Jack deals with two problems in “The Abduction” (2:10): the ever-present problem of Irina, and the investigation of Sloane’s problems with Emily by the Alliance. (Here there are two abductions, that of Marshall, and the abduction of Emily that is under investigation. --Or even a third, metaphorically, Sloane's holding of Sydney "hostage to ensure [Jack's] friendship") Jack meets with Irina to present a deal, but first must exchange a few pleasantries: Irina: How are your wounds healing? Jack: You obviously had the chance to betray us in Kashmir, but you didn’t. Irina: I don’t imagine that means you’ve decided to trust me. Jack: Our previous . . . dealings would indicate that your strategy here may be long-term. So for now I trust that your behavior’s predictable. Irina: By previous dealings you mean our marriage. You know, technically, we may still be husband and wife. (laughs; sees Jack’s expression; softly I’m sorry. Jack outlines his deal. He states his belief that she and Sark are still working together, Sark inside SD-6 and Irina inside the CIA. He tells her that her plan cannot work, so she should accept his deal, confess, and outline her plot. In exchange, she will be relocated to a prison in Puget Sound, where she would enjoy at least a certain illusion of freedom. Later, Jack returns for Irina’s response, but she tells him that she has nothing to confess, so she can’t accept the deal. Jack asks why she didn’t just say that in the first place, but Irina admits to considering fabricating a confession to get into an easier prison. She claims that she is simply here to try to atone for her mistakes. Jack goes on to let her know that legally, they are still married: “You were right. Although our marital contract was founded on fraudulent pretenses, it’s still valid until it’s annulled, which means technically, we’re still married.” Irina then extends the same offer to Jack that she made to Sydney--he is allowed to debrief her: “From now on, I’m willing to talk to you, too.” On another front, Jack meets with Sloane and Ariana Kane from Alliance counterintelligence. Jack tells Kane that she should start her investigation with him because he has so much access to Sloane. Kane counters that Jack said the one thing that could lessen suspicion. Jack explains that, given Kane’s knowledge of game theory, the only working strategy is to tell the truth. At a later meeting, Jack is interrogated by Kane. He explains that he’s known Sloane for 30 years from the time when he was Jack’s superior at the CIA. They both eventually became disillusioned with the US government, seeing it as corrupt. Sloane left the CIA, later recruiting Jack. Kane seems mystified that Jack seems unfazed by Sloane’s having recruited Sydney behind his back, something he opposed: Kane: You’re asking me to believe that Sloane took your daughter hostage to ensure your friendship? Jack: In our line of work we can’t just cry foul when things don’t go our way. Kane goes on to ask with whom Jack has had intimate contact over the past 10 years, explaining that more secrets are revealed through pillow talk than torture. Jack: There is one way for you to verify if my nocturnal activities are a security risk, Miss Kane, but somehow I think we’d both prefer the torture. Kane (laughing): Ooh! What happened to that gentleman I met in Sloane’s office this morning? Jack: He got tired of your baseless accusations. Jack is able to wrap the meeting shortly after this, but Kane is not satisfied. Sloane and Kane argue over Jack. Sloane still believes whole-heartedly in Jack’s loyalty, but Kane has a hunch, pointing out “You have a blind spot when it comes to him.” “His answers are too perfect,” she says. “He even gets angry when it makes sense.” Of all the people who she considers as suspects, she says, “They’re all afraid of you except for Jack Bristow, who, I promise you, is hiding something.” Oh, you think? Yep, he’s hiding something. A lot of somethings. But not necessarily what you think he’s hiding. But, as Kane mentions, she’s entirely free to follow up on a mere hunch, this being the Alliance and not the CIA. Analysis . . . Jack and Irina begin their own pas de deux. The tight close-ups of their faces during their discussions emphasize Irina’s close observation of Jack’s reactions. Jack has a hard time discussing their marriage directly, as a marriage, referring to it as “our previous dealings” as though it were a business relationship. He wants to think of it as a mission, which is what it supposedly was for her and--tragically--wasn’t for him. His marriage meant too much to him for him to refer to it dispassionately as a long-term strategy, even though that’s what it was to his wife as far as he knows--no matter how she might chuckle with him over the memory of a burning toaster (2:09, Passage, Part 2). So he calls their marriage “previous dealings,” which Irina seems to find highly ironic, bringing to her mind the greater irony that they may, in fact, still be married. She laughs over the irony a bit but catches sight of a subtle change in Jack’s expression. His eyes drop ever so slightly. Is that hurt? The thought definitely catches him off-guard. It hadn’t even crossed his mind that they might still be married, so used was he to the idea that his wife was dead and gone. Perhaps that Irina finds the idea laughable hurts greatly. (Did he take her amusement as a reflection on his desirability as a husband?) Irina seems to understand this, her mood immediately shifting from amusement to regret as she says she’s sorry. Is this more probing on Irina’s part, or is this a natural reaction? Jack attempts to remove emotion from the equation and Irina injects it back in. She knows that emotion, specifically Jack’s emotional response to her, is his Achilles’ heel. If she doesn’t want him to think clearly, this is the way to do it. Additionally, she may well be probing his current attitude toward their marriage. But does Jack take all this into account? Jack’s deal is the exchange of Irina’s plans for a comfortable incarceration on an island in Puget Sound. Sydney got Irina some exercise in the fresh air on the roof twice a week. Jack’s going all out. He doesn’t want to see her suffering cooped up in the tiny little cell. You say it’s for the info? OK, if you say so, but I’m thinking that’s least partly window dressing. On the surface, Jack still speaks of strategy, but it’s bothering him more and more to see Irina suffer in that cell. He’s been in solitary confinement, and no doubt the thought of what she’s been going through has been nagging at him more and more, at least subconsciously. Jack’s come up with a way to solve two huge problems he’s facing. This deal would get Irina out of the cell and set his mind at ease at last, finally answering the question of what she’s up to and giving him and Sydney the tools they need to work against Sark and his allies. Definitely a win-win outcome, with both wins working for Jack in this case. But Jack is doomed to disappointment as Irina claims that there is nothing up her sleeve. She is simply there to atone. But Irina must see that Jack has opened up a little, for she offers to allow him to debrief her as well as Sydney. Is this a manipulation or honest atonement? Does she really hope for forgiveness? Only time will tell. As I watched Jack and Irina speak, I had to reflect on Irina. What inspired casting, and how kind of Lena Olin to accept (although it is a testament to the role that she did)! Lena Olin possesses a glowing, natural beauty that is essential to Irina, a beauty that transcends years, so different from the artificial, mask-like “beauty” created by plastic surgery and botulism injections. Her smile is extremely warm and, again, I must say natural--one can easily picture it melting Jack’s ice. But it’s her eyes that are riveting. You’d think the trite phrase “limpid pools” was written to describe those amazing, expressive eyes. Didn’t Jack drown in them years ago? Doesn’t he fear drowning in them again? On to Jack’s other problem, Miss Kane. Both Jack and Kane agree that he is the most likely suspect for Sloane’s problems to be found at SD-6. Jack claims that his best strategy is telling the truth. However, Kane has her doubts that this is what he’s doing. But really, would Jack be behind this? He might try to save Emily, yes. I can see that. But he would try to put her in a protection program where her path would never again cross Sloane’s. That’s not what happened. Also, as busy as Jack’s been, I don’t think he would be behind anything else--certainly not chopping off Emily’s finger (it was hard enough for him to clip off Sloane’s!)! It couldn't have been difficult for Jack to unleash his anger "when it makes sense" regarding pillow talk when Kane placed her finger precisely on his most tender spot. And this spot has been made all the more tender by Irina's presence reminding him of that spot, which is, of course, his marriage. His marriage, a huge Niagara of a security leak, was more than just a little pillow talk, and now he finds that marriage is still valid. Jack's secret desire to renew his marriage and trust Irina conflicts with his need to maintain control and distance, leaving him torn, and that sore spot more tender than ever. All this must play some part in fueling the anger that Jack carefully channels into his controlled response to Kane, and, no doubt, helps trigger her sense that he is hiding something important. So Kane’s intuition that Jack’s answers are too perfect and that he’s hiding something is right on, but probably for the wrong reasons. He is, in fact, hiding the fact that he’s a double agent, not that he worked Sloane over. In an episode filled with little ironies, the largest may be the fact that Jack, whose undercover work over 20 years add up to a huge betrayal of Sloane may well be exposed for an event in which he has in fact proven quite loyal to Sloane. Will Kane’s investigation uncover things that Jack would rather remain hidden? Just how far will she go, and what will she do? Random thoughts . . . Sloane’s confidence in Jack is almost touching. Irina asks Jack how his wounds are healing. I had to wonder if she meant the ones that were a few days old or the ones a couple of decades old. Does Jack intend to begin annulment proceedings? Or will he find himself somehow too busy to do this? How does Irina feel about this issue? Jack’s biting remarks to Kane regarding his “nocturnal activities” are priceless, but bring up the question of whether he’s had any encounters to list for her. Upcoming: Looks like Jack’s about to be put under the microscope by Miss Kane. But first, a few regularly scheduled holidays . . .