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On TV Today's Date:

original air-date: 03-14-04

Be Kind. Rewind: Lauren and Sark hooked up and Sloane told Dr. Barrett that it's possible that he could be Sydney's dad.

This week's Alias finally had the one thing that the last few episodes have lacked; an interesting plotline that isn't just an excuse to throw various characters together in a room. Novel idea. They should use it more often.

All kidding aside, "Façade" was an action packed episode with just enough twists and turns to make the viewer feel like they were watching an actual spy-drama, rather than the soap opera we have been subjected to recently.

One really great thing about this episode was that, for once, they touted a guest star that actually lived up to all the hype surrounding him. Ricky Gervais (Golden Globe winner for BBC's The Office) portrayed Daniel Ryan, a next-gen bomb maker whose products are really hard to defuse. Ryan is supposedly out to make a deal with The Covenant, but as the episode progresses, we find that his intentions are more personal than professional.

There's nothing flashy about Gervais, he is not as wacky as Quentin Tarantino or as good-looking as Ethan Hawke, but he does something that neither of them could; make the viewer feel like they are watching a fleshed out character instead of a big name guest star just going through the motions. One could argue that this is possible because Gervais isn't that big of a name over here and his lower star status allows the us to focus more on the character than the actor. However, I like to think that this performance worked so well because Gervais is simply a good actor who managed to say more about his character with just a few looks than most of the regulars did after entire lines of dialogue. Chalk it up to what you will, but the bottom line is that this guy was great.

Of course, it didn't hurt that Gervais got to work with one of the best scripts that we've seen this season. While the opening in Belfast, (a nod to St. Patty's Day perhaps?), was kind of slow, the episode picked up as soon as the CIA moved in to take Ryan into custody. Tricking Ryan into believing that the CIA was really the Covenant was an interesting idea that led to some great moments in the episode.

Vaughn actually got to do a little acting here, and though the Boy Scout wasn't nearly menacing enough to make a believable Sark, he pulled off the accent pretty well and it was fun to see someone other than Sydney involved in the role playing game. Also, when the real Sark got involved later in the episode, it was amusing to watch Vaughn work with the guy that is secretly sleeping with his traitorous wife. I was expecting Sark to throw in a smart assed comment about Vaughn's marriage somewhere, but, sadly, that didn't happen. However, seeing Marshall's eyes bug out of his head when he talked Sark through defusing the bomb sort of made up it.

The use of continuity from past episodes really worked well here. They didn't just bring up some obscure reference from an episode that no one remembers and has nothing to do with the current plotline. They managed to tie in a detail that not only helped this story to move along, but also brought what has been the main focus of the show for this season, Sydney's missing time spent in Covenant custody, back into the foreground without making it seem like they were trying too hard.

Jack was, as usual, a fantastic son of a bitch when he strangled and then revived Ryan in order to get the man to give up the codes to diffuse the bombs. Hey, desperate times call for desperate measures and Jack is always willing to step up to the plate, using just the right amount of violence to get the job done. Basically, he rocks.

The only really off moment in the entire episode occurred when Sydney called Sloane to get information on Ryan, and we saw him sharing a post-coital embrace with Dr. Barnett. Last week he's telling her that he could be Spy Girl's daddy and now they're shacking up? Hopefully, this will be explained a bit better in a future episode, because I can't really wrap my brain around what these two are doing together right now.

Basically, this episode came off as well as it did because the writers went back to the formula that worked so well for them in Season One: write a story that fits into the overarching theme of the season while still managing to keep the viewer on the edge of their sofa during every commercial break. Keeping us guessing is a good thing. It'll get us to tune in for reasons that don't involve seeing what crazy outfit/hairpiece they'll decided to put Ms. Garner in next week.


Rebecca Sparling

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