Remember how J.J. Abrams would always say that the idea for Alias grew out of "What if Felicity were secretly a spy?" I'm kind of glad that Keri Russell finally gets to live that pitch a little bit. Meet Phillip and Elizabeth Jennings. They're KGB agents under deep cover for a division called Directorate S. This particular brand of deep cover -- twenty years in the states, married and raising two children despite not being a genuine couple, complete immersion, forbidden from speaking Russian in private, forbidden from even telling each other their own real histories -- is so intensive that folks at the FBI think it's an urban legend. But there they are, tracking down a KGB defector in D.C., in preparation for a drop-off that they miss because Phillip (the more softhearted of the two) stops to make sure their mortally wounded cohort gets to a hospital (he dies anyway). So they take the defector -- Timoshev -- home and keep him bound and gagged in the trunk of their car until they figure out what to do with him. Elizabeth (the more hardcore-as-fuck of the two) is harboring a secret: Back in KGB training twenty years ago, Timoshev raped her. So she's like extra motivated to choose the "cut him up into small pieces and dump him somewhere" option. The other option is pitched by Timoshev himself: he tells Phillip that he and Elizabeth should defect like he did. He got a cool $3 million for his trouble, so maybe they could too. Phillip's considering the option because his deep, dark secret is that he kind of loves America.
Living next door to the Jenningses is Stan, played by Noah Emmerich, who just so happens to be a FBI agent. There are a lot of "Is Stan really suspicious of them or is the show faking us out?" scenes, primarily one where Stan asks to borrow jumper cables and Phillip has to retrieve them without letting Stan see the tied-up KGB agent in his trunk.
The knowledge that a FBI agent just moved next door freaks Phillip and Elizabeth out significantly. He presents her with the defection option. She says absolutely not, partially because she's loyal to the motherland, partially because she's maniacally focused on their job, but also partly because she can't bear the thought of their children finding out the truth about them. Still, Phillip is resolute and he plans to defect on his own -- which effectively makes Elizabeth's decision for her -- and he retrieves Timoshev from the trunk to bring him in. But when Timoshev tries to apologize to Elizabeth for that whole raping incident, its news to Phillip, and his husbandly rage takes over. He snaps Timoshev's neck, and Elizabeth's moved/impressed enough that they do it in the car after disposing of the body.
Oh, and it turns out that Stan really is suspicious of the Jenningses, since he sneaks into the garage at night to inspect the car trunk. It's clean, but Phillip was hiding in the shadows ready to kill his ass if he found anything.
Oh, and also, Phillip has a wig drawer that he uses to craft disguises that allow him to, among other things, impersonate a CIA analyst and beat down a local statutory rapist. This show's going to be junky, but hopefully fun-junky.
First things first: to set the mood, throw on some "Tusk." Trust me -- it's a whole thing in this episode.
So we set our scene in Washington D.C. circa 1981, just as the Reagan era is dawning. We're in one of those D.C. bars you see so often on TV and movies, where political power-brokers (and, more often, wannabe power-brokers) take their hookers and try to seem more important than they are. One such hooker -- in an obvious blonde wig from the Vivian Ward collection -- is our pal Keri Russell. You'd think she'd be disqualified from any and all covert operations on account of that birthmark on her lip making her instantly recognizable. Also, Felicity with an awful blonde haircut was going to be that show's headline-grabber if it ever made a fifth season. So anyway, let's all be adult about this and not pretend like we don't already know that this show is about Soviet spies living in America and that Keri is one of those spies. She's obviously sexing up this mid-level Pentagon staffer (or whatever) to get information and his horny ass is obviously not smart enough not to fall for it. When are governments going to learn to start entrusting their state secrets only to eunuchs and castrati? It's the only way.
So Congressman Horndog or whoever turns out to work for the Justice Department, and Hooker Felicity actually fingers his ID badge because she finds that level of access just so sexy. "Harden My Heart" by Quarterflash is playing in the bar, because I guess this is one of those shows that's gonna be on the nose about music cues. Cut to the hotel room, where Congressman Horndog has Hooker Felicity's shirt off and yet he still can't stop talking about just how important his job is. I halfway believe she commences the BJ just to shut him up, which thankfully it does. Cue the steady drumbeat of "Tusk" and Keri striding out into the night, back to her car. She removes her wig in the car while still in full view of the hotel across the street, which I'm not sure is good ops, but if I get hung up on that kind of stuff on a show like this, we'll be here all day.
THREE DAYS LATER: our old pal Kevin Walker, a.k.a. Matthew Rhys (a.k.a. Philip on this show, if you want to be a grown-up about it) is standing near a fence in the dead of night, accompanied by a cute young comrade. They're talking nonspecifically about some guy, presumably the guy they're staking out, how he's got a reputation for being a ruthless killer. Cuteski is buying into the legend entirely, while Philip attempts to undercut the stories of this guy killing 17 Japanese judo fighters in a single bound. At the same time, Keri (who is Elizabeth on this show, so let's get used to it) is inside the building across the street, bribing one of the residents so she can look out his front window for a bit. Outside, Philip and Cuteski are discussing Phil's NHL fandom (the Caps suck, Phil… sorry) when they see Elizabeth give the signal that she's in. At street level, a man walks by with a briefcase. Presumably this is the badass the boys have been discussing. Elizabeth signals them again to tell them the guy is about to round the corner to them. Just before he gets there, Badass stops and looks up at the window that Elizabeth was in and gets suspicious. Suddenly, he sprints in the opposite direction and Philip and Cuteski give chase. TUSK! I mean, CHASE! Philip yells "IMMIGRATION! We just want to talk!" while Badass yells for help, since any and all intervention at this point helps him. Philip shouts to Cuteski not to get too close, but when Badass rounds a corner, Cuteski pursues and gets a knife to the gut for his trouble. Philip, in a telling detail, hurdles Cuteski's slumped body without even breaking stride and continues pursuit down an alley, up a fire escape, along a fence, down another alley. Badass finally decides this is pointless and turns to face Philip. Time for the hand-to-hand! Of course, Badass's hand has a blade wedged between two fingers, so that's a bit of an advantage. Philip turns out to be quite the skilled fighter, though, avoiding the blade and hip-tossing Badass into a brick wall. Undeterred, Badass lunges again and gets flipped once again for his trouble. "I know you're not supposed to kill me," Badass growls. Philip -- in perfect English, I should say, with not a trace of Russian anywhere -- informs Badass that he's unpopular enough that Phil could deliver him in a hundred pieces and get a separate medal for each one.