Invisible family ties, emotional connections, long-term friendships, holiday bows, ropes and chains . . . In “The Abduction” (2:10), Sydney reflects on her parents and their past mission as a family. She says to Will that she had thought it impossible that “two people with so much deceit between them could find a way to breathe the same air.” Yet somehow she and her parents had found a way to work as a team--an excellent team at times--survive, and triumph. With a little nostalgia, she elates how they were attacked by the PRF and fought back, recalling how they stood shoulder to shoulder with machine guns. Will, with some irony, says his family is just like that. The images of Sydney watching her parents--her mother testing her reflexes against the wired-in reactions of a fly; even the relatively banal action of her father going over a report, looking up and acknowledging her glance--seem only to emphasize their mystery. Before their passage into Kashmir, Sydney seemed not to understand--or at least to ignore--the tremendous burden that Irina’s presence placed on her father. But seeing him struggle with the balance between mission, trust, and emotion, seeing memory, pride in her, acceptance of the guidance of a cooler head, courage under fire, under torture, she saw--began to see--the humanity in her father. And her mother, mysterious as ever, tested, proved true--this time. And perhaps the greatest mystery is how this family seems somehow still tied together. They weren’t a spy family ever before. They are all trained spies, of course, but as a team, they are magnificent. Think of what they could be if Jack and Irina trusted one another. Sydney’s family is a strange and oddly beautiful thing. And yet, it may still be a dangerous thing. Sydney meets her mother as she is exercising on the roof of her prison. She is now allowed 15 minutes twice a week, thanks to Sydney’s request. Irina explains how young and inexperienced she was when she entered the KGB. She was 18, she says, and offered the rare chance of a future, independence, and empowerment. But, she says she’s come to realize “I was a fool to think that any ideology could come before my daughter!” Sydney is overwhelmed and turns, but Irina calls to her and hugs her, impassioned, tears running down her face. The moment comes to an incongruous and sudden end as the guards yell, “Stand down!” and raise their weapons. Sydney and Irina part, their hands raised in the air. Later, Sark tries to use his own connection to Sydney’s mother as a way to connect with Sydney. He says that he learned a lot from her and that “In some ways I think of her as a mother myself.” (I don’t think he scored a lot of points with Sydney that way, somehow.) Then Jack drops by Irina’s cell to offer her a deal. As usual, Irina opens with a note of personal concern, “How are your wounds healing?” which Jack ignores. Jack points out that, although Irina did not take her chance to betray them in Kashmir, he can’t afford to trust her, pointing out “Our previous . . . dealings would indicate that your strategy here may be long-term.” This leads Irina to side-track Jack’s offer when she says, “By previous dealings you mean our marriage.” Jack can’t bear to deal with that subject directly. He doesn’t want to deal with it as a marriage, but as an espionage encounter, thereby draining it of its intense emotional charge. But Irina won’t let him do that. She goes on to wonder the same thing that most of us must have been wondering: What is the legal state of their marriage? “You know,” she says, “technically, we may still be husband and wife.” It strikes her as ironic and she laughs over the thought, until she catches the subtle change that it brings over Jack’s expression. He hadn’t even thought about that possibility, and it’s pierced him to the bone. Irina’s apology seems genuine enough. It seems that even she hadn’t realized that her remark would cut him so deeply. Or is she simply probing him again, and found a sensitive spot? Jack goes on to tell Irina that he believes that Sark is still working for her, infiltrating SD-6 as he is infiltrating the CIA. However, he goes on, it’s not going to work. He has a deal, he says. His deal is to locate her on an island in Puget Sound in exchange for her confession and full disclosure of her plans. He gives her time to think the offer over. Sydney and Will get together after his psychological exam and Will talks about how strange the questions are. For example, Will says, one asks who you would rather kill, your mother, your father, or yourself. Sydney points out that the question tests your response to authority, but it still begs the question of how Sydney would have answered that question--particularly before “Truth Be Told” (1:01). They go on to talk about how hard it is to keep things from Francie. Will talks about how he used to share everything with her and how things have changed. Sydney says, “After Danny and what happened to you, I have to accept that it’s a gesture of love to deceive the people I care about.” Hm, does she yet accept that same gesture of love from her father? Will she when she realizes it comes from her mother? (And you know it’s coming, sooner or later.) When will she have to express such a gesture to either her mother or father? And how? The line between when lies protect a person you love and when they prevent that person from being able to protect him/herself--or when they cease to protect that person and simply live on to protect the liar--can be a very fine one. When Jack returns to Irina’s cell, she tells him that she has nothing to confess, that--despite what he must think--she simply came to atone. Jack asks why she didn’t say that right away if that were the truth, but she says she considered fabricating a confession for the relative comfort of the Puget Sound incarceration. Jack, meanwhile, has done his homework on their marital status and has found that, although a fraud was perpetrated (Irina’s false identity), the contract is still valid until it is annulled. Therefore Jack and Irina are still married. However, Jack does not say outright whether he is seeking annulment. Irina tells Jack that she’s altering her agreement. In addition to allowing Sydney to debrief her, she’s willing to allow Jack to debrief her as well. A little analysis . . . How are we to read Irina’s tentative moves toward Jack? She claims her motives for walking in are simply to make up for her past mistakes. Yet she has not simply thrown herself contritely before those she has wronged, begging their mercy, but carefully awaited openings in which she would be heard and mercy would be granted. She has not, as Sydney did, written out, in full, all that she knew, but agreed to exchange information for immunity, then dispensed that information at her own discretion to whom she pleased (her daughter at first, and now, she promises, her husband). As we can see, she is in full control of the situation, and, I daresay, that includes her emotions. Her love for Sydney--and even for Jack--may be real, but it is not uncontrolled. And her cards are most carefully concealed. She says she has none, but she has a story, a long, involved story which she has chosen not to tell. Meanwhile, Jack desperately wants to make this deal, hoping for a full disclosure and answers to all of his questions--a way to put an end to the necessity for continuing distrust. But this cannot be so, whether it is because Irina’s plans for the CIA are continuing as planned, or because (as she claims) they do not exist. But there remains the untold story. If I were Jack, I’d take up her invitation to debrief her as soon as possible and see how genuine her offer is. Vaughn seemed very interested in Jack’s meeting with Irina (which he watched on a monitor--at his desk, yet!)--I think I saw someone describe it as “disturbing.” This interest echoes Jack’s similar spying on Sydney and Irina earlier on (Cipher, 2:03), and indicates a possible similar concern, that Jack is perhaps edging toward trusting Irina too much. Why is this a problem for Vaughn? After all, he has come out staunchly on Sydney’s side in trusting her with her mother. Ah, but that was when he could trust Jack to come out on the diametrically opposed side. If he can’t trust Jack to support his (Vaughn’s) own hidden agenda, will he have to admit to Sydney that he’s not as willing to back her up all the way on the subject of Irina as he’s pretended? This would explain why Vaughn has seemed so much more sympathetic toward Sydney when Irina was the bad guy than when it seemed to be Jack; he could count on someone else to take the heat for him in this case. Our boy may be cagier and more manipulative than we give him credit for. After all, he’s successfully bluffed Jack into tipping his hand in the past, and that’s not necessarily the easiest thing to do. Random thoughts . . . It was kind of refreshing to see Sloane back to his old menacing self. Think Sark has a new respect for the old boy? As the dark figure leaned over Marshall, I immediately recognized (and yelled out) Suit and Glasses! Looks like he is the figure in the wheelchair (One in five! One in five!), left partially paralyzed by Will’s post-torture revenge. I wonder who he’s working for now (Cuvee? Sark? Irina?), or if he’s decided to go freelance? Could he have been the man who accompanied Emily? Or is that someone else? Looks like Sark doesn’t know about the family’s run-in with Cuvee in Kashmir, since Cuvee blames Sark for the strikes and Cuvee and Sark are on the outs. That’s good news for our little family. The Man's "organization" is looking more like a disorganization right now. I'm hoping for a couple of clues to help me sort out what's going on. It must have been a loosely tied organization if it required a "bible" to keep track of everything. Somehow, though, it seems to me that Irina might well have much of it in her head. Irina’s declaration that she was a fool to put ideology before her daughter felt very real. I believed her, didn’t you? I wonder if she feels the same way about her husband? And yet, ideology aside, this doesn’t mean that she does not intend to draw daughter--and, possibly, husband--away from their intended courses and onto a path that she maps out. Do you want to believe in Irina? I think a whole lot of us would like to. Is she setting a trap for Sydney, Jack, and all of us, too? So, what do you think? Should Jack get an annulment? Upcoming: Poor Marshall! At last they have a cliff-hanger, gift-wrapped just in time for a long wait over the holidays! Happy holidays, everybody! See you in 2003!