First a moment to back up to 2:02 “Trust Me,” where we see a classic moment between Jack and Francie. Jack has no problem facing down enemies of the state, but Francie immediately knocks him on his heels. How? Mentioning a common social experience (dinner out with friends--and do you have any, Jack?) and asking him for a personal opinion (what color do you like on restaurant walls?). This leaves him flustering about with cultural suggestions (white is associated with death in Vietnamese and Chinese cultures; how about red?) in an I’m-from-outer-space-like way that we’re more used to seeing on Star Trek from characters like Data. Having put Jack on the ropes, she then delivers the TKO by telling him she’d like to tear apart the man who introduced Will to heroin with her bare hands--not knowing that man stands before her. It’s an amusing scene, but, like other scenes that connect Jack with Francie, it underlines how much Jack is the outsider. Here I’m thinking back to the Thanksgiving scene of last year (1:07 Color Blind), in which Francie initiates the dinner, in which Sydney and their friends take part. Jack stops by to give Sydney papers vindicating him and sees the party within and seems stunned, and perhaps somewhat dismayed and wistful. Is it possible that the fact that it was Thanksgiving was completely lost on him? Seeing the party seems to set him off balance just as Francie’s easy chatter does. It points out to him just how much of an outsider he is--just how much he has lost. He wasn’t always so much of an outsider. Juxtaposing Jack with Francie seems to demonstrate that Sydney has a life and Jack has none. We know that Sydney has friends. She goes out to dinner and plans parties. It’s hard to imagine Jack seeing anyone outside of work. It’s hard to imagine him chatting with anyone at that bar. He does just fine, as long as it’s about someone else, as long as it’s about work, as long as it’s impersonal. On the other hand, it seems that Francie has warmed slightly toward Jack. Is she following Sydney’s lead? Cipher (2:03) finds Jack worrying about how to protect Sydney (for more about the family aspect and the secret, see the spy family column about this episode). Interestingly, we’re not being let in on how Jack is affected by Irina’s return much more than we’re being let in on what Irina’s motives are--that is, beyond Jack’s overt priority to protect Sydney. But there must be something going on under the hood. Jack puts on his mask before seeing Irina and doesn’t let it slip, not even when she drops her bomb on him--he merely hesitates for a split second longer than necessary after the prison door opens for his departure. What is Irina’s message to Jack in reminding him of the past, describing him as “a loving husband, a generous man, a patriot”? She reminds him that she did what she did “under orders” and claims to have been at times swept up in the illusion that was their marriage. This reminds us as an audience that Jack probably was this person, quite a different person than he is now: a warm, open, generous man, loving and trusting; a man who was dedicated to his job and country. It seems he is still dedicated to daughter and country (in that order, by the way), but now he is cold and guarded. We’ve seen him undertake some ugly tasks in and out of the line of duty and we know Sloane calls on him for little jobs like assassination. So he didn’t go through with the one last year; surely the CIA didn’t always conveniently abduct and hide the target. How much has Jack had to pay in return for Sloane’s favors? He doesn’t want anyone to know him too well, least of all his own daughter, perhaps not even himself. Dr Barnett detects a tiny crack in his façade. When she resists his request for help in keeping Sydney from her mother, he begins to accuse the CIA of being more interested in the intelligence Irina can provide than Sydney’s welfare. But he slips and Dr Barnett interrupts: “So you still think of her as Laura even though that was her alias.” But so far we’re not allowed much of a look through that crack. We don’t see Jack’s reaction after meeting with Irina. When he last saw something new out of her, on videotape, he had a very strong reaction and had to meet with Dr Barnett right away to deal with it. I’m very curious as to what his reaction was here. Was he sufficiently prepared to handle it? Can he simply “compartmentalize,” shove it all into some recess? Or will it come back to haunt him? Speaking of hauntings, we have Sloane, who hands a nice opportunity to Jack. Grief-stricken and guilt-ridden, Sloane is suffering the emotional consequences of his actions. Whether coincidence, gaslighting, or actual haunting, Sloane worries that his performance and standing in the Alliance may be affected, so he asks Jack for a favor: monitor him and pull him aside if he thinks “I’m letting my cards show.” Jack, of course, is in a perfect position to gaslight Sloane because he, no doubt, realizes the circumstances of Sloane’s promotion. Plus, Sloane mentioned the bed and breakfast in Sonoma to Jack. But would he? Jack really only need stand by and let nature take its course--and he has other things to worry about. It’s possible that Jack’s behind it, but my impression is that he’s a little more subtle than that. Meanwhile, Jack can rest assured that his assets of trust in the Bank of Sloane, depleted with his negative reaction to Sydney’s mother-hunt and his efforts on behalf of Will (for better) and Noah Hicks (for worse), have now been fully restored.