Wednesday, June 27, 2012

SGA Rewatch: Brain Storm

Well well, we've made it Wednesday and that means it's time to rewatch another episode of Stargate Atlantis! Today's episode is season five's fantastic installment "Brain Storm." Lots of laughs ahead, and spoilers of course, as always.

What Happened

John and Ronon are in the mess and we learn that Rodney and a bunch of other people are going to Earth for leave but John is staying behind on Atlantis. Instead he is going camping with Ronon. John sees Rodney and Jennifer eating together and asks Ronon if he thinks Rodney will ever makes a move. Ronon makes a grumpy "who cares" reply and stalks off.

Rodney, meanwhile, asks Jennifer (very awkwardly) if she would be willing to attend a super secret science presentation with him while they are on Earth. She teases him that he doesn't have to come up with some big hoopla to ask her out, he can just ask her on a date. He stutters and then asks her if she'll go with him and she smiles and says yes.

On Earth, a scientist named Malcolm is getting ready for the aforementioned presentation. Another man comes in and asks if he is sure everything is good to go. Malcolm assures him that everything will be fine and the man says that some of the other scientists are worried there is a chance of bad things happening. Malcolm assures him again that nothing will go wrong.

Jennifer and Rodney are all dolled up and on a private plane headed to the presentation. Jennifer oohs and aahs over the accommodations and Rodney tries to shrug them off. She tells him he should be happy for his friend and Rodney says he and Malcolm were never really friends and that Malcom's really just showing off. Jennifer reminds him to just enjoy the moment.

They arrive at the facility and are given huge non-disclosure and confidentiality agreements before they are let in. Rodney balks but Jennifer tells him to just sign. They proceed through to a reception area with food and lots of people mingling. They are approached by Bill Nye and Neil deGrasse Tyson who flirt with Jennifer and tease Rodney about his lack of published work. Rodney makes their goodbyes and they find their seats. He grumbles that this was a bad idea and she reminds him that not everything is a competition. He doesn't have to remind everyone how smart he is, he could try being humble for once. She points out that they are on their first date and she agreed to come to a physics lecture, he could bend a little too. He agrees and they sit back as the presentation begins.

Malcolm begins with a video about global warming and then gives a speech about his research. He is very full of himself, so much so that even Jennifer points it out. He says with financing from his friends at Kramer Innovations he has come up with a way to cool the planet in a safe and controlled way. Rodney sits forward, intrigued. Malcolm explains that he has created a heat sink that draws heat from the environment and then vents it from the environment with a space time bridge that vents the heat into an alternate space time. Rodney starts to get agitated, recognizing the bridge as his own dangerous design.

Malcolm says that he's surrounded the complex with a plasma grid to seal it off from the surrounding environment and will demonstrate his new tech by lowering the temperature in the facility by ten degrees. Rodney flips out, realizing that Malcolm means to activate the bridge while they are all there. He is unable to remain quiet despite Jennifer's urging and stands up, interrupting Malcolm's speech and claiming that turning on the heat sink is a Very Bad Idea. Malcolm dismisses Rodney's objections, pointing out that the NDA included consent for the experiment. Rodney says they just need to go over the data first because he has some experience with this and of course no one believe him. It has been made clear that he is a bit of a joke among the community.

Rodney tries to explain that bridges to other space times can be very unpredictable but without any papers or evidence to support his claim, no one will believe him. Malcolm turns on the heat sink and the audience adjourns to the lobby for hot chocolate while the experiment is in progress. Rodney looks over the brief with the data that Malcolm hands of out and realizes that it really is based on his own work. He wonders how Malcolm got hold of it and he and Jennifer sneak off to Malcolm's office so that Rodney can hack into his computer and find out.

In the lobby an assistant finds Malcolm and pulls him aside. She says he told them to turn off the heat sink once the temperature reached the desired level and he says that's right. She says that they've tried but they have been unable to turn it off. He races back to the lab to try to find the problem. The man from the previous evening is on hand and very irate but Malcolm brushes him off. He sees that the bridge won't deactivate, though he doesn't know why. The man, Kramer, suggests shutting down the facility's power, Malcolm says no go, the bridge powers itself once activated. Then he suggests shutting down the containment field so they can evacuate. That won't work either, it is tied to the basic operations of the device. As a safety protocol it can't be shut down until the bridge is. The temperature will continue to drop. He's turned on the facility's heat to try to buy time to figure out how to fix the problem before they all freeze to death. He claims that someone has messed with the system.

In the lobby, Bill Nye is trying to convince Rodney that he was out of line interrupting Malcolm's speech. Rodney says he didn't have a choice, he had to say something before the device was turned on. He still maintains that Malcolm stole his work. A security guard comes to their table and tells Rodney and Jennifer that Malcolm would like a word with them, Rodney thinks it is to apologize to him. They are taken to a conference room and Malcolm and Kramer come in.

Malcolm says that Rodney is the one who should be apologizing. He tells them that the device won't shut down and he and Rodney start squabbling and Kramer cuts in, asking what they did. They defend their innocence and Kramer pulls up footage of Rodney in Malcolm's office. Rodney explains that he was looking for a paper he published a little over two years ago dealing with a matter bridge. Malcolm scoffs that Rodney hasn't published anything in ages and Rodney says not that he can take credit for, no. He lays out a scenario: Malcolm was working with the government and someone let him see something he wasn't supposed to see, a paper about a matter bridge that was shut down due to a problem with exotic particles. He realized that the exotic particles wouldn't be a problem if the matter bridge was used to get rid of something rather than draw something in. So he took the science as his own and jazzed it up a little and totally ignored the original author's warnings about how dangerous matter bridges are.

Kramer retorts that Rodney's suggestion is ridiculous but Malcolm is just quiet for a moment. Rodney looks at Malcolm and says that was his work. Malcolm says Rodney may be able to help them. They take Rodney to the lab and he looks over the situation. He declares it bad. Kramer asks about the sabotage and Malcolm admits he may have rushed to judgement. Kramer asks Rodney if he can turn the bridge off and Rodney says he isn't sure. They notice that the bridge isn't drawing a consistent level of energy from the heat sink, it is wavering. If they can find a way to overload the heat sink then the bridge should shut down.

In the lobby there is a flash of light and a man hit by it is left half frozen. Malcolm is sent for and Jennifer examines the injured man while Malcolm and Rodney discuss the occurrence. They believe it was caused by the irregular power draw from the heat sink and dub it freeze lightning. Jennifer asks if this is the first time it happened and Rodney is afraid it is just the first time anyone's been around to notice it. It is definitely going to keep happening and probably with more frequency, which will definitely hamper their efforts to shut down the bridge (if it doesn't end up killing them outright).

Rodney wants to call in the military and Jennifer and Malcolm agree. Kramer refuses, however, worried that the project would be shut down for good. Jennifer asks for Malcolm's cell phone but he says it won't work inside the containment field. They try the land line in Malcolm's office but the phones are dead. Malcolm and Rodney get to work on solving the problem. Jennifer points out that they have a room full of geniuses available and talks them into getting everyone to work on the problem together. This goes...about as well as you'd expect. Everyone starts squabbling and Jennifer has to shame them into playing nice with each other. Rodney thinks he is on to something so they all take a look at that. Jennifer goes to work on Kramer next, convincing him that his work on saving the planet is really about saving lives and begs him to let her call in backup. He agrees and they head to the communications room but the freeze lightning has already struck and the equipment they need is destroyed. They are completely cut off.

Back in the lab they reassess. They are alarmed to find out that the containment field is starting to die. Jennifer thinks this is good but they explain that if they turn it off before letting the temperature normalize within then it will cause a brutal storm once the cold air inside meets the desert air outside the facility. Worse, if it dies before the heat sink is shut down, the sink will continue drawing heat from the rest of the planet. But they do realize that with the field weakening, if they get someone in the right place, they might be able to punch a cell signal through and make a phone call. Jennifer volunteers to go make the call so that Rodney and Malcolm can keep working on getting the bridge dismantled.

The idea is to overload the heat sink when the bridge is drawing its peak amount of energy to cause the bridge to collapse. The problem means that they will need to dial up the heat sink to full power, which means it will get super cold super fast and cause a proportionate increase in freeze lightning. As they are going over this, they learn that the facility's furnace has given out. They just lost their protection against the cold. Rodney says the plan is the only one they've got so they need to make sure they are ready to implement it at the first available opportunity, they might not get any more.

Jennifer goes hunting a cell signal and calls the SGC. Walter answers but he can't hear her, all he is getting on his end is static so he hangs up. Jennifer loses the signal and curses, then moves on.

Malcolm, Rodney, and Bill dial up the heat sink, wondering if they should tell everyone what they are about to do. They reason that it is probably a bad idea since they can't move everyone to a safe area and there's no way to know where the freeze lightning will hit. Lightning strikes in several places, including the corridor Jennifer is in. It hits a water pipe on the wall, spraying her and shorting out her phone. In the lab Rodney says that the plan seems to be working, they just need to hold out until the bridge collapses. The lightning continues however and Malcolm turns the sink back down.

Jennifer tries to leave the corridor but the door is frozen shut. She radios Rodney to update him on her situation. Malcolm sends a security team to try to break her out of the corridor. She tells them to hurry. The hall is flooding, she's already soaked, and with the temperature dropping like it is she doesn't have long before she succumbs to hypothermia. The containment field around the facility dies and a storm starts to surge around the facility. They are all running dangerously low on time.

Rodney and Malcolm talk over the situation and try to approach it from another angle. Rodney thinks instead of overwhelming the generator they should try to starve it. If they open another space time bridge it will be too much and the whole thing will shut down. They get to work on reconfiguring the system to let them do that.

Jennifer radios Rodney that she is starting to be in trouble. Rodney asks Malcolm how long until the rescue crew gets there and Malcolm says they are cut off. It will take them time. Rodney looks at a floor plan and sees that he has a straight shot though. He leaves Malcolm and Bill Nye to implement the plan despite Malcolm's objections and goes to find Jennifer. He grabs an ax from the fire-hose case and chops down the door to Jennifer's corridor. She is unconscious but he does CPR and is able to revive her. Meanwhile Malcolm and Bill Nye are able to use the second bridge to shut down the first one. Everybody celebrates and Jennifer tells Rodney she loves him.

Jennifer and Rodney, wrapped up in blankets, head home on the private jet. Rodney grumbles that everyone thinks Malcolm is the one who saved the day. He says he knows he is supposed to be humble but that kind of thing matters to him and that's something she should know about him. She tells him if he really feels that way then he should quit and join the private sector so everyone can see his work. He says he has been thinking about it and she says he'll never do it, no one loves their job more than he does. She then changes the topic to point out how much privacy they've got and they move on to more pleasant pursuits as the screen fades to black.


Man, poor Rodney. I can only imagine how hard it must be to do so much amazing work and make so many technological breakthroughs and not be able to tell anyone in the scientific community about it. Add to that an ego like Rodney's and, well, is it any wonder he's looked at so askance by his fellow physicists? That's gotta be hard. It goes back to the discussion he had with Daniel in "First Contact," doesn't it? Why would anyone looking for fame and glory get involved in top secret super duper classified research? As Jennifer says though, Rodney is a man who clearly loves his job. Also, I think this episode demonstrates that while some of his rivalries with other physicists might be more friendly than with others, there is no way he would have found the family among them that he has found in Atlantis. There are just too many egos to get in the way for that kind of thing.

Speaking of which, I love the appearance of Bill Nye (the Science Guy!) in this episode, as well as Neil deGrasse Tyson. Though Bill Nye clearly shines in his much larger role as the episode gets underway. Plus, the casting of Dave Foley as Rodney's long-standing academic nemesis was just freaking brilliant. This is probably one of my favorite episodes of the entire series for the casting alone. Also, I really want to learn how to make GIFs just so I can make one of that moment where Bill Nye slaps Dave Foley. Because, seriously. Just, yes.

Also, we do get the demonstration that a) Rodney in the private sector would probably be insufferable, and b) he is so not the most arrogant man in the field by a long shot. (This is probably good for Jennifer to see too.)

Like season four's "Miller's Crossing" and "Outcast," "Brain Storm" also gives us another glimpse of how the work done in the stargate program filters through to the rest of Earth's science community, and the dangers inherent in taking away the original creator's ability to claim credit for their work, I think.

Also, this episode officially seals the Rodney and Jennifer Are Dating story line. We see Ronon is still a bit sore about losing out, but I think we can all agree it worked out like it was supposed to. And if we can't, well, I won't bash your ship if you don't bash mine.

Favorite Quotes

"Some of these worst-case scenarios are terrifying." (Kramer)
"Of course they are! They're worst-case scenarios. They are the worst possible thing that could happen ever!" (Malcolm)

"It's amazing what a nice smile and a PowerPoint presentation will get you." (Rodney)

"What could he possibly be doing back there that needs to be kept two hundred pages secret?" (Rodney)
"If you want to go inside, sir, you need to sign the agreement." (Receptionist)
"Dinosaurs?" (Rodney)
"Excuse me?" (Receptionist)
"Do they have living dinosaurs back there? Because I'll sign this if he's brought dinosaurs back to life..." (Rodney)

"Why don't we just destroy it, just bash it apart?" (Bill Nye)
"Because that could create a tear in our space time?" (Rodney)
"Never mind then." (Bill Nye)
"Yeah." (Rodney)


So there we'll wrap up another week's rewatching. See you back here on Monday as we plow forward with "Infection."

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