EPISODE REVIEW: Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles: "Ourselves Alone" (Season 2, Episode 17)

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I gotta' tell you, these friday nights are wearing me down. Three shows bing-bing-bing is borderline too much, borderline over-stimulation. Then writing up the post-game show is kind of time consuming and grueling. I mean, I can do it, it's not like having a real job, but it's a lot to hold a play by play of all three of these shows in my feeble brain for the five hours or so it takes to watch 'em and write 'em up. If my writing is suffering as a result, I apologize. It'll get 30% easier in just a couple more weeks.

Anyway, tonight we begin with Cameron talking to a pigeon that's gotten trapped in the house. She catches it and takes it outside, politely telling it she's not supposed to kill it, and then she kills it. This puzzles her.

Riley returns. She's John's not-entirely-attractive girlfriend who tried to kill herself in the mid-season cliffhanger that I didn't actually see. She's talking a lot, but not saying much. Sarah decides to go check out her foster parents, to see if her suicide attempt was the result of some abuse. The foster-dad seems to be an OK guy, he tells Sarah that she and John are bad influences, says that even Riley's high school guidance councelor agrees on that count. He asks Sarah to leave, and to please keep her boy away from 'their' girl. Sarah asks for the name and number of this surprisingly trash-talking counselor, and the man gives it.

Riley sees Cameron slice her arm open to work on it, freaks out and leaves.

Meanwhile, Uncle Reese is planning an op with the australian lady we saw a few weeks back picking Riley up from the hospital. (The same actress who played Kendra Shaw in Battlestar Galactica: Razor last year). Though I didn't follow all the dialog - I'm missing like 10 episodes, you'll recall - what they said infers that she and Reese come from *alternate* futures, or perhaps paralell ones. Evidently the actions of Team Connor has altered the future somewhat, so the future that Reese came back from isn't neccisarily the same one that the aussie chick came back from, though obviously they're very similar. It's an interesting idea. The Aussie reluctantly agrees to help Reese, though she and he are on different missions. "I'm not here to change the future, I'm here to win it," she says, evidently a lot from his reaction.

Riley meets the Aussie and says she can't go back to the house, Cameron will kill her, but the Aussie tells her she won't let anything happen to her.

Sarah meets with the counselor, who turns out to be the Aussie lady. They exchange cock-and-bull stories, then the Aussie heads off to plan more of the op with Reece. She tries to back out, but he won't let her.

Back at the Connor house, John fixes Cameron's arm. She tells him "You're ahead of schedule at this point," meaning that young John knows more than Old John Of The Future did at this point in his life. Again with the shifting futures!

Riley returns. Moments later a woman from the Department of Children and Families turns up and starts an investigation. Cameron and Riley hide in the shed, and Cameron re-plays the scene with the bird, her hand working all wonky. John shows up and Cameron backs off. Riley runs away scared, eventually.

Riley confronts the Aussie, realizing the Aussie's plan was to make John love Riley, then have Cameron kill Riley so that John would get rid of the terminator. They get in a long catfight, and the Aussie kills Riley.

Back at Stately Connor Mannor, Cameron tells John that she's malfunctioning, and gives him a self-destruct switch to use on her in case of emergency.

Reese's op fails. It's a non-starter.

OBSERVATIONS

I like how Stephanie Chaves-Jacobsen (The Aussie) effortlessly switched back and forth between kind and loving and supporting and cold, icy killer lady. The one undercuts how fake the other is, and yet she clearly has some feelings for Reese.

The unforseen conclusion to the Riley arc was, well, unforseen, but actually pretty compelling and ballsy as they say. Killing off John's girlfriend was a hard call in a show that's already as gloomy as this one is. I really thought right up until the last moment that Riley would kil the Aussie.

The Aussies' plan was actually pretty clever, too. Now that it's failed, I wonder what she'll try next. What's plan B? Probably plant the body somewhere and make it look like Cameron did it. And when that fails? What's the vastly-more-dangerous plan C?

How badly malfunctioning is Cameron? We've seen her go ape-poopie and go after John before. Is that going to happen again, or is it really just motor-coordination troubles arising from prolonged wear-and-tear? She doesn't seem to be developing emotions, but she does seem concerned about a bunch of stuff she isn't letting on.

Riley evidently said something about the future war, but John says he didn't tell her anything about it, and John never lies to his mom. The Aussie said she brought her from hell to paradise, so was Riley from the future? Damn, but there's a lot of time travelers around on this show!

No Shirley Manson, no Cromarti, no Agent Ellison in this episode.

I just have to mention that this version of John is my favorite one we've seen. He's got just the right balance of smart, overwhelmed, pissy, and resigned. While there weren't a lot of sparks between him and Riley in the few scenes I've seen involving them, I to *totally* get his connection to her: Riley was the one thing in his life that wasn't intimately connected to the futurewar (Or so he thought), and thus was the one thing his mom and Cameron and Reese couldn't co-opt. She was the one aspect of his life that was truely his. And now she's gone, and though I don't think they were in love, exactly, she filled a need that he really really really needed. I can't imagine his reaction will be good.

This was a good episode, but I can definitely see why it isn't holding an audience. It's slow, slow, slow. The trend nowadays is to write stuff as densely as possible, with lots of scenes of lots of characters in lots of locations doing stuff. By contrast, this show feels really slow, though in actual fact it's probably not any slower than a standard $6,000,000 Man episode. Even so, it's not exactly playing to the ADD crowd. At first I wondered if this was simply holding to David Gerrold's dictate about screenwriting: "If it isn't the most important thing, why are you bothering to show it?" but now I think it's just to hold down gravitas. Playing it slow and somber allows the show to feel weightier than circumstances really dictate. I mean, we just watched an hour long episode about a teenager having problems with his girlfriend, but because of the glacial pace, it felt like the fate of the world revolves around it.

And it probably does.

Word is that the ratings of the show have improved negligably in the past month, thanks to the presence of Dollhouse right after it. Even so, we're looking at very small numbers. DVR ratings bump the nielsens for this show up by almost 25%, but that still comes out to less than one ratings point overall, so probably, almost undoubtedly, this show is doomed. That's a shame, because it's a good show, once again terribly handled by Fox.

Five episodes left.

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