Monday, February 6, 2012

SGA Rewatch: Sunday

Well, it's the start of another week, and that means another installment in the Stargate Atlantis Rewatch. Thanks for stopping by. Today we will be talking about the absolutely wonderful and devastatingly emotional season three episode "Sunday." Spoilers spoilers spoilers for the episode and all that came before (and a teeny bit of foreshadowing about some we've yet to get to).

What Happened

Teyla and a scientist, Doctor Hewston, are walking through the corridors of Atlantis. They have clearly just come from an exercise session and are engaged in what can only be called girl talk. Teyla appears to have a crush on someone, but Hewston is convinced he will never make the first move and is trying to persuade Teyla to either do so or to have someone drop some hints to the guy, who she feels is oblivious to Teyla's affection. Teyla quickly changes the subject to the large number of people out and about in the city. Apparently Heightmeyer decided to pull rank and declared that Atlantis needed to have a mandatory rest day. With the exception of a skeleton staff to maintain the city's security, everyone in the city (including all of the senior staff) has the day off. Teyla and Hewston decide to grab a late lunch and as they turn toward the mess, Teyla realizes she left her bantos rods in the gym. She says she will meet Hewston there and turns back to retrieve them. As she is making her way back down the corridor, it is rocked by an explosion and Teyla is flung to the ground with a wicked looking piece of shrapnel sticking out of her side.

Jump to three hours earlier and we find Elizabeth in her office, clearly not taking advantage of the day off. A good looking scientist, Branton, sees her and pops his head in. He chastises her for working on the rest day and asks her if she wants to grab lunch with him. Caught off-guard, she splutters some nonsense about not having relationships with people that work for her. He teases her good-naturedly, pointing out that everyone works for her by her logic. He does not relent, however, and eventually gets her to agree to meet him for lunch in an hour. Elizabeth swings by Teyla's quarters. Teyla remarks that Elizabeth is early but she will just be a moment and Elizabeth asks how set Teyla was on having lunch together. She elaborates that Branton asked her for lunch and wonders if they can reschedule. Teyla smiles and gladly agrees. When Elizabeth hesitates, Teyla reassures her that she will be fine. Her friend Hewston had just asked if Teyla might teach her some sparring techniques.

Still seeming a little flustered, Elizabeth runs into Carson on her way to the mess. He tells her she looks very nice, surprised to see her out of uniform, as it is unusual for her. He is in very good spirits and explains that he and Rodney are going to the mainland to go fishing. He is clearly super excited about it. He asks Elizabeth to join them but she declines and he teases her about having a hot date, then leaves, wishing her a nice lunch. Over lunch Elizabeth and Branton have a good time, debating movies and teasing each other about their preferences. Branton is obviously interested in pursing Elizabeth romantically but she is set on them just being friends because of her professional ethics. He says if lunch is all he gets, he wants to make the most of it and they relocate to a balcony with a beautiful view. Branton kisses her and she starts to kiss him back but then pulls back. She begins to freak out a little and he tries to calm her down, saying that they can make a relationship work. Before she can argue the matter, she is paged to the control room. When she gets there she is informed of the explosion, and Chuck tells her they still have no idea what caused it but Radek is checking it out now.

Jump to five hours earlier. Teyla is walking down a corridor and meets John and Ronon. John seems super excited and realizes that Teyla has forgotten he was going to teach her and Ronon to play golf today. She begs off of the activity, explaining that she is supposed to have lunch with Elizabeth and she wanted to catch up on some paperwork before then. John is a little disappointed but he accepts her excuses. When Ronon also tries to plead paperwork, however, John just kind of gives him a look, and off they go. They head to the city's makeshift driving range, where Ronon watches as John and a scientist named Jim hit balls into the ocean. Ronon is not impressed. John goes on and on about how the game takes a lot of skill and training and Ronon steps up to the tee and just knocks a ball way the heck out there, using only one hand to swing the club. Jim is duly impressed although John tries to play it down. Carson pops his head in to say hi and ask John and Ronon if they have any interest in joining the fishing trip. Jim mentions to Carson that he's been having some pain in his stomach and Carson stops him (gently) to point out that this is is first day off in over a month. He tells Jim that Doctor Cole is on duty and will be glad to see to him, however. Jim nods and excuses himself. John and Ronon pass on fishing and Carson excuses himself shortly thereafter.

Ronon looks at John and declares that it is time for "a real sport." They head to one of the sparring rooms and Ronon proceeds to teach John a traditional Satedan game. It involves sticks and hitting each other with said sticks and mostly just seems to be an excuse for Ronon to kick John's butt. It is hilarious. John quickly decides to cut his losses and says he has a better idea for how to spend their day off. They head to his quarters and hang out, listening to music, drinking beer, eating junk food and talking. John teaches Ronon how to crush beer cans with his forehead. John asks Ronon if he ever hangs out with anyone aside from himself and Teyla. Ronon indicates no and John says Ronon's been in Atlantis for a while now. He was just wondering if the young man had made any more friends or is dating anyone. Ronon says he's not ready yet to begin dating. John infers from this that Ronon left someone behind on Sateda and Ronon confirms the suspicion. Ronon then turns the tables on John and asks when he is gonna get married. John kind of flails at the question and replies that he was married once, and he wasn't very good at it, implying there are no immediate plans to try again in the future. Catching John off-guard once more, Ronon quips that he always thought John and Teyla would hook up. John looks kind of flustered at the suggestion but says no, not gonna happen. Ronon asks why and John starts to prevaricate when they feel an explosion in the city.

John calls on the radio to find out what's going on and heads to the site of the explosion. He and Ronon find Carson doing damage control and we learn that three people died in the blast and several more have been severely wounded. Jim is carried by them on a stretcher, and then John sees Teyla on a stretcher also and runs to her side. As she is taken to the infirmary, John sees Radek scanning a damaged section of wall and asks him what the heck happened. Radek says they are not sure yet, and they haven't been able to determine the source of the explosion. He tells them that according to witnesses, Hewston was walking down the hall and just exploded. John's first thought is a suicide bombing, but Radek says they considered that and they haven't been able to find any trace of explosive residue. He mentions that Rodney has a lead and is working on it in his lab but for now they have no idea what caused the explosion.

Jump to fourteen hours earlier. A bathrobe-wearing Rodney paces back and forth in the infirmary in front of two very chastised looking scientists--Hewston and Jim. He berates them for disregarding protocol set in place for dealing with Ancient artifacts. Apparently the two had been sent on a routine task to catalog one of the Ancient labs that evening. While there, they found an Ancient device and activated it without first finding out what it was. They turned it off as soon as they noticed it was emitting radiation, and now they are in the infirmary getting checked out. Rodney asks Carson if they are going to be alright (and more importantly, if he can go back to bed) and Carson replies that the blood tests and scans he has run are clean. He does advise the two to return for a checkup within twenty-four hours though, just to be sure. With that the immediate threat passed, Rodney calms down and relents a little towards Hewston and Jim. In an attempted gesture of goodwill, he tells them to take tomorrow off. Hewston reminds him they already have tomorrow off, it's the mandatory rest day. Rodney hadn't realized that was already upon them. He turns to look at Carson, who makes a gesture indicating fishing and grins at him widely. Rodney turns back, clearly not looking forward to the outing.

The next day he goes to see Katie Brown in the botany lab. She is nursing some baby alien ferns that might hold the key to curing leukemia. Rodney explains about the fishing trip and that he only ever agreed to it because he always assumed something would come up and he could get out of it. Now the day is here and he has no other obligations. He thought maybe he could spend the afternoon with Katie instead. She seems open to the idea but tells him she has to stay and babysit the ferns. Rodney perks up and says that if she can't leave, he'll come to her. He'll bring her lunch and they can eat in the lab. She agrees.

He heads to the mess to pick up some food, noticing Elizabeth on her date with Branton. While there, he runs into Carson. He lies and says that Katie gave him a guilt-trip about not spending his free day with her and so now he is stuck doing that instead of going fishing. He promises they can go next weekend, however. Carson is clearly doubtful of Rodney's sincerity, but he lets it slide and leaves in search of a new fishing companion. Rodney returns to the botany lab and he and Katie enjoy lunch together. She tells him she is surprised, but glad, that their relationship seems to be progressing. After the whole debacle with their first date, Rodney had kind of avoided her for a few months and she had assumed nothing would happen between them. But in the past little while he has been making a real effort to make time for her and she really appreciates it. He explains to her (in a very awkward and amusing fashion) that after getting his sister back in his life and seeing her family, he has kind of started to want the same things for himself.

The building is rocked by an explosion and Rodney races to check on it. He radios Radek, who says he is with Ronon and John. Rodney calls them down to his lab and explains that he has found the source of the explosion. It was the machine that Hewston and Jim activated the night before. The Ancients had originally developed it to fight the wraith but had to abandon the project pretty early on when it became clear that it affected not only wraith, but anyone who came in proximity, including humans and Ancients. He explains that the machine creates explosive tumors (yes, explosive tumors). He says that Jim was definitely exposed as much as Hewston which means that he is literally a walking time bomb and they need to find him ASAP. Cut to the infirmary where Carson is just beginning to operate on a patient injured in the explosion and we see that the patient is none other than Jim.

Jump to two hours earlier. After Rodney backed out of the fishing trip, Carson next went to ask Radek to join him. Radek, however, is in the middle of (completely dominating) a chess tournament and regretfully declines but promises to join him next weekend if he still wants to go. Carson then tracks down Major Lorne, who he finds on a pier painting a picture of the city (we learn that Lorne's mom was an art teacher, aw, how sweet). Lorne tells Carson he would have loved to have gone fishing if Carson had caught him earlier, but now he really wants to finish the painting. Carson understands and leaves him to it. Next he goes to Doctor Biro. Before he can get two words in, however, she greets him very enthusiastically and bombards him with an unstoppable verbal tide. We can visibly see Carson change his mind about asking her to accompany him, and he tells her he just wanted to make sure she was enjoying her day off before excusing himself.

He ends up just heading back to the infirmary, intending to catch up on paperwork. He chats with Cole for a few moments and notices that she's not feeling very well. She admits she has been suffering from a migraine but can't really take anything for it since she's on call. He tells her to take some medicine and head for her quarters to get some rest, he'll take over her shift. He is patching up a woman who had hurt her ankle playing volleyball in sandals when the explosion rocks the tower. He immediately grabs his radio and mobilizes a medical team, knowing he will be needed. Once he gets all of the wounded back to the infirmary, he operates on Teyla and gets the shrapnel out of her. Then he moves on to the next patient, Jim. As he is getting ready to start the surgery, Rodney pages Jim over the citywide intercom. Carson sends one of the doctors to check on that and she returns with Carson's radio. Rodney briefs him on the situation and says John is sending an ordinance disposal team to the infirmary. Carson makes the snap decision to try to remove the tumor from Jim. He sends the rest of the staff out of the infirmary, except for one doctor who refuses to go, staying behind to help him, and puts the whole level on lockdown. John and Rodney try to talk him into getting out of there but he refuses to stand down. He manages to get the tumor out of Jim pretty easily. He then very carefully places it in an organ transplant container and has the other doctor sew Jim back up while he heads to meet the bomb squad with the tumor to get it disposed of. All goes well and he makes the hand off, but just as he turns to head back to the infirmary, the tumor explodes.

The next thing we see is Rodney in a tie sorting through what are clearly Carson's belongings. Ronon comes in to check on him. Rodney says he is going back to Earth with the body and to tell Carson's mom what happened. He is questioning everything he did leading up to Carson's death, drowning himself in "what ifs." He says he should have just gone fishing with Carson. Ronon tells him that he can't change anything that happened and he needs to stop beating himself up. John, attired in his dress blues, enters the infirmary to find Teyla sitting up and trying to get out of bed. She says she wants to go to the memorial, she wants to stand as a testament to Carson. John helps her along. In the gate-room, everyone gathers for a very tear-inducing memorial service. Elizabeth gives a brief eulogy in front of a coffin draped with the Scottish flag. Bagpipes begin to play as the gate dials up. Rodney, John, Ronon, Radek, Lorne, and Cole step forward and carry Carson's coffin through the gate.

A little while later, we are back in Atlantis and we find Rodney standing alone on a pier looking out at the ocean. He turns and sees Carson standing beside him. He tries to apologize but the illusory Carson tells him none of it was Rodney's fault. Rodney finally says goodbye to Carson and begins to make peace with the fact that his friend is gone.


Man, I want to hate this episode, because holy crap they killed Carson. But it is impossible. Everything about this episode (with the exception of the exploding tumors plot device) is just so perfectly done. "Sunday" is an absolutely amazing episode from start to finish. We get so much information about so many of our characters in these forty-two minutes. We are shown how people actually live in this city and have made it a home, made friends, and fit into each other's lives. It blows me away each and every single time I see it.

Now, before anyone starts pointing out that this episode uses the same time-jumping plot device I was griping about in the last episode, let me just stop you right there. The time jumping in this episode is actually very well done and very creatively used to tell a compelling story. It breaks up the events of a day that ended up being absolutely chaotic in a way that allows us to see what happened from the point of view of several different people. It also serves quite well to show us everyone's last moments with/impressions of Carson before he dies. That's a subtle thing right there, and one that I only picked up on this viewing, and I've seen this episode several times before now.

I find it very interesting that there is such a focus on the romantic lives of many of the characters in this episode as well. Up until now, we have only seen those aspects of our protagonists as they served a particular story, and very rarely did such developments continue to play any importance in the series going forward. I think "Sunday" signals a shift in the writers' intent in that area. We've gotten to the point where we know these characters and are invested in them and their happiness. "Sunday" tells us that we are going to start getting to see more sides of these people and learn how their personal and professional lives intersect.  This is a very good thing, in my opinion.

I feel like Elizabeth maybe needs to go a little easy on herself. Branton is right, if she looks at things as if she is everyone's boss, then she is cutting herself off from any chance of romantic happiness as long as she is in Atlantis. She's already made it pretty clear she doesn't intend to leave Atlantis willingly either. I wonder how much of this is due to her still recovering from being dumped by Simon. He definitely made it clear that he wasn't willing to wait around while she was off doing big important things, and neither was he willing to drop his career to follow her. Perhaps she is worried that any relationship she starts while in Atlantis will meet a similar end. Of course, if she starts a relationship with someone who is already in Atlantis, I have to imagine that individual would already be pretty aware of Elizabeth's dedication to her work and therefore willing to take that into account. But hey, what do I know? This does offer a compelling explanation for why Teyla seems to be such a natural choice of friend for her though. Teyla, as leader of her people, knows exactly what kind of demands Elizabeth faces and the sacrifices to personal life involved. Teyla also doesn't quite fall into the rest of the chain of command, being not of Earth.

It is interesting to me that this episode tries to establish that Ronon only ever hangs out with John and Teyla, and never Rodney. Yet Ronon was the one to go check on Rodney as he cleaned up Carson's quarters in the aftermath. I am glad that was the case, because while I can buy that they might not hang out together (outside of team activities, which I bet are actually pretty frequent), I do still feel like those two have a very brotherly bond between them.

I do think that the opening conversation between Teyla and Hewston and the later conversation with John and Ronon are intended to put us back on the track to anticipating romance with Teyla and John. All I can say in response to that at this point, however, is, "Hmm. That's interesting."

So, yeah. Farewell Carson Beckett, beloved doctor of Atlantis. You will most definitely be missed.

Favorite Quotes

"Yeah, but with that thinking, everyone on this entire planet works for you. You're not gonna be friends with any of them?" (Branton)

"Oh? What, do you have a hot date?" (Carson)
"What?! Who told you that?" (Elizabeth)
"No one. I was joking. I was right! Who is it?!" (Carson)

"Alright. But don't be jealous when I return with a record-breaking space trout!" (Carson)

"You know, I think I am a pretty easy guy to work for." (Rodney)

"I can't. I need to babysit the ferns." (Katie)
"Right. Well. If I had a nickel for every time a girl used that line!" (Rodney)

"I like you a lot. I mean, I do." (Rodney)
"I know you do, and I like you a lot too." (Katie)
"I know. And to be honest, I find that just baffling." (Rodney)
"Come on, now..." (Katie)
"No no no no no, it's other people too. They find it baffling too." (Rodney)

"Rodney. What's done is done." (Ronon)
"I know. And that's why it's killing me." (Rodney)

"Every singe life Carson saved is a monument to him. And that gives me great comfort." (Elizabeth)

"It's not gonna be the same round here without you." (Rodney)
"Oh, you're tellin' me!" (Carson)
"You know, the universe is a big place. Who knows, maybe we'll bump into each other again." (Rodney)
"Aye, who knows?" (Carson)


Okay, and I am stopping there because those last few quotes are making me start to tear up. See you back here on Wednesday for another creepy underwater adventure with "Submersion." Rodney is looking forward to it, I assure you.

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