"Authorized Personnel Only, Part 1"
Written by J.J. Abrams and Jeff Melvoin; directed by Ken Olin

To the strains of Etta James’ “At Last,” a disguised Sydney enters a train sleeping compartment and speaks with a Swedish accent to a man. After some flirting, she gets him to open his briefcase, which contains an unstable isotope. Sydney looks worried for a moment, but then knocks the man out. She heads down the corridor to a baggage car and fights with another man. He knocks her out the door and she grabs some netting to keep from falling out of the train and into a chasm. 72 hours earlier, Sydney, this time dressed as a schoolgirl, runs through Shanghai with an agent named Brodien. They head through an alley to a nightclub and lock themselves in a bathroom. Sydney announces that they were compromised, partly because she was late for something, but she won’t tell him why. She tells him that she couldn’t get in touch with another agent because he was also compromised. She gets on coms to warn someone just in time to hear shots fired. Someone else gets on coms and tells her that he’s tracked her down. Sydney quickly destroys the transmitter and starts changing Brodien’s clothes, turning him into a Goth clubber. He’s scared that they’re going to be killed, but she tells him he needs to be confident and strut out of the club. Sydney changes her own clothes by swapping with a woman who’s been trying to get into the bathroom. Sydney and Brodien split up and he struts out of the club.

Back in L.A., Sydney winds up in a debriefing with a ticked off director, Hayden Chase (Angela Bassett). She’s upset that Sydney didn’t stick to her mission and took a tip from an unauthorized source. Chase thinks Sydney is arrogant, but Sydney thinks her judgment is better than Chase’s, since the director hasn’t been field rated in a dozen years. Chase adds that Sydney got a man killed, then left her contact. Her record isn’t spotless and this isn’t the first time she’s “exhibited rogue behavior,” so Chase wants her to give up her classified clearance and be given a job in the dispatch office (aka the mailroom). A furious Sydney decides to quit instead. In D.C., Vaughn takes out some aggression on a punching bag and gets a visit from Weiss. Apparently it’s been about a month since the events of “Resurrection,” and since Lauren’s death Vaughn has burned down their house and decided to leave the CIA. Weiss wonders if he’s doing this because of Sydney; Vaughn replies (extremely accurately) that it’s because “last year sucked” and he no longer has the desire to work for the CIA. Weiss encourages him to talk to Sydney, since she quit the previous day. In a subway station, Sydney heads through a door marked “authorized personnel only” and performs some actions that open a secret door. At the end of a hallway she finds a white office and Chase waiting for her.

Chase praises Sydney’s successful quitting and Sydney praises Chase’s harshness. Chase lets her know that Brodien has no idea the mission in Shanghai was all a charade. Sydney is grateful to be asked to take part in this “operation”; she wants a fresh start after everything that’s happened in her personal life. She soon learns that the other four people on her new team are Vaughn, Jack, and Dixon, and they were all handpicked by Sloane. Sydney pulls Chase aside and tells her that when she agreed to join a black-ops division of the CIA, she though she was doing the right thing, but Sloane’s presence doesn’t reinforce her beliefs. She’s appalled that the CIA is going to let Sloane run anything. Chase points out that they can use all of Sloane’s old contacts and resources. She promises that Sloane will be closely monitored and Sydney comments that she pities whoever is in charge of that. Of course, she’s the person in charge of that. Sydney rejoins the others and Sloane notes that their new team will basically be the CIA’s own SD-6. He gives the group their first assignment - a man named Yuri Komorov (the guy from the train) has disappeared with an isotope and will be meeting with someone on the train, probably to sell the isotope. Sloane wants Sydney and Vaughn to be on the train. Sydney doesn’t bother trying to hide her disbelief that Sloane is giving her assignments again. Her dossier is marked with the letters APO, which stands for the team’s name, Authorized Personnel Only.

After the meeting, Dixon tells Sydney that if he’d known Sloane was in charge of APO, he never would have agreed to join. However, since they’re there, they can keep an eye on him. He explains that he told Langley he wanted to step down as director because he belongs in the field. Then he heard from Chase and was immediately intrigued with joining a black-ops division. Sloane approaches Sydney and reminds her that even though he betrayed her, they were once a good team. He says that he just wants her to give him a chance. After he leaves, Sydney tells Dixon that having him as a partner again makes it all worth it. That night, Vaughn stops by Sydney’s house and tells her that he misses her. She apparently hasn’t returned his calls and doesn’t want him to come in because she knows that they’ll just jump back into things and pretend that the last three years never happened. She wants to take things slowly. In Belarus, Vaughn and Sydney prepare for the train mission; he heads to the dining car and she goes to Komorov’s sleeping compartment, pretending that there was a mix-up with her ticket. Vaughn poses as Komorov and meets with the buyer. The buyer gives him half the payment in diamonds, telling him a man named Mr. Vadik will send the other half when they’re sure the isotope is the real thing. Just as the transaction is ending, the buyer notes that Vaughn looks familiar. He tells one of his guards to find out who Vaughn really is, takes back the diamonds and leaves.

Vaughn warns Sydney via coms that a guard is on his way to find her. As Sydney knocks out the real Komorov, Vaughn fights a guard. After a repeat of the first scenes of the episode, Vaughn makes it to the baggage car, saves Sydney, and shoves the guard trying to kill her off of the train. Sydney and Vaughn quickly wind up in bed together. (It makes more sense if this scene had happened right after he came to her house, but what can you do?) After their romp, Vaughn tells Sydney that before they left, Jack told him they wouldn’t have a tactical team in Belarus. He wonders why Jack is passing messages to her through him and asks what happened in Wittenberg. Instead of answering, Sydney flashes back to the very end of “Resurrection,” then tells Vaughn that she doesn’t want to tell him what happened. At APO, Sloane announces that the man Vaughn met with on the train works for someone named Roman Vadik, one of the CIA’s most wanted men. Vadik is supposedly planning a major attack in the next six months, and Sloane wants Sydney to speak with an agent who infiltrated his operation last year. They head to Sloane’s office, where he informs Sydney that that agent was Nadia. He informs her that when the two of them found the Rambaldi artifact they went looking for together, they turned it over to the government. Sydney realizes that this is how he got his job at APO.

Sloane wanted Nadia to join the CIA, but she decided to go back to Argentina because she doesn’t want to have anything to do with him or the intelligence life anymore. Sydney isn’t sure that Nadia will want to talk to her about Vadik, but Sloane thinks they have the same drive to do what’s right, no matter what their personal issues are. Sydney says that she’s losing patience with that. Jack tries to give Vaughn another message for Sydney, but Vaughn refuses to be a go-between for them anymore. He adds that Sydney hasn’t told him what happened in Wittenberg, but he has an idea and hopes that he’s wrong. In Argentina, Nadia and Sydney have a happy reunion, but Nadia doesn’t want to come back to the States and help APO. She does provide information, telling Sydney that people can only deal with Vadik’s right-hand man, Kazu Tamazaki. Sydney assures her that she understands why she won’t come work for APO. Jack drops by Sydney’s house and tells her that they can’t keep avoiding each other. She’s upset that he agreed to work with Sloane and even approved his appointment to APO. She tells him that it sickens her to have to see him so often. Jack asks if Sydney told Nadia what she learned in Wittenberg. Vaughn arrives, and after Jack leaves, Sydney finally starts to reveal what happened. Lauren sent her to Wittenberg and she found information on Irina, including a request made by Jack to execute her. (This isn’t what we saw in “Resurrection,” but the writers have already admitted to making things up as they go along, so why should we be surprised?) “He killed my mother,” she whispers as he comforts her.

WELCOME TO SPY COUNTRY: Chase

R.I.P. (OR SO WE THINK): Irina

MEMORABLE QUOTES: Weiss: “C’mon, burning your house down?”
Vaughn: “It wasn’t a happy home.”
Weiss: “Yeah, but still…fire.”
Vaughn: “Yeah, well, you kill your wife after learning she’s a vicious, homicidal double agent, and see how rational you are.”
Weiss: “I…I just want you to know that I’m there for you, you know, if you need to stay with me for a while…‘cause your house is…ashes.”

Sloane: “Are there any questions?”
Sydney: “Besides ‘how’d you get this job?’”

Sloane: “She chose to leave intelligence, drop out.”
Sydney: “You sure she really left? Fake quitting seems to be all the rage.”


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