages, thanks to Will’s sudden involvement. At least Vaughn was mentioning the fact that the CIA lost this Rambaldi artifact, making him less forgetting than Sloane is. It’s kind of weird and laughable that the writers dropped and conveniently forgot an important story, and were about to remake it five episodes later, just to drop it again right after it was introduced. Those are signs of ALIAS not being one of the better written television dramas out there.

Anyway, the first conversation between Sloane and Sark was good. There was some nice tension in it, and it always seemed that Sark had the upper hand not just during his kidnapping, but in fact during his kidnapping and during the SD-6 operation in Paris. Sark practically knew what would happen, and he always had a contingency plan, making him a professional among the youngsters of crime bosses, and I would love to know how he got that much experience to figure he was being tricked by Sloane. What a shame that Sark wasn’t quite involved with Will’s story, although since Sark was the one who pulled the trigger during the final seconds of the episode, chances are the two will have words next week. By the way, it seems convenient that Khasinau was Will’s source, or at least some of Khasinau’s men were. But if they were really interested in bringing down SD-6 via Will and the Bristows’ connection with the CIA (does Khasinau know that Jack and Sydney are double agents?), they could have given Will some more fodder for his story. At the end they were kind of dragging Will through the mud, not giving him any information about what story he was chasing. And despite all that, how did Khasinau know that it was Jack who kidnapped and threatened Will into stopping to follow the story? That must mean there is a mole inside SD-6, and because Sark attacked the CIA safe house it also means there is a mole within the CIA. I find that very convenient on all levels.

It’s time tog et out of this sexy night club for singers and spies.

But whatever, Will witnessing Sydney kick some French butt and save his life was neat, and Will’s shocked face was one of the golden moments of the show that can be used for a supercut if fans of the show are interested in putting those up on their favorite video-sharing website. It’s definitely a bit of a game changer in Will and Sydney’s relationship, which sort of needed to happen at one point, and it also brings Will into the series arc a bit further. He knows a few secrets now, he’s gonna be worried about his life from here on, and who knows, maybe Will has to be recruited at some point, as Vaughn fears. Wouldn’t that be both ridiculous and awesome at the same time?

Sloane and Emily’s plot was also nicely done. It must suck for him to find out that his wife’s cancer is in remission, when he has just been told that the Alliance is not going to kill his wife. That brings Sloane into an unbelievably harsh and complicated situation, and the writers created a nice little conflict for him to deal with himself. Vaughn asked Sydney if she felt sorry for Sloane, and she said no, but the viewer knows a little more, and maybe feeling conflicted about a series villain is supposed to make the experience of watching the show, following the antagonist more interesting.

In the meantime, even Dixon got something to do that led to another season finale twist setup. The way his arc began in this episode was weird though. Sloane told him in the previous episode to use necessary force to get the liquid, yet Dixon was totally not into putting bullets in people he thought to be evil. No, he had to fight hand-to-hand against Sydney in disguise, not killing anyone in the progress. Still, I’m happy to see that the writers haven’t forgotten the ninth episode, and having decided to bring “Freelancer” back into Dixon’s mind and memory. Of course the timing couldn’t be more convenient (the season finale is up next after all), but as long as it’s gonna give him the character depth he has been searching for throughout the season… Is he going to trust his partner, or will it lead to a cover blown in the season finale, leading to the next season premiere?

Alias (“The Solution”)

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?

No one would have thought that this meeting was on the schedule.

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.

He very much liked the fight and its outcome.

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.

Alias (“Snowman”)

Season 1, Episode 19
Date of airing: April 14, 2002 (ABC)
Nielsen ratings information: 7.8 million viewers, 4.9/8 in Households, 3.6/9 with Adults 18-49

This was another quite boring episode for my extremely needy soul. Noah’s arc wasn’t working for me here, because I didn’t believe that the writers were truly ready to turn their spy drama into a soap opera for two episodes by introducing a long-lost lover for Sydney, who of course had to be the villain at the end, because the show cannot do it without twists and turns and stomach-twisting episode cliffhangers. It might have ben an interesting love story, but because of the fact it needed to be connected to the spy plot and make a soap opera out of it with the help of the Snowman premise, it became a little eyesroll-worthy at times. In addition, two secret agents were humping each other, and Sloane, who doesn’t appreciate his agents fraternizing like that, isn’t doing anything about it. So much for bosses in office buildings not following the code of conduct and behavior and just let a sex relationship in his office fly by like it’s none of his business.

During the beginning of the episode I was rolling some eye for a different reason though: The extraction scene looked kind of ridiculous, and I mean it in a bad way. I can accept that Sydney and Noah can still defend themselves with guns and perfect aim while riding a bike through the woods at night when you can’t see anything, but this thing quickly turned into a game of chicken when the bike started to drive towards the truck with the Stormtrooper military men on it, and suddenly Noah and Sydney were carried into the air like this where Chris Nolan got the idea of the Chinese extraction scene in THE DARK KNIGHT. Also, when the now unmanned bike and Stormtrooper military truck finally collided, all I could think of was the 21 JUMP STREET movie: “That’s what explodes?”

First photographic evidence of Irina Derevko’s existence as a Soviet villain.

The general story of the episode wasn’t exciting either, though I was happy that Bentley Calder wasn’t forgotten and put back into the plot, even if it was just for the sake of conveniency to keep the mystery arc of Sydney’s mother alive. When his face showed up during the video footage, I was quite surprised because I was remembering him myself instantly, though it seemed obvious back then that Calder wasn’t really the FBI mole hunter to begin with. Remembering Sydney’s conversation with Calder’s wife (“He was not so nice.”) from one of the earlier episodes makes me think the writers knew what they were doing here, establishing Calder as the villain initially, and keeping him like that during his return, and also establish that in the series universe of ALIAS, KGB agents sent to America were tasked to marry Americans to continue being sleeper agents. While I have no idea why Calder needed to be a sleeper like this, when he was only indirectly involved as a supervisor to Irina’s missions, it’s kind of cool to have a back story here that would essentially turn into its very own show starring the actress who may have convinced J.J. Abrams to create ALIAS in the first place. Full circle?

Anyway, the Calder/Khasinau/Irina Derevko hunt (this time her real name was actually mentioned in a dialogue) was only partly interesting, but didn’t really take up much time, which is a good thing in this case. That Marshall was the one who found Calder was another eyesroll-worthy moment, because it was literally a plot device to bring Sydney to Australia, even though Noah should have made sure that the computer was fried and could not be used to track him to Australia. But hey, Marshall is the super duper op tech guy who can do anything his heart desires and the mission parameter dictates, so there wasn’t much weirdness in Marshall running through the office to happy tell Sloane that he has been a genius again. Those plot devices are starting to become a little annoying for me, as they seem like they were just cheap ways to bring a character from plot point A to plot point B without working too much. It showed through Sydney not fully going into what she planned to do with Calder if she happened to find him first. The episode never went into what the CIA would hope to get out of Calder, why SD-6 would be interested in interrogating him, or if Calder’s extraction was only planned and about to be executed because of Sydney’s will. Yeah, Calder could have led SD-6 to Khasinau, who was a goal, and Sydney could have played along in the hopes of finding out this way where her mother is, but I cannot think about a reason why Sydney would believe what SD-6 was planning with Calder in custody, and why SD-6 wouldn’t just kill the former spy against the United States, just so Sydney won’t get closer to her mother .

That knife in his chest hurts just a little.

The Snowman story was … weird. A villain suddenly dropped into the story, because the writers couldn’t help themselves, and for some reason they didn’t care much about the premise in general, considering the Snowman was being introduced as a killer who had been around for twelve years (or so), which means Noah was at SD-6 while also being the Snowman, meaning he had a bit of a side gig going on, which no one noticed (not even McCullough). It could have been awesome to see that SD-6 had a mole in the midst even before Sydney became aware of the apparent black ops unit of the CIA, because chances are Noah took some of the intel he gathered at SD-6 to get some of his killing done and make some extra cash this way. So many ideas came with the story, but because Noah had to die at Sydney’s hand after only two episodes, instead of maybe carrying the character for a few more episodes and have the Snowman twist hit much harder then, all of them kinda got lost and weren’t bothered with, making the Snowman plot useless. Except of course the writers only needed it to end the Sydney/Noah relationship before it had even begun, showcasing that Sydney’s love life is killer. So, was Noah lying the entire time when he talked about Tuvalu, and he knew Sydney would not want to go, which means he had an awesome cover, just in case?

The Will/Francie/plane ticket plot was also for nothing. I would have wished for Sydney to be more panicked about her friends’ discovery, and I would have wished for the story to somehow lead Will straight back into the SD-6 story he was chasing half a season ago, although I wouldn’t know how it could have been done with just a ticket to Italy. At least Sydney was panicked and shocked in private — crying in the bathroom, because once again she had to lie to her friends, signalling the similarities between how Noah explained his decision to get out of the spy business and settle down in Tuvalu, and how Sydney has been thinking about it since after the pilot.

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.

Alias (“Q and A”)

Season 1, Episode 17
Date of airing: March 17, 2002 (ABC)
Nielsen ratings information: 10.7 million viewers, 6.8/10 in Households

One third clip show, one third bottle episode, one third original storyline with revealing information and twists – I wonder why this episode was written in the first place. A clip show not even one full season into the series seems a little weird in 2002 standards, even if there is nothing weird about saving some money by creating clip show episodes and getting some more advertising money this way, without having to spend the same amount of money producing an episode of television. There is also nothing wrong about a clip show to renew audience interest in the show, as well as catch some new viewers and keep them up-to-date with the back story of the show and some of the characters, if they happened to discover it a little late than usual, especially after Jennifer Garner’s Golden Globe win, which ABC most likely saw as free marketing for the show. On the other hand, it could have all been J.J. Abrams’ choice to both make an episode for potential new viewers, but also show that clip shows don’t always have to be clip shows, and can have an original storyline as well, with twists and turns and all those shenanigans making television exciting. Jack and Vaughn trying to find out where Sydney is, as well as the final few minutes… Well, those don’t make this episode look neither like a clip show or a bottle episode. It’s both, with an original story and an action sequence, as well as another cliffhanger ending, which makes this hour just like another usual episode of ALIAS. That almost makes this an impressive episode.

Its the FBI panel with some serious questions, but also some serious mental issues, to believe in a prophecy…

Throughout the final third, the episode became surprisingly good. The Q&A session between Kendall and Sydney was certainly intriguing, although the constant interruption by clip show elements made it a bit boring at times, as I really wanted to see Sydney and the FBI figure it out with their facial expressions all of the time, and not just whenever the episode was finished with a sequence of flashback scenes. But what the interrogation did good was that it brought some background story into Sydney’s history with SD-6, which dived into more than the usual “My name is Sydney Bristow…” episode-opening introduction, as well as SD-6 itself (the origins of its name, for example) or simplifying what they actually do and what they want. Also, Kendall made a good figure as the FBI special agent — not too much like Dr. Evans in the previous episode, who made herself known as a crazy woman who wanted to be Fox Mulder not just on Halloween, but also for the other 364 days of the year. More like an easygoing, albeit serious special agent with a mission, who asks questions and wants answers, but doesn’t behave like an evil Intelligence officer with an obsession. It was a good choice to not depict Kendall like that, otherwise the questionnaire would have had a bitter taste at the end, and it would have been a repeat of the events from the last episode.

In the meantime, Vaughn and Jack trying to help Sydney on their own was a nice story, and the fact that Haladki was involved in it and had knowledge he was hiding (that kind of makes him a villain), turned out to be a sweet surprise. It brought Haladki into a different direction as a recurring character, and it is obvious that he’s not really the friendly former FBI agent, who works for the Agency now. He’s gonna be the huge stepping stone for the Bristow family and the rest of the CIA, for as long as the writers decided to keep him around and make him an issue for the CIA, especially Vaughn. Maybe there is more to the guy than just the former FBI agent with ties to the occult section of the American government, waiting to be revealed to the world as an evil businessman. After all, the Alliance must have a few sniffing noses in the actual US government (and other international governments, for that matter), just to keep a check on what’s going on in the world that doesn’t deal in black markets. Wouldn’t the Alliance want to know which black ops the CIA is actually funding? Wouldn’t that be possible with the help of a double agent for the Alliance within the Agency?

Haldaki really still wants to wear hats in the future.

Sydney’s actual escape was also nice, though this time around her looks were less than stellar. That stupid blue jogging dress brought me out of it at times, and that wig looked like it made Sydney a 40-year-old housewife on the lookout for a few packs of cigarettes and whiskey, so she can survive the nightmare of her beer-drinking, football-watching husband at home, as well as those annoying and screaming-for-dinner kids they most likely have. Thankfully the police chase led to another revelation, which will change the story from here on. Sydney driving into the ocean, Sydney staying underwater and breathing the air from the tire… Those were surprisingly tense scenes, and it was completely unexpected that Sydney was thinking about “What would Mom do?” in this situation, practically revealing that Sydney’s mom is still alive and giving an opportunity for said mother to enter the narrative and give her daughter and her ex-husband a few troubles. It’s quite an exciting story, and one that hasn’t even come out of nowhere — often Sydney has talked about her mother, how she wanted to be a teacher like her mother, and we have known for a little while now that Sydney’s mom was one hell of an evil bitch who killed a few dozen CIA officers. Now we get to learn more and more about Sydney’s mother, and the next obvious step is a reunion.

Alias (“The Prophecy”)

Season 1, Episode 16
Date of airing: March 10, 2002 (ABC)
Nielsen ratings information: 8.4 million viewers, 5.5/8 in Households

Considering what this episode was all about, it was pretty mediocre and a little too fast-paced, and almost too complicated, as the writers added the Alliance into the narrative and made it look like just another business run by men in dark conference rooms. Sure, you can’t fill the entire hour just with Sydney trying to prove that the prophecy is not about her, and you can’t fill the whole hour just showing how Sloane gets punked by Edward Poole, but the story could have at least focused pushed some of the story into the next episode, since I can’t take anything from Poole’s efforts to manipulate Sloane into killing the deciding vote, because all of it happened way too fast. Similar things can be said about the prophecy story, as the writers were just waiting to deliver the end twist, and that the DSR (and now the CIA) is considering Sydney to be the one who Rambaldi was writing about, turning Sydney into a potential villain of her own story. Besides that, this episode pretty much showcased that the CIA starts believing in prophecies now. ALIAS turned into something of a science-fiction show here, and although that isn’t a surprise, considering how far and out the show went previously, it does create a bit of a sour taste. Eventual storytelling grounded in reality have now been killed off for real, now that Sydney is smack in the middle of a freaking prophecy created 500 years ago. Is ALIAS about to turn into RELIC HUNTER with Tia Carrere, with the characters on the lookout for more Rambaldi artifacts?

A former British spy is ready to be the villain of the business.

Yes, the episode wasn’t really a highlight for me. The political side of the Alliance’s efforts to either go to war or try to broker peace with the enemy was kind of nice to see though, despite their members being old white farts resembling all the cliches of old white villains. I’m sure there are SD cells all over the world – US, London, Rome, and judging by some of the faces depicted in the dark conference room, even Japan (or China) and India – but the villainous organization didn’t have a room for a black supervillain? Bu hey, we actually saw the Alliance members for the first time in the show, even if that didn’t lead to a lot, although it’s nice to see that the writers cared at last a little bit about getting deeper into the back story of SD-6, trying to figure out if there is a story worth telling in a future episode.

It’s interesting to see how easy it seems that a guy like Khasinau (even though nothing is known about him at this stage of the show, except for his face, his name and favorite brand of cigars) can buy himself into the Alliance. As if he knew that the Alliance would have a vote, and that he could play some of the members to get the heat off of him for a little while. Khasinau knows too much, that makes him the perfect villain we don’t know anything about, and it also means he must have an inside man in the Alliance. Maybe that inside man has always been Poole, but it’s kind of hilarious that the Alliance is currently fighting with a mole inside their ranks like SD-6 has been. Sloane’s story has been a little weird for me though. Besides the fast pace it has been told with, the guy wanted revenge way too hard, not even thinking about what could happen after he pulled the trigger, not even expecting that his finger might have been pulled here. Great, he killed a member of the Alliance, but did he ever think about repercussions? If Khasinau really bought his way into the Alliance, wouldn’t Sloane be screwed if Khasinau suddenly took a seat with them? Is Sloane not in trouble, now that the Alliance lost one of their own? Is the Alliance not in trouble, ow that they lost one of their own?

Vaughn is in some sort of trouble.

Sydney’s trip through world history to proof that something is wrong with the prophecy page was okay in retrospect, but it wasn’t a story that really levelled up the episode much. The mission to Rome, to get the real codebreaker, didn’t get a lot of excitement out of me, even if it happened to be the first CIA-sanctioned mission that had Sydney and Vaughn team up, as the latter is slowly turning into a character who takes action and doesn’t just sit in offices or in debrief hideouts, because the viewers needed to be reminded that Sydney is a double agent and needs countermissions. It was great to see though that Sloane brought back the page 47 from Rambaldi’s journal, and how Sydney was switching that page very recently. With Sloane being worried that he was also punked by Sydney, the “we have a mole” story from the first half of the season could return and this time around it could look a little more dangerous for Sydney.

Now ALIAS is almost pure science-fiction, with even more mythology and mystic than ever before — and this after a little more than half a season. The thing is just that the writers never really knew how far they were going with the story, and every new twist didn’t seem to be enough for them. It’s one thing why I find the Rambaldi plot to be extremely and utterly annoying in later stages of the show. In the meantime, the introduction of Dr. Evans made sure that at least some federal agencies are being seen as a joke, which should always be the case, both in scripted television (and films), as well as real-life. Fringe science was mentioned, and the DSR was almost literally handled like a crazy party in all this mess, who gets to have the fun to investigate paranormal and supernatural events of this planet, like it’s just another episode of SUPERNATURAL or FRINGE. That might be exciting, and with the Rambaldi mythology, it might even be fitting for the show, but that’s not how ALIAS started off. It began with the execution of a fiancé, and two-thirds into the season the writers have come to create a witch hunt.