”Terminator” recap: Is Cameron going bad?
Remember that one time when we were hanging out on TVFan and I started a Throwdown that was all like ”Dude, Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles is totally as good a show as Lost”? Yeah, me neither. But just in case I ever go crazy and post that nonsense, feel free to use tonight’s episode of T:SCC in your counterargument, because after an hour of messy flashbacks/forwards, I’m dizzier than a mouse in a teacup.
I would love to make this TV Watch linear, but if the T:SCC writers don’t care, then neither do I. Let’s break down what we know as best we can and convene on the message boards to tear our hair out. Here is your basic one-sentence summation of the story thus far:
Once upon a time, there were four resistance fighters with bar-code tattoos sent back through time to help John Connor, but a Terminator found and killed them, except for one who got away and began stalking Andy Goode, the chess-computer programmer that Sarah went on a couple dates with, one of which was ruined because fourth bar-code guy was prowling around the house that Sarah soon set on fire in order to destroy Andy’s chess-playing computer, the Turk, which Andy quickly rebuilt and took to a big chess competition where he and a Russian lost to the Japanese and, as an added bonus, Andy was shot dead by a shadowy dude who turned out to be Brian Austin Green, a.k.a. Bag, the fourth bar-code guy, who was then arrested by the LAPD, then rescued by Sarah in a bad wig, then shot by a T-888 and brought back to the Connor residence, where we got last week’s big reveal, in which Bag turned out to be Kyle Reese’s brother and thus John Connor’s uncle, and so John ran off to get Charlie Dixon, who is an EMT, to save his life.
In the only other plotline that really seems to matter, Cam has been collecting materials that sure as heck point toward the assembly of a new pet Term of her own. So far, she’s got the bar of coltan and the CPU from the T-888; plus, the T-888’s hand is lurking out there somewhere, too — although it seems the slightly unnecessary G-man, Ellison, has that right now. And Bag, when he’s conscious, sure doesn’t seem to like Cam much; he keeps lunging at her and calling her a bitch, which may point toward some serious ulterior motives/future betrayal. Maybe we’re finally picking up steam, heading towards some answers. Right?
Wrong. Rather than (a) dealing with all the questions raised in the present or (b) heading back to the future and explaining clearly where Bag came from, tonight’s ep decided to do a little of both, leaving us regular viewers with a big ol’ sackful of WTF in exchange. As I littered my legal pad with (???)s, my poor houseguest popped on a pair of headphones and started watching the DVD of a British art film on her computer. She looked up only to exclaim upon the appearance of Andre Royo from The Wire. (”Bubbles!” she yelped.) I should think Fox execs would find this tidbit alarming.
Anyway. Here is what we did learn from the near-incessant flash-forwards which were also flashbacks, and which I have decided to call ”flashfacks”: Bag was at one point a fine member of the resistance, though overshadowed by his brother, Kyle, who had done time in a work camp in 2015 and subsequently escaped with (or broke out) John Connor in 2021, earning John’s trust. Thus, although Kyle has not yet gone back in time to sire John Connor, he is already carrying around a picture of Sarah as a good-luck charm. (Bag does not care for the picture.)
NEXT: Andy Goode’s secret
Above the bunker where the resistance is hiding, the apocalypse is in full swing. On a trip topside, Kyle and Bag and a group of their buddies — including one bearded fellow named Billy Wisher — see Terminators hauling a jet engine through the rubble. (???) Then the fighters get shot at by planes with bright blue lights and captured and taken to what appears to be the spooky old house from The Others, where they are chained to the floor without the added benefit of encountering Nicole Kidman. Kyle may or may not have been captured along with them; I say ”may” because aside from it not really mattering whether he was there or not (based on what came later), all the soldier dudes really looked the same to me thanks to the fake dirt and two days’ worth of scruffy beard on their faces, and the flashfacks were cutting so fast I honestly thought for a minute I was watching this ep from inside the head of the dude in The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, except every time he blinked, he opened his eye like nine hours later.
But I digress.
Eventually, we see the flashfack of Bag getting branded with his bar code, and we see a lot of strange, confusing flyovers courtesy of the planes with the blue lights. They seem to be looking for something. But what? Alien-human hybrids? Richard Kimble? I do not know, but the light is blinding, and by the time Bag is dragged into the basement where eerie piano music is playing for no apparent reason, he is so disoriented that we don’t even get to see what happens to him down there. All we know is that once he’s chained up back above ground, time passes again and eventually he and his fellow prisoners are left alone with an ax that they use to free themselves. ”Is this a game?” one of the prisoners asks. ”It’s always a game,” Bag replies. ”And not a fun one,” mutters Whitney.
The one super-valuable piece of information that came from this whole adventure? Andy Goode is one of the resistance fighters. He’s given himself the aforementioned alias of Billy Wisher, and while he’s lying there on the floor with Bag, he confesses that all of this apocalypse business is his fault. He built Skynet. Things got a little out of hand. He then begs Bag’s forgiveness. This was a very cool moment. I was only distracted a little by the fact that Andy Goode was still alive, since he’d already been killed in the past by Bag, and if John Connor can already have been conceived in the past by Kyle Reese — who has not yet gone to the past at this point — then Andy Goode should have already been dead. Unless something Sarah did w/r/t his house and the Turk made the future zig instead of zag, and this is the first time he’s ended up on this particular floor with Bag, if that makes any sense. Does it? Argh. More on this in a minute.
The escaped prisoners get back to their bunker but find it destroyed. Bubbles comes along to say that John Connor has since marshaled their remaining forces to attack some sort of factory in the former Topanga Canyon. (First Van Nuys, now Topanga — is nowhere in this town safe?) There, the resistance sustained heavy losses: Seems both John and Kyle went into the factory but only John came out. ”Take me to Connor now,” says a clearly upset Bag, and off they go to another bunker where — deep breath — a reprogrammed Cam is working for John Connor and immediately proves her loyalty by rescuing Bag from a pet Terminator who’d apparently gone bad. She tossed that failed experiment through — what else? — a wall, and then took Bag off to meet John Connor, who had built a time-travel orb thingy, which he used to send Bag, Bubbles, and two other dudes into the past/present.
NEXT: What does Cameron know?
One assumes they then set up in that dingy apartment with the safe and got killed by a Terminator, and we’re caught up with where we started. Right? If that is not right, for the record, let it be known that I would rather watch the subpar first half of Lost‘s third season on repeat for the next four months than go back and rewatch tonight’s T:SCC once to make sure I’m correct. It was just that painful…
…and we haven’t even addressed the non-flashfack front, where we learned that Charlie Dixon wishes Sarah and John had just been honest about this whole ”We are trying to stop an apocalypse involving scary robots” thing from the get-go, and that he should be added to the ”would not have sex with a robot” side of our ongoing list, because Cam freaks the hell out of him. (No comment on his wife Penny’s possible Term-ness.) Charlie also tips Sarah off to the FBI agent asking questions, who we know to be Cromartie in disguise. But more important — and yes, this whole bit was interesting — we learned that Cam doesn’t know that Kyle Reese is John Connor’s father. And it seems pretty important for John not to bring that up — to her or Bag — since if he didn’t tell anyone in the future, it was probably for a good reason. Like how God put the rock in front of the bat hole in Goonies for a reason. Except with more apocalypsey flavor.
Um, two technical notes: Cam explained that her memory was scrubbed when she was reprogrammed, which gives the Term-gone-good transformation a better chance of success (although, see above, it can still go bad). She also told Charlie that she was burning the T-888’s corpse to a crisp because unless every piece is destroyed, it will ”alter the course of technical evolution and hasten the arrival of Judgment Day.” The latter was a very nice, dramatic speech, but I was like, Oh, now we’re worried about this? The technology time line is already tangled beyond recognition; I fail to see how one wayward T-Eightball is gonna screw things up a whole hell of a lot more. Although given the fact that both his hand and his CPU still exist, I guess we’re about to find out.
And FINALLY, what was up with that final shot of Bag shooting Andy Goode? As I said in that paragraph above, I’m pretty sure we already knew Bag killed him, although it’s possible at the time he said he didn’t. So was this a big revelation? Or were we supposed to take away some convoluted message about how all the past go-rounds, Bag has not killed Andy Goode — someone else has — but since something changed in the future and he was trapped on the floor with Andy for the first time, he’s now killed him in the past for the first time, and that’s significant?
Ugh. Sorry this got so long, but I really am trying to get to the bottom of things here. And this week I wanna know what you guys think Cam’s endgame is, since it seems to be the most compelling part of this wadded-up mystery so far. Is she good? Bad? On her way to becoming one or the other? Or just a scary robot who freaks the hell out of you? And am I doing that thing where I get confused by the time line again and ultimately land way off base, or is it in fact just this FUBAR now? And would anyone like to actually throw down on TVFan, but with a topic less lame than the one I suggested at the top of this recap?