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Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles: "Brothers of Nablus"

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Damn but this is a frustrating show.

Part of the problem is momentum; the more space between installments, the more time all the absurdities have to sink in, and October had two dead weeks for T:SCC. It's the sort of series that plays much better on DVD–I remember watching the (far shorter) first season in about a day, and the cumulative effect was pretty exciting.

Still, there are persistent flaws here that draw attention to themselves no matter how fast you watch them. The Bible references are absurd, and increasingly irrelevant–so I guess this week, John should make sure he's well-protected if he ever gets circumcised? (Yeah, it's all about the revenge of the weak and cleverness, but it added precious little to the story.) There's also Weaver's love of changing into somebody else, only to change back into her "real" form in the most public place possible. In "Brothers of Nablus," she turns into a police detective to question Ellison, and reverts to her Manson form in the middle of a crowded street. The hell?

That whole storyline seemed to resist any attempts at logic. It started strong enough; Ellison gets a visit at home from his very own robotic duplicate, but before the double can murder him, Cromartie comes to the rescue. Once again, there's the idea that not everybody in Skynet is working as a unit, which could lead to all sorts of cool twists down the road. Ellison is apparently in the clear–until the cops show up at his door and arrest him for the murder of a man he's never met. Ellison's robo-double murdered someone before he arrived on Ellison's doorstep, but a cybernetic doppelganger isn't really much of an alibi.


So far, so good. But then Weaver gets involved, and it gets lazy. Was she always the investigating detective? I can't imagine she was, since Ellison gets questioned in an actual police station. Does that mean she killed the original detective? But then there's that witness wandering around whose statement gets tossed out of court–a statement that we heard him delivering to an almost certainly transformed Weaver, so how the hell that got before a judge is anybody's guess.

This whole Ellison thing has gone from intriguing to tedious, and there doesn't seem to be an end in sight. Every week, the guy mopes around, maybe does some investigating of events we've already seen, and has a few mystery conversations with Cyber-Manson. It's called stalling–even really good shows can be guilty of it (watch a season of Lost and count how many, "Wow, it's really amazing we're all here on this island and you managed to leave for five minutes and not get killed" beach montages you get), but this one's been wasting our time for most of the season.


Fortunately, the other two storylines fared better. The Connors get robbed, so Sarah, Cameron, and occasionally Derek, spend the day tracking down the thieves; it's not the money that's the issue, just the fake IDs that could potentially be tracked down to the current Connor residence. (The fact that they don't immediately move could be a sign of Sarah wanting to give John at least some stability, or else it's just that this is a TV show, and we don't want a new location.) John and Sarah have another fight about Riley–it's her fault that the alarm wasn't tripped when the burglars broke in. (So what would that alarm do, exactly? I don't think any of them want the cops to show up and find all the guns stashed around the place.)

Derek takes Sarah and Cameron to a fence he knows, a guy named Moishe who gives some mock-pretentious dialogue and then sends our heroes on a wild goose chase. While Cameron is nearly choking a (relatively) innocent dentist, John and Riley go grocery shopping. And wouldn't you know it; Cromartie has managed to pick up Cam's trail, and he ducks into the very same supermarket. He's got Judy with him, the runaway with a grudge against Cameron from "Allison From Palmdale"; there's never any explanation as to why Cromartie brings her along, but, well, continuity can occasionally pass as characterization.


The robots are the biggest reason to keep watching T:SCC; Cameron is, as always, terrific, both charming and deeply creepy, and Robo-Manson is growing on me, especially after last ep. This time around, it was Cromartie's time to shine. I think it's because the three main terminators are unpredictable. They all have their goals, but unlike John, Sarah, and Derek, there's not a lot of angst weighing everything down. Each week, I know John is going to whine, and Sarah is going to be grim, and Derek will make that "Damn, I'm such an army guy" face. Cameron, Cromartie, and Weaver are decidedly un-emo, and all the better for it.

There were two scenes here that really clicked: Cromartie's visit to the Connor home, and the confrontation at the bowling alley. Yeah, the Cromartie thing was over too quickly, but it was exciting while it lasted–more danger and less shallow philosophy would do this show a world of good. And the bowling alley bit, also a short scene, but one with an excellent pay-off. Cameron kills three of the burglars because they know where the Connors live; the move surprises Sarah, and when she finds a fourth burglar hiding in the bathroom, she lets him go after making him promise he'll never tell anyone what happened. It seems like the decent thing to do; only in the last scene, Cromartie's captured the kid. He's dead no matter what now, and this way, the Connors are even more screwed.


Moments like that make me keep watching. There's a lot of wasted space in "Brothers," and the whole thing put together doesn't add up to much. But every time I'll think it's gotten so bad I'm going to give up, we get something like Cameron's obsession with her leather jacket, or Cromartie trying–and failing–to smile, and I actually find myself kind of giving a damn again.

Grades: B

Stray Observations:

—John is still pissed about Sarkissian? Jeez. We finally get a shouting match between him and Sarah, and that's his ace in the hole.


—Didn't even mention it, but apparently, Derek's time-traveling squeeze is quite the bad-ass.

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