[Note: the title is taken from a quote by Ariana Kane in "The Getaway": "You've proven far more compelling than a simple thief."] Come on, oh my star is fading And I swerve out of control If I, if I'd only waited I'd not be stuck here in this hole Come here, oh my star is fading And I swerve out of control And I swear, I waited and waited I've got to get out of this hole But time is on your side, its on your side, now Not pushing you down, and all around It's no cause for concern Come on, oh my star is fading And I see no chance of release And I know I'm dead on the surface But I am screaming underneath And time is on your side, its on your side, now Not pushing you down, and all around No it's no cause for concern Stuck on the end of this ball and chain And I'm on my way back down again Stood on the edge, tied to the noose Sick to the stomach You can say what you mean But it won't change a thing I'm sick of the secrets Stood on the edge, tied to the noose And you came along and you cut me loose You came along and you cut me loose You came along and you cut me loose ~ Coldplay, “Amsterdam” And I thought Jack was a complex man last season! Little did I realize. Jack must have thought he had a difficult time last season. Little did he realize. For this season he faced one shock to the heart after another, literally and metaphorically; he was repeatedly taken into custody; and the events surrounding him must have reminded him of past unpleasant events in his life as though he were running through a distorted hall of funhouse mirrors. For extensive analysis of Jack’s relationships with his daughter, Sydney, and former (and, technically, current) wife, Irina, see The telltale heart. However, aspects of these relationships will be touched upon here as we look at other aspects of Jack’s journey this season. Because we’re friends, Jack There’s someone who has been a presence in Jack’s life for more than 30 years--someone who has been both best friend and worst enemy to him. No, not Irina, Arvin Sloane. Last season we saw hints of mysterious bonds that tie these two men together--bonds that go beyond friendship, for Jack has long-ceased being a friend to Arvin Sloane in the truest sense of the word. Yet there is something between them. And Jack still seems to have compassion for his former friend. You can see it when he follows Sloane into the church and when Jack is strapped to the gurney asking Sloane why he doesn’t kill him. Does Jack mourn the man who was lost? Does he see in Sloane a man that we have never met, a man who existed before the mysterious “disgrace” that led to his adopting the “religion” of Rambaldi? And what are the mysterious bonds that tie them together? Nothing of that was elaborated upon this season--the “favors” that Jack labored to pay back. No matter what the answers to those questions are, it’s clear that at the beginning of the season Jack sees parallels between Sloane’s situation with Emily and his with Irina. Sloane is apparently in mourning and, as Jack learns, wracked with guilt over the death of his wife and his responsibility for it. Sloane adored Emily and Jack knows it. He’s said, “We shared a similar . . . devotion to our wives.” For Jack’s part, just knowing what Irina is doesn’t mean he can turn his feeling for her off as though it were a spigot. Jack’s action against his wife is as unnatural and reprehensible as Sloane’s--so what if Jack’s motivation was Sydney’s safety and not personal ambition? The guilt is no different. So when Jack trails a distraught Sloane into a church, a place of confession and redemption, he can bear it no more. He must confess his own sins, whatever the consequences. But Jack doesn’t realize that Emily is in fact alive and all of this is an elaborate set-up designed to lead him to Kane and free Emily as well as a nice chunk of Alliance change. Sloane doesn’t realize at the beginning of this set-up that Jack is a double, but he does by the time that Kane closes in on him. But Sloane must know, even though he intends Kane to fall, that there’s a chance that Jack may take it instead. Perhaps Jack’s life seems a fair trade for Emily’s. However, he does find out that Jack is a double, so he must take some pleasure in the pain that Kane’s investigation must cause his old friend. But he must hurry to Jack’s rescue when Kane pulls him into custody, for she shoots him up with sodium pentathol and he can’t afford Jack and Sydney’s covers to be blown before they can be used to pull down the Alliance. In all this plotting by Sloane, Jack is brought in as Sloane’s private investigator. He is close to the plot, but doesn’t see what is going on. As subtle as Sloane’s plotting is, part of Jack’s inability to see through to Sloane’s purpose can probably be attributed to Jack’s being consumed with the need to protect Sydney from Irina. It is not until Kane shows up that Jack changes his approach to Irina and frees his psychological resources. So the Alliance falls. And all is silence between them. Until, that is, Sloane meets up with Conrad again, and then, all of a sudden, Sloane is very interested in Jack again. He proposes a new partnership with Jack, telling him he’ll fill him in on everything he knows about Rambaldi. When Jack says he’s not interested in the Rambaldi obsession, Sloane says, “Now’s the time to sign up.” Jack says, “We will never work together again,” but circumstances have a way of changing--and Jack has a way of running out of choices. He’s constantly nailed to the wall, making the tough decisions. Will he be forced to turn to Sloane? Perhaps for another “favor”? If I have my way you’re never going to see your son again When Jack discovers the parallel between the Caplan family and his own, he suspects Elsa Caplan of setting a trap for Sydney with her endgame scenario. He can’t help but draw a comparison between Neil Caplan’s situation and his own, and when he must test Elsa Caplan in the absence of objective verification of her story, he must use his own experience with Irina Derevko to push Caplan far enough to satisfy himself whether she is being truthful or not. But tapping into his own experience forces him to bring up matters that he’s been unable to bring voice to with his own former wife, and he goes farther than he imagined, reducing Caplan to tears. Replace “son” with “daughter” and isn’t that what Jack might say to Irina? He’d do anything to keep Irina from doing to Sydney what she did to him--even kill the woman he loves. But the Caplans aren’t the Bristows--not even close. Elsa makes her family her top priority and regrets her decision to withhold the truth. Neil, on the other hand, knows all about Elsa’s background and spying, but trusts her love implicitly. Neither of these things could be said about the Bristows. I don’t know how to do this . . . When Dixon discovers the false life he was leading as part of SD-6 and his wife Diane is killed, Jack can’t help but sympathize with his plight. First, Jack led his own false life for many years, a blissful marriage, and he also suffered a shattering loss when his wife died. When Vaughn suggests that Jack take Dixon off active duty, Jack strenuously resists. When Vaughn presses Jack for a reason for his position, Jack explains that he recruited Dixon into SD-6, “I’m the man who sold him the lie that he was working for the CIA.” But doesn’t it go deeper than this? Isn’t Jack a man who, when his world was falling apart, found himself alone with a small daughter to care for, faced with no employment and a prison sentence? And for what? Loving someone too blindly? Jack isn’t going to put Dixon into that position if he can help it. He knows that Dixon is a family man and he doesn’t want to put the extra stress of putting Dixon’s job in jeopardy if he can help it. If Dixon messes up, he’s in trouble, but Jack will give him every opportunity to pull through--opportunity that Jack probably didn’t have. Just because you’ve gotten comfortable with my daughter . . . The relationship between Jack and Vaughn is a fascinating one. They certainly don’t get along well. Yet Jack doesn’t care what Vaughn thinks of him as long as he’s valuable to his daughter. Meanwhile, Vaughn can’t get around the fact that, love him or hate him, Jack is Sydney’s father. When Irina walks in to the CIA, Vaughn can’t be too happy with her presence, given the fact that she killed his father, but he waffles before settling into the role of Sydney’s ally and supporter. He lets Jack take the heat of putting himself in the position of being the sole dissenter regarding Irina’s “cooperation” with the CIA. And yet, we know that he, too, suspects Irina. Why? Because he goes off-book to check her out. He hides this activity from Sydney. This constitutes a betrayal of trust because Vaughn knows that Sydney would want to know what he’s doing. Still, Vaughn is appalled by Jack’s set-up of Irina. He confronts Jack, only to receive a small, grim smile. “You do good work, Agent Vaughn,” he says, “but your consistent shortcoming--and you should know this--is your naïve sense of morality. Evil must be eliminated by whatever means necessary.” Vaughn doesn’t believe this, and neither does Jack. Jack’s covering. His act was one of desperation--it took a chunk of his soul to do what he did. But there’s another little matter tied up in Jack’s set-up. When Irina is sent away, Jack gets operational approval, which means that suddenly Vaughn is answerable to Jack, and suddenly Jack is even more involved in Sydney’s missions. And Vaughn finds himself jealous of the other man in Sydney’s life, her father, whom she turned to for comfort when she thought her mother betrayed her, and upon whom she’s been showering warm glances of affection lately. Isn’t it more pleasant for Vaughn when Sydney’s turns to him for comfort after her father disappoints her? It can’t help that Jack’s actions hardly earned such increased affection. Vaughn hesitates to blow the whistle on Jack--particularly after letting Sydney know about his suspicions resulted in her taking him to task. And it all works out beautifully for him, for Jack’s past comes back to haunt him and Sydney once more returns to Vaughn’s arms for comfort. Jack holds no grudge, though. When Vaughn’s life is endangered by Irina’s bioengineered virus, Jack readily agrees with Sydney that they “have no choice” but to go through with Sloane’s assassination to save Vaughn’s life. Jack may not love Vaughn, but Sydney does--and Vaughn loves Sydney. Surely Jack, who is aware of everything that touches his beloved daughter’s life, is aware that Vaughn has waffled, dating Alice even though he is in love with Sydney, but Jack doesn’t doubt Vaughn’s dedication to his daughter--he has seen it. So he wants to make sure that Vaughn survives. Furthermore, this action will ensure that Vaughn is tied even more tightly to Sydney, for he has to be aware of what Sydney gave up to save his life--that she sold part of her soul by undertaking assassination to trade Sloane’s life for his. Therefore, Jack makes sure that he is present when Vaughn awakes so that he can tell him in no uncertain terms what has happened. “She had Sloane killed,” he says simply. Things settle down until Jack is put under the microscope by Ariana Kane, head of Alliance counterintelligence. Vaughn at first doesn’t seem to understand Jack’s urgency and need for meticulous review of all of the detailed evidence that he manufactures to back up his movements for Kane’s investigation, but he goes along with Jack. But when Jack meets with Kane and they discuss the two remaining pieces of evidence that she needs to resolve, they run into a problem. Jack sends his cell back to have his SIM card altered, but as they are working on that and Jack stalls, Vaughn seems to be thrown for a loop when the second matter turns out to be Jack’s murder of the mole, Haladki. He hesitates for a moment when asked for his own cell to switch with Jack’s and the serial number that they stamp on his SIM card smears, casting suspicion on Jack. As Jack rides in the van with Vaughn, he must endure Vaughn’s silent but accusing gaze. Once again, Jack has failed to live up to Vaughn’s standards. After this, Vaughn is back working with Sydney as Jack resorts to other resources to sort out his predicament. After Irina’s escape, Jack is put in charge of the task force and becomes Vaughn’s boss--not something he looks forward to, I’m certain. When Neil Caplan’s endgame kicks in, Vaughn chooses to side with Sydney rather than follow Jack’s orders. Jack is angry when Vaughn doesn’t immediately report Sydney’s contact with him and takes him aside, telling him, “If you don’t report your next contact with Sydney immediately, I will take action that you will regret.” However, Vaughn doesn’t comply, instead going to Spain to help Sydney. Yet Jack doesn’t nail him to the wall. Why? Because as he says, “Everything I do is in service of protecting Sydney.” Jack had decided to let the mission go forward off-book and without his interference and decided to say nothing to Vaughn about it. However, he warns Sydney not to do it again under threat of transfer. This episode makes clear what we had long suspected: that Jack was well aware that Sydney and Vaughn were “comfortable”--that is, a couple. He is respectful of his daughter’s privacy. As long as her decisions don’t affect her personal safety, he considers them her decisions. If he disagreed with her choice (as with Noah), he could hardly point to himself as an example of excellent discrimination in the choice of a mate. Besides, her relationship with Vaughn reinforces her safety. Perhaps this is why Vaughn finds it difficult to understand why Jack resists taking Dixon off active duty after his wife’s death. As Sydney’s partner, Dixon could pose a threat to her should he become unstable. But there’s more to Jack than that. As usual, Vaughn has no trouble going around Jack, speaking with Dr Barnett to have her make a professional evaluation. This turns out to be Jack and Vaughn’s last run-in of the season, as Jack’s last action is to send Vaughn and Sydney to Markovic’s server farm in Marseilles--an action that takes him out of his position of authority and puts him back in the field. So what can you say about Jack and Vaughn’s uneasy relationship? Jack respects Vaughn as an agent and finds him a useful defender for Sydney--however, Vaughn serves as an unpleasant reminder of Jack’s flaws of conscience, of all of the things that he’s felt forced to do in service of Sydney’s well-being. Vaughn doesn’t understand the forces driving Jack, nor how desperate a man can become--he hasn’t been there yet. Meanwhile, Vaughn sees Jack as a necessary evil, the father of the woman he loves. He’s a force to be reckoned with, but Vaughn is repeatedly appalled by what he sees as Jack’s moral failures. Has Vaughn ever really gotten over picturing Jack as the person who killed his father? How will their relationship change after apparently two years without Sydney? Apparently Vaughn may have attempted to move on with his life, but we know that Jack never could. I’m not cut out for management anyway Jack has always had a difficult time working within the system. While Vaughn is a company man who occasionally chafes against the system, Jack is very much the rogue agent, taking action on his own whenever he sees fit. This season he: Finished the off-book op to recover Will Set up Irina Conspired with Sydney to assassinate Sloane and save Vaughn Assisted Irina’s plans and escape to minimize her damage to Sydney Ordered Sydney’s mission to Marseilles without DOJ approval, giving up authority All this season he conducted a running battle with Kendall--primarily because he saw Kendall as having no consideration whatever for Sydney’s physical or emotional well-being. All Kendall is interested in is getting as much out of Derevko as possible. And as long as her intel seemed valuable, he was satisfied. When Jack finally manages to move Irina away from his daughter, he is able to maneuver Kendall out of his job--replacing him. Kendall is particularly incensed, griping “you blindsided me.” But Jack lays it out. “From the moment Dreveko walked in the door, you ordered Sydney to deal with her over my objections, with absolute disregard for her emotional well-being . . . As soon as I’m satisfied that Derevko can never harm my daughter again, you can have your title back.” And sure enough, when Kendall goes around Jack to move Will--who might have been replaced by a double--to Camp Harris, Jack takes an action that he knows will default authority back to Kendall. Kendall has shown that he takes Sydney’s safety into account, so Jack is giving him his job back. For all that Jack might say “So what is this? Retribution for me taking your parking space?” he appreciates what Kendall has done. It’s something he can’t do--for Sydney is depending on Jack to give Will every benefit of the doubt. So when Kendall says “You know, part of the reason I sent Tippin to Camp Harris was to protect Sydney.” Jack explains: “Why do you think you have your job back?” It’s true. Jack’s not interested in running things. He is too concerned with Sydney to take responsibility for so many lives. He knows that he will always put Sydney’s interests above those of national security. He’s not the man for the job. He’s a rogue; he prefers the freedom of being able to make his own decisions to making decisions for others. He becomes uncharacteristically irritable with Marshall and proves a rather cold and demanding boss. He finds balancing out the requirements of the job with his need to protect Sydney, one of his subordinates, a particularly taxing problem. He is not comfortable in the role any more than others are comfortable with him in it. And so, he relinquishes it gladly. There is rarely an ending to the story And so. What can we say about Jack's journey this season? He seems to have struggled from one noose to another, freeing himself only to find himself entangled once more. With SD-6 and the Alliance gone, he hardly felt the freedom that Sydney did, for he still had Irina to dispose of. And once she left, he was tied in chains of authority until Kendall earned his way back into Jack's good graces. Just when Jack thought he could relax with a drink, Arvin Sloane shows up with a proposal--here, come tie yourself to me again. No wonder Jack told him no, never. Jack kept telling Sydney over and over (just as Irina kept telling her--what was it now?--oh yeah, "Truth takes time") variations of "I've been doing this a long time." And although Jack meant to stress to Sydney that he has more experience than she does, the statement suggests that he's also feeling just a little tired. And who wouldn't be, faced with all he's had to go through? Just having to deal with Irina and Sydney (with no help from the CIA) would do it, but he also had to deal with Kane, Geiger, and Sloane's final kidnapping and whatever it is that Sloane did to him at the end. With Sydney's apparent disappearance, I don't think things have gotten any better for Jack, either. It's unlikely that he showed up and found Sydney. And Sloane was so confident that Jack would partner with him sooner or later. It's as though he read a prophecy or something. I’ve missed your poker face Well, there were times when Jack seemed to fade into the background a little . . . Here’s where I take a moment or several to gush over Mr Garber’s excellent portrayal of Jack Bristow. Over the first season of Alias, Sydney’s father gradually transitioned from a mysterious, almost menacing figure to someone that we saw as perhaps an almost tragic hero, a husband and father whose simple motivation of pure love had been distorted by betrayal and the need to protect a daughter he loves more than life. Victor Garber had to paint a picture of this man with tiny brushstrokes, for Jack Bristow is an extremely repressed individual whose prior investment of emotion has caused his greatest pain--and for whom expressing his true motivations and emotions could have deadly consequences. And yet Jack Bristow is also a man who, under his mask of impassivity, is extremely passionate. Mr Garber’s ability to display the tension between these two disparate aspects of the man, using little more his eyes and tiny nuances in his expression, voice, and posture testifies to his skill. Further, Jack’s extreme restraint at most times lends those times when he bursts into action a certain pop and sizzle--when he’s working with Sydney, their action chemistry is electric. This season, we got to see more of Jack as we followed his journey as a father desperately trying to prevent his daughter from retracing the same tragic trail that he traveled--and falling from the same precipice. It’s a subtle and balanced performance, for we see the desperation and love in him at once. He sets up Irina, yet when they take her away, he looks at the monitor, the light from it catching his face, and the years seem to fall away for a moment, capturing a deep sadness. He watches Sydney walk away in the rain, a face cast in tragedy. He watches Irina leave--perhaps for the last time--his eyes reflecting the despair of a man who knows he can never trust the woman he loves--and can never stop loving. The writer may build the skeleton of the character, but it is the actor who breathes life into him, who adds the subtle hues. Jack would not be Jack were it not Mr Garber playing the role. Those who bestow awards often disregard the fact that it truly takes more skill to play a restrained character, for the performer must draw the viewer in rather than rely on natural charm, bombast or bravura. 'Tis a pity.