John risks everything and battles the machines over a shipment of metal; meanwhile, Cromartie gets himself a new face
Thomas Dekker, Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles

”Terminator” recap: John becomes a hero

Greetings, my little freedom fighters! I’m back from my Sundance sojourn, T:SCC is back from its down week, and we are off to the future-stopping races. I’d like to thank the noble Marc Bernardin for recapping in my stead, and the New York Giants for winning the Super Bowl. With those two birds well in hand, I now happily tackle the tangled hedgerow of this increasingly episodic series.

How long can a show thrive on half resolutions and suspenseful music? Quite a while, it seems, as we continue enjoying T:SCC so long as we’re not thinking too hard about it. Last episode saw Cromartie rise from the scrap heap by scoring some fancy new flesh — emerging from a blood bath in a real Flukeman-esque moment, for all you X-Philes out there — and John Connor becoming even more emo than usual after the suicide of a classmate he didn’t know. I think I’ve figured out what bugs me about Thomas Dekker’s performance: If you start out that tortured, there’s just no place to go down. And since his life ain’t exactly puppies and sunshine, that makes for a pretty one-level existence. Tonight, as Mom observed, he was ”downer than usual” — but to the naked eye, that’s about par for the course. He kept insisting that ” ‘fine’ means I’m fine.” Mm-hmm, and no means no, sweetie. I’ll believe it when I see it.

Episode 4 kicked things off with Cromartie’s ongoing reign of terror over Los Angeles’ scientific professionals. Dr. Lyman the friendly plastic surgeon is working late. It is dark. He hears a loud noise! He decides to go see what is up. Oh no! Is scary man in surgery room! No one saw that coming, least of all poor, doomed Dr. Lyman! But before meeting his maker, Dr. Lyman gave Cromartie a new face, that of struggling local actor George Laszlo. This served two purposes: (1) Cromartie can now walk around without looking like the Unabomber’s germphobic cousin, and (2) it conveniently explains away the need to recast that role after the pilot. Hello, new cast member Garret Dillahunt! This is a far cry from your role as Jesus, but you wear it well. Can’t wait to see you, ya know, integrated into the primary action.

And what action there was! Amidst John’s mourning period for Girl He Didn’t Know Who Jumped off What Appeared to Be School Gym came a warning from Cameron that ”Cromartie’s here. Now.” She doesn’t sleep, ya know, so she had time to pull up news footage from the night the three of them streaked into the future, in which the flying skull of Cromartie could be (somewhat) clearly seen joining them here in 2007. (One could argue this should have come earlier on the agenda, but apparently ”reading the dictionary” and ”learning to put on makeup” were higher priorities during insomnia time.) Turns out all it takes is the skull — and its all-important chip — for a Terminator to survive, as they’re programmed to rebuild themselves. What Cromartie needs now is coltan, and lots of it. ”Coltan?” I can hear you asking. ”WTF?” Yeah, I was right there with ya. According to Wikipedia, ”coltan” is the African colloquialism for columbite-tantalite, a metallic ore that is used in the manufacture of your cell phones and DVD players. It also is used in the manufacture of Terminator endoskeletons. Which means that at this very moment, your cell phones and DVD players may be trying to take over the world.

NEXT: John’s cell-phone plan

Anyway, Mom’s initial plan after learning of Cromartie’s presence in the current time-space continuum was what Mom’s initial plan always seems to be: Make a run for the border. They once again did not get there, as John chose instead to confront the threat head-on. Off they went to the first in a seemingly endless string of warehouses, where they found not only the coltan but also a Terminator heading up a team of men who were stealing it. Mom and Cam elected to pull back and regroup, but John, being the crazy impetuous depressive teen that he is, decided to sneak into the truck and plant his cell phone so they could track it. John, you fool. Do you not know that the cell phones are working with the coltan to bring about our ultimate destruction? Sure enough, the minute he got on that truck to plant said phone, the men closed the back door and drove off. Did I mention that one of the guards stayed in the truck with John? Yes. Awkward!

Outside, things weren’t going any better: Mom and Cam were confronted by another armed guard. Armed guard, you fool. Do you not know who that lady is? Mom batted her eyes and asked, ”Have you seen a dachshund puppy?” and in that split second of adorable confusion, armed guard suddenly found himself disarmed and knocked out. The ladies escaped back home, where Cam started tracking John’s cell phone until the cell phone, being evil, turned on them by falling off the crate where John stuck it and breaking. This served the dual purpose of alerting the in-truck guard — whose name we would later learn is Mike — to the presence of John, and really pissing off Mom.

(It should be noted at this point that I’ve owned a number of cell phones, none of which have broken as readily as the cell phone in question. Then again, my phones — like Cam — might have been fighting for good.)

So back to the warehouse Cam and Mom went, tying the puppy guard to a chair and threatening him with all sorts of violence to discover John and the truck’s whereabouts. (Best line of the night: ”And don’t call me lady.”) Meanwhile, in the truck, John had subdued Mike, and when they finally reached their destination (in another warehouse), Mike’s human coworkers assumed he’d bagged the gig over money. John hopped out and hid again. He is a very quiet breather. The Terminator Who Is Not Cromartie reappeared, killed the two human guards, closed the doors on what we now know is not just a warehouse but also a former arms-storage bunker intended to store the coltan until Judgment Day, at which point it will be used to build a big ol’ army of Terms, and shut down. John’s quiet breathing skills served him well until Mike woke up and got all loud about it. The Terminator woke up and killed Mike, then went back to sleepy time. John managed to use an ancient wall phone to call out to Mom’s cell phone (I have decided that if T:SCC is the French and Indian War, cell phones are the Indians), and they concocted a plan that involved opening the doors and running. But John is a leader! He came up with something better: Open doors, jump in truck, drive out with coltan, stop that pesky future. Etc. Only problem? The key to the door was around the neck of sleeping Not-Cromartie. (Aww. They’re so cute when they’re asleep!) John used his very best Operation skills to get it off without turning on the scary red eye buzzer, then opened the door, and jumped in the truck. New problem? John can’t drive stick. And, as Mom pointed out, ”If you’re gonna be a hero, you gotta learn how to drive stick.” For the record, I assume this is why my father forced me to learn on a manual.

Long story short, our trio emerged triumphant once again, locking the Not-Cromartie in the bunker for all eternity and driving the truck of coltan into the sea like it was the Last Unicorn or something. Back at home, while Mom’s voice-over went on and on about golems and blah blah blah, John sat down to do his homework, and his hand twitched ominously. Oh my! Can he save humanity with carpal tunnel?

NEXT: The not-so-special agent

Astute observers will have noticed that I’ve skipped over a whole segment of tonight’s episode, that of Agent Ellison’s Inspector Javert-like pursuit of the case (thanks for the reference, Bernardin), and all the accompanying FBI mumbo-jumbo. He’s got himself a couple adversaries now, one in the form of a hotshot younger agent who’s all about debunking Ellison’s these-murders-are-connected-because-of-strange-blood theory and the other in the form of Catherine Dent as a brass cupcake who just doesn’t get why the old man don’t stick to his desk like he’s supposed to. I will give Catherine Dent a pass on this, as she and I once attended the same school at the same time, but I cannot say I give a rat’s ass about the story line in general. It’s not designed to have a satisfying conclusion, no matter which way you cut it. So I say cut it.

But what I did like tonight — and what is possibly my favorite moment of this series so far — was Cromartie paying a Face/Off house call to Laszlo, grabbing him by the throat, walking him over to the mirror, and perfecting his doppelgänger scream of agony before bashing the real Laszlo’s skull in. Those effects kicked ass, and the moment left me with a real dread that no amount of minor Terms tossing each other about in warehouses could ever manufacture. More creepy, less American Gladiators, please.

What do you think, freedom fighters? On a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being your average Uwe Boll film and 10 being that talking-stain commercial from Sunday night, how would you rank tonight’s episode? Do you agree that commenter Coyote’s Small Wonder reference concerning Summer Glau last week was pretty dang spot-on? And as for the show’s mythology, what is going on with the prints of a 5-year-old and blood with no red blood cells and the apparently shifty allegiances of the men with bar codes on their arms? If Andy Goode came back, would that excite you? What if I mentioned a little superstar by the name of Brian Austin Green? And finally, what are you doing reading this recap, Tsunami Tuesday readers? Get out there and vote!

Episode Recaps

Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles
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