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On TV Today's Date:

original air-date: 11-30-03

Be Kind. Rewind: Jack, Vaughn, Lauren, and Sloane teamed up to extract Sydney from NSC custody.

What do you get when you throw in a drugged up doctor, his wacky assistant, and a whole lot of symbolism in an episode of Alias? One really messed up, yet oddly satisfying hour of television.

Any time a TV show decides to do an episode that largely focuses on dreams, they run the risk of having the hour turn into an absurd waste of time that does nothing to drive the plot of the series forward. Conscious managed to avoid this by checking Sydney's dream state with outside events and by adding some humor to the story courtesy of one nutty professor, played by David Cronenberg.

This guy far surpasses the boundaries of weirdness, but the free-loving Doc who likes to serve up cocktails containing Ecstasy to get his patients to access their lost memories was just what this episode needed to balance out the heavy handed subject matter. After watching the episode twice, I still don't understand the science the writers threw in to back up this guy's experiment, but I figure I don't understand science anyway and this is Alias, so I'll have to let it slide.

The professor's Mary-Anne like student/assistant/lover was also a barrel of laughs, trying to touch everyone in sight and talking about parrots. Her flighty behavior indicates that the good doctor may have used her as a lab rat one too many times, but all in all she was a blast to watch.

The dreams/memories that Sydney explored during the episode were the highlight of the hour. There was a lot of stuff that made no sense whatsoever, and then there were some symbols that are worth pondering if you're an obsessive fan and have nothing better to do.

With that in mind, I decided to look up St. Aidan, which was what was written on the birthday cake Sydney cut and was the name of the car she was riding in while she was dreaming. Research tells us that St. Aidan was an Irish monk who's celebrated on August 31st every year. What this has to do with anything I can't rightly make out yet, but since it was mentioned twice we can be sure that it will appear again at some later date.

Another interesting thing to note is that the door that Sydney was trying to get through during the entire episode was marked 47. Page 47 was an episode title from the first season that dealt with a page from the Rambaldi manuscript that had a sketch of a woman resembling Sydney and the prophecy that says that the woman depicted will "render the greatest power," blah, blah, blah… Basically it said she'd use Rambaldi's work to destroy the world. This could be me reading too much into this, but considering the way the writers of this show like to play with viewers' minds, I'm willing to bet that it's significant in one way or another.

As for the visuals that we got during the dream sequences, they were cool as hell. Of course, I will now forever be afraid to cut into a birthday cake for fear that it will leak blood, but putting that aside, the visuals rocked. These scenes, which included seeing three Sydney's appear on the stairs while chasing after a gurney and shifting from Spy Girl lip locking lips with Vaughn to trading spit with Sloane, gave the episode a creepy feeling that fit perfectly.

Other excellent moments from Conscious included Syd decking Lauren, Jack calling Vaughn spineless, and Lindsey asking Sloane to eliminate Sydney.

By balancing the dreams with other events, such as the discovery of Lazeray's hand, which clears Sydney of his murder, this episode was able to work where other shows that spend an episode in a character's unconscious have failed. This episode actually moved the plot forward, gave us some answers, and left us with more questions. Most other shows' "dream" episodes are usually misguided attempts at something deeply creative that never quite gels with the basic narrative.

But this episode worked well and left off just where it should have: with a cliffhanger that has us wishing Sunday would hurry up and get here so we can see what happens next.

Rebecca Sparling

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