Wednesday, August 23, 2006

For the Love of Phase 1

This article was written by Alias fan and fellow blogger Jennifer. Thank you Jennifer for your contribution!

Episode 2.13 Phase One

I love this episode of Alias. To me, this is überAlias. Every aspect is heightened and enhanced – more sex, more intense fight scenes, more action and more emotion. There isn’t another TV show that, in the span of just one hour, can completely change premise, potentially eliminate beloved characters, create a cliffhanger ending and do it so well that the series continues for three more seasons. This episode could stand alone as the pinnacle achievement that all other TV shows should pursue.

In the following paragraphs, I have attempted to explain why I am so drawn to this episode. Why I feel that it may be the best episode of Alias and possibly, any other show on television. I picked the three characters I felt made the biggest impact on the viewer and wrote why I thought they were the stand-outs of the hour.

Imagine the writer’s room when JJ announced his vision for episode 2.13. They must have initially thought it was career suicide. There were still story lines that could be written involving Sloan and SD-6. Although there had been close calls, Sydney and Jack’s covers were holding up. Why change all that and start over? Why fix something that wasn’t broken? And yet, that’s exactly what they did. JJ was able to not only explain his vision but also convince the entire cast and crew that his idea was brilliant. It could have been a disaster and the end of Alias if just one person had not been convinced; if the writers had not pulled out all the stops; if the director did not believe; or if even one actor, big part or small, had not given everything they had to their role.

JG does some of her best acting in “Phase One." It starts with Sydney walking down the hall in nothing but her skivvies towards the most vile-looking man, all the while knowing that she has to get close enough to him to use the wire in her bracelet and choke the shrimp cocktail right out of him. In the same episode she has to convince us that she is fighting incredible cabin destabilization while holding onto a door frame with her feet and donning a parachute before letting go and cannon-balling her way to safety. Although both of these scenes showcase her physical attributes, her real strength is the emotion she shows when Syd receives the phone call from Jack telling her he has been compromised or when trying to explain to Dixon the truth about SD-6, knowing that her father’s life depends on Dixon believing and trusting her. More quietly, but no less powerful, is her scene in the flirting corner with Vaughn. When Vaughn starts talking, we can see in her face that Sydney is desperately hoping for him to express his feelings while holding hers back in case he doesn’t feel the same. And last, but certainly not least, JG knows that this is the episode that will be watched by more people than any other in the history of the show, as it airs immediately after the Super Bowl. The hopes and dreams of all her fellow actors, JJ Abrams and the entire crew ride on that walk down the hall. Even with all that pressure, the Sydney strut never falters.

Dixon has always been the rock that Sydney needed in her life. While all her other relationships were rocky at one time or another, Dixon was solid. Sure he suspected her of being a traitor once but a little explanation and his blind trust in his partner convinced him he was mistaken. In this episode, that blind trust is pushed almost to the breaking point. Sydney asks him to meet her and then breaks his heart. He had been right; she was a traitor to SD-6. But worse yet, SD-6, and himself, have been traitors to his country. All his pride in his job and his life was pounded into the ground by the giant arms of the oil well behind them.

Dixon is a thinking man. You see him in briefings, taking in all the facts and digesting them before acting. He is methodical in his movements. Sydney’s revelations leave him no time to digest, he must act and act now or his partner’s father, a friend and co-worker, will die. After seeing the truth with his own eyes, he calls his wife. She is oblivious to his shock, asking innocently when he will be coming home. His pained “I don’t know” speaks volumes. His “home” has been shattered, he is about to be taken into custody by the CIA, the people he thought he had been working for. He has no idea when he will be home again, in any sense of the word.

Marshall has only a few lines in “Phase One,” but the episode would not make as much of an impression without him. He reminds us of ourselves, the average Joe at his day-to-day job. He offers Dixon some pigs-in-a-blanket “fresh from the oven” just after Dixon finds out the truth of SD-6. “Fresh from the oven” is an important line. It implies that SD-6 is more than an office where people work, it’s a “home” for Marshall. It implies an office kitchen where workers stash their brown bag lunches in the fridge, greet each other while getting coffee, warm up leftovers from dinner out the night before – a comforting place. Those like Marshall, who are not field agents, are separated from the real workings of SD-6, their lives are computers and gadgets and technology. This is why the destruction of SD-6 is bittersweet. The viewers are thrilled that the bad guys are going down – that Sydney and Vaughn will no longer have to avoid being together – but also sad as we see Marshall’s confused look and his plea for Dixon to explain and comfort as they are handcuffed and lead to custody.

Do you agree? Do you believe a different episode is über Alias? While Girlscout is on hiatus, write your own analysis and share with those people who will appreciate it most – us!

Thanks Jennifer, again. Great article and I whole-heartedly agree. One of the best, action packed, character driven episodes of all time.


kellie said...

Definintely the best episode of the series for me followed by "The Two" which is the most heart-wrenching. I saw "Phase One" for the first time between Seasons 3 and 4 with no spoilers, no knowledge whatsoever of what was coming. I was blown out of the water. This episode was completely exciting and amazing and finally the payoff kiss of all time. What a thrill. It is the kickoff to the amazing episodes that follow, leading us to that awesome "you've been missing for almost two years" heartbreaker. Makes me want to go watch Alias right now.

lhaaheim said...

Wonderful recap!!! I captivated by your writing just as fast as I got pulled into this episode!!! “…choke the shrimp cocktail right out of him.” – Too funny, I’m still laughing about it! “…life pounded into the ground by the giant arms of the oil well behind them.” – Great line and connection between the emotion and background. Prior to Alias who knew so much could be conveyed with a pig-in-a-blanket! Ah the simple sweet naïve innocence of Marshall, I miss those days but I thoroughly enjoy is increased agent abilities (especially his speech to Sloane in the end!).

Alias had many beyond great episodes and its very difficult for me to pick a favorite because I love so many of them but it is truly hard to deny the impact of Phase One. Even just from your description alone it’s enough to express the massive quality of all Alias episodes even though some stuff was left out. For example the Kiss! Vaughn’s reaction to the jerk on the plane and Francie being shot in the head by her double after finally getting some romance with Will and so much more!

It certainly is one of the standout episodes and if I were going to tell someone to watch one episode to decide upon whether or not they watch Alias I would have them watch the season one finale (I think that was my first episode, but I’m not entirely sure so why not!), Truth Be Told or as it’s affectionately referred to The Super Bowl episode! Yet I could name several that were just as great. However, Phase One appears to be the best packaged and the best representation of Alias as a whole. Maybe that’s why it’s so great and gets so much reverence because it connects and brings up so many “Alias” emotions, stunts, drama, romance, adventure, home life, innocence, strength, passion etc. It gave us everything for the price of one!!! :-D

Once I’m packed up and ready for school or once I get there and am settled I’m going to watch the entire first episode of Alias (I’ve only seen the second half). Yes I’m finally going to force myself to do it and I plan on sharing my experience with all of you and writing a recap of the entire episode. While I’m completely dreading the idea of letting go of the last little shred of unviewed, untainted Alias that I have left I feel it’s time to complete my Alias journey in a sense. Plus I really want to write a recap of Truth Be Told given my unique post season five first viewing of the entire episode. So I call dibs on it! :-)

Kellie- I’m so with you, and if it wasn’t 1:15 AM I would totally go and put a DVD in! Crap now I miss Alias all over again!!!


College Countdown: It is 6 days, 13 hours, 37 minutes and 29 seconds

sandi/juliansark1 said...

You have totally encapsulated why Season 2 is the best. Good job.

sandi/juliansark1 said...

You have totally encapsulated why Season 2 is the best. Good job.

coup said...

Hey y'all,

Sort of unrelated to to 'Alias' and this recap by Jen, but have any of you seen 'Justice' yet? I know it hasn't aired on t.v. yet, but you know, it's out there. I just saw it now, and Victor Garber was awesome in it! He gets to show off his comedic side, and it was really great to see him play an egotistical defense lawyer. I'm sure one of you will cover it on Primetime Princesses anyway.

Kiki said...

Oh yes!! I am all over Vcitor Garber's new show! Heart him!

kelhat said...

I have never posted here, but I so love this blog! Cause I love Alias! "Phase 1" kicks booty! I love it...the scene on the airplane, Vaughn and Weiss listening in, Jack calling Syd to let her know he'd been compromised, the kiss (which I rewind and watch over and over)...too good for words. The pilot is an incredible episode as well...Syd in the chair with suit and glasses, Syd kicking the guy's butt in the garage, Jack driving up..."Daddy?"...first meeting with Vaughn, strutting back into SD-6 with that great Sinead O'Connor song, and last, at Danny's grave. I am obsessed, I tell you, name is Kelly and I am an Aliasoholic! I'm glad there are other "me"s out there! :)

Kiki said...

WELCOME KELLY! Make sure to check out the archives to read all the good stuff from the past year.

kelhat said...

Thanks Girlscout! We've talked through e-mail, and I read the blog pretty much daily! Love it!

Page48 said...

Great recap, Jennifer. Definitely a WOW episode of a WOW show. I briefly riffed on this episode a few days back so I won't repeat myself here.

Being a card-carrying, football-loathing Canuck, it was only by reading this blog that I realized there was such a thing as the Super Bowl episode. Who knew? Personally, I would have pre-empted the Super Bore in favour of a 5-hour episode of Alias.

Kelhat is in the house. Tell Girlscout she has a "walk-in".

One more thing: "GO SEAHAWKS". That's another freebie for you GS.

Kiki said...

A walk-in?? HAHAHAHAHA, that is hilarious!! I love it when new people post!

bonkers for bristow said...

Thanks, guys, for all the compliments! You should have seen how many times I edited that and thought about sending it to girlscout only to chicken out and edit it some more. After reading all your comments for the last couple months, I know that level of intelligence on this blog and I must say, I was a bit intimidated. But, I sucked it up and took a chance. Like I told girlscout, maybe my ramblings will inspire someone else to write about their favorite episode. I'm already thinking about my next installment... :)

Kiki said...

Go Jenn Go! Nice job again on a great article.

kelhat said...

As a walk-in, can Vaughn become my handler? It really was a great article about a great episode.

srg-alias said...

I'm sure everyone's already said everything I would say, I just wanted to chime in that this will always be my favorite episode of any TV show EVER. :)

SuzanneC said...

this is always a fun episode to watch because it is so well made.