With the DVD set of season 1 of Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles having been released, and the start of the second season being nigh, it seems like a perfect storm just ripe for unrestrained speculation about Cameron Phillips (aka Cameron Baum).
Perhaps the most speculation-worthy aspect of the nine episodes we got to see is the mystery surrounding Cameron’s Agenda. From the episode, “Gnothi Seauton”, it’s clear that Cameron answers to a higher authority–future John:
Sarah: We need rules. Are you supposed to take orders or something like that?
Cameron: I do, from John.
Sarah: From John. So, if I tell John to forbid you –
Cameron: Not this John.
Sarah: Not this John. Aren’t they the same?
Cameron: Not yet.
This single exchange might be the crux of the entire series. Cameron clearly has orders from Future John…very specific orders. This is reinforced in this exchange from “Vick’s Chip”:
John: So how often do you lie?
Cameron: When the mission requires it.
John: Do you lie to me?
John: About important things?
Cameron: Yes, important things.
The great thing is that this makes perfect sense…almost. If we are to assume that T3 never happened, then Future John has first-hand experience with allowing Past John to have too much control over his Terminator Protector. While a Protector can be useful for one mission, Future John understands that it needs to be about more than just Terminator vs Terminator in the battle over John Connor. Since Future John is still engaged in post-Judgment Day battles, that means that so far all he has been able to do with sending Terminators back is postpone the inevitable.
But…what if he could get a jump-start on this inevitable apocalypse? What if he could put things in place to give him an advantage over the machines that he didn’t have before? This would go a long way to explaining some of the dubious actions perpetrated by Cameron that make some wonder if she’s one of the re-programmed Terminators that sometimes “go bad; no one knows why”.
Cameron’s first very suspicious act was shoplifting a bar of the oh-so-precious coltan, an important Terminator exo-skeleton alloy in “Heavy Metal”. Then, in “Dungeons and Dragons”, Cameron does something that could easily label her a “very scary robot”: she lies to Sarah, telling her that all of the T-888 they offed will be destroyed–all the while holding in her hand the T-888’s CPU (which is later found in Cameron’s room by Derek Reese in “Vick’s Chip”).
The CPU makes for an ambiguous anomaly. Once discovered, Cameron says that it has important information that they can use. The question is: was that really her motivation, or is she improvising? The fact that the chip did provide crucial intelligence about a Skynet precursor technology that the Conner-Team (well, Cameron) was able to thwart, I can’t help wondering if that was the primary purpose of keeping the chip. It doesn’t seem that she understood the importance of the data on the CPU when she stole it. So then…why?
Causality: Time Travel’s Permanent Paradox
The Terminator universe in TTSCC has established an at least somewhat mutable time travel universe: the past can be changed, at least locally. What remains to be seen is if the larger events in the time-line can be significantly altered (e.g. Judgment Day). (Link: A Beginner’s Guide to Time Travel)
A constant problem in mutable time travel stories is that you can never be sure what the future events in your current time line will be. Future John, apparently the T2 John, never had Cameron as a Protector, so her very presence changes the time-line (as both Kyle Reese in T1 and the T800-101 in T2 presumably did in their respective time-lines). As is commonly said: “The future is not set…there is no fate but what we make for ourselves.”
Once Cameron showed up, the Future John who gave her orders completely disappeared from her time-line to be replaced, in the future, with the current John who DID have Cameron as a Protector. What changes hath this wrought?
First and foremost, Sarah has gotten a head’s up about her previous time-line leukemia, and may be better prepared to take early measures that could save her life. Also, it appears that the result of the T2 time-line was that the T-1000 was never developed by the time a Protector was sent back. The state of the art in Terminators (excepting Cameron) seems to be the T-888.
At this point, whatever information Derek and Cameron have about the future becomes decreasingly relevant as the current time-line becomes increasingly contaminated by their actions. Soon enough, the details will become irrelevant. The only question is whether or not Judgment Day is inevitable regardless of how much meddling takes place.
Cameron and John
The emotional thread of the story is totally the one between John and Cameron. There have been many speculations and rumors that their bond will evolve into a love connection. Perhaps it has already happened…even before they met.
Yeah, that pesky time travel paradox thing again. Personally, I think Cameron already arrives loving John…Future John. As for Past John, I think she’s a lot like Kyle Reese: it’s a chance to meet the legend (whom she has/will have loved for a long time).
While there are hints at her attachment/attraction to John in brief moments here or there in the early episodes, I think this all comes to a head in “Vick’s Chip”. When John is in the process of removing her CPU for the first time (though they’ve done it before–pesky time travel), Cameron is magnificently trusting and vulnerable. Later, when John re-installs the CPU (and “leans” over Cameron as she reboots) after stopping Derek from destroying her chip:
Derek: I want you to hear this in no uncertain terms. Someday one of these things is gonna kill you.
John: It’s not gonna be this one.
John and Cameron have this post-boot exchange:
John: What was it like? What’d you see in there?
Cameron: I saw everything.
Whoa. The words plus the look she gave. Yes, she did see everything: she saw John not only saving her, but trusting her to never be the one to kill him, despite all of the dire warnings given by Derek. If she didn’t love this John before, I think it’s fair to say that she’s loving this John, now.
Building the Tin Man
Here’s what I’m thinking how the various aspects start to line up:
The reasons Cameron is taking the coltan and the CPU and heaven only knows what in the future, is so that Future John has the resources to build her…or at least build her sooner.
Future John spends a lot more time with this Protector than any of the previous ones he sent back:
Cameron: I know what the Tin Man is. He needed a heart. The Wonderful Wizard Of Oz written by L. Frank Baum in nineteen hundred, first published –
Sarah: I know all about The Wizard Of Oz. When John was little I –
Cameron: You read it to him over and over again, in Spanish. He never told you, but it was one of his favorite things that you did. He used to talk about it a lot.
As it doesn’t appear that the T-888s recognize her model, and she ain’t telling, it doesn’t appear that she’s a product of Skynet. We do know (for now) that the only place her model was seen was in the rebel camp in “Dungeons and Dragons”…though tricky editing made many think that she was the Terminator who was torturing (or whatever) the human prisoners.
I think that Future John’s experience with the T800-101 Protector showed him that not only were unfettered Terminators more likely to acquire emotions, but that combined with their pre-programmed directive to protect made them even more effective: as dangerous and effective as a mother protecting her young (i.e. he makes them Sarah–the best fighter he knows). Future John intentionally made a personal Terminator Protector that would love him as much as his mother…someone he could always give 100% trust would protect him no matter what. From “Heavy Metal”:
Sarah: Do you have any idea what’s going on? I lost him! I lost John!
Cameron: I understand.
Sarah: It’s impossible for you to understand.
Cameron: Without John, your life has no purpose.
Could it be any plainer than that? John needs Cameron to love him in order to save him, and perhaps the world. I’m sort of thinking that maybe Future John loved her as well and was counting on Past John to be smitten by his Galatea so that whatever the new future would bring, he would still survive…or will she be his one glaring weakness?
Well…the second season starts in a few days. It will be interesting to see how this develops.