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original air-date: 01-05-05
Be Kind. Rewind: In the season finale, so many moons ago, Lauren bit the dust, but not before giving Sydney a clue leading her to a safe deposit box that contained information regarding something bad (at least according to the look on SpyGirl’s face) that Jack authorized.

Okay, so I was wrong about that whole Desperate Housewives thing. How was I supposed to know that millions of Americans would find the lives of four bitchy, middle class white women who have too much time on their hands and apparently no real jobs all that exciting? Now that I think about it, forget I asked that. This is a country where we broadcast shows like Who’s Your Daddy?, so I guess there is no limit to how low standards for entertainment can go.

However, a new year has brought us a new season of our favorite spy-drama on a brand-new night. Moving Alias to Wednesdays at 9pm after creator J.J. Abrams’ new hit Lost was a smart move on the part of ABC, whose execs seem to hope that new viewers will stay tuned to witness the further adventures of Sydney Bristow.

Of course, the only problem with that is that Alias has never been a show that you can just jump right into without having some knowledge of the show’s mythology. But it seems that with the start of season four, Abrams and crew are cleaning house by getting rid of some plotlines, not to mention characters, and starting fresh. Thankfully, this was done without jumping ahead two years in the story or anything weird like that.

That’s not to say that this new beginning doesn’t have a few rough patches that it will have to get over, such as the revelation of what was on the documents that Syd discovered in the season finale. Much to the dismay of this viewer, and I’m sure many others, it was revealed that the document was an authorization for the assassination of SpyMommy, Irina Derevko, carried out by one Jack Bristow, thus causing even more friction between father and daughter. Of course, we later learn that SpyDaddy only did it because Irina had taken out a contract on Sydney’s life.

Why she did that? No idea, but I’m guessing that Abrams and Co. decided that they were never going to get the lovely Ms. Olin to return to the series, so they killed off her character so they wouldn’t have to have lame scenes where Jack contacts her over Instant Messenger like they did last season.

While this twist does have a certain element of suckiness about it, it allows Nadia to have some purpose on the show (she’s sworn revenge against the person that killed the mother she never met!) and I’m sure that Sydney will be tormented about why her mother would want her dead for a good long while. And, though this is little consolation to those that loved the character, no one’s ever really dead on a show like this. There are always ways that they can come back, even if they are convoluted and make no sense logically. So, let that keep you warm at night as you mourn this loss.

The two-hour premiere, of course, dealt with more than just the loss of mommy dearest. In a clever move by Abrams, all the main characters (except Weiss) have been removed from their regular jobs at the CIA and placed in a special Black Ops program run by everyone’s favorite guy, Sloane. Of course, guest star Angela Bassett as Director Chase didn’t mention this to any of them before they agreed to sign up, but low and behold, like in seasons one and two everyone’s working for Sloane and the focus is back to the investigation of the week with the big question being, what outfit will they put Sydney in this Wednesday?

And really, there isn’t anything wrong with that. The fun, action movie, outlandish feeling of the show was a major part of its appeal in the beginning and that got lost last year amidst all of the Rambaldi lore and the Covenant crap. Abrams seems to have realized this and it shows in this episode. Rambaldi was, thank the gods above, mentioned only once, and they even paid homage to the costume of the week joke by flashing images of Ms. Garner in previous funky fashions during the opening credits.

Like I said before, this retooling doesn’t mean that everything is going to be all fun and games. Even with the wifey gone, Vaughn and Sydney are still not the Ben and Jen that they once were. There’s no sense of fulfillment now that they are finally together again, only a feeling of: where did the spark go? Could the off-screen termination of a certain relationship have had an effect on the on-screen duo’s chemistry? This is probably not the case. It’s just merely time for there to be other people in these characters’ lives, and I know that SpyGirl/Boyscout fans don’t want to hear this, but it’s time to move on. There’s just not much more you can do with these two and still keep things interesting.

Some praise should be given to the special effects team and the stunt coordinators on this episode. For once, the death of a nameless henchman was not only enjoyable, but it actually looked believable instead of having that green-screen feeling about it. Also, the fight scenes on the train were exciting and well done. For once, our respective protagonists didn’t take out the bad guys with one well-placed punch. They had to work for it and Vaughn even exclaimed, “Are you kidding me?” after hitting his attacker numerous times without having all that much effect on him.

I could end this review by complaining about that whole start the episode in one place then go back 72 hours in time and then show us the same footage all over again thirty minutes later thing, but I shall refrain. I am sure that between now and May the producers will give me the chance to rant about it again.

For now, I will simply say that this season seems to be starting out in the right direction and hope that the writers listen to their friendly GPS navigation lady and stay on course.

Rebecca Sparling

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