[Re-posting after the "great crash of 2003." Much of what I've written here has been rendered unimportant as we've moved on--namely the soapbox section, in which I respond to posts that have been largely wiped out by the crash and won't be returning. However, I'm leaving all that in, if simply for historical reference.] “Double Agent” (2:14) leaves little to discuss about the family Bristow, nor does it deal directly with the fallout from the fall of the Alliance. Instead, it deals with the fate of another agent, Jim Lennox, who has been captured and duplicated through an advanced gene therapy process. The title “double agent” refers to the process of creating an exact double of an agent. As Jack later describes, the process reshapes a person’s face and body by actually infusing the recipient’s cells with the DNA of the donor, whom the recipient will come to resemble. This would be invaluable to terrorists and criminals of all sorts, of course, for it would make their disguise above scrutiny. However, it only works on people of a certain genetic type (which possibly explains why Sydney or Jack weren’t duplicated), and the recipient must lapse into a comatose state for several days while his or her cells regenerate. Supposedly a flaw was built into the procedure: a difference in the iris, which can be picked up in an ocular scan. Things go public for Sloane when his agent, actually the inventor of the process, a Dr Markovic, is discovered to be a fraud by Lennox’s partner, Emma Wallace. Markovic is able to stop her from notifying the CIA, but obviously they have a problem. Sloane tells Markovic to send a message. Markovic has Emma sing “Pop goes the Weasel” and blows her up. Sydney and Vaughn rescue Lennox from Markovic’s facility, but learn that he might not actually be Lennox based on information about the doubling process. However, an ocular scan appears to verify his identity. Sydney and Lennox then go on a mission to a Poland trainyard to destroy Markovic’s lab. They discover that another double has been created, but not who it is. Meanwhile, Vaughn and Jack receive a call from a man claiming to be the real Lennox, coming to the trainyard to destroy the lab. Jack tells him, “Listen carefully. Don not approach the trainyard.” But Lennox tells them the signal is breaking up and he can’t hear them. Sydney is told to disarm both men and then sort it out. However, the two men wind up pointing guns at each other. Sydney drops her weapon and arms the explosives. Since Markovic is there to save his lab, he must reveal himself to halt its destruction and his tries to shoot Sydney, allowing the real Lennox to shoot him as the lab explodes. The real Lennox is the Lennox that Sydney rescued. Analysis . . . There are several more reasons to believe that the real Lennox survived. Do you think that “Lennox” really didn’t hear Jack’s orders not to approach the trainyard? I think he chose not to hear them. Was the iris thing really “a joke” as this man said, or a ploy to make them believe him? It makes sense that Markovic would want to be completely indistinguishable, but he might want a failsafe for at least all other lookalikes as a bargaining or insurance tool. Not to be gross or anything, but they really should remove the eyeballs from the corpse to verify this. Sydney feels a deep kinship with Lennox because of his relationship with Emma, which resonates with both of the deep personal relationships we have seen her in. Her own fiance, Danny, was similarly lost to enemy forces (as she will discover, the same enemy), and her current love is an “office romance” (not that this sort of office romance is exactly mundane). All these feelings tend to focus and intensify her feelings for Vaughn, and the two come together passionately at last. The calm, no doubt, before the storm. Random thoughts . . . False Francie seemed pretty clueless when it came to responding to Sydney’s frantic signals surrounding Vaughn. If she’s that poor an undercover agent, it shouldn’t be long at all before Sydney figures something’s up. The use of “Pop Goes the Weasel”: intriguing, isn’t it? Sloane certainly has a nasty sense of humor--he made Emma go pop--or, rather, bang! Who was it that said that Sloane was a nice guy because he loved Emily? I don’t think that absolves all, do you? Who else thinks that we’ll see more elements of this come up later on? The introduction of Christine Phillips: is she a new friend for Sydney now that Francie has met her unfortunate demise? Or does she have another purpose? Her sudden appearance raises a few questions in my mind. OK, I’m wondering just how frequently Jack is visiting Irina’s little cell, especially now that he doesn’t have a double job. Where the heck is Will? Soapbox . . . OK, before I move on to discussion topics, I can’t help but address some issues that I see popping up (sometimes over and over and over . . .). And since I have a column (lucky me!), I have my own little bully pulpit to expound from. But you can skip this section if you don’t need my opinions. ~~ Let me get to the shipper issue first. Now that Sydney and Vaughn are together, we have the inevitable reactions. Is this too much, too soon? I tend to say it’s certainly not too soon. We definitely don’t want to get mired in the same sort of situation as either Moonlighting (which made no sense that they didn’t get together) or X-Files (in which it 1 took so darn long that I was completely bored by it and 2 happened off-camera and so held absolutely no interest anyway). Relationships evolve or die. Now the relationship can evolve. They’ve been in the get-ready phase for over a year now--at least Vaughn has (heck, he broke up with Alice for the first time right after he met Sydney). Is it too much? Well, considering how much was pent up there, going straight from the kitchen to the bedroom isn’t much of a surprise to me. These people aren’t teenagers, after all. They’ve been around the block once or twice. Will it be all sweetness and light between the two of them? I’m surprised by the reaction that seems to expect that all argument between the two of them will suddenly cease. After all, Vaughn has serious issues with both of her parents, even if they might not have issues with him. That will pose problems; there’s just no way around it. ~~ Has Alias changed too much/has it gotten dumber? First, I’d hate to judge a series on one or two episodes. Had I done that, I never would have started watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer, which I’ve found rewarding (believe me, there’s a lot of meat under the grand guignol; it’s not for nothing that Joss Whedon and JJ Abrams seem to have formed a mutual appreciation society). Has it changed too much? I guess a lot of this question has to be answered by my answers to other questions. As far as dumber, I don’t see any evidence of that yet. Certainly the confusion over whether Sydney actually killed the right Lennox seems to say no, it’s still pretty smart--although the answer seems pretty clear to me (see above). And Sloane’s plots (the abduction/ransom, the destruction of the Alliance) were sufficiently intricate--though they might have been more well-explained. I don’t think they’re going to get less subtle in the future, do you? ~~ “Double Agent” saw many characters MIA: Dixon, Marshall, Will, Irina, Sark. In addition, Sloane was largely absent and Jack was largely reduced to a talking head who explained the technology and operational procedures. Of course long-time fans are going to be a bit disappointed in that. But I’m expecting to see their return next episode. Now, if this turned into a trend, that would worry me. ~~ Some have been upset that Francie died, and wondered why Francie couldn’t just be tied up somewhere. Now really, how realistic is that? Let’s face it. Francie as is just didn’t have a lot to do. They’d have to write her out or in. To bring evil Francie in, they had to kill good Francie off. Sometimes you just have to do it. If you never kill a character, then death means nothing. Evil Francie is really evil because she killed good Francie. We already have reason to hate her and we barely know her. Not to mention the voyeur scene (although it did, interestingly, point out the voyeuristic qualities of the TV medium itself--very Hitchcockian of them). ~~ The show of skin was gratuitous. Really? Goodness. This has been a part of the show since the beginning. Perhaps it’s been that it’s been a little less in evidence this season so far. But as long as Sydney’s showing it for a reason (luring/distracting guards, posing as a call girl/party girl, etc.), I really have no problem with it--especially if it bumps the ratings up and doesn’t get in the way of the storylines I’m interested in. Heck, Ms Garner has worked hard for an excellent physique and might as well show it to good advantage. (BTW, at 5’ 9”, I’d be very surprised if she weighed so little as 110 lbs as someone suggested--although I’m sure she’s not a heavyweight. She has musculature and actually eats something.) ~~ A lot of people seem to miss SD-6/the Alliance. You know, I think it’s going to be good. The lid’s off and now the writers can move outside a box that limited what they could do. The double-agent form was good for limited telling (movie or limited-series), but it would eventually become repetitive. I think it was a good decision to remove the Alliance and free up Sydney and Jack. And, you know what, I just can’t wait to listen to Jack’s next conversation with Sloane, can you? And, guess what, I don’t think that SD-6 was ever what the series was about. I never did. There were larger questions. There’s Rambaldi. There’s the prophecy. As these questions were gradually revealed, I came to believe that this is what the series hinged on. In fact, what the series springs out of is the union between Jack and Irina, really, when you think about it. That union led to Sydney, (probably) to Sloane’s disaffection from the CIA, to Jack’s undercover work tied to Sloane, to Sydney’s becoming a spy, who knows, to the events tied to the prophecy itself. Just my theory. Anyway, I find it most compelling, and much more compelling than the mere destruction of a mere enemy organization. The enemy organization is whatever organization Sloane is in. That can change. I think Sloane will be there to the end. (Sark might not make it, but Sloane will.) RIP, SD-6. ~~ The huge stretch of credulity that no one mentioned: the helix process. The idea that in a few days someone’s body and face could be transformed to look like someone else’s through an infusion of DNA wasn’t questioned. I guess we’re all used to swallowing such implausible stretches of the imagination, but usually Alias doesn’t stretch us that far (with the exception of Rambaldi-isms, which we can accept more easily because it's established that he was advanced beyond current understanding). It takes years for a human being to develop into an adult form and we’re to believe that this process can, in several days, reform another human being into the same shape from the outside in, skeleton and all. Hmmm. Yeah, right. Meanwhile, even if such a process could do this, any variations caused by environmental factors would be difficult to duplicate (for example, in the case of cats, coat coloration). There would also be life factors such as broken bones, scarring, etc. ~~ Frankly, considering my favorite aspect of the program is the family aspect (and Jack, natch), if anyone would be complaining, I’d think it would be me. But I’m not complaining. Not yet anyway. If Sydney graduates without some family goings-on, I might start griping, but I’m not ready to grouse yet. Discuss . . . Why do you think they used “Pop Goes the Weasel”? Who’s the monkey? Who’s the weasel? Wasn’t there a line about “patience” that was featured? (I’ve looked up lyrics on the web and they vary considerably.) Do you think this song will be important in upcoming episodes? Would you like to meet Agent Lennox again? Why do you think Christine was introduced? Where the heck is Will? Next: Irina makes a welcome reappearance as Sydney prepares for graduation and a few life-determining decisions. Dad can perhaps actually admit he cares about his daughter and show up for one of his daughter’s rites of passage instead of hiding and watching from the wings. I can hope that I can actually write about family in my family column next week. ~~~ Off topic . . . I can’t let this week pass without paying my respects to those who died on the shuttle Columbia last Saturday (2/1/03). Too often in this country I hear it said that nothing is worth the loss of a human life. But wasn’t our country based on the belief that freedom is more important than life itself? It is up to the individual to determine the value of his or her own life and the risk he or she is willing to take. As we mourn the loss of those who dedicate their lives to exploration and the expansion of human knowledge, however, let’s remember this: anything worth living for is also worth dying for. These people died living out their dreams. May we all be so fortunate.