“Phase One” (2:13) marks a radical paradigm shift--for the Alliance, for the Bristows, for Arvin Sloane, and for Alias itself. Phase one appears to refer to Sloane’s and Sark’s mutual plan, of which phase one was bringing down the Alliance. It looks like Sloane found himself a better deal with better benefits (such as the continued companionship of his wife). But more about that later. “Phase One” opens with a debriefing of some new meat regarding the Alliance and its capabilities. During this meeting, it’s revealed that because Sloane has gone AWOL, a new director has been assigned to SD-6, an Anthony Geiger, who is not likely to be as disposed to be trusting towards the Bristows as Mr Sloane. The Bristows are therefore assigned to win his confidence. Sydney and Jack exchange brief words over this turn of events: Sydney: Dad, the one person in the world I want brought to justice--he’s disappeared? Jack: I’ve been doing this a long time, Sydney. There’s rarely an end to the story. Sydney finds this a challenging proposition when she introduces herself to him later. Geiger asks her about Danny and wonders about her loyalties. When Sydney returns to her desk, Sark claims that Geiger bragged about having hacked into Sloane’s files on server 47 (yes, 47). Sydney discusses server 47 with Jack. This server, she hypothesizes, must contain information that ties all the SD cells together. If that server can be breached, then it could be their “silver bullet”: the Alliance can be brought down--all at once! Jack hardly seems to believe it could be so easy, but thinks it over, and can only come to the conclusion that this must be taken to the CIA. Which leads to Sydney’s first mission, posing as a call girl sent to service the man who tends server 47, which is constantly in flight around the globe on a 747 (again with the 47). She is able to breach the server and escape via parachute--with some difficulty (and causing much concern on Vaughn’s part). Obviously, this breach will not go unnoticed for long. They must act against the SD cells quickly. They find they can do this by using a security code that is changed weekly. Jack says he can get the code. Meanwhile, Geiger is looking over Sloane’s email with key-capture software and finds that Sloane was going to send an email to Alliance headquarters revealing that the Bristows were double agents and then erased that section of the email. Therefore, the Bristows are both double agents and Sloane knew that fact. So when Jack goes in to obtain the code, Geiger meets him in the conference room and invites him to the conversation room, first having him call his daughter in. Jack calls her, advising her to take surface streets--code warning her that he’s been compromised and that she shouldn’t come in. Sydney realizes that to save her father, she must somehow get the code and make the coordinated mission go forward. The only person she can trust for this is, of course, Dixon. She meets with Dixon and makes an impassioned plea. You don’t have to trust me completely, she says. Just break in and you’ll see that I’m right. You’re working for the Alliance. Dixon does as she says. He finds that, indeed, the instructions take him into an Alliance system and he obtains the code. He calls his wife to tell her that he loves her, then he sends the code to Sydney, knowing that he will soon be taken into custody. As Geiger prepares to torture Jack (the man must be a sadist, preferring torture to drugs), the two reminisce over a former meeting, which Jack remembers, but Geiger doesn’t. Geiger then begins the torture, in this case, shock treatment. It all then comes together. CIA forces move in. Dixon morosely awaits his fate with a clueless Marshall. Jack awaits his own fate, rewarding Geiger’s final threats with silence. Finally, the CIA strikes, and Sydney rushes to the conversation room at her first opportunity, taking out Geiger before he can again electrocute her father. We then see a conversation between Sloane and Sark discussing how the Bristows accomplished phase one of their plan for them--taking out the Alliance. The next phase begins as a new asset is put in place--of Francie, now apparently dead with a bullet in her head. Analysis . . . First a little rumination on what this means for the series as a literary form. You may skip this and the next paragraph if this is not your thing. I can see why JJ Abrams wanted to break the mold a bit, can’t you? The life of a double agent is exciting and a pressure-cooker, but you constantly are led to the same sort of storylines: Will he/she be discovered? How will he/she escape? How can he/she keep his/her cover? And while these are very exciting stories that are full of tension, you don’t want to keep on telling them over and over. The same sort of thing happens with the romantic tension. You can only flirt so long before something has to give--you either have to give in or give out (break up); otherwise you end the way Moonlighting did (not a pretty situation). Well, ladies and gentlemen, Mr Abrams let the pressure-cooker blow this week. Wow. But the real importance of it is that now he has a greater range of stories at his fingertips. Does this mean that no one has any secrets anymore? I think not. Does this mean that everything’s resolved? If anything, it’s more chaotic than ever. And now Sydney and Jack can range outward without having to constantly cover their tails at SD-6 all the time. It frees other characters that we love (Marshall, Dixon) to actually fight the good fight they thought they were fighting all along. I admire a series that’s not afraid to change--especially when they can move in a good direction. It will be interesting to see what happens. The real gist of this particular story isn’t in the story itself--the end of the Alliance--but in its ramifications. Clearly Sark played the card of the Bristows’ double-agency (a card I thought he was holding close to the vest) immediately--that was probably what was on the famed piece of paper he showed Sloane. Sloane’s initial reaction was to inform the Alliance (he probably didn’t anticipate Geiger’s discovering the email; it might have interfered with his plan). However, he probably thought better of it, realizing that the Alliance wouldn’t think much of his having harbored a double under his wing for quite probably many years--possibly the entire time Jack Bristow worked for him. He was already at work on his plan to save Emily, so an additional plan could mesh nicely with that--remove the Alliance from the equation entirely. With his career at the Alliance having been endangered in two ways--by his keeping Emily alive and having been long fooled by Jack Bristow--Sloane came to the conclusion that it was best to cut his losses and start fresh. With the Alliance out of the way and the other intelligence organizations still scrambling for supremacy, the climate is ideal for him to hang out a new and separate shingle with Mr Sark as his new partner (And what a partner! He’d better be less trusting of him than of Jack.). There is a remaining problem, however. A great deal of Rambaldi technology lies with the CIA, and more (no doubt) goes to them with the fall of the Alliance. He and Sark need a way into the CIA. Therefore, they’ve replaced Francie with a double. How did Sark know that the Bristows were doubles? He certainly could have guessed it from their behavior (2:07 The Counteragent). Could he know it from Irina? That’s possible. He was in the Man’s organization, and so was Haladki. However, as loosely organized as that organization seems to have been, information was pretty compartmentalized, and I don’t think Irina was exactly free with it. Cuvee certainly didn’t know the facts, or else why would Irina have asked Sydney who sent her when she shot her (asking a question she knew the answer to in order to divert suspicion as she did in Kashmir) (2:01 The Enemy Walks In)? So Sark couldn’t have learned them from Cuvee, unless Irina told him at a later time. And supposedly Cuvee and Sark were on the outs after Kashmir, so he probably didn’t learn about the Bristow’s CIA connection at that time. He could well have learned the facts from Khasinau, however--they certainly worked together. Does he know whether they're CIA or when they became doubles? That's unknown. Like Irina, Sark has so many contacts out of the TV picture that it might be a while before we find out just how much he knows and how. Now what? That’s what a lot of characters will have to ask themselves. Sydney now faces the choice of staying with the CIA or trying for a normal life. Jack has been playing an undercover role in both his professional and personal life for twenty years. Will he now attempt to loosen up and rediscover his personality? Can he? He still hasn’t healed the wounds suffered from Irina’s deception. Dixon and Marshall must face the trauma of realizing that they weren’t working for the CIA--hopefully they can transition into jobs actually working for the people they thought they were working for to begin with! Random thoughts . . . What happened to Will on his way to pick up Francie? Mr Lumbly’s performance. This is why we missed him so much. The sparks as Geiger toys with Jack juxtaposed with those from ricocheting bullets in SD-6 offices. Mmm. Cinematic moments. Maybe it’s just me, but I was hoping for a little more father-daughter interaction once Sydney saved Jack. I just can’t get enough of that family drama. Speaking of which, “the kiss” was somewhat overshadowed for me by a nagging thought. What happened to Jack, anyway? A medic moved Sydney out of the way. Is he on his way to the hospital? If he were, or if he were still being worked on by the medic, I’d kind of expect Sydney to be there, wouldn’t you? If it were my father, I’d be there. There’s rarely an end to the story: I hope not for a long time. Discuss . . . So what do you think? Should Sydney try for a normal life? (Yes, I know, she’ll probably try and fail (just when you think you’re out, they pull you back in!), but what do you think she should do?) Who do you think will catch on that Francie is a double? How long do you think it will take? Next: Finally, that double agent thing. Guess it’s not Jack or Sydney, now!