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Where there's Will (Tippin), there's a way

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Ron Rifkin, Alias, ...
Alias: Mitchell Haaseth/ABC

Where there’s Will (Tippin), there’s a way

”Alias”’ Sydney Bristow can drop kick or deviate her way out of anything. Last night she escaped death in Moscow by crashing feet first into a warehouse. She avoided intimacy with adorable Michael Vaughn by inviting icky reporter guy Will Tippin to be her dinner date. And she outsmarted a goon on a yacht by pretending to lure him in for a threesome. But at last Sydney’s gotten herself an opponent that is notoriously inescapable: Fate. When the camera sloooooowly panned around and finally showed Page 47 on the Rambaldi Papers — a portrait of Syd, or a very Syd-like girl — my roommate and I screamed. Is that really Syd in the picture? What’s going to happen to her?

Well, obviously we don’t know the answers, but there was plenty of other stuff to scream about. At least this time they got the scene where Francie mopes her way onto the screen over with in the first act. Francie the Friend is the kind of character who begets bad background music (a weak, grungy cover of Fleetwood Mac’s ”Lansdlide”) and overly written ”moments.” Did anyone else want to puke at the whole removing-the-engagement-rings scene? And that they removed the rings simultaneously — what was that, synchronized silliness? Come on, Syd.

There’s just no need for precious, fleeting ”Alias” time to be sucked up by Francie reading her contrived wedding cancellation letters. (Note to J.J. Abrams: A lot of us watch ”Felicity” and were really moved when Elena, a strong, African American woman broke off her wedding. This business with Francie — sort of a poor gal’s Tangi Miller — and that what’s-his-name boyfriend of hers is far from felicitous.)

I’ll tell you what’s working better every week. Any and every plot involving Tippin, who has come to represent everything wrong with so many smart, employed, cute but scruffy men. He’s also, um, a total jerk. And yet, you can’t not like him, given the cute way that he pines for Syd and even more, that he’s never going to get her, which makes him pitiful.

But last night, Tippin’s bad boy behavior?blowing off nice Jenny’s invitation to Friday dinner, calling Syd while Jenny was in the shower — was over the top. Yes, I wanted to punch that wannabe two-timer in the face. Luckily, SD-6 was there for me! Not-so-slick Will got his comeuppance, two-fold. First, the kidnapping, which made me happy that I live in the land of public transportation. One minute he’s driving along in his van, talking to himself via his tape recorder and then bam — ambushed by men in black. And when Victor Garber pulled off his mask, revealing himself to be the punch-thrower, I got that giddy ”Sopranos” style rush. Sometimes, violence is just plain cool.

Of course, violence by women — even if it’s of the hands-off variety — is even cooler. I loved that Jenny the na├»ve intern kicked Tippin out of her car. What the hell is wrong with him anyway? Who breaks up with their girlfriend after she’s just driven out of her way to save them? A friend of mine suggested that given the way SD-6 threatened him, he was trying to push the people he cared about away. But I think Freud would agree with me that Tippin is just a plain old jerk.

Since a great jerky guy is so hard to find, I’m all the more relieved that J.J. Abrams — who co-wrote this episode — decided to keep Tippin around. When he was in jail with Ken Olin, I nearly cut off the circulation in my fingers, which were crossed. Tippin is a great friend for Syd and I’d hate to see him go, or worse, idle in some SD-6 induced coma. And you can tell when Abrams is super-involved because the scenes have that maddeningly layered quality. Like the dinner party, with Amy Irving making the big speech about the evil dictator (who was totally Sloane) as Syd prepares to plant a bug, as Sloane growls at Tippin, as Vaughn calls on the cell phone. I mean, in other shows, you’re lucky to get two good stories going at once.

And I couldn’t be more thrilled with the new freaky prophet portrait. It’s as if the exuberant mystery of ”Scooby Doo” and chic espionage of ”James Bond” have finally come together. Yes, last night’s episode comes down to the last two minutes, to Page 47 itself. I’m sure some cynics were insulted by the notion that Rambaldi, an apparent sketch master, foresaw Syd’s existence. Well, this believer is all for it. It’s nice that we can wonder if that painting — which had the accuracy of something done by a $15-a-portrait painter at your local mall — is really our spy girl. Perhaps The Man just paid off someone at the mall to doctor the Page as a part of a plan to assassinate Syd. Or maybe, a few pages later, there’s another portrait (also made with invisible ink) that features Sydney and Vaughn arm in arm, living happily and obscurely ever after in some beachfront paradise. If there is, let’s hope that scenario is at least five TV seasons away.

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