“Salvation” (2:06) turns out to be a very difficult chapter for the father in our family picture. Again, it finds the mother largely absent yet ever present. And the child? At first leaning toward the mother, finally torn between the two. Sydney and Vaughn discuss the fact that Irina will be facing 86 counts of espionage and a long trial, but that is short-circuited by Irina’s guilty plea and a sentence of death to be carried out in an amazing (and realistically impossible, BTW) time of three days. Sydney, upset by this, dead-drops a message to Devlin explaining that Irina’s immunity agreement was violated by Jack’s actions, not Irina’s. Immediately Sydney’s strained relations with Jack are strained further when the two are forced to work together in a field operation, posing, naturally enough, as devoted father and daughter. The fact that Sydney and Jack have maintained a cover of estrangement within SD-6 even when their relationship was better is revealed by Sloane’s words, “I trust that this won’t be too much of a stretch for either of you.” Jack pins Sydney down, attempting to tell her why he put her through the pre-training of Project Christmas, saying, “You can either be angry or you can be informed.” Jack claims he did this to prevent Sydney from becoming a victim, to make her “as strong as [she] could be in an environment where one mistake could cost [her her] life.” Sydney points out that Jack should have revealed the truth before she wound up at SD-6, to which Jack passionately responds, “Yes, you’re right. I never intended you to live a double life. I imagined recruiting you into the CIA after you finished college. But Sloane got to you first, and that is a mistake I will never live down.” Sydney says, “I’d like to believe you, but I don’t trust anything you say.” She ends the interview by summarily capping Jack’s bug-zapping pen. My question would be, just what kind of environment did Jack expect his daughter to find herself in exactly? Your typical woman doesn’t find herself in that kind of situation, does she? I surely don’t. My speculation was a lot more elaborate, and certainly I could be wrong (and have been!), but surely there is something here that Jack is leaving out. I still think that the situation involving Sydney is more complex than Jack’s making it out to be. Additionally, did Jack really envision recruiting Sydney out of college? And how exactly was he going to do that? Was he going to base it on their long relationship based on love and trust? Sounds a little like a pipe dream. As far as Sydney’s issues of trust, really, can we blame her? Next we see the two of them trapped aboard a luxury private jet together on the way to their op in Geneva. Sydney is reviewing the op at a table while Jack stews and reads a paper. Finally, he casts it aside and sits opposite her. He reveals that he has intercepted her dead drop for Devlin. Jack points out that Irina is avoiding a trial to force issues with Sydney. First, Irina knows that only Jack would have rigged the house in Madagascar. Second, a trial would only bring up issues that she does not want Sydney to see; namely her past actions, which include assassinations among other things. She is casting herself as the victim “to compel [Sydney] to save her.” Jack tries to explain, but Sydney turns it around and throws it in his face: Jack: I spent a decade with this woman and another twenty years analyzing how she could have deceived me for so long. Trust me when I tell you I am protecting you. Sydney: No you’re not. I think you loved Mom so much that when she left you, you lost your soul. You know what else I think? I think a man who’d use his own daughter to frame her mother, who’d test psych experiments on her when she was six years old, is the kind of man who looks at his daughter and sees his greatest mistake. Jack: You can’t honestly believe that. Sydney: It’s true, isn’t it? If Mom hadn’t fooled you, if you hadn’t been so gullible, I never would have been born. Can Sydney actually believe that the father who has risked life and career to save her life on more than one occasion could see her as the embodiment of his greatest mistake? Think about it. Up until the time that they found themselves in the same double-agent boat, they were completely estranged. Why shouldn’t a daughter who is so alienated from her father see that as a possibility, especially a daughter who so resembles her mother, the much-loved, much-reviled subject of conflict? It’s also the one thing that Sydney could say that could hurt her father the most: “You wish I had never been born.” Simultaneously, she brings up the most unbearable experience of his life and denies that upon which he has based what remains of his life: his love of his daughter. What does Sydney see when she looks at her father? All too often she still sees what she thought she saw when she was a child: a soulless man who lives for his work. What do we see? A broken man who lives for his daughter. We have often seen Jack compromise his work in favor of his daughter. The op in Geneva doesn’t exactly go as smoothly as hoped, when “patient zero” mistakes Sydney for her mother and grasps her wrists. Jack must force him to release her by giving him morphine lest the stricken man break the seal of Sydney’s gloves. Sydney is given a piece of information to doubt about when Jack points out that the reason that patient zero recognized Sydney as Irina was that he was one of her agents, whom Irina had injected with the virus as an experiment. Vaughn tells Sydney that Jack is “willing to let [Irina] die for something she might do.” ’Scuse me? How about letting her die for something she did, like kill all those agents (including Jack’s colleagues and friends, by the way)? Senator Douglas has a point when he says “she’s had it coming for 20 years.” Considering that Vaughn’s father was one of Irina’s victims, I’d say this statement reveals just how blinded by love Vaughn really is (hm, he wasn't as sympathetic toward Sydney when it was Jack's head on the block for the agents' deaths). Of course, Vaughn has a point: Jack's motives aren't so much vengeful but preventive, whatever the US government's judicial motives might be. Despite her uncertainty, Sydney comes to Devlin personally to turn her father in, only to find that he has already turned himself in. Sydney watches Jack’s hearing, chaired by Senator Douglas, over closed circuit television. When Senator Douglas asks Jack to explain his change of heart regarding Irina, Jack at first characteristically resists explaining his actions, stating that his reasons are his own. But the senator presses, describing Jack’s pattern of rogue behavior. But it’s only when the senator accuses Jack of only turning himself in because he knew Sydney would do it anyway, Jack finally opens up, haltingly: Jack: No sir. That is not the case. Sydney Bristow, my daughter, has come to believe that when I look at her I see the embodiment of all my flaws. This afternoon, when I learned that she may have been exposed to a life-threatening disease, I realized that she might die believing that, but nothing could be further from the truth. When I look at her, when I look at the little girl who raised herself to become one of the most extraordinary human beings and one of the finest agents I’ve ever had the privilege of knowing, I see only the promise of my own redemption. Turning myself in was the only way I could think of to make that clear to her--to prove that despite my limited abilities as a father, I love her more than I could ever say. Sydney witnesses this in tears. Finally, she has heard the admission of love that she has needed to hear from her taciturn father for so very long. Even here, though, even while Jack is attempting to prove his love for Sydney, he must be pushed before he will declare it. But this proves to be a very complete declaration. Jack explains what prompted his actions (Sydney’s accusation and her potential exposure to the virus--no doubt made more potent in Jack’s mind by his efforts to extricate Sydney from patient zero in Geneva). He goes on to admit his flaws as a father (she “raised herself”). And he expresses his admiration for Sydney as well as his love. In fact, he goes beyond that, seeing in Sydney “the promise of his own redemption.” At last Sydney is convinced that her father’s motivation was to protect her rather than himself. But Jack’s sacrifice only lands him in prison and has no effect on Irina’s sentence. Sydney meets privately with Senator Douglas and secures the release of both her parents. Sydney explains to her father how she did this. She compromised her integrity. She lies, telling the senator that only she and Jack knows that there was a powerful US Senator in the pocket of the Alliance they need Irina’s help to ferret him out--they can’t trust even the CIA with so explosive a secret. Without Jack’s and Irina’s help, Sydney explains, she’ll have to take what she’s got to the FBI. Apparently, Senator Douglas is much more comfortable having the Alliance investigated than the Senate, for he accedes to Sydney’s wishes. Jack, however, doesn’t seem comfortable with Sydney’s actions at all. He wouldn’t have turned a hair at taking such actions himself to save Sydney, would he? But he doesn’t like the idea of her doing the same on his and Irina’s behalf. Does it worry him that she’s moving away from her moral center? He saw Irina as forcing Sydney to save Irina, and that’s exactly what happened. He’d probably feel a lot happier in prison knowing that Irina, safely dead, could never threaten their daughter. At any rate, Jack promises to respect Sydney’s decisions regarding her mother in the future. But we can see that the wall between father and daughter has gone back up as Jack walks away (shown in slow motion). And Sydney’s mother arrives in shackles and climbs on to her cot, apparently exhausted. Random thoughts . . . All three family members made sacrifices in this piece. Irina first put her head on the block, perhaps to force Sydney to pull it back off (in any case, a bold maneuver). Jack turned himself in regarding his actions of “Dead Drop” (2:04) and does not look to be saved. Sydney saves both of them by sacrificing her integrity. What is the meaning of the title, “Salvation”? Jack sees a chance for his own “redemption” through his daughter--perhaps a way to put together some semblance of a real life together? Irina, meanwhile, seems to look to Sydney for a physical salvation from her sentence of death. Does Sydney need salvation? We’ve seen Jack trying to talk to Sydney a lot recently, and often more honestly than he used to. But I think I see that trend ending for at least a while because that wall unmistakably went up at the end of this episode (the slo-mo turn-and-walk-away is a dead giveaway). Why? Perhaps it’s that he feels Irina won out. Or maybe he’s disappointed that Sydney compromised her integrity to save the day. Or maybe it’s simply that he’s revealed too much of himself and he can’t take any more (extroverts, this is a concern for introverts). You’d think after his admission of love, Sydney and he would be closer, but I think that Jack will be too strained for this to happen, possibly because of Irina’s influence. But will Sydney try to ease closer sooner rather than later? I note that, as usual, Jack's admission of love for Sydney was not a face-to-face one. It’s a pleasure, as always, to see Jack and Sydney working an op together. They seem to mesh in a very organic way, even when they aren’t getting along. This, no doubt, is an intentional undercurrent that Abrams wants established. The Bristows are a family; there’s something fluid and natural about the way they interact when they aren’t thinking but, instead, reacting. Did we need anything more eloquent than Jack watching his hands tremble after aiding Sydney in getting out of the grip of patient zero in the clinic to understand that he hardly sees Sydney as merely a reminder of “his greatest mistake”? Nice touch. And how was the CIA planning to maintain Sydney’s cover while blowing Jack’s? Surely his disappearance (into a prison cell) would have been difficult to explain. Next: The focus might shift off our little family for an episode as Sydney and Jack try to save Vaughn’s life.