Spoilers for the Stargate Universe episode Cloverdale below!
This week's installment of Stargate Universe was another entry along the likes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer's sixth season episode "Normal Again" and Stargate Atlantis' third season episode "The Real World." You know the formula: one of our heroes is somehow infected by a demon/alien organism and as the organism begins to spread through their system, they find themselves in another existence, one in which their fantastical life is the dream and they are just your normal every day Joe. "Cloverdale" was nice entry into this category, and it deviated from the formula just enough to be able to stand apart from those that came before and be remembered as its own thing.
The episode opens with Lieutenant Scott and Sergeant Greer on a bus on Earth. We know right away that something is not quite right because Scott is suddenly talking in a weird accent (I couldn't tell if he was trying to be from the northern midwest of the U.S. or from Canada). The bus stops and we learn that they've arrived at their destination, a town called Cloverdale. Colonel Young and Eli are waiting for them across the street, and as Scott runs over to greet them, he is hit by a car. We are then given a quick flash of Scott in his usual uniform falling over and clutching his arm,which is looking seriously messed up. Apparently, while off world, he's been infected by some sort of alien, and T.J. can't figure out how to stop the infection from getting worse. Also, everyone has spiffy new camo jackets, even the civilians. That's kind of random, but I'm just going to assume several crates of uniforms got tossed through the gate on the initial trip to Destiny and leave it at that. Cue the title screen.
Returning from commercial break, we find ourselves once more in Cloverdale and we learn that in this little fantasy world, Young is Scott's dad (and he has the same bizarre accent, though thankfully, no one else in the episode had this problem). Eli is Chloe's brother, and Scott and Greer are back in town so that Scott and Chloe, high school sweethearts, can get married. Scott has survived being run over (by Brody, no less). It's just a flesh wound, really, and he and his family head home. We continue to follow Scott through the day before his wedding--he and Chloe go to a movie at the theater where they had one of their first dates. The movie turns out to be a representation of what really happened to Scott on the planet where he's actually been infected. He has a brief freak-out and they leave the theater early, where we find out that the whole plan behind them going to the movie was so that Chloe could deliver him to his surprise bachelor party.
I would like to take a moment to point out that this was the clumsiest execution of a surprise party EVER. But I did like that Brody was the bartender (he runs the still aboard Destiny), and his line about the bar actually being packed, everyone was just hiding was actually pretty amusing. I think that with Riley's death, I may now appoint Brody my new favorite non-main character (if you're wondering, my favorite main character is of course Eli, with Greer in a close second).
There's a weird little bit where Scott gets really drunk and hits on James, who is a waitress at Brody's bar, and in this little fantasy is his ex-girlfriend. I wonder about the relationship timing a bit, since Chloe is supposed to be his high school sweetheart and all, but whatever. Apparently he is only joking when he hits on her but she takes him seriously, which leads to an awkward moment that was really well played by Julia Benson. Hey writers, can we get James an awesome guy sometime soon? She kinda deserves one. I was rooting for her and Eli to hook up, but apparently he's got Ginny the Lucian Alliance Science Girl aimed his way this season. Sigh. I haven't been on Area 52 in a few years, maybe there's some James/Eli fanfic running around...
Sorry, sorry, back to the story. While Scott is dallying in his little fantasy world trying to decide if he actually wants to marry Chloe or not, T.J. and the offworld team are working frantically to save his life. They only have three hours before Destiny jumps, and they can't take Scott back on board the ship until he's cured, in case whatever he has is contagious. T.J. and Rush (and let's just take it as read that Rush does several things that make me like him even less, yet again) try everything they can think of to counteract the infection, to no avail. There is even a halfhearted attempt to convince us that they might actually amputate Scott's arm, but we know that isn't going to happen. It's never a real concern, even when they cut to a commercial right as they are about to make the first incision. We come back to find out that, oh darn, it's already in his bloodstream, cutting his arm off isn't going to make any difference, no point.
Young grumbles that he doesn't want everyone making a mad dash for the gate at the last minute again, and orders everyone but T.J. and a defensive group (the alien who infected Scott has decided to attack them at the gate) to return to Destiny immediately. Of course, everyone gets distracted trying to make sure they don't have any alien goo on them before they go back, and there ends up being yet another last minute mad dash through the gate. I appreciate the writers trying to hang a lantern on the fact that it is always down to a wire, I really do, but I honestly would have been less irritated at the cliche if they hadn't drawn my attention to it. So, you know, fail there. Sorry guys. Nice try though.
While Chloe is being all pouty that she isn't going to be allowed to stay with Scott on the planet, T.J. notices that she's got some alien goo on her shirt and freaks out, but it looks like it missed Chloe's skin so she wasn't infected. Funnily enough, earlier in the episode, I thought it looked like the Chloe stand-in in the "movie" from Scott's fantasy got hit by the goo too, and in the same spot. But I had forgotten about it by the time T.J. finds the goo on Chloe. That actually was a very clever little bit of writing. Bravo guys. I forgive you for the lantern hanging. Wonder Girl, of course, realizes that the goo must have touched her skin, but she is clearly not suffering any ill effects. You'll remember that everyone but Rush thinks she was cured by the neural interface chair last week, but we know that she still has her weird alien powers. She puts two and two together and realizes that whatever the blueberry aliens did to her, it made her immune to this alien. So she wanders off to the edge of the perimeter to get stung and test her theory (and also so that, if she's wrong, at least they will let her stay behind with Scott).
Of course T.J. and Rush find out she got herself stung, and they realize she is immune and she talks T.J. into giving Scott an infusion of her blood to clear up his infection so they can all go home. We're down to that last minute we were talking about earlier, and the alien is pretty much right up in their faces trying to eat them all. Greer realizes that the alien really doesn't like the kawoosh when the stargate opens, so he sends everyone back and stays with Chloe and Scott, and they all lay on the ramp out of range of the puddle, just dialing the gate over and over until Scott wakes up and they run back onto the ship just as she jumps. Of course, now everyone knows that Chloe is still all aliened up. Young meets them at the gate and tells them they are headed for quarantine, since now that Chole's blood is in Scott, he's probably aliened up too, and that's the end of that.
Miraculously, though he was still a jerk and he was far too eager to cut off Scott's arm, Rush wasn't actually the cause of the problems in this episode. In fact, he didn't actually mess anything up for anyone, really. I predict this means he will be double the jackass next week.
"Cloverdale" gave us some really fascinating insight into Scott's character. We learned in season one that his parents died in a car crash when he was a kid and he was then raised by a priest, who drank himself to death when Scott was only sixteen. So, he didn't have the typical suburban childhood that his fantasy self clearly had. He got his real life high school sweetheart pregnant and spent a good eight or ten years thinking she had gotten an abortion. No wedding bells for him, no family, no loving dad. But in his fantasy world, he's got the idealized romance and the happy little family, for the most part. The whole town seems to be pulling for him--heck, his pharmacist (Volker) was part of the plot to get him to his bachelor party.
It seems perfectly obvious that Young would fall into the role of father for Scott in his subconscious retreat. Eli's role as Chloe's brother (which I am sure the real Eli would be less than thrilled about) also makes sense when you think about it. Scott clearly likes Eli, but often feels like he's got to look out for him, like a kid brother, but Eli's concern for Chloe is so strong and evident (even though he seems to have moved mostly past the romantic feelings for her) that the more I think about it, the more I like him as her brother rather than Scott's. Greer as his best man says a lot about his respect for the sergeant, and we even get Lou Diamond Phillips back for an episode! He appears as another father figure and the town sheriff. I found that really interesting, that Scott thinks of Telford as "the law." The really glaring inconsistency here was Rush as the Justice of the Peace. Seriously? What, now? I can't figure out what that says about how Scott feels about Rush at all. I honestly would have thought that he would have put Wray in that place. Maybe it's just my own feelings about Rush casting doubt on that decision though. I don't know, it just seemed jarring in an otherwise perfectly cast fantasy.
While this episode was clearly designed to stand on its own, it does have some potentially huge future consequences. I really hope Scott does start showing the effects of getting an infusion of Chloe's alien-morphed blood. At the very least, he was the XO on board and now he is essentially out of commission until they can determine exactly what the blueberry aliens did to Chloe. I hope they actually let this play out and don't just get it all cleaned up neatly by the end of the next episode. SGU is usually pretty good about not wrapping things up in a neat little bow, but every once in a while *cough*"Lost"*cough* they do try to slip one by us. I keep hearing that next week starts off a big multi-episode story arc though, so hopefully this won't be one of those times.
Hands down my favorite thing about this episode though? Greer got to bust out his flame thrower again! That boy loves his flame thrower.
|Season one episode "Water"|
Also, on a random note, one of the funny little side effects of watching SGU right after Glee on Tuesday nights is that I keep thinking that they need to find Cory Montieth a role on SGU. He's already appeared in Stargate Atlantis and in Stargate SG-1.
|Stargate Atlantis season one episode "The Storm"|
|Stargate SG-1 season ten episode "200"|