[I think if I rewrote this now, I might take a bit of a different approach. But it's already appeared on allalias.com, so let's make it substantially the same. I noticed that I (embarrassingly) typo'd Jennifer Garner into Victor Garber's family--well, they play father and daugher, and "b" is right next to "n"!--so that's fixed.] The usual spoilers, through 2:01 The Enemy Walks In, can be found below. I thought I might start out this column by describing why I like Jack. It looks like there are a lot of shippers out there for Sydney and Vaughn and I can see that. After all, what young woman wouldn’t want to identify with Sydney? But for me, the interesting character is Jack. Why? Let me count the ways . . . 1. I like my characters complex. Well, now, that’s Jack, in spades. This general statement more or less sums up the more detailed reasons below. 2. I like characters who have some mystery, whose motivations are sometimes ambiguous. It might say a lot that the character I was most fond of on that darkest and most alien offspring of Star Trek, Deep Space Nine, was not a regular, but the recurring character, Garak. Garak and Jack share several qualities. Obviously, both are spies, but really, that’s the least of it. Both repress their emotions and do not want anyone to know them. Both have their secrets and guard them closely. Both are extremely intelligent, perhaps brilliant. Both have deeply troubled family lives and just as deeply scarred psyches. But Garak is the consummate dissembler, covering his pain with jaunty good humor and deflecting any close inquiry by deftly changing the subject to something extremely painful to his questioner (known to him through his preternatural ability to see right through people). Jack has simply retreated into ice, guarding his secrets and his emotions in layers of silence, and keeping people from coming too close by developing a cold and unwelcoming personality. But like Mt Rainier, beneath the snowy exterior there lurks a cauldron that we have merely glimpsed from time to time. 3. I like the chemistry between Jack and Sydney. The first season showed a fascinating father and daughter dance as first one made a motion toward reconciliation and the other retreated, and then they replayed the step in reverse. Victor Garber and Jennifer Garner created a father-daughter chemistry that completely floored me. It was stronger than most romantic chemistry I’ve witnessed. The tension was incredible. I should get into this more in the Spy Family column (this week was all about mom). 4. And Jack puts Sydney first. We know that Jack works undercover for the CIA at SD-6, but we’ve seen how much trouble he’s gotten into–-with both agencies-–trying to help Sydney during the first season. He exchanges himself for her as a captive even though he’s probably better suited to disarm the charges (knowing more about them) set to bring down SD-6 (1:13 The Box Part 2). He sacrifices Russek to save her at no small risk (1:10 Spirit). He even gets Noah set free at what turns out to be considerable cost to himself in loss of trust by Sloane (1:19 Snowman). It seems that when it really comes down to it, you can count on Jack to set aside his own interests, the interests of SD-6, and even those of the CIA in favor of Sydney. But isn’t that what Vaughn ultimately does, too? 5. I like it that he does the hard things. Jack’s a good guy-–sort of. He’s been hurt in a lot of ways and (although we don’t know a lot of the things he’s had to do) we can guess that he’s been more or less coerced into doing things that he wouldn’t want to. He does them to save Sydney, like getting Russek killed. He does them because Sloane demands them of him (see also #6). When Sloane has a tough job to do, he calls on Jack. When the defector Schiller won’t spill the location of a manufacturing plant (because he’s actually a CIA double who doesn’t have that information), Jack’s called in to do a little strong-arming (1:05 Doppelganger). When Sloane decides that long-time business associate Ineni Hassan should be assassinated, he sends Jack to do the job (1:10 Spirit). It’s Jack who clips off Sloane’s finger (1:13 The Box Part 2). It’s Jack who beats Will to a pulp (1:15 Page 47) to get him off the SD-6 story (cruel to be kind?). It’s Jack who gets the information out of Haladki to free Sydney from FBI custody (1:17 Q&A). It’s Jack who tortures information about “The Man”’s organization out of Haladki-–and kills him, execution-style, for exposing Sydney (1:22 Almost Thirty Years). To his credit, it’s pretty obvious that he doesn’t enjoy doing these things. Jack’s not the hero of this drama, but his courageous but sometimes less than fully heroic actions allow Sydney to be the heroine. 6. I like the relationship between Jack and Sloane. Well, not like as in “like,” but like as in “wow, what a great story!” Jack is linked to Sloane in a very close way, closer than any business relationship, but they certainly aren’t friends in any conventional sense. Their relationship goes way back to the time of Jack’s marriage, when they both worked for the CIA. If Sloane has a confidant, it’s Jack. Also, when Sydney went to Sloane for help in finding her mother (1:18 Masquerade) Jack was very upset, telling her “I thought by now you’d know not to ask Sloane for a favor. You’ll spend more time than you care to paying it back.” Obviously, Jack is still “paying back” some unknown favor (having to do with Sydney?). SPECULATION: Some fans (including me) have speculated that Sloane may be, in fact, Sydney’s real father (much as most of us would not like to see this, but I can see a way to plot that in a way that we can have our cake and eat it too). This would explain the bond and the favor – plus Sloane’s creepy fatherly attitude toward Sydney – double-plus Sloane’s equally creepy remark to Jack, “It’s always been my pleasure to fill in for you when you were indisposed” (1:18 Masquerade). I think this spec will turn out to be a tasty red herring. 7. I like a great tragic romance. What romance? Well, the one that’s dead, but keeps on haunting, of course. It’s clear that what Jack had with Laura-–what he thought he had-–was something special. How do we know? He doesn’t say anything. We know because the wreckage is still all around us. Jack is still in as much pain from this affair as if it had happened last week. For him it was like Romeo & Juliet, like living a great love story. For Irina, it was a job. From his perspective this was real-–for ten years--a real relationship. The memories he has are of a real woman. Unfortunately, reality doesn’t exactly match up with memory here, and is oh, so far less pleasant! He still hasn’t gotten over her, so he’s extremely vulnerable. Things could get very rough for him. 8. I like characters who are tormented/conflicted. See above. Jack’s tormented because Laura’s betrayal left him in a state of emotional paralysis, unable to trust, unable and perhaps unwilling to connect in a meaningful way with the people around him, even those he loves most (Sydney). It’s left him uniquely awkward when discussing anything remotely personal. Sydney asks him if he has any real friends (1:22 Almost Thirty Years) and he finds himself asking Devlin whether he’d consider Jack a friend. Jack is conflicted. His isolation is helpful in protecting his double life, yet he seems to yearn for some connection, reaching out to give Sydney some emotional support (only to be cut off coldly) after she becomes a fellow undercover agent (1:01 Truth Be Told). He seems to fear that closeness will expose hurtful secrets (and perhaps turn people against him?). See how he quickly backs away from Sydney after his session with McCullough reminds him that he has a secret to keep from Sydney (1:04 A Broken Heart). After accepting Sydney’s invitation to dinner with visible trepidation, he gets as far as the restaurant but can’t seem to make himself enter, finally calling to make a weak excuse about business. Later he follows up, explaining that they shouldn’t make any immediate plans because of his caseload. Is Jack’s torment likely to end? Not anytime soon, with Irina in the picture. 9. I like the actor and characterization. Where have you been? Oh, right. Broadway! The character of Jack would seem to me to be a more challenging character to play than most. Why? Well, it’s not necessarily a showy role, all full of shouting and emotional outbursts. Why is that harder? Obviously because it’s harder to hold the audience’s interest when you don’t have anything big to work with. During the first episodes, especially, Jack had to put all his emotion into a slight crease in his brow. Jack’s worried that what Sydney’s doing will get her into trouble or expose one of his secrets: intense look and ever-so-slight crease. And he made it work. The only time I remember him cracking a smile beyond a tiny grin was when he tried to laugh off Will’s suggestion that Jack was his (Will’s) abductor. He might be from Broadway but he really knows how to scale it down for the small room. And how did he get that tension going with Jennifer Garner? It’s intangible but palpable, paradoxical though that might seem. And Jack is supposed to be a pretty brilliant guy. Unlike most actors, Mr. Garber seems to be able to get that across. He can pull off that certain arrogance of intellect--and, hopefully, not leave us all hating him. It was pleasant to see him nominated for an Emmy. Perhaps with a possible breakdown coming up, he will have another nomination and a better shot next year (Emmy likes showy roles . . . but it doesn’t like “genre shows” . . .). * * * (2:01 The Enemy Walks In) This last week saw Jack avoiding his emotions surrounding the return of Irina by putting himself into full games-theorist mode to solve the problems posed by Dixon’s report of Sydney’s activities to Sloane and the publication of Will’s story on SD-6. He did this by putting himself in the role of rogue agent and bringing Sloane a prize--the destruction of the Man’s Taipei lab and all the information gleaned from that operation, including the identity of “the Man.” Since Will’s article was already out, he reasons, it will only make matters worse to kill him, so they discredit him instead, shooting him up with heroin and staging a bust. End your life or ruin your life, your choice. To seal the deal, Jack emphasizes that it was his personal loyalty to Sloane, not to SD-6, that brought him back. And we see the bond between Sloane and Jack tighten again, this time on Jack’s terms. It’s Jack’s understanding of Sloane that enables him to create a plan that will work and save all their skins. Some comments: Did anyone else notice that this experience seems to have caused Jack and Will to bond in a rather strange way? Plus they now both know what it’s like to have their careers wrecked. Dr. Barnett asked Sydney about everyone but her father. Will Jack meet with Irina, or studiously avoid her? Two words: moth; flame.