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Season 2 Building a wall

Discussion in 'Alias' started by verdantheart, Dec 13, 2002.

  1. verdantheart

    verdantheart Guest

    We’re going to cover a bit of the same territory as in my “Spy Family” column for “Dead Drop,” but look for other things.

    “Dead Drop” traces the story of a man’s attempts to hold on to his daughter against what he sees as huge and implacable opposing forces allied against him. Jack finds himself totally divest of allies in his attempts:

    ~ He cannot approach Sloane for obvious reasons
    ~ The CIA and FBI want Irina’s cooperation and feel that any risk on Sydney’s part is calculated and acceptable
    ~ Sydney wants to use her mother--to bring down SD-6 and get her life back, she says--but Jack is positive that she is fooling herself
    ~ Vaughn, of course, has staunchly allied himself behind whatever decision Sydney wants
    ~ Irina, of course, isn’t going to back off despite any threats Jack might make against her

    Were this a movie, it might be one of that suspense subgenre wherein the hero has a suspicion that no one will listen to, like Debra Winger in Black Widow (Terry O’Quinn connection, BTW), only to have the hero proven right in the end. But this isn’t a movie, and the episode goes in a distinctly different direction, with our “hero,” Jack, taking distinctly unheroic actions.

    1. He argues his case with Kendall, who points out that Irina’s intelligence has proven out so far. As far as he’s concerned, the past doesn’t matter. She’s a walk-in, and as long as she cooperates and her information is good, he’s satisfied. He seems much less concerned with her goals and motivations than Jack is.
    2. He argues his case with Sydney, or Sydney argues it with him. Sydney is in denial mode, claiming her contact is strictly professional.
    3. Jack attempts his end-run around the CIA, proposing a course of action to obtain the map to the Man’s operations bible at FAPSI HQ without Irina’s involvement. Naturally, Sydney doesn’t fall for such a transparent ploy and works through the CIA and Irina.
    4. Jack tries one last time to keep Sydney from going after the bible, but his arguments fall on deaf ears.
    5. Jack calls in a favor and has the house containing the bible wired with explosives, which kill Sark’s men when they enter the building.

    Jack argues and argues his case and feels that no one is really listening to him, but rather patting him on the head and reminding him that his feelings are understandable, but based on past events, not current facts. He must feel as though he’s being patted on the head: “There, there, be a good little boy. The boogey woman is locked safely away in the closet now; she can’t hurt you.” He feels patronized. As he goes over his feelings with Dr Barnett, we see him betray some of the intense emotion that fuels his desperate path. When he tries to describe just how insidious Irina’s manipulations can be, he certainly sounds paranoid, doesn’t he? Jack points out that Irina killed CIA agents and ruined lives, and Dr Barnett counters that Jack’s life was one of them, so he can hardly be objective. But don’t those past events have any bearing on current events? Don’t Irina’s past actions--especially in light of Rambaldi’s prophecy (if you care to give it weight, which the FBI did last season, at least)--have any meaning? Surely one would think her information would bear closer scrutiny.

    Finally, Jack finds the squeeze completely intolerable. Having no one on his side, he acts to relieve the pressure on his own. Of course, the pressure is Irina, and especially Sydney’s continuing contact with her. If Jack can prove her dangerous, prove her intelligence misleading, the CIA will stop playing her game. So, he plays Irina’s part under circumstances he can control, proving himself to be the manipulator. It may have been a last resort, but he did resort to it.

    I noted in the “spy family” column that Jack seems to embrace Sydney in part to hide his anguished expression from her, an expression which seems to mix several emotions, including guilt and fear. Let me go further to mention that people who are reserved and unused to human contact often have an intense physical reaction to it, which might figure in here as well. I also mentioned that the embrace might represent a mutual support that father and daughter have needed to give each other for some time. Yet as I reflect on this, I wonder if part of Jack’s pain is that even as he is giving his support, he must still hold back his secrets, that he gained this moment of closeness through deceit, rather than truly earning her trust.

    “I thought there might have been a chance to believe . . . she had no hidden agenda.” - Sydney

    In my “spy family” column, I reflect on the fact that Sydney insists that her motives for working with her mother are professional, when in fact they are very personal. She hides her personal agenda, the desire for a loving mother-daughter relationship, behind the obvious public agenda of her desire to bring down SD-6. Her hidden agenda is not so well hidden, at least not from her father. Irina’s agenda? Well, that’s as hidden as it ever was, both from the characters and us in the audience. Knowing what little we do of her past as an undercover agent and as the head of a rogue intelligence operation, it’s hard to believe that her agenda is strictly motherly. Meanwhile, Jack admits his own agenda as completely transparent. “You asked me what I was afraid of,” he tells Dr Barnett. “ I can tell you. It’s obvious. I’m afraid of losing my daughter.”

    The zeal Jack pours into separating his daughter from her mother mirrors his daughter’s zeal in working with her mother--in the name of bringing down SD-6, of course. But when he succeeds and we see him watch them take Irina away in shackles, the light catches his face. As we watch the full-face view, we can see that he wears the same sad, nearly unreadable expression he wore in “Snowman” (1:19) as he watched Sydney reunite with Noah after he interceded on Noah’s behalf. (I discussed this scene at length in my introductory “family” column about season 1 and 2:01 The Enemy Walks In.) It would be interesting to get a peek at the script instructions.

    Additionally, as we watch them take Irina away, we’re treated to one of those songs JJ Abrams is so good at locating. The lyrics: “If I build a wall a hundred feet tall, would that keep you in? / If I shackle your feet so you can’t leave, would you try and run?” This is a particularly sad song (“Stay”) by Michelle Featherstone. Well, this song isn’t for the CIA or FBI.

    Here I attempt to read between the lines between the lines. I think that part of Jack’s zeal serves to distract him from his own deeply suppressed temptation to pursue a course of action very similar to and even more potentially naïve, stupid, and tragic than Sydney’s: to fall into exactly the same trap he fell into before. He’s not just afraid of losing his daughter. On a deeper level, he’s afraid of losing himself, of losing control, of becoming Irina’s tool again. Only this time it would be even worse because he would see it coming. My guess is that what Jack wants in his heart of hearts is the one thing he knows is impossible, for Irina to stay and be his. His logical mind may know that the probability that she ever loved him, even a little, is next to nothing, yet his heart is like Sydney’s--it wants to hope. Remember, the happiest time of his life was when he was blissfully married and completely deluded. That’s why he’s so broken. That’s why it’s so easy for him to see--and so hard for him to watch--what was going on with Sydney. The act of separating Irina from Sydney serves also to keep Irina further away from himself. (Yes, he was able to face her, but only briefly. No doubt he prepared himself well for that meeting. And we were not privy to its affect on him.)

    That’s what I see in the leaves at the bottom of my teacup, but I’m pretty sure I’m right about this.

    Random thoughts . . .

    I’m still plagued by hanging threads: As I and others have mentioned, there is certainly the disappearance of Haladki to deal with. Did Jack inform the CIA what happened to him? Did he dispose of the body? What’s going on with that? As the guy who seemed to be in charge of the mole-hunt (and what was up with that, anyway, when Jack suggested him as the probable mole in the first place when he reported the breach regarding Will?), you’d think about a hundred red flags would have gone up. Then there were also Devlin’s warnings to Jack about going off-book. Taipei was pretty darn far off-book, wouldn’t you say? Was all forgiven after he, Sydney, and Vaughn pulled off such a successful operation? (Did Jack manipulate the CIA like he did Sloane?) Meanwhile, Jack doesn’t seem to be making a lot of friends with his warnings about Irina. We need to know what’s happened to Jack’s standing at the CIA.

    It’s interesting that Kendall seems so sanguine about Irina, given how paranoid the FBI seemed to be about the Rambaldi prophecy when they thought it concerned Sydney. Perhaps the fact that Irina is in custody is enough to allay those worries. It also doesn’t seem to bother him that Jack and Vaughn took Sydney away from his own FBI agents at gunpoint too long ago . . . all’s well that ends well?

    As I watch Irina hauled off in shackles, I can’t help but reflect that they can’t take away her most dangerous weapon: her mind.

    Thanks to Entertainment Weekly reviewer Ken Tucker, who mentions “Victor Garber, robbed of an Emmy, plays Jack Bristow as a shut-down CIA vet whose anguish is communicated entirely through his dewy eyes.”

    Those of us who are still unspoiled find out what Jack did to Sydney. Desperate acts by desperate men?
  2. Intel

    Intel Rocket Ranger

    Jan 12, 2003
    Yes, I was also thinking the FBI were quiet complacent that they werent scrutinizing what Irina has been giving them, insightful stuff :) and I also totally agree Victor Garber was robbed of an Emmy :LOL:
  3. ivand67

    ivand67 Sydney's Lover

    Nov 21, 2003
    That was really good. I just took the time to read your first 6 or 8 columns from the second season, after having watched the first 4 episodes the last couple of nights... damn, good stuff!

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