Spoilerly Alias stuff below.
I vicariously watch Alias. That is, Lee's watching it, and he sometimes tells me about what's going on. As he's telling me about what's going on, I'm thinking, "there's a pattern here." The first seaon, the solution to many problems was something called "The Third Alternative." That is, when you're in a situation where someone presents to you two alternatives, as in, either you reveal secret information or your daughter gets it, you create a third alternative, like, we both attack you instead. Okay, I'm good with that.
Then Lee started telling me about the second season, and something clicked. Sometimes the answer to a dilemma is that things are not what they seem. For instance, you've told your wife a secret, and she was dying of cancer anyway, but then her cancer goes into remission and you've been ordered to kill her yourself or she'll face worse, the answer is to have plotted the whole situation yourself, so you can make a ton of money and smuggle your wife out to a safer location while everyone else thinks she's dead. I mean, I've seen other stories use the idea that things aren't what they seem--Iocain powder, anyone--but I hadn't really put it together as a writer. "Hey," I said. "This is a tool that I, too, can use."
Lately he's been telling me about the third season. I still haven't got it figured out yet. It may, in fact, be that this is where the creator, JJ Abrams, goes beyond where I can keep up. I feel like he's coming up with some kind of apotheosis for the main character, hidden in the middle of the soap-opera melodrama about the boyfriend who's married to another woman, but I can't see how he's doing it.
What is he doing? How is he doing it? What ideas can I steal?!?
Eh. Don't tell me. At least not yet.