EPISODE REVIEWS: Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles: “The Last Voyage of the Jimmy Carter, Part 2” (Season 2, Episode 19)

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You know, there’s a lot of similarities between this Terminator show and the very-recently-concluded Battlestar Galactica. I‘m not saying they‘re the same basic story only in different venues, but there are a lot of more-than-casual coincidences:

* Both revolve around humanity creating sentient machines that then try to kill us
* Both revolve around machines that look and act just like humans
* Both involve a near-total genocide of the human race that a brave remnant fights to survive.
* Both involve hot chicks as the machines
* Both involve factions within the homicidal machines, some of whom eventually prove friendly, most of whom are not.
* Both involve political machinations within the human remnant
* There’s a religious aspect to both shows.
* The core of each show is a strong familial group (Sarah, John, and Reese in this, Adama, Apollo, and Starbuck in Galactica; Adama, Apollo, and Athena in the original Galactica)
* Big high-tech combat vehicles are stupidly thrown away in both shows, as we’ll see in tonight’s episode.

IN THE PRESENT:

The Connors are preparing to move, again. John talks to Reese about his (Reese’s) past. Jessie (looking rather fetching) is swimming at the city pool, and having flashbacks of her time on the USS Jimmy Carter. Having looked at Riley’s body, John realizes Cameron couldn’t have done it, and apologizes for doubting her. Agent Ellison is continuing his lessons with John Henry, and the reborn machine appears to be trying to make Ellison emotionally bond with him, or perhaps he’s trying to emotionally bond with Ellison. It’s hard to say.

John waits for Jessie - whom he’s never met - in her apartment, and lays down the law for her, saying that he knows what she did, and that he figured out that Riley was from the future quite a while ago, but he didn’t actually figure out what Jessie’s evil plot was until it was too late. He tells her to go. “If I have to live with this guilt, so do you.” Leaving she bumps in to Reese, who talks to her about a friend of his, William Wisher, who turned out to be Andy Goode, one of the survivors of J-Day and one of the original designers of Skynet. (CF. “Queens Gambit” and “Dungeons and Dragons”), but Jessie doesn’t know him. It turns out that they really are from two slightly different versions of the future. He tells her John told him to let Jessie go, but “I’m not John” and he pulls a gun on her as she runs away unarmed. We see his finger tighten on the trigger.

Shirley Manson of Garbage comes to talk to John Henry, who’s still active and painting little figurines. He says he found evidence that she is planning on killing Ellison in the near future, and tells her “Mister Ellison is our friend, and human life is sacred.” She replies, “Mister Ellison is our friend and a loyal employee, but the human race will disappoint you.”

John talks to Reese about his own future, and realizes once again he’s got a hard-ass lonely life in store for him, and that even though he’s the savior of humanity, most of the surviving human race in the future sees no real sign of human behavior in him. He goes home and breaks down crying on his mother’s lap.

The End.

IN THE FUTURE:

The flashbacks (For Jessie, Flash-forwards chronologically) all involve the final mission of the USS Jimmy Carter. Last week they were diverted on a secret mission to pick up a box from the terminators. This week they’re hauling it back to John Connor’s command center, but Terminator Captain Queeg refuses to let anyone in on what the mission is, or what’s in the box. Seaman Dietz becomes increasingly insubordinate questioning whether or not Queeg can be trusted, and whether or not this thing is something Connor needs, or if it’s a trap. “They’re on every base, running the show in all-but-name” Dietz says of the tame Terminators. He breaks in to the hold and opens the box. A T-1000 liquid-metal terminator comes out, kills one of the crew, and hides in the sub.

Jessie orders a search, but Queeg orders everyone to store their weapons and go back to work. Later, Dietz starts some paranoia about who is and who isn’t a cylon - excuse me, a T-1000 - and incites a riot. Jessie is getting killed, and Queeg stomps in and abruptly kills Dietz. Later, Jessie tries to relieve Queeg from command for dispensing summary justice, but he refuses to stand down, even when given specific Tame Terminator protocols to do so. This results in a firefight on the control room, and Queeg gets killed/destroyed/whatever.

Jessie calls for an ‘abandon ship’ and sends the sub to crush depth. While evacuating, the T-1000 comes up behind her and says “Tell John Connor the answer is ‘no’.” They escape, and the sub implodes, but the T-1000 very clearly snakes away without injury.

Back in Connor’s headquarters, Jessie is being debriefed by Cameron (Not as sexy as it sounds), and being dressed down (ibid) for wasting an irreplaceable asset (The Sub) and a tame Terminator, which are in short supply. Jessie delivers the T-1000 message and asks what the question was. Cameron says “Will you join us?” and then tells Jessie that the doctors have discovered she was pregnant, but miscarried either in the beating or the pressure change from the evacuation.

Having lost her faith in the Tamed Terminators, Jessie goes and recruits Riley.

The End.

OBSERVATIONS

I really like the guy who plays John Connor. Oddly, he’s not given all that much to do in the show frequently (It is the Sarah Connor chronicles, not the John Connor chronicles after all), but he really is my favorite version of the character. His whole “If you deny you know me I’ll probably shoot you in the head” speech was very well delivered and kind of imposing, especially given how young the actor is (22, playing a 17 year old). It’s easy to see why people follow this guy in the future. Usually when the good guy lets the bad guy go in a show, it feels cheap but here it actually felt like a just punishment. I also really liked his discussion with Uncle Reese about what the people in the future think of him, leading up to his breaking down crying later on, in private.

Speaking of which, Reese was unusually introspective this week, with two really good speeches. I’m not a huge fan of Brian Austin Green, but he’s generally competent in the show and occasionally likeable. He showed surprising chops here, though.

Stephanie Jacobsen, who plays Jessie (And played Kendra Shaw in “Battlestar Galactica: Razor”) generally has one mood - low, calm, sedate, in charge, but not particularly happy with herself. It was interesting when her voice went all shrill while she was talking to Reese and her facade of control started slipping away. I don’t think she’s off the show for good, and it’ll be interesting to see what becomes of the character in the future. Assuming the show has a future, which seems unlikely at this point…

We got a lot of fairly obvious symbolic dialog in this week’s Ellison/John Henry exchange while they’re painting figurines: “The eyes are the window to the soul, so I must choose the paint carefully.” and “Please don’t leave yet, I haven’t finished building my monster.” Given what John Henry used to be as Cromarti, this is pretty telling. I really enjoy these scenes between the two of them, but I’m getting a little tired of this unrelated Helo-plot*. I really hope all this ties in with Team Connor some time soon, because Ellison is too good a character to not have him interacting with Sarah and John. Hopefully in the season finale?

Given that no one in the future seems to know what a T-1000 is, they must be pretty brand-spanking new.

It has to be said that pretty much everything that happened on the Carter in this episode made no real sense from a military point of view. Submarines go on classified missions all the time, with only the captain and/or one or two of the senior officers knowing what it is. They’ve frequently been used to recover or transport classified eyes-only information that can’t be disclosed to the crew. So why is everyone on the sub freaking out about this? Granted they’re not a traditional US Navy crew, but this can’t have been their first and only covert op. Thus Dietz’ reactions were wildly inappropriate, the crew backing him was also completely out of character with the way people actually behave on subs, and when you get right down to it Jessie’s actions make no sense either.

Why did she try to relieve the Captain when everything his said about his actions and the mission made sense? Why can’t they operate the boat without him? I can’t believe you’d have a major asset like the sub, and not have at least one or two spare helmsmen for an emergency. Why does Jessie scuttle the boat? It’s undamaged, irreplaceable, and important. Did she think it’ll kill the T-1000? If so she completely blew that, and trashing a sub to take out one Terminator isn’t a wise trade.

Furthermore, did the T-1000 reject the notion of an alliance because it had been told to, or because of the crappy behavior of the crew of the Jimmy Carter? If the latter, then Jessie really really really screwed the pooch, didn’t she? How many lives has she cost?

And how did Jessie end up in the past, anyway? Given her amazingly poor showing in this incident, and how badly she screwed up, obviously John Connor-of-the-future wouldn’t trust her with a major assignment. He wouldn’t send her in to the past, much less with a kid in tow. So how did she get here? Who sent her? How did she wrangle that?

Tune in next week when we probably wont’ get any answers.

*- Helo-plot is Republibot slang for a running subplot that’s in every episode, but in no way ties in to the main plot or location of any episodes for months at a time. It derives from Helo’s adventures on Cylon-Occupied Caprica in the first season of the new Galactica, which went on forever and was interesting, but ultimately rather trivial.

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