Sydney’s overriding loyalty to the CIA shows a fierce commitment to her country, but sometimes her unique status makes federal agencies – the FBI, and latterly the National Security Council’s liaisons – perceive her in threatening terms. Her family’s work history, and her apparent role in Rambaldi’s prophecies, creates suspicion around her.
Learning that her longstanding employer Sloane’s SD-6 was not a black ops branch of the CIA as claimed, she promptly went to the real agency. Here, Michael Vaughn became her handler, briefing her on courageous counter-missions to her SD-6 duties. Midway through season two, SD-6 is finally taken down, and Vaughn and Sydney get to handle each other intimately. Small wonder then that Sydney feels betrayed by his marriage to NSC agent Lauren Reed, during the two years that she was missing presumed dead. Around her long-standing friends, whether from college or her career, Sydney exhibits her own form of protective loyalty, keeping many things hidden as part of this…
Jack initially seemed unfeeling towards his estranged daughter, but had tried to prevent her fiancé’s death. Having walked the double-agent tightrope for years before Sydney joins him, Jack is expert in disguising his allegiances. His readiness to be brutal in reinforcing Sloane’s perception of his loyalty, and in protecting Sydney, is soon apparent: in fifth episode Doppelganger, he coldly breaks a fellow CIA agent’s arm in this cause. Suspected by Sydney (and more so by Vaughn) of KGB allegiance over Russian codes found in family possessions, he is not really trusted by Sydney until after The Confession, midway through Season One.
As he and Irina vie to secure Sydney’s trust early in Season Two, Jack adopts desperate measures, rigging an explosion which Syd and Vaughn narrowly escape – just to frame Irina. The revelation that he determined Sydney’s career through a ‘sleeper’ project in infancy briefly infuriates her…
Named as a 1970s KGB assassin in The Confession – not quite the ‘dead’ mother Sydney had idolized – Russian-born Irina is a shadowy figure until Season Two. CIA opponents such as Sark and Khasinau were working for her organization, aiming to replace rival criminal networks. She seduced and married Jack as part of her deep cover.
Much of Season Two pivots around Sydney’s dilemma over trusting her long-absent mother (they even shoot and wound each other) so soon after bonding with her father. Episodes including Trust Me show Irina – having surrendered to the CIA – providing nuggets of intelligence to advantage Sydney, but Jack’s hostility was more deeply embedded. In the two-part Passage, Irina is allowed on a weapons-seeking mission with her ex-husband and daughter, exposing a minefield of distrust..
by Mark Wyman