“ . . . and none need know but us because the soil of a man’s heart is stonier; a man grows what he can . . . and tends it.” – Stephen King This quote comes from perhaps King’s grimmest and most inevitably tragic novel of horror, Pet Sematary. It reminds me of Jack in that it speaks of the secrets that men hold in their hearts and the hard, lonely nature of their love. In this novel, the protagonist, Louis Creed, pursues a course of action that becomes more and more obviously wrong, and yet he cannot refrain from repeating the same mistake over and over again. Jack’s sins are not so egregious, perhaps, for he is not secretly carrying the dead off and burying them to be resurrected as monsters, but continually burying secrets and playing the monster in attempts to bring about a good end. Do I go too far in saying Jack plays the monster? He tells Vaughn, “your consistent shortcoming . . . is your naïve sense of morality. Evil must be eliminated by any means necessary.” Translation: “The ends justify the means.” When Jack had the house in Madagascar rigged, he played the monster. Unable to eliminate the threat posed by Irina through honest means, he turned to dishonest means, playing her role for her. (Yet, looking at espionage in the most general sense, fieldwork depends on deception and dishonesty towards one’s enemies. Perhaps that is why the USA has traditionally lagged behind in this area.) A sentence later, Jack reveals his own shortcoming: “Sydney will never know what I’ve done.” I can only guess that Jack expects Vaughn to back down. Jack is used to people being intimidated by him. But Vaughn isn’t that kind of guy and demands that Jack tell Sydney what he did or suffer the consequences: Vaughn will tell Sydney for him. Jack’s shortcoming here is that he fails to acknowledge that Sydney is a soldier in exactly the same war that he and Vaughn are fighting. Jack believes that the ends justify the means, but he doesn’t want Sydney to (“Evil must be eliminated by any means necessary.” “I don’t think Sydney would agree with that.” “ Sydney will never know what I’ve done.”). He will use any means necessary, expect Vaughn to use any means necessary, but he doesn’t want Sydney to use that approach or understand that her father could and does. Now who’s being naïve? But let’s dig even deeper. Does Jack buy all the way into that statement? Is he willing to match Sloane’s actions? Irina’s? Even in to achieve a good end? Remember how difficult it was for Jack to clip off Sloane’s finger (1:13 “The Box (Part 2)”) even to save all their lives? (And then in the next episode we hear Sydney casually discuss with Vaughn how she’d like to rip it off again?) Jack understands that when he uses certain means to achieve certain ends, he must be willing to pay the price for using those means. Whenever we see Jack take an extreme measure, it is not simply “any means,” in other words, an expediency or short-cut, but the only alternative he sees left to him in an emergency. I can only think of one gratuitous act and that was the murder of Haladki, a father’s vengeance (and I’m still waiting for someone to notice that the weasel’s missing . . .). Even in this narrower sense, Jack must be willing to take on a tremendous burden of guilt for allowing the means to justify the ends, even when the end is to circumvent disaster (or what he’s convinced will be disaster, as in the case of “Dead Drop”). Jack doesn’t want that for his daughter. Nor does he want his daughter to take a look under the hood and see what he’s done and what it’s done to him. Jack wants to continue to take the entire burden upon himself as though he could be a lion at the gates. But Sydney isn’t safely inside the gates; she’s outside, fighting the good fight. Let’s assume he’s right about Irina. What if something happens to him? Who’s going to guard Sydney then? By keeping her in the dark, he quite possibly places her into Irina’s hands should Irina’s plots eliminate him. The statement “Sydney will never know what I’ve done” also struck me as wishful thinking, a lashing out at inevitability, for it seems to refer not only to Vaughn’s challenge, but to the Jack’s fears that Sydney would discover something that would lead her to a the even more painful discovery that she actually makes in Buenos Aires. And, in fact, we see on his face the realization that something of the sort must have happened when he meets his daughter at the end of the episode. He quickly pays for his sins, a double payment: first, a quick payment for his betrayal of trust in the previous episode; second, a payment a long time coming--for what, we don’t quite know. Yet I think this long-term investment isn’t exactly what it seems (I’ve speculated in the family column what I think might have happened). However, its effects are devastating. Jack, unused to closeness with his daughter, had let himself enjoy the new experience and now suffers the consequences of its loss. Jack’s torment of loneliness, always a potent subtext, has never shown so plainly upon his face. On another front, Sloane confesses to Jack that he hurried along his wife Emily’s departure from the planet. He rationalizes the act, Emily’s time was limited, it would be painful, the Alliance would send someone for her, but really, it came down to the seat on the board, didn’t it? (Later, Sloane receives an obtuse message suggesting that his efforts might have been circumvented, but Jack does not know this yet.) Jack doesn’t respond to Sloane in any way except to promise to investigate thoroughly and discover who is doing these things. Sloane suggests someone in the Alliance who was denied the seat Sloane now fills on the board might be to blame. Speaking of Emily, it would be interesting to know what Jack’s attitude toward her is. The atmosphere at the party last season (1:15 “Page 47”) was rather intense. Was it simply the fact that there was an operation going on? Or was it Emily’s insistence on telling the story of Will’s investigation (which was all too parallel to Sydney’s and Jack’s experience in SD-6)? It’s seemed to me that Jack has some special feeling for her, though it would be hard to say what exactly that would be. Perhaps he feels her experience with Arvin is so similar to his own with “Laura” that he cannot help but identify with her. At any rate, Jack’s hasty departure and minimal comment made me think that he was doing his best not to betray his own reaction to Sloane’s confession. I daresay he did not approve of Sloane’s actions. On the other hand, can Jack count himself so very different? Random thoughts . . . Looks like Francie actually took Jack’s decorating advice, though her red was on the orange side. Why, didn’t she have anyone else to ask? What will Jack do to atone? Might he--gasp--turn to the truth?