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Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles: "Strange Things Happen at the One Two Point"

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We're told over and over again that Team Connor is fighting a war–the big war, really, the War To End Pretty Much Everything. The battle against Skynet will determine the future of the human race, but while the grown up JC may ultimately lead us to defeat the machines, there's gonna be a whole lot of death before that happens. But maybe it doesn't have to work out that way. What drives Present-John, Sarah, and Derek is the hope that they can somehow put off Judgement Day. That they can stop the WTEPME before it even begins.

The problem is that they aren't doing it right. You can't stop progress, you can only impede it; no matter how many math geeks get a bullet in the brain, no matter how many hard drives are shredded, you can't kill an idea. In the Connor-verse, A.I. is inevitable–and what's sad is that none of the humans seemed to have realized it.

But hey, you can't fault their enthusiasm. "Strange Things Happen at the One-Two Point" has Sarah, still obsessed over the three-dot triangle she saw in her dreams and in blood on the downstairs wall, has tracked down a company that satisfies both her intuition and the team's mission plan: Dakara Systems, a tech company that may have access to the Turk. She and Derek break in and steal a mess of hard drives, but when John does a search, he finds designs but nothing concrete–he compares it to stories you hear about terrorisms having everything they need to make a nuclear weapon except the plutonium. But to keep the peace between them (and because John trusts his mother's instincts), he sets her up on an appointment with the company's owner, Alex Akagi.

Ellison's having a rough day. He wakes up in the middle of the night to find Cameron systematically stabbing his lawn to see if he's reburied Cromartie's corpse; just because John was satisfied with Ellison's story doesn't mean Cam is. It's another promising example of her having her own ideas about what's best, and following through on them without needing direct orders–Cameron is essentially autonomous now, which is a first for a protector-Terminator.


But back to Ellison's bad day. He shows up at Weaver's company to find the police bringing out the Shake and Baked body of Dr. Boyd Sherman; there was a power outage, and Sherman got locked in a room for eight hours with no A.C. It's a horrible death for a cool (ha!) character, and the episode's biggest misstep; Ellison's ensuing investigation of what happened, and the Babylon A.I.'s potential responsibility in the death, give us some good plot movement, but throwing Sherman aside so casually is a waste, and an awkward segue to boot.

While Ellison proceeds with his inquiries, Sarah and Cam meet up with Alex Akagi and his brilliant-but-awkward son Xander. Sarah has a habit of getting emotionally involved with people she knows she'll eventually betray; getting attached could be her way of punishing herself as well as making sure that the only people she gets really close to are the ones who won't be in her life for very long. After a chat with Xander, Cameron decides that Dakara is a dead end, but Sarah is still convinced that something is wrong. When Alex tells her that he's made contact with some Japanese who are offering them an advanced chip, she thinks it's a sealed deal; she just has to give them all their money, make sure the chip works, and then burn everything to the ground.


So Sarah and Cam continue their sting operation, and John makes a visit to Riley's house. Her foster parents turn out to be surprisingly friendly, but Riley's in a bit of a funk; she tries to get John to open up, but he refuses. It's an okay scene–nice to finally see Ms. Happy Go Lucky get the blues–but it didn't really accomplish a whole lot; at least, that's what I thought. But then Riley goes to a clothing store and she meets up with Jesse. Derek's Jesse, the one who we just learned came back in time to stop John from getting too close to Cameron.

Pretty good twist, huh? I remember a few people calling it in the comment threads, so kudos, etc. It definitely gives Riley some more depth; and having her and Jesse working together makes them both more dangerous, but not actually villainous. Jesse isn't exactly trustworthy, of course–she tells most of her story to Derek when he finds the photos she'd stashed under her bed, but she holds back her relationship with Riley at the very end. But now that her motives are (presumably) in the open, she's got enough reason for what she does to be heroic, even if no one in the audience will be rooting for her. Poor Riley's a mess, though. She's also from the future, and she's not taking our present very well at all.


Sarah buys the special Japanese chip, but it's a dud; she tracks down the seller, and it turns out he's an actor that Alex hired to con Sarah out of her cash. The finally confrontation at Dakara showed Sarah at her most pissed off; she makes some reference to her time at the crazy place from Terminator 2 here, and for a couple of lines Headey was damn near channeling Linda Hamilton. Very cool. Having Alex doing everything to protect his son was also cool; Sarah knows better than anybody how far a parent will go for their child. I'm not a huge fan of the one-episode operations in general–in order to make them work, too much has to happen too fast (like that lousy power plant story). But by and large, this one clicked.

As for Ellison's conclusions about Sherman's "murder"; he decides that the real problem is that John Henry (the name Sherman gave the Babylon A.I.) doesn't have any concept of morality. It doesn't understand why a dead Sherman is less valuable than a live one, although I think this may have less to do with morals, and more to do with a machine not realizing that a person, once shut down, can't be rebooted. Regardless, in Ellison's eyes, John needs to learn about Right and Wrong. And Weaver decides, who better to do the teaching? She's even worked out a visual aid; the last shot of the episode has Ellison discovering Cromartie's body, attaching to the A.I. servers, speaking for the machine. The Connors can bury Skynet as deep as they want to; in the end, it'll always find a way to rise.


Grade: B+

Stray Observations:

—Xander's a big Go player; as Cameron says, the episode title is a proverb from the game meaning "All bets are off."


—I don't want to get maced or anything, but Cameron cleans up awfully well. (So does Lena Headey, for that matter.)

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