Tuesday, July 30, 2013

S2 E7 – The Counteragent

Considering what Vaughn just realized, he is pretty damn calm. I would be screaming… But after taking a moment at the sink, he immediately and fairly harshly opens his medicine cabinet and pulls out the band aids and puts one on each and every finger,  then continues to methodically get dressed.  The doctor calls him back and Vaughn tries to tell him that he has a problem; the doctor tells him that he knows that he is worried, but they ran every test, and everything came back negative.  Vaughn tells him that he knows but that there is blood under his fingernails.  The doctor is stumped for a moment or two, and then he gathers his thoughts and tells Vaughn what the action plan will be.  He will be sending someone for Vaughn.  Vaughn tells him not to send anyone, and that before he comes in, he has to see someone.  The doctor tells him that he can see them later, that he needs to come in now.  Vaughn hangs up on him, gets in his car and drives to work.  Where he immediately goes to see Irina, and he is not happy that he is going to ask for her help, but he knows that he has to.  When Irina sees him, she immediately thanks him for what he did for her, proving that Jack set her up and that she would’ve been executed.   Vaughn tells her flat out that it wasn’t done for her.  She admits that he may be right, but that she owes him her life.  He tells her that actually you owe me my father’s life.    He goes on to tell he that he saw Khasinau experiment on the people that had been exposed to the liquid from the red ball and he wants to know what Khasinau learned from doing it.   She asks if he is asking if he found a cure.  He tells her yes, and that he is aware that her terms are that she will only cooperate with Sydney, but the disease works quickly and he doesn’t have much time.  Irina looks slightly surprised, and then asks if he is the one who is sick.  He tells her that he is.  Then she asks him to tell her how he feels about her daughter.  He looks at her for a moment and then looks away and tells her that it’s none of her business.  She then asks if he is in love with her, he avoids the question again and tells her, “I don’t know why it matters to you.  She tells him that she doesn’t have the advantage of observing casual behavior. And she is curious.  Vaughn tells her that if she helps him, he will tell her what she wants to know.  Wow, Vaughn is already tearing out my heart, and Irina is manipulating him, but for once I’m a little okay with it, simply because I know that I want to hear his answer to her questions as well.
Now I’m not positive why someone hasn’t called Sydney yet, I think that Vaughn probably wanted to call her, but wouldn’t allow himself to.  I think he knows that once she knows she is going to end up jeopardizing herself to save him.  He knows her well enough to be sure of that.  At least that is the only explanation I can think of as to why Sydney is at Francie’s restaurant with Will and not already at the CIA with Vaughn.  She hasn’t admitted it out loud, so you haven’t missed anything, but she is in love with that man, and she will do anything to save him.  But alas she doesn’t know yet, so she is having a semi normal conversation with Will.  Will is talking to her about what he has found for Vaughn about the IQ test questions and the questions haven’t shown up yet, but he can’t find any record of the test administered during 1982.  Sydney tells him what he is actually researching, and tells him what Project Christmas is and that it is the reason that her mother actually came to spy on her father, also what part she played in it.  She also tells him that Vaughn thinks that Russian intelligence may still be using it to recruit Americans.  Before she can tell him anymore, she finally gets a call.  Kendall calls to tell that she is needed there.

When Sydney walks into the Rotunda she approaches Kendall and asks him what is up, he tells her that Vaughn has developed symptoms, she is immediately concerned but tells him what symptoms, the doctors said that they were both fine.   Kendall tells her yes, but his exposure was more extensive than hers. (Remember his incredibly red eyes upon returning from Taipei, I think this is how he was infected) Sydney sees Jack and wants to know where Vaughn is, he tells her that he came to see her mother about an antidote and that shortly after leaving the facility he collapsed.

Sydney doesn’t waste any time, she goes to see her mother and asks if there is an antidote, Irina tells her that there is and where she can find it.  Irina tells Sydney that she can tell her how to get into the building and where she can find the antidote, but that she can’t guarantee anything.   Although Irina looks concerned for Sydney and for this man that she is realizing probably loves her daughter, you can see that she is hiding something.

After Irina tells Sydney about what she’ll have to do, Sydney relays it to someone that can break it down for them a little better.  I’m guessing he was watching Sydney and Irina over the monitor.  This man tells Sydney, Jack and Kendall more about the antidote.  The antidote isn’t’ something that you can go pick up and then give to the patient, it has to be made with the blood from the infected patient and made specifically for them.  So Sydney realizes that she will have to take some of Vaughn’s blood with her.  They go over the small details that they have for the mission, then Kendall tells them that the plane is ready; they can get more detailed on the plane.  Sydney will have only 30 minutes with Vaughn, possibly less.  Before she leaves, Sydney does ask this new man how much time Vaughn has.  He tells her that given Vaughn’s level of exposure, he would guess maybe three days.  Jack tells her that she will buy time with Sloane, and tells her to go.

I will say this now, I have this song on my iPhone and I have to skip it every time it comes thru on my playlist now, because inevitably it will make me start to cry.  With the scene just starting, I am already feeling the emotional roller coaster that this part of the episode takes me on.  Let’s just say that it is a good thing that I am on my lunch break right now and I won’t be interrupted with a phone call since I am bound to start crying.  But the video of the scene is below so you can cry too.
Walking into Vaughn’s room and seeing him upsets her, but she knows that she has a task that she has to complete.  She has to save his life. For Sydney, this will be another mission where she is set on that missions outcome and nothing else matters right then.   When he wakes up and sees her, he is happy to see her, but doesn’t have the energy for much more than a Hi.  Sydney immediately changes her demeanor; she doesn’t want him to see her upset.  She tells him that she spoke with her mother and she is going to go get the antidote.  Vaughn’s response is so classically Vaughn, before he will agree to letting her go, he wants to know how dangerous it will be for her.  Because knowing Vaughn, he would rather deal with the disease than risk her. Even though he knows she will do it no matter what.  But she tells him that getting the serum will be easy, she isn’t going to let him worry any more than he needs to.  She does explain that she will have to take some of his blood with her though.  She goes through the steps to prepare to get his blood, and starts drawing it. She watches him as she takes the blood and she is distressed by how much pain he is in.  But she tries to keep up her optimism, and tells him that in a couple of days he’ll be doing wind sprints. He just looks up at her and smiles.  She is removing the elastic from around his arm when he reaches over and takes her hand in his, and tells her to be careful.  (More tears… I’ve seen this seen enough times you would think I could control myself.) He caresses her hand with his thumb and it is so sweet.  Then he goes to say something and says “Syd…”  But he has to pause for a few minutes, then tells her, ”Sorry I’m so tired….”  He keeps caresses her hand as much as he can, and takes her hand even tighter than before and now Sydney’s other hand is holding his too.  But then he stops, and the beeping starts up all around him, and he is completely still.  She yells him name at him, and quickly gets up to let the hospital staff get in to help him.  They tell her that he is bleeding internally. They start speaking all of the medical jargon and wheel his bed out of the room and they take him towards surgery.

In the hallway Sydney is following right behind them, as they push him through the door, she is almost in tears, and telling them to wait.  A nurse comes up to her and Sydney is doing her best not to cry. But Sydney asks what’s going on, and if he will be alright.  The nurse tells her that they don’t know, but she has to wait there. Then the nurse looks up and sees something that alarms her, and tells Sydney that she has a designated cover. Sydney’s cover is that she is with the state department’s bureau of arms control, and that her name is Rita Stevens.  She is then instructed to give no details about Vaughn’s illness.  At this point Sydney is very confused, but the nurse runs off.  Sydney is turning around and wiping her eyes when a woman approaches her and asks her if they told her anything.  She tells this woman no.  Then the woman starts talking, telling Sydney that the paramedics had called her, asking what his last meal was, is he allergic to any medication. She continues telling Sydney that she got to the hospital as fast as she could.  Sydney is taken aback; she is not sure what she should be telling this woman.  She is still in shock over him being taken into surgery.  She is not ready to deal with someone she doesn’t know who apparently knows more about him than Sydney would like.  But the woman goes on asking if Sydney works with Michael.  She nods her head and then knows that as much as she doesn’t want to talk she has to, she tells the woman that she works in the same bureau at State, and that she is Rita.  Then the woman introduces herself to Sydney, it is Alice, she’s listed as his emergency contact and she is Michael’s girlfriend. The shock on Sydney’s face is heartbreaking when the word girlfriend comes out, her eyes immediately open up in shock and then she tries to recover as Alice walks away.

Now remember back in the episode breakdown of Cipher when I said that Vaughn had a moment of clarity as he watched Sydney and Will together?  How he loved Sydney but he needed to move on with his life since they weren’t allowed to be with each other?  Well going back to his old girlfriend Alice and was probably the easiest way for him to be able to move on, I can’t see him being able to meet someone new and establish a relationship with them.  Now I’m not saying that Vaughn is evil for going back to Alice, he wanted some normalcy in his life and pining over Sydney was not normal.  But having a girlfriend and trying to treat Sydney like he should, as an asset, could be considered normal.  So he has been trying, I know many people that have a, what if person in their lives.  That one person that they think that they were supposed to be with, but circumstance prevented it, so they moved on.  For Vaughn, Sydney is his what if.  But poor Sydney, being in love with a man that is about to die, she is going on a mission to hopefully save his life and as she is about to leave, she has to meet his girlfriend.  This has definitely not been her week if you also look at what has happened to her in the last two episodes.  She needs to be given a break; she could crack at any moment.

Sydney enters the facility where she will have to retrieve the antidote and when she is in the building, she immediately sees Sark there.  So we can guess that there will be trouble.  She gets to the place where the antidote will be generated, with the equipment that the CIA gave to her to use, she is able to hack into their system and get the passcode to operate the machine.  As she is entering the passcode, she is told to stop.  From the hack, they can see that if once she starts the machine that creates the antidote it will activate their security systems.  Kendall tells her to abort that they will figure out another way, Sydney tells him no and that she will run fast and starts the machine.  An analyst tells Sark that someone has accessed the room, and alarms start going off.  Sydney gets the antidote and starts running.  She gets through  a couple of doors and then gets stuck so she goes back towards the doors that she just got through and they are locked, she is trapped in a room, and then she looks up and see Sark looking down form a window.  He gets on a PA and tells her that the pipes above her are rigged to disperse a chemical that is wonderful for cleaning up metals and concrete, but not so great on things like her suit and skin.   Sydney shoots her gun at the window which is bullet proof.    He then tells her that he feels they are destined to work together, and he turns on the pipes.  He then tells her that the two if them working together would be contingent upon him turning off the sprinklers.  And that they are already eating away at her suit, but he could use her help.  He needs access to Arvin Sloane, she asks him why, and he tells her that he wants to kill him.  She tells him that she can get him Sloane, but he needs to let her keep the antidote.  He thinks for a moment then tells her that he needs Sloane first and then she can have the antidote.  As she looks down and realizes that she has no choice, she looks up at him and nods yes.

She then begins telling the story to someone else, she tells them Sark had her taken to the decontamination room, and then let her go.  While she is telling the story, you see her attempting to cover herself up while they cleaned the chemicals from her.   Kendall asks her if Sark asked who the antidote was for, and she told him that he didn’t seem to care.  He then asks her what exactly she promised Sark in return.  She tells him that she told him that she would find a way to render Sloane unconscious and then deliver him to Sark.  Kendall and Sydney then begin to argue, Kendall has a lot of problems with this situation, one of them being that US agents are not in the business of committing murder.  Sydney is adamant that Vaughn is in critical condition and that Kendall said himself that they need to save Vaughn’s life.  She then tells Kendall that since Sloane killed her fiancé, she has had plenty of opportunities to kill if that was what she wanted and that she hasn’t, but Vaughn has maybe two days left to live and that there is no choice here.  Jack interrupts her and just screams that she is not going to just do nothing.  Jack asks for a minute with Sydney and Kendall walks away, Sydney tells him that he better not try and convince her not to work with Sark.  He reassures her and tells her that he is on her side, and that they can’t lose Vaughn.  Even if Jack doesn’t overly like Vaughn, he knows that they need him, especially Sydney, and in the end Jack really will do anything for Sydney.  Jack tells her that they need to handle it quietly, because Kendall won’t be pushed around and he will take it through channels which they don’t have time for.  He then tells Sydney what Sloane’s plans are and how they can get him to Sark.

Later Sydney and Jack meet in the storage unit, to finalize the plan for getting Sloane to Sark.  She asked Jack to tell her that they are doing the right thing, that they don’t have a choice.  Jack turns this around and gives her a fairly chilling goodbye statement.” Of course we have a choice, and it's a moment I never wanted you to face… To kill someone.... I'm not talking about self-defense.  I'm talking about premeditated murder. To be there when the door closes on him for the last time, knowing you are responsible. That is something you never came close to considering before getting to know your mother”.

Sydney traveled to Tokyo where Sloane is meeting with the Alliance, she is on coms with Sark, and tells him that she is now on the grounds.  She is dressed in full Geisha attire.  Sark tells her that his associate just arrived to meet her father.  We then see Jack and Sark’s associate.  They have a conversation about how the briefcase is rigged with explosives and that only Sark has the code to open it safely.  So Sloane has to be delivered before they will give out the antidote.  Sydney tells Sark that she is approaching the building where Sloane is, he wishes her luck, and she is not happy about the situation and makes that clear with her response. “I don’t need you to wish me luck you son of a bitch.” To which he replies that she has a wonderful attitude.  Sark may be Sydney’s foe, but he really does think that she is a wonderful spy, and he has a bit of a crush on her as well.
Sydney is able to get into the gazebo where Sloane is getting a massage, after defeating a couple of bodyguards.  She tells the geisha that is with him something, which makes her leave so Sydney is alone with Sloane.  She pretends to start the massage, but then pricks him in the back with something and he passes out, she runs out of the gazebo screaming for help I assume, but it is in Japanese.  Over the coms Sark tells her that she is amazing.  The ambulance crews that they call are actually Sark’s men, and Sark is in the ambulance.  Once Sloane inside the ambulance Sydney tells Sark to tell his man to give out the antidote, Sark does so.  Jack gets the antidote and takes it inside the hospital.  Sark looks at Sydney and tells her it was a pleasure to work with her.  Sydney just watches the ambulance drive off happy that she is done with him and partly happy that Sloane is gone for good.
Yay!  Vaughn is waking up.  Albeit a little confused, and looking over and seeing Jack by his bedside does not help with the confusion.  Vaughn asks what’s happening, and Jack tells him that he has been asleep for 40 hours.  Vaughn’s first question after hearing that is if he is dying, which is an understandable question.  Jack tells him, almost, but that Sydney was able to get the antidote and that the doctors think that his blood levels look good.  But now that he knows he’s not dying, he wonders how Sydney was able to do it. And Jack tells him that she had Sloane killed.  At this Vaughn isn’t sure what to think; he looks away and stares at the ceiling.  Finding out that someone killed another person, even if it is a bad guy, to save your life can’t be an easy thing to hear.

Then we see Sydney walking through SD-6, getting ready to see what SD-6 will be like without Sloane.  But gets the shock of a lifetime when she walks into the conference room and finds not only Sloane alive and well but Sark with him.  Sark will now be working with SD-6, as an ally.  Sydney is instructed to debrief him on all he knows about her mother.  Once Sloane leaves the room, Sydney wants to hear this story.  Sark tells her that once the ambulance was in a remote location, he revived him and told him that they both have pieces of Rambaldi’s puzzle, and that working separately they will never find out what the answers are, but working together, they can’t fail.  Sark told Sloane that he intercepted an assassination attempt on Sloane’s life and that is one reason to trust him and then hands him a piece of paper that can be the second reason to trust him.  The paper is what convinced Sloane; Sydney realizes this and wants to know what is on that paper.  But Sark tells her that it is a need to know, and doesn’t divulge his secret.  Sydney now has one more problem that she has to deal with in her life.  She will now have to work with Sark.

After Vaughn is released from the hospital, he holds up his end of the deal.  He goes to see Irina. And I love their conversation, as it mirrors the conversation that they had at the beginning of the episode.  Vaughn starts out by telling her why he came, “You asked me some questions. I told you I'd answer them if you helped me… You did help me… And I thank you for that.”  She tells him that she didn’t do it for him, and she smiles at him.  It is obvious that they are both doing it for Sydney’s sake. He thinks for a moment and then goes on; “I'm trying to live a normal life... which was always hard, given what I do. But it's gotten harder since I met your daughter. It's not that knowing her hasn't made my life better. It has. But it's also made it that much worse... I think I've said enough.”  She tells him that his problem is that he hasn’t said anything to the person who matters most. He is frustrated with her and her wanting to know all this personal information about him and Sydney.  So he tells her; “Listen, this may not mean anything to you, this may not be something you understand, or appreciate, but we have rules. Very clear, important rules that govern the relationship between a handler and his asset.”  But she is very quick to throw another question at him, essentially asking him, what about the rules between a man and a woman. Vaughn isn’t sure how to respond, and I guess we will never know.

Sydney is waiting in the Rotunda, and she watches and Vaughn enters, her smile is huge, she is so happy  to see him alive and well and doing so much better than when she saw him last.   They tell each other hi and it is a little awkward. But they both just smile at each other, and then they finally hug.  Vaughn is thrilled to see her as well, but he also knows that she met Alice and that he wants to explain that.  But he is perfectly content with just holding her in that moment and you can see it in the smile on his face.  When looking at Sydney though, she is in pain, she truly loves him and she is happy that he is better, but she knows that now there are two barriers between them.   He pulls her in to him a little tighter and tells her thank you.  And it is such a loaded thank you.  How do you really thank someone for saving your life?  And once again I am probably reading more into their faces then really is there. But I see that as far as Vaughn is concerned, now that Sloane is gone, maybe they have a chance.  After the hug, they look into each other’s eyes some more, and then Vaughn tells her that he heard about Sark.  Maybe he thinks that this could be a way to Segway into taking them to the next step.  But when Sydney tells him what she just found out that Sark set it up for them to become allies and that Sloane took Sark with him to the Alliance meeting.  Vaughn becomes deflated but goes into the role he needs to play, as her handler, and asks how that went over.  Sydney tells him that with Sark joining him, Sloane’s standing has never been higher.  Sark is not happy to hear this and he goes through a few emotions rather quickly as he is thinking.  Then he finally settles in to what he needs to say, and tells her that he understands that she met Alice, Sydney looks down, this is not a conversation that she is ready for.  She tells him that she seems nice.  Vaughn tells her that she is and that she is a good person and that they have a lot of history.  He starts to say something, and then he said that they had broken up.  Sydney tells him that he mentioned that they had.   He starts to explain how they ended up together again, and she cuts him off telling him that he doesn’t have to explain.  He tells her that he knows that he doesn’t have to, but he wants to, because if things were the other way around… She stops him again and almost begs him to stop saying “Seriously… Don’t’ explain.” So he stops, talking, and they smile at each other, and she tells him that she will see him tomorrow and starts to walk away.

As Sydney walks away from Vaughn it looks like it is taking all of her energy to not cry.  Vaughn watches her walk away, and then Kendall approaches him and tells him that he’s glad everything worked out, but Vaughn can’t stop watching Sydney, he even tells Kendall that he needs to go and goes after Sydney with a determined smile on his face.  But then when he reaches the final corner, she is gone and he doesn’t know which way she went.  But he smiles, he has a plan to make this better, and he turns and walks away as well.

  • Items that I found noteworthy… 
    • A big part of the episode was Will chasing down a copy of the 1982 standardized testing for Vaughn.  He tries a few different avenues to get a copy, the first version he got was an incorrect version as it had questions about things that happened in 1983.  So he keeps looking, he finally finds a copy, with the man that wrote and edited the questions.  He tells Will that it was a popular test, that someone else was once interested in well.  When Will asks him about the questions that Vaughn gave him he says that there is little point to putting in a question that only one of thousands children can answer.  Then Will skimmed over the test and found one of the questions that Vaughn had given to him.  So he asked if he could explain why that question was there.  The man can’t, he tells Will that he didn’t put it in there.  So Will asked how many children would’ve taken that test.  The man told him that it was administered in 33 states, so over five million children took the test.
    • Also take note of how Vaughn and Sydney are with each other before he passes out in the hospital.  The words said...Vaughn knows that Sydney is going to do everything in her power to save him.  He apologizes for being tired before he goes to sleep.  But with the knowledge that Sydney will work on it he is okay letting go. Alias likes to parallel things, and this scene will be repeated.  Almost word for word, and action for action, this scene will be repeated. ---Sorry for the spoiler... but at the same time, I'm not. If you are reading this before watching the entire series, you might be a little crazy.  Go finish watching, watch all the way through the end of season five, and then you can come back.

  •  Questions that I have… 
    • How much about Sydney and Vaughn did Haladki end up passing on to Khasinau and in turn Irina and Sark before Jack killed him.  After what transpired in Taipei, than France, and also in Barcelona did Irina and Sark know that Sydney saved one of the infected in Taipei and that’s when they hatched their plan together.  Knowing that one day soon symptoms would appear on someone that Sydney cares about and they would be able to use that to capture her, and manipulate her into bringing them Sloane so they could eventually have Sloane working with them as well.   On the paper that Sark showed Sloane did that have a letter from Irina telling him her plan?  And if so how did Sloane know that the letter was for real, did it contain information that only Sloane and Irina knew, maybe secrets that the two of them had from when she was Laura?  Whatever the case may be, Sydney having to go after the antidote had to be contrived from my perspective.


  1. I had to come back to comment on this particular episode. Sydney knew she had feelings for Vaughn but I think it was the moment she saw him looking so ill and taking his hand was when she realised she was falling in love or rather realised she was in love; it gave her more motivation to get the cure to the extent of making a bargain with Sark. As for Vaughn, just by looking away and saying 'That's none of your business' gave Irina & the Alias viewers the answer; he's in love with Sydney Bristow. He was clearly fascinated by her at first sight but now that he loves her as a man loves a woman his duty as a handler is getting harder to do. He wants to date Sydney, kiss her and so on instead of giving her instructions of the day. And its ironic how it is his enemy who realised his weakness-SYDNEY, he clearly resented Irina knowing that.
    The background music was very moving; SLUMBER MY DARLING. I think a lot of the music playing when they are together tells the audience more about them, what they are thinking. Sydney realising her love for Vaughn and how sad she is seeing her new darling she called her guardian angel looking so helpless :-( And Vaughn... feeling ill but not wanting the woman he loves to risk her life even for him and clearly wanting to tell her how he felt before it was too late. A touching episode.

    1. I just reread this post, and I remember back to the nigh that I wrote it, and even though it is detailed, there is so much missing at the same time. You are right, Sydney has known for some time that she was falling for Vaughn, but I think in some ways she tried denying it to herself. But as she is told that he only has a matter of days to live, you can see the fear in her eyes. It's the fear that she may lose another man that she has fallen in love with. But this time she has a chance to stop it. You can see it in the way that she looks at Vaughn and by how much neither of them wanted to let go of each others hands.

      Alias is fantastic with the stories they tell just with the music. Even on the episodes where they had to change some of the music for licensing issues for streaming on Netflix, they took care to make sure that even the new songs showed the correct story they were trying to tell. - I actually have a post in my head about the music of Alias - But Slumber My Darling was perfect for this, just as you said.

      As far as Irina goes, I think that she is the master manipulator. Remember how she had a Blackmail list that she kept, and Sloane got a hold of. She has a need for power, and she gains it through manipulation. Before she turned herself in, she knew that Sydney was the one who rescued Vaughn in France. So she knew to an extent that Sydney cared for him, also that he would eventually need the antidote. She manipulated both Sydney and Vaughn into showing her their weaknesses, each other, so that she could use it to her advantage. Irina had to have known that an alarm would go off when creating the antidote. It was all part of her plan to infiltrate the CIA, bring down a competitor terrorist cell, (The Alliance), and begin working with Sloane again.

      But overall the planning that went into season two when JJ was still at the helm of the show was incredible. Making sure that the audience felt as much sexual angst for Sydney and Vaughn as they felt themselves. This is what captivated me the most with the series in general. Seeing these two strong characters struggle time and time again to be together, as they were meant to be from the beginning.