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Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles: "The Mousetrap"

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It's a tough life, being a secondary character on an ongoing television series. Generally you're background noise–you exist to reflect the glory of the leads, to provide the occasional exposition chunk, and not much else. Sure, if the series lasts more than a couple of seasons the writers may turn to you in desperation for story ideas, but there are no guarantees. And god help you if you're on an action show, because somebody's going to die, and it's not going to be one of the actors with their names in the opening credits. There's a reason those guys in Star Trek wore red shirts: to keep all the blood from showing.

Charley's wife Michelle learns this the hard way in "The Mousetrap." On the advice of Agent Ellison, she and her husband leave town, but at a gas station just before the border, Cromartie swoops in and kidnaps the poor woman while Charley's struggling with a soda machine. Of course it's not Michelle the Terminator wants; it's not even Charley. But in his desperation, Charley reaches out to the only people he knows capable of handling the threat, the ones in some way responsible for his wife's endangerment in the first place: the Connors. Who were the real targets all along. Much as Charley kind of annoys me, I can't help but feeling sorry for him and worse for Michelle. After all, dangerous as it is, there's something flattering about an endless series of highly sophisticated killing machines aiming for your head; knowing you barely qualify as a meat shield to either side has got to sting.

There's been some complaint in the comments about Lena Headey's Sarah Connor. While I can see where the problems are coming from, I generally haven't had an issue with her. Which isn't to say I think she's swell or anything, but her character never interested me that much. I tend to ignore her, generally. Linda Hamilton's warrior-mom in Terminator 2 was cool, but I think week after week of that level of crazy intensity would get old. Headey's version is more mournful than violent. Even at her most badass (which admittedly isn't very), she comes across as someone who's still trying to convince herself she can be just as hard as she needs to be.

A bit of that comes across in "Mousetrap," and I found myself getting frustrated by it. When Charley contacts the Connors, it's Sarah and Derek who come to the rescue, leaving a none-the-wiser John and Cameron to go computer shopping. Charley, Sarah, and Derek find Michelle, just like Cromartie wants them to, and initially it looks like Michelle is wired to a bomb. Sarah goes all drill sergeant here, telling Michelle to "Shut up" and trying to scare her into obedience. I'm not sure if we're supposed to buy it, but it came off as needlessly cruel. There's something frustrating about a character who puts that much effort into suffering; it's like every day, Sarah wakes up expecting a gold medal for Enduring Everything, and every night she goes to bed disappointed. It would be nice if she just surrendered to the fact that she's human, no matter how much she might wish otherwise.


But hey, the trap part was actually more clever than I expected: turns out the bomb is fake, Cromartie just lured them in to the middle of nowhere so he could trace Sarah's panicky call to John. For once, not killing everybody immediately made sense; the terminator knew that Sarah wouldn't be so stupid as to bring John with her on a rescue mission, and it needed everyone alive long enough to get John's cell number and their phone code. Unlike last week's power plant goofiness, this plan had a certain economy to it that I really appreciated it.

That economy was somewhat undermined by Michelle's needless death. Obviously the writers are trying to show how impossible Sarah's life has become, constantly being forced to choose between her humanity and her son, but the whole thing just seemed pointless and stupid. Michelle gets wounded in an explosion, but instead of her and Charley waiting back at the cabin, she trudges through the desert with the rest of them and bleeds to death. There's no sense in that, not even the dramatic kind. It's weak as hell.


While everybody else is playing games in the middle of nowhere, John is having another playdate with his bestest buddy Riley. The cuteness factor here is fairly painful, as the two have one of those faux-deep conversations about magazine titles that only teenagers and stoned college students ever seem to have. Cameron's presence in the background mitigates this somewhat; we get a few cool moments with her developing personality, but, again, not enough. Still, John finally manages to ditch her, right before getting a call from what he thinks is his mother, telling him to meet her at the Pier.

It's Cromartie, though, not Sarah, doing his Rich Little routine. The chase sequence that ensues is fun, although John clearly needs to work on his long-term planning skills. The resolution, with John and the terminator jumping into the ocean and the terminator learning that it doesn't float so good, was clever, although it did make me wonder why, of all the places it could've asked to meet John, the killing machine honed in on one that would provide such an easy escape route. (I suppose it could've asked him to "meet me at that metal foundry with the really big steam presses," that would've been worse.) Then it's time to wrap everything up with Michelle's funeral. Goodbye, blonde woman who I liked okay on Lost. You will be missed, or at least your death will be used to motivate Charley into doing something even stupider next week.


Grade: B+

Stray Observations:

—Didn't even get to Ellison meeting up with Ms. Weaver. She wants him to find her a terminator? I'm hoping there are layers to the duplicity here.


—The Beast Wizard 7 stuff was gold.

—I love how they keep reminding us the pregnant landlady is around. Oh yeah, there's no way that's going to be important later on…


—Looks like we're getting a Cameron episode next week. Coolness.

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