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Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles: "Earthlings Welcome Here"

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I think this show may be starting to lose me.

Partly it's my fault. I spent the weekend re-watching the first season of Lost (which is actually better than I remembered it), and I didn't get to the season finale until tonight. Which meant I watched all that really awesome stuff–the hatch, the fate of the raft, Hurley freakin' over the numbers, characters who I actually give a rat's ass about making decisions that actually mattered–right before settling down to "Earthlings Welcome Here." This is just bad math, people. You don't fly home from Italy and hit up an Olive Garden right after the plane lands.

But raised standards or no, I realized something; too many of this shows wobbling plotlines are essentially vapor, a never ending series of dangling threads that serve no other purpose than to make sure each episode lasts the regulation required forty-plus minutes. This isn't a revolutionary discovery, to be sure, but what's killing me lately is just how obvious that pointlessness has become. Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles is, I'm beginning to suspect, an existential dead-end. It's like if Samuel Beckett got drunk and re-wrote a bunch of Buck Rogers episodes. (On second thought, that would be awesome.)

I've whined my whine–let's at least get the basics out of the way. In "Earthlings," Sarah follows her triple-dot obsession to a UFO Conference where she learns about abductions, drones, and a magical mystical blogger named Abraham who might have the answers she's looking for. (Spoiler: He doesn't.) An earth-mother type takes Sarah aside offering answers, and after a bit of the usual runaround, the earth-mother reveals that she-he is actually the mysterious Abraham, a former engineer named Alan Parks who went off the grid a few years back. Parks was involved with some kind of secret project, the ramifications even he doesn't know about, but he claims it's connected to the info that Sarah so desperately craves. They take a trip to a storage facility where Parks says he left a piece of special metal he took from his old job; the metal is gone, but the two of them do get the episode's only action setpiece when some dude on a motorbike tries to gun them down.


While all this is going on, John's back at the house repainting his room, and Riley's there to help. In a series of flashbacks, we learn how Jesse picked Riley out in the future (we don't get to see much of her life there, but it is nice to finally meet someone post-Judgement Day who isn't a soldier), and the problems' Riley's had adjusting to "normal" life. In the present, Cameron isn't helping much; she's getting more aggressive with her distrust, confronting Riley about a bruise on her forehead and telling John directly that Riley's been lying to him. Of the three storylines in the ep, this is the strongest; I liked Alan Parks well enough, and the final conclusion of his and Sarah's arc was interesting, but there's a bit more weight behind the tension between John, Riley, and Cam. Plus, it was good to see just how determined (and unsympathetic) Jesse really is.

And then there's the third plotline: Ellison and his decision to help John Henry become a real live boy. This should've been a lot cooler than it was, but Ellison has gone from "intriguing secondary character" to "guy I wish I could fast-forward past." His story did give us some of the ep's most inadvertently funny lines–Ellison's explaining to his reverend about his problems with his ex-wife, Lila. He mentions how they wanted kids, and started trying, "On September 1, 2001. Then, ten days later…" To which the reverend replies, "September 11." Wow. Dates really do move forward sequentially!


Okay, back with Sarah and Alan–after the screw-up at the storage facility, Alan has one of those tedious freak-outs that the norms always seem to get, about how Sarah is so "hard," and then they bond because she used to be a waitress. Feh. She convinces him to see a hypno-therapist to find out where he was being taken to work all those years; unfortunately this means Alan and the therapist both take a bullet from the motorcycle dude. To the good, Sarah is able to use a recording of their session to track down the building. She breaks in, has a tussle with a supposedly-friendly-but-ultimately-more-than-he-appears air-conditioner installer, gets shot in the leg, and crawls out just as a drone flies in over head. Between this and Riley's attempted suicide, there are a number of cliffs to be climbed next February; I guess we can always hope that something worth watching is waiting at the top.

Grade: B-

Stray Observations:

—They don't get into in the ep much, but I liked that Alan Parks used going on the run as an excuse to identify as female.


—Abduction therapy groups are apparently really easy to break up.

—The preview for next February has Kyle Reese back from the dead. Shark, prepare to be jumped in 5…4…3…


—See ya next year, everybody.

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