Hello, and welcome! Another week, another Stargate Atlantis Rewatch entry. Today we'll be diving into the back half of season three with "The Return Part 2."
Spoilers for the episode and for all that came before, as always. Now, shall we?
A very frightened Richard Woolsey hides in a dark corner of Atlantis awkwardly clutching a gun. He hears a sound and stands up, moving slowly over to investigate, calling out to ask if it is General O'Neill. O'Neill appears from around a corner and chastises Woolsey for calling out. If he had been a replicator, Woolsey would now be dead. We learn they have been hiding in the bowels of the city, where the life signs detector sensors don't work in order to avoid the Asurans that have killed all of the Ancients and taken over the city. O'Neill had been scouting out the situation and reports that the gate room and surrounding area is crawling with replicators, which means they have no chance of getting across to the jumper bay to escape. Woolsey opines that at least they are hidden enough where they are to hopefully stay safe until rescue arrives. O'Neill bursts Woolsey's bubble and tells him about his standing orders to nuke the city in the event of a foothold. No rescue.
Just then John and crew gate into the city in their stolen puddle jumper. They have converted the ship's cloak into a shield and hover in the gate room taking fire while John tries to contact O'Neill over the radio. O'Neill responds and John asks if he and Woolsey are anywhere near the gate room. When O'Neill replies in the negative, John says he needs to go but will check back in a couple of hours. They drop a "package" in the gate room and then reverse the jumper through the now inactive gate and the back wall of the tower, leaving the city. As they fly off, the tower explodes. The "package" had been a bomb.
On Earth Walter continues, unsuccessfully, to attempt making contact with John at Midway. Landry tells him to go ahead and stop and says by this point they are already in the Pegasus galaxy getting up to no good. He tells Walter to lock out the team's IDCs and personal authentication codes since they have no assurances the team will not be captured by the replicators and that information compromised. Walter hesitates but then complies.
John flies the jumper into orbit and they discuss the next stage of their plan. They are headed toward something flying in space and it is revealed to be Niam, who had been let out an airlock when he attacked Elizabeth after their initial encounter with the Asurans. Apparently Niam is part of their plan, and they retrieve him. He is mostly dead, though they are still cautious about bringing him aboard. Rodney apparently means to load a program in Niam that will freeze all of the replicators, rendering them helpless and allowing the team to take them out with the ARGs. In order to upload the program to the rest of the Asurans and still keep Niam's power level low enough to prevent him from coming to and attacking them all, however, they have to get pretty close to the city again. Unfortunately, they took a lot of damage when they arrived and their shield is no longer effective, nor can Rodney turn it back into the cloak. They head back to the city, trying to get as close as possible without attracting attention while the Asurans are preoccupied with repairing the damage they caused. Rodney estimates they have a few hours before the critical systems (like sensors) are up and running again.
The Asurans do get repairs underway immediately but their sensors will take some time. They want to know what the invaders are planning, which means they will need to capture them. One notes that they made contact with someone in the city before they blew up the tower, meaning that someone must have survived their attack. They know from a mind probe of Helia before she was killed that all of the Ancients were taken care of, but now realize that there might also have been a few humans in the city. One of the Asurans orders search teams sent down to the areas of the city with no working life signs detectors to try to ferret out the people the team came back for.
Landry calls Doctor Lee into his office. Lee arrives ready to defend himself for letting the jumper get stolen but Landry has already moved on to the next concern. He asks if it is possible to destroy the gate bridge and Lee replies that detonating a nuke at Midway would probably do the trick. Landry nods and tells Lee to prepare one just in case it is needed.
The jumper continues its approach to the city but with Niam powered down so far, they have to get really close to activate the virus. The Asurans detect them and send out drones to attack. John manages to dodge most of them, leading them throughout the city, but it is just causing more damage and it is clear he can't keep it up for very long. He decides to try a new tactic and dives the jumper underwater. The drones veer off. John heads for what he and Rodney believe is an underwater jumper bay.
They radio O'Neill and Woolsey. O'Neill, upon learning the composition of the rescue party and that they are there against orders, is a little put out. They explain their plan and arrive in the jumper bay. Unfortunately, the controls to pressurize the room and pump out the water aren't working. The outer door to the bay also appears to be jammed. Then the jumper itself starts taking on water from the damage it received on the way. They can't stay where they are. They tell O'Neill where the control room for the jumper bay is and ask him to find and release the manual override switch to clear out the water from the bay. He and Woolsey get to the ladder to that level only to find that it is flooded. O'Neill will have to swim.
He manages to find the console and can see the jumper and bay through a window, but he is unable to determine which of the dozens of switches is the override. He swims back up to Woolsey and asks Rodney for more detail on the switch. He dives back down and begins playing with switches. He manages to find the right one, but it is a dead man's switch, it has to be held down to work. He swims back up one more time for air and then goes down and holds the switch. While he is gone, Woolsey hears a noise. He gets his gun ready and tries to give himself a pep talk. O'Neill pops back up to the surface a few minutes later only to find two Asurans pointing guns at him. The team arrives at their position shortly thereafter to find a lot of shell casings but no O'Neill or Woolsey and realize that the men have been captured.
The Asurans take O'Neill and Woolsey to a cell and start asking them questions about what the team's plan is. O'Neill is his usual snarktastic self and so the Asurans resort to mind probing the two men. O'Neill puts up a good resistance but eventually the Asurans are able to get the information about the rescue team's plan and the approaching Daedalus out of the two men.
While the team looks for O'Neill and Woolsey, Rodney stays in the jumper to bring Niam's power up enough to upload the virus to the rest of the replicators. Unfortunately, having learned of the plan, the Asurans now know about Niam. They reactivate him and he comes to, making to attack Rodney, who is forced to shoot him with an ARG, disintegrating him. This pretty much puts the kibosh on their plan, however. They regroup in the jumper to discuss their options. Ronon wants to just start shooting them up with the ARGs but that won't work. They will only get a few shots off before the replicators are able to alter their frequencies and become immune to the weapons. That is why they wanted to freeze them all in the first place, to prevent them from figuring out the ARG frequency in time to render the guns useless. Rodney asks how much C4 they have and John tells him a bunch. Rodney says he has an idea.
John and Rodney find O'Neill and Woolsey in their cell and Rodney gets to work on unlocking it. While he works, he tells them the new plans. They are going to plant C4 in the ten emitters for the city's shield. That way, when the Daedalus arrives and the Asurans raise the shield, the C4 will blow, destroying the shield completely and allowing the Daedalus to beam in the nuke. Woolsey and O'Neill are not much reassured by this plan, as it involves all of them dying as well, but Rodney explains that they will all scoot in the jumper before the nuke blows. Before Rodney can get the cell open, more Asurans arrive and John and Rodney have to get out of there, promising to come back as soon as they can.
The Daedalus arrives in the Pegasus galaxy and checks in with the SGC to be sure their orders to destroy Atlantis still stand. Landry tells them to continue on their original orders.
The team splits up to plant the C4. They nervously notice that they haven't run into any Asurans while carrying out their plan. Then a part of the city powers up and Rodney realizes this is because instead of sending out a search team, the Asurans had been busy repairing the rest of the city, all of the life signs detectors and sensors and even the star drive. In fact, they have fired the star drive up, apparently intending to fly Atlantis back to their home world and take out the Daedalus on the way. Carson and Teyla are near the city's control chair and John orders Carson to use the chair to fire drones at the star drive, preventing the Asurans from taking the city off the planet. Carson is successful but he and Teyla are captured. With the life signs detectors back up, the Asurans are also able to quickly round up Elizabeth, Ronon, Rodney, and John.
The team is thrown into a cell together and they confer briefly, relieved to learn that everyone managed to complete their task with the emitters at least. The Asurans then bring O'Neill and Woolsey into the cell and their leader smirks at John. He tells them that their plan has failed, they learned all about the C4 from Woolsey and have removed it. The control room radios down and informs the leader that the Daedalus is just about to drop out of hyperspace and he gives the order for the shield to be raised. Cue the neat little rewind effect and we find ourselves back to Rodney explaining his plan to the team.
Rodney explains that their best hope of using the ARGs to defeat the Asurans is to hit as many of them as possible at once, preferably all of them. He thinks they can interface the crystals from the ARGs into the shield emitters and when the shield is raised, it will then send a massive ARG blast over the entire city. The C4 was simply misdirection in case they were caught (and that they could purposely feed to Woolsey and O'Neill in case of interrogation). When the Asuran hits the button to activate the shield, Rodney's plan works, and all of the replicators disintegrate, leaving the city under the team's control once more.
Woolsey is really confused when they explain this to him, and a little hurt that they used him. O'Neill seems mostly relieved and also vindicated. He says he knew that Rodney was only pretending to hack into their cell and something had to have been up.
John runs for the control room and hails the Daedalus to call off Caldwell's attack. He gives his authentication code but Caldwell tells him it isn't good anymore. He has no way of knowing he's not talking to a replicator. Even O'Neill piping up isn't enough. Elizabeth then tells him they are lowering the shield and he can send as many men down as he wants to investigate and verify their story. He agrees and sends down a group of marines.
Everyone gets checked out and cleared and everything starts to settle back down to normal. Elizabeth is standing in her office, relishing being home again. O'Neill wanders over and she asks if she and her team will be allowed to stay in (and the rest of the expedition return to) Atlantis. He says they will still need the I.O.A.'s approval, but since they saved Woolsey, he is sure that they will get it. Everything's back to normal and the Asurans repaired all of the damage to the city caused by their initial attack, the arrival of John's team, and a lot of the other damage the city had accumulated since being brought back to the surface. Huzzah!
Man, I just keep thinking, they all sure are lucky that there was a replicator talking to them, standing in the open doorway of their cell, when the shield was activated. Otherwise they all would have been stuck in their cells when Caldwell arrived and started to attack the city. Rodney never explained if that was part of his plan, I note.
I would not want to be the person responsible for sweeping up all of the replicator bits in the city...
Also, it is highly convenient that the people who did manage to take over the city were replicators and thus able to quickly repair so much of the damage it has sustained over the last ten thousand years or so. It was very thoughtful of John to allow them enough time to fix the gate tower after he blew it up before returning to execute the rescue plan, too.
Still, minor nitpicks aside, this is just a fun episode. There's action, adventure, snarkiness, misdirection. All the best hallmarks of a good heist film, really. I do love me some heist films. This is the kind of episode where I feel Stargate Atlantis was in its element, honestly. Where they just let the crazy fly at you and keep you so entertained you don't really pay attention to how little sense the events are actually making.
This episode benefits from focusing on the core cast--the characters of John, Rodney, Elizabeth, Carson, Ronon, and Teyla. Even the non-soldiers are willing to fight to save their city, and everyone works together in some slightly unlikely pairings, pulling off the almost impossible. The presence of Richard Dean Anderson and Robert Picardo as O'Neill and Woolsey also helped keep the entertainment value high. Every scene with these two characters together had me in fits of giggles. I love Woolsey in Atlantis, too. He is just so completely out of his element, but it is clear that he wants to contribute as much as he can, while continually insisting that he's just "not very good at this." He wants to fit in with these crazy people in their self-made family. He just doesn't quite get it. It's beautiful to watch.
So. Status quo restored. City is in even better shape than when we found it. With new areas of the city available, we also should have new systems and labs and experiments to explore in the coming episodes. Also, the team has managed to piss the Asurans off even more. They might be patient, but they do not forget. Should be interesting to see how they react to this particular defeat, eh?
"That sounded like an explosion." (Woolsey)
"Because it was." (O'Neill)
"That sounded like another explosion." (Woolsey)
"Yes. Yes it did." (O'Neill)
"What does that mean?" (Woolsey)
"Something exploded." (O'Neill)
"But is it Sheppard attacking the replicators or the replicators attacking Sheppard?" (Woolsey)
"We'll find out." (O'Neill)
"How did they even get here? Through the gate?" (Woolsey)
"I've been sitting next to you through the whole thing. Why do you think I have more information?" (O'Neill)
"If we keep this up there won't be much of a city left to save." (Elizabeth)
"I'll try to run the drones into your least favorite buildings." (John)
"So am I to assume you are not surrounded by heavily armed SG teams and young strapping marines?" (O'Neill)
"You've got Colonel Sheppard, Ronon, Teyla, McKay, myself, and Doctor Beckett." (Elizabeth)
"Ooh, Doctor Beckett, is it? Well, I'm comforted." (O'Neill)
"Whatcha doing?" (O'Neill)
"Probing your mind." (Talus)
"Kind of roomy, ain't it?" (O'Neill)
"Your ability to resist is quite remarkable General O'Neill." (Talus)
"It's not the first time I've had a hand in my head, as it were." (O'Neill)
"Did you really think you'd be able to stop us?" (Talus)
"Well of course we did. Why else would we be here?" (John)
"He put his hand in my forehead! How can you resist that?" (Woolsey)
"Well, I like to close my eyes and think of England." (O'Neill)
"Apparently I don't have any little tiny robots floating in my bloodstream, which is always nice to hear." (O'Neill)
There we have it! The back half of season three well and truly started. See you back here on Wednesday for an interesting one called "Echoes."