It’s no secret that the life of a spy is grueling. To work in the field, one must have a certain tolerance for pain, stress, and the psychological toll of knowing that danger can lurk around any corner. Even though spies have the ability to put their emotions on hold in order to do their jobs, sometimes things just get too personal. At the end of the day, spies are humans as well, humans with families and friends who usually want no part of the world of espionage.
Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean that they don’t face unforeseen physical, mental, and emotional consequences. These seven television spies showed us the side effects that could accompany the job, specifically when their loved ones got caught in the crossfire.
Jack Bauer, “24”
The first season of “24” had a major twist up its sleeve with the reveal of Nina Meyers as a mole, but it didn’t stop there. The season closed with a stunner of a final scene when Jack realized that Nina had shot his wife Teri, leaving her tied up and dead in a chair at CTU. Throughout the season, we’d already seen Jack’s wife and daughter get caught in the crossfire of the job, as both were kidnapped in order to manipulate Jack into assassinating Senator Palmer. However, we were also used to seeing Jack as an invincible superhero who could rescue anyone and wiggle his way out of any situation. Teri’s death changed that, serving as a punishing reminder to Jack that enemies have no qualms about taking advantage of and even hurting his loved ones.
Sydney Bristow, “Alias”
Sydney Bristow and Daniel Hecht were a happy couple at the beginning of the series. They had dated for two years and were recently engaged, and everything was looking up for them. However, upon revealing her occupation as an SD-6 agent to her fiancé, Sydney’s life was forever changed when the organization she worked for killed the person she loved. Daniel’s death served as the catalyst for Sydney’s decision to work as a double agent, and it was a reminder that letting a loved one know too much can have dire consequences.
Nikita Mears, “Nikita”
Shadowy government organizations are pretty ruthless when it comes to feelings. One of the major rules for Division, the organization that recruited and trained Nikita, was that agents could not fall in love with civilians. When Nikita did exactly that, Division pulled an SD-6 and killed her fiancé, prompting her to escape from the clutches of the organization and vow to bring it to its knees. Her fiancé was also named Daniel.
Philip Jennings, “The Americans”
Getting caught in the crossfire doesn’t just involve death in the spy world. It also involves other fun things like fake identities, emotional manipulation, and even exfiltration from your home country. Martha’s storyline was perhaps the most heartbreaking of the series thus far because it wasn’t just about love complicating an operation; it was about love as an operation. Philip used his alias, Clark Westerfeld, to get close to her so he could manipulate her into planting a bug in her boss’ office at the FBI, and that decision permanently altered Martha’s life. Philip grew to care about and even love her, but his actions continually placed her in more danger from both the FBI and The Center. She left unscathed physically when she was exfiltrated to Russia, but she was alone and had not completely recovered from something that she thought was real.
Elizabeth Jennings, “The Americans”
Keeping a secret life hidden from your children might be easier when they’re younger, but it becomes much more difficult once they begin to grow up. This was the case for Paige and Henry Jennings, both of whom began to question their parents’ actions and grow more suspicious of their supposed professions. Paige, in particular, was a special case because The Center specifically approached Elizabeth and Philip and asked them to recruit their daughter into the new program. Elizabeth was more sympathetic to the idea, training her and bringing her to West Germany to meet her grandmother. However, the decision caused conflict between Elizabeth and Philip over whether this was the right thing to do, and Paige was forced to lie to people she loved in order to keep her parents’ lives a secret. Even her feelings for a boy were complicated by the fact that he was Stan Beeman’s son. Paige was not only caught in the crossfire; she was recruited into it.
John Reese, “Person of Interest”
Even though we initially didn’t know much about the grizzled, stoic “man in the suit” known as John Reese, we eventually learned that love was an integral aspect of his past. While in the Army, he met and fell in love with a nurse named Jessica, and John had in fact planned to leave the Army for Jessica until the attack on the Twin Towers. At that point, John knew he had to continue his life of service, and he got recruited by the CIA soon after. John was unable to bring himself to save the relationship when she gave him a final opportunity to do so, and as a result, Jessica was a different kind of casualty to the grueling demands of the life of a spy.
Chuck Bartowski, “Chuck”
Chuck was just a normal guy until his life was irrevocably changed by the Intersect, placing responsibilities on his shoulders that he never knew he could have. Those responsibilities eventually trickled over into the lives of his friends and families, forcing them to reconcile Chuck’s life as a secret agent with the relative tranquility of their Burbank lifestyle. Morgan Grimes, who had been Chuck’s best friend since kindergarten, kept his secret throughout the series. At the end of Season 4, he became a spy himself when he accidentally picked up the Intersect glasses and put them on, and he became an integral part of the fight to take down The Ring. At the same time, he had to deal with amnesia and paranoia as a result of the Intersect download, and he started to transform into a different person. It all ultimately worked out in the end, but there was no escaping the fact that Chuck’s best friend got pulled into a world that he never asked to be pulled into.