"Cipher"
Written by Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci; directed by Daniel Attias

Sydney goes through the many steps of the process to get access to the joint task force building (see “Trust Me”). When she arrives, she tells Kendall and Vaughn that the camera she stole from Fordson in Helsinki is just a prototype; the real one will be launched into orbit by the Asiatic Space Agency in 72 hours. The person behind the launch happens to be Sark. Sydney tells Kendall and Vaughn that Sloane wants her to go to the launch in Sri Lanka as a corporate buyer in order to hack into the satellite and see whatever Sark sees. Vaughn is ready to hack into the feed as well, but Kendall wants to know what they’ll be seeing first. This means that Sydney will have to talk to Irina again. Sydney says that once is enough, so Kendall asks Vaughn for his opinion. Vaughn plays the “she killed my father” card and recognizes that though Irina is an expert on global organized crime and Rambaldi, they were doing well without her. He would like to go without whatever Sydney decides, but Kendall still wants her to see Irina. Jack goes to see Barnett, wanting her to help him figure out how to keep Sydney from talking to Irina. Barnett doesn’t want to help him manipulate his own daughter. Jack notes that she must have Sydney’s interests in mind, since the CIA will learn nothing if she doesn’t talk to Irina. Barnett notes that Jack still thinks of Irina as Laura.

Sydney finds Irina meditating in her cell and reminds her that she’s supposed to refer to her as Agent Bristow. She asks what Sark is after and Irina begins her answer with a memory of Sydney taking piano lessons. Sark is looking for a Rambaldi music box that plays a tune with an equation in it. The equation is for zero-point energy, a fuel source that couple be used by the military. Sark needs a certain combination to make the music box play, and Irina isn’t sure if he’s deciphered it yet. Before Sydney leaves, Irina asks her what part she had in her first grade Thanksgiving play. Sydney doesn’t remember, since that was around the time she was told that her mother had died. Later, Sydney meets with Jack, who makes sure she’s okay after seeing Irina. Sydney asks about the play and learns that she played a turkey. She tells him that Irina is a means to an end and Jack assures her that he trusts her judgment. Marshall tells Sydney that he’s preparing a hydraulic luge for her mission, since she’ll have to get through the launch facility’s ducts quickly so she doesn’t get stuck under there when the rocket is launched. Sydney goes to see Sloane, who gives her a seed box that belonged to Emily. They talk about how she loved to garden and Sloane reveals that her roses died around the same time she did.

In the self-storage facility, Vaughn gives Sydney a circuit board to attach to the satellite so that they can access Sark’s feed. He tells her that they want to bring Will in for a follow-up to his debrief because he mentioned briefly seeing Sark working on a laptop in Taipei. He may have memories he can’t recall of the work Sark was doing on the music box combination. Sydney doesn’t want Will to have to revisit what happened to him, but Vaughn tells her they don’t have a choice. At home, Sydney tells Will about the follow-up and gives him instructions on where and when to meet Vaughn. Francie arrives and Sydney pretends the beer Will was drinking is hers. Francie makes sure that the two of them will be at her upcoming restaurant opening. Sloane arrives home to discover that Emily’s dead garden is now in full bloom. In Sri Lanka, Sydney heads to the launch site and she and Dixon begin their mission as Sark observes the final system checks. Sydney luges and Dixon shuts down surveillance feed so she can move around the ducts undetected. Sark suspects her presence, however, and asks the ASA to move up the launch. Dixon warns Sydney, who finishes up and gets out of the ducts just as the rocket is launched.

Back in L.A., Will meets Vaughn for the first time and learns that he’ll be hypnotized to see what he remembers. He realizes that every time Sydney received a wrong number call and left the house, she was going to meet Vaughn. He also figures out that Vaughn was the one who gave her the picture frame for Christmas (see “Spirit”). At SD-6, Marshall tells the usual crew that he’s found what Sark is looking for - a spot in the frozen Siberian tundra marked with the Rambaldi symbol. Sydney and Dixon will be heading there to get the music box before Sark can. Sloane keeps Jack back and admits that Emily’s death seems to be affecting him more than he expected. He wants Jack to keep an eye on him and make sure he doesn’t make any mistakes. He adds that the day before Emily died, she booked them at a bed and breakfast; even then she was focusing on their future. Sloane says that he’s not spiritual but he’s been feeling her presence recently. At the CIA, Will undergoes hypnosis as Sydney and Vaughn observe nearby. Will is taken back to the plane he was on with Sark and remembers seeing a list of Russian writers on Sark’s screen. Sydney doesn’t think the names are the actual code and suspects that they’re cipher text. Vaughn notes that Irina is the only person who can translate the names for them.

While Irina deciphers the names, she notes that Sydney hasn’t asked her how she could shoot her own daughter. She warns that Sark won’t hesitate to kill Sydney and says that she doesn’t want to lose the chance to explain herself. Sydney informs her that she was a turkey in the play. Irina thanks her. Neither realizes that Jack has been watching them from a surveillance monitor. Sydney, Dixon, and a team of agents head to Siberia, where Dixon warns that if Sydney falls through the ice, it will freeze over quickly. At home, Sloane gets a static-filled phone call. One of his security guards traces it to the bed and breakfast Emily booked them in. As the mission begins in Siberia, Jack pays Irina a visit, seeing her for the first time in more than 20 years. He makes it clear that if she hurts Sydney, he’ll kill her. “You haven’t told her what you did to her after I disappeared…have you?” Irina asks. In Siberia, Sydney finds the music box and breaks it open, preparing to enter the code that Irina gave her. Dixon and the other agents detect people approaching but can’t see them. Someone starts shooting from under the ice, but Dixon can’t warn Sydney because she’s gone radio silent in order to talk to Vaughn. After playing the music box for the CIA, Sydney sprays something to destroy it. She turns her coms back on just in time to hear Dixon warning her that Sark has arrived. She turns and comes face-to-face with Sark. He takes the music box and she throws a pickaxe into his leg. He starts shooting and one of his bullets breaks the ice, causing Sydney to fall through.

MEMORABLE QUOTES: Kendall: “I assume you have an opinion on this, Agent Vaughn.”
Vaughn: “Uh, I don’t have an easy answer on that.”
Kendall: “I’ll take a complicated one.”

“I want to make something very clear to you. There are people here who believe you can repay the debt you owe this country through your continued cooperation. I am not one of them. And if Sydney in any way becomes victim to your endgame, I will kill you.” - Jack to Irina


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