Monday, March 19, 2012

SGA Rewatch: Miller's Crossing

Howdy folks! Welcome to another installment of the Stargate Atlantis rewatch. Today we are looking at season four's episode "Miller's Crossing."

Here there be spoilers.

What Happened

Rodney and a gaggle of scientists are cloistered in a lab and clearly stuck on whatever problem they have been attempting to tackle. After a few moments, Radek pipes up that Rodney should just ask "her" for help. Rodney starts to protest but Radek persists and Rodney gives in an agrees. The other scientists take the opportunity to skedaddle. Cut to Earth, and we find ourselves in the Miller household, where Rodney's sister Jeannie is making cookies with her husband Kaleb and daughter Madison. Her laptop beeps and she checks it to find she has an email from Rodney, asking for help. Later that evening, Jeannie and Kaleb are talking in bed when a group of heavily armed men bust into the room. They tell Jeannie to come with them.

Rodney, John, and Ronon step through the stargate into the SGC and are greeted by Agent Barrett of the NID (a branch of the FBI that specializes in stargate-program related problems on Earth). He tells them that they have yet to receive a ransom call from the kidnappers and that the Daedalus is standing by in orbit to beam them to Jeannie's house in Canada. After they change clothes, of course (everyone shoots Ronon a pointed look). They arrive at the Miller household, Ronon grumbling about his new garb, and Rodney is less than warmly greeted by his family. Kaleb is blaming Rodney for Jeannie's kidnapping and Rodney doesn't even try to make excuses. He just promises Kaleb that he will get her back.

Rodney doesn't think that the timing of Jeannie's kidnapping so soon after his email to her is a coincidence, so he starts by looking at her computer. He explains to Barrett, John, and Ronon that while his last email had been related to stopping the replicators, what Jeannie had been helping him with up until then was coding for a nanite-based medical program (similar to what he used to heal Elizabeth, but more refined). Sitting down at the computer, he tells John and Ronon it will probably take him several hours and they should head to the hotel. He will call them when he finds something.

Jeannie is led into a lab of some sort with a bag over her head. One of her guards pulls it off and she looks around, clearly terrified. A well-dressed, businessy looking gentleman walks in and introduces himself as Henry Wallace. He tells Jeannie he needs her help.

Rodney calls Ronon to let him know that he managed to discover the signal used to monitor Jeannie's computer. He was able to track down an address and is headed there with Agent Barrett. He gives the address to Ronon so that Ronon and John can meet them there. Rodney and Barrett arrive at a warehouse of some sort and debate waiting for John and Ronon but Rodney doesn't want to waste any time. As they go in, they are ambushed and Barrett is knocked out. He comes to when John and Ronon arrive and they realize that Rodney has been taken as well.

Rodney is brought to the same facility where Jeannie is being held and thrown into the lab with her. Wallace greets him and Rodney starts to threaten him with a multitude of heavily armed marines, but Wallace just gloats that he doubts it, since he had Rodney's subcutaneous transmitter disabled. That knocks the wind out of Rodney's sails a little bit and he asks Wallace who the heck he is. Wallace gives his name and Rodney recognizes it, telling Jeannie he is president of Devlin Medical Technologies--a company that the SGC funnels its technological advances reverse-engineered from alien tech through. Wallace isn't supposed to know about that part of it though, and he admits that after years of such astounding breakthroughs from the military, he got curious. He did some digging and was able to learn the truth about the SGC and Rodney's role in it.

He takes them to a sickroom and shows them a young girl hooked up to all kinds of monitors. His daughter Sharon has leukemia, he tells them, and has proven extremely resistant to all known types of treatment. But his company has been working on manufacturing the nanites for Rodney's medical program and Wallace thought that might be the answer to curing Sharon's illness. His programmers thought they had the code sorted out--which Rodney scoffs at--and so he went ahead and injected his daughter with the nanites. Unfortunately, they are not working properly (since they were just a prototype and nowhere near ready for actual use). Not only are they not curing the cancer, but they are also causing more problems, making Sharon's condition even worse. Wallace looks at Rodney and Jeannie and tells them to fix the nanites. Save his daughter, and he'll let them go.

They are taken back to the lab and Jeannie gets to work looking at the nanites that were injected into Sharon. She realizes that they are not communicating with each other and so cannot work together to cure the young girl's illness. She tries to explain this to Rodney but he is clearly not paying attention. After a moment he looks up and explains that because Wallace gave them access to the network to keep an eye on Sharon, he has been able to hack the mainframe and unlock the door to their room. He also memorized the layout of the building so that they can escape. Jeannie isn't very happy about this though--she is appalled that Rodney would just leave Sharon in such a condition when there is something they can do about it. Wallace did promise to let them go. Rodney doesn't trust Wallace, however. He points out that if Wallace does let them go, then he will be sent to prison, and has a hard time believing the man would go willingly. He also points out that fixing the nanites is a long shot anyway, and there's definitely no way Wallace will let them go if they fail to cure Sharon. Convinced, but unhappy, Jeannie agrees to make a run for it. They get out of their room without incident but quickly get lost in the building and are recaptured by Wallace's guards pretty quickly.

Wallace, as you can imagine, is pretty pissed about the escape attempt. He feels betrayed that they would just abandon his daughter like that, though Rodney points out that Wallace hasn't given them much incentive to trust him, what with the kidnapping and all. Wallace nods and picks up a syringe. He tells Rodney he will give him all of the incentive he needs and then doses Jeannie with the same nanites that are in Sharon. Now they have to fix them, or the nanites will start to wreak havoc in Jeannie as well. With renewed motivation, the pair gets back to work. The big problem is that most of the coding is still based on the replicator coding, even though these particular nanites are incapable of replicating themselves. But restraints had been embedded in the coding to prevent the nanites from doing any harm to their host. Unfortunately, the nanites have been rendered ineffective by the restraints. The only way to get them to communicate and work together to repair Sharon's body is to unleash them. They get to work on updating the code.

Back at the SGC John, Ronon, and Barrett have been going through the files trying to find out anything they can about the ambush site and the signal that led them there. They brainstorm about potential people who might want to kidnap Jeannie and Rodney and aren't having much luck coming up with anything. The fact that Rodney's transmitter was disabled means that whoever took the pair has intimate knowledge of the SGC and its protocol. John wonders aloud if Rodney was working with anyone on Earth besides Jeannie in his nanite project and Barrett says no, but there was a company that was manufacturing nanites for them independently. He begins looking for the information. Ronon excuses himself to go get some food, clearly frustrated at their lack of progress. He tells John that he doesn't feel like he'll be of much use until they find someone for him to point a gun at.

Jeannie and Rodney managed to get the updated code finished and uploaded to the nanites. Now they have been left to wait in their lab to find out if it worked or not.  With a little time on their hands, they catch up a bit, with Jeannie pestering Rodney about his personal life. A guard comes in after a while and tells them to come with him. He leads them to Sharon's room where they find her sitting up in bed, healthy and alert and, according to Wallace, completely cured. He introduces Rodney and Jeannie to her and she thanks them for saving her life.

Ronon has been cornered in the mess hall by Walter, who is regaling him with a series of very inane stories. Ronon is clearly contemplating violence towards the technician when John finds him and says he thinks they've found the connection they've been looking for. Ronon leaves without a word to Walter, relieved that there is finally something for him to help with.

Wallace takes Rodney and Jeannie to his office and wants to toast with champagne to their success. Rodney is much more interested in whether or not Wallace will be letting them go now. Wallace says yes, he will. He tells them he's known he was going to prison ever since he decided on the course of action to kidnap Jeannie and (hopefully) lure Rodney to him as well. He doesn't care about prison, all he wanted was to save his daughter. They raise their glasses but are interrupted by someone at the door. They are called to Sharon's room and arrive to find her crashing, with doctors trying to revive her. Unfortunately, they are unable to do anything and Sharon is declared dead. Wallace races to her side, crying over her and Rodney begins to quietly freak out, realizing that the nanites still aren't fixed--and are still in Jeannie. Jeannie moves forward to console Wallace at his loss and to plead with him to keep his promise to let him go, reminding him that she is still infected and needs to get to a better lab or else she will likely die too. He starts to shake his head but suddenly Sharon takes a deep breath, waking up. Everyone looks at her with confused concern.

Sharon lapses into a coma and Rodney and Jeannie head back to the lab and realize that the nanites are still very much active. They shouldn't be, as they were programmed to shut themselves off after curing the cancer. But Jeannie realizes that when they unleashed the restraints on the nanites, they also broadened the scope of their protocol. They weren't programmed to specifically cure cancer. Sharon's "death" was caused by her heart suddenly shutting down. They ask Wallace if Sharon had any heart conditions unrelated to the cancer and he replies in the affirmative. They realize that the nanites remained active because there were still elements of the body to repair--in order to fix the heart the nanites simply shut it down while they worked on it. But shutting down the heart like that deprived Sharon's brain of oxygen for several minutes, long enough to cause some pretty severe brain damage. Rodney points out that the nanites would be able to repair that damage but Jeannie says they wouldn't be able to repair the lost memories or knowledge or sense of self that occurred. Rodney agrees but says the nanites don't care about that. They are just programmed to fix any perceived damage. Wallace is confused, asking if Sharon will stay in her coma. They explain that technically, her brain is perfectly healthy, but everything that made her Sharon is gone, she has been reset. Jeannie starts to freak out, realizing that the nanites will be looking for things in her to repair. She doesn't have cancer, but she does have epilepsy. She and Rodney both realize that once the nanites find that, they will just shut down her brain to "fix" it--basically killing her.

As Rodney frantically tries to think of a way to resolve the situation before Jeannie is "shut down for repairs" the rescue team arrives. Rodney rushes to John and doesn't even bother thanking him, just asks if the Daedalus is in orbit and tells him they need to get Jeannie to the SGC pronto. John has them beamed out.  Rodney puts Jeannie in a medically induced coma to buy some time. He also breaks both of her legs to distract the nanites from going after her brain. He tells the others that gives them about ten hours to get the nanites shut down. Barrett asks if they can just use an EMP, but Rodney says no. These nanites were specifically designed to be resistant to that kind of tech. He admits that he needs help to get this done and so they contact Atlantis and have their wraith prisoner brought to Earth to help since the wraith understands the replicator code the nanites are using better than anyone. The wraith is indifferent to Rodney's plight, but he manages to talk the wraith into helping by pointing out that success in this will be a big step towards figuring out how to defeat the replicators themselves (and it also won't hurt his chances of being released one day to prove to the Lanteans and SGC that he is trustworthy).

Science montage!

They are starting to run out of time, but also close to solving the problem, when the wraith collapses at his station. He hasn't fed since before being taken captive and is starving to death. He is unable to continue the work without feeding. Rodney tells John that he volunteers to feed the wraith and John is dead set against it, pointing out that Rodney is unlikely to survive such an encounter. Rodney tells him it doesn't matter. He's just learned that Sharon died. The nanites were continuing to try to fix her various internal injuries when they gave out due to a manufacturing defect. She bled out internally before anyone could do anything to even try to save her. He tells John there is no way he can let Jeannie die too. John is still adamant and refuses to let Rodney volunteer, telling him he is too damn valuable to sacrifice. When Rodney objects, John pulls rank, pointing out that Rodney doesn't get a say in the matter.

Still, John doesn't want to see Jeannie die. So he goes to talk to Wallace, in custody and grieving over the final loss of his daughter. John presents him with the situation, tells him about the wraith, and shows him pictures of Jeannie's family, specifically of Madison. He basically guilts Wallace into volunteering to feed the wraith in order to make up for all that he has caused. Freshly fed, the wraith completes the program and they are able to get the nanites shut down (apparently after they finished repairing Jeannie's broken legs). Jeannie is brought out of the coma and is all fine and well. Rodney takes her home and spends a few days with her family (and she guilts him into buying them a new car).

Back in Atlantis  Rodney goes to talk to John, to thank him for talking Wallace into sacrificing himself. John doesn't really want to talk about it. He is clearly not comfortable with how things went down, but he also knows he did what he had to do. Rodney is grateful nonetheless and they kind of exchange an unspoken promise never to speak of it again.


This is an...interesting episode, plot-wise. It definitely went dark toward the end, and it gave us more of an idea of what lengths John is willing to go to in order to protect those he cares about. As far as how this episode ties in to the rest of the season, well, we learn that the wraith is still in captivity in Atlantis, and they are still working with him to try to figure out how to shut down the replicator attack code. We also have to assume that figuring out this part of the puzzle is a big leap forward in understanding the overall replicator code as well, and in finding a way to defeat them.

But that aside, there are lots of things to love about this episode. First, there's Ronon. His appearance here only strengthens my theory about his brotherly bond with Rodney. Because, as he pointed out, there's not a lot for him to actually do in this episode. Even the pointing a gun at someone could have been done by one of the SGC's many, many soldiers. The only reason for Ronon to be here at all is as support for Rodney. I love that. Also, the whole bit about making him wear clothes to help him "blend in" was pretty fabulous. I don't imagine Earth is that much more advanced than Sateda was before it was destroyed, maybe fifty or sixty years at the most. So Ronon's discomfort at being on Earth is, I think, more indicative at how much Earth maybe reminds him of what he's lost than of being overwhelmed by its technology and whatnot. Yet another reason to suspect he wouldn't have gone to help Rodney if he didn't specifically want to help Rodney.

I like that they delved a little bit into the fact that the SGC is funneling its alien tech through legitimate corporations. It's not as heavily emphasized in Atlantis as it was in SG-1, but one of the justifications for keeping the program up and running is to find technology that can provide scientific advances to Earth. Atlantis itself is (or was meant to be) a primarily scientific expedition. So of course the things that they find and the advancements they make are going to be put to use on Earth, and there has to be some sort of legitimate explanation for how that technology came to be. It's an interesting piece of back story to me, that makes the overall universe in which this show is set just that much more fully realized.

Then, of course, there's the sibling banter. Put Jeannie and Rodney in a scene together and it is going to be excellent, no matter what else is happening in the episode. I would have loved to have seen her made a more permanent member of the cast, because she just brought so much to the show. Rodney always feels so much more real when he's around her. It's a beautiful thing. Also, I love the fact that Rodney is trying so dang hard to be a good brother to Jeannie. It is a real bit of character growth that continues to warm my heart every time it comes up in the series.

Favorite Quotes

"I cannot sit here waiting for you to have an epiphany! I'm losing the will to live!" (Radek)

"I look dumb." (Ronon)
"Helps you blend in a little." (John)
"I'm gonna stand out no matter what you dress me in." (Ronon)
"That's a good point." (John)

"Look, I'm really sorry about all of this." (Rodney)
"I really don't wanna talk about this right now, okay? We need to rewrite this program and upload it to my nanites. I will yell at you later, okay?" (Jeannie)
"Okay." (Rodney)

"So, are you going to marry that Katie girl?" (Jeannie)
"What?!" (Rodney)
"You heard me." (Jeannie)
"Where did that come from?" (Rodney)
"I'm trying to take my mind off the fact that I have tiny robots running through my veins because you needed help with your homework. Would you rather talk about that?" (Jeannie)
"Not really." (Rodney)
"So are you gonna marry her?" (Jeannie)
"I don't know." (Rodney)
"You've been dating for over a year now." (Jeannie)
"I'm aware of that, thank you!" (Rodney)
"You think you're gonna find someone better?" (Jeannie)
"No, it's not that." (Rodney)
"Cause you're not!" (Jeannie)
"Hang on..." (Rodney)
"The fact that you've find a nice girl who's willing to put up with all your many little flaws is a miracle." (Jeannie)
"Look..." (Rodney)
"Plus, physically, you're...well, how do I put this? You're no John Sheppard." (Jeannie)

"I'm really sorry about all this." (Rodney)
"Oh, I am gonna hold this over your head for...forever." (Jeannie)
"Oh, that's totally fair." (Rodney)
"Like, you're gonna eat a lot of vegetarian food. And not complain about it." (Jeannie)
"Sure, sure." (Rodney)
"And you're gonna read Madison three stories instead of her usual two." (Jeannie)
"Right." (Rodney)
"You're gonna buy me a car." (Jeannie)
"Let's not get out of control here." (Rodney)
"You almost got me killed. That's at least a car--a nice one. A hybrid." (Jeannie)
"Yeah, well, we'll talk about it on the way home." (Rodney)

"Say, you and I are about even when it comes to looks, right?" (Rodney)
"Who's been lying to you?" (John)
"No, I'm serious." (Rodney)
"I am too. Who's been lying to you?" (John)


That wraps up today. See you back here on Wednesday as we hit the midpoint of the season with "This Mortal Coil."

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