Notorious Summary and Analysis of Part 2: Alexander Sebastian


The scene shifts and we see Devlin and Alicia getting out of a car somewhere in a hilly part of Rio. Alicia continues to tease Devlin about the fact that he has fallen in love with her, and that he is embarrassed to have fallen in love with a “drunk.” In the middle of her teasing, Devlin abruptly kisses her, as romantic music plays. The scene shifts again to the exterior of an official-looking building in Rio. Inside, Prescott tells a group of men that Alicia is the perfect girl for the job. Another man says he is worried about “this German scientist” and wishes that they could take him into custody. Yet another man says that if they took him into custody, and even if they arrested the leader of the whole operation—a man named Alexander Sebastian—it would have little effect, since someone would soon take his place. Prescott assures the group of men that Alicia is perfect for the job because she is good at befriending gentlemen and they need someone who will go inside his house. When the other men question Prescott about whether that operation is a good idea and whether he has told Alicia about his plans, he tells them that Devlin has brought Alicia to Rio and that they now just have to wait for Sebastian to return. When one of the men asks if Prescott has told Devlin about “the nature of the work,” Prescott tells him that he has not, but that he is sure that Alicia is trustworthy and loyal to American interests. The meeting is adjourned.

We see Devlin’s car pull over at Alicia’s apartment and Alicia and Devlin get out. In the apartment, Devlin goes out onto a terrace and looks at the waves. Alicia approaches him and they kiss passionately. Alicia tells him that she wants to stay in for dinner rather than going out and that she will cook a chicken for them both, even though she doesn’t like to cook. Devlin tells her he has to call his hotel to check if he has any messages and they walk into the apartment. When Devlin begins to call the apartment, Alicia says, “This is a very strange love affair.” When Devlin asks her why, she responds, “Because you don’t love me.” Devlin gets through to the hotel, and asks if he has any messages, in between kisses with Alicia, whom he assures that he loves—“When I don’t love you I’ll let you know.” She giggles as he receives his messages. Hanging up the phone, he tells Alicia that Prescott wants to see him right away. They continue to kiss as Devlin walks towards the door and leaves, promising to bring a bottle of wine when he comes back.

At Prescott's office, Devlin gets out of the car with a bottle of champagne. The scene shifts to Devlin learning that Alicia has been tasked with seducing Alexander Sebastian, which upsets him. “I don’t know if she’ll do it!” he exclaims, but Prescott assures him that he should ask her. “I don’t think she’s that type of woman,” Devlin tells him, and Prescott says she will be perfect because Alexander Sebastian already knows her. “He was once in love with her,” Prescott says, which upsets Devlin. Another man in the meeting urges them to stay on course, that Sebastian’s house is a cover-up for something, and that they need to get Alicia inside to discover what’s going on. When Prescott tells him to go back to Alicia and tell her what she has to do, Devlin asks how the operation should go. Prescott tells him that they are to schedule a meet-up between Alicia and Sebastian at the riding club, before dismissing Devlin for the evening. Devlin goes, leaving behind the bottle of wine that he bought. Prescott looks at the bottle of champagne.

Devlin arrives back at Alicia’s apartment, and she asks him what Prescott had to say as she blithely cuts up their chicken dinner. Devlin goes out onto the terrace and stares at the waves as Alicia continues speaking to him. “Marriage must be wonderful with this sort of thing going on everyday,” Alicia says, as she comes out of the kitchen carrying the plates of chicken. As she plants a kiss on Devlin’s lips, she notices that he is glum and asks him what’s wrong. Devlin is silent, and insists that he’ll tell her after dinner. When Alicia jokes that he is withholding from her the fact that he has a wife and kids, he responds, “I’ll bet you’ve heard that line often enough,” which offends her. When she calls him on being unfair, he assures her that they have other things to talk about, like their job. Devlin asks her if she remembers Alexander Sebastian, and she tells him that she does, that he was one of her father’s friends. When Devlin tells her that he had “quite a crush” on her, Alicia smirks and tells him, “I wasn’t very responsive.” Devlin tells Alicia that Sebastian is in Rio and that he built up the German war machine in the hope that he could keep the war going. “Something big?” Alicia asks, and Devlin tells her, “It has all the earmarks of being something big. We have to contact him.” Suddenly realizing what the job is, Alicia walks away from Devlin and sits down.

Alicia encourages Devlin to tell her what the job is, and Devlin tells her that she has to “work on him and land him.” Jokingly, Alicia points out that she is being contracted to “make love for the papers.” Devlin tells her that she needs to find out what is happening in his house and what his group is up to. Alicia asks Devlin if he tried to dissuade Prescott and his men from having Alicia do the job, and he tells her that he thinks it is up to her. As Devlin lights a cigarette, Alicia asks him if he wants her to take the job, but he is unwilling to say either way, leaving it up to her judgment. She tries to get him to profess his love for her, but he remains business-like. Alicia goes inside and pours herself a drink, as Devlin tells her she starts the job the following day. He walks inside and looks around, looking for the bottle of champagne that he left at Prescott’s office.

The next day, Devlin drives Alicia to meet Sebastian, instructing her to tell Sebastian that he is with Pan American Airlines and that she just got in on a plane from Miami; “the less detail the better.” The scene shifts to Devlin and Alicia riding horses at the horse club. “Are you sure that’s him?” Devlin asks, and Alicia says that it is. The couple rides up alongside Sebastian, who eventually looks over and recognizes Alicia, but does not say anything. “I guess I’m the girl no one remembers,” Alicia whispers to Devlin, who assures her that they will stick around and give Sebastian another chance to say hello. Suddenly, Devlin kicks Alicia’s horse, which sends it running. Sebastian immediately follows in order to rescue Alicia. Devlin stays back, watching the reunion between Alicia and Sebastian, his expression serious. Later, Devlin sits at an outdoor cafe table, reading a newspaper alone.

The scene shifts to Alicia alone at a table at a fancy restaurant. She waits and Sebastian approaches her, smiling. He apologizes for being late, having come from a conference at the office, and she says it’s alright, grinning. When Sebastian complains about feeling old and tired after years of working in business, Alicia assures him that he looks younger than he did when he worked in Washington. “You always affected me like a tonic,” he tells her, ordering them another round of martinis. Suddenly, Alicia looks very serious, as she notices Prescott sitting down at a table nearby with a group. “You know him?” Sebastian asks, but she denies it, saying that Prescott just looked familiar. Sebastian informs her that Prescott is an intelligence man from Washington engaged in espionage. Alicia feigns surprise, and tells Sebastian that she’s “allergic to American agents.” Playing the part of a resentful anti-American, Alicia tells Sebastian that she came to Rio to get away from American suspicion. “I wondered why you left your father,” says Sebastian, and she keeps up the act, saying that her father was unselfish and insisted that she leave the country.

“It’s hard, but I feel at home with you,” Alicia tells Sebastian, and he tells her that he still has feelings for her, “that same hunger.” Alicia sips her drink, and when Sebastian asks her if she is seeing Mr. Devlin, she assures him that Devlin has pestered her since she arrived, but that she does not return his feelings. Sebastian is pleased to hear it and smiles at her, inviting her to dinner at his house the following night. His mother is having a dinner party, and he tells Alicia that he would be delighted if she came along, to which she agrees. As Sebastian looks at the menu, Alicia looks stricken, serious and grave.

The scene shifts and we see a card with “Alexander Sebastian” crossed out and “Alex” written on it. The camera pans up to Devlin and Prescott, who look at the card. We are in Alicia’s apartment and Alicia comes out of a room dressed for the dinner. Prescott presents her with a necklace they have rented for the dinner party. Prescott tells her to memorize the names of everyone that she meets and remember their nationalities, before suggesting that she doesn’t ask any questions. Prescott then urges Devlin and Alicia not to see each other for the next few days, in case Sebastian’s men check on them in the coming days. Alicia leaves.


Debate has been lively about whether Notorious fits into the category of film noir, but it is hardly deniable that Alicia is a kind of femme fatale: dangerously seductive, strong, and able to use her sexuality to get answers. Indeed, Prescott and his men have hired her expressly for this reason. They do not want just anyone to infiltrate the ranks of their enemy, but someone with the seductive qualities to put the enemy under her spell and take them off their guard. The film takes the trope of the femme fatale—the woman who can use her feminine powers to extract information and deceive—and makes it a government-sanctioned strategy for infiltrating enemy territory. Alicia is a reluctant participant, but she ends up agreeing to the plan, knowing full well her own seductive powers with men.

Yet another element that proves that Notorious is a film noir is the interplay between duty and desire, love and business. When Devlin and Alicia fall in love so quickly upon meeting one another, it becomes quite an inconvenience, as the needs of the mission require that Alicia infiltrate Sebastian's group using her powers of seduction and her feminine charms. Devlin is very in love with Alicia, but he is unable to express it because he is so used to operating by the logic of espionage that he cannot reveal his true feelings. While Alicia has less experience with espionage and is far more willing to be emotionally vulnerable and tell Devlin that she has fallen in love with him, she also feels the pressure to go along with their plan.

Thus, Alicia and Devlin find themselves in a kind of stand-off, each of them waiting for the other to profess their love. Each wants the other one to take the risk and say that Alicia shouldn’t seduce Sebastian. Alicia wants so badly for Devlin to prevent her from taking on the task that at one point she says, "Did you say anything? I mean, that maybe I wasn't the girl for such shenanigans?" He responds, "I figured that was up to you—if you'd care to back out." Their conversation is a kind of dance, but Devlin is unwilling to show his cards, insisting that it's up to Alicia, and that the assignment must be taken at face value. Devlin does not feel he has the luxury to tell Alicia that she ought not to take on the assignment, and so leaves it up to her, even though it pains him to do so.

In this way, Devlin and Alicia's dilemma becomes an allegory for the tension between personal feelings and political duties. Devlin works for the U.S. government, and because of this feels compelled not to entice Alicia to refuse the mission. In encouraging Alicia to infiltrate Sebastian's ranks, Devlin is essentially encouraging Alicia to profess her allegiance to America yet further. Alicia's commitment to the job represents her commitment to American interest, and so Devlin feels ill at ease encouraging her not to do it. Devlin's coldness is connected both to his own inability to tell Alicia that he loves her, and also his own patriotic commitment.

The way that the couple is shot when they realize they cannot be together perfectly illustrates their emotional experience of the realization. Upon realizing that Devlin does not plan to prevent her from taking the job, Alicia goes and pours herself a drink inside her apartment. We see her through the curtains, pouring a drink steadily, as if from Devlin's perspective. She is inside; he is outside looking in. The distance between them is not great, but the symbolic disconnect portrayed by shooting Alicia through a curtained window shows the psychic gulf that has opened up between them. Then when Devlin goes in, they stand on either side of the doorframe, diagonal to one another, unable to look directly into each other’s eyes or touch each other. Once Alicia takes the job, they can only be together physically, but their emotional and romantic intimacy now escapes them.