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Shannon L.

All Episodes Talk: Super Spies

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Ha ha. If you thought Episode 7 was like Alias, just wait til Episode 8. I know JJ didn't write and isn't directing it but he left enough ingredients on the table. Syd, sorry, eh, Rey will

all be like hating her father and working with him to fight evil but deep down really loving him. And those Project Christmas flashbacks, don't get me started ...

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Phase One, 13 (THIRTEEN!!) years ago today. Wow. As the link points out: best post-Superbowl episode of all time, to the worst ratings.

 

Wow, I can't believe it's been 13 years.  I feel really old.  

 

I watched the clip they had at that link and it made me want to break out my DVDs and watch the whole series.  Or at least the first two seasons. 

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I think it would be cool if rather than a full-on reboot they did a Netflix mini-series revival or something (like they're doing with Gilmore Girls.) 4 episodes or so, telling one story, with the original cast. Victor Garber could appear as Jack in flashbacks rather than bringing him back from the dead - same with Ron Rifkin (although technically he's alive...) They could make it so that the flashbacks are integral to the plot, and Alias had enough players that I don't think it would feel too odd without him being alive. Bring back Syd, Vaughn, Marshall, Dixon, Sark, Will, Weiss, Kendall, maybe Katya for an episode. I think if they could get JJ committed to at least helping plot out the story, it could be great.

Edited by BaseOps
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The only place where the show went wrong, was loosing the Derevko side of the story. Once they unbottled a character like Irina, and the impact she had on the entire second season, they couldn't put that back in the bottle. A scene between Jack, Irina and Katya would have been awesome - especially with Sydney in the middle. (Though, the whole thing with Elena I could have done without - and she wasn't as I would have pictured her anyway).

They really lost the plot when Lena Olin declined to return in Season 3. The entire engine driving the show from the first episode was Irina Derevko, even though we didn't see her in the flesh until S1 finale/ rest of S2. It was her betrayal that created the wedge between Jack and Sydney at the start of the series, her activities that spurred Sydney's journey and destroyed Will's life in S1, her presence that developed Sydney and Jack's relationship with each other and her in S2 and her escape in the finale that raised the stakes exponentially.

The natural progression would have been to really deal with the fallout of Irina prioritizing ... Rambaldi? I guess is where they were going? ... in S3. When Lena lost interest in the show, they had to start subbing ideas, but the writers clearly lost inspiration: they threw in one Derevko sister, then another Derevko daughter, then another sister in an attempt to capture some of what I think they thought was the pull, but actually was not--the Derevko "mystique"; they detoured through other plots that had lesser impact (like Lauren and Vaughn's stunningly passionless marriage); they moved on to general spy stories and other unrelated characters.

Sure, lots of people were watching for Syd and Vaughn ship, but the compelling plot driver of the show from the start was how the choices made by a group of family/ friends 20+ years prior (Jack, Irina, Sloane, Emily and Bill Vaughn) impacted the next generation and the old guard's relationships with Syd and to a lesser extent, Vaughn. I think that the writers thought that they needed Irina to tell that story and used pale imitations of it when they couldn't have her. Like, does anyone care that Elena Derevko was living in South America, doing her thing? No, because other than 1 line, they didn't tie her to Bill Vaughn, or whatever happened at the CIA in 1982 that caused all hell to break loose for our characters or anything about Irina Derevko's impact on Sydney's and Jack's lives.

Another twist that I am surprised doesn't get as much hate is the whole "My name's not Michael Vaughn" thing. It was cool in the moment but the follow-up was done so casually and made no sense. I remember during the summer fans were speculating he had just found out his real name while investigating his father's death in S4, because there was no way he could have been lying to the CIA and Sydney for all those years. But...apparently that's exactly what happened? It should have ruined the character but somehow it seemed to have no effect on the show whatsoever.

As a superfan at the time, I was so angry about that line in the finale. It made no sense for his character. Lots of things in S4 made no sense for his character, like his truly half-assed "investigation" into his father's death. The story of Bill and Michael Vaughn had so much potential and would have been a great plotline to explore, given that Sydney's mother killed him (or didn't, whatever), but it's like they were afraid to touch on the topic. Edited by Peace 47
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They really lost the plot when Lena Olin declined to return in Season 3

 

Yup. They really didn't have a plan B without her. Season 3 was one long failed scramble to work around it, but it just didn't work. They finally rebooted the series for season 4, and while it didn't work for some, it worked for me.

 

Phase One

 

I do wonder how different things would have been had the network not interfered so much with this show. I read the taking down of SD6 was supposed to play out over more seasons, but the network felt it was too confusing for potential new viewers, and had JJ and co get rid of SD6. Which is why we got Phase One. The network also got rid of Alison/Francie, from what I understand, too, and wanted the beginning of season 4 to be more episodic. And the other thing that that didn't help was shortening the length of season 5 at the last minute. The second half of season was a really great run, but you can tell how rushed and half-assed everything was in the last couple of episodes. Had they had another 2 or 3 episodes, I do feel the show would have had a much better ending overall.

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The network also got rid of Alison/Francie, from what I understand, too, and wanted the beginning of season 4 to be more episodic. 

 

They did want it to be more episodic, which always makes me laugh because that was the year Lost premiered, which was about the most un-episodic thing I've ever seen. After that I think ABC changed their tune, which is why season 5 got back to the ongoing storyline concept.

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I don't know if the change was planned on or not, but I think it worked in season 4, to start out with episodic episodes then have things build slowly till we got back to the usual Alias formula.

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Okay I was watching the hour long interview Chris Rock did with JJ Abrams at the Tribeca Film Festival and Abrams mentioned that he always tried to hire people who are "kind". The only time he didn't was an actress who was "famously" rude for  a guest starring role for an episode. JJ didn't name names but this actress made some members of the crew cry:

 

He continued, “A couple weeks later after she was done, I got a call about her. Some producer wanted her maybe for this other project and I said, ‘You cannot hire this person. She was a disaster. She was horrible.’ He said, ‘Thank you very much.’ Didn’t hire her.”
 

Unfortunately, Abrams got an angry call from the actress a week later.

“She’s like, ‘I’ve heard that you said don’t hire me to this producer’ and I said, ‘You were a disaster! What are you talking about?'” adding, “It was one of the only times I hired someone even though I knew that was going to happen and it happened.”

 

 

http://pagesix.com/2016/04/16/j-j-abrams-talks-about-working-with-a-rude-actress-on-alias/

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Considering how tight the cast and crew on Alias were, it makes me wonder who this diva actress was. The show had a lot of guest stars over the years. I find it hard to believe that it would be someone they kept writing for so it had to be a small arc or one time episode thing.

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Wasn't JJ less involved with the show in later seasons, or am I mixing that up with one of his other shows. If so, it must have been a guest from the early seasons when he was more involved.

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I thought his involvement declined sometime during season 3, but he was still somewhat involved in season 4 and then checks out during season 5? 

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I believe he was talking about Vivica A. Fox.  There was some chatter about it around the time of her guest appearance in Season three (Episode was After Six).

 

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Isn't it then odd that she would guest again in 3.21? Makes sense that she didn't come back after that though, if it's about her. I always wondered why the character didn't come back (I believe she wasn't killed? I remember an explosion which doesn't appear to kill her but then no one mentions her ever again).

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Yeah its weird she came back if she pulled off that much of a diva attitude. Maybe his comments were about her pulling the diva attitude during her return visit?

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My first thought was Faye Dunaway. so I wasn't surprised to see her name listed at the end of that Page Six piece. I think she's pretty notoriously awful. She too appeared in three episodes, but yeah, I don't think you would bother recasting or cutting such a short-term role even if the person had been terrible from Day 1, just because it'd be over soon enough.

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Faye Dunaway would be a good guess:  that was early on in the show when JJ was still involved, and I think I have heard those rumors about her, too.  JJ pulled back on involvement substantially in S3, if I recall correctly, getting ready for "Lost," and so I think that it would have to be someone from S1-S2.  There were not as many short-term guest actresses at that time as there were in the later seasons.  (Also, don't tell me Vivica Fox is difficult:  I've always really liked her.)

I can't believe that as a former mega-superfan, I could not recall and had to look up Angela Bassett's role (she's mentioned as a notable guest actress at the end of the Page Six article).  Even sadder is that I could not recall her role even after looking it up.  She played Hayden Chase for 4 epsiodes.  I guess she played the CIA Director in S4, per the Internet.  Do not recall that. 

I fell down a YouTube rabbit hole yesterday, and one video that I watched was a blooper compilation for this show from various seasons.  I love that blooper where the director (possibly Ken Olin) is setting up to say "Action" for a scene from "The Box," with Jennifer and Victor in an elevator.  And just before doing the countdown, he says, "Don't anticipate the extraordinary moment that is about to take place," and Jennifer and Victor just die laughing, because if someone says that right before "Action" that's what you're going to be thinking about.  Victor says something like, "Don't ever say that again."

I'm going to have to look up my favorite blooper, though: Kendall saying that they have someone in "custard-y" instead of "custody."  I love that one so much.

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2 hours ago, Peace 47 said:

I can't believe that as a former mega-superfan, I could not recall and had to look up Angela Bassett's role (she's mentioned as a notable guest actress at the end of the Page Six article).  Even sadder is that I could not recall her role even after looking it up.  She played Hayden Chase for 4 epsiodes.  I guess she played the CIA Director in S4, per the Internet.  Do not recall that. 

She was in the first episode of season 4, when Sydney fake quit/got fired from the CIA and then started working at the new secret APO division. She was the one who brought Sydney into that whole new set up. I don't remember her showing up after that initial introduction though.

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I mostly remember her surprisingly making out with Dixon in APO's stairwell. Which makes me think. They were underground, why was there a stairwell?

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I don't think that I rewatched any of the early S4 episodes after they aired, which is probably why I don't remember her much.  (She should do TV again, though:  I really enjoyed her on "ER" in the last season.)  I somehow missed supposebly's post when I first posted, but you mentioning her stairwell make out with Dixon finally jogged my memory.  That was so random. 

I know a lot of people prefer S4 to S3, but I think I liked S3 better on the whole.  There were some exciting, suspenseful or fun missions that season, like the Ricky Gervais episode, and the one with Syd and Vaughn in North Korea was good, too.  The finale of S3 was dreadful, though.  Remember when their joint task force location got all shot to hell, and as they were picking through the carnage and tending to the wounded, the camera lingered on an extra cradling his damaged printer for some reason?  That was fun to mock.

Edited by Peace 47

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50 minutes ago, Peace 47 said:

I don't think that I rewatched any of the early S4 episodes after they aired, which is probably why I don't remember her much.  (She should do TV again, though:  I really enjoyed her on "ER" in the last season.)  

She's been on American Horror Story for three seasons. 

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4 hours ago, supposebly said:

I mostly remember her surprisingly making out with Dixon in APO's stairwell. Which makes me think. They were underground, why was there a stairwell?

In case the lift broke down? People need to get to ground level somehow.

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 Angela Bassett's character also was in one episode where Syd and Dixon were trying to prove Sloan was still evil, right?

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So am I the only person who believes that Lauren being a double agent may not have been a last minute decision, after all? There's lots of reasons to think so--it certainly smells like a desperate retcon, as executed--but there's also reasons, I think, to consider otherwise. 

1) Her particular parental situation--a mom working in the same evil organization as her, a dad working for the angels and exploring Rambaldi--makes her an almost exact mirror of Sydney in a way that actually gives her crapload of potential as her evil counterpart.  

2) Alias looooves repetition, and Lauren's arc essentially turns her into season 3's Evil Francie, and once you see her as that, having her turn bad despite no clues indicating that she ever was makes sense. "Full Disclosure" is her "Phase One" moment. ("Full Disclosure" wants to be "Phase One" badly.)

Neither of these is definitive proof--all of it involves things that could have been thought of after they'd decided on the retcon, but still, I think a case can be made. And it could have worked! Going through season 3 for the first time, what surprised me was just how many opportunities there were for Lauren to be awesome, all of them wasted.  Give her consistent characterization though, and move the center of her story away from Vaughn (and have her played by Cara Buono) and she could have been fantastic.

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1) A nice coincidence after the fact, more than anything

2) Other than the fact that they're both moles/double agents, not sure how she is Evil Francie redux.

Again, it all just seemed like a Hail Mary-let's make Lauren a double agent because she isn't working out-we need a plot twist!-we need a new villain-etc etc.

The only way Lauren would have worked is if we got subtle hints before the reveal that something was up with her. Instead, we got was indication that there was even some type of mole at all. Then after the reveal, all of a sudden Lauren began acting shifty as hell at every meeting. Nobody else (the characters) noticed she starting twitching at every meeting all of a sudden? Asking suspicious questions? Wearing 20 lbs more eye liner?

Lauren was just a misfire.

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I just remember Lauren making her evil plotting phone calls right in the hallways of the CIA office, practically right outside the meeting room doors. It was pretty funny (and facepalm-worthy).

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1) A nice coincidence after the fact, more than anything

After the fact? Possibly, maybe even probably. I don't see how it could be coincidental, unless you're trying to claim that they somehow arrived at that point randomly, which seems far-fetched. Sure, they didn't do anything interesting with it, but the same could be said of a dozen different plot points that season. 

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2) Other than the fact that they're both moles/double agents, not sure how she is Evil Francie redux.

A) Story structure: Seasons 2 and 3 are both built the same way, with two distinct halves, split by an episode which clears the board in a comprehensive and more-or-less unexpected manner ("Phase One"; "Full Disclosure") and which notably end the same way: with a twist introducing a female double agent with a personal relationship to the good guys, who then spends most of the back half of the season operating covertly. 

B) Their placement as dark reflections of Sydney, in ways more direct than say, Anna: Allison is the Project Christmas graduate who's a double agent in a situation she hates, and is in love with her handler (Sark). Lauren, as mentioned, has an inverse of Sydney's family structure. 

C)

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Then after the reveal, all of a sudden Lauren began acting shifty as hell at every meeting. Nobody else (the characters) noticed she starting twitching at every meeting all of a sudden? Asking suspicious questions? Wearing 20 lbs more eye liner?

You could say the same things about Allison, who was suddenly gifting Vaughn neck ties for no reason and (especially in the first episode after the reveal) made up way differently. 

Again, none of this is actually conclusive evidence.  But a case can be made, and if the writers have claimed that the reveal was planned from the start, I don't think there's any reason to disbelieve them, particularly since "being planned from the start" has no direct bearing on whether a story is good or well executed--just ask How I Met Your Mother fans. Or heck, just look at the resolution to the "two years" story. Sure, all the evidence we're given through the season points to the solution that we're eventually given.  It's still a hella dubiously executed story. 

Edited by Mime Paradox
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I don't see how it could be coincidental, unless you're trying to claim that they somehow arrived at that point randomly, which seems far-fetched.

They did arrive that way, since they were making up season 3 as they went along (you could also say that about the second half of season 2 as well, I suppose). From what I understand the network forced the resolution to the missing 2 years in "Full Disclosure" since they felt it wasn't working out (and to be honest, for the most part, it wasn't), so bye-bye mystery 2 years, hello Double Agent Lauren.

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with a twist introducing a female double agent with a personal relationship to the good guys, who then spends most of the back half of the season operating covertly

Except with Francie/Allison, we had one character being replaced by another. In Lauren's case, it was a crappy revelation that she had been a double agent all along, which just didn't work given how the character was being presented throughout season 3 up till the reveal.

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You could say the same things about Allison, who was suddenly gifting Vaughn neck ties for no reason and (especially in the first episode after the reveal) made up way differently. 

Yes, but Allison was a different character entirely, so her acting a bit off makes a bit of sense. Lauren suddenly acting very differently, and nobody noticing, was just nonsensical.

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Just stepping in to say that I agree with what BOTH of you are saying, Mime Paradox and AndySmith. Or, maybe rather, I see both arguments as valid. 

I'm also gonna say that I liked both pre-evil Lauren and post-evil Lauren. How about that bombshell? I don't think I could explain why, though. A lot of it is probably just because I really like Melissa George and both versions worked for me. The story less so. 

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Alias is my all time favorite show *ever* and I watch at least a couple episodes every evening or two for nostalgic and comforting reasons. The past week or so I've been watching them all in order (and some on repeat... like Vaughn getting tortured shirtless and wet by Sark...), and I had forgotten how hilarious it was that 1) Lauren started piling on the eyeliner when she was finally Evil!Lauren and 2) how many pouring-rain-in-LA scenes there were, regardless of the season. Must have been a few years of El Niño in a row ;) 

I also remembered how little I care about Nadia. And where in the world is Olivia Reed now? And why can't Garner and Vartan get back together in real life? :D

ETA: Anyone else have an Alias playlist? Of songs you might not normally listen to, but you listen to them often because of the scene they were in?

Edited by MattDuffysCat

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On January 10, 2017 at 10:42 PM, MattDuffysCat said:

ETA: Anyone else have an Alias playlist? Of songs you might not normally listen to, but you listen to them often because of the scene they were in?

I listen to "I Grieve" from time to time, and I generally think of the scene in which it was used when I do so (Sydney returning to SD-6 only to be facing Sloane and Sark after thinking that she had delivered Sloane to Sark so that Sark could kill him).  That scene still stands out to me, even though I haven't watched the show in quite awhile. Other songs from the show made their way into my iTunes library (that Sarah McLachlin song, "Dirty Little Secret" comes to mind), but I kind of divorced the songs from their scene meaning after so many years.  I also bought the S1 and S2 soundtracks back in the day, and those pop up on my iTunes shuffle every so often.  I do enjoy Michael Giacchino as a composer quite a bit.  I have a strong dislike for the show finale, but I was always sorry that they never released a S5 soundtrack because the theme that he composed for the finale was really beautiful, and I'd like to be able to listen to it.

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I think "Endgame" is my favorite ALIAS episode. I love that Jack yelled at Tracy Middendorf's character because she was like Irina, an agent sent to marry some unexpecting mark, except it turns out she really did fall in love with him. Then it turns out her husband played by Christian Slater was also secretly NSA and already knew she was a spy and fell in love with her too!

Edited by VCRTracking
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So, I've been binge watching Alias the past few weeks.  I just finished up Season 4 this morning and will probably purchase S5 (all the seasons are available on YouTube) next week.  I haven't re-watched the series finale since it aired and I'm still not sure I'll be able to bring myself to watch it by the time I get to that point, though I probably will, just to refresh my anger at the complete bastardization of Irina and Jack they gave us to close out the show.  

Anyways...  Thoughts, especially on S4 - there were at least 2, maybe 3 times, in the last 3 episodes, where I couldn't help but call Nadia dumb.  Perhaps it would be fairer to call her naive, but, man, I was annoyed with her by the end of S4.   And, I honestly could have been okay with the show ending at the end of that season.  Well, minus the cliffhanger ending with Syd & Vaughn's car being t-boned.  Irina's departure was just so beautifully written and poetic with Jack recognizing one can never hold onto Irina Derevko for long and her promise to be there for Syd's wedding - it made me tear up.

As far as S3 and the abrupt shift with Lauren.  I didn't hate her character pre-evil turn and I didn't hate her character post-evil turn, however I do not think that her evil turn was planned by the writers from the very get-go of S3.  I clearly remember the writers, and JJ, doubling down all summer long, while they were filming the first several episodes, that she was going to be a great addition to the show and we would love her.  The evil turn only happened because the majority of the fandom LOATHED the character and the backlash against her was intense.  I only wish that they had planned for her character to be as grey and eventually evil from the beginning.  I also think Melissa George had the acting range necessary to give us subtle hints that all was not as it seemed with her character had that been the original intent, and the writers had already proven, in both S1 and S2, that they could and would write layered characters whose motivations and true intentions we constantly questioned (Jack, Irina, Sloane).  And, I don't think there is much similarity between S2 Allison/Francie and S3 Lauren - there was a clear, obvious reason why Francie turned evil - she wasn't actually Francie.  Lauren was not doubled, nor was there any indication she had been some sleeper agent who was suddenly activated.  Her evil turn was one of the biggest retcons of the show - possibly only topped by Elena Derevko being in charge of The Covenant in S4.   Of course, that is barring whatever crap I've long-since forgotten about S5 which I have yet to re-watch, lol.

All in all, I've really been enjoying my re-watch of Alias.  There are so many reasons why this remains one of my most favorite TV shows, but at the crux of it is the Syd & Jack relationship, with Irina's relationship to both of them thrown in for good measure.

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