Monday, April 16, 2012

SGA Rewatch: Outcast

Good morning, and welcome back to the Stargate Atlantis Rewatch. Today we'll be talking about season four's "Outcast." Spoilers for the episode and any that came before, as always.

What Happened

Things kick off with Ronon and John walking through a corridor together discussing a movie that Ronon has recently watched. Ronon feels misled by the title, Blades of Glory, and felt that there should have been a lot more battle. John tries to explain about ice-skating to him, but Ronon is not impressed. As they reach a transporter, Sam comes up to them and asks John if he has a minute. She tells him she's just received some news from Earth and unfortunately learned that his father suffered from a heart attack the night before. He did not survive.

Somewhere on Earth we see a young woman in a high-tech lab get an alert on her computer. She opens it up and sees the news story about John's father (who was apparently a prominent businessman) passing away. She moves to another part of the lab and we are shown a table strewn with all kinds of papers and articles, as well as various surveillance photos of both Ronon and John from their last visit to Earth.

On Atlantis, John is packing up to head home for the funeral when Rodney stops by to offer his condolences. He tells John he asked for leave to go with John but the EM shield generator on Kid Planet is undergoing some kind of malfunction and he has to stay behind to fix it. John tells him it is fine, he is fine, and Rodney heads out. As John stands before the gate, however, waiting for it to dial out to Midway, Ronon steps up beside him without a word. John asks Ronon where he's going and the simple response is, "With you."

On Earth John and Ronon follow a long line of cars pulling up to a big fancy house for Papa Sheppard's wake. When they arrive, they are greeted not so warmly by John's brother, Dave. It is clear from their exchange that the two men are not on the best of terms with each other. In the background we notice the woman from the lab with the surveillance photos watching their exchange. John heads in to the room with his father's coffin and just kind of stares at it, at a loss for words. Sensing that John needs to be alone, Ronon hits up the buffet table and then finds John once he's back outside. He asks John why he's never talked about his brother before and John says it is complicated. We also learn that John joining the Air Force caused something of a falling out between himself and his father because that was not the life his father had planned out for him.

As they are speaking, John glances back at the other guests and sees a woman (not the one from the lab) walking over to them. He spins around quickly and tells Ronon that his ex-wife is headed over. She approaches and greets them, and John introduces her to Ronon as Nancy. Awkward small talk ensues in which we learn: Nancy works for Homeland Security and is pretty high-ranking, she has remarried, John's father always was nice to her and their marriage was one of the few decisions in John's life that Papa Sheppard approved of. While John and Nancy both seem to still have some affection for each other, they are also clearly uncomfortable together and unsure of what to say, especially given the circumstances, so after a short while Nancy excuses herself.

John and Ronon then head to the bar and it is at this point that the woman from the lab approaches them. She introduces herself as Ava Dixon and seems to know not only John but Ronon as well, which catches the men's attention. She tells them she used to work for Henry Wallace (the man who kidnapped Rodney and his sister). John tries to play dumb but she is persistent, saying she needs to talk to them. Finally John relents but says that they can't discuss it here at the funeral, so the three head out to go somewhere they can speak in private.

On the way out, they run into Dave. When he realizes that John is leaving, even though John explains it is for work and kind of a national security situation, Dave is pissed. He says he'll be blunt then and asks John if he is planning on contesting the will, since they both know he probably didn't get anything. John is flabbergasted and can't believe that Dave thinks he even cares about that, but Dave assumed it was the only reason he even bothered to show up. John says he stayed away because he figured that's what their dad wanted and Dave says that's not the case at all. Their father always regretted the falling out. John is surprised to hear this, but Dave has had enough and stalks away. Frustrated, John follows after Ronon and Ava.

Once they get somewhere they can talk, Ava explains that she has been working for a man named Poole under a branch of Wallace's company. They were working on a nanite-related project called Archetype and the goal was to make a sentient being out of the nanites. Basically, he managed to make a human-form replicator, although technically it cannot replicate (thank goodness). The problem is that after Rodney's kidnapping, the IOA started to scrutinize Wallace's company and Poole realized his project would be found out. It wasn't exactly on the up and up of legality. When Poole tried to shut down the project, and the replicator, it rebelled and escaped. That was three weeks ago. She wants John's help tracking it down.

John goes to the SGA and gets a team to help him out. Their first stop is Poole's lab to arrest him and get him to help them find and neutralize the replicator. Poole isn't feeling terribly cooperative but Ava manages to convince him that it is for the best. They are all beamed up to the Apollo which is serving as the base for this particular operation. Onboard they run into former Sergeant Bates, who now works for the IOA heading up the team that deals with Earth-based threats related to the stargate program. Poole still isn't giving them much useful information, and all of the files they confiscated from the lab are heavily encrypted. But they also managed to recruit Doctor Lee for the mission (a very grumbly because his vacation was interrupted Lee). Lee is working on the encrypted files but it is going slowly. He has, however, managed to isolate the unique energy signature given off by the replicator's nanite cells so that they can track it.

They manage to narrow the search area down to a five city-block area. Bates has the area evacuated under the guise of a chemical spill and organizes a team to search for the replicator. John also talks Poole into helping with the search and giving them insight into the replicator's mindset and capabilities by threatening Ava with legal repercussions if he refuses to help. Poole tells them that the replicator is in defensive mode and probably just trying to stay hidden and avoid people at the moment. He also lets them know that it was designed to be resistant to the most current anti-replicator technology, so their ARGs are useless. But since it doesn't have access to its base materials, its ability to heal itself will be minimal so normal (if excessive) firepower should suffice.

They split up into groups of two with orders not to engage but to notify John immediately if they find the replicator. Bates and Poole see him first, going into an abandoned warehouse. Bates radios John with their position and then Poole knocks him out with a handy two-by-four and goes into the building alone. He finds the replicator and tries to talk it down, explaining that no one wants to hurt it as long as it comes in peacefully. Poole approaches the replicator slowly, telling it that it needs to self-deactivate. The replicator seems to think it over and then attacks Poole instead.

John and Ronon get to Bates and find him knocked out. John radios for the Apollo to beam him up and then heads into the building after Poole. They find him, but it is too late, he is dead. John radios Lee to see if he can tell them where the replicator went but Lee loses the signal he was using to track it. John and Ronon keep looking and then hear gunfire. They find one of the search groups, injured, and John orders the other teams to fall back to the perimeter while he and Ronon try to flush the replicator out of the area. The pair manage to chase it down and get it cornered, but before they can capture the replicator it jumps off of a pier into the ocean and disappears.

A thorough search of the water and surrounding area finds no trace of the replicator, and Lee is having no luck picking it back up on his tracker. It seems the replicator has figured out how to mask its energy signature. Lee doubles his efforts to decrypt Poole's files but it is still slow-going. They are back at square one and while they try to figure out where to go next, something occurs to John. It is strange, he tells the others, that Poole was so willing to risk his life to bring the replicator in undamaged. No matter what happened, he was looking at a life imprisonment. Salvaging the replicator would have done him no good. Unless, John posits, he had already planned to sell the tech to a third party, someone with enough pull to get him out of his legal hot water. Bates and Lee agree that this is a reasonable assumption, but Bates points out that the people with enough clout to do that aren't going to be easy to find. They won't be able to go through IOA channels to search for sure. John has another idea, though.

He calls up Nancy and arranges a meeting with her in D.C. She is surprised to hear from him again so soon after their last meeting. He explains that he needs a favor. He wants her to use her clearance as a director in Homeland Security to dig up anything she can on Archetype, hoping that will give them a lead to find either the replicator or Poole's buyer. Nancy says that doing so might cost her her job and asks what this is all about. When John says he can't tell her she gets mad and says that she put up with all of his secrecy when they were married but she doesn't have to do that anymore.

John's next stop is to check up on Ava. She is in Poole's lab packing up some of his personal belongings that she was told she could take since they were pretty close. John asks her if there is anyone else she can think of who knew about the project. Anyone who checked in on them regularly or who Poole might have been in communication with. She says as far as she knows she and Poole were the only people who knew anything about the true nature of the project. She asks how the search for the replicator is going and he tells her they still haven't had any hits on the scanner, but Lee is getting close to cracking the encrypted files.

Back on the Apollo John goes to see Lee, who has finally been able to access the files. He says he's found something interesting. According to Ava's personnel file, she was killed in a car crash over a year ago. John takes a team and rushes back to Ava's lab but she has already cleared out, leaving a note that says, "sorry." She is a replicator too, it turns out. John tries to have Lee track her energy signature but she appears to be masking it just like the other one.

John gets a message from Nancy and goes back to Earth to meet her. She has come through. She hands him a flash drive with everything she could dig up on the Archetype project, though she tells him it is not much. She says she also took the liberty of asking around about John, and he says that was probably a bad idea. She agrees, saying that walls went up so fast her head was spinning. She tells him it is clear that he is involved in something big, something probably dangerous, and asks him to just be careful. She admits that now that she is working for Homeland Security she kind of understands John's point of view of things from when they were married. She sometimes catches her husband giving her the kind of questioning looks she used to give John. They say goodbye and part ways more or less amicably.

John and Lee set to work going through the files Nancy found and they seem to hit on something. They find mention of something that seems to be code for a large shipment of neutronium, the base material for the replicator nanite cells. Lee says they know where it is being kept, and points out that since the replicator was damaged when they cornered it, in order to repair itself it will need to get more neutronium. It will probably head to that warehouse for supplies. Of course, there is still the problem of actually subduing and destroying it, but something that Lee says in jest gives John an idea.

They set up an ambush and, as expected, the replicator shows up. It almost kills John but then Ava shows up and intervenes. She and the other replicator get into a fight and go at it until it manages to knock Ava out. Then Ronon jumps in and while the replicator is distracted with him, John jams a beacon into its side. He then radios the Apollo, which uses the beacon to lock on to the replicator and beam it up out of the warehouse and into a low-earth orbit. It is quickly pulled down into reentry and destroyed in the process.

They manage to recover Ava and put her under lock and key on the Apollo. Bates does his old song and dance about how she is a threat to security but both Lee and Ronon argue that without her intervention they never would have even known about the escaped replicator, let alone been able to stop it. They both think that something can be arranged to let her go, while Bates seems to just want to keep her locked up for the rest of forever. They all turn to John who has a third suggestion. They upload Ava's consciousness into a virtual reality designed by Lee, allowing her to live out her "life" without being a danger to Earth. Her physical body is scrapped.

With the mission completed, Ronon heads back to Atlantis. John remains behind, however, saying he has a few things to take care of first. The episode ends with him returning to his father's house to see his brother, presumably to work out their differences.


This is an okay episode overall, but it isn't really a standout one to me. Yet another stand alone, so it doesn't really bear any sort of impact on the overall arc of the season. We do get some insight into the fallout from Henry Wallace's escapades in stealing alien tech (and learn that the SGC really needs to be more careful when hiring independent contractors to farm out tech development to in the future). We also get to find out what happened to Bates after he got beat into a coma by a wraith back in season one, so that's nice I guess. He seems to have mellowed out a bit, although he is still all "security, security, security!" It is nice to see that he's not so much of an ass as he seemed in season one (though this could just be because Teyla was not around). Then there's the background on John. Character development!

Other than that, well, there's not much else to say beside a few stray thoughts:
-John's ex-wife actually seems pretty awesome.
-It's always nice to see Lee and his super-geekery again.
-Ronon looks pretty hot in jeans, y'all.

That's about all I've got for this one.

Favorite Quotes

"I told you I had an ex-wife, right?" (John)
"Yeah, why?" (Ronon)
"Here she comes." (John)

"Alright. What's it about?" (Nancy)
"I can't tell you." (John)
"That's typical!" (Nancy)
"What the hell's that supposed to mean?" (John)
"I haven't seen you in over four years and now you want me to put my job on the line and you won't even tell me why?" (Nancy)
"Alright, when you put it that way, it sounds a little crappy." (John)

"This could be our last shot at this guy. We've gotta make sure he goes down for good this time." (Ronon)
"It's not gonna be easy. I mean, if this was the movies we'd dip him into a vat of molten steel or a volcano.... You know, the fires from whence he came." (Lee)


And there we shall end for the day. See you back here on Wednesday for a super awesome episode, "Trio."

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