John's team receives an invitation to a meeting of leaders of various cultures from throughout the galaxy. Rodney thinks it is a waste of their time but Woolsey, Teyla, and Ronon think it would be very worthwhile to enter into cooperation with the coalition. The team arrives on the planet and are shown to a room to wait. As soon as the door is shut the room begins to fill with gas. They try to get the door open but to no avail and are all quickly knocked out.
They wake up in a cell and their jailers arrive shortly thereafter, telling them that the "council" wishes to speak to John. He is taken before a panel of three people who introduce themselves as Kelore of Latira, Shiana of the Tribes of Santhal, and Dimas of the Free Peoples of Riva. All three look at him dourly and it is immediately obvious that the setting is very reminiscent of a courtroom. Kelore tells John that they three speak on behalf of the coalition and that John has been brought to the council as a representative of the Atlantis expedition, with it being John's responsibility to answer to the charges. Kelore says the Atlantis expedition has been accused of crimes against the people of the galaxy and this is their trial.
In Atlantis Lorne returns from a recon mission to the village where John's team went and reports that they are definitely not there anymore. Woolsey and Lorne agree that the team wouldn't have left without reporting back to Atlantis and Woolsey tells Lorne to take as many men as he needs back to the planet to keep looking and question visitors.
John, realizing that his team has been set up to be lured to their "trial" tries to find out what game the council is playing. They say that subterfuge was necessary to get them there due to their technology and military power. John asks what the hell the council thinks his people has done. Dimas tells John that according to their calculations the Atlantis expedition has been responsible for the deaths of over two million people in the galaxy. John disputes that claim as ridiculous and Dimas asks about their first encounter with the wraith.
Flashback to the team's first encounter with the wraith on Athos. The council tells John he should have left his culled people to their fate and John rebuts that isn't how his people operate. They revisit John killing the queen on that first rescue mission, which ended up awakening the hibernating wraith. It is clear that the council holds John responsible for the wraith waking early. John points out that his people may have had a hand in that but a) the wraith were going to wake up again anyway, and b) the people of Atlantis have been fighting back and taking a toll on the wraith ever since.
The council maintains Atlantis' guilt, however, and John tells them he isn't going to play their game and turns to leave. They say this is only the first of many charges. If John leaves now they will take it as an admission of guilt on all charges. John asks what they plan to do, imprison everyone in the expedition? Kelore responds that they will refuse cooperation with the expedition. John doesn't really see the downside to this but Kelore goes on, the coalition is growing in strength every day and soon enough everyone that Atlantis trades with will be forced to stop doing so. They will be totally cut off from the rest of the galaxy. Shiana adds that an example will also need to be made of John and his team. Dimas says that they will be sent to exile on an uninhabited gateless planet with no hope of return to Atlantis.
John goes back to the team to update them on the situation. He and Ronon begin talking escape strategy. Rodney pipes up that they should just convince the council they're not guilty, because they're not. That is met with silence and Rodney huffs that there is no way the galaxy would be better off if they had never come. Teyla agrees but does concede there have been "setbacks" since their arrival. She counters that by saying there is also now hope that didn't exist before they came. John thinks they will need to play along with the trial to buy time for a rescue (or escape).
Lorne returns to Atlantis with a representative from the coalition. He asks Woolsey if he is the leader of Atlantis and when Woolsey confirms that he says they need to speak.
The next charge thrown before John is the Hoffan virus. They don't believe it is a natural illness but rather the work of one individual. John says yes, that would be Michael. They ask how such a being came to exist and John explains about Carson's research in changing wraith to humans and that Michael was their first test subject. Shiana takes this as an admission of guilt. John says it isn't as if they set him loose on the galaxy on purpose, they have been attempting to stop and capture him ever since.
Woolsey, upon learning of what happened to the team, is understandably incensed. He and Lorne question the man, Myrus, and learn of the trial. They point out that they are trying to help the galaxy and Myrus says that they are making unilateral decisions that effect everyone, not just Atlantis, and it can't continue. He calls them a dangerous rogue element. When Myrus refuses to tell them where the team is being held Woolsey orders him detained until he is willing to talk.
John admits that his people have made mistakes but he points out that they are the only ones actually actively fighting against the wraith. Kelore says that is Atlantis' fault as well, bringing up the Genii. He says that if Atlantis hadn't interfered with the Genii plan to thwart the wraith they would be out there too. John reminds Kelore that the Genii plan was kind of doomed to begin with and that they were betrayed by the Genii just as the Genii betrayed them, but it was the Genii that made the first false move. John tells them if they want a military victory against the wraith Atlantis is their only chance.
Woolsey and Lorne reach out to their allies throughout the galaxy trying to find information on the team without luck. Lorne is disheartened, worrying that maybe they can't count on anyone who is supposed to be their friends now. Woolsey says they aren't to that point of despair just yet and that he has an idea. They go to Myrus' cell and Woolsey says he has a proposal for the man.
Dimas questions John's claim of military success against the wraith. John recounts a few of the times he managed get the wraith to destroy their own ships, diminishing the number of hive ships left to attack the rest of the galaxy. John also points out that Atlantis has access to a bit of Ancient technology as well, which has also helped them to destroy hive ships. Shiana isn't impressed, she says he has no actual evidence that his "colorful" tales of success are truth. He says that none of this would be happening if it weren't for his successes. Kelore responds in an outburst that makes it clear that in his mind their guilt has already been determined.
A man enters the chamber and whispers something in Kelore's ear. He calls for a recess and has John escorted back to his cell. He is surprised to find Woolsey waiting with the others. Woolsey says he has made an arrangement with their captors. He is taking over the team's defense. John asks if Woolsey thought to bring a subspace tracking beacon but Woolsey says no. Since that is actually wraith technology they don't exactly have any laying around, and he couldn't reach Todd to borrow one. He tells them that he did everything he could to find the location of their planet on his own but to no avail. The coalition handled the abduction very smartly. But he says he has a plan to get them out of there: win the trial. John isn't too sure of the merit of that plan but Woolsey points out he used to be a lawyer, and a damn good one.
The next charge the council brings up are the attacks on human colonies by the replicators. Woolsey tells them about the replicators, which were built by the Ancients and who are definitely not allies of Atlantis. Woolsey explains that they attacked human worlds as part of their campaign against the wraith. Their intention being to eliminate the enemy's food supply. Of course, it comes up that the replicators wouldn't have started attacking the rest of the galaxy unless Atlantis had interfered. The command code to direct them to attack the wraith had been turned off but Rodney reactivated it.
Woolsey defends the decision though, saying it was an opportunity that could not be turned down and it was not undertaken lightly or without cost. They had no idea the replicators would attack human worlds. He says that they cannot be held responsible for the actions of the replicators. Dimas doesn't buy that. Woolsey points out that the number of hive ships destroyed by them would have certainly killed far more people than those killed by the replicators directly. Shiana takes great offense at this and Woolsey realizes that her world was one of those destroyed by the replicators. She lost everyone she held dear and says she will not rest until someone is made to pay for it.
Woolsey goes back to update the team. He says it is clearly inappropriate for someone that biased to be on the council. John worries that they stacked the deck against Atlantis. Woolsey is not so sure. He thinks that Dimas seems reasonable enough and might vote for the expedition. They then discuss Kelore, who they agree is a harder read. Woolsey frowns and asks for confirmation that Kelore is from Latira. John nods and Woolsey says that recent reports have shown growing relations between Latira and the Genii. John remembers that Kelore did seem to think that it should be the Genii leading the fight against the wraith. The team realize that the Genii might be behind this whole trial. They are the biggest military power in the galaxy apart from Atlantis, but can't begin to run things while the expedition remains.
Ronon says they need to just escape. Woolsey says there are too many variables to give them a good chance of getting out of there though. But he says now that he knows what is going on, he actually has a chance at winning the trial. He bribes a guard to take him to Kelore in private. Woolsey tells Kelore he is backing the wrong horse and says he knows about the man's connection to the Genii. He tells Kelore that Atlantis would make a much better military presence in the galaxy. Until now they have been content to just stay on the sidelines of galactic politics, just fighting the wraith. But if their choice is bow out completely or play a bigger role, they will take the bigger role. Of course, they'll need someone on the inside to help push their "agenda," which is where Kelore comes in. Woolsey promises to make it worth his while. Kelore pauses to think it over.
Woolsey is taken before the council once more. Dimas asks if he is ready to face the final charge, which is that Atlantis stands accused of conspiring with the wraith. He realizes they are talking about Todd, and explains how the acquaintance came about. He also explains what they have been able to accomplish with the help of Todd, like the destruction of the replicators. Dimas calls for a recess to deliberate and Woolsey asks to make a statement first. He reminds them that sooner or later one faction of the wraith will win out over the others and it will then turn its attention to the coalition with a vengeance. If they don't want Atlantis fighting at their side when that day comes, well, that is their choice. Shiana says she needs no deliberation she wants to vote now. She votes guilty, Dimas votes not, and everyone looks at Kelore.
Woolsey returns to the cell and tells the team that they have been found not guilty. Everyone lets out a sigh of relief and they are free to go. Back in Atlantis Woolsey (decked out in a suit because he was missing his old "uniform") finds John on a balcony and they share celebratory cigars. He tells John he did have to commit Atlantis to a larger role in the day-to-day happenings of the galaxy. John says it was bound to happen eventually and Woolsey says he only hopes the I.O.A. agrees.
Sigh, clip-shows. I get that they are a big budget-saving tool, and that they fill up space in a story that otherwise wouldn't occupy an entire episode, but dude. From a creative standpoint there are so many better ways to show how past actions of things we have already seen can come back to affect what is going on right now in the show. Somehow I suspect a quiet bottle episode requiring no new sets, explosions, special effects, or extra casting would save just as much money as recycling footage and be much more compelling for viewers to watch. Just my two cents.
On the plus side, this episode certainly featured lots of Lorne! I am never going to complain about that. One benefit of the way this episode was told was that while the main team was undergoing the boring stuff of being detained and questioned, we got to see more of what goes on back in Atlantis when John and company go missing. It was a lot of fun to watch Lorne and Woolsey working together to figure out what happened and then get their people back.
Speaking of Woolsey, I loved him in this episode! He has clearly thrown his lot in with Atlantis and the people of the Pegasus galaxy rather than with the basic will of the I.O.A. I think it is a testament to how much these people really do want to see the threat of the wraith ended, and to Woolsey's character. I also like how he used his lawyer background to do what needed to be done in order to get his people free and to make sure that Atlantis did end up being part of the coalition.
One purpose this episode serves is to sum up most of the expedition's biggest mistakes over the course of the series so far. It is a decent checklist for a final season, to figure out what has left to be resolved.
- Waking the wraith up early: Well, yes, but that was an accident and they have been trying to make up for it by ending the wraith threat once and for all ever since.That's something not too many other people in the galaxy have been very keen on doing.
- Unleashing Michael (and the Hoffan virus) on the galaxy: A failed attempt to eliminate the wraith. Another one that they have been trying to make up for.
- Taking the Genii out of the galactic game: So not guilty. The Genii are asshats and are just trying to run things themselves. Their failures can be laid at their own feet.
- The replicator destruction of human colonies: A very unforeseen side effect to something that should have been good for the galaxy. Also, no longer an issue. As soon as they realized what was happening, they did what was necessary to stop it.
- Conspiring with the wraith: Namely, Todd, who has actually helped them deal damage to other wraith and is at least willing to consider humans worth talking to, rather than just a food source. Woolsey flat up admits they don't trust the guy and they deal with him using extreme caution, but he has his uses.
Overall it seems like the big question mark here, aside from wiping the wraith out for good, is Michael.
While the council has a point that a lot of what has happened in the galaxy since the arrival of the expedition might not have played out the same way if they hadn't gotten involved, I don't for one second believe that the loss of life would have been any less. Their point that waking the wraith early was the main reason for so much extra death simply because the humans hadn't recovered from the last full-scale cycle of culling just doesn't hold water. The wraith left watchers awake not just to keep their hibernating people safe, but also to keep an eye on the humans in the galaxy. Those scouting parties weren't just to get food for the watchers, they were to make sure none of the humans managed to rebuild too much. The wraith were never going to leave them alone long enough to have a chance to resist. Maybe the immediate collateral damage wouldn't have been so high, but in the long run, how much does that actually matter?
Of course, as Woolsey proved when he started talking about the balance of things, putting it like that isn't the best idea. Especially not to people who have personally lost so much because of the ripples started by the Atlantis expedition's activities. Even more so when those people are really just looking for someone to blame and have already made up their minds about guilt. The old way means smaller losses on a more frequent scale that are perhaps easier to deal with on a personal level, certainly. But the way the Atlantis expedition has been going about it has been intended to put an end to the wraith for good, to break the cycle. Every wraith hive ship destroyed means thousands of human lives that won't need to be sacrificed to feed the wraith. They have stumbled along the way, certainly, and at times they have acted without remembering that the Pegasus galaxy and its people are different than what they know in the Milky Way. But at least they are trying to make up for their mistakes and they never lose sight of the real enemy. They keep fighting the wraith. It should be noted also that they have never stopped looking for help in that fight. They want to trust the people of the Pegasus galaxy, they want to help these people fight back for their own futures.
Still, John was right too that no one aside from Atlantis has been actively taking the fight to the wraith. The people of the galaxy have been conditioned to hide and to expect loss, but they haven't been conditioned to understand the kind of loss that actual war would bring. Even those few cultures that do think about fighting back, like the Hoffans or the Genii, don't actually get it. Neither one of those groups realized what the full consequences of entering the fray in such a way would actually be. They weren't prepared. Atlantis understood though, and has been acting accordingly.
In Hoff when they realized that the plan needed refining based on tests and new information, they counselled caution, backing off and waiting to implement the immunity drug. They were willing to help because they have been, from the start, looking for allies against the wraith. But when those potential allies proved too reckless and unwilling to listen to the voice of experience, they did everything they could to call them off and then walked away so that someone would be left to keep fighting. With the Genii they thought they truly had found an ally, but the Genii didn't want to fight the wraith to free the galaxy, they wanted to get rid of the wraith to restore their own former glory. Genii motivations, as in this episode, have always been motivated by pure selfishness. Atlantis really did try to help them, and they took the first opportunity (caused by their own unwillingness to listen to the voice of experience from Teyla and the Lanteans alike) to double-cross Atlantis and try to get the clearly superior military force out of their way.
Therein lies the true difference between the Genii and Atlantis. Atlantis may have taken actions that affected everyone, but they are not out there trying to impose their own will on the rest of the galaxy, which is exactly what the Genii want to do. Even though they might forget it from time to time, they do know that the way they operate isn't the galactic norm. They have been willing to make the big calls to fight the wraith because they are fighting for their own lives and the safety of Earth as much as for the people of the Pegasus galaxy, but that is as far as they were willing to go. Now that Woolsey has more fully committed them to being part of the galactic community, it should be interesting to see how things proceed.
...and apparently I have all kinds of feels about this silly clip-show episode. Huh. Still. Mostly it is just a summary of where the expedition has been, what they have accomplished (good and bad), and what they have still left to do.
"Don't suppose there's any chance that you could just convince them that we're not guilty? 'Cause we're not, right? ...Oh come on! There is no way the Pegasus galaxy would be better off if we'd never come here!" (Rodney)
"No, but since your arrival there have been setbacks. Lives have been lost. But there is hope now, where once there was none." (Teyla)
"Fair trials don't take place in secret locations." (Woolsey)
"All right. I'm not saying we haven't made some mistakes, but that's 'cause we're the only ones out there fighting. Nobody else out there is taking on the wraith." (John)
"They took advantage of one significant weakness: we trusted them." (Woolsey)
"What other choice do we have? I mean, we know we can't win this thing." (Rodney)
"Not fairly, no." (Woolsey)
"What are you talking about?" (John)
"I'm saying, now that I know what the game is, I can play it." (Woolsey)
"We've been content to keep to ourselves up until now, but if it's a choice between getting pushed out of the game and taking a more active part, well, that's no choice at all, is it?" (Woolsey)
With that note, I shall leave you for today. See you back here on Wednesday for "The Prodigal."