In Algeria, the team meets a man who is trying to sell a bioweapon; unfortunately, he was followed, and during the escape, he is shot - and explodes into slush. He had swallowed the small container of the weapon, Ice 5, and it leaked, effectively freeze-drying him. Syd is sent undercover at the hospital in Montenegro where he worked. She finds evidence of Ice 5, and Vaughn poses as a somewhat unconventional priest to get close to the woman in charge, Kiera MacLaine. Kiera's brother, a well-known criminal named Keene, is the one producing Ice 5, but the team believes that she will help them take him down. Vaughn meets Kiera for a drink; she confesses that she owes her brother, and she just can't say no to him. To relate, Vaughn describes Lauren's betrayal and how his hatred consumed him, yet now he can't escape from the guilt. Seeing his pain, Kiera agrees that forgiveness is a tricky thing. Vaughn offers her a way to be free from her brother. They return to the hospital, but Keene is there: Kiera had called him. He ties Vaughn up and insists that Kiera be the one to inject Vaughn with Ice 5. Kiera cries, yet she starts to obey, when Sydney bursts in, tackling Kiera. Syd fights off Keene and manages to free Vaughn. While Syd is distracted, Keene retrieves the syringe of Ice 5, but in his haste, he accidentally stabs Kiera with it. Syd knocks out Keene as Vaughn kneels by the rapidly fading Kiera. With her dying breath, Kiera tells Vaughn that she forgives him. On the plane home, the exhausted Vaughn is finally able to sleep. Meanwhile, Sydney shares some pictures of Irina with Nadia, and Nadia tries to discover the identity of the baby that Irina is holding. At first neither Jack nor Sloane is any help, but finally Jack explains that Irina said it was her niece. He admits that it may have been a lie, but he chooses to believe that it was the truth.
Marshall: We found the sample in this medical container; it was found in the van amongst the . . .
Dixon: Haven't heard that name in a while.
Sloane: That's because Mr. Keene claims to have gone legitimate.
Sydney: Seems to be all the rage among evil geniuses.
Jack: Something on your mind, Agent Vaughn?
Vaughn: No . . . (He looks at Jack, who doesn't believe him) . . . I'm not sleeping very well.
Vaughn: I thought I saw her. In the market at Algeria. That ever happen to you?
Jack: Do I have visions of Lauren?
Vaughn: I don't know that many people who killed the woman they were married to; I was just wondering if that's what happens.
Jack: It did. Now it doesn't.
Vaughn: Besides, it'll give you a chance to brush up on some of your old-school tricks.
Dixon (with a laugh): Hey - a little respect for your elders.
MacLaine: It's a pretty nasty cut. Mind telling me how you got it?
Vaughn (disguised as a priest): Someone didn't like my last sermon.
Vaughn: When's the last time you went to confession, Kiera MacLaine?
MacLaine: . . . I'm not sure how I'm supposed to feel.
Vaughn: About what?
MacLaine: A flirty priest.
Vaughn: I assure you my intentions are honorable . . . mostly.
Keene: You should be nicer to your big brother. (to Vaughn) Isn't that what the Bible says?
Vaughn: Why, do I look like some kind of expert?
Vaughn: I do this for a living . . . not the drinking.
Vaughn: That woman was evil . . . and deserved to be punished, so I killed her. And although that woman was the worst kind of evil, I also know that killing her was wrong.
Vaughn: I can't close my eyes without seeing it. That moment. That look on her face . . . She won't leave me.
Vaughn: There are other ways to keep him from having power over you, to make him go away.
MacLaine: You underestimate my brother.
Vaughn: Or maybe you underestimate me.
Jack: I choose to believe. But then I suppose each of us needs to find our own sense of closure.
I may be giving credit where it isn't due, but I suspect that the former Angel crew members were strongly involved in this episode. They never failed to impress with their ability to tell a story, and I saw that here, for example, in the way the action took a backseat to what was happening in the characters' lives. Sure, the action is eye-catching, but the underlying interaction can make or break a series. At this point, it would be a disappointment for the show to fall into nothing more than the mission-of-the-week routine. Happily, that isn't their style, and from what we've seen so far, I'd say that we're in little danger of it becoming so.
The fact that Lauren's death haunted him shows us much about Vaughn's character. He said it himself: she deserved to die, but killing her was wrong. Remembering the circumstances of her death, an outside observer might classify it as self-defense, but Vaughn knew how badly he had wanted revenge on her. His subsequent remorse speaks volumes about the feelings that he once had for her. Even though she had won his love through cold-hearted deception, not even knowing what she had done could suddenly make those feelings disappear because they were real to him.
The only way I could have been more impressed with that plot is if we had seen a hint of Vaughn's struggle earlier in the season; then again perhaps the scene where he thought he saw her was meant to indicate a long-standing problem that was quickly spiraling out of control.
Although the focus was on Vaughn, the other characters were not forgotten. In a change of pace, Sydney was the one struggling to reach out to Vaughn, whose pain she couldn't completely relate to. Jack's oh-so-brief confession that he had had "visions" of Irina gave us another small glimpse of a very complex person. Even the villains had issues beyond their criminal dealings; they could serve as a cautionary example of destructive patterns in a relationship.
As Jack said, we all need to find our own sense of closure. I'm not completely sure why Kiera's forgiveness provided that for Vaughn; maybe he just needed to hear someone say it out loud. In any event, Vaughn finally achieved the sleep that had eluded him. With any luck, the situation has truly been resolved once and for all.
* Vaughn hiding his problem from Sydney was a very real reaction. Maybe he felt ashamed at feeling guilty, and for falling for Lauren in the first place.
* The picture of Irina looked remarkably like Nadia, IMO. (It may have been, because I'm fairly certain that the show couldn't use Lena Olin's image without her consent.)
* After Jack asked Nadia for the picture of Irina, as he looks at it, the image is reversed from the way it appears all of the other times.