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Alias: A Free Agent

Vaughn: "When the hell did you have time to take a class this year?"

It's the morning after for Sydney and Vaughn, with very little time for pillow talk. Good question: when did she have time to take a class this year?

Clearly, Sydney is not free and can't quit the CIA because Sloane is still on the loose; you could practically see her changing her mind throughout the episode even before the confrontation at the end. That phone call Sydney got from Sloane was chilling. Why did he tell her that he was behind bringing down the Alliance? Must be part of the master plan somehow, because Sloane never does anything without a reason.

Dixon finally got some screen time, and wow, he's still majorly pissed at Sydney. He meant it when he said he never wanted to see her again. And now the poor guy now has to choose between his wife and his career, and it's not a simple choice; a man like Dixon must be thinking of all the bad he inadvertently did, and that he owes his country. It would be in character for Dixon to choose the job.

Marshall is, predictably, having a ball now that he's part of the real CIA. He's such a fun character. I must admit I'm enjoying seeing him help the good guys for a change.

A long time ago, people used to believe that the last thing a person saw before they died was imprinted on their retinas. The subplot with the intra-ocular retinal implant reminded me of that old belief, with the guy Sloane murdered actually being able to implicate his own murderer with his implant.

And we got a closing cliffhanger; Sydney is now Sloane's prisoner. This can't be good.

Bits and pieces:

— Christian Slater had a smaller part than Ethan Hawke's, but it looks like it may continue to the next episode. I wonder if this Caplan guy is going to be able to assemble the Rambaldi artifacts for Sloane. If he does, what sort of weapon will Sloane have?

— How about Kendall blackmailing Sydney to stay in the CIA by threatening to remove her access to Irina? ("Legally, he's right. Ethically, he's an ass.")

— Irina said that Jack had told her about Sydney's success. Is Jack visiting Irina regularly, now? Hmmmm?

— According to this episode, Sloane's obsession with Rambaldi goes back to when Sloane was in the Army Corps of Engineers and was told to study a Rambaldi manuscript.

— Sloane has bought a Tuscan villa, and is planning to stash Emily there.

— Propeller scene, ick. I hate bloody propeller scenes.

— This week's itinerary: Mojave desert; Zurich, Switzerland.

Pretty good. Three out of four spies,

Billie Doux loves good television and spends way too much time writing about it.


  1. "Double Agent" introduced and emphasized the idea that aliases create confusion: Ethan Hawkes couldn't remember all of his finacee's aliases, he expressed confusion over meeting Sydney first as a blonde and again as a brunette, and ultimately he became nearly unknowable because of the Helix procedure. (And what a great pun: A double helix agent.)

    Here, Sydney is forced to figure out her identity yet again--and is finding that it's not as easy as slipping into a pair of heels and a fun wig. It's revealing that, despite all of the graduation hullabaloo, no one calls her Dr. Bristow, because she clearly isn't assuming that persona. While she seems comfortable as Vaughn's girlfriend, she can't fully accept him without the spy-baggage attached (that's what the Vaughn/Michael conversation is about in the opening scene).

    Vaughn's encounter with the Mojave desert mercenaries is interesting to consider in light of these questions of identity: he was asked to prove who he was (an arms dealer), based on how well he knew the tricks of his trade (recognizing a gun by the sounds it makes). So often, that's what our identities become--nothing more than an accumulation of things we know, which dictates our jobs and often our friends.

    Sydney, because of Project Christmas, her own intelligence, and her remarkable abilities, has the brain of a spy even if she has the heart of a civilian. And, even as she gets roped back in to the spyjinks, she knows that she's faced with the same choice that Christian Slater didn't get: family or work. Heart or head. Christian Slater sacrificed so much, and now has to use his intelligence to get the thing he really values (family) safe. Sydney has to do the same.

    Doing so, Sydney also seems to have added an element of righteous anger into her repertoire. Alias has always played fast and loose with the idea of death, often asking some other character to do the shooting (rather than Sydney), or using tranq guns, which just makes me laugh. But she was violent in this episode: killing the guy in the Mojave desert via airplane propeller was remarkably icky. And her hesistation at the end: was she actually considering risking the lives of everyone in the bank, just to get Sloane? A sort of "all or nothing" approach that shows just how desperate to get out she has become.

    And, best quote of the episode goes to Jack, who said (as you quoted, Billie): "Legally, he's right. Ethically, he's an ass."

  2. Josie -- I am just loving how much you are getting out of this show. I am tempted to watch it again. Maybe over the summer.

    Just a very small point. Sydney only got her Masters Degree. She wouldn't have been called Dr. Bristow until receiving her PhD. Doesn't change your point at all, however, because she still could have become an academic if she chose.

  3. ChrisB, good point. I'd assumed that, because she'd been writing her dissertation in "The Passage," her graduating meant that she'd completed it. But that did seem wildly unlikely, given her extracurricular activities. Maybe they should all call her "Mistress Bristow" instead. :-)

  4. What I found interesting this time through was Irina telling Sydney that she wouldn’t agree to see her if Sydney stayed in the CIA. Poor Sydney -- either way, she’s not going to be able to see her mother. But, her bloodlust for Sloane is more than compensation; or at least it is for right now.

  5. In the UK, you write a dissertation for a Masters as well (in fact we usually call the PhD version a thesis, to differentiate it), but that might be a national thing.

    I could not buy anything in this episode because you can't just decide to process in a graduation ceremony on the day. You have to book your place and hire the robes months in advance. One of those little things when TV gets something from your own life wrong and suddenly it takes you right out of the episode!

  6. Juliette, it's usually the reverse for us: an MA thesis (and an undergrad thesis) and a PhD dissertation.

  7. I agree with Juliette -- the idea that you can just decide to go to a ceremony on the day was so bogus.

    There is no way Sydney was doing a PhD: I seem to recall in the first season she was quite clearly doing a Masters and a dissertation/thesis could absolutely be a part of that as it is a part of mine! Given that a PhD is all thesis/dissertation and no course work, it wouldn't make sense in the first season when Sydney was always running late with papers. I actually miss that juggling between "real" life and spy life. It's all spy life now and that's removed some of the layers.

    Anyone know where Will is? We haven't seen him for a while. He's at the CIA front writing "travel articles" I suppose.

  8. Calling him "Vaughn" has always kept him at a safe emotional distance. Now that they are together, he wants Sydney to call him "Michael." But, she doesn't seem to be able to make the change. I don't think it's a big deal, but she fell in love with Vaughn because of the work they do together. To change his name would change that particular connection.

    But, the biggest part of this episode for me is how Dixon's character is going to progress. He's obviously feeling betrayed by everyone, especially Sydney. Can he ever forgive her? On top of it all, what about his relationship with Diane? They are supposed to be the "normal" family on this show, in stark contrast to what Billie calls "spy family." But now that may all be changing. Maybe normalcy and the spy life cannot mix. Poor Dixon.

  9. On rewatching this episode, I suddenly realised that one of the reasons that Dixon is so angry with Sydney is because he recognizes the implications of him being less than honest with his wife. Ok, it was for the best of reasons... but, hey, that was true for Syd too. So I think that a lot of his anger is actually directed at himself. It's not that he doesn't have good reason to be angry with Syd - but he can't be angry with her and not be angry with himself too. And, of course, his wife reacts to him in just the same way as he reacted to Syd.


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