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On TV Today's Date:

original air-date: 10-05-03

Be Kind. Rewind: Spy Girl's back from the dead, Jack's out of jail, Vaughn's a teacher, and Sloane's a good guy. Anyone else hear the theme to The Twilight Zone while watching the season premiere?

One of the great things about Alias is that, on the whole, it's a wonderful mixture of drama, romance, and action all rolled up into a lovely hour-long treat. Think of it as a bite-sized movie perfect for Sunday night snacking. The only problem with this little formula we see used week after week is that, sometimes, all of these elements don't mix as well as they should. The result of this refusal to gel is an episode where so many little things occur that it feels like nothing really happened at all.

Unfortunately, this is the flaw at the heart of this week's episode. It's not that there's anything truly yawn-worthy or inherently wrong with the episode itself, it's that it's a filler episode and there was nothing in it to distract the viewer from this fact.

The action sequences were nothing to write home about. While watching the opening scene of the two undercover CIA agents in the plunging elevator, I got a strange sense of déjà vu and remembered that another episode (last season's "A Dark Turn") started off in a very similar manner. Granted, they didn't kill the guys this time; The Covenant just carted the whole elevator off using a helicopter, but once is enough. Note to writers: Escalators could be used as an extremely messy and painful form of death; consider using one for a future episode.

The character interaction was nearly as bland as the action sequences. Sydney is still trying to piece together what happened to her. But after being back for only a week she's already fully reinstated at the CIA and has a new apartment. This may be nitpicking, but it's amazing that the CIA lets agents that have been either A) missing, B) in jail or C) retired back in with relative ease. Hey, you don't know where you've been for two years? No problem! You say you've been in jail for conspiring with a known terrorist? We can overlook that! So, you've been teaching remedial French to a bunch of undergrads and haven't been in the field for ages? Welcome back!

Yes, the Vaughnster is with the Agency once again. This can only mean that we're in for some long, angst-filled stares between Spy Girl and Boy Scout from across the conference room table. Aren't you just quivering with anticipation?

But, before he decided to give up the wonderful world of academia, Vaughn told Sydney that there are some things she should know. The first was that he loved her so much that it nearly killed him (Awww, what a nice sentiment). He told her that he used to stay up all night drinking and talking to Sydney as if she were really there; you know, he did the normal self-destructive things people do when they grieve. The second thing was that he doesn't regret moving on with his life. This is all well and good, but Vaughn's little speech doesn't gain him nearly as much sympathy as Sydney's emotional outburst last week. Vaughn just doesn't seem as destroyed as Syd and his lack of remorse about moving on doesn't win him many points with viewers.

The most interesting parts of the episode involved Sark. The Covenant wants to make an exchange: they will hand over the CIA agent whose head they haven't cut off yet if the agency gives them Sark. The show's bad boy has been in CIA custody for the last two years and has supposedly given them every little bit of intel that he possessed. When he sees Syd, who's there to try to find out why the Covenant wants him so badly, he's shocked saying that he knew nothing about her disappearance and was not involved if Sloane was the one responsible.

Speaking of Sloane, Jack decides to pay his old friend a visit. Spy Daddy tells his former colleague that he refuses to believe that Sloane has retired his pitchfork and horns in order to fight the good fight. However, Sloane says that his Rambaldi obsession is a constant in his life and that the message of peace that he received from the device was one that he had to follow through on. Jack finds the end result of the thirty-year process to assemble this device "anti-climactic" and says that Sloane could have gotten the same answer from a fortune cookie. Sloane just sort of shrugs this off and gives Jack a disk that contains all the leads that he looked into concerning Sydney's disappearance. What's on the disk is left unanswered.

Jack also contacts Irina using, what else, instant messaging. Conveniently, this allows Irina to stay in the storyline without using Lena Olin who, according to recent rumors, might not be back at all this season. Still, even without Olin's presence the scene is cute. Jack informs his ex-wife that their daughter is alive and they both sign off by saying that they miss each other.

If Olin does not appear at all this season it will be a grace loss to the show. Garber and Olin had a wonderful dynamic as the dysfunctional former Mr. and Mrs. Bristow, which will be sorely missed if she decides not to return. Here's hoping the producers will spend less money on Sydney's outfits and more of it to woo Olin back.

Through his chat with Irina, Jack learns exactly why the Covenant wants Sark. He was responsible for the death of one of the group's high-ranking officials and now he has to pay the price, which happens to be $800 million. Sark doesn't think he has anywhere near that amount of money, but he finds out that he has inherited it from his late father, Andrean Lazarey, who just happens to be the man that we saw Sydney murder in Jack's surveillance video. So, Sark had a daddy, who Sydney killed, and he is a descendant of the Royal Romanoff family of Russia.

All of this is interesting in terms of character development, but can't the writers give this guy a first name already? Perhaps this is one of those annoying mysteries that TV writers like to torture us fans with season after season, but, at this point, I'm willing to go with Bob just as long as they give the guy a name.

Since Lindsey sabotaged the exchange, the Covenant now has possession of both Sark and the poor operative posing as a scientist. Syd, along with Weiss and a team of agents, heads to a club that is a front for the mysterious group to rescue the imprisoned agent. When Syd finally gets to him, she shoots a guy in a white lab coat that was hovering over the Agent Rotter. Syd makes sure he is ok and white-lab-coat-guy starts talking to her as he bleeds to death on the floor. He says that she "kept her promise"; that she always said she would kill him. Just before he dies he says that she was his favorite and that she never broke. Sydney tries to get some answers out of him, but he passes on before he can say anything more.

This scene has some very interesting implications. Of course, something was done to Sydney while she was missing, but what? Brain washing is a given, but perhaps there were other, more horrifying experiments taking place. By his last words, he implies that some people did break; some people died because of what he was doing to them. What and why white-lab-coat guy did whatever it is he did is left unanswered, but it raises some interesting questions for future storylines.

The episode ends on a very low note. Under orders from Dixon, Syd goes to a meeting of CIA agents who have "lost time". The whole thing looks like a bad attempt at a recreation of an AA meeting and Sydney is obviously not comfortable as she listens to other agents talk about the terrible dreams they have and how they can't move on with their lives after what's happened to them. Sydney bursts into Dixon's office, telling him that she doesn't find the meetings at all helpful and while she is still having a hard time getting over losing Vaughn, she refuses to go to any more meetings. Sydney didn't notice that she has interrupted a meeting between Dixon and some pretty blonde woman. Dixon introduces this lady as Lauren Reed, the new liaison between the NSC and the CIA.

Apparently, a verbal bashing from Sydney Bristow is enough to send a guy packing, because after her little run in with Lindsey in the men's room he's decided to head back to DC… how convenient. Lindsey's gone, Lauren's in and there's more to her than meets the eye. She tells Syd that not only is she the liaison to the NSC, she's also Michael Vaughn's wife.

To this Sydney can only dumbly reply by saying, "Hi." Personally, I am really excited to see what one word response they'll have Sydney end the episode with next week, aren't you?

Rebecca Sparling

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