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On TV Today's Date:

original air-date: 10-12-03

Be Kind. Rewind: Sark is out and working with The Covenant, Vaughn's back on the job, and Mrs. Vaughn is the new NSC liaison to the CIA.

Introducing a new character on an established TV series, especially a character that will be hanging around for a while, can be a difficult process. The audience is familiar with characters that they've been watching week after week for the past couple of years, and throwing someone new into the mix is a risk.

Some viewers will love the character and completely embrace the newbie while others will hate him or her, and wonder why the writers decided to create this worthless person and effectively ruin their beloved show. Okay, so maybe all audiences don't respond with such extreme emotions to fictional characters (it's possible that it's just this fan), but the introduction of a character does leave the audience with a number of questions and feelings about what this new presence means for their favorite show.

Such is the case on Alias with the introduction of Vaughn's wife and NSC liaison, Lauren Reed, played by Melissa George. Though Reed was introduced in the previous episode, "Reunion" is the first chance that we have to see Mrs. Vaughn in action. The episode begins with a satellite falling from the sky in Russia. A former Russian colonel named Oransky is the culprit and the CIA learns that he's working with the recently freed Mr. Sark. Sydney feels that capturing Sark should be the Agency's main priority, but Lauren disagrees. She feels that tracking Sark's movements will be useful in helping the CIA to learn more about the Covenant.

This is where things get messy. Sydney and Lauren regarded each other with a sort of strained politeness for about the first five minutes of the episode, but as soon as the two disagree it becomes a full-blown bitch fest.

While a CIA briefing room might not seem like the best place to have it out with your ex-boyfriend's new wife, the scene itself is not completely absurd. Sydney has lost everything, her friends, her boyfriend: everything. All she really has to hold onto is her job, a job that she happens to kick ass at. Now, bring in Lauren, who is not only the wife of the man that Sydney loved, but also someone who is trying to tell her how to do her job and you're going to have one pissed off Spy-Girl.

The tension between Vaughn's old flame and his new love works in this episode. Granted, watching the three of them exchange looks of longing, jealousy, and regret for the rest of the season will most likely become tiresome, but for now it serves its purpose. And it's not just Sydney's reaction that is understandable; Lauren's feelings are completely justifiable as well. It's not Lauren's fault that Sydney lost two years or that Vaughn chose her to move on with, so she's obviously not going to hold Syd in the highest regard when she starts a catfight in the middle of a meeting.

Though the audience can see where both women are coming from, that doesn't mean that they're going to like Reed all that much. She's still very much a threat to Sydney, who as the main character most fans sympathize with. Lauren is the one overseeing the investigation into Lazarey's murder, and she comes very close to learning the truth when Marshall tries to reconstruct the image of the killer from a surveillance video. Thankfully, Jack is up to his old tricks again, all of them illegal of course, and he prevents them from positively identifying Syd as the murderer.

Perhaps surprisingly, Weiss has become the voice of reason in the midst of this muddled love-triangle. He's now Syd's main confidante, as seen by them sharing shots of tequila, but he's not letting her fester in her own self-pity. He tells her that Lauren's a good person and that Syd should give her a chance. Through Weiss we also learn some background information about the new Mrs. Vaughn. Apparently she met Vaughn while working on the case involving Irina's disappearance and she's the daughter of a senator from Virginia.

This is extremely interesting considering Reed has a very noticeable Australian accent courtesy of actress George's hailing from the land down under. How a Virginian senator's daughter acquires such an accent I can't be sure, but hopefully the writers will clear this up as the character becomes more fleshed out.

But, getting back to Weiss, Sydney couldn't have a better friend at the moment. Not only is he non-judgmental and attentive, he bought her a copy of Alice in Wonderland very much like one that she lost when her apartment burned down. If there was ever an appropriate moment to go "Awwww!" while watching show, this would be it.

The "mission of the week" seems to take a back seat in this episode. Syd and Vaughn go undercover to prevent Sark from getting his hands on a device that would bring down even more satellites and in nixing this plan almost get blown up. In those scenes it was almost like watching an episode from the previous season. The suspense was there, the nail biting excitement was there, but it doesn't last.

The episode ends with the successful completion of the mission and Syd saying a polite goodnight to the Vaughns. This is a reminder that this show isn't what it used to be, and it's still too early to tell whether or not that's a good thing.

Even though this show is pretty inventive and J.J. Abrams is willing to take the basic concept an turn it on its ear from time to time, there was still a formula that was used during the first two seasons that we aren't seeing this year. During years one and two, Syd would go off on some crazy adventure and most episodes would end in some sort of cliffhanger that would force us viewers to tune in the following week to see what would happen next.

It's possible that the writers felt that the new direction the show has taken wouldn't allow the old way of doing things to continue, but in doing so they've lost the feelings of surprise and suspense that had viewers excitedly sitting on pins and needles until the next new episode.
However, this is only the third episode in a season that seems to be very much about rebuilding, so it may be too soon to say that the thrill is gone. It's also too early to tell whether or not the addition of Lauren Reed will be an asset to the spy drama or if it will shift the focus from concerns of national security and terrorist organizations to bitter battles between Spy Girl and wifey for Vaughn's attentions and affections.

For the sake of the show, let's hope that the latter does not occur.

Rebecca Sparling

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