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."


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