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'Alias' nostalgia react: My love/hate relationship with Sydney Bristow

Season 1 | Episode 8 | “Time Will Tell” | Aired Dec 2, 2001

It might make me an SD-6 bad guy, but I am so happy that Sydney is being put through the most epic of all fake, made-for-TV lie-detector tests (this one apparently reads blood pulsing through your brain or some such nonsense). Every time Syd makes that dopey “Who? Me?” face in the opening monologue, I just want to punch the SD-6 officer who recruited her for not turning around right then and there.

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Since Sydney has been lying up a storm as a double agent, she’s understandably worried about the test. The punishment for failing is almost definitely death, and Syd doesn’t even have a particularly good poker face so far. So she starts training with Vaughn so she can beat the test. It’s not really clear what training entails, aside from answering questions that he just wants the answer to, like, “Are you romantically interested in anyone?” (She is! He smirks! #Flirting…withDanger.)

I don’t want to be disappointed by Sydney. I want her to be the amazing, ass-kicking role model I’ve heard about for years, but that’s just not what I’m getting from her. Before I get too Regina George, though, there are some things I really like about Syd, which were actually highlighted in this episode.

  • She’s smart and observant. When Francie accidentally spilled lemonade on Syndey’s mom’s book, I knew we were about to discover some kind of secret code—but I’m approaching this from a post–National Treasure mindset. Alias was three years ahead of the scene where Nicholas Cage and my future husband, Justin Bartha, uncovered the invisible ink cipher on the back of the Declaration of Independence. This was pretty crafty back then, and so was Syd’s discovery of the code (and knowledge that it was tied to the KGB, proving her theory that her dad was tied to the organization).
  • She’s tenacious. I don’t always agree with Sydney’s tactics or results, but she is always in it to win it. She never gives up. In this episode, she fights with badass super-spy Anna Espinosa while climbing up the wall of a giant underground pit. She doesn’t give up the fight until Anna pushes her off, sending her plummeting to her death. (Just kidding: Considering the remaining four and a half seasons of the show, she probably doesn’t die, but the cliffhanger ending sure makes it look like a possibility.)
  • She cares about her life. Caring about her personal life is really what got Sydney into this whole double-agent mess. She just had to tell Danny the truth about her career. When she expresses fear that she might fail the SD-6 lie-detector test, Vaughn offers to put her into CIA witness protection (which probably involves relocating to the moon). She declines because life wouldn’t be worth living without the people she cares about most. Aww. It’s sweet, even if it would probably get her killed if she weren’t the star of the show.

Oh, and in “Will Tippin, aka baby Bradley Cooper, is about to die” news: Will Tippin is really about to die this time. Sloane, the head of SD-6, has finally taken an interest in Will and his investigation into Danny’s death. Jack Bristow volunteers to make sure Will stays silent and promises to kill him personally if he fails. So far so good, as he managed to manipulate the evidence Will was using for his newspaper story to make it look like he fabricated the whole thing in a misguided quest for journalistic fame and glory. But Will loves to poke his nose where it doesn’t belong, so this grace period will probably last three episodes, tops.

What do you like most about Sydney? What frustrates you most about her? Sound off in the comments!

TV Families | EW.com
Mark Harris
February 23, 1990 AT 05:00 AM EST

The Bradys are back, with a passel of 90’s hassles. Do they represent the typical American Family? Did they ever? Who does? Stare and compare!

Kind Of Family
TheBradyBunch 1969-74: Blended
The Bradys 1990-: Enormous
Married…With Children 1987-: Postnuclear
Thirtysomething 1987-: Extended
The Flintstones 1960-66: Modern Stone Age

Family Pet
The Brady Bunch: Tiger
The Bradys: Alice
Married…With Children: Buck
Thirtysomething: Grendel
The Flintstones: Dino

Typical Guest Star
The Brady Bunch: Davey Jones
The Bradys: There’s no room
Married…With Children: Sam Kinison
Thirtysomething: Carly Simon
The Flintstones: Ann Margrock

Expression Of Joy
The Brady Bunch: Groovy!
The Bradys: Ritual hugging
Married…With Children: ”Oh, great.”
Thirtysomething: ”Of course I’m happy for you. Really. But what about me? Why does it always have to be about you?
The Flintstones: ”Yabba-dabba doo

Expression Of Rage

The Brady Bunch: ”Hmmm…”
The Bradys: ”If you back away from something you really want, then you’re a quitter!” (the angriest any Brady has ever been)
Married…With Children: ”Aaagh, God, take me from this miserable life!”
Thirtysomething: ”I’m not angry, OK?”
The Flintstones: ”Willllmaaaa!”

Typical Problem
The Brady Bunch: Marcia and her rival both want to be the prom queen.
The Bradys: Bobby gets paralyzed.
Married…With Children: Al doesn’t buy his family Christmas presents.
Thirtysomething: Nancy gets cancer.
The Flintstones: Fred and Barney are staying out too late.

Typical Solution
The Brady Bunch: The prom committee decides to have two queens.
The Bradys: Bobby gets married.
Married…With Children: They hate him.
Thirtysomething: If only we knew…
The Flintstones: Wilma and Betty decide to follow them.

House Style
The Brady Bunch: Conservative but mod, circa ’69
The Bradys: Conservative but mod, circa ’90
Married…With Children: Roach motel
Thirtysomething: Enviable
The Flintstones: Suburban cave

Clothing Style
The Brady Bunch: Early Osmonds
The Bradys: Made in the USA
Married…With Children: Flammable fabrics
Thirtysomething: Eclectic earth tones; nice ties
The Flintstones: One-piece

Most Annoying Character
The Brady Bunch: Alice’s cousin Emma, the substitute housekeeper (too strict)
The Bradys: Marcia’s husband, Wally (chronically unemployable)
Married…With Children: Steve (supercilious)
Thirtysomething: Ellyn (goes through Hope’s drawers, babbles, changes hairstyle every other week, generally mistreats her friends)
The Flintstones: Mr. Slate (bossy)

Attitude Toward Sex
The Brady Bunch: Never heard of it
The Bradys: Omigod — even Cindy does it!
Married…With Children: Peg: Yes. Al: No.
Thirtysomething: They didn’t get all those kids by accident.
The Flintstones: Prehistoric

How Spouses Fight
The Brady Bunch: They don’t.
The Bradys: Infrequently, but it happens
Married…With Children: Tooth and nail
Thirtysomething: They stop talking
The Flintstones: Fred and Barney go bowling while Wilma and Betty max out their charge cards.

How Kids Get Into Trouble
The Brady Bunch: Greg takes a puff of a cigarette.
The Bradys: Carol’s grandson steals her business cards and sticks them in the spokes of Bobby’s wheelchair.
Married…With Children: By committing felonies
Thirtysomething: Ethan plays with a forbidden toy rocket.
The Flintstones: They don’t.

How They’re Punished

The Brady Bunch: ”It’s not what you did, honey — it’s that you couldn’t come to us.”
The Bradys ”Next time, ask.”
Married…With Children: By the authorities
Thirtysomething: It blows up in his face.
The Flintstones: They’re not.

What Family Does For Fun
The Brady Bunch: Takes special three-part vacations to Hawaii and the Grand Canyon
The Bradys: Has flashbacks
Married…With Children: Exchanges insults
Thirtysomething: Talks
The Flintstones: Attends showings of The Monster at the Bedrock Drive-In

Unsolved Mysteries
The Brady Bunch: How exactly did Carol’s first husband and Mike’s first wife die?
The Bradys: What’s with Marcia’s new face and Bobby’s blonde hair
Married…With Children: What kind of hair spray does Peg use?
Thirtysomething: Why did Nancy take Elliot back? What do Gary and Susanna see in each other?
The Flintstones: How does Barney’s shirt stay on if he has no shoulders? Where do Fred and Wilma plug in their TV?

Worst Behavior
The Brady Bunch: The Brady children once made Alice feel under-appreciated.

The Bradys: Marcia’s son Mickey watches Bobby’s car-crash tape for fun.
Married…With Children: The Bundy’s kill their neighbor’s dog.
Thirtysomething: Elliot has an affair and talks about it.
The Flintstones: Characters don’t wear under-clothes.

Best Reason To Watch
The Brady Bunch: This is what life should be.
The Bradys: They’re all grown-ups now!
Married…With Children: Terry Rakolta hates it.
Thirtysomething (Tie) This is your life. This isn’t your life.
The Flintstones: This is what life might have been.

Best Reason Not To Watch
The Brady Bunch: Blurred vision from rerun overdoses.
The Bradys: You’re all grown-ups now.
Married…With Children: She has a point.
Thirtysomething: After a while, you think it’s real.
The Flintstones: The Simpsons

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