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The Surprising Story Behind The Best "Alias" Episode Ever

"It was bananas."

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But "Phase One" wasn't originally going to air after the 2003 Super Bowl; "Double Agent," which aired the following week and featured guest star Ethan Hawke, was!

ABC

In "Double Agent," Sydney (Jennifer Garner) must determine if Lennox (Hawke), a CIA agent, has been compromised. "It was a really dark [episode]," Alias executive producer Sarah Caplan said during a writers room reunion panel at the ATX Television Festival in Austin, Texas on Saturday.

Historically, the shows that air after the Super Bowl rely on massive guest stars, huge stunts, or both to bring in audiences. So when his staff continued to press that the episode was too heavy for this prime timeslot, Alias creator J.J. Abrams turned to his wife, Katie McGrath. And she agreed.

Pascal Le Segretain / Getty Images

"She goes, 'This is a really dark show,'" Caplan recalled. "So he says, 'Okay, we're going to do a different [episode].

"Suddenly we're racing to do this show. I think the post-production lady ... had about four days to turn the visual effects around. We were shooting 18 hours a day. It was bananas. It was like... oh my god. It was unbelievably stressful to get that episode out in time."

But there was one moment from "Double Agent" that did end up airing after the Super Bowl.

ABC

"The scene where you first see the double of Francie [Merrin Dungey], where you pan from Francie to Francie dead," revealed Ken Olin, who directed "Double Agent" and was one of the show's executive producers.

"We were going to find that out there ... but that was the coolest shot, so they put that at the end of the Super Bowl episode and everybody thought Jack Bender did it. It's fine, he did Lost," Olin said with a laugh.

"Phase One" turned out to not only be a game changer for Alias and for its fans, but also for its writers.

ABC

"The Super Bowl episode and the way that it blew up the show, it inspired the writers room in the sense that we always knew we could turn the show on its head," writer Josh Appelbaum said.

"The willingness to ... start over, to radically shift the show... J.J. was fearless that way. As a writer, it keeps you on your toes because it's like, How do you make the show in an entirely different world with entirely different character situations?" echoed writer Monica Owusu-Breen.

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