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Max and Alec go to deliver a package to some rich guy's house. When they get there, a suppressed memory of Alec's emerges as he recognizes the house. He tosses the package over the fence and gets them out of there quickly, but not before the house's security cameras get a glimpse of them.
Alec quickly becomes moody and depressed as his repressed memories surface. We learn that he plays the piano wonderfully, something he learned in preparation for his first deep-cover operation for Manticore. Through various flashbacks, we piece together what happened on this mission.
Robert Berrisford ran a genetics company that had dealings with the government and Manticore. He became too interested in Manticore's programs, so the bosses at Manticore decided to figure out how much he knew and whether or not he should be eliminated. They arranged for Alec (under a different name, of course, since at that time he didn't have the name Alec) to be hired by Berrisford as a piano teacher for his 17-year-old daughter, Rachel. Of course, the daughter is beautiful and quickly falls for Alec; the irony is that with all of Alec's training, he wasn't prepared for falling in love with her, too.
Alec is successful in getting the information from Berrisford that Manticore wants. His new orders are to plant a bomb in Berrisford's car and detonate it when Berrisford and Rachel are in it. He tries to convince his bosses that Rachel's death is unnecessary, but is rebuffed.
Alec plants the bomb, but then can't go through with the rest of the plan. He enters the house and tries to tell Rachel the truth. She is understandably upset, and runs out to the car, which explodes. Alec runs out, and his Manticore handlers arrive - they had detonated the bomb, and quickly scoop Alec up. They return him to Manticore for extensive re-brainwashing, and also presumably to suppress his memories of the mission. Alec never finds out if Berrisford, Rachel, or both were killed.
Back in the present, Max notices Alec's depression, and when she revisited Berrisford's house to get the signature for the delivery, she sees a portrait with the same locket that Alec has. Alec tells her to mind her own business. Someone begins calling Alec's cell phone and playing piano music. Alec wonders if Rachel somehow survived the car bomb; he stakes out Berrisford's house and sees a woman's silhouette in the window. Later, some hired thugs jump Alec outside of Crash, calling him by his cover name; he only gets away because Max comes to help. This attack helps him decide on his course of action.
Max asks Logan to dig into Berrisford's past, and Logan comes up with the news story on the car bomb two years ago. They deduce that Alec was ordered to plant the bomb, but they don't uncover any information about Rachel, so they still don't know about the emotional connection. They also deduce Berrisford's business connection to Manticore, but after the bombing Berrisford closed down his company. Max figures that Alec will go to finish the job with Berrisford in self defense, since Berrisford seems to sending hit men after him. So Max goes to keep Alec from killing Berrisford.
Alec gets into Berrisford's house with no problem. He bursts into the room with Berrisford and "Rachel" - and is shocked to find that the woman is not Rachel, just a plant to lure him there. Berrisford gets the drop on him with a gun and ties him up. Berrisford knows Alec was responsible for the car bomb, and once he had the clue that Alec was around, he lured Alec there to kill him. Alec desperately asks what happened to Rachel. Berrisford tells him that Rachel inadvertently shielded him from the bomb's blast, so Berrisford survived almost unscathed, but Rachel was hurt enough to fall into a coma. She has been in a coma for the past two years.
Berrisford quickly works himself up to kill Alec, and Alec doesn't seem to care. But Max arrives and knocks out Berrisford. She and Alec find Rachel in a hospital bed in another room of the house. Alec pours out all his pent-up grief for Rachel, and then they leave.
Within a few days, the headlines in the paper are that Rachel Berrisford has finally died. Max and Logan muse about Alec's past, but Max says that Alec is back to normal and won't talk about it at all. The end.
This is a tragic and compelling episode that brings some much-needed depth to Alec. I don't believe that Alec actually remembered Rachel until his memory was jogged by seeing the house; however, even the repressed memory could have a big influence on his personality and behavior. His self-centered attitude keeps him from making any serious emotional connections to anyone else.
We also get a look at more horrors of working for Manticore. The complete emotional detachment and ruthlessness of Alec's handlers is probably to be expected, but it doesn't seem very smart. Despite all of the transgenics' military training, they are still humans and have emotions. The idea of trying to deny that seems to set Manticore up for problems in the future. Of course, we find out that they weren't completely ignorant of Alec's problems, since they planned to execute his plan for him even if he couldn't. I'm also surprised that they didn't think of the love angle with Rachel as a possible plan for Alec. Frankly, I would expect Manticore to have classes and protocols for how to use love affairs to military advantage.
When Alec is taken back to Manticore after the mission, his re-brainwashing is chilling. Alec makes this point very distinctly when he tells Max that the training she received before she escaped was the easy stuff. This does make a certain amount of sense. Children would be more easily molded and commanded, but once those children grow up, retaining command would be much more difficult. Despite all the brainwashing and discipline, the adults will still begin to think for themselves to some extent and possibly resist some of Manticore's directives. It seems like the transgenic soldiers would have been in for a lifetime of brainwashing sessions and memory erasures, just to keep them under control. From Manticore's point of view, this would have been absolutely necessary - if the transgenics got unhappy enough and organized enough, they could have easily taken over. After all, they are super soldiers.
I did wonder why Alec and Max didn't try anything to help Rachel. Max and Logan's search for help for Max's virus has certainly led them to numerous doctors. I suppose since Berrisford is rich, he's been able to try everything. However, there is one thing he couldn't have tried: a blood transfusion from an X-5. A blood transfusion from Max helped save Logan, and even started healing his paralysis. This effect was not permanent, but it seems like if Rachel could be awakened from her coma, more conventional treatments might be able to help her from there. Alec might not know about this possibility, but Max should have suggested it.
I could understand Berrisford being so angry at Alec's betrayal that lead to his daughter's coma, but I have say that I thought his plan was just a little over-the-top. The hit men sent to kill Alec seemed practical and straight forward. But why the piano music phone calls? And the fake Rachel? I guess Berrisford wanted to kill Alec himself. How did Berrisford get Alec's cell phone number after just catching a glimpse of him in a surveillance camera?
One other nitpick with this plot: how did Alec get to keep Rachel's locket? He accidentally pulled it off her neck just before the bomb went off. Why did Manticore let him keep it? If they suppressed his memory of the mission, surely they would have taken the locket. It's hard to believe Alec would have had enough time to hide the locket, considering his emotional distress.
This glimpse into Alec's past is over and Alec seems to be back to normal, but I hope we get some follow-through on this story. After all, Max now knows something pretty important about his past, and she helped him out. Some change in his demeanor is in order. Logan compared Alec's attitude now to Max's when she and Logan first met - will Alec start to come around like Max did?
There was a nice scene toward the beginning of the episode, when Joshua had his first dinner party for Original Cindy, Logan, Max, and Alec. It was very cute to see Cindy helping him prepare and set the table. Logan brings a gift of wine as a good guest, only to find out that Joshua has prepared macaroni and cheese and little hot dogs. (Does Joshua drink, anyway? A better question might be, should Joshua drink?) This seems to be the first time that Logan and Joshua have met (I can't remember that they have), so Logan has to try very hard to act normally.
One nice thing to come out of Joshua's discovery of painting in "Medium Is the Message" is its incidental use to give us a bit of insight to the characters. In this episode, Joshua paints Alec: a shallow facade, but underneath a lot of darkness. It's a nice way to emphasize what's happening in the plot, and it also shows that Joshua is not as dumb as being a dog-man might imply.