Authorized Personnel Only
In Shanghai, a disguised Sydney barely escapes with another agent on a mission gone bad; back in LA, Syd is berated by Director Chase for violating protocol. Director Chase declares that Sydney will be demoted, but Sydney responds by quitting the CIA. In Washington DC, Vaughn tells Weiss that he's leaving the Agency. Later, in a subway tunnel, Sydney uses a key card to access a secret office. Director Chase is there, and she welcomes Syd with a smile. The mission in Shanghai was an act, so that Sydney could join the CIA's new black ops division. Dixon, Jack, and Vaughn were also handpicked to be part of the team - by Sloane, who will be in charge. Sydney is shocked that the CIA would allow Sloane to have such a position, but Chase says that the team knows Sloane, and they will be able to watch him. Sloane explains that the CIA created their covert unit to free the agents from the government's red tape; the unit's name is Authorized Personnel Only, or APO. The team's first mission targets a scientist, Yuri Kamarov, who is selling a dangerous isotope for profit; Syd gets the isotope from Kamarov, while Vaughn poses as Kamarov to meet with the buyer, Tamazaki. Unfortunately, Tamazaki realizes that it's an act, and he escapes. Vaughn defeats one of Tamazaki's men and goes to find Sydney, who was left hanging precariously out the door of the train after her fight with the bad guy. Vaughn pulls her to safety, and they hold each other tightly. Back at Syd's apartment, despite her earlier assertion that they take things slowly, she and Vaughn wind up in bed. Vaughn relays a message from Jack, then questions why Jack is talking to Sydney through him, but Sydney doesn't want to discuss it.
Sydney: If this is your decision, Director Chase, I will no longer burden the agency with the hazard of my participation.
Director Chase: Are you opting to terminate your association with the CIA?
Sydney: I will say it in English for you: I quit.
Vaughn: Thanks for coming.
Weiss: Thanks for sweating.
Vaughn: Well, you kill your wife after learning she's a vicious, homicidal, double agent, and see how rational you are.
Vaughn: I'm leaving.
Weiss: Leaving what - the Agency? Is this because of Sydney?
Vaughn: No, it's not because of Sydney; it's because last year sucked.
Sydney: Allow me to ask the most obvious question in the history of time ...
Sloane: Quite frankly I was surprised by their call too, until I understood what it is they want: their own SD-6.
Sloane: You'll need to get him to open the case for you.
Sydney: Do you have any suggestions?
Sloane: I assume you'll come up with something interesting.
Sydney (to Dixon): One thing makes up for all of this - having you as my partner again.
Sydney: I don't want that, to jump right back in where we were, before everything. To pretend like those years didn't happen.
Vaughn: That would be nice, wouldn't it.
Sydney: But they did.
Tamazaki: You look familiar.
Vaughn: Sometimes people tell me I look like hockey player, Alexei Kovalev.
Tamazaki: Nah . . . that's not it.
Vaughn: You want to tell me what happened in Wittenburg?
Sydney: No, actually, I don't.
I read somewhere that this episode was changed from the one that was originally shot; I suspect that they added in the opening segment on the train. If so, that was a smart move, because an action sequence is sure to reel in more viewers than, say, the agents sitting around, looking serious. True, they could have used the running-in-Shanghai incident, but the train scene allowed them to begin this long-awaited season with the very fitting "At last . . ." song. To further remind us what we've been missing, the scene was filled with Alias trademarks: accents, skimpy outfits, and deception.
Naturally, the deception is not limited to the target of their mission. The relationships on the show remain as complicated as ever, but that's to be expected, since - as Sydney pointed out - they can't just pretend like the bad years didn't happen. In any event, I'm glad that things between Sydney and Vaughn are progressing, despite their attempt to take things slowly. I'd much rather see them together than apart and wishing they were together.
In case you haven't heard, JJ has said that they're trying to take the show back to the way it was in season one. From what we've seen so far, I'd say they're off to a great start, plus they've thrown in a few twists to keep it interesting. For example, Syd is again working for a "black ops" division of the CIA, but un-like with SD-6, this one is actually part of the CIA. Sloane is once again Sydney's boss, but now she isn't forced to disguise her distrust of him. At first, it's hard to believe that the CIA would ever allow him to have such a position, but his explanation that they want their own SD-6 is very logical. Still, you have to wonder whether the CIA ever second-guesses their decision, since Sloane - very much returning to his season one self - can't seem to help looking sinister.
* It's always fun to watch Syd create a disguise using the stuff around her.
* The bandage over Agent Strom's ear was a bit much: the piercing can't have wounded him that badly.
* I'm a bit surprised that Director Chase even acknowledged that Sloane is a threat; doesn't everyone still believe that he's good?
* Tamazaki's henchman was quite possibly the largest man I have ever seen.
* Vaughn is really channeling his anger into helping him fight the bad guys.