Wednesday, November 2, 2011

SGA Rewatch: The Long Goodbye

Greetings fellow travelers! Welcome to another stop in our tour of the Pegasus galaxy gate system here at the Stargate Atlantis Rewatch. Continuing with season two, today's destination is the episode "The Long Goodbye." Join us, won't you? But be sure to keep an eye out for those nefarious spoilers as we go along, they are thick in these here parts.

What Happened

The team is cruising in the jumper through space and Rodney is attempting to explain the concept of television programming to Ronon and Teyla. Ronon is dubious but the conversation is interrupted when a proximity alarm sounds. The jumper has detected two very old vessels floating in space. They are small but each big enough to hold a person. Sheppard posits that maybe they are coffins and Teyla suggests they could have been jettisoned from a passing ship. Closer scans indicate, however, that they are definitely not coffins as Rodney is picking up life signs from both pods. The jumper cannot carry them both, so they scoop up one and radio for Lorne to pick up the other one in another jumper and head back to Atlantis with their find.

Elizabeth is heading down to the lab to check out the first pod when Caldwell stops by her office. The Daedalus is running some kind of maintenance that requires it to basically fly in circles around the solar system for a while, so he tells her he thought he'd beam down and start trying to make his own repairs in the wake of his possession by a goa'uld. Elizabeth assures him that is not necessary and asks if he would like to accompany her to see Sheppard's latest find. 

They arrive in time to see Rodney open the pod, with Carson on hand to check on its occupant. An old woman is revealed and Carson checks her readings, pronouncing that her vital signs are very weak. He does not think she has long to live at all. She has clearly been in the pod for a very long time. Elizabeth wonders aloud if the woman might be an Ancient but Rodney does not think so based on the design of the pod. Elizabeth steps closer to get a better look at the woman and is engulfed in a bright light from the pod, collapsing once the light disappears.

She comes around in the infirmary and it is quickly revealed that the consciousness of the old woman, Phebus, has been transferred into Elizabeth's body. Phebus assures them that the imprint is only temporary and will wear off in a few hours. She surmises that if the pod felt the need to transfer her consciousness, her body must be a lost cause and they admit this is the case. She thanks them for rescuing her, explaining that the pod was a life boat of sorts, and she had to escape her ship in it after an attack. Uncomfortable with the idea of someone taking over Elizabeth, no matter how benevolent she might seem, Sheppard asks if he can speak to Elizabeth. Phebus agrees and after a moment it seems as if Elizabeth is back in control. She assures them that she is fine and that everything is alright. She adds that Phebus believes the other pod they found might be her husband and wishes to be there when they open it. If it is him, she would like for Sheppard to take on his consciousness so that the two might say a final goodbye.

In the lab with the second pod, Rodney and Caldwell discuss the imprinting protocol. Rodney thinks it is probably a failsafe put in place in the event that the body is not recovered before death or too badly damaged to be revived. The pods store the occupant's consciousness, and if necessary, imprint it on someone else when the pod is recovered. Basically it is like a black box, so that the occupant can give a final report on what happened that caused him or her to end up in the pod. Caldwell is uncomfortable at the idea of a human flight recorder. 

Sheppard has reluctantly agreed to host Phebus' husband, and Caldwell asks him to surrender his weapons, just in case, so Sheppard hands his gun to Rodney. They crack open the second pod and Carson announces that his vitals are even weaker than the first. Phebus watches eagerly as Sheppard steps forward to be imprinted. He does not collapse like Elizabeth did but it takes a moment for the new personality to come forward. Phebus greets him as Thalen and he looks around, clearly a bit confused. Phebus carefully explains where they are and that the Lanteans have agreed to give them one last chance to say goodbye. Thalen is surprised that they would consent to this and Phebus says pointedly they are allowing a husband and wife one last goodbye, then she kisses him. After, they talk again and seem to be discussing the protocol that they aren't armed, but that there are two guards on the room, one on each door. A silent agreement seems to pass between them and they break apart, one for each door, knocking out the guards and taking their weapons. Then they start shooting at each other while everyone watches on in shock. Rodney covers his eyes and starts shooting off Sheppard's gun in their general directions.

Thalen is winged and he takes off while Phebus holds the rest of the room at bay. She reveals that she and Thalen are not, in fact, married, but actually mortal enemies. Now she has one last chance to kill him. Caldwell tries to call for a security team but she stuns him. Carson starts to object and she stuns him too. She orders Rodney to redact Caldwell's request but he stumbles through it so nervously  she stuns him as well. As she leaves the room, taking Rodney's gun, she taps Elizabeth's radio and sends out as city-wide message as Elizabeth that Sheppard has been possessed by an alien and everyone is to stay away from him. She runs into Lorne and his team, who are responding to Caldwell's message and she tells them to come with her to hunt down Thalen.

Teyla and Ronon arrive at the lab and revive their stunned companions. They are quickly briefed on what has happened, and they head out to track down Thalen and Phebus while Caldwell and the rest recover. Caldwell also calls out a message to all military personal alerting them that both Sheppard and Elizabeth have been possessed and are armed and extremely dangerous. He orders that they be apprehended and advises that they use non-lethal force if at all possible.

Meanwhile, Lorne, having received Caldwell's alert, pulls up and orders Phebus to stand down, relieving her of her weapons. One of his men moves to restrain her and she does some crazy fight moves and manages to knock out Lorne's entire team in short order. She recovers her weapons and helps herself to theirs too, as well as their ammo. 

Caldwell sets up in the control room, issuing orders to get the search underway and to get the civilian population out of harm's way. He says they can use the city's life signs detector to track Phebus and Thalen since they will be the only signatures moving alone. Rodney starts to balk at Caldwell taking charge, saying that technically he's the more senior staff leader. Caldwell thinks Rodney just doesn't trust him because of the whole goa'uld thing but points out that this is clearly a military situation and since he is the ranking military officer that puts him in charge. Rodney subsides.

Phebus and Thalen start talking to each other over their radios and Chuck picks up the chatter and puts it on the speaker for Caldwell and the others to hear. It seems like they are the last survivors of their respective races, which had been involved in a long and bloody war. The two clearly want each other dead. Caldwell is very concerned that they managed to take over the two people who have the most knowledge about the city and its staff, and that they seem to have access to all of that knowledge. 

Ronon and Teyla decide to split up, with Teyla going after Phebus and Ronon going after Thalen. Thalen, meanwhile, heads straight for the city's power room and disconnects the ZPM, shooting up the control panel for good measure to keep them from just plugging it back in or turning on their backups. Caldwell sends Rodney to get the power restored, along with Carson to check on the marines who were guarding the power station.

Ronon manages to track Thalen down but Thalen convinces him that he is really Sheppard, playing on Ronon's mistrust of Caldwell. He claims that Caldwell and Elizabeth are possessed but he is not. He asks Ronon to help him get to Phebus before the others so he can take her down without hurting her since the others are working under Caldwell's commands. Ronon agrees, but does make Sheppard take a stunner instead of live ammo. They track down Phebus but Thalen is unable to do much damage with his stunner, and Phebus manages to shoot Ronon before getting away. Annoyed, Thalen takes Ronon's gun and leaves him there, dismayed to realize he had been fooled. Thalen does call in a medical team for Ronon before he continues after Phebus though.

Carson tries to convince Caldwell to try just talking to Phebus and Thalen, to see if he can get them to stop the craziness. Or at least buy some time, since the imprints are only temporary. Caldwell dismisses the idea, believing it will do no good and sends Carson down to the infirmary to take care of Ronon. Because the power is still out, he has to remove the bullet and stitch Ronon back up in the dark. Of course Rodney gets the lights back on as soon as he finishes the surgery.

Teyla manages to track down Phebus but so has Thalen and Teyla is stunned by him. Phebus and Thalen engage in a brief firefight until Rodney gets the power back on. Phebus uses the distraction to escape Thalen again and heads straight for a science lab. She uses Elizabeth's access codes to seize control of the city's systems and then puts the city into lockdown. Doors start slamming shut all over the city (one narrowly missing Teyla's head as she regains consciousness just in time to move). Caldwell asks Rodney if he can invalidate her code, but it is too late. He can probably override it but that will take time. Caldwell orders him to get to it.

Phebus, aware that she is running out of time, contacts Caldwell over the radio. She threatens to wreak havoc on the city's life support systems unless he has his people capture Thalen for her. With the sensors back up Caldwell can see that Teyla is trapped in the same section of the city as Thalen. He orders her to go get Thalen. She manages to stun him as he is prying open a set of doors to pass through. 

Feeling enough time has passed, Phebus contacts Caldwell again. She threatens to vent the city's toxic fire suppressant gas into the living quarters (where all of the civilians are holed up) if Caldwell doesn't produce Thalen. He admits that the man has been captured and she orders him to move Thalen to the nearest security camera so she can see him. She watches until he regains consciousness and then orders Teyla to kill Thalen. Frustrated, Teyla asks why Phebus wants Thalen dead so badly. Phebus starts to monologue a bit, explaining that if she kills Thalen, then her people will have won their war. Thalen tries to pleas for Sheppard's life, at least, if she isn't willing to spare his. Teyla does not want to kill Thalen, as it would kill Sheppard, but with Phebus holding the rest of the city hostage, she knows she has no choice. 

Just as Teyla has made up her mind to follow Phebus' order Rodney manages to override Elizabeth's code, locking her out of the city's system. Caldwell orders Teyla to stand down. Relieved, she does so. With her control over the city revoked, Phebus scoots from her location and heads for Thalen's location so she can kill him herself. Teyla wants to go after Phebus but Thalen asks her not to leave him tied up, where he would just be easy prey. Teyla goes back and promises she will not let Phebus kill him. Thalen begins to go into convulsions and Teyla kneels down to check on him. When he stops, he seems to be Sheppard again. Before she can question him, Phebus appears behind them, ordering Teyla to step away from Sheppard. Teyla slips Sheppard her stunner as she steps away and he sits up and shoots Phebus. Lorne's team arrives and Teyla tells him to take both Sheppard and Phebus to the infirmary, keeping Sheppard bound until Carson orders otherwise. 

Elizabeth wakes up in the infirmary and is glad to be back to herself again. Sheppard is there too, in the bed next to hers. He tells her Phebus finally gave up the ghost in the middle of the night, kicking and screaming the whole way. He reassures her that Ronon is fine. They discuss how horrifying the whole experience was and wonder if anyone will believe they are really back to being themselves. Caldwell walks in and says that he believes it, and they all bond briefly over having been possessed by aliens. They thank Caldwell for keeping the situation under control when they were not themselves. He teases them about their kiss and then leaves to do the paperwork. Elizabeth and Sheppard share an awkward glance at the mention of the kiss and the episode ends. 


Man, poor Ronon. Well, poor Carson too. First Carson had to remove Ronon's tracking device in a cave with no anesthetic, and then this whole debacle. This is one of those incidences where you start to get the sense that there are certain characters that the writers just really like to mess with. 

I think the main purpose of this episode was, obviously, Caldwell's redemption of sorts. He had to prove that he was trustworthy and capable of being a good commander after the whole goa'uld mess. I think the writers did a really good job here, actually. He was still very clearly Caldwell--still a little prickly and assuming that everyone didn't trust him (largely Rodney, who I really think was just being Rodney and didn't really have that much ill will aimed at the colonel). But he also definitely showed a more humane streak. The big indicator was when he very clearly ordered the soldiers to use non-lethal force if at all possible in apprehending Sheppard and Elizabeth, in contrast to when Sheppard was turning into a bug he was all gung-ho about putting the poor man down for good. This episode serves as a very decent stepping stone to transition him as still a thorn in Elizabeth and Sheppard's side but also an ally and possibly friend. He's not the bad guy anymore. Very well done.

With this episode Sheppard also officially becomes the Zack Morris of Atlantis. Yeesh. Being Kirk wasn't enough, gotta go for the Zack status too. I actually could totally see Zack Morris growing up into someone like Sheppard if he had decided to join the military. How odd. 

Finally, I really loved that there was a nice imbalance in the imprinting. I don't think I would call Elizabeth a pacifist, but she is definitely a negotiator and always tries to seek a peaceful solution if possible. Having her imprinted with Phebus, who was very clearly, "kill all the enemy" no matter the cost or impact on innocents was a rather delicious treat. Even though I hate seeing Lorne go down, watching her take out his whole team by hand was pretty dang cool. Thalen, meanwhile, seemed to be very much like Sheppard in that he gave off the impression of being someone who only fights once he's backed into a corner. Though even then, he seemed to be less vicious than we've seen cornered Sheppard get. He did call for a medical team for Ronon, even though he had tricked him into helping (and really, he could have probably done fine without Ronon's help, but seemed to prefer to have an ally). It also bears noting that when he shot Teyla, he was aiming for Phebus, but Teyla was only stunned. He wasn't shooting to kill his mortal enemy. It just, it was really cool to see those two get to be out of their element a bit. I am sure it was fun for the actors as well.

Favorite Quotes

"I will confess to the occasional half hour of Jeopardy!" (Rodney)
"Jeopardy?" (Ronon)
"It's the name of the show, Jeopardy!" (Rodney)
"Sounds dangerous." (Ronon)
"Double Jeopardy, that's twice as dangerous." (Sheppard)

"She is merely...harboring my consciousness." (Phebus)
"Oh, here we go again!" (Rodney)

"I'd prefer if this alien consciousness weren't armed." (Caldwell)

"You two need some very serious marriage counseling!" (Rodney)
"He's not my husband, he's the enemy." (Phebus)

"Alright, we need to split up. I'll take Sheppard. You go after Weir." (Ronon)
"Why?" (Teyla)
"Cuz I know how he thinks. I don't have the slightest clue how she thinks." (Ronon)

"I was unable to capture Doctor Weir." (Teyla)
"So were a lot of people." (Caldwell)

"I would just like to state for the record that it is astounding to me that once again I find myself in a position of having to save this city when you and marines can't figure out how to track down two people!" (Rodney)

"How'd you know it was me?" (Sheppard)
"I still do not. Keep his hands bound until Doctor Beckett tells you otherwise." (Teyla)
"Well if you didn't know, why did you give me the stunner?" (Sheppard)
"Because you would have shot her either way." (Sheppard)

So wraps up another week of the rewatch. See you back here next Monday for a new episode, "Coup D'Etat." 

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