From TV Guide- In all the time I've been doing this column (and enjoying it immensely), nothing has elicited as large a volume of passionate response as the May 4 finale of Alias. For my own immediate reaction, read my Dispatch column of May 5. I'm happy to say the majority of those who wrote in agreed with my exhilarated confusion — I'd estimate the posts were at least 20 to 1 in favor of rolling with the show's latest punches. The tone of the mail ranged from euphoria to disgruntled despair. I wish I could devote this week's entire column to Alias, but there's plenty else on TV to discuss. Here are just a few of the most representative responses and questions. Question: No doubt you are getting a deluge of varied reactions to the Alias finale, and as a passionate fan yourself (go, you, by the way), I have to say: yea or nay on yet another neck-breaking left turn? P.S. Are you as tired of the "shark jumping" baloney as I am? Many, many forum posters have been saying Alias jumped the shark with this latest finale, and it makes me want to pummel them. It seems the phrase has become less about a show running out of ideas and more about Internet people expressing displeasure in a storyline. — Joyce V. Matt: First off, I say "yea," but also agree with those who feel that jumping ahead two years (if that's indeed what has happened) is a severe jolt. When Sydney re-enters the world she apparently left behind for two years — an amnesiac fugue? a trip through a Rambaldi time machine (a popular theory, it seems)? — what will be the fate of all those she left behind? Reinventing a show twice in a season asks a lot from those loyal fans who like the show for what it is. But it also demonstrates the raw nerve that J.J. Abrams has had from the start in bringing a newfangled form of spy thriller to TV. If its twists were more ordinary, we probably wouldn't care so much. And while I'm sorry that Sydney and Vaughn never got their Santa Barbara vacation together, I'm not sorry that this latest kink in their relationship is so extreme. (I enjoyed the remarks of those who jokingly suggested that maybe Vaughn married Felicity's Keri Russell in the interim.) I led off with this response because I was intrigued by the "jump the shark" criticism. I couldn't agree more that it's far too easy, especially in this instant get-on-the-Internet age, for a show's fans to lash out in disgust when thrown for a loop. To me, like Joyce, a "jump the shark" moment indicates creative exhaustion or desperation (like, say, introducing Jack's adolescent son on Will & Grace). The twists on Alias are so audacious that, even if they risk turning off or exasperating viewers, they're hardly an indication that the show is running on fumes. Question: I think if you like Syd & Vaughn then you hated the ending, but if you're a fan of the show overall, it's pretty fantastic — talk about a cliffhanger! I'm just concerned that two massive overhauls of the premise in the same season is a bit much, even for J.J. Abrams and his crack writing staff. It made Rambaldi seem unimportant, and the Syd/Vaughn relationship was trivialized by his getting over her quickly enough to be married to someone else only two years later. Not to mention still leaving Irina's loyalties in question. What do you think? — Hilary Matt: I think it's extremely risky to make such a leap in time, given all the other characters and plot strands left hanging. I haven't a clue and wouldn't dream of speculating about what the first episodes of next season will be like, but I have to assume that the Rambaldi device, the prophecy, Sloane and Irina will still be dynamic elements of future storylines. As for Vaughn marrying so quickly, seems to me that it didn't take Syd all that long for her to transfer her romantic loyalties to Vaughn after her fiancé was killed. (Also, thanks to those who pointed out the error in my Dispatch that Will wasn't lying in the same tub as Danny's corpse. Danny was killed in his, not Syd's, apartment. Still, it was a shocking echo of the revelation from the pilot.) Question: While I was sitting on the edge of my seat (literally) during the entire Alias season finale, after it ended the more I thought about it the more frustrated I got. Didn't you feel like fast-forwarding the show two years felt more like the easy way out? I mean they drag us along (in a good way) for a year and a half with SD6 and then they go and do this. I can only begin to imagine what we have missed. I feel like I've been cheated out of two years of action and the show has been put on pause. After all, it's probably going to take a whole season of flashbacks to tell what the heck has been going on! Don't you think there could have been a better way to leave us hanging this season? I'm hoping when it returns in the fall that the Hong Kong ending was all a dream! — Tara Matt: Others who wrote in threatened to bail if it was all a dream. (Dallas and Patrick Duffy were mentioned numerous times.) I'm not ready to concede that this was an "easy way out" — especially given the ferocity of some of the negative responses, I'm thinking of this as a calculated risk. I also imagine that whatever exposition we get when Sydney rejoins the story of her life will be done quickly and with the cleverness in story structure we've come to expect from this show. There may have been better ways to deliver a cliffhanger, but I don't think there could have been a less expected one. Question: I love Alias. I think it is an excellent escape and the fact that it is completely unbelievable doesn't bother me at all. I am perfectly willing to suspend my disbelief every Sunday night. That said, I was severely disappointed by the season finale. Is it just me or did it seem like the writers meandered for two hours just to fill up space? Most of what happened prior to the last few minutes was completely aimless. And the last few minutes bothered me to no end. I don't mind the amnesia or the missing two years, but I don't like the fact that now Vaughn is married. The romantic tension when they couldn't be together was fine, but this just seems artificial. It is just a way to reintroduce that tension. What is the point of even going there? — Nathaniel A. Matt: Aimless? Meander? I thought Will's storyline in the first hour was completely gripping, and the confrontrations with "evil Francie" were outrageously exciting. I would accept a criticism that the agents went on at least one too many instant missions during these hours — not that I ever really understand what they're up to in the first place, and like Nathaniel, I never really mind — but boring and empty it wasn't. Of all the aspects of the finale that seem to bother fans the most, it has to be the ring on Vaughn's finger. I can only assume that the producers know nothing hastens the end of a series faster than defusing romantic tension too soon. We got plenty of satisfaction this season from watching Syd and Vaughn together after the dissolution of SD6, but now that happiness has been wrenched from them and from us. Sounds like pretty good drama to me. Question: That Alias episode truly was befuddling. J.J. Abrams sure ripped open everything with that ending, and it shows they were right to stop writing "when/if Sydney and Jack will get caught" episodes. And yet, I really want them to stop writing Ford commercials into the middle of every episode. If I see another close-up of just the name/brand plate on a back of a Focus, I may just turn the TV off, regardless of how much fun the rest of the show is. I find that very unappealing. — Laurence W. Matt: I agree the product placement is awfully clumsy and obvious here. (Let's not forget the show's endorsement as well of Nokia phones, which sponsored the otherwise commercial-free pilot episode of the series.) But I'm afraid you're going to have to get used to that. With the increased use of digital recorders that allow viewers to zip past the commercials even faster than with VCR playback, product placement is no doubt going to become more common. The industry is going to have to figure out some way to pay for these expensive TV shows if conventional advertising is made obsolete by technology. Question: I can't remember the last time a season finale left me as breathless as Sunday's episode of Alias. I couldn't sleep, I was so obsessed with what possibly could have happened. There's no way I'll make it the four months until the next episode. (This could actually be a negative sign of how addicted I am to TV, but whatever....) But my question for you is this: What finales have left you in a prolonged state of shock? One of the only ones I can think of at the moment is the Season-Five finale of Buffy when she jumped to her death, but I'm sure there are others. I'm just not able to form thoughts still. — Amanda Matt: It's hard to remember them all. I remember being riveted at the end of The West Wing's first season when shots rang out in an assassination attempt. I also remember buzzing for weeks over the Practice cliffhanger when we saw that the killer in the nun outfit was none other than Ellenor's mousy podiatrist client, George Vogelman, whose trial for beheading a woman led to all sorts of wild twists. (Who knew this would be the beginning of the end for that show?) And I'm not sure I've ever been as dumbfounded as a year ago when 24's clock ticked to midnight and Jack cradled his dead wife in his arms. Many would have scoffed at a completely happy ending, but I'm not sure anyone was prepared for the show to end on such a dark note. Which makes me wonder if 24 will surpass Alias with its finale this season.