Season 4 Episode 1

Authorized Personnel Only (1)

Aired Thursday 8:00 PM Jan 05, 2005 on ABC
out of 10
User Rating
276 votes

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Episode Summary

Sydney quits the CIA and joins a Black Ops unit called "Authorized Personnel Only" alongside Dixon, Jack, Vaughn and... Sloane. Meanwhile, the truth Sydney found out in Wittenberg endangers her relationship with Jack, and eventually she reveals the awful truth to Vaughn.

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  • Damned entertaining, just don't think about the moral issues

    This double episode was pretty good from a purely entertainment perspective. Just don't think too hard about the moral issues.

    SD-6 was a evildoer that pretended to be part of the CIA. The CIA destroyed SD-6, then resurrected it under a new name, APO, so the CIA could do exactly what SD-6 did.

    Sound familiar? It should.

    Saddam Hussein was an evildoer who tortured prisoners in Baghdad's infamous Abu Graib prison. The US destroyed Saddam, then took over Abu Graib prison, so it could exactly what Saddam did, in exactly the same facility.

    Wait, there's more.

    'Alias' star Jennifer Garner to be CIA bait

    LOS ANGELES (AP) Jennifer Garner will soon be the bait for real-life spies.


    The CIA announced Thursday it has enlisted the curvy Alias star to appear in a recruitment video to be shown at job fairs and college campuses.

    CIA officer Chase Brandon, the agency's liaison to the entertainment industry said "Jennifer and the character of Sydney Bristow both reflect a lot of the qualities we look for in new career field officers... honesty, integrity, intelligence, creativity, energy and the ability to think outside the box, an inherent willingness to pit your skills in a risk-taking context for carrying out agency missions and assignments. He said the program is popular in the halls of CIA headquarters in Langley, Va.

    Intelligence, energy and an inherent willingness to pit your skills in a risk-taking context for carrying out agency missions and assignments? Sure. I'll give 'em that.

    But "honesty, integrity, creativity, the ability to think outside the box?" From ciphers whose job it is to obey orders without question, to lie, to cheat, to steal, in order to preserve the political status quo? Oh, please.

    Like I said, this double episode was pretty damned good from a purely entertainment perspective. Just don't think too hard about the moral issues.moreless
  • Works as a reboot, fails as a continuation of last year...

    Ahh, season four: the marmite season, if you will. Fans either hated this season or loved it. While I dislike Marmite a great deal, I really love this season. And although this is a confident first part, it's undermined by many gaping wounds left by the 3rd season. See, ABC demanded a more viewer-friendly approach this year, since last year met great criticism from fans and critics alike, crying out it was too convoluted. Personally, I felt it was a compact year with many great stories, but, of course, it paled in comparison to ALIAS' first two seasons. So, while I appreciate the writers' need to call it "bridge under the water" and move on, for long-time fans, it's a bit of a cheat.

    In fact, it appears as though JJ wasn't too keen on season three either, as there are a few jabs at it throughout the episode ("Last year sucked" being a subtle one. Ahem). Still, as a reboot season premiere, there are quite a few changes. And, of course, a few questionable rethreads of previous years. Presumably it wasn't Abrams running out of ideas, but more so revisiting elements that made the show an instant hit in the first place - Syd working for Sloane etc.

    I have to say, Jennifer Garner looks amazing this year. I'm not sure what she did, but she just looks absolutely stunning in this episode, and for the rest of the season. Maybe it's something that inevitably comes with a shows fourth season, as Sarah Michelle Gellar never looked so good as she did in her fourth year. Food for thought...or not :P

    The new headquarters is a nice change of scenery from season three's drab backdrop, and it actually makes the cast look great. Now, you'll have to excuse the ludicrous development of how Sloane managed his position at APO, but once you do, the episode is a thrilling ride. And, yes, I can see why JJ opted to have him there, it's adding some nice tension-filled moments and, as Syd puts it, it's great having her work alongside Dixon again.

    So, as a follow up to the finale of last season, it doesn't quite gel - yet. We still have the second half, of course. But as a means of showcasing the layout of the series, it works great and covers most of the important ground without falling into laborious exposition for newcomers. Fave quote:

    Chase: Are you opting to terminate your association with the CIA?

    Sydney: I will say it in English for you: I quit.moreless
  • SD6 is reborn. But do we really want that?

    Under the pressure of ABC, the writers had to make a hard decision. They had to temporarly drop the serialised nature of the show, and concencrate on the standalone concept.

    So, everything that was set up in the previous season had to be either cancelled or suspended. Unfortunately, while most things are handled well by the writers, there are major plto threads which are simply too big to ignore - although we are forced to do so.

    One of those things is that Sloane is in control again, in this new "secret CIA branch" which is called APO. I don't know why didn't they name it SD6? It would fit perfectly.

    Dixon, Vaughn, Sydney, Jack... all working for Sloane. Makes no sense, especially after Sloane was basically sentenced for death. He commited so many crimes, even with suspending my disbelief, this is totally silly. But once you get past this, there's another major issue. Namely, the fact that Rambaldi has to be ignored for a good amount of time, because Rambaldi just doesn't fit well with standalone episodes. So once again, we're kept in dark about what Nadia and Sloane found...

    The episode itself is okay. The first 20 minutes were great, confusing, but great. But the last 20 minutes were forced, and just didn't feel right. I didn't understand the need for an actual mission in this episode. There should have been much more character exploration...moreless
  • Review

    Coming off of, what I felt was one of the strongest episodes in series history, I think this episode left everyone feeling more confused and frustrated then satisfied. What I liked about episode 3x01 was that it was almost like "The Telling" part 2, meaning that they picked up exactly where they left off in season 2 and kept the ball rolling. This episode felt more like its own episode and it jumped around way more then I would have liked it too.

    The main cliffhanger of season 3 was addressed but not yet answered, as we still dont know exactly what was on the paper that Sydney read at the end of the season. With JJ Abrams writing the next episode, Im sure he will tell us the answer soon enough because it clearly is enough to be driving a wedge in the middle of Sydney and her father right now.

    Vaughn and Sydney getting back together early was a good thing from JJ I think. Rather then fill episodes with pointless fillers I thought it best to do exactly what he did. The beginning mission where she fails and is fake fired from the CIA was not needed, it was another one of those confusing and pointless touches I think. Overall, liking the idea of Authorized Personal Only as the new "SD-6", I think Ill like seeing Arvin in charge of everyone again. Overall though, not exactly the episode I had in mind coming off of Resurrection.moreless
  • Huh?

    What an unexcepted way to start the 4th season.

    Ignoring S3 finale, and basically the whole 3rd season, Alias starts... very... interesting-ly.

    Syd quits CIA after a mission that didn't go as planned... however, it was all staged. Syd joined a secret divison of the CIA, the APO.

    But the funny thing is, not only did Syd, but so did Jack, Vaughn Dixon and Sloane join. Ah, SD 6 reunion?

    This is, as cool as it sounds, very unreal. What's even worse is making Sloane the leader of the pack.

    What's wrong with the writers? Have they forgotten what Sloane has done?

    While this episode gives maximum effect when watched together with part 2, on the DVD it's a seperate episode. And I can't help noticing that this episode had NOTHING to DO with the 3rd season on a whole - as i said - but it's especially annoying because the characters act irrationally: especially Sloane. No resolution, nothing. Just... a new plot thread. No Rambaldi. No secret-documet-explaination. Overally, despite all the negativity, it was still enjoyable and definitely makes you want more.moreless
Greg Grunberg

Greg Grunberg

Eric Weiss

Jennifer Garner

Jennifer Garner

Sydney Anne Bristow

Carl Lumbly

Carl Lumbly

Marcus R. Dixon

Ron Rifkin

Ron Rifkin

Arvin Sloane

Michael Vartan

Michael Vartan

Michael C. Vaughn

Victor Garber

Victor Garber

Jonathan 'Jack' Donahue Bristow

Robert Patrick Benedict

Robert Patrick Benedict


Guest Star

Karl Hamann

Karl Hamann


Guest Star

J.R. Reed

J.R. Reed

Lead CIA Agent

Guest Star

Angela Bassett

Angela Bassett

Hayden Chase

Recurring Role

Trivia, Notes, Quotes and Allusions


  • TRIVIA (4)

    • The guys new codenames at APO are as follows:
      Sydney - Phoenix (because she rose from the ashes)
      Vaughn - Shotgun
      Nadia - Evergreen
      Dixon - Outrigger
      Jack - Raptor
      Marshall - Merlin

    • Kicking off the operation in the train in Belarus, Vaughn says to Sydney "Horoshie siski." That's "Nice boobs" in Russian.

    • The train station shown in this episode is the Union station in Los Angeles.

    • While discussing the files that Sydney recovered, the writers manage to ignore every piece of evidence from the finale of season 3.
      -Lauren's shouting "We're all pawns in the same game! The only difference is that I know who controls me."
      -It's dated 1975, whereas the events that Sydney describes would have happened sometime past season 2.
      -Sydney's NAME is on the cover, right next to "subject".
      They seem to have been heading in the direction that Jack was the one in charge of the Covenant, and was using them as part of some sinister project involving Sydney, but wrote themselves into a corner and changed it.

  • QUOTES (16)

    • Sydney: I don't want that, to jump right back in where we were, before everything. To pretend like those years didn't happen.
      Vaughn: Well, that would be nice, wouldn't it?
      Sydney: But they did.

    • Sloane: You'll need to get him to open the case for you.
      Sydney: Do you have any suggestions?
      Sloane: I assume you'll come up with something interesting.

    • Sloane: Quite frankly I was surprised by their call too, until I understood what it is they want: their own SD-6.

    • Vaughn: I'm leaving.
      Eric: Leaving what... the Agency? Is this because of Sydney?
      Vaughn: No, it's not because of Sydney; it's because last year sucked.

    • Eric: (Vaughn is beating a punching bag, obviously angry) Bag's dead, man. You can give it up.
      Vaughn: Thanks for coming.
      Eric: Thanks for sweating.

    • Vaughn: You want to tell me what happened in Wittenburg?
      Sydney: No, actually, I don't.

    • Sloane: I'm sending you, Sydney. I'll give you the details in my office.
      Sydney: Lucky me.

    • Chase: But we can use him now: His contacts, his expertise, and he will be closely monitored.
      Sydney: I pity the man with that job. (Chase looks pointedly at Sydney.)
      Sydney: (Realization dawns on her) Wait a minute…
      Chase: With you here… Vaughn, Dixon, and your father, there's a built-in system of checks and balances. If Sloane missteps… you'll catch him. Now, that's it. This is your assignment.

    • Sydney: When I was approached about joining a black-ops unit within the CIA, I thought I was doing the right thing. And while I appreciate the necessary protocol in assembling a new team, Arvin Sloane is not…
      Chase: (Cutting her off) I understand you used to work for Sloane.
      Sydney: Yeah, a criminal psychopath beyond verbal description…
      Chase: I know all about Sloane.
      Sydney: Then allow me to ask the most obvious question in the history of time: How can the CIA let that man, who ran what amounts to a terrorist cell within the borders of this country, run anything?

    • Sydney: If this is your…decision, Director Chase…I will no longer burden this agency with the hazard of my participation.
      Chase: Are you opting to terminate your association with the CIA?
      Sydney: I will say it in English for you: I quit.

    • Sloane: Because I see in her something I once saw in you: the need to work for what's right. And because you know what it is to put aside personal issues, and that... that's a gift.
      Sydney: It's not a gift. What it's been is a necessity, and it's become a burden, and, quite frankly, something I've run out of patience for.

    • (About Nadia)
      Sloane: She chose to leave intelligence.
      Sydney: You sure she really left? Fake-quitting seems to be all the rage.

    • Sydney: (To Dixon) One thing makes up for all this: having you as my partner again.

    • Director Chase: I'm recommending to the board that you be stripped of classified clearance and assigned to the Dispatch Office at Langley.
      Sydney: You're transferring me... to the mail room!?

    • Director Chase: Even for you, Agent Bristow, your arrogance today is appalling!

    • Komorov: (Opens a suitcase) What is inside can be used for good... or evil.
      Sydney: Me too.

  • NOTES (10)

    • Angela Bassett was billed as Special Guest Star in this episode.

    • Music from this episode includes:
      "At Last" by Etta James
      "Cold Hard Bitch" by Jet
      "World On Fire" by Sarah McLachlan
      "Bad" by U2
      "A Dios le Pido" by Juanes
      "The Wind" by Cat Stevens

    • At the start of the fourth season, Alias gets moved from its original Sunday timeslot to Wednesday. The producers grabbed this opportunity to lure some new viewers to the show. To accomplish this it was decided that the first half of the fourth season would mainly be comprised of standalone-episodes (instead of the usual cliffhanger-like, on-going episode structure).

    • J.J. Abrams directed some secondary scenes in this episode after he was unhappy with the way the episode originally turned out.

    • As of this episode, Mia Maestro (Nadia) is now credited in the opening title sequence, while David Anders (Sark) and Melissa George (Lauren) are no longer credited.

    • Although credited, Kevin Weisman (Marshall) doesn't appear in the first half of this episode. However, he has a deleted scene on the Season 4 DVD where he says goodbye to Sydney when she quits the CIA. Mia Maestro also does not appear in this episode.

    • This episode begins in medias res.

    • As of this episode, the title sequence has been changed from its original format to show over 50 disguises that Sydney has worn since the show began.

    • Originally aired as a two hour premiere on January 5th at 8:00 PM.

    • The show begins with a song titled "At Last" by Etta James, which also begins with the phrase "At last".
      This was obviously a play on the fact that the fans had waited longer than usual between seasons three and four.