[At last, at last. Just when I get this posted, the site blows up--firebomb? Then, when I try to post again, my Internet connection goes down! Keeping my fingers crossed . . .] First, a plug: please vote in my Jack survey--I don’t have many responses yet and I want to hear from a broad range of fans, not just Jack fanatics. Thanks! “Firebomb” (2:16) once again saw family apparently recede to the background as Sydney desperately attempts to deal with Sloane. We initially find Sydney as Sloane’s hostage and driver, thanks to the bomb planted at the bank where Sloane stole the sensor in the previous episode (“A Free Agent”). Vaughn and Marshall determine that they can shield the detonator in a vault so that it cannot be set off, but Sark detects the loss of signal and rescues Sloane, disabling Sydney’s car in the process. Sydney is frustrated and angry, and argues with Kendall, complaining that they didn’t task a satellite to track Sloane’s escape. Kendall claims that they’re doing everything possible, but Sydney counters, “No we’re not. Not even close.” At Sydney’s place, Vaughn and Sydney discover that the house has been bugged. Jack takes over the investigation, ordering a sweep of the premises and having Sydney list everyone who has had access and what has been discussed there. Marshall recognizes the bug as one he created for Sloane to foil bug killers. Meanwhile, Sloane goes to Kandahar to meet with a terrorist named Kabir to discuss the weapon that Caplan is putting together for him. Sydney and “Francie” have a little talk, in which both express the feeling that the other has been “acting weird.” “Francie” lets Sark know that the bugs have been found and he tells her to “give them someone.” Kendall is able to place Sloane with Kabir, but they don’t have reliable intel on the location of his compound. However, Dixon does, having been on a mission there. Sydney goes to Dixon and begs him to simply give her a little information about that. When she tells him that it “could be the end of Sloane,” Dixon seems to want to help, but his wife is there and he refuses. Meanwhile, in Kandahar, Sloane admires Kabir’s art collection, particularly a 16th century Buddhist piece representing ahrat, a destroyer of the enemy. He and Kabir arrange for a demonstration of the weapon. At the CIA they meet to determine another way to locate the compound. Will suggests that rather than paying people who probably hate Americans as much as the terrorists, perhaps they should speak with Kabir’s ex-wife, Aliyah Kazabi, who had to send her son into hiding to avoid retribution from her ex. The CIA agrees and Sydney and Vaughn are sent to Mexico City to meet her where she works at the Vatican embassy. We then learn the target that Kabir wants destroyed for the demonstration: none other than Aliyah Kazabi. The evening finds Sark nervous awaiting the test. Sydney attempts to gain the assistance of Kazabi, who resists. Luckily, the CIA gets wind of the impending attack and they are able to begin evacuation of the church. Sydney knocks out Kazabi and carries her to safety. However, not everyone is able to escape and many people burst into flames are incinerated from the inside out. Kabir is so grateful to Sloane that he presents him with the statuette that he so admired and let him know that he has wired $40 million to his account in exchange for the weapon. The CIA discusses their options. They’ve tracked Sark as far as Kabul, so they have an idea he’s taken the weapon to Kandahar where he’s meeting up with Sloane and Kabir. They discuss the potential of the weapon and the fact that, in addition to incinerating people, it can knock out computers and bring down aircraft. They plan to steal the weapon using the information that Kazabi, having seen the devastation at the church, gave them upon reconsideration. However, Jack has severe concerns. Why, he wonders, would Sloane take this tack? Why risk the provocation that using such a weapon to kill the ex-wife of a petty warlord would inevitably bring? He knows there’s a piece of information missing. In Kandahar, Sydney is captured when an entrance turns out to have been walled up. As she is awaiting her fate, Vaughn returns to Dixon’s door in desperation and begs him to help. In the nick of time, Vaughn and Dixon come to Kandahar and rescue Sydney. Sydney thanks Dixon for his help. Dixon admits to Sydney that he doesn’t know that he wouldn’t have made the same choice regarding telling the truth had their situations been reversed at SD-6. Back at the CIA, Jack stops by in an attempt to cheer Sydney up. “You got the weapon. You saved countless lives,” he points out. He lets her know that they’ve reached a dead end on tracking down the bugs. But he goes on to say with typical understatement, “I’m glad you’re home.” But Sydney is not easily consoled by either her father’s fumbling efforts, or Vaughn’s more robust ones. Sloane is still on the loose. More and more, he seems to be her obsession. Sark is beginning to wonder about Sloane’s strategy as well. He isn’t happy with the idea of giving away a powerful weapon to a terrorist for a mere $40 million. Yet, his mind is put at ease quickly when Sloane smashes the statuette to get at his real objective, a fragment cut out of a page of a Rambaldi manuscript. The question: if Sloane was willing to exchange such a weapon for this page (and considering the lengths he was willing to go to to create that weapon), what must this page contain? Analysis . . . Sloane describes himself as “a man with no country and few allegiances.” Looks like he’s planning on needing very few indeed on a path to world domination (the “greatest power”?). At first glance, it would seem that once again family has been relegated to the back burner. Yet family is again everywhere. Dixon would seem inclined to rejoin the CIA. In fact, even when Sydney asked for his help he seemed to want to assist--particularly when he discovered that Sloane could be involved. It was his wife who stopped him. He wants to hold his family together. Again, we see the warped fatherly feeling Sloane seems to feel toward Sydney. And again, it seems to take on a Frankensteinian quality, as he remarks that he considers Sydney his “greatest achievement.” Was there more mental conditioning than just Project Christmas involved? Something with McCullough at SD-6 perhaps? There is another family, which was ripped apart--Kabir, his ex-wife Kazabi, and their son in hiding. The wife in this case was sold into marriage and subsequently divorced on that basis. Kabir chose her as the target for the demonstration of the weapon--her location, inflamingly, in a church. This situation has interesting resonance with Sydney’s family. The mother in this case came into the marriage as an assignment (business; “sold”) and left when that assignment ended (although the circumstances are still unclear). The father has subsequently “targeted” the mother--and certainly has conflicted feelings regarding her. The daughter, although not in hiding, has had the facts of the family hidden from her. Consider the discussions Jack and Sloane had earlier this year about Sloane’s murder of his own wife. Jack was clearly disturbed by this and saw a parallel to his own situation. Although Emily is still alive, Jack still doesn’t know this for certain. Jack still lives with the guilt of setting up Irina, a desperate move designed to protect Sydney--and keep Irina away from himself, a man all too vulnerable to her. I can’t help thinking that all these family reminders are setting the foundation for a shift of focus back on the Bristows. Going with Jack, isn’t it interesting that he stayed in the background, allowing Vaughn to take point in leading the charge to rescue Sydney? You’d think he’d want to be involved, wouldn’t you? Ah, he probably did want to be involved. However, the key to getting Sydney out was getting Dixon in. It did no good to bring by another familiar betraying SD-6 face for Dixon to spit in. Better by far for an unfamiliar good-guy face, namely Vaughn’s, to appear at Dixon’s door with an impassioned plea. Sometimes standing on the sidelines is the correct strategy--and the hardest to carry out. Jack still isn’t the warmest parent. He tries to comfort Sydney, but comes off a little impatient. Essentially he says, So you didn’t get Sloane, look at all you accomplished. What you did was really important. Focus on that. But Sydney can’t get her mind off Sloane. Jack seems unable to address that, the emotional issue. He’s still uncomfortable simply touching his daughter. He awkwardly pats her on the shoulder and tells her he’s glad she’s home when other fathers would be hugging their daughters tightly and telling them they’re glad they’re alive. Sydney, meanwhile, is consumed by her obsession for Sloane. Certainly the ramifications of allowing him to remain unchecked are staggering--as the horrifying demonstration at the church shows. However, Sydney’s interest is intensely personal. Sloane’s recruiting her into SD-6 under false pretenses was a basic betrayal. Then he compounded that by having her fiance killed. In fact, Jack’s undercover work all those years is largely--if not entirely--to blame for Sydney’s long estrangement from her father. When she tells Sloane, “you have been a plague on my life,” is she exaggerating? Can she take an objective perspective on this man? Then, just when she believes she has effectively destroyed him--by taking down the Alliance--she discovers she has done exactly what he wanted her to do. That action has made him more powerful than ever. Subsequently, she twice has him in her sites--first at the bank, then at the compound in Kandahar--but is unable to bring him in. Jack has a point. Sydney should find some consolation in the fact that she has accomplished a great deal, even if there is a great deal to be done. Jack’s sad experience over the long term of his life has given him a broader perspective that Sydney doesn’t have. Sydney wants Sloane out of her life so that she can look past him. Wouldn’t Jack like the same thing? Look at how much longer he’s had to deal with Sloane--at least with some understanding of what he was dealing with. He's long had to look for satisfaction in meager returns, taking what he can get. Random thoughts . . . With the knowledge that there’s another double out somewhere, you’d think that everyone would be looking at their best friends a little cockeyed. “Francie”’s not just a little off; she’s just plain freak-you-out bizarre! When will Sydney finally catch on?! Sark: “They’ll be looking for our LA asset. Give them someone.” Given the upcoming investigation, could that someone be Vaughn? Yet how could they make that believable? Sure Vaughn’s gotten close to Sydney, but there’s a lot of evidence that points the other way. I can’t wait to see what they’ve got that makes them suspicious. It’s good to see Will actually working for the CIA. He seemed so disconnected that I was beginning to wonder if there was some sort of odd subplot going on. He’s supposedly freaked out about “the kiss” with Francie. Has he sensed something but just thought it was about “the kiss”? I can understand why he’d be freaked out by the new “Francie.” But we still need to know what happened to him when he was supposed to get Francie and take it on the lam! Last, but most importantly, congratulations to the cast and crew on the renewal of Alias for a much-deserved third season! I've been bursting with joy, relief, and--with the site down--frustration at not being able to share my joy and relief! Discuss . . . Why do you think Sydney hasn’t caught on to Francie yet? Is she really that distracted? Who do you think will discover the ruse first? Why do you think Vaughn might be under investigation? The promo seems to indicate that Vaughn has been keeping something from Sydney. What do you think it is? Do you think Dixon’s family will come ‘round and back him up? How do you think Jack will react to a plan to have Irina act as “bait” for Sloane? Who do you think will propose that plan? Jack? Irina? What do you think is in that Rambaldi document that’s even more menacing that the weapon he traded for it? What’s on that fragment? Next: Vaughn has some ’splaining to do? Irina and a tempting Rambaldi doc serve as bait for Sloane. Can Jack be far away on this mission?