“Passage—Part II” 12/08/02 “This is a perfect setup.” THINGS THAT WORKED: -The execution of the Visual (a.k.a. Two tickets, please.) The production values of this episode were simply fantastic. Somewhere between the Bristow’s black-clad combat and the gold-plated rose of the Kashmir sky, Alias production said, “You know what? Let’s make a movie.” As the Bristows hike to the edge of the summit, the warmly hued saffron montage of the Kashmir landscape is absolutely stunning. And as they look out across the valley, to the serpentine body of the train below, as the expanse of a new day stretches out before them, the rich aesthetics of the scene completely immerse us in their journey. The palette and movement of the marketplace and, in reality, of the episode in its entirety are strikingly vibrant. As the image of Sydney’s face dissolves into a long shot of the voyaging truck engulfed by the dust-choked layers of field and trees and mountains, the texture of time fades in and we trail the imprint, tracing the indexical markers of movement to find it stopped, motionless, waiting. With a sweeping fluidity, we follow the edge of the vehicle, resting momentarily on Sydney’s reflection in the side-view mirror, before turning to peer through the glass at father and daughter. Played to the wavering rise and fall of the score, this sequence could not have been any more impressive. The slow soft-focus fade-in of Irina’s form as the group approaches the minefield, the contrast of their black attire against the yellow-lit electric green of the arboreal backdrop, the pulsating beat rising and expanding with the image, pauses on Jack’s command for silence. And then explodes. Gunfire rips through the bed of leaves. The scene’s texture and layered depth play perfectly. And how about the Bristow’s slow-motion sprint from the PRF facility to their CIA extraction point? The clarity of cinematography and sound coalesce with a kind of invigorating heroic energy. -Planes, Trains, and Automobiles (i.e. Kashmir – the Mission, the Music, the Moments) “Mr. Vaughn, the necklace has been deactivated.” At the end of last episode, it would have been unacceptable to break the moment by cutting away from the nighttime Kashmir combat. We had to be there, immersed in the textual ambiance, hanging on the desperate intensity of the Bristow’s fight for survival. The replay of this scene revitalizes the moment, infusing it with a new and different tension. The integrated shots of the CIA reestablish the presence of an external world in our consciousness, emphasizing the Bristow’s severed contact. They are on their own. “You’re not fine.” “No, you’re not fine.” Hovering together, framed in their parental concern, Jack and Irina kneel beside their daughter, attending to her wound. Both pairs of hands come to rest on her leg and Sydney looks up, doe-eyed. Jennifer Garner is truly amazing. The subtlety with which she imparts the captivated innocence of Sydney’s wonderment, the way she looks from Jack to Irina, trying to understand who these people are, is just breathtaking. The train. We wanted to talk about the understated brilliance of this scene. But there’s nothing understated about it. It’s just brilliant. Situated amongst the piles of crates, Jack, Sydney, and Irina sit in temporary respite, bodies swaying to the lurch of the train. Irina’s eyes come to rest on Jack. He returns her gaze, considers it, and hands her the bottle. Her stare fastened to his, she accepts his offer and drinks. Sydney looks on. Eyes still on Jack, a smile spreads across Irina’s face. She shakes her head in amusement. “I know what you’re thinking.” “Do you?” “Toaster.” The look between them has an ardent intensity. Because he DOES know. For ten years they shared that life together. The inflection of their voices, the familiarity of their gestures, the flirtatiousness of their banter are so painfully real, so spectacularly convincing, so unbelievably true that it’s shocking. Sydney sits below them, positioned as a child, looking from parent to parent, gauging their reactions. Irina takes another sip, allowing Jack to tell the story. His face comes alive and his guard drops as he loses himself in the memory. Irina laughs. The two engage in a dynamic volley of storytelling. They finish each other’s thoughts, speaking in nuanced terms, letting their facial and verbal expressions play off of one another. “We stayed in that hotel...” “The Summit.” “Summit.” They stare at one another with a fierce intimacy. These two had something truly remarkable. They had a child together. And now that child wants to share this moment with them. Sydney questions her parents with a daughter’s innocence, trying to place herself within the life they are remembering. And because they are her parents, they welcome her into that memory, gladly embracing her with their joy. Jack smiles at the thought of his four-year-old daughter. Jack SMILES. And as Irina laughs as a mother and a wife, as we watch Jack soften, we are lost. If this woman can inspire such intense warmth, if she can bring to light the part of Jack that we loved by inference, we will gladly risk the fall of which we were forewarned. Jack looks to Irina, across the twenty years that has divided them and, for a moment, forgets. But as their gaze lingers, the burden of the present, of other memories, comes flooding back. The moment dies. Michael Giacchino’s score was absolutely amazing this episode. The driving beats, the orchestral interludes, and the interwoven themes had such an incredible presence in this journey. Rhythmic and percussive, spiced with trembling chimes, the music over the Kashmir landscape captures an exotic eastern flavor. Then there is Irina, whose authority commands the will of the beat. As she takes over, the pulse takes over. And the power behind the theme of the Bristow’s dash from the crumbling edifice is cinematic in grandeur. -Passage Social interaction is predicated on a fidelity of trust, on a willingness to align oneself with another’s perception. At a certain point, the benefit of the doubt is a necessity. Thus far, we have had little reason to put our faith in Irina and no measure with which to gauge our doubt. Free from restraints, liberated from obligation, Irina gains an autonomy that she has not previously possessed. For the first time, her decisions have agency and her actions are open to our judgment. And though she is aware that this is her trial, that all eyes are on her, we have no other choice than to rely on the validity of her actions, because it is all we have on which to base our opinions. With gun in hand, she had every opportunity to turn against her companions. She did not. Time and again she saves them, risking her own life in order to protect theirs. Dropped by a bullet, Jack lies supine, sprawled, a landmine beneath him. Irina takes control, diffusing the explosive with skilled precision. She plays Cuvee to secure Jack and Sydney’s escape and, given the chance to remain emancipated, she instead places her own body between Jack and Cuvee’s gun. She CHOOSES to return to her imprisonment. The expanse of Irina’s emotion has never been so available as in this episode. Separated by a history that she does not share with her companions, she is blatantly frustrated with Jack’s inability to acquiesce to her logic and authority. Irina allows Sydney and Jack to perpetuate the assumption that she was an officer in Cuvee’s headquarters. She maintains this pretense until it becomes absolutely necessary for her to expose her vulnerability. “Friends? Do you know what this place was when I was here, Jack? A prison... here the KGB interrogated suspected traitors. And no, I wasn’t an officer here. I was a prisoner. Why do you think I learned the sewage tunnels or memorized the mine locations? So I could escape, you idiot.” With a passionate resentment, Irina relates her pain, her fury. For the first time, she demands recognition for her own sacrifices. Traitor or not, for whatever reason, she abandoned her child. And as she offers explanation for her first encounter with Sydney, as her daughter responds with an undeserved compassion, Irina sheds a single, unwitnessed tear. She is getting that child back. As a wife and as a mother, this was her rite of passage -“I know. I’m just preparing myself...” Somewhere between “We’re not waiting.” and “Our assignment from the CIA is to bring her back. That’s our job.” Jack becomes the one convinced of Irina’s loyalty. Desperately unshackling Sydney, he frantically explains Irina’s gift, and implores Sydney to accept her allegiance. It is so crucial that Jack stays behind to extract Irina, when he could so easily allow her to slip out of his life. Jack could have let Cuvee finish her off without consequence, but instead he defends her. If Jack can see the echo of Laura in Irina, the shadow of the woman he trusted, then we can begin to believe in a time when we might trust her as well. Irina’s transformation in this episode hinges on Jack’s consent to her reality. As Jack readies himself to open the grain bin, to acknowledge that the woman inside is the same woman that he married thirty years ago, perhaps there is a lingering hope that some metamorphosis has remade her into something that he can understand. Or, perhaps he wishes that he didn’t have to let the truth out at all. Irina has no leverage over Jack except his memories, but it is this past that lends this woman a borrowed humanity. And as Jack prepares himself to let Irina out, he takes that last moment to tell Sydney that he’s proud of her, as though he’s terrified that in the end, Laura Bristow’s return will be his dismantling. THINGS THAT DIDN’T WORK: Uh...This episode just WORKED. Unfortunately, we were mildly disappointed by this Sunday’s tasteless promotional trailer. We’re not entirely sure to whom it was supposed to appeal, as we weren’t aware that Jennifer Garner’s femininity could be reduced to a banal pun. Also, we’re not clear as to what purpose the secondary episode labels are intended to serve. Alias script titles are quite compelling on their own. DETAILS THAT WE APPRECIATED: -Marshall’s zeal for his role as Sloane’s handler was fantastic. And field-agent Sloane was such a unique use of a usually fluorescent-lit character. Also... we better be afraid of someone who can outsmart Marshall. -Biblical Allusions? Come on... Jack looked like Moses. It was great. Though, it was a bit of step down for Victor Garber, considering his former role as Jesus in Godspell. -Sydney’s smile is literally disarming as she once again uses a feigned innocence to outwit the enemy. -Jack’s silent “As if I care” response to Sydney’s query about her mother’s ability to breathe was classic. -“You Americans” was a nice reminder that Irina’s allegiance does not innately lie with the United States. Though her actions proved harmful to others as well, Irina’s BETRAYAL technically concerns only Jack and Sydney. -The way the train scene was played off of Sydney’s flitting glances was brilliant. -Kendall’s jovial slap on the back and mischievous grin in response to Vaughn’s “Are you trying to get rid of me?” was hilarious. Terry O’Quinn causes us such great mirth -Vaughn’s friendly gesture at the end of the episode was such an uplifting conclusion. As much as we love to watch the dynamic interplay of character struggles, it’s nice to know they find a little solace now and again. -Nice touch with the red golf ball. -Go go Oncidium Orchid! ETC. -Here’s to going full circle... It’s the Return of Rambaldi and perhaps a nice reminder of Giovanni Donato, the clockmaker from episode 01.08 (“Time Will Tell”), who was promised an unnaturally long life. -It is interesting that Sloane keeps opting to expose his troubles to the Alliance. His blackmailer must know that this is Sloane’s best strategy. So, the question is, is this his contact’s aim? Also, a bit of a lie on Sloane’s part, as Jack is also informed of the ongoing saga. -Intriguing that Cuvee, Irina’s ex-supervisor, seems to be answering to Sark. It’ll be interesting to get a clearer perspective on the hierarchy behind all these secret organizations. -Irina – what has changed from the last twenty years that allows her to return to her daughter now? Why couldn’t/didn’t she come back before? Motives? Ends? The most effective lies are the ones built off of some sort of truth. SIGNING OFF: Our admiration to Crystal Nix Hines and Ken Olin. Impressed as always. Zero and E.