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Even the stars of 'Alias' are still confused about the Rambaldi plot line all these years later

Confused about a key piece of Alias lore? You're not alone.

By Matthew Jackson
The cast of ALIAS

Alias, the beloved spy series created by J.J. Abrams and starring Jennifer Garner as Syndey Bristow, is having a moment yet again. Two decades ago, it was one of the biggest shows on television, with season premieres and finales that felt like major events that even some movies might envy, and thanks to streaming, fans are still finding and revisiting the show now. This month, the ABC series hit Disney+ for the first time, giving a whole new audience the chance to dive into five seasons of wigs, EDM, and lots of plot twists, while longtime fans go back to the series once again. 

But if you're new to Alias, and you're struggling with some of the more complex pieces of its lore, you're not alone. In a recent interview with Entertainment Weekly, several members of the show's original cast admitted that they're still having trouble with an overarching piece of the Alias mythos known as the Rambaldi storyline. 

Introduced early in the first season and recurring frequently throughout the rest of the series, the Rambaldi story involves the inventions and predictions of a 15th century genius named Milo Rambaldi, who may or may not still be alive thanks to various science fiction elements of his backstory. A fictional hybrid of Da Vinci and Nostradomus, Rambaldi was centuries ahead of his time, and many of his inventions become important plot McGuffins throughout the show, as various intelligence agencies and entities vie for control of his artifacts, some of which can cause an apocalypse, and some of which can stop one. It's all very interesting, but it's also very complicated, even if you're inside the making of the show. 

"I never. Followed. Any of it," Victor Garber, who played Sydney's father Jack on the show, recalled. "I still couldn't tell you who Rambaldi is. Jennifer [Garner] and I, we laugh about this all the time. I didn't follow anything about that. I'm not smart enough. My imagination doesn't work that way. It's true, I can't lie anymore, I'm too old. I can't pretend that I knew what I was doing. I didn't. There were many episodes where Jennifer and I would look at each other like, 'What just happened?' 'I have no idea.'"

Carl Lumbly, who played CIA Agent Marcus Dixon, was similarly puzzled.

"I look forward to seeing it across the whole series myself because even working on it, I was never exactly certain what had come before and certainly I had no clue as to what was coming after," he said.

To be fair to the cast, the Rambaldi storyline was never entirely consistent in terms of building itself through the show's run. It would have a major role to play for huge stretches of the series, then disappear entirely for episodes at a time before resurfacing. Sometimes it was integral to the story, and sometimes the show was much more focused on Sydney and her personal stakes. And, because it was really more of a show about Sydney and her pursuit of the truth than anything else, the Rambaldi subplot never seemed to fully coalesce into something bigger, making it more of an interesting sidestory than the centerpiece of the show, despite being a near-constant presence. 

Thankfully for the cast, Alias' arrival on Disney+ means they have a chance to go back and look at the whole story again. 

"If you had missed one episode, you wouldn't understand what was happening in the following one," Michael Vartan, who played Michael Vaughn, recalled. "Being able to watch it whenever you want and not miss an episode I think is hugely beneficial to the story that's being told. A lot of my friends would say, 'Oh, I missed the last couple episodes. What's going on in the show?' And I was like, 'Don't even bother. So much has gone on since then, just watch something else.'"

Alias is now streaming in its entirety on Disney+. 

Looking for more action in the meantime? Micheal Bay's new thriller Ambulance is streaming now on Peacock, along with action series such as Covert Affairs, MacGruber, Heroes, Treadstone, Vikings and more.