Thursday, September 29, 2011

Finishing Mass Effect 2

You know, there was once upon a time when stores like Game Stop, where you could sell your old video games or trade them in for new or other used games, made no sense to me whatsoever. I mean, don't get me wrong, I've always understood the point behind places like Half-Price Books, which is essentially the same thing, in book form. It is just that I could never figure out how a trade-in video game place could do such a brisk business. I didn't understand how enough people were bringing in enough relatively new used games for the model to be sustainable--because unlike books, video games do have a shelf life. Consoles weren't always backwards compatible, you know.

This is because I didn't know until high school that there was such a thing as "beating" a video game. Even then it was only a barely conceived realization. I remember one time in eighth or ninth grade I spent an entire holiday weekend holed up in my room playing Super Mario 3, and trust me, I never even came close to beating that game. I didn't finish an entire video game until I was well out of college, people. Sure, part of that is due to the fact that after eighth or ninth grade I didn't play any video games until after college, but still.

Now, however, I totally get it. Some games are fun enough to play through once, but after you've finished you know you're not gonna really want to play it again. Some games *cough*KingdomHearts*cough* become your white whale, and once you finally beat them, you just want to shove them across the counter, get your in-store credit, and get on with your life. So the games that you end up actually holding on to are the games that you want to play again. For a game to fall into that category it needs to either have a really fun and engaging gameplay mechanic or it needs to have a fantastic story. Preferably, it should have both.

Mass Effect 2 is definitely one of those games to keep and replay. It has an engaging gameplay experience and an outstanding story, making it full of awesome and win. It is also very replayable, because there are numerous variables that can alter your experience with the game, and make sure that every time you play is a little bit different. Some of of those variables might be the choices made from your imported play of the first game (or the backstory choices you make when you start the game if you didn't play the first one), the background, class, gender, and skills you choose for your character. There are many different romance options for your Commander Shepard. The order in which you carry out Shepard's missions comes into play as well. There is also the choice to play the game as a paragon (good guy) or renegade (self-explanatory), which will affect your interactions with others throughout the game.

Then, of course, there is the game's final mission.


The first time I played through Mass Effect 2 I went straight through the Omega 4 relay once my crew was abducted by the collectors. My team and I went in there and rescued them all, kicked the bad guy's butt, and went home, every single one of us. I thought nothing of it at the time and was just happy to have completed the game and pretty satisfied with the story. I moved on to play Dragon Age: Origins, and  well, you know what happened to me after that

Then my husband played Mass Effect 2.

We share an office, my husband and I, and one of our favorite things to do of an evening is to hang out in the office and play our games "together," by which I mean, he sits on his computer and plays his game and I sit on my computer and play my totally different game, and we snark back and forth with each other commenting on what we hear coming from the other person's monitor. What? Don't look at me like that. It's fun. Anyhoo, point being that I was more or less following along with his playthroughs of Mass Effect and Mass Effect 2. I had actually gotten him the first game as a Christmas present the year before our daughter was born, but somehow I ended up playing it first and getting hooked (I think because I found out Seth Green did a voice in the game). I was really excited that he was finally getting the chance to play it, partly because I wanted him to experience the awesomeness, but also because it afforded me the chance to see how the game was different through his playing style as compared to mine. For example, I was delighted when he opted to romance Tali in the second game, an option not available to my female Shepard. 

I was in the office when he went through the Omega 4 relay and embarked on the final mission of the game. I was only half paying attention to what he was doing and looked over at a sound of dismay, appalled to see Garrus dead, actually, permanently, in-game dead. "What did you do?!?" I asked him in shock. He shrugged that he didn't know and kept on playing. I watched in horror as more members of his team kept dropping, dying permanently, including beloved Tali. Again, I asked, "What did you do?" I couldn't believe it. (He wasn't too happy about it either.)

It turns out that, unless you cheat use a walkthrough or hints, the odds of your entire crew and team surviving the final mission on your first playthrough are pretty darn slim. There's a whole series of variables you have to do correctly to make that happen. You can't traipse across the galaxy after your crew gets abducted, for example, and expect them to survive to be rescued. If you go on one or two missions before going through the Omega 4, half of them die (one of your buddies gets dissolved into goo right in front of you just as you arrive to save them). If you go on more missions than that, the doctor is the only one left to be rescued. Your entire party has to be loyal (you get missions throughout the game to complete to earn each character's loyalty). Anyone not loyal is pretty much just so much cannon fodder. You have to have installed all of the available upgrades to your ship, or people don't make it. Finally, at each step of the final mission, you have to choose wisely when assigning your party to do the various tasks required to infiltrate the collectors' base. Looking at the list of things required to ensure complete survival can be more than a little bit daunting. My husband was pretty impressed I had managed it on my first try pretty much by accident after we found out what the deal was. Hell, if enough of your party gets killed off, Shepard doesn't survive the final mission at all. 

This is the kind of thing that makes this game one you will want to play multiple times though. There are just so many ways the final moments can play out.

I can't imagine why anyone would keep a playthrough where they lost party members to port into Mass Effect 3 (my husband fully intends to go back to an earlier save and replay that part of the game and see if he can have a happier outcome). But if they do, then anyone who died won't be available in game three. At all. Yeesh.

Knowing all of this made me really nervous when I approached the Omega 4 mission the second time around. All of a sudden, I was paranoid as hell that I wouldn't be able to finish everyone's loyalty missions before the crew got abducted. I was worried I would choose totally the wrong person for one of the assignments on the collector base, and so on. It is possible I had a guide pulled up on iPad so that I could check it, just in case, while I was playing the final mission. It is also possible that I might have used it once or twice, and was relieved to find out that my instinctual choice for each mission had been a good one. In the end, I managed to rescue my whole crew and my entire team walked (well, ran) out of that base alive. Then I got to tell the Illusive Man to shove it. I texted my husband in my excitement and there may have been a celebratory fist pump or two into the air. Good times were had by all.

Then I moved on to play Dragon Age: Origins again...

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

SGA Rewatch: Trinity

Hello Wednesday. How are you? Excited about a new Stargate Atlantis Rewatch entry? Yes? Good! Well, I certainly won't keep you waiting! Today we'll be talking about the season two episode "Trinity."

Spoilers, spoilers, spoilers.

What Happened

The team is assembled in a jumper with Rodney giving Ronon a lecture about eating big meals before a mission. Ronon ignores him and Sheppard asks Rodney if he is picking up any readings. Rodney says there are no life signs showing. Teyla is disappointed, they were apparently going to check out a planet called Doranda that was listed in the Ancient database. She said the Dorandans sounded like a wonderful people, but it is pointed out to her that a lot can change in ten thousand years. As they get closer to the planet, they encounter a huge debris field in orbit--there was clearly a great battle over the planet. Among the debris is a severely damaged wraith hive ship. The Dorandans might be gone, but they didn't go down without a fight.

Flying down to the planet proper for a closer look, they find that the entire civilization on Doranda appears to have been wiped out by the wraith. Rodney does pick up a faint energy signal in the distance, however, so they go to investigate. They find one building intact and Rodney declares that this building is Ancient. Entering the facility and investigating, they realize it must have been an Ancient outpost and wonder why that was not mentioned in the Ancient's entry on Doranda. The facility is littered with the bodies of Ancients but it is unclear how they were killed. The team wonders why, if the facility was an Ancient outpost, the wraith left it intact when they destroyed the planet.

They return to Atlantis to report to Elizabeth (and a visiting Caldwell) what they found. Their preliminary investigation revealed it to be a military research facility, working on a ground-based version of the Lagrangian Point satellite, only much more powerful. Rodney wants to take a team of scientists back to the planet to see if they can learn more about it and Elizabeth agrees, sending Sheppard to keep an eye on Rodney and Zelenka's team.

Since Teyla is no longer needed for the research on Doranda, she decides to go on a personal mission for her people. She is going to a planet called Belkan to secure some agricultural goods for people. Ronon, hearing of her mission, asks if he can tag along. He is getting restless on Atlantis and wants to get out for a while. On Belkan, Teyla's trade negotiations seem to have stalled out. Her trade partner, Hendon, wants much more than she is willing to give. She makes to leave and Ronon pulls out a knife, intimidating Hendon to accept Teyla's terms, which he claims are more than fair. As they leave the negotiations, Teyla pulls Ronon aside and tells him that he shouldn't have interfered. He says they were taking advantage of her, and she bristles at the thought that he felt he needed to save her. She states that she was playing them, wanted them to think they had the upper hand. She explains that these negotiations must be handled delicately because her people's livelihood depends on them. She sends a chastened Ronon to gather up their belongings, exasperated with him, when one of Hendon's men, Mattas, catches up with her. He tells her she should not have forced Hendon's hand as it will only make their next trade more difficult. She agrees and apologizes for Ronon, explaining that he is new to the trade. Mattas realizes that Ronon is not Athosian and Teyla explains that he is the only survivor of Sateda and has been given sanctuary with her people. Mattas is surprised to learn that Ronon is Satedan and says if that is so, then he is not the only survivor. There is another man claiming to be Satedan in the village.

Sheppard, Rodney, and team head back to Atlantis after getting as much data as possible from the facility. They radio Elizabeth from the jumper, excited to tell her about what they found. Sheppard says it is a weapon, grinning from ear to ear, but Rodney says it is so much more than that, it is the ultimate power source. On Atlantis, they continue filling Elizabeth in, explaining that the project, Arcturus, was meant to make ZPMs obsolete. There's some physics technobabble that I won't get into, but basically it boils down to a self-renewable clean energy source that makes ZPMs look piddling in comparison and is much easier to create. The Ancients set up the outpost on Doranda and were testing out Arcturus by powering the Dorandan weapons to protect the planet against the wraith. Rodney and Zelenka explain that testing of Arcturus was rushed due to the war with the wraith, and as a result, the Ancients made mistakes and got sloppy, which is why they weren't able to finish it and turn the tide of the war. But they believe that, with the data from the outpost, they will be able to finish the Ancients' work. Cue the science montage!

On Belkan Teyla and Ronon venture into a tavern looking for the Satedan that Teyla was told about. He turns out to be Solon, a soldier who was in Ronon's regiment back on Sateda. He and Ronon catch up over drinks and Ronon comments that he is so glad to learn he wasn't alone in surviving his world's destruction. Solon then reveals that a handful of soldiers and over three hundred civilians managed to get to shelter during the wraith attack on Sateda, surviving the attack. Afterwards, they realized that their world was too damaged to rebuild and so scattered to many planets throughout the galaxy. Ronon is overwhelmed by this news and relieved to learn that his people continue to survive. Then Solon drops a bomb on Ronon, mentioning that a man named Kel had also survived. Ronon gets very quiet at this news and Teyla asks if Kel was a friend. Solon explains that Kel was Ronon's taskmaster during his military training and that there is no closer bond.

On Doranda the scientists make preparations to begin live testing of Project Arcturus. It doesn't go smoothly, however. There is a power surge that causes the system to overload and they aren't able to shut it down. The overload is brief and stabilizes itself quickly, but one of the scientists, Collins, was in an access chamber during the test and is killed, dying of radiation poisoning. Apparently the overload caused radiation to breach the containment field and vent into the access chamber where Collins was working.

On Atlantis Rodney and Zelenka report to Elizabeth and Caldwell that they are unsure of what caused the power surge to happen. Caldwell suggests that maybe Collins made some sort of error during the test to cause it but Rodney shoots that down, stating that everyone on the team did exactly what they were supposed to do. Rodney still thinks he can make the project work, however, and seems extra adamant to do so now. Elizabeth refuses to permit any more live tests though. She tells Rodney he can run all of the simulations he wants with the data they've already accumulated, but there will be no going back to Doranda.

A little while later Rodney goes to Sheppard to plea his case. He says that Collins' death is a waste of human life if they don't continue the project. He believes that he has figured out the problem--the Ancients' calculations were wrong. He tells Sheppard that he has run his own calculations several times now and knows he has them right. He promises he can make it work and asks Sheppard to trust him and to ask Elizabeth to let them go back and try another live test. Sheppard is convinced and goes to bat for Rodney, asking Elizabeth for approval. She still doesn't want to agree, stating that if the Ancients couldn't get the project to work, she is doubtful Rodney will be able to do so. But Sheppard is persistent and Caldwell backs him up, stating that the Pentagon is going to want this research to continue regardless, and if she is the one who lets Rodney go at least she can keep some control over the project. She relents but only lets Rodney and Sheppard go back to Doranda.

After they leave, Zelenka finds Elizabeth and tells her that he has been going over the Ancients' data some more and has realized why they abandoned the project. Elizabeth radios Sheppard and Rodney just as they are about to fire up the test and asks them to delay it. She and Zelenka try to explain that the data strongly suggests that the project is flawed and will overload no matter what because the project creates dangerous exotic particles as a natural byproduct. The exotic particles cannot be contained within the containment field and they vent as hard radiation (which is how Collins was killed). If left running long enough, or if the overload is big enough, the exotic particles build up so much that they are vented catastrophically. Rodney is unconvinced but Elizabeth tries one more time. The wraith didn't destroy Doranda. While the Ancients fought off the fleet in orbit, the exotic particles built up so much that, when released, the weapon took out everything around it. The outpost itself was shielded and so survived intact, but the radiation was too much for all of the people inside. Rodney says that may be so, but he still thinks that he had figured out the error and can keep the exotic particles under control, preventing such an occurrence from happening again.

Rodney insists on testing the weapon anyway, much to Zelenka's disgust, and it seems to be going alright at first but inevitably overloads. He has it under control right up until he doesn't, and by then it is too late and he can't get it to shut down. Whatever the changes Rodney made seem to have made the overload worse. It starts to go into catastrophic overload, but his ego has taken over and he continues to insist he can shut down the project before anything bad happens. Seeing the writing on the wall, Sheppard manages to convince Rodney that they need to get out of there and Rodney finally realizes that he is right. He says he has waited too long and the overload is so bad that it is going to blow up the whole planet. They make it to the jumper, but since they were unable to shut down Arcturus, they must dodge its fire as they fly towards the gate. Luckily, Caldwell had detoured to Doranda on his way back to Earth to "spy" on the project from orbit (I guess so he could make as up-to-date a report to his superiors as possible when he returned). He pops into orbit and tells Sheppard and McKay that the Daedalus will fly interference for them so they can get to the gate. Sheppard advises him to jump to hyperspace as soon as they are through, because the bang is going to be big.

On Belkan Ronon learns that Kel is on the planet, meeting with Mattas in a trade deal. Knowing that he is persona non grata with Mattas, Ronon asks Teyla to have the trader set up a meeting between her and Kel so that he can see his old taskmaster. Teyla readily agrees, and when she meets with Kel, Ronon stands back for a bit. Teyla explains that they are actually not there to trade but because of her companion and Ronon steps forward. Once Kel recognizes him, he pulls a gun and shoots the other man dead. Kel's companions react, pulling out their own weapons. Teyla gives Ronon a horrified look as he steps forward, arms spread wide. He tells Kel's men they knew him, knew what he had done, and if they really feel he needs to be avenged, Ronon will not fight them. They look at each other and put away their weapons. Ronon leaves and Teyla chases after him, furious. She throws him against a wall and demands an explanation for why he used her to murder the man. Ronon explains that Kel was a traitor to Sateda. He sacrificed thousands of his people so that he could have a chance to escape the wraith. Ronon adds that his only regret is that Kel's death was so quick. Teyla visibly calms herself and is quiet for a moment. She eventually tells Ronon that she understands, in in his place might have done the same thing. She then adds that the others (Sheppard and Elizabeth) would most certainly not understand, and they must never speak of the events on Belkan again once they return to Atlantis. She also tells him that if he ever uses her in such a manner again she will not be so understanding.

Ronon and Teyla return to Atlantis, and as they walk across they gate room, Elizabeth and Rodney can be heard yelling at each other at the top of their lungs. It seems that the explosion of Project Arcturus destroyed not only Doranda, but five-sixths of the entire solar system it was in.

Shortly after that Rodney tracks down Sheppard to apologize for screwing up so badly. He says he hopes that he hasn't lost Sheppard's trust completely, or at the very least can earn it back again. Sheppard is clearly still mad, but says while it will probably take a while, he is sure Rodney will be able to earn his trust again eventually.


There's  a LOT to be said about this episode, and it has ramifications that echo all the way through the rest of the series. But I am just going to focus on three things for the time being.

The fall of Rodney McKay. When Rodney first appeared in the franchise he was a pompous ass. He was there only to show us how lucky we were to have a scientist like Carter on our side. No one expected the fan reaction to him. For the first time since his first appearance in "Trinity" Rodney seems like that man once more. Sure, he has never stopped being arrogant, petty, or bad with people, but we have almost always been able to see the truly good man underneath the surface. It has always been clear that, despite his social ineptitude, his intentions are noble and he is always looking out for the rest of the team. But here, here he is a man who sees the possibilities and is willing to ignore the growing evidence that he just might not be able to make it work, despite how brilliant he is. In this episode he is shown just how wrong he can be. I am pretty sure that the solar system he destroyed was uninhabited, but Collins' death will always be on his conscience now, as well as the knowledge that it was due to a wasted pursuit and Rodney's own arrogance.  Not only was Rodney wrong, but he managed to lose the trust of a lot of people in his endeavor, people whose trust actually means something to him. Going forward, he now knows that not only will he have to work to earn that trust back, he will have to actually work to keep it, which is going to temper his future actions.

Rodney's bromance with Sheppard. In his message to his sister in season one's "Letters From Pegasus," Rodney said that he has come to think of the people on Atlantis as his family. It has always been clear that Sheppard is the person this applies to most. Their friendship has always been more or less easy, and now its foundation has been shaken to the very core. Watching how this plays out over the rest of the season is going to be very interesting indeed.

Ronon. Ronon gets to go through a whole gamut of emotions in this episode, which, considering how little his character speaks, as well as the fact that his story was the B story, is pretty impressive. On the one hand, he learns that his world, though destroyed, is not completely gone, because at least some of his people survived. But then he learns that the man he had followed and looked up to in his youth, the same man who betrayed him when the wraith attacked, is alive as well, and we find out that Ronon is a man who believes in vengeance. This also gives us an interesting perspective on why, as much as he takes to Sheppard on first glance, he does seem to be testing the man as much as he is being tested. Ronon wants a leader, someone he can follow in fighting the wraith. But he knows from experience that some leaders can misuse their power brutally, and he is afraid of choosing the wrong leader again. It also seems that he seems to trust Teyla on an instinctual level, knowing that even if he withheld information from her, she would understand his reasons after the fact. I am not so sure he would have done things in the same way if Sheppard had been with him when he found out about Kel. Somehow, I don't think so, though I have no doubt Kel still would have ended up dead.

Favorite Quotes

"Definitely Ancient design. Their latest stuff, too. Their latest being ten thousand years old." (Rodney)

"Come on, McKay, you read the equations. What else could it be, an Ancient typo?" (Zelenka)
"Well we know they're not perfect, because they're all dead." (Rodney)

"Worst case scenario?" (Sheppard)
"We tear a hole in the fabric of the universe." (Rodney)

"Okay, we have been over this. I am doing this manually, at half power. It's a cakewalk." (Rodney)
"I do not think it matters how much cake you walk on." (Zelenka)

There we have it, folks, another week of the rewatch comes to a close. Join us back here next Monday for "Instinct," won't you?

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

On The Right Track

Last week I talked about some of the "one" skeins of yarn I have acquired recently, and how I was starting to look for projects to go with each skein. Part of my motivation was to use of up some of my ridiculous stash. But also, I have been kind of dawdling on my yarn crafts, and I thought maybe throwing in a few quick one-skein projects here and there in between (or during, if I need a break) my bigger projects would help me to stay excited about my knitting and crocheting.

I think this was the right idea. This past week I picked up a quick project that was on my "to make" list and I finished it in two days. I felt so happy about it and it got me excited to work on my other projects languishing in their organizer bins. Granted, it was not for any of the yarn I showed you last week, it was another skein I had bought specifically for this project, but still, the same principle applies.

TARDIS Wash Cloth by Cori 2011.

Pattern: Tardis Dishcloth by Lorenia Lemas
Yarn: Knit Picks Dishie in Jay (about half a skein needed)
Needles: 7

Yup, it's another Doctor Who project. It is crazy how much of my knitting is actually inspired by my nerdy loves. It was a little difficult to photograph, but I think you can see the pattern of the TARDIS, the Doctor's ship, in the cloth. This pattern was super simple to knit up, it is just knit, with the pattern picked out in purl stitches. It was also actually pretty easy to get the pattern down, despite the frequent changes from row to row. I did use a different border than the pattern called for. The author uses a 1x1 ribbing around the edge, but I felt like that looked a bit uneven, so I did a seed stitch around instead, and I am very happy with how it came out.

I think the most difficult part of this project was my needles. My size 7 straights are ridiculously long, and my size 7 double-points are really short (meant more for working in the round on smaller projects like socks, I think), so I went with my size 7 circular needles. This would have been fine except for the cable. It was much longer than I needed too, so it was constantly getting in my way. It was mostly just a minor annoyance, but still. Definitely a reminder that I am still building up the proper needle collection.

I have another small project I want to try to get done this week (after I go pick up some appropriate needles), so hopefully that will keep my spirits and motivation up. I am going to need it, too. Right now I have one project on the needles that is going much more slowly than I would like. It is not hard, just a little tedious (though I really do love the yarn, so that is helping a bit). I am hoping to have that project done by the end of November, but we shall see if that happens or not. I have another large project, this one crochet, that I will be starting in October and pretty much planning to devote the majority of my crafting time to until it is finished. It doesn't need to be done until the middle of November, but I don't want to slack on that one. I already have done the pattern swatch, and I think it is going to look really spiffy. Here, have a peek:

October project pattern swatch.

That would free me up for most of December to get any holiday projects done in theory, so this seems like a good plan. But wait, there's more! Apparently I feel that, like Stargate Atlantis' Rodney McKay, I do my best work under pressure. Because I decided that I would also participate in this season's Knit Along at Lion Brand, which is a really cool looking sweater--which is kind of another huge project. Also, I have never knit a sweater before, so holy crap, what am I thinking? Still, I couldn't stop myself. Sigh. Not to mention that Lion Brand announced a new yarn this week that I had to get to make something for one of my best friends. But that I know will be a quick project, so it's okay, I think. That can be one of my distraction projects.

So as you can see, the party never ends over here. Just looking at my crafting plans for the next two months makes me wonder if I will still have my sanity (well, what's left of it) by the end of the year. Then I realize that crafts are only one small part of everything else I have going on. Oy vey.

Should be interesting to see how it all turns out, eh?

Monday, September 26, 2011

SGA Rewatch: Condemned

I know, I know, Mondays suck. No one wants to dive back into the week if we're being honest with ourselves. Still, one thing guaranteed to make any Monday a better day? The Stargate Atlantis Rewatch! Lucky you! So, sit back, kick up your feet for a few, and enjoy today's discussion of the season two episode "Condemned." Spoilers ahoy, of course.

What Happened

Team Sheppard is away, breaking in Ronon on his first mission with the group. They arrive through the gate to a new planet via puddle jumper and do a quick flyover. Neither Teyla nor Ronon believe they have been there before. Spotting smoke from a campfire, they set down the jumper and go to explore. They find a settlement that appears to have been recently (and hastily) deserted, only to discover that the inhabitants were actually lying in wait to ambush them. 

The villagers manage to pin them down despite some rather rudimentary weapons. Ronon is shot in the leg with an arrow--and to McKay's bewilderment just breaks off the haft and then pulls it right out. Before much damage can be done, however, a ship appears and hovers over the village, chasing off the team's attackers. They hightail it back to the jumper, where they are hailed over the radio by the other ship. The voice tells them that the ship was dispatched as soon as the gate activation was detected and invites them to follow it back to the city.

The city, Olesia, turns out to be on another body of land. It is extremely modern looking and seems to be very technologically advanced, at least a bit beyond Earth's current capabilities. An aide named Marin meets them and apologizes for their encounter with the villagers. She explains that the gate is located on an island that the Olesians use as a penal colony. This raises all sorts of new questions but Marin deflects and escorts them to the Magistrate for further information. 

The team is very curious as to how the Olesians have been left alone by the wraith long enough to advance their society so far. The Magistrate explains that the wraith do not bother them, because when the wraith come through the stargate, they feed on the prisoners and are sated. The team is more than a little uncomfortable at the idea that the Olesians just feed their prisoners to the wraith, but the Magistrate assures them that only the most violent criminals are sent to the island. In almost the same breath, however, he mentions what a great deterrent that is against crime and declares that it is actually almost nonexistent in Olesia these days. (Which brings up the unasked question: If crime is so rare, how are there enough people to keep the wraith from turning on the city, and why were there so many people on the island when the team arrived?)

A side effect to the stargate's location is that the Olesians have pretty much no access to it and thus almost no opportunity for trade with other planets. As a result they are very self-sufficient, but the Magistrate is very interested in negotiating trade relations with the Lanteans. (Their cover story is that they were in Atlantis, but the city was destroyed and only a few people escaped to set up shop elsewhere.) The Magistrate gives them access to a secure radio communication so they can report back to Elizabeth about what they found. The advanced science of the Olesians makes her willing to find out more about them and talk potential trade, despite their unorthodox method of capital punishment.

With first contact made, Sheppard and team load up in the jumper to head back to Atlantis. Elizabeth will go to Olesia later to meet with the Magistrate for the actual negotiations. On the way back, however, the prisoners are waiting and use a very primitive cannon to shoot down the jumper. Their first shot is lucky and damages the ship, causing it to crash. They are close enough to dial the gate, though, and do so, thinking to run for it on foot. The prisoners get to them as they are exiting the jumper, however, and take them hostage, helping themselves to all of the team's weapons and supplies. They tie the team up in a building and their leader, Torrell, reveals that he wants their ship so that his people can leave the island.

In Atlantis, Elizabeth is extremely worried when the gate dials in but no one sends an IDC code, radios in, or tries to come through. She knows that Sheppard was due in at that time and surmises that something probably happened to his team. She radios Major Lorne to get a jumper and a team ready to escort her to Olesia to find out what happened.

The team, meanwhile, test their bonds to see if they can manage an escape, but to no avail. Ronon gets very angry and starts talking about what he's going to do when he gets loose, but Sheppard tells him to calm down. They verbally spar a little bit but Ronon subsides after Sheppard makes it an order. Torrell susses out that Rodney will be the one to fix the ship and sends him with one of the prisoners, Eldon, to get to work. Rodney claims that the ship can't be fixed and Torrell says he doesn't believe that and thinks Rodney is lying. To motivate Rodney, he threatens to kill off the rest of his team one by one if Rodney doesn't comply. 

Elizabeth and Lorne arrive on Olesia and cloak the jumper as soon as they are through the gate, thus avoiding detection from the prisoners. They head for the city and meet with the Magistrate, who is surprised to learn that Sheppard's team did not return. He tries to suggest that maybe they went somewhere else but Elizabeth knows they would have contacted her first, and he grudgingly admits it is likely they fell afoul of the prisoners. He offers to send out a few ships to search the island for the missing team, though he is very insistent that Lorne not take his own team in the jumper to search, claiming that his own people are much better prepared for such a search. Elizabeth and Lorne share a pointed look at this but do not argue the point.

Rodney and Eldon don't have much luck with the jumper, but Rodney does learn that Eldon was the one who designed the cannon and explosives that shot them down. Eldon claims that he is innocent of the crime he was sent to the island for committing, but Rodney doesn't believe him. Torrell takes Rodney back to the rest of the team and ties him back up, telling him to decide which of his team members will get killed first, since he hasn't fixed the ship yet. Eldon sneaks in to the back of the hut and offers to cut them loose if they will take him with them when they leave. He once more protests his conviction, explaining that most of the prisoners (Torrell excluded) were sent to the island on trumped up charges or for very petty crimes. Despite what the Magister told the team, all criminals are sent to the island these days, not just the violent ones. (Unasked question answered.) 

Rodney says it is all a moot point since he can't fix the ship, but Eldon declares that he knows that's not true, he can tell Rodney was holding something back. Sheppard agrees to Eldon's terms and then Rodney finally admits that while the ship itself can't be repaired, he might be able to rig the DHD to dial so that they can at least get out of there on foot. Satisfied, Eldon moves to cut them free, starting with Ronon, who quickly disarms him and wants to kill him just for being one of the enemy. Sheppard makes him stand down and they sneak out through the hole Eldon used to enter. As they leave, the camera pans to an active walkie-talkie hidden in the hut. Torrell had found it going through their supplies and planted it in the hut to find out if Rodney was telling the truth about the ship being irreparable. Luckily, Sheppard realizes that their escape went off too easily and they stop well back from the jumper, taking a good look and spotting the prisoners waiting to ambush them again. Eldon swears he didn't know anything about the ambush. As they are planning on a way to draw Torrell's men from the jumper to allow Rodney time to fix the DHD a wraith comes through the gate and the prisoners scatter, heading for cover.

In the city, the Magistrate tells Elizabeth and Lorne that a culling has begun on the island, interrupting their search for Sheppard's team. He then quickly excuses himself, saying he must deal with the situation. He heads for a dining room where a lavish meal is set out on the table and a wraith sits in one of the seats, clearly expecting him. He apologizes for being late and sits down to eat with the wraith. It is quickly revealed that the Magistrate and the wraith have an arrangement wherein the Magistrate ensures that a certain quota is met on the island and the wraith, rather than hibernating like his kindred, receives a steady diet of humans to feed on, in turn leaving the city of Olesia to flourish, safe from culling. The wraith informs the Magistrate that with the awakening of his kindred, he is going to need a larger quota filled. He has promised some of his friends he would provide for them, seeing as with all of the wraith awake at once there is something of a food shortage. The Magistrate says he will do what he can, understanding the thinly veiled threat that if he doesn't deliver, the people in the city will be on the new menu.

In the waiting chamber, Elizabeth and Lorne are getting anxious for news when Marin sneaks into the room and says they should leave the city right away. She tells them that the Magistrate has rescinded the order to resume the search for Sheppard's team. She also announces that several arrests have been made with no charges specified and that those people are being prepared for immediate shipment to the island. Elizabeth and Lorne realize that the Magistrate is beefing up the "herd" for the wraith, and Marin confesses that this has been going on for quite some time. She clearly hopes that the Lanteans might be able to help her put a shop to this. The Magistrate walks in as she is telling them all of this and has her arrested and dragged off. Elizabeth asks what will happen to her and all of the other people arrested and he tries to prevaricate, saying Marin was part of a group trying to overthrow the government. Elizabeth doesn't buy it and tells the Magistrate that she and her people are leaving. He looks for a moment as if he might try to stop her, but Lorne and his men are very persuasive and he backs down. She also calls him out on what is really going on with the island and tells him that she is calling off all attempts at an alliance between their peoples. Then she and Lorne's team leave.

Sheppard's team has made good use of the distraction provided by the dart and Rodney has gotten close to getting the DHD working. Ronon sees the dart leave and shortly after that Torrell's people return to the downed ship. Sheppard, Teyla, and Ronon move out to fight off the prisoners while Rodney and Eldon finish the repairs. Unarmed, Sheppard and Teyla use sticks to fight, and Ronon just says screw it and takes on everyone hand to hand, because he is that kind of badass. Still, the three are quickly overwhelmed, and just as Rodney finishes the repairs Torrell's group gains control of the jumper.  Torrell orders Rodney to dial the team's home planet, planning to take more of their weapons and hopefully more ships. Rodney refuses and Sheppard tells Torrell it's not gonna happen. As they argue about it, a wraith cruiser descends upon the island. 

Lorne and Elizabeth are in the second jumper, almost to the island, when Lorne picks up the cruiser on the jumper's scanners. He also picks up several more headed their way. Elizabeth orders him to cloak the ship and get to the island quickly so they can find their people before the wraith do.

With the arrival of the cruiser, Rodney attempts to dial out so they can all get the heck out of there, but it fritzes out. His repair was only a temporary fix. He isn't sure he can get the DHD working again quickly enough so Sheppard asks him about the weapons capability. Rodney is able to do a quick reroute to power the firing of one drone. Sheppard takes the shot and does manage to do some damage to the cruiser. It changes course, leaving the area to avoid taking more fire. From the second jumper, Lorne and Elizabeth see the drone and are able to zero in on Sheppard's location. Elizabeth contacts Sheppard on the radio to let him know they are there and that the cruiser is leaving but that more are inbound. Sheppard orders Lorne to dial one of the back-up Alpha Site locations and tells Torrell that any of his people that want to leave the island need to get gone now. The prisoners flee through the gate and once they are all gone (except Eldon), Sheppard has Lorne dial Atlantis and they all go home.

Deprived of people to cull on the island, the remaining cruisers head for Olesia, and the episode closes on a horrified Magistrate watching from a window as a cruiser arrives in the city.


Season two seems to be largely about exploring what lengths people in the Pegasus galaxy will go to in order to avoid being culled. Certainly when the Magistrate originally made his "arrangement" with the wraith, he was able to convince himself that he was only sacrificing the worst of the worst. But as the episode goes to show, the wraith are greedy, and they have no qualms about going back on deals or finding loopholes around them when it suits their purposes. So for this particular episode, I guess the moral is, "don't make deals with the wraith." This will be very important later in the season. Also, possibly another moral might be "don't trust people who are stupid/deluded enough to think they can safely make deals with the wraith." I do feel sorry for the majority of Olesia. Perhaps the whole society was complicit in the atrocity committed by the Magistrate by allowing prisoners to be placed on an island with the stargate, thus marking them for the wraith. But there were plenty of people, like Marin, who would object to the process upon realizing its true scope. Also, an entire society like that is chock full of innocent people who are now wraith-chow just because their leaders were morally corrupt. So, I guess a third moral is "politicians suck and they don't do anyone any good."

I am amazed at how the whole episode, being about the death penalty, manages to skirt around taking any sort of stance on whether or not it is a good thing. That is kind of impressive, and I guess a little disappointing. It's one of many issues that gets brought up in this series as something that needs critical examination and thorough, careful consideration but then never actually gets debated. It's...weird. But given that at its heart Stargate Atlantis is really the most lighthearted of the Stargates, maybe it isn't all that surprising that the show tried to shy away from serious discussion on some of these darker topics. Either that or the writers just didn't know how to comment on these issues once they brought them up in the story. You choose.

Another big point of this episode was integrating Ronon into the team dynamic. Whereas Ford was just a by-the-book, follow-orders-without-question Marine, Ronon needs to test his limits. Part of this is finding his place on a team, as a soldier, again. But part of it also is testing Sheppard to make sure he really is worth following. Ronon didn't join Atlantis because he was lonely, or at least that wasn't his primary reason. He joined because he wants to kill as many wraith as possible. Teyla managed to convince him that Sheppard and his people are the key to doing this, but he now needs to see for himself and be absolutely sure. It's very cool to watch the process and see him figure out where and how he fits in.

The last thing about this episode is that it gave us a little bit more information on the wraith. For one thing, we learn that they can eat regular food. They just don't get any sustenance from it. This will come into play again very soon, actually. Another tidbit is that while we know the wraith as a whole are opposed to letting humans get very technologically advanced, some of them are willing to look the other way if it means a steady diet of humans they don't have to hunt for. Also, the wraith are willing to work with humans, as long as they get something they want out of the deal.

Favorite Quotes

"There's no sign of any settlements. At least, nothing recent." (Rodney)
"Other than the smoke from that campfire." (Ronon)
"Ah, yes. Well, I mean other than that." (Rodney)

"Margaret Thatcher wasn't creepy. Okay, well, maybe a little." (Rodney)

"You're referring to the ship you just shot down? The one that doesn't stand a hope in hell of ever flying again?" (Rodney)
"The ship that you're gonna fix, yes." (Torrell)
"What am I, MacGyver? Fix it with what?" (Rodney)

"I was beginning to think you were afraid to fight." (Ronon)
"No, I'm just naturally lazy. But I will if I have to, and it's starting to look like we have to." (Sheppard)

"How's it coming Rodney?" (Sheppard)
"Slower than I expected, but faster than humanly possible." (Rodney)

And there you have it for today, folks. Now, back to your Monday with you, and I'll see you back here on Wednesday for the next episode, "Trinity."

Friday, September 23, 2011

Dragon Cycle

Remember when I told you about Squishable a while back? I mean, it's hard not to love a company whose motto is "They're giant, round, fuzzy stuffed animals. Hug them." (TM) At the time, our household was home to three of the critters: a mini dragon, mini T-Rex, and a regular sized manatee.

I have since then acquired two more, the massive dragon and the regular dragon. That's right, I now have the full Squishable dragon cycle!

Squish, Neville, and Norbert.

The massive dragon, Norbert, came to live with us on my birthday. Hubby and I went out to a movie with friends and when I got home, he had managed to sneak past my mother-in-law (he's stealthy) and was hiding in our bedroom, waiting to surprise me. Then this past Saturday Neville, the medium dragon, joined us as well, after Squishable sent out a customer survey that came with a 20% discount at the store for completion. 

Mostly, they just hang out with us in the living room, though Baby Girl has great fun rearranging them at least once a day. She very much enjoys riding Norbert. Sometimes she tries to take him into another room, and this is one of the most amusing things I have ever seen her do, as he is much bigger than she. This doesn't stop her though. She keeps going until she gets to a doorway that she can't smush him through, and then he just ends up guarding the hall until I retrieve him. One day, I am gonna remember to bust out the video camera when she tries to move him, really, I am. 

Here are a few more photos, in which my daughter tries to ride them all, so you can get an idea of scale.

Norbert is a lot easier to sit on when he's on the floor.

Neville is really not quite big enough, hon...

Baby fail? Dragon fail? Hard to say really, mostly just SMUSH.

She can't even sit on Squish properly, not that that stops her from trying.

These things are just so much fun--for the whole family, even! There are two more that we need to adopt--the full size T-Rex and the mini manatee--and after that I will do my best to resist their further charms--until they come out with something else awesome that just calls to me anyway.

Enjoy your weekend! I shall be playing with dragons.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

State of The Gaming

I often joke that I have sold my soul to Bioware, but you know, I am not so sure anymore that it's a joke. I haven't been able to muster up any kind of interest or excitement lately for games that aren't made by Bioware, all the while, the games that are, I can't get out of my head.

For example, I am very close to completing my second playthrough of Mass Effect 2, complete with all of the downloadable content. It looks likely that I will finish it in the next few days, probably by the end of the weekend, but within a week at the most. Last night I finished reading the first Mass Effect tie-in novel, Revelation, written by the game's lead writer Drew Karpyshyn. It was fantastic. Set before the first game, it tells the story of how Anderson and Saren first met and why they really don't like each other by the time Commander Shepard comes on the scene. I am very glad that I went ahead an purchased all three of the existing novels at one time, because I immediately jumped into the second book, Ascension, once I finished the first. Those plus my playthrough will probably be enough to tide me over until March, when Mass Effect 3 is released.

But now comes the question of what to play next. The plan is to start up a new playthrough of Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic to get myself once more familiar with that world before the MMORPG Star Wars: The Old Republic is released at the start of the new year. Make no mistake, I am really excited about The Old Republic, and I do want to give KOTOR another go before that comes out. Yet I am not so sure...

...because there is, of course, Dragon Age to consider. Isn't there always? Even though I am playing Mass Effect at the moment, and getting very excited about the forthcoming The Old Republic, Dragon Age is still very much on my mind. I just can't shake it. I have a feeling I might not be able to completely shake it until I have played through all of the origin stories in the first game, and possibly until I have romanced all of the available love interests in the second. To get my fix while I am not playing, I have been lurking on the edges of the fandom of late. Primarily at Dragon Age Confessions (which is pretty much my new crack) and deviantART. There are some really super comics being made by fans. Some are just one-shots, some are episodic stories, going through the events of the game(s). There are some amazingly talented people out there, y'all. It's crazy. I know there is a new book coming out in December as well, so I am really looking forward to that. Plus there's Felicia Day's web series, which finally has a release date of October 11 (yay!) and a new DLC quest featuring her character from said web series. I have thus far managed to avoid the fan fiction. I know it's out there, but I am really trying to not go down that road, because I fear there would be no coming back. I dunno, Dragon Age just fires my mind up and gets my imagination pumping in a way that nothing in the entertainment world has done since Stargate Atlantis first came into my life.*

So...yeah. I have until at least the end of the year to do my playthrough of KOTOR. I haven't decided if I'll play its woefully subpar sequel again or not, but I am kind of leading toward no. Say it takes me about a month to play--that means I don't really have to start my playthrough until the first of December. Which gives me a little over a month to do another run through Dragon Age: Origins (and the new Dragon Age II DLC), since November is a no game month (writing). I mean, it's something to think about at least...

Geez Bioware, why do you have to make so many awesome games, huh?

*This actually gives me a little bit of hope. While I am still completely in love with Stargate Atlantis and all things Stargate, I did eventually come up for air. So thankfully it seems unlikely that Dragon Age will continue to consume me like this forever. Fingers crossed anyway.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

SGA Rewatch: Duet

It's that time again, time for another entry in the Stargate Atlantis Rewatch on this here blog. Today's episode is season two's delightful "Duet," which happens to be one of my favorite Stargate Atlantis episodes of all time. There will, of course, be spoilers if you haven't seen the episode or any of those preceding it, but if this leaves you undaunted then please, read on!

What Happens

A large group of the Atlantis contingent are visiting a planet that has recently been drastically culled by the wraith. They have split up into teams and are in the process of searching for survivors but have no luck in that venture. Teyla remarks to Sheppard over the radio that she has never seen cullings so severe in her lifetime. Sheppard speculates that it is because too many wraith woke up at once this time to be able to sustain their numbers using traditional culling patterns. Sheppard decides to call the mission and orders all of the groups to head back to the gate.

Rodney and Carson are being escorted by a marine new to Atlantis, Lieutenant Laura Cadman. As the three walk through a field of wildflowers, Cadman tells Rodney he should pick some since he has a date the next night with Dr. Katie Brown, one of Atlantis' botanists. Carson is surprised to learn that Rodney has a date and Rodney wants to know how Cadman knows about it. She tells him she learned about it at girls' poker night. She and Carson proceed to tease Rodney until Cadman stops and tells Rodney to shut up, saying she heard something. The "something" turns out to be a wraith dart. She orders the doctors to run and manages to push Carson out of the way of a culling beam just in time. Unfortunately, she and Rodney are caught up by the beam instead.

Lorne and Teyla see the wraith dart from their location and over the radio Sheppard exclaims that they cannot let it get through the gate. If it reports back that it saw them, their cover (that Atlantis was destroyed) is blown. Action!Lorne tries to shoot it down with his handy-dandy rocket launcher but misses. Sheppard beats the dart to the gate and orders that it must be shot down, just as Carson comes into view screaming that McKay and Cadman have been culled by the dart. Sheppard manages to shoot the ship down without destroying it, causing it to crash instead. Closest to the crash site, Carson cautiously approaches the dart. The canopy opens to reveal that the pilot is still alive, but injured. Carson's doctor instincts kick in and he tries to reassure the wraith that he can help, when Sheppard runs up and shoots the thing dead. Indignantly, Carson glares at him, only to be told that the wraith was reaching for his self-destruct. He orders one of his men to radio Atlantis and have them send Zelenka there ASAP to try to get Rodney and Cadman out of the dart.

A short while later a very jumpy Zelenka (it is his first time offworld in field capacity) examines the wreckage. He manages to isolate the beaming mechanism and discovers that it is showing two distinct life signs in storage. He has even figured out how to reverse the beaming process. Sheppard tells him to get on with it but he explains there is a problem. There is only enough power left in the dart to beam out one of the two lifes signs, and there is no way of telling which one is which. Sheppard picks one at random and tells him to beam it out, so he does. Rodney appears and immediately collapses. Carson rushes over to check him and pronounces that he is alive and they need to get him back to the infirmary. Sheppard gives the order and then has Zelenka pack up as much of the dart as possible to take back to Atlantis so they can figure out how to get Cadman out as well.

In Atlantis, Sheppard meets up with Ronon in the mess. The Satedan is still under guard but more or less a guest in the city until he figures out where to go next, seeing as his home world isn't really an option. Sheppard asks if Ronon has given any thought to what that "next" will be and Ronon doesn't really know. Sheppard extends the invitation to stay in Atlantis and join his team. Ronon isn't too sure about the idea (he indicates the guards, pointing out that he's not exactly trusted), but Sheppard tells him to think about it.

In the infirmary Rodney wakes up and seems to be more or less alright. Until, that is, he starts hearing Cadman's voice, even though he can't see her anywhere and Carson keeps trying to tell him that Cadman is still stuck in the dart. A panicking Cadman has Rodney conduct a quick experiment and they realize that her consciousness was somehow transferred into Rodney's body when he was beamed out of the dart. She is stuck in his head, literally. Still, he is healthy enough by all of the tests that Carson can run, so Rodney storms down to the lab where the dart is being studied and begins to berate Zelenka for screwing up so badly. The two start to brainstorm about what went wrong and what they can do to fix the problem--there is zero power in the dart and all of their attempts to provide alternate power have ended in overloads thus far--but Rodney is quickly sidetracked by Cadman, who wants him to explain what is going on with her. They quickly start to argue with each other, while everyone else looks on, only able to hear Rodney's side. Elizabeth finally puts her foot down and tells Rodney that he needs to step back and let Zelenka handle the situation. She also orders Rodney to have a sit-down with Kate (the city's psychologist).

A short while later Rodney bumps into Katie Brown, who heard he ran into trouble offworld and wants to make sure he is alright. He doesn't want to tell her about Cadman stuck in his head, which makes for a somewhat awkward encounter. Especially since Cadman starts giving him crap about being so terrible with women while he is talking to Katie.

Sheppard, meanwhile, is biding his time by seeing how Ronon fits in and works with the other soldiers on Atlantis. He has Ronon spar with a group of marines and Ronon manages to give them a sound beat-down, impressing Sheppard. He also takes the Satedan to the firing range, showing him the various firearms equipped by the Lanteans. Ronon is proficient enough in all of them, but tells Sheppard he prefers his own gun, demonstrating by blowing a big hole in the target with one shot.

In Kate's office, she tries to find a way to deal with Rodney and Cadman's very unique situation. Rodney says that they are not equally effected because he still has control of his body while Cadman is just a voice in his head. Kate suggests that maybe Rodney should try letting go of the control for a little while and see if Cadman is able to "drive" the body. Surely not being able to express herself to anyone but Rodney is making the situation even worse for her. Rodney gives it a go and Cadman is able to assume control, speaking through Rodney and moving around a little, but Rodney quickly reasserts control, disliking how it feels to let her be in charge.

Rodney heads back to the lab, unable not to work on the problem. He thinks they are ready to test their most current idea, but Radek argues they should run a few more simulations first. Rodney overrides him and the test does not go well. Radek tells Rodney this is because his calculations are wrong, which he had been trying to tell him. Very firmly, Zelenka says he understands that Rodney's situation is very taxing, but Rodney is starting to make mistakes. Then he kicks Rodney out of the lab. Rodney runs into Sheppard who tells him to get some sleep, which Cadman pipes up sounds like a good idea. Rodney heads to his quarters and passes out in bed. A few minutes later, he gets up again, and it is clear that Laura has taken control once more. She swings by Carson's lab, pretending to be Rodney, and is flattered when Carson says nice things about her. She convinces him that he should come along on Rodney's date with Katie the next night, pointing out how terrible he is with women. Carson, confused, eventually agrees, willing to help Rodney out.

The next morning a very naked Rodney wakes up in Cadman's quarters and is quite indignant to learn that she took over his body and was out running around all night. It's two in the afternoon already! He starts to get dressed, doing his best not to look at himself (and so prevent Cadman from seeing anything) as he does so, even though she says she's already seen it all. He asks why they are even naked in the first place and she quips that she prefers to sleep in the buff. He also complains that he is sore all over and she tells him she took them running before hitting the sack. Rodney grumbles his way through getting dressed, then Cadman brings up the date with Katie that evening. Rodney thinks it will be best to just call it off until the situation is resolved but Cadman blackmails him into going through with it.

Sheppard shows up late for his sparring appointment with Teyla only to find her sparring very aggressively with Ronon. Ronon kind of kicks Teyla's butt and Sheppard freaks out. She tells him that she told Ronon not to take it easy on her, but Sheppard tells her she needs to be careful around Ronon until they are sure of him. Later, Ronon goes to Teyla's quarters to apologize and asks her why she agreed to join the Lanteans. She tells him that despite her people's strength and pride, she believes that the Lanteans are the best hope for everyone in defeating the wraith. She then tells Ronon she thinks he believes this too or he would have left already.

As is to be expected, Rodney's date with Katie is a total disaster. He shows up and is quite shocked to find Carson there, claiming Rodney had invited him. Rodney quickly realizes Cadman must have done that while she had control of his body the night before. Poor Katie just spends the whole thing looking utterly confused, apparently no one told her that Cadman was stuck in Rodney's head. Cadman tries to coach Rodney through the whole thing but he is so off-kilter that eventually she decides he needs to just quit while he's ahead and takes over his body again. Pretending to be Rodney she makes a grand speech about "his" feelings for Katie and apologizes that the date must be cut short. Then she has Rodney sweep up Katie in a big dramatic kiss and leaves. This is followed by an absolutely fantastic scene of Rodney and Cadman arguing and fighting for control of Rodney's body--he wants to go back and explain, she says he needs to just leave it for now. They are interrupted when Rodney is paged to the lab for another (unsuccessful) test of reversing the wraith beam.

After the test Elizabeth pulls Sheppard aside to talk about Ronon. She is annoyed that he extended the invitation for the guy to join his team without discussing it with her first (or asking permission). Sheppard tells her that he thinks it is the right call, but she isn't so sure. They just don't know anything about him at this point. Sheppard urges her to go talk to Ronon herself, sure she will see his value. She goes to find him the next day as he is teaching the marines some of his fighting techniques. She doesn't get much out of him, however.

Rodney and Cadman are then back in Kate's office, bickering about Rodney's disastrous date. Kate tries to referee but without any luck when Rodney suddenly collapses. The struggle for control of his body brought on a seizure. In the infirmary, Carson and Kate explain that however he ended up with two consciousnesses in his body, he can't continue to sustain them. One of them is going to have to let go--and die--or both of them will die. Cadman volunteers, saying she can already feel herself slipping away (and that she knows Rodney won't do it). She asks for a datapad so she can write a last letter to her parents and asks Rodney to deliver it in person the next time he gates back to Earth. Her mention of the stargate gives Rodney an idea, however and he rushes to find Zelenka.

Using one of the stargate's control crystals, Rodney and Zelenka are able to stabilize the power situation with the beaming device, preventing the overloads that have been screwing up the reintegration of all of the test mice (oh, those poor test mice). There isn't time to test it out, however, as Cadman is starting to slip away fully, so they are just going to have to go for it. Before Zelenka fires up the beam though, Cadman seizes control one last time and kisses Carson, much to Rodney's chagrin (and Carson's shock). Just in case. Zelenka beams Rodney/Cadman up and the storage screen shows two distinct life signs once more. He beams them back out and this time both Rodney and Cadman appear, collapsing immediately.

Elizabeth tells Sheppard that if Ronon joins his team, Sheppard will be responsible for keeping him in line, and Sheppard is excited he gets to keep his new friend.

Rodney wakes up in the infirmary again, Cadman in a bed next to his. There is some good-natured ribbing and everyone looks relieved as the episode comes to an end.


Okay, first off, I have to give huge props to David Hewlett for his performance in this episode. Seriously, "Duet" is an amazing display of acting talent from him. He manages to be snarky and funny and tender and terrified without missing a beat. A lesser actor could never have pulled this off. After seeing this episode there was no chance of any character other than Rodney McKay being my favorite Stargate character ever again. This pretty much sealed the deal.

Also, can I just say that Katie Brown must never leave the botany lab, and clearly wears headphones in the mess? Because seriously, how the heck did she not know about the Rodney/Cadman situation? I mean, it was like, three days, with a large portion of the science staff working on the problem. Also, Atlantis is the equivalent of a small town, you know that place is a gossip mill. Not to mention the fact that Rodney is the Chief Science Officer, which means the boss of at least forty percent of the people on the base. How was everyone not talking about that? I mean, come on. Silly squishy scientist. She's lucky she's cute, is all I'm saying.

Moving on, it was interesting to see Ronon getting acclimated to the city (and vice versa). The episode does a good job of showing that he still isn't too comfortable with social niceties, given that he had to spend the last seven years alone and on the run, as far away from civilization as possible lest he bring the wraith crashing down upon them. He actually isn't a barbarian (despite Rodney's continual assertions throughout the series). He was a soldier once, now he's a warrior, and he has to learn how to be around other people all over again. "Duet" does a good job of setting the stage for that. I like, too, that he really honestly does seem to want to impress Sheppard and to earn his trust. I think maybe that is because Sheppard's presence rings some bells from his military past. He sees in this man a leader worthy of following, who for some reason thinks that he, too, is worthy. It's an interesting dynamic. Also interesting? The only time Sheppard openly worried about Ronon's intentions was when he thought the Satedan might hurt Teyla. Hmm.

Lastly, new opening credits, yay! I know that the reason they had to wait until episode four for new opening credits was because Ronon wasn't established as a part of the team and Ford wasn't established as gone until then, but I still think it is weird to switch gears like that in the middle of the season. Oh well. In addition to adding Ronon to the credits, Carson also got added as a full cast member this season, so that's pretty awesome.

Favorite Quotes

"You have a date Rodney? With a woman?" (Carson)
"It's simply two adults sharing some friendly--yes, with a woman!" (Rodney)

"So, you think once the initial shock is over, we'll have the old McKay back?" (Elizabeth)
"I'm afraid so." (Carson)

"According to the MRI, he's as healthy as he ever was." (Carson)
"It doesn't feel very healthy in here!" (Internal!Cadman)

"I'm not crazy. I just have another consciousness in my brain!" (Rodney)

"So, we're cool?" (Sheppard)
"No, you're cool. I'm fine." (Rodney)

"Stop drinking the wine, you're gonna get drunk. Actually, wait, yes! You need to loosen up a bit. Finish it off. Good boy, yeah!" (Internal!Cadman)

"Nice work." (Rodney)
"Well, it was your idea." (Zelenka)
"Well, of course it was. But were...there." (Rodney)

Well, there we have it. That wraps up another week of the rewatch. See you back here Monday for "Condemned."


Tuesday, September 20, 2011

One Skein Wonderings

Well, I almost chickened out on Sunday, but in the end I managed to make myself go to the Sunday Social at my local yarn store, Jenning Street Yarns. It was a little more crowded than I had hoped it would be (and, apparently, more crowded than the owners had expected) but it was still nice. I jumped into a few conversations here and there, but not too many (I didn't want to just butt in). Mostly I just sat and knit quietly and listened. It was good though, and I am glad I did it. I definitely want to try to go back next month.

I was also very good and managed not to buy any yarn, even though several skeins were calling to me. I did pick up a few things, however. I felt it would be rude to come hang out and not buy anything. I needed another row counter necklace, so I picked one of those up. I also snagged a pattern book of baby afghans to crochet, Leisure Arts #5260, that I had been eyeing on my last visit. Of course, I couldn't get past the stitch markers at the checkout counter without picking a few of those up too, sigh. One of these days I will be able to resist.

I had hoped I could find a book of patterns for one-skein projects while I was there, but didn't see anything. I have several random skeins that I have picked up here and there and have no idea what to do with, so I thought they might make for some nice one-skein projects. Looks like I will end up taking my mom's advice and looking up each yarn in Ravelry to see if I can get any good project ideas (and pattern links).

For those that are curious, here's what I've got in my One-Skein Stash.

Cascade 220 Heathers, color 9443.

Picked this one up from Craftsy. I really need to learn how to resist their "deal of the day."

Brown Sheep Cotton Fleece, Dusty Eggplant.

This one came to me from my mother-in-law when she was cleaning out her own stash of yarn, as she very rarely crochets any more.

Cascade 220, color 8339.

Another Craftsy "deal of the day." I think I might see if I can combine this with the Cascade 220 Heathers skein, the colors will look really nice together. I just need to figure out what to make with them.

Cascade Kid Seta, color 837.

Y'all, I have no idea what to do with this yarn. Seriously. This was included in a surprise box from, you guessed it, Craftsy. It is a silk/mohair blend, which I have no use for in my life. Sigh. It is nice and soft, and I don't want it to feel unloved. I think I am going to just have to see what I can find in the ways of patterns for this one and make a gift for someone else.

Red Heart Wintuk, Grape.

This is another one from my mother-in-law. It is awesome and vintage. It's labeled as a "sock and sweater yarn." I want to make something really nifty with this.

Wisdom Poems, color 571.

Finally, I have this Poems from my mom's stash clean-out. I love the name of this yarn, and it makes me want to use it to create something whimsical. We shall see what I can find!

Ideally I would like to use these one-skein projects as quickies in between some of my bigger projects. That way I can feel like I am actually making progress on something and use up some of my stash before it grows sentient and decides to assume full control. I mean, let's face it, it's not like I can't pretend it doesn't have an unnatural amount of control over me already. It's really only a matter of waiting to see if I can keep it from taking over completely at this point.

Monday, September 19, 2011

SGA Rewatch: Runner

Ah, another Monday, another Stargate Atlantis Rewatch post. Today I'm gonna discuss season two's "Runner." For my money, this is the episode that really kicks off the second season.

Spoilers, of course, lie ahead for those who have not seen the episode. Onward!

What Happened

Things kick off with Sheppard's newly installed second-in-command, Major Lorne (Major Lorne!!) following an extremely enthusiastic Dr. Parrish (botanist) through the woods at night. Parrish is waxing poetically about the fascinating flora on the planet, which apparently has an extremely ionized radioactive atmosphere during the day. It's really super close to the sun or something. The radiation means that animal life is not sustainable on the planet. Plant life should be out of the question too, but somehow it seems to thrive instead. Lorne, meanwhile, is questioning his life choices and wondering why he accepted the assignment in Pegasus. While examining a particularly interesting species, Parrish stumbles over the body of a dead wraith. Lorne radios back to the men at the gate, and learning that there has been no wraith activity, he marks the area and immediately hauls Parrish back to Atlantis. Overhead, Commando!Ford watches all of this silently from a perch in a tree.

Lorne reports the situation to Sheppard and Elizabeth on Atlantis and Beckett stops by to let them know that while he hasn't finished his autopsy of the wraith, he did find that its enzyme sac had been removed after it was killed. This immediately brings them all to the conclusion that Ford likely killed the wraith and the hope that he might still be on the planet, since the wraith was quite freshly dead. Sheppard, Teyla, and Rodney prepare to return to the planet with Lorne in a jumper to see if they can find their wayward friend. On the way out of Elizabeth's office, Caldwell pulls Sheppard aside and reminds him that Ford, with his knowledge of the city, is a threat to their security if he can't be recaptured. He advises that Sheppard needs to be prepared to kill Ford if he can't be brought back in. Sheppard doesn't want to hear it, but he knows it is probably true. Still, he is not willing to give up on Ford quite yet.

Back on the planet, Lorne's men are left to guard the gate and the jumper while Sheppard, Teyla, Rodney, and Lorne split up to search for Ford. They can't use the life signs detectors because the radiation absorbed by the plants during the day messes up the sensors at night. All of the foliage also prevents them from doing any kind of aerial search in the jumper. Sheppard and Teyla, looking at the site where the wraith was found, wonder what a lone wraith was doing on the planet on foot in the first place. As they search, each team thinks they've got Ford's trail and hear someone in the woods, giving pursuit. Lorne radios Sheppard just as Teyla is hit by a beam of red energy, falling to the ground. Sheppard tells Lorne he will have get back to him and goes to check on Teyla, only to be shot by the energy beam himself.

Sheppard and Teyla wake up in a cave, tied together back to back with their hands bound. A big wild looking dude, not Ford, is going through their stuff. Seeing they are awake, he comes over to them, and Sheppard starts talking, introducing himself, giving his rank and name, then Teyla introduces herself. The big man introduces himself as Specialist Ronon Dex. Sheppard asks if Ronon is military as well and Ronon replies that he used to be, but that was a long time ago. Now, he's just deciding whether or not to kill them and the rest of their friends. Sheppard quickly starts trying to negotiate their release, he and Teyla explaining that they mean Ronon no harm and are just there looking for their friend. Ronon flashes back to being chased by a wraith and encountering Ford on the planet. He tells them he saw their friend, that Ford killed the wraith that was hunting him.

Meanwhile, Lorne and Rodney, having lost their quarry as well as contact with Sheppard, have reported back to the jumper, radioing in to Atlantis for reinforcements to search for the missing team members. Rodney also has Elizabeth send through all of the city's radiation suits, since the sun has come up, but he is the only one who actually wears one (the other scientists have said that limited exposure to the planet's radiation will not be that harmful). He and Lorne are back out on the search and of course Rodney is slowed down by the cumbersome suit. While Lorne is distracted trying to cajole Rodney into keeping up, and realizing how much better he had it with Parrish, he is shot by a wraith stunner. Rodney immediately panics and tries to radio for help, pulling out his gun and waving it wildly about when Ford steps out from cover, easily disarming Rodney and taking away his radio.

He leaves Lorne where he fell and tells Rodney (at gunpoint when the scientist balks) to come with him. He tells Rodney that he is "better than fine" and loves his new "superpowers." He says he just needs to prove it to Rodney and everyone else so that he can go back. Rodney tells him he can come back any time, but he knows they'll try to "fix" him if he does. So first he's going to save Sheppard and Teyla to prove that he is better how he is, and then they'll let him stay like that and come home. Ford has clearly gone 'round the bend a bit by this point. Drugs are bad kids, mmmkay?

In the cave, Sheppard and Teyla manage to get free of their bonds and recover their weapons, getting the drop on Ronon. They have a standoff, Ronon says he just needs to get through the gate and go somewhere else. The wraith are coming for him. Something clicks with Teyla and she realizes out loud that he is a "runner." Sheppard is, of course, confused, and Ronon tells them about being captured by wraith who started to feed on him and then changed their minds. Instead they planted a tracking device of sorts in his back and set him free so they could hunt him for sport. He tells them that he decided to hunt the wraith right back.

Meanwhile, Ford is explaining to Rodney about "the guy" that has Sheppard and Teyla. He tells Rodney he was on a wraith-controlled planet trying to get some more enzyme when he saw one armed to the teeth go through the gate alone. He figured one wraith would be easier to take down than a whole gaggle of them and so he followed. The wraith must have been hunting Sheppard's captor, because when Ford caught up to him he was chasing that guy.

Sheppard, trying to bargain with Ronon, promises to call his men off and let him pass through the gate if he will give back their radios. Ronon doesn't trust either of them, says Sheppard can order his men to stand down in person, since he will be coming along to the gate as a hostage. Sheppard, realizing how skittish Ronon is, worries that someone is going to get hurt in this scenario. Grasping at straws, he tells Ronon that they can help him remove the tracking device. Ronon hesitates but then makes the deal, promising that if Sheppard can get the device removed, he will bring back Sheppard's friend.

Ronon lets Sheppard go back to the jumper to send for Carson, keeping Teyla as security. Carson is, of course, once more annoyed that his services have been volunteered without his knowledge. This time to do surgery in the middle of the woods on a hostile stranger with a crazy Ford presumed still out there and wraith due in at any moment. Still, he packs up his gear and heads out, determined to do what he can.

Rodney and Ford are still wandering the woods looking for Sheppard, Teyla, and Ronon. Rodney calls Ford out on being lost and Ford kind of cracks, alternating between threatening Rodney and trying to convince him he is just fine. Rodney somehow manages to almost talk Ford down, tells him to just come back with him to the jumper and everything will be fine. He is sure Carson can figure out a way to make Ford feel better without getting rid of his new "superpowers." Ford is very tempted, but says first he has to prove himself and save Sheppard and Teyla. He tells Rodney to head back to the jumper and then heads back into the woods. Exasperated, Rodney follows him.

Waiting for Carson, Teyla talks to Ronon, convincing him that it is not necessary to keep his gun on her. She asks him about being a runner. She had heard of them all her life but had believed the stories to be just that, tales. Ronon tells her that he has been a runner for seven years, alone all that time, not by choice but because he can't risk staying in one place too long. One time, he did, and it brought the wraith down on the village where he was staying, the wraith wiped it out completely. So he stays by himself and he keeps moving.

When Carson arrives at the cave (Sheppard stays out of sight up on a ridge, with a sniper rifle aimed at Ronon, just in case), Ronon isn't quite sure what to make of him. He keeps his gun pointed at Teyla during the whole procedure and refuses to allow Carson to administer any anesthesia or to lie down for the procedure. Carson grumbles but carries on, using a scanner to locate the device. Ronon's back is covered with scars from previous attempts to remove it (one his own, the rest "doctors" he encountered on various worlds). Carson is more affronted by the botched surgery attempts than Ronon himself. Carson manages to pull out the device and as soon as he does, Ronon passes out, leaving Carson and Teyla staring at each other in bewilderment.

In the woods, Rodney and Ford run into two soldiers from Atlantis. Rodney is relieved and goes to greet them but Ford stuns them with his wraith gun, claiming they can't be trusted. Rodney gets really mad and calls Ford on his crazy, pulling out the gun that Ford had given him during a friendlier moment and telling Ford that he is coming with Rodney back to the gate. Ford refuses and they exchange angry words, Rodney's gun accidentally going off and hitting Ford in the soldier. Ford looks at Rodney in astonishment and, realizing his error, Rodney turns tail and runs for his life, Ford shooting after him and Rodney shooting his gun in the air, hoping to attract the attention of allies.

Hearing the gunfire from Ronon's cave, Teyla and Sheppard duck back inside to gather their weapons and find that Ronon has disappeared. Sheppard tells Teyla to get Carson back to the gate and goes to investigate the shots. Just as this is going on, the gate fires up and a wraith dart comes through. Major Lorne manages to get the jumper cloaked in time and alerts Sheppard to the situation.

Running from Ford, Rodney gets caught up in a snare. Ford comes upon him hanging upside down and panicking. Rodney tries to talk some sense into Ford again but Ford replies no, he's still going to have to kill Rodney. Just as he is about to take his shot, Ronon barrels into him and the two begin brawling. Sheppard manages to find the group as Ronon disarms Ford. When Ford reaches for his gun Sheppard stops him and Ford takes off, refusing to go back with them. Sheppard goes after him, leaving Ronon to cut Rodney down from the snare. Sheppard tries to convince Ford one more time to come back, even going so far as to shoot him in the leg to stop him from running away, but it doesn't even slow Ford down. The wraith dart zooms overhead, culling beam out, and Ford jumps into the beam to escape, shouting "I'll show you!" at Sheppard in parting.

Back on Atlantis Sheppard makes his report. They are all worried about Ford but unsure of what they can do for him at this point. Caldwell is, of course, pissed at Sheppard for letting Ford get away alive, convinced that he will give away the fact that Atlantis is still very much around.

Sheppard goes to speak with Ronon, who came back with them. He asked them to contact his home world, Sateda, thinking to go back now that the tracking device has been removed. Sheppard ushers Ronon to the gate room where they show him an image from the MALP they sent to Sateda. It has been completely wiped out by the wraith, no survivors, and it looks like the damage was done quite some time ago. Ronon stalks off in despair.


Major Lorne! Yay! I love his snarks with Rodney, it's wonderful. I adore Kavan Smith, largely because of his role as Major Lorne, so it is nice to finally have him in the city, calmly dealing with all of the crazy the Pegasus galaxy likes to throw at him.

Also, Ronon, yay! Jason Momoa actually initially auditioned for the role of Ford, but didn't get it because he didn't want to cut off his dreads. So when the showrunners decided they needed to bring in a new character, someone wilder and more of a challenge to Sheppard than the happy-go-lucky puppy dog Ford, they came up with Ronon, which Momoa was perfect for. I can't even imagine how things would have worked out if he had entered in as Ford in the first place. I wonder where the story would have gone?

Also, clearly, Ford is no longer happy-go-lucky, poor guy. He is determined that he is "better" in crazy doped up mode, and he is apparently a little obsessed with showing Sheppard that this is the case. It, well, it can't really end well, can it?

Largely this episode serves as an exit for Ford (though not the final chapter in his story quite yet) and an entrance for Ronon. We also get some further establishment of the power struggle between Caldwell and the senior staff--this time with Sheppard. He's got to find his place in Pegasus, and it's not going to be easy for him. Plus, we got some nifty expansion on the mythology of the wraith. Runners, what a horrible concept. Seriously, the argument can be made that okay, the wraith eat people and that's just their biology, that doesn't make them evil, necessarily. But their actions? Those actions just keep proving the evil is as evil does rule day in and day out, folks.

Favorite Quotes

"Major, you've got McKay." (Sheppard)
"Oh, lucky me." (Lorne)

"I've been keeping a running tally of my lifetime exposure to radiation: X-rays, cell phones, plane rides, that whole unfortunate Genii nuclear reactor thing. My god, last week we flew dangerously close to the corona of a sun! As it is I may have to forego reproducing!" (Rodney)
"Yeah, that's funny. I was just thinking that might be wise." (Lorne)

"For what it's worth, I'd never send you in there if I thought the guy was gonna hurt you." (Sheppard)
"Is that opinion based on some sort of evidence, or is it just a gut feeling that this gentleman isn't dangerous?" (Carson)
"I didn't say he wasn't dangerous. He could probably kill you in the blink of an eye. I don't think he will." (Sheppard)
"Well thank you, I feel much better now!" (Carson)

"You can't kill an unarmed upside down man!" (Rodney)

There we have it, another rewatch complete. Come back Wednesday to tackle one of my favorite episodes of the entire series, "Duet," won't you?