[Notes: You will see that this column does a lot of catching up from the first season, but didn't the episode? Also, since I first wrote and sent this, I realized that I didn't get some lyrics quite right (why is it that the albums with the best lyrics are the ones that don't have a lyrics sheet?)--hopefully I have them transcribed correctly now.] The following includes the usual spoilers through 2:01 The Enemy Walks In. It’s the beginning of a new season, and at last we get to meet Sydney’s mother. Shall we call her Irina or Laura? Although Jack and Sloane have had a tendency to continue to call her “Laura,” let’s use her real name, Irina. At this point, it would do us well to review what we know of Irina. We’ve seen her primarily through Sydney’s eyes, with a couple of tantalizing glimpses through Jack’s. Initially, Sydney idealized Irina, imagining her as a wonderfully supportive mother. This probably responded to all of the failings that she saw in Jack as a father, who was largely absent physically and continually distant emotionally, leaving her to be raised by nannies. Sydney goes through a series of mistaken beliefs about her mother. First, she thinks that perhaps she was eliminated, as Danny was, when Jack revealed his occupation to her (1:03 Parity); then, she believes that she was killed during a car chase in which the FBI was pursuing Jack, whom they believed to be a KGB spy (1:06 Reckoning)--which she promises to have Jack punished for; finally, she learns the truth, that it was her mother who was the KGB spy, when Vaughn uses Irina’s books and her own reluctant testimony to reopen the investigation into Jack’s KGB involvement (1:11 The Confession). This revelation came down on Sydney like a ton of bricks. Was she conceived simply as part of a cover? Did her mother never love her? Sydney has some trouble adjusting to this, wondering whether she should abandon her plans to become a professor of literature in her mother’s footsteps. After all, that was just part of her mother’s cover, not something she cared about. It’s Jack, who steps in, in an awkward show of Dad-liness, who convinces her to stick it out. Then Sydney is incarcerated for her likeness to her mother in fulfilling the qualifications of a Rambaldi prophecy (1:16 The Prophecy). Sydney describes her mother as “a ruthless, deceitful woman,” but makes it her mission to find her. Is it simply to have her taken into custody because she embodies the fulfillment of the Rambaldi prophecy? That is difficult to believe, particularly when Sydney still seems somewhat skeptical about the prophecy. I suggest it has more to do with the drive of a child to know a parent. Sydney, on the surface, seems to turn against her mother after discovering what she was, tearing up her picture and calling her names, but her actions say that she's torn. Knowing that her mother is alive, Sydney is driven to find out what her mother's feelings for her really are. Was she just part of a cover, or was she loved? She felt loved, but then, so did Jack. Jack, of course, has a more mature take on his former wife. His memories are of a lover and wife, not a mother who died in childhood. He has known what she was for the 20 years since she faked her death. He was not, however, aware that she was still alive. It seems as though Jack was literally living in a fool’s paradise before he discovered what his wife really was. He loved and trusted his wife--to the point of breaking CIA protocol and discussing his work with her. Even if Irina hadn’t bugged him and gone through his briefcase, he would have compromised security. There are strong indications that he was a doting father and Sydney was Daddy’s little girl, a situation that sadly changed to estrangement afterward. And yet, the debriefing video indicates that it was Jack who discovered that Irina was the spy (“Did anyone else suspect you?” “Nyet.”). What happened that night, anyway? Did Jack insist on confronting her alone? We know how Irina and Calder/Valenko faked their deaths, but we don’t know how she and Jack got separated or exactly how her cover was blown. Then there was the aftermath. Nearly simultaneously, Jack suffered two traumas: the wife he obviously adored turned out to be a foreign spy who murdered his friends and colleagues and no doubt held him in complete contempt, and the wife he adored was killed. How can he respond? In one case, he needs to deal with the betrayal; in the other, he needs to mourn his wife. But these responses are partially conflicting. His ability to deal with the betrayal is stymied by the death of the betrayer. Meanwhile, his ability to mourn his wife is made more difficult by the fact that she betrayed his trust on the most basic level. What did he do? There is a clue buried way back at the beginning of the first season (1:04 A Broken Heart). When Jack comes in for a routine examination by McCullough, Sydney stops him on his way in. During the examination, Jack is put through guided imagery, down an escalator into a light, into a “safe place.” Fascinatingly, Jack’s safe place is the memory of when the three of them were a happy family, Jack, “Laura,” and Sydney. But Laura turns into Sydney, who warns that sooner or later, Sydney will “find out.” Because Sydney might find out about her mother, the safe place isn’t quite as safe. But why is it safe in the first place? Easy. It’s safe because Laura is dead. With Laura dead, Jack can compartmentalize the situation, splitting the woman into Laura, his beloved deceased wife, and Irina, the evil KGB agent who ruined his life. Doing this might just have saved his psyche. But Laura/Irina isn’t dead. And Sydney, thanks to Rambaldi’s prophecy and similarities that Sydney shares with her mother, was taken into custody by the FBI. Sydney, realizing that the prophecy could not apply to her, reasoned how Irina could have faked her death by breathing air from car tires in her escape. Jack confirmed that the CIA had convened a commission to investigate the security breach under Sloane and independently arrived at this conclusion, a conclusion that was intentionally kept from Jack all this time. In addition, Jack worries over Sydney’s decision to seek out her mother. “No good can come from it,” he says with uncharacteristic agitation. “Do you expect her just to say ‘I’m sorry?’” His response to the news of her survival is not positive at all. The revelation sends Jack into a tailspin, as might be expected. He can no longer pretend that Laura and Irina are separate women. Sloane tries to give him a week off and apparently becomes less trusting of him. Sydney is concerned, and, when Vaughn tells her that Jack has been ignoring his pages, has Devlin send him to see Dr. Barnett. He seems to bounce back a bit, but can we ever expect Jack to ever fully recover? Witness (1:19 Snowman) what happens when Sydney asks Jack to intercede on behalf of Noah Hicks (over Sloane’s strong objections). Jack clearly draws a parallel between Sydney’s situation and his own, saying, “You’re as lost as I was.” And yet, he does intercede for her, despite his reservations. Why? I think that JJ Abrams might be dropping a major clue in his choice of the music for the scene in which Jack silently signals to Sydney that Noah has been released (a choice and use of which is worthy of an essay in itself). The song is Jeff Buckley’s passionate “Lover, You Should’ve Come Over,” but, oddly, the lyrics that expose the full import of the song--and the way it ties into Jack’s situation--is obscured, just as Jack obscures his own motives and emotions. The lyrics that we hear are more ambiguous, yet the focus is very much on Jack, his extremely sad, lonely, and tired expression as he watches his daughter’s happy reunion from afar. Even the lyric that is most “Jack” that is exposed hides beneath the beginning of the meeting (“Sometimes a man must awake to find that [really] he has no one”). Clipped from part of the song that is played (the beginning) is the line “Broken down and hungry for your love with no way to feed it. / When are you comin’ by child? You know how much I need it.” Even more pointedly, the climax of the song repeats the line “It’s never over” four times with potent imagery. Finally, the song ends, “It’s not too late.” Can that be an accident? I truly think that Mr. Abrams slipped that in for people who were paying close attention. (By the way, check out the album, Grace.) This is a hint that Jack, for all that he knows what Irina is, still can’t help having feelings for her--and, perhaps more dangerously, holds out some hope that she might feel something for him. Is his intercession for Sydney an admission that he would have the same done for himself? Or that he will not judge her situation because he cannot say that he would make a wiser decision? At any rate, he allows her the latitude to discover for herself whether her trust in Noah is a mistake. Meanwhile, Jack views the debriefing video featuring Irina he told Sydney he had no interest in seeing--only to be rewarded with the spectacle of listening to Irina describe him as a “fool,” “blinded by his emotions.” Jack might have expected just such a show of contempt from an undercover agent, yet he is so shaken by this renewed humiliation (and, no doubt, the realization that Sydney witnessed it) that he must ask Dr. Barnett if she has time to see him that very afternoon. (2:01 The Enemy Walks In) And then Sydney came face to face with “The Man,” her mother. And what happens? Irina basically tells her that she could have “saved her the pain” of this moment by killing her at birth and demands to know who sent her. When Sydney doesn’t tell her, Irina calmly shoots her in the shoulder and leaves her to reconsider her answer. We next meet Irina as she and Khasinau go to collect her organization’s “bible.” Oddly, she kills Khasinau and makes off with the bible. But, instead of using the bible to rebuild her organization as planned, she turns herself into the CIA as a walk-in, just as Sydney did (in a nifty stylistic echo of last season’s opener, by the way). What are we to make of this? The problem is that Irina is a nearly complete cipher. Her motivations are nearly opaque. All we know is that she wants Rambaldi technology, with an emphasis on putting together the circumference and putting it to work. That and Rambaldi’s prophecy about her. Rambaldi’s prophecy tells us “The woman here depicted ... will be the one to bring forth my works, bind them with fury; a burning anger. Unless prevented, at vulgar cost, this woman will render the greatest power unto utter desolation. This woman, without pretense, will have had her effect, never having seen the beauty of my sky, behind Mount Subasio. Perhaps a single glance would have quelled her fire.” The prophecy is interesting in several ways. For one thing, there are several meanings to the word “vulgar.” Another thing is the phrase “without pretense.” This lady has been all about pretense so far. Can’t wait to see what this means. So she was on the brink of having all she wanted. She had built her full-scale version of the prototype we initially saw and Sark had picked up Rambaldi’s little instruction manual in exchange for Will. Unfortunately for her, though, Sydney and Vaughn took care of the large-scale prototype and their lab, but Sark’s still up and about. Plus she made away with her organizational bible. So why kill Khasinau and show up at the CIA? First, Khasinau. Irina had a choice. Perhaps she felt she had to kill one or the other (Khasinau or Sydney). If she left Khasinau alive, perhaps she would have had to kill Sydney to maintain strength and control? But perhaps she did not want to kill Sydney. After all, she said she could have killed her as an infant, not that she wanted to. Perhaps she had to kill Khasinau because she would not kill Sydney. But why the CIA walk-in? Obviously, we can’t trust that her motives have suddenly changed and she’s all sweetness and light. We might consider the possibility that she’s looking for information at the CIA that she can’t get--especially now that Jack’s taken care of her pet mole Haladki (By the way, what’s happened with that? Does the CIA know? Or is he just missing--in which case Jack should be a prime suspect?). It’s never been fully explained why she was working so hard through Haladki to expose the two of them in the first place. Was she trying to flush them out in an attempt to drive them to her side? Is this simply a case of “if you can’t beat them, join them”? In any case, it’s probably a safe bet that she’s putting her own interests first. Or perhaps, she wants to rebuild her organization working from within the CIA. Why not? If she can gain their trust, she can leverage their intelligence engine to work on her behalf while she rebuilds her own. So is she a simple villain? I have a difficult time believing that. For one thing, would Lena Olin be drawn into a television role if this were the case? From what I understand, she was reluctant to commit to TV, but found the role so intriguing that she couldn’t turn it down. That alone leads me to suspect that the character is much more than a simple black-and-white, look-at-me-I’m-evil villain. Look at Sloane. As despicable as he has been, he clearly cares for Sydney and he loved his wife deeply. Yet, in spite of that, he would sacrifice Sydney for SD-6 and his wife for his own advancement (Despite hopes I’ve read on the parts of fans--and as much as I liked Emily, I hope that Emily’s death is fact. That is true to Sloane’s character.). Is Irina much like a Sloane? That is, she cares, yet when it comes down to it, she’ll make the wrong moral decision? What does Irina really feel and think about Sydney? Jack? Did she want to draw Sydney into her organization? Is it possible that despite being assigned to spy on Jack, she has some feelings for him? That wouldn’t be something she’d be likely to tell anyone, any more than Jack wants to discuss his feelings about Irina (heck, he doesn’t even want to discuss his feelings about Sydney). Wouldn’t it be fascinating if, just as Jack was a good man damaged by Irina’s evil, Irina turns out to be an evil woman damaged by Jack’s good? And what of the creepy fatherly feelings Sloane expresses for Sydney? I’ll save my speculations for some other time. I’ve written more than enough for now. Next: Irina cooperates with the CIA--or does she?