T:TSCC 0217 – Ourselves Alone

Now that a lot more like it. Featuring our primary cast, this episode hit a lot of important issues. But before I get into that, I want to say that I think I’ve figured out what has been hampering the show as of late, and I’d be remiss if I didn’t talk about it.

ttscc0217-01-240Since I had a little time to kill before this episode aired, I popped in a disc from the season 1 DVDs and enjoyed. Then, when “Ourselves Alone” started, I knew within a couple of minutes what has affected the show in a bad way: the rhythm. Just as with music, shows have a rhythm. Writers are keenly aware of this as concepts of “beats” and “pacing” and other slang are thrown at them as they hone their art.

Getting back to the music analogy—think about some rock song you know. If it has good energy it’s probably being churned out at about 130-140 beats per minute. What happens if you slow it up just a little, maybe by 10 beats per minute or so. It’s subtle, but it changes the song. It now has less energy, less drive. Slow it down even more, and you’re getting into ballad territory.

That is what I think has happened with TTSCC. In the first season it was chugging along at 140 bpm, and now it’s slowed to 130 bpm. What made it easier to notice now than before is that this episode was very much like a first season episode in terms of character interactions and settings. What was different was the rhythm. The moving, the talking, the editing, and many other aspects were oh-so-subtly slower than they were a year ago. It changed the tone of the show; it lowered the energy.

Anyway, enough of that. This episode is the first really meaty episode we’ve had in quite a while, so I really need to get to that and not slow down the rhythm of this blog too much.

I totally didn’t anticipate Riley fighting for her life against Jesse in this episode. Completely blindsided me, much as Riley did with that belt around Jesse’s neck. I mentioned in the podcast that as much as I’ve wanted Riley gone, in this instance I was rooting for her. Turns out that I wanted smug and manipulative Jesse gone way more than I wanted needy and gullible Riley gone.

It was hard to watch Riley’s slide into certain death. First Cameron. Then Sarah and John. Everyone that was a target of her infiltration had figured out that Riley was a threat that needed to be eliminated. What Riley didn’t grasp that her only chance for life was to tell John the truth. He’d have cast her out, but at least she could run and maybe live a life. But Jesse’s demented plan of using Riley as a sacrificial pawn (how fortunate to have a death with meaning) cut too deeply. She just couldn’t.

I do think that Riley found her meaningful death. She battled one of John’s resistance fighters and likely would have one had it not been for the hidden semi-automatic. But more than that, even though she didn’t tell the plan to John, she at least thwarted Jesse’s plan, which served just as well. Riley might just have saved John from evil Jesse and died a hero.

While I didn’t really think that Josh or the network would be happy about Cameron killing Riley, I wasn’t quite expecting how they managed to prevent it. Sure, there’s been talk of the return of the glitch, but this manifestation was very organic to the story and interesting. Cameron had what in a human would be described as a crisis of conscience. Her programmed mandate to remove/kill threats to John Connor conflicted with her subconscious realization that killing Riley (who was obviously being played) would likely impose a new threat to John. A neurological stalemate that vapor-locked Cameron’s ability to act.

Of course I’m reading a lot into it because it’s fun to do so. There is also the issue of Cameron’s left arm. Since a mechanical repair and replacement had been done, the spasms she was experiencing—and their increased frequency when confronted with a life or death decision – human or avian didn’t seem to matter—shows that it’s “psyberneurological” (how’s that for a cool portmanteau).

All of this led to the amazingly touching scene of Cameron giving John a remote so that he can easily euthanize her when/if it is necessary. Cameron looked so sad, but why wouldn’t she? She was signing her own death warrant. She was doing it because she didn’t know what was happening to her and she loves John too much to want to be a threat to him.

john-n-cameron-wondercon-280I talked about this next bit in the podcast, specifically relating it to what came out of WonderCon. In the spoiler video, we finish with John hovering over Cameron in a way reminiscent of “Vick’s Chip“. The assumption is that this a climactic scene for the season. I know there is going to be tons of speculation about it now that John has this remote…one that presumably anyone can activate.

What does Cameron’s potential sacrifice portend for the future? I don’t think John activates the remote and destroys Cameron’s chip. A lot of the fan base would just abandon the show. However, John has never done a complete overhaul of Cameron that we know of since the explosion. (And get your minds out of the gutter.) Why not just remove Cameron’s chip and then try to repair everything that he can repair? I can’t imagine that Cameron was able to repair all of the cranial damage that hunk of metal imparted by her own lonesome. If it was bad enough to damage the chip then there might be other collateral damage as well. (During the panel discussion, when asked how she felt about where Cameron ended up at the end of the season, Summer didn’t look all that pleased.)

Whatever is going on, John and Cameron are bonding. While I’m sure that Cameron would like it to be without the threat of death hanging over her head, at least I think John has stopped blaming her for her past episodes. He knows she’s at least as confounded by it as he is. In her own way it’s causing her “psyberlogical” pain. They depend on each other. Now it’s Cameron that depends on John. For good or for ill, they’ve made the key connection.

A big question will be: how will Sarah handle this? When the fact of Cameron secretly hiding parts is brought to light, I can’t imagine that Sarah is going to take it at all well. She has no faith in Cameron. Certainly not like John has in Cameron. Even so, I think she won’t fight it too hard. She had almost convinced John to melt down the Tin Miss in “Sampson and Delilah” and that created a schism between her and John that was almost irreparable. I don’t think she’ll make that mistake again. Oh, she’ll argue the point, but for the sake of John (and herself), she’ll bow to his judgement.

The fact of the matter is that Sarah is dealing with her own psychological discordances. While she managed to crest the of being able to be a cold-blooded killer in order to protect John (“Some Must Watch, While Some Must Sleep“), she’s still coming to terms with it. It’s certain that she did consider capping Riley after it was obvious that Riley had become a threat. I’m not sure she’d have been as serious about it before. Then there is the fact that Derek is lone-wolfing it. While the colors of pots and kettles can be debated on this issue, the fact is that for now, Sarah is in command. Her lieutenants (i.e. everyone else) should be keeping her in the loop (she’s big on loopiness). They aren’t, and that’s going to come to a head pretty soon.

DCFS coming in to investigate, despite having no cause, isn’t going to help matters. I’m hoping that this was just a one episode irritant and doesn’t become the season-ending plot device. John is 16 and Cameron is 17. I don’t think DCFS could really do much other than be an irritant in this case.

Of course the person who put DCFS on the Connors, and screwed with Riley’s chances of living, is Jesse. I’ve got to say, it’s looking less and less like Jesse is actually implementing a military plan than it is that she’s just a whack job trying to get back at John Connor the slow way. Get back at him for what? I dunno. Not yet. Maybe it has something to do with that “fixed” terminator-driven sub of hers.

Why do I think she’s a nutter? She’s not answering any questions. She’s removing Derek from John and trying to poison his mind. She was trying to separate John and Cameron using Riley (which didn’t work so well). Now she seems to be trying to get the state to put a wedge between Sarah and John. For whatever reason, she wants John isolated, without allies metal or flesh.

And then there is her emotional detachment. If it wasn’t for Riley’s attack showing that Jesse was human enough, it wouldn’t be hard to think of her as being a machine. With everything that she does, she comes off more and more as a sociopath.  I wouldn’t be surprised if she’s a gray (perhaps a brainwashed gray). To this point, all evidence points to her wanting to isolate John and then inflict damage. Not sudden death…she’s had more than enough opportunity to assassinate him. But she definite wants payback for something.

So, where does that leave John? Right now, I think he’s going to stick with Cameron, but not rely on her stability. He and Sarah will continue to have enough problems that he’s not going to want to turn to her first. Given how absent Derek has been, and an ass often when he is around, I don’t think John’s going to be leaning on his uncle as a first choice. Once again, it’s John and his terminator. Which makes sense. If John sent Cameron back to protect his younger self, then young John should trust the wisdom of his older self.

So, a lot of lingering question have been answered. I think it would have been better to have parcelled them out during the season, but at least answers are starting to come.

One thing that I appreciated, and have complained about its lack before, was the appearance of a sort of Hitchcockian style to the storytelling. The characters are figuring stuff out, but not always completely or correctly. However, we have more answers than they do. It’s ramped up the tension seeing if they figure out the puzzle before tragedy ensues. We feel suspense because we get to feel helpless to assist (as opposed to simply being dazed, bored, or confused). As a result, the story was satisfying to experience.

So, that’s my take on this episode. It was nice to break away from the indulgent story arc that preceded it. I’m now hoping to soon find out if Derek will manage to overcome the allure of the dark side. Will Sarah finally get a handle on…well, anything? What’s up with Cameron? This week, I can happily say, I can’t hardly wait until next week.

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