Here there be spoilers folks. Run away if ye be shy, or if, you know, you haven't seen the episode yet.
Right, so, to business. Executive Producer and show writer Joseph Mallozzi promised that there would be a lot going on in this episode (one of his), and man, did he deliver!
This week started out with a group of our intrepid crew out and about on a planet. Some of the scientists are running tests on the local flora, checking it out to see if it can be of any use aboard Destiny. You know T.J. wants to stock up on whatever medicinal herbs they can find, the way people keep getting shot up on this ship. Meanwhile, the soldiers, primarily Scott, Greer, and James, are excited about some deer-like beings that have also been discovered on the planet and want to do a little hunting so that they can finally have some fresh meat to chow down on. As James points out to Park when she gripes that she is a vegetarian and wouldn't eat the meat regardless, they have actually all been vegetarians for the last several months or so.
When Scott and Greer find a likely target, Greer lines up his shot and...hesitates. Before he can recover and bag the game, the deer are startled by a noise from deeper within the forest and run off. Greer has just enough time to start to get pissed about this when whatever it was that startled the deer then charges out and barrels through both him and Scott, making its way through the camp and injuring several of the scientists. We also learn, in the wake of its attack, that T.J. and a corporal are missing. Oh dear.
Here is where the story starts to split up. We've got Young, Greer, and James on the planet hunting for the missing crew members. A banged up Park is stuck in the infirmary, being tended to by Chloe, Destiny's jack-of-all-trades, since T.J. is well, you know, missing. We quickly learn that T.J. and the corporal are alive, if a bit banged up, and stuck in the cave serving as the beast's lair, which is inconveniently located halfway up a mountain overlooking a ravine and being determinedly protected by said beast. Then of course, there's the actual B-plot proper, in which Brody, Eli, and Rush open up a newly repaired section of the ship and discover several chambers filled with stasis pods (empty). Eli wants to check out this new discovery, but Rush wants to exercise caution and advises they do some research up on the bridge first.
Varro, the handsome good-hearted Lucian Alliance member with a crush on T.J. convinces Scott to let him go down the planet and help out with the search party, as he and his people have extensive hunting and tracking experience. Varro and a random leather-clad LA chick take the lead and they quickly realize that the beast they are hunting has, in return, been hunting them. Oh goody. They fall into an ambush and Young is badly injured and sent back to the ship. They keep tracking the beast and finally do manage to take it out with an ambush of their own--only to discover that there is more than one of the creatures out there. Double goody. Eventually we are left with just Greer and Varro together. Varro decides this is a good time to talk Greer through his issues (i.e., his hesitation of earlier, he also got a heart-to-heart with James a bit before this in which we learned that he thinks he died momentarily while undergoing the kidney transplant surgery and has kind of become afraid of death). It...kind of works? Greer seems to be back to himself by the end of the episode at any rate.
While all of this has been going on, T.J. has not been sitting around being an idle damsel in distress. Oh no, the corporal decides to fill that role, so T.J. gets to be the hardass "we're gonna get through this" soldier. It's kind of awesome. So much of her character development has been about her emotional moments or about her medical skills, it is easy to forget that T.J. actually is a soldier, and a pretty accomplished one at that. She gets the corporal to stop feeling sorry for himself and also manages to repair their damaged radio and make contact with Greer to let him know where they are. When Greer does manage to find the lair (Varro has been causing a distraction to lure the beasts away), one of the beasts has just returned and T.J. is the one to realize that it is sentient. The beast hesitates when it sees that she has made a fire, recognizing intelligence in the humans. It holds off on its attack when they indicate that they do not mean it any harm and T.J., the corporal, and Greer are allowed to skedaddle, meeting up with Varro on the way back to the gate. They stop briefly when they run into one of the deer-like animals and Greer decides they need to take something home for all of their troubles. Yay! Meat for everyone! Well, except Park, apparently.
Afterward, back on the Destiny, T.J. goes to visit Varro and apologize to him for the loss of his people. He is the only Lucian Alliance member left standing from the original invasion force at this point. This and the fact that he has been nothing but cooperative and helped retrieve T.J. has finally earned him the freedom of the ship from Young. T.J. also tells Varro that even though she knows he may feel like he's all alone now, he really isn't. They share a nice poignant almost-kiss before they are interrupted by a knock at the door (grr, argh), of course. And (of course) it is Young at the door. He seems to grasp something of the situation at hand and there is a momentary look on his face that is regret for how things have played out. But it also seems to be a look of letting go. I will be very interested to see how that progresses in the remaining episodes. Also, huzzah for there finally being progression on the T.J./Varro front!!!
In the B-plot, Eli is still pissy about Rush and has decided to express this by rebuking Rush's self-nominated authority among the science crew. He's kind of acting like a brat. I kind of don't blame him. Still. I hope that his attitude gets a little bit of an adjustment before the end of the season (series). Anyway, Eli decides that he doesn't care what Rush says, he wants to check out the stasis pod chambers, and he manages to talk Brody into going with him. Up in the bridge, Rush realizes what Eli is up to and activates one of the stasis pods, with Brody inside of it. Eli spends the rest of the episode freaking out and trying to unfreeze Brody without telling Rush what happened (he thinks he or Brody pushed the wrong button whilst exploring). Eli even tries to get Chloe to help, using some of her remaining "alien knowledge," but all to no avail. Eventually Rush decides enough is enough and unfreezes Brody, hoping the two have learned their lesson. Eli and Brody think they've gotten away with their adventure, and when Rush suggests checking out the new area, they both jump to suggest that no, maybe they should wait until the database has been further investigated. Rush smiles a self-satisfied smirk and wanders off, still believing himself to the be the supreme being aboard Destiny. Sigh.
That whole subplot was kind of meh, to be honest. Don't get me wrong, I am really glad to see Eli bucking Rush's self-proclaimed authority over the science staff. It needs to be done. Rush rarely ever makes decisions that are truly for the good of the whole, unless they happen to align with whatever his own agenda is. He does not need to be the scientist in charge. Neither does Eli, though thankfully he does seem to realize as much. I just hope he can bring about the more communal running of the scientific duties on the ship by acting more, you know, mature. Not by being an idiot and running off almost getting people killed (or at least made completely unavailable). Also, his little stunt only served to confirm to Rush that he knows better than anyone else, which in the end means he did more harm than good in my opinion.
In one last little subplot, Volker seems to be recovering well from his kidney transplant. He is up and about now. He spent most of this episode running back and forth between working with Rush and checking on Park in the infirmary. Two episodes ago it seemed like the writers were hinting at a little bit of a growing romance there, and I have to admit, it made me a bit nervous. You guys know I am rooting for Park/Greer all the way. But still, Volker's clear crush and awkward attempts at being there for Park were very well done. As were the even more awkward conversations with Chloe and Rush about his feelings, which he kept trying to convince everyone (and failing fantastically) were strictly platonic. At the end he takes a little bouquet of something (presumably from the hydroponics lab) to visit Park, only to find that Greer is already there and the two are looking rather cozy. Poor Volker. The look on his face was absolutely heartbreaking. As much as I didn't like the thought of him coming between Park and Greer, it made me very sad for him nonetheless. I will be very curious to see how this little triangle progresses, especially with the debt Volker must feel toward Greer due to the whole kidney situation.
All in all I think this was a fantastic episode. There was a ton of extremely well done character development, and the main story, even with all of its little fractals, was very engaging. I feel like I am saying this every week, but dang, I am so mad that we are almost out of episodes for this show! Stargate Universe has really found its legs this season and it is just such a shame that we are not gonna get to see it run for any more seasons. Boo.
The preview for next week's episode was pretty tantalizing. Wibbly-wobbly-timey-wimey! Huzzah!
Until then, I think I am gonna go have to read some Stargate novels to keep the withdrawal at bay...
(...or maybe play some Dragon Age.)