Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports
The St. Louis Cardinals are a game away from the World Series, but we've watched the St. Louis Cardinals too much to take complete comfort in that.
I'm watching Alias on Netflix, because it's probably another few months until I can watch The X-Files again and I needed something to watch while I graded assignments, and it is ridiculous. I mean, I've watched hours and hours of it, so it's enjoyably ridiculous, but it's ridiculous.
Nobody is to be trusted—the premise, at least of the first season, is that Jennifer Garner is a double agent, but it quickly becomes apparent that everyone in the show is a double or triple or quadruple agent, and that at any moment anybody could get the Terrifying Glint in their eyes, fall quiet for a moment, and then fire a bullet through anybody else's head. Once you know Jennifer Garner is capable of it, everyone becomes capable of it.
This show is claustrophobically devoted to the Terrifying Glint, and when you're watching them one after the other you start to see the camera movements and the extra beats added on to unimportant scenes that mean somebody's about to pull off a rubber mask or spin around in a chair to reveal their throat's been cut or fire a bullet not at the poor sap of a paramilitary guard at the door but his partner who realizes it only after the sound of the gunshot's revealed the perfidy to you, the viewer. The perfidy that you expected when that unimportant scene at the restaurant or on the plane went on just an instant too long.
The St. Louis Cardinals won a Wild Card game that will be best remembered for a riot about the infield fly rule. They won the NLDS after being down 6-0 on the strength of the bats of Daniel Descalso and Pete Kozma. In the NLCS Matt Carpenter pulled off a rubber Carlos Beltran mask and continued to act like Carlos Beltran. And that's just the plot of Season 2.
Knowing it's coming makes you jumpier.
So I can't be certain or even a little confident that the Cardinals are going to win one of the next three games. The Giants have themselves just completed an improbable comeback against the Reds, a classic enemy-of-my-enemy Alias arc, and now that I've seen the Cardinals cheat death in all these improbable ways it's impossible to assume any team is really dead, not even when you just watched them lower the body into the ground on network TV.
That's a hazard of watching a team that constantly surprises you; eventually you can't expect anything else.
There's another lesson to take from network TV, though, at least as I watch it, years later on Netflix—repetition is plenty enjoyable, if you can make it work every time. Three-and-change seasons into Alias I am no longer even a little surprised when somebody pulls a gun and that gun pulls its own gun and there are two tiny little guns on top of that smaller one.
But every really well-executed hextuple-cross still hits me on the level it's supposed to; it's not surprising, but I'm exhilarated and I turn away from the paper I'm grading and I give an approving nod. The Cardinals can't surprise me anymore, and it'll be a few years of boring baseball before they're able to do it.
But every time they pull out another surprise—in hat moment it's like I'm watching David Freese's baseball skip over Nelson Cruz's glove all over again. One more positive one (and I won't be confident of it until the credits roll) and they'll be able to do the least surprising thing they've done in years, and play the Detroit Tigers in the World Series.