“A Dark Turn” (2:17) definitely takes us into dark territory--and the biggest ever column apparently . . . Irina takes a turn when she steals one heart (Rambaldi's manuscript of the heart) and breaks another (Jack's) that was freely given. It begins as Sark engineers an elevator accident that kills Yuri Karpachev and his bodyguards. Sark takes his wallet. Back at the CIA, Kendall realizes that Karpachev is known to be an associate of Irina’s from her NSA debriefings. Jack asks her what Sark might have been looking for. Irina says that he probably wanted the key to Karpachev’s safe, which he thought contained a Rambaldi manuscript about the human heart, but actually didn’t. Irina presses Jack about convincing Sydney to get out of the CIA, but Jack points out that she won’t as long as Sloane is a threat. Irina says she knows that Karpachev sold the Rambaldi manuscript to a Shtuka in Bangkok and that they can get it and use it to smoke Sloane out into the open where they can nab him. Unfortunately, of course, this means that Irina would have to be set free. Meanwhile Sydney and Vaughn are having a day out skating. When Sydney mentions that she hasn’t skated since childhood when her mother taught her, Vaughn visibly tenses up. Sydney tries to use the opportunity to get Vaughn to open up about his feelings about her mother, but he only says there’s “nothing I want to talk about.” They are interrupted, however, when Sydney is called in to meet a Mitchell Yeager, an agent with counterintelligence. It turns out that he is investigating Vaughn because Vaughn has been actively pursuing contact with unauthorized agents, including ex-KGB assassins. If Sydney doesn’t cooperate with the investigation, she’s told that she will become a suspect. Jack pushes Kendall for Derevko’s suggested mission, saying that he’ll serve as her escort. He points out that the mission to Kashmir would have been an embarrassment had it not been for her assistance. However, Kendall isn’t quite convinced: Kendall: When the hell did we switch places? Derevko could be using those operations just to convince us she’s trustworthy. Jack: I’ve had twenty years to reflect on that woman’s obility to deceive. Trust me. If she lies to me again, I’ll know it. (Hm. How do you know if Irina is lying? Perhaps if her lips are moving?! Clue number one that Jack has his head on backwards . . .) Somehow Kendall gets approval for the mission and Marshall implants a tracking device behind Irina’s shoulder (“Wow . . . you’re tough!”). We’re returned to Sydney’s meeting with Yeager, where she’s given a device to download an image the hard drive of Vaughn’s laptop. She’s told that he’s downloaded a copy of Xenon, a federal offense. Sydney objects. However, Yeager brings up the topic of Sydney’s mother, telling Sydney that he met her. She was charming and disarming, he says, but not what she seemed. “What is your priority?” he asks. “National security, or your new boyfriend?” In Bangkok, Jack watches as Irina meets with Shtuka, who is playing a knife game (not quite mumblety-peg, I’m afraid I don’t know the name) with a frightened girl. Irina offers to take her place. During the game, Irina grabs the knife and puts it a Shtuka’s throat, getting the bodyguard to drop his weapon. Shtuka reveals that he traded the manuscript for opium rights to a man in Hong Kong. Irina then kills him and two body guards (very impressively), but is saved from a fourth guard by Jack’s shot. Irina seems genuinely shocked that she missed the fourth guard. On the flight to Hong Kong, Irina reminisces about Sloane, remarking that he and Jack were initially “true friends”: Jack: We shared a similar unsentimental patriotism . . . and devotion to our wives. But Sloane changed and it was Rambaldi that did it. I’m not sure what it is--he never told me--but Sloane has a personal connection to Rambaldi. Irina: I lived for years with the same obsession--to find a higher meaning in Rambaldi’s work. I never understood how you managed to avoid getting caught up in it. Jack: I had something neither of you did. Irina: Sydney. (Jack gets up and walks past Irina, but she catches his hand) Irina: I never thanked you for everything that--for raising our daughter. Jack: We land in four hours. Get some rest. Back in Los Angeles, Vaughn has gotten wind of Jack and Irina’s mission. He is extremely concerned and asks Sydney if she’s heard about it. She says yes, her father told her about it. “This one we should have [been part of],” he insists. He takes a shower, leaving Sydney to consider whether to cooperate with Yeager’s investigation. We then join Will, who is having a nightmare in which he spills the beans to Francie. He talks it over with Vaughn, who assures him it’s quite normal. In Hong Kong, Jack and Irina go through a rather simple by-the-numbers exercise to get the manuscript. However, Irina looks quite excited to get her hands on it. At CIA headquarters, Sydney approaches Vaughn and decides to be direct. She asks him straight out, “Are you keeping secrets from me?” Vaughn is evasive, first saying, well yes, it’s the beginning of a relationship, and then next, well, of course there are things that I’m prohibited by security rules from revealing. When pressed, he goes on to say, “I don’t like it when people question my loyalty. It makes me insane.” Sydney points out that she wasn’t questioning his loyalty, but his honesty, not quite the same thing and reiterates that “secrets will be a problem between us.” Vaughn doesn’t directly address this, but instead shows her a key. “This is a key to my apartment,” he says. “I was going to give it to you at dinner. Obviously an inappropriate move.” Sydney returns to Yeager’s conference room and hands him the disk--still blank. She says, “Ask yourself: Would you betray someone you love?” Jack prepares to go to Panama to grab Sloane. Kendall tells him “You make this happen, you can have my job.” Jack responds, “No thanks.” Irina has asked Sydney to meet with her. Irina says it’s because the mission is dangerous. But the point is to tell Sydney that she loves her. Sydney tells her that she’s coming back, and Irina says she hopes so. That night, Francie extracts information about satellite controls that she sent Will to obtain. Meanwhile, in Panama, Jack goes over the mission details with Irina. Irina requests that Jack remove the tracking device--ostensibly because it might be discovered and give away the mission. Jack agrees, mentioning that Kendall would have him court-martialed for doing it. Irina says, “Kendall’s not as smart as you are.” (Gee, if she’d said that to me, I’d have jammed that tracker right back in as far as it would go--assuming I’d have taken it out in the first place! Clue number two that Jack has his head on backwards . . .) At this point, the two exchange some words about getting rest, but that’s not where their minds are. Irina leans towards Jack and he finally gives in, kissing her passionately. We then see Sydney and Weiss. Weiss tells Sydney that they’re bringing formal charges against Vaughn. They locate his car so that they can let him know what’s coming. Sydney locates him only to find him meeting an with an agent--and not a CIA agent, either. Vaughn tells Sydney that he’s conducting “private” research. Sydney points out what’s happening and that now that she’s told him what’s going on she’s a target of the investigation as well. She asks him why he’s been contacting FSB officers. Meanwhile, the mission in Panama begins. As Irina leaves and Jack remains sequestered in the van, their eyes meet for the last time. Jack’s already look sad. A limousine rolls up, but it contains only Sark. They tell Irina to get in, they can track her. She does, but she takes the guards. She looks up towards the satellite as she enters the limosine. Jack begins to realize his worst fears as the satellite signal is lost and he understands that there is no tracker to activate. He urgently presses Kendall to check the manuscript. They stop a limousine, but it is only a decoy. Back in LA, Vaughn admits that he’s been investigating Irina for six months in extreme detail only to find nothing. In Panama, Irina joins Sloane, who greets his old friend. She reveals that she has brought the manuscript with her. “Thank you for extracting me,” she says. Jack receives the news that the manuscript is lost. He’s standing on a dock in Panama, with the guts kicked out of him--one more time. Analysis . . . Well, it’s all about trust, isn’t it? There are three couples in this little tableau, Francie and Will, Sidney and Vaughn, and Jack and Irina. All three couples have issues of trust between them, issues which this episode explores. In two of these couples, there is a further issue of identity: Francie is no longer who she was known to be, and Irina, in the beginning, was not what she was introduced to Jack as. Further, the CIA investigator questions whether Vaughn is what he represents himself to be, an idea that Sydney firmly rejects. First, there’s “Francie” and Will. Will’s guilty dreams that he spills his secrets to Francie are more accurate than he knows. She’s really pumping him for information in nocturnal hypnotic sessions. There’s no doubt here of love. This Francie certainly doesn’t love Will, and I highly doubt that Will, should he find out what happened, would feel any love for the Francinator. I think he might well want to kill her/him/it/whatever--though he might have to win a race with Sydney for the privilege. Second, there’s Sydney and Vaughn. Love is definitely an issue here, as well as trust. Vaughn’s extra-curricular activities have caught up with him and Sydney has been put into the loop. Vaughn must know that Sydney would want to know what he’s doing, but he doesn’t tell her. Why? He probably tells himself that he’s sparing her feelings, that if he finds nothing--as he in fact did--he wouldn’t have to tell her anything. Yet the fact remains that he went behind her back on a matter that he knew she would want to know about. Meanwhile, if he finds nothing, he won’t have to tell her, but if he finds something, he’s going to be forced to bring it up, which would be even more upsetting to Sydney, right? Rather than protecting Sydney’s feelings, isn’t he really protecting himself from Sydney’s anger? Vaughn knows what Jack went through arguing against Sydney’s mother and probably doesn’t want to face the same. Meanwhile, when Sydney directly asks him if he is keeping secrets from her, offering him the chance to come clean, he accuses her of calling him disloyal. He even goes so far as to show her his apartment key--a symbol of trust--saying that obviously it’s not appropriate--yes, but for whom? Sydney is the one who refused to go behind Vaughn’s back, only following him to confront him at his destination. She would not copy his hard drive, or cooperate with the investigation, bringing suspicion down upon herself. She even told Vaughn that he was being investigated despite the fact that it was a felony. (More about Vaughn later.) Last, but certainly not least, come Jack and Irina. This episode brought to my mind the following lyric: One night in Bangkok makes the hard man humble Not much room between despair and ecstasy. ~ One Night in Bangkok, Murray Head And perhaps this song, although not present on the soundtrack, is meant to be evoked by Jack and Irina's night in Bangkok, for its chess tournament/intellectual vs lust/emotional imagery seems particularly appropriate for this episode. And for Jack there is precious little room between despair and ecstasy--not much more than a flicker in his eyes between the intensity of his gaze in the night and the deep sadness of it in the shadowed interior of the truck the morning after. I’ve seen a couple of comments saying that Jack must be in on something with Irina, he’s too smart to fall for it--especially not again. But this is not what happened. It did not play that way. Irina believes that she's playing Jack. Why? When has she ever been completely forthright about her intentions with anyone--particularly her ex-husband? But the tip-off is her request to remove the tracker. This wasn't a direct request, but a manipulation. The reasons that she states for its removal aren't the ones that she really has. Her affirmation of Jack, "Kendall's not as smart as you," languidly expressed, is manipulative in an almost patronizing way. So that leaves us with the choice that either Jack trusted or he chose to trust Irina. Jack told Sydney “she will gut you.” He knows the stakes. And he knows whom he's dealing with. And yet he behaves as though he trusts her. If he doesn't trust her completely, he behaves to Kendall as though he does ("If she lies to me again, I'll know it"). If he didn't trust her, why then trust her with the Rambaldi manuscript? Why let her out of CIA hands without verifying that the manuscript has been secured? Jack could easily have caught her before she had flown the coop. But he lets the it play all the way out. If Jack isn’t genuinely heart-broken, I’ll eat my hat (and I love that hat!). Jack has given himself the luxury of too much hope, and he pays for it dearly. Jack leaves himself very little wiggle room on the side of distrust--which isn't to say there is absolutely none (we don't see his reaction to "Kendall's not as smart as you"), but there is precious little. (For more about Jack, see the Spy dad column.) Some have expressed hope that Irina’s motive is actually a good one--that she is only doing this to capture Sloane or accomplish some other good end. She knows what kind of man Jack is and that he doesn’t always go by the book. So if her motives are--in the end--good, why doesn’t she work with him? Why doesn’t she tell him the truth--or at least part of it? I’m trying to imagine what could prevent her. I can think of an obscure twist that would make it plausible for her to behave in that manner were she "good," but her avidity in response to the Rambaldi manuscript belies that interpretation. But let’s ask Sydney’s question, “Would you betray someone you love?” Regardless of her motives, she has once again betrayed Jack’s trust. If she loves Jack, she has done a terrible thing--not only that, but she has done it twice over. If she doesn’t love him, is what she’s done any better? To recklessly use the highest emotions of--at least what started out to be--an exemplary human being? The father of your child (though some argue that point)? Jack started out much like Sydney is now. And even now, he seems incapable of lying to or betraying Irina. The converse is most certainly not true. So, from the aspect of trust, does it really matter what her motives are? So, three couples, three betrayals of trust: Will by "Francie," Sydney by Vaughn, and Jack by Irina. Vaughn, as a good man, should know better than to hide things from Sydney. Jack, sadly, should know better than to hope to trust Irina. Both Sydney and Jack express trust in their loved ones, Sydney by refusing to spy on Vaughn, Jack by removing the tracking device for Irina. In both cases this trust was broken, but the fact that it was given reflects well on those who give it. OK, sad now. Let’s move on to Irina’s motives. Does she love Sydney? I think the answer to that is probably yes. Irina calls Sydney to her cell especially to tell Sydney that she loves her--it's really a good-bye. However, I think that it’s quite possible that she would have used Sydney had Jack continued to make himself unavailable. Therefore, Irina’s answer to the question “Would you betray someone you love?” would be yes. Does she love Jack? That’s much more ambiguous. She seems intent on seducing Jack, making a move on the plane (catching his hand) on the way to Hong Kong, before succeeding with the help of a little wine in Panama. Is it all about getting him to remove the tracking device? But he has already removed it when they kiss in Panama. We can read this in a couple of different ways. 1) She wants to make love to him; she has feelings for him; 2) She wants to demonstrate her complete control over him and humiliate him completely. If we decide that she loves him, can we say, oh but she loves Sydney more because she moved on to betray Jack instead of Sydney? Ah, but Jack’s already damaged goods; she might as well re-use him. Irina’s last gaze into Jack’s eyes was penetrating (speak to me only with thine eyes . . .), but what was she saying? Does she ever pay an emotional price for what she does? Or is it all meaningless except for Rambaldi? What is it really that drives her? Clearly her primary motive is not love or family, as it is for Jack and Sydney (Sydney proved that in this episode). Is it Rambaldi? She claimed a former obsession with Rambaldi. Has she gotten over it, or not? We can guess that she’s either 1) Working to gather Rambaldi knowledge for herself or 2) Working to save the world from those who would use Rambaldi’s knowledge against them. Her history would tend to point to the former. Our three men end up displaying their weaknesses this episode: Will has fearful dreams and fesses up about them, and although the damage he does is extensive, what he does is actually the best of the three--he tells someone about it. Jack, sadly, is never at his best when he leads with his heart, and that’s much of what we see here. His very body language, leaning against Irina’s cell, is very unlike Jack--far too relaxed. Yeager called Irina “disarming” and Jack, who should know better than anyone, has been disarmed. He resists on the plane, but by Panama, what little he has left has been eroded. He’s left holding the bag again--and the bag is full of, well, to be blunt, s--t. And Vaughn--oh, Vaughn, Sydney told you that secrets would be a problem. She’s had to discover too many about her family, after all. Shouldn’t he know better? He doesn’t want to discuss Irina with her--but refusing to acknowledge the giant purple elephant in the middle of the room doesn’t make her go away. In fact, she only tends to get bigger and bigger and it takes more and more energy to ignore her. That’s the sort of thing that breaks relationships. But the secrets are even worse. OK, he doesn’t want to talk about her, so he doesn’t want Sydney to know about his investigation of her. Whether or not he pretends to himself that he’s protecting Sydney’s feelings, the fact remains that he’s doing the very thing that she let him know was a deal-breaker. Then when she asked him about it, he waves a key in her face and makes her feel guilty for asking about it. Really, this is unworthy of Vaughn. He might not have “turned to the dark side,” but his unpleasant passive-aggressive tendencies are on full display. While he was in full Sydney-I-support-you-all-the-way mode, he was investigating Irina behind Sydney’s back and voyeuristically looking in on Jack's interactions with Irina. Sydney, bless her, was completely direct in asking him about it and he dodged her until she had him pinned to the wall. It’s really sad. Meanwhile, Sydney comes out looking very good. She resists betraying her love, country or no country--let someone else do the investigating, for Pete’s sake! And she’s very direct with Vaughn. She lets him know what’s on her mind, which is apparently more than he’s been doing for her lately. The Rambaldi obsession: Irina tells Jack she couldn’t understand how he managed to avoid the fever and he responds that he had Sydney. Irina says that she is seeking a “higher meaning” in Rambaldi’s work. Is that what Sloane is seeking? Jack speaks of Sloane’s “personal connection” to Rambaldi, but Sloane would never elaborate. To an outside viewer, it looks like Irina’s obsession has not abated greatly. Her expression upon laying hands on the Rambaldi manuscript was telling. Rambaldi brings Sloane, Sark, and Irina together. It’s possible that Jack was right: that Sark and Irina were working together all along. I had thought that unlikely because Irina was sending Sydney out at cross-purposes to Sark and Sark nearly killed Sydney twice during this period. Perhaps Irina saw Sydney as an expendable commodity at that time? It's hard to know. Yet it seems that the assassination of Karpachev was a planned signal for the beginning of an extraction phase. So what, exactly was Irina’s purpose in CIA custody? If it was recruitment, she doesn’t seem to have done so well at first glance. As far as intel, most of what she has gleaned would seem to have to do with the Alliance and SD-6, which is now irrelevant. However, if the plan was to bring down their main competition, the Alliance, with Irina working from within the CIA and Sark working from without, they seem to have been quite successful. Still, the full meaning of their plot is unclear. However, this new alliance seems a bit like caging three male tigers together. How long before they begin to tear each other to pieces? Each one of them wants supremacy. Each one of them is extremely dangerous. Perhaps Jack and Sydney should start looking at playing them against each other. They could really use a win right about now. Random thoughts . . . The Francinator just gets freakier and freakier. You wonder how poor Will can stand to be around her. Post-hypnotic suggestion, maybe? Speaking of which: Considering the talk of the Francinator being a male, I’m gonna be a’gaggin’ if she turns out to be McCullough! What happened to that mind-bender, anyway? Jack and Irina’s discussion about Sydney leaving the CIA. Jack had encouraged Sydney to think about it. Has he changed his mind since she had made her decision to leave prior to Sloane’s resurfacing? Again, Irina begins her manipulation of Jack through Sydney: We can get her to leave the CIA if we get Sloane and we can get Sloane if . . . Irina in Bangkok. That man-eating smile! Plus, never has the Thai language sounded quite so sexy. With her bold eye contact, unwavering smile, and deadly moves, Irina embodies that rare creature, the sexually aggressive female, the tigress. The quality with which Mr Garber intones the words “and devotion to our wives,” the expression in his eyes, and his body language in that last scene--wow, what a difference acting makes! It’s the nuances, folks! (Academy, take note.) I’ve said that I was hoping to find that, just as Jack is a good man damaged by his love for Irina, Irina is an evil woman “damaged” (or should we say “partially redeemed”) by her love for Jack. I’d say the jury’s still out on this. “A Dark Turn” left me with a distinct feeling of Vertigo--as in the rightly heralded 1958 Hitchcock film starring James Stewart. There are quite a few differences between Jack’s story and that of John “Scottie” Ferguson, but then there are also odd resonances. No, Jack’s not hanging out of the top of a tower looking at the crumpled body of his beloved at the end of this opus, but he looks up giving a sort of reverse mirror-like and haunting image. There is also the repeat factor: the lost love has been lost once again. The loved one is loved in an obsessive way. Jack cannot let go of his love for Irina, nor can he think rationally around her. Like Scotty, Jack was manipulated the first time around, but unlike Scotty, he was manipulated again the second time around. There is a grief and brokenness and tragic inevitability about that last minute. Irina is Jack’s Achilles’ heel. Notice how Jack was left at the edge of water--as the first time Irina was supposedly drowned. It has almost an end-of-the-world quality, doesn't it? Jack serves as the sacrificial lamb that prevents Sydney from suffering at Irina's hands as Jack did the first time--for I firmly believe that had not Jack made himself available to her, Irina would have worked through Sydney. I hope Sydney learns something from seeing him suffer before her eyes that she could not from hearing him speak of suffering in the past. I truly hope that for once we get to see the aftermath when it comes to Jack. I can’t remember how many times I’ve commented “I’d really liked to have seen Jack’s reaction to that”! It’s really important this time, so please don’t skimp on us, writers! And--please!--have a scene with Sydney and Jack. Pretty please? Can we wait until the next episode? No we can't. Discuss . . . What do you think Sloane’s “personal” connection to Rambaldi might be? Do you agree with Sydney that Vaughn should have told her what he was doing? Or do you agree that he was “just protecting her feelings” and going behind everyone’s back was the right thing? Do you think that Sydney did the right thing being open with Vaughn or that she should have done what the investigator asked her to do? She committed a felony by breaking the confidentiality agreement. Will Sydney and Vaughn patch things up right away? Or will it take a while for Sydney to get over this lapse of openness? Do you think she should forgive him right away? So was Jack right? Were Irina and Sark working together all this time? What will Jack do? Will he become suicidal? Hit the bottle? Become dangerous? Hit the bottle, then become dangerous? Or will he be taken into custody because of his dereliction of duty? What? The $64,000 question: Do you think that Irina is playing for herself or “the greater good”? Do you think she really loves Sydney? Or even more to the point, does she love Jack, even a little bit? Why do you think she made love to him--because she wanted him, or because she wanted to humiliate him? Next: (after we revisit Phase One) Emily has a decision to make; Sydney confronts mom. Modfications: 1) Additional thought: Jack might be aware of what he's doing; it's all about love. 2) Forgot to put in mention of Irina's "I love you" to Sydney. 3) Added reference to the heart up top. 4) Cleaned up Jack/Irina betrayal & added reference to "One Night in Bangkok."