An Affair I’d Rather Forget

Warning, some spoilers for Alias.
I’m working my way through the first two seasons of Alias after I caught most of the second two seasons. So far, I’m liking it. I like that Sydney is a physically strong, perfectly capable woman in a predominantly man’s world. I like that she thinks on her feet. I especially likes that she can be emotional, and second-guesses herself, and struggles to deal with the enormity of her job.

Basically, she’s a realistic character who’s gender isn’t an issue – except when they need an attractive young woman to infiltrate Bad Guy’s hangout, and even then, she kicks butt in high heels and slinky dresses. I’m no expert on martial arts and hand-to-hand fighting, but it looks like Jennifer Garner’s doing most of the work herself, a pleasant change to the yeah-right-hundred-pound-Carrie-Ann-Moss-could-take-out-all-those-bad-guys wirework of The Matrix movies.

But I cannot stand the love story between her and her handler, Vaughn. Because I watched the second two seasons (plus the cliffhanger ep to season two) before going back to seasons 1-2, I was under the impression he and Syd were this epic, longterm relationship. She goes missing at the end of season two, and season three opens two years later with Syd having no idea what happened in the last two years. The first person from her past life that she speaks to in Vaughn, who is now married.

And Sydney goes absolutely mental. She carries on about how Vaughn betrayed the memory of them by getting married. This is why I thought they’d been together for a long time. But if Alias works on the one episode = one week format, they were together for three, four months tops. Fair enough they’d been building a close platonic relationship for a year and a half before that, so they had a closer relationship then most couples after a few months, but even so, I don’t see that a four-month relationship is worth not having moved on over after two years. That’s six times the length of the actual relationship.

I get that’s she’s upset that she discovers all this stuff has happened that she didn’t know about, and that she feels off-kilter by Vaughn’s “˜defection’. But if I were her, I’d get over it, because people move on. But Syd craps on about it intermittently for the better part of two years. Vaughn betrayed her. Their relationship is unsalvageable. Blah, blah, blah.

Is there some rule book in TV-land that All Females Must Have One True Love? And that they Never Get Over That One True Love? Even if this particular female is a gutsy, independent women who really should be saying “˜I loved him, but that’s life’? It doesn’t make sense. What’s the point in creating gutsy, independent women only to bog them down in storylines about their One True Love? Are TV-women only truly complete with a One True Love?

I’m not quite ready to give Alias Scarlett’s award for Perfectly Good Tough-As-Nails Females Really Being Softies/Insane/Pathologically Self-Serving Bitches, (TM Scarlett, 2006) because the show as a whole – or at least the first four seasons – show the other faucets of Sydney’s life as complex and fleshed-out. But she won’t be watching season five, ‘coz she hears JJ Abrams sold out to the shippers.

Ah, the wonderful thing about Australian television. You’re warned about shark-jumping years before you actually see it.


  1. sbg says

    Ah, you forget that with OTPs there is no length of relationship required. Sometimes their love knows no bounds from the very second the happy couple sets eyes on each other, which is easily worth a five year relationship right there. So, you see, they start out with five years and none of the work. 😉

  2. Jennifer Kesler says

    I watched it from the first episode straight through on DVD, and I had exactly the same reaction: the show is quite good, except for that annoying romance. They just never sold it to me. I saw no “ah-ha” moments between them. I had no idea why either of them was interested in the other.

    I can get that level of impersonal confusion in my own life, without trying very hard. 😀

  3. scarlett says

    I never saw the chemistry between the two, but I thought that was off-topic for the article. Strange, since Jennifer Garner and Michael Vartan were supposed an item for a while. But I figured that was a fairly minor gripe compared tho the way she crapped on about his defection/betrayal for two years.

  4. Jennifer Kesler says

    OTP stands for “one true pairing”, meaning that couple that a particular fan is devoted to.

    I REALLY need to set up a glossary for this site. :)

  5. scarlett says

    Yeah, I did an article about online communities… half of it was bogged down explaining words like ‘ship’

  6. SunlessNick says

    The romance for me is by far the show’s weakest link – even on the simplest level in that I don’t find it especially interesting compared to the show’s other dynamics. And I think it flies in the face of Syd’s usual portrayal. Which is a shame, especially compared to her relationship with Dixon, which I especially like because they don’t feel compelled to denigrate him in order to artificially make Syd look good – they trust the character enough to let her be strong in the presence of men who are also strong – and they trust their viewers enough to find her so as well. They should have shown similar courage when it came to Vaughn.

  7. scarlett says

    I thought Syd had a better dynamic with EVERY OTHER MAN on that show then Vaughn. Weiss, the dorky guy I can’t remember at the moment, her father, Sloane, Sark, Dixon – they challenged and confronted her, humbled and outsmarted her. Whereas Vaughn was there to support her and tell her everything would be OK.
    I especially liked the dynamic between Syd and Dixon after they’ve brought down SD6, and he’s pissed off that she kept it from him. She really had to grovel her way out of that one, and shedesperately needed his expertise. I couldn’t see her needing Vaughn, or grovelling for him, for all that they crapped on about their Great Love.

  8. Jennifer Kesler says

    I totally agree with you and Sunless Nick here. The Dixon relationship was so good, but so was her dynamic with Marshall (remember the ep where he had to do the whole mission himself?), her love/hate with Jack, her hate-hate with Sloane… all of them were better. Vaughn was like the little supportive wifey of the 50’s or something. Boring then, boring now.

  9. scarlett says

    I loved that she and Sloane were in this adversarial relationship, each trying to outsmart the other… and she had a kind of protective sisterly relationship with Marshall, but he was no pushover… and the love-late relationship with her father was so good, and the dyanmic with Dixon, especially in season two, was amazing – and then you got Vaughn, telling her he loved her and everything was going to be fine, she had done everything she could etc. Ech. And I couldn’t see any chemistry between them.

  10. SunlessNick says

    Sloane is another comparison I like. While Syd holds her own against him, and proves herself well capable of faking him out, I do get the impression that he outclasses her in the raw “who’s better” stakes. Which he should, for reasons I’ll get to in a minute – but it’s another aspect of the trust in the characters and viewers I mentioned in my earlier comment – that his being better than her means we get to her do very very well on a ragged and dangerous edge.

    And the reason I think he should be better than her is age. It’s not the focus of this site, but one thing I love love love about Alias is that the older characters are generally better at all this than the younger ones. Their experience is allowed to tell. And back on focus, we’re also given Irina: an older, experienced female character who just oozes competence every moment she’s onscreen.

  11. scarlett says

    for what it’s worth, I thought Irena had a far better dynamic with Jack then Syd did with Vaughn.

  12. SunlessNick says


    With Syd and Vaughn … I think the depth that could have been clashed with their romance. A handler and agent could easily become close – or even too close – without it becoming a sexual affair. And there’d be nuances to such a relationship that derive from their situation – like the bond between soldiers, say – dumping a romance on top of that tends to obscure those nuances.

    With Irina and Jack, it had been part of her work anyway, though she wasn’t so heartless that Jack remained meaningless to her. But they had this history that both of them had to navigate, and that made the clash between an affair and the espionage an important part of the story.

    One is earned, one isn’t.

  13. scarlett says

    What i loved about Jack and Irina was they had equal parts love, respect and the desire to eliminate the other that made for such a fascinating dynamic. It was truly entertaining watching them try to get the upper hand over the other, knowing it would never happen, or stay that way for long. With Syd and Vaughn I got the feeling that she could kick his ass if she wanted to, and where’s the fun – or respect – in that?

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