For the first twenty minutes of this episode, a lot of mention is made of characters being flung off-track. Jack criticizes Sydney for losing sight of the bigger picture in pursuit of her mother, Vaughn is confronted by Weiss over his personal involvement with Syd, and Sloane is all about protecting his wife instead of keeping tabs on his SD-6 agenda. All of these arguments are valid, and it's no coincidence that the show exposes all of these home truths in the first episode to feature Sydney's espionage world aggressively colliding with her personal life, Will discovering her secret identity in a badass moment of 'holy goddamn crap did that just happen?!" histrionics.
The merging of those two worlds creates the finest drama of the episode. Will's reaction is hilarious, but it's his initial resentment and disbelief that is crushing, followed by that last-minute reprieve. As Sydney flies around him, throwing herself off tables and smashing her heels into the faces of armed gunmen, everything in Will's life is abruptly called into question. There was always that danger that the world he was investigating was beyond any realms of normality, but here he's suddenly transported into the middle of all kinds of violence and insanity, his best friend smack down at the center of it. He's understandably stranded in disbelief. But, after a while of thinking things over, he has that wonderful moment where he tries to explain his own actions, all of them rooted in his love for Syd, and expresses what she means to him and how her double life is entirely irrelevant to his opinion of her. It's such a tender moment, punctuating the emotional flexibility of the series and its characters.
Rendezvous is all about juggling the balls in the air, every loose end coming to fruition right before next week's finale. Dixon, sort of dull as a character but an important depiction of warmth and trust in Sydney's life, suddenly remembers Sydney calling out a different code-name in Mea Culpa and begins to suspect his partner has a secret agenda. Again with the merging of worlds, and the fragility of all these secrets.
Then there's Sloane, going out of his way to protect his wife, initiating an elaborate scheme that satisfies the Alliance enough to spare Emily. It's a wonderful story, accelerated by a tête-à-tête between himself and Sark, inspiring happiness when Emily is allowed to live, before dropping us back into misery when it turns out that Emily's cancer has gone into remission. The layers, people! It's become something of an Alias tradition to constantly reinforce that unpredictability, but I loved the twisted irony to such a joyous moment as a cancer sufferer's survival winding up tragic and terrifying.
Rendezvous is ridiculously entertaining. Erica Messer and Debra J. Fisher have written a script that fluctuates wildly in emotion, pulling you in with the action and intensity (the entire Paris sequence, from Syd's sensuous musical performance to the lengthy bullet-ridden escape, is one of the strongest scenes of the season) before repeatedly sending the audience from emotional highs to emotional lows as the ensemble experience about a dozen plot twists all at once. This is classic Alias, a frantic, anarchic riot that sets out to stun. And every time I watch another episode for the second time, I just reflect on how strong this show once was. A+
Guest stars David Anders (Julian Sark); Derrick O'Connor (Alexander Khasinau); Joseph Ruskin (Alaine Christophe); Wolf Muser (Ramon Veloso); Kamala Lopez Dawson (Dr. Lemon); Amy Irving (Emily Sloane)
Writers Erica Messer, Debra J. Fisher Director Ken Olin