As Irina's trial is set to begin, she unexpectedly pleads guilty and is sentenced to die in three days. Jack tells Syd that it's a trick to win Syd's sympathy. He also tells Syd that he tested Project Christmas on her to make her strong; he never intended for her to lead a double life. She doesn't believe him; she thinks that when he looks at her he sees his greatest mistake. Will approaches Vaughn for a job; Vaughn hires him - off the records - to investigate old standardized tests, which Vaughn suspects are connected to the KGB. Jack and Syd enter a Geneva hospital in disguise as patients to find information about a deadly virus that Sark was developing. Back in LA, Syd is quarantined with Vaughn after it's learned that they may have been exposed to the virus in Taipei; both are eventually released. Sloane digs up Emily's coffin after he thinks he sees her; the coffin is empty. In an effort to win Syd's trust, Jack turns himself in to the CIA for framing Irina. This doesn't halt plans for Irina's execution, but Jack is scheduled to be sent to prison. To save her parents, Syd lies that she needs them to help uncover a Senator who is working with the Alliance. Meanwhile, Vaughn notices bleeding from his fingernails: one of the symptoms of Sark's virus.
Jack: Please try to understand what I'm about to tell you, Sydney. After your mother left, I tested Project Christmas on you because I didn't want you to be a victim. I thought it was my responsibility to teach you how to think strategically, to see through people's lies, to be as strong as you could be in an environment where one mistake could cost you your life.
Sydney: Then you should've told me the truth before I ended up here.
Jack: Yes, you're right! I never intended you to lead 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: I'd like to believe you, but I don't trust anything you say.
Will: Oh, I got my, uh, thirty days sobriety chip. Even though I wasn't ever a drug addict, I'm kind of proud.
Sydney: You're selling your car?
Will: Yeah, well, it's either that or I quit paying my student loans. I can't afford to have bad credit and a criminal record.
Vaughn: Remember the rumour going around the agency around the Cold War about the Soviets raising sleeper agents as Americans? Now, I know it sounds potentially paranoid, but this is how they would do it if they managed to get their test in circulation here. They could have contacted hundreds of kids.
Jack: She pled guilty to keep you from witnessing her trial, Sydney, from having you see photos of the agents she savagely murdered, including Vaughn's father. She knew if you sat through that, whatever sympathy she'd managed to elicit from you would vanish, so she cast herself as the victim to compel you to save her and guess what? You fell for it.
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 the kind of man who'd use his own daughter to frame her mother, who'd test psych experiments 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. I'm going to finish reviewing the mission now.
Vaughn: Look, I know this will drive you insane, but we can't employ you because you have a criminal record.
Will: I have a criminal record because of a drug habit I never had.
Jack: If you're wondering why that man mistook you for your mother, he worked for her. I skimmed the research as it was downloading. Before she surrendered to the CIA, Irina deliberately ordered Sark to expose some of her own operatives to the virus in order to study it. Ask yourself if that's a person worth saving.
Sloane: I had toxicology analyze the glass of wine that somehow made its way into my house last week. They found a compound called VTX which counteracts the effects of sodium morphate. Sodium morphate is the poison I used to... end Emily's suffering.
Jack: I see two possibilities. Either Emily predicted your intention to euthanize her, took the necessary countermeasures and is now playing a game with you, or the more likely scenario, someone wants you to believe Emily's alive or worse, they'll try and make the Alliance believe it, too.
Jack (talking about Syd at his hearing): 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.
The alternate title of this ep could have been "Salvation - Or Not." When things appeared to have worked out for the best, in truth, they didn't.
For example, Sloane thought he'd solved two problems - The Alliance wanting Emily dead and Emily's illness. He insists he poisoned her to spare her an agonizing death, but to say the least she might not appreciate that gesture. The picture of him standing by the empty casket could symbolize the Pandora's box that exists because not only did he try to kill her but she somehow knew and avoided it.
Another example of "safe, but not" can be seen in Jack and Syd's trip to Geneva. When the patient grabbed Syd's arm, Jack observed the danger of infection if the glove was torn. That scenario was avoided thanks to Jack, but upon returning home, Syd was informed that she may already have the virus. (More on that in a moment.)
Syd also thought that revealing Jack's actions to the CIA would save her mother's life. Not exactly. It only resulted in her father being sentenced to prison. As a side note, I like Jack, but I appreciated that move on the CIA's part; he *is* a bit of a rogue, and they tend to frown on that. Syd switched to Plan B and commandeered the Senator's limo, which could have added big trouble for herself to the pile. It accomplished the desired effect, but I'd be surprised if the lie doesn't come back to haunt her - soon.
I also predict that Vaughn's deception of Will - though understandable - pops up again, putting Will in danger and Vaughn in hot water with Devlin. I thought it took major guts for Will to approach Vaughn for help; one would think Will would be scared to do anything that might give the impression he's involved with the spy world. It was nice of Vaughn to help him, but I don't think he only did it out of pity. He knows Will's smart and more than capable of doing research.
Which brings me back to Vaughn's illness, the inspiration for the general theme of this review. He thought he was okay: all of the tests came back negative. He'd been given a clean bill of health. I think that's what makes his sudden symptom so shocking - and cruel. Surprisingly, I'm not worried. I heard a rumor that a certain handsome star has a six-year contract, and I really don't think he'll spend all that time in a hospital bed.
* I loved the scene where Syd asked Vaughn for a joke, and he stepped up to the proverbial plate and starting telling her one.
* How tall is Ron Rifkin? He looked very short as he was running after "Emily."
* Are you kidding me? *Everyone* at SD-6 could be in danger if Emily's alive?
* I'm curious: how does Jack know that Irina tested the virus on her own operatives?
* Who else thinks that Syd's talking in her sleep ("Don't frost the pie") will appear again with some hidden meaning?