Monday, June 25, 2012

SGA Rewatch: Remnants

Hello there. Welcome to another installment of the Stargate Alantis Rewatch! Today's episode is season five's "Remnants." Spoilers for the episode and any that came before, as always.

What Happened

Teyla, Ronon, and Rodney are eating and Teyla tells them that she feels sad for Mr. Woolsey, worried that he is lonely. Teyla asks him to join them when he walks by but he declines saying that he has some prep work to do for his upcoming I.O.A. performance evaluation. He admits that he is a bit nervous about it. Teyla assures him he has no reason to be and that he has done a good job in charge of the expedition thus far.

After he leaves Rodney asks where John is and Teyla and Ronon explain that he flew some astrobiologists to the mainland for a gathering expedition and volunteered to stay with them overnight. Rodney wonders why John would do that and we cut to John talking to one of the scientists, who is a very attractive woman. His eyes have glazed over at her explanation of some sort of botany thing. He is startled out of his daze when Parrish cries out nearby. John and the other scientist run to see what has happened and Parrish delightedly tells them he's discovered some new rare exotic plant. John just rolls his eyes and says he is heading back to the jumper, disappointed when the other scientist stays behind, as excited about the find as Parrish.

On his way back to the jumper he hears a rustling and turns only to be hit with the blast of a stun gun. He wakes up on the ground with his hands and feet bound. He sees a rock nearby and starts rubbing the rope at his wrists against it in an attempt to free himself.

Woolsey arrives at a transporter, his hands full. A voice from behind asks if she can help him and he willingly agrees. He notes that she is very attractive and asks if they've met, not recognizing her. She introduces herself as Doctor Vanessa Conrad and tells him she is new to Atlantis, having just arrived on the Apollo. He welcomes her to the city and they part ways when the transporter arrives at his quarters. Woolsey clearly wishes the encounter had not been so brief.

Back on the mainland, John has freed himself and made his way back to the jumper. He finds it gutted on the inside, clearly sabotaged to prevent his escape back to the city.

Rodney is working in his lab when Radek comes in. Rodney remarks that he thought Radek was offworld but Radek says the mission ended early. He tells Rodney that he thinks they should do a scan of the ocean floor, he has noticed some anomalous readings. Rodney dismisses the suggestion and Radek in short order, thinking the project a waste of time.

John double checks the jumper but it is clearly grounded, having been sabotaged while he was unconscious. He ventures out, and finding some tracks, follows them.

Woolsey greets the I.O.A. representative Xiao as she is beamed down into the gate room. He welcomes her warmly, the two seem to be on friendly terms. She tells him she is looking forward to the grand tour.

John reaches the camp he and the scientists had set up and finds it has been rifled through. He hears movement in the foliage and goes to check it out.

Woolsey gives Xiao a tour of the control room, chatting amiably with Amelia and then calling Chuck "Chet."

Radek refuses to give up on his idea and hounds Rodney until he gives approval for Radek to continue. Radek does a little bit of reverse psychology to peak Rodney's interest in the project as well.

Woolsey concludes Xiao's tour and she tells him that he's done a good job and as a result has been promoted to a new position back on Earth. She tells him "congratulations, you're going home." The look on his face makes it clear that he is not so excited about the reassignment.

Radek and Rodney get the scanner set up and much to Rodney's chagrin they find something almost immediately. Something is giving off strange energy readings about fifteen hundred feet below sea level.

John stalks through the woods and is quite surprised to find Kolya. While he is trying to process this information, another Genii sneaks up behind him and knocks him out.

Xiao is surprised at Woolsey's unhappiness at the announcement. She says nine months ago he was dreading going to Atlantis. He says a lot has changed in that time. He likes it there, and he doesn't like the idea of leaving the job unfinished. He asks what's really going on and Xiao admits that the I.O.A. is concerned about some of the decisions he's made. They feel his judgment has been compromised by the stress of the position. Translation: He is not being as obedient a lap dog as they had hoped.

Rodney and Radek have their discovery recovered from the ocean. It is a metal tube of some sort. They get to work trying to figure out what it actually is.

John wakes up to hear Kolya giving orders to his men over the radio to hunt down the scientists. John wants to know how Kolya is alive and Kolya says he had some Ancient tech on hand when he and John had their showdown. John wants to know how Kolya got to the planet, how they found the city. Kolya says that Atlantis' secret is out, their offworld contacts aren't as trustworthy as they think. He says that he and his men will take the city by boat and Atlantis will never see them coming. Especially not after they cripple the city's defenses by sending a bomb through the gate, for which he will first need John's IDC. He puts on his gloves and begins to try beating the information out of him.

Woolsey is looking in his mirror, holding up a suit and comparing it to his Atlantis uniform sadly when his door chimes. He answers it to find Vanessa. She asks him if he would like to catch a movie with him. He tells her he's not really in the mood for a movie. She asks what's wrong and he tells her he is being relieved of command. He fears he was only appointed because they thought he would do what they wanted, not on the strength of his record. Vanessa tells him that if he doesn't want to leave he shouldn't, he should fight the decision. He tells her it's too late for that but she's not so sure. She asks why they would bother sending Xiao on a three week trip to the Pegasus galaxy to tell him that when they could have just sent a communique ordering his return.

Woolsey finds Xiao in the mess and calls her on it. He says she wasn't sent there to fire him, she was sent to evaluate him and make a recommendation. The I.O.A. might be leaning toward removing him but hasn't made up its mind yet. Which means someone in the I.O.A. wants him gone and is using her to make that happen. He asks what's in it for her and realizes that she's been promised the Atlantis command. She tells him he should just give up, this isn't a fight he can win.

Kolya stops beating on John, disappointed at not having gotten the answers he seeks but impressed at John's resistance. Kolya tries a different tactic, taunting John that he is a failure at keeping his people safe. When John still isn't willing to talk, Kolya says he will have to make other plans and radios for two of his men to join them.

Rodney and Radek continue to study the object retrieved from the ocean. Rodney is about to give up when Radek reminds him that he's brilliant and Rodney returns to the data with renewed vigor.

Kolya's men join him and he pulls out a blade, having the men hold John down. He cuts off John's hand.

Rodney has discovered that the device is giving off a low level but harmless radiation. Radek says that is interesting but they should be focusing on the data. Rodney is still stumped by that though. Radek makes an offhand comment about figuring out passwords on alien laptops. That comment gives Rodney an idea and he realizes the key to figuring out the encryption on the data.

Woolsey goes to this thinking spot and is surprised to find Vanessa there. He tells her he took her advice. He doesn't think it will save his job but at least he will know he went down swinging. He asks her if she would like to have dinner with him and she agrees. Before they can make their plans though Amelia comes by and says that she tried calling but he is off radio and Rodney needs to speak to him right away. Woolsey excuses himself and leaves and as he goes we see Xiao lurking around the corner, a curious expression on her face.

Rodney presents his findings to Woolsey. The device contains the records of a long-dead civilization, as well as the chemical building blocks for an alien life form. He thinks it was meant to seed the beginnings of life on a new world and once the life form was sufficiently developed, they could learn from the information of their long extinct ancestors. Woolsey asks what went wrong and Rodney thinks it crashed or stalled in its journey, but with the Daedalus they can send it along to its target destination. Woolsey nods and says okay, copy the data and do that. Rodney says therein lies the catch. Accessing the data would do irreparable damage to the biological samples. They can't take the data and send the device on its way, it's either or.

Using John's hand Kolya's men manage to get the jumper operational. John takes advantage of Kolya's distraction to escape. Kolya's men say they can deal with John after they take Atlantis but Kolya says no, John first.

Woolsey drops by the control room and asks Amelia to send Vanessa a message rescheduling their dinner in light of Rodney's findings. Amelia looks her up in the system and asks Woolsey if he is sure about the name. Woolsey changes his mind and just asks where Vanessa's quarters are, thinking he should tell her personally, but Amelia shakes her head and says she isn't finding anything. There is no Dr. Conrad on Atlantis.

The Genii track John and he gets the best of one of them, stealing his radio and gun.

Woolsey says Vanessa is the woman that he was speaking to on the balcony earlier. Amelia shakes her head and says Vanessa must have left before she got there, he was alone when she found him on the balcony.

John leaves his stolen radio as a lure for the Genii and takes out two more of them.

Woolsey goes to see Jennifer to have himself scanned, realizing he has been seeing things. As he is doing this Vanessa shows up and tells him Jennifer won't find anything. Jennifer turns around and says according to the scans he's fine. Everything looks perfectly normal. Woolsey asks what's going on, asks Vanessa why her name isn't in the database and Amelia couldn't see her. Jennifer, puzzled, answers that she is in the database and Vanessa tells Woolsey that Jennifer can't see her. Jennifer asks Woolsey to list his symptoms and Vanessa tells him they need to talk somewhere private. Jennifer thinks he just needs a full night's sleep and gives him some medication. He thanks her and leaves, trying to run away from Vanessa as well.

Rodney is analyzing the radiation readings from the device. Radek thinks he is wasting his time. He thinks that Woolsey will definitely decide to keep the data and Radek seems concerned at that. Something beeps on the computer and Rodney realizes that he's seen something similar to the frequency given off by the device before. He is very concerned.

John takes out some more Genii.

Woolsey returns to his quarters to find Vanessa waiting for him. She apologizes for making him doubt his sanity. He asks who or what she is and she says she is a manifestation of something blah blah blah. He realizes that she has something to do with the device Rodney found in the ocean. Before she can explain more Xiao comes by. She says she thought she heard him talking to someone and tells him she saw him talking to himself on the balcony earlier. She says such behavior might be a concern to the I.O.A. She changes the subject to the device and asks why Woolsey has delayed in giving the go ahead to retrieve the data. Vanessa points out that it doesn't belong to them and Woolsey tells Xiao that there are a lot of angles to consider. Xiao says that the civilization that built the device is dead but theirs is very much still alive and they could benefit from that data. Woolsey points out that they would be robbing a civilization of the opportunity to rebuild itself. Xiao says there is no guarantee it would succeed and they would be throwing away a great opportunity. Xiao says she can't believe that Woolsey is even debating the issue. Follow procedure and save his job.

John gets to Kolya and the two fight, resulting in John going tumbling over the edge of a cliff. He manages to grab a hold with his remaining hand and Kolya peers over the edge.

Woolsey bristles at Xiao's threat and she says it's just a simple fact. Rodney runs into the room and exclaims they need to get rid of the device. It is giving off a frequency similar to the one that induced mass hallucinations, causing people to kill each other. Vanessa tells Woolsey that it can also be used as a communication device between two very different species. Xiao says they need to act quickly, salvage the data and destroy the device. Woolsey thanks them both and dismisses them, telling him he will think it over. He turns to Vanessa and asks her to explain.

Kolya tells John that this has gone on long enough. He urges John to use his other hand and climb back up. John looks down to find his missing hand restored. Kolya says he has no intention of letting John dies and repeats the order to climb back up. John does so and asks what the heck's going on.

The scene cuts back and forth between Kolya and Vanessa explaining about a race called the Sekkari that existed thousands of years ago. When facing extinction they built several seed carriers and sent them out to give their civilization a chance at survival. Fifty were sent out but none reached their targets. The one Atlantis found malfunctioned and Kolya says he guided it to this planet and it landed in the ocean. It remained dormant there for two thousand years, until it was awakened by readings from a submerged puddle jumper, the one Rodney used when Michael was invading the city. Vanessa tells Woolsey she scanned the city and linked with him. Woolsey asks what she is and she explains she is the seed carrier's artificial intelligence, her purpose to protect the device and assess the people it encountered to see if they could be trusted to help.

Koyla explains to John that as the military leader of the expedition he was a threat, so the AI connected with him and distracted him with the Kolya scenario to keep him from returning to the city and ordering the destruction of the device. Everything he experienced was a hallucination. John is appalled at the scenario it chose but Kolya maintains that it was John who chose his distraction. The AI didn't have full control of the hallucination, it just helped John's mind manifest its darkest fears.

Vanessa tells Woolsey now he knows the truth and has a decision to make.

John heads back to the intact jumper to find Parrish and the other scientist waiting, wondering where the heck he has been. He tells them to pack up.

In her quarters, Xiao receives word that she has just received a secure message from Earth. She has it patched through and opens up a video conference from another I.O.A. member. He tells her that the rest of the council has decided to go with a different person as the new lead of Atlantis over herself. She closes the computer in anger. Later in the gate room she tells Woolsey she is heading back. She tells him that she gave him a glowing review and he isn't going anywhere. Like him, she is nobody's puppet, and the I.O.A. should have thought about that before sending the previous day's update. She leaves and Woolsey asks Amelia, "yesterday's update?" Amelia says she doesn't know what Xiao meant, they haven't had a scheduled dial out in days. Woolsey looks over and sees Vanessa smiling at him. She says to consider it a going away present.

Rodney arrives in the gate room with the device and Woolsey asks Vanessa what happens next. She says she'll start the process to give life to the Sekkari and then go to sleep until they are ready to meet her. She turns to John and apologizes for his experience. Rodney grumbles about not being able to interact with the AI and she shows herself to him, then reveals the true alien form of the Sekkari before the device is beamed up and she leaves.

Later in the mess, the team is eating and Woolsey comes by. Teyla asks him to join them again and he takes them up on it. They discuss the events, Rodney saying he figured that the AI knew better than to try to fool him so just concentrated on Woolsey and John. John says it is a heck of a coincidence that the AI appeared in the morning and Rodney didn't find the device until the afternoon. Rodney tells him it was no coincidence, just hard work and a little help from Radek. John asks what he's talking about, saying Radek is offworld. Rodney says no, he came back early and everyone kind of looks at him. He realizes that Radek was the AI all along.


Overall to me this episode seems to be about firmly establishing Woolsey as not just belonging on Atlantis but as being part of the team. He is one of our people. Despite his past annoying behavior, he is a man we can and should be rooting for to stay in charge of these people. He is doing what is best for his people and for the other races of the galaxy.

I really like how we got to see him make a stand to the I.O.A. here too. You can't get a much clearer sign that he's come over to Atlantis' side of the fence than his interactions with Xiao. After what we saw from him in "Inquisition" this also firms up that as clueless as he may seem about things at times, he can play the bureaucracy game, and play it well. He definitely knows how things go there. I almost don't like that he had to take the inspiration to realize what was really going on from Vanessa, but it makes sense. He was so gobsmacked at the idea of being forced to leave Atlantis that he did need the reminder of exactly why he should be the one to stay. It makes sense in my head anyway.

Something else about this episode that I really enjoyed was the delayed reveal that the Radek Rodney worked with during the episode was also a manifestation of the seed carrier's AI. I know that the first time I saw this episode I definitely did not pick up on that until it was made clear at the end. But now, it is very interesting to watch Rodney's interactions with Radek throughout and notice that no one else ever actually talks with Radek or looks at him. It was very well acted by everyone involved to clearly telegraph that Radek wasn't actually there for anyone looking closely enough to pick up on it without actually giving it away outright. It also amuses me to think that to the rest of the people he was interacting with during that day, Rodney must have seemed even more crazy than usual. Although I guess we all should have known when Radek told Rodney he was brilliant, come to think of it.

I don't have a whole lot to say about the whole bit with John and Kolya, except that when I first watched this episode it freaked me right the heck out. Both because Kolya was supposed to be dead, damn it, and because of the whole hand chopping off thing. I couldn't believe they had actually done that. It is pretty clear that John is a person who holds onto his old demons and has all kinds of self-doubt and self-recrimination going on. I do find it interesting on rewatching, however, that when John asks Kolya how he got to the planet, the AI manages to completely evade answering the question while also distracting John from that fact. That was pretty dang impressive. Because seriously, there is no answer to that question that doesn't open up several new cans of worms with lots of unpleasant implications.

I do find the idea of the seed carrier and its AI's communication attempts very interesting. It is not entirely unlike the basic premise of Stargate SG-1's fourth season episode "Scorched Earth," although the execution was, of course, very different indeed. It is a wonderful bit of science fiction dressing for a very character-driven piece.

Also, it was nice to see Parrish again. He's totally my favorite Atlantis botanist. Plus, the reminder that he usually works with Lorne amused me. For reasons.

Favorite Quotes

"Look at this! Huh! It's a plant not unlike begonia eiromischa!" (Parrish)
"Oh God. Lorne warned me about this." (John)

"Yeah, FYI, this conversation ended six seconds ago." (Rodney)

"You realize it's highly unlikely you're actually gonna find anything?" (Rodney)
"Well. Then I will have wasted an hour of my time and you'll be able to tell me, 'I told you so.'" (Radek)
"Hmm!" (Rodney)
"If, on the other hand, I do find something, perhaps they'll name something after me for a change." (Radek)

"Well, you'll think of something." (Radek)
"Really? What makes you so sure?" (Rodney)
"Well, because you're brilliant." (Radek)
"It's true. Doesn't mean I'm gonna sudd--wait a minute. What did you just say? Why did you say that? What, are you sick? Am I sick? What have you heard?" (Rodney)

"You're an interesting man, Sheppard. You travel to another galaxy, risk your life defending a bunch of people you don't even know. You ask me, you're either someone with a death wish or someone running away from something. So tell me: what are you running away from?" (Kolya)


Well, that wraps up today. Join me on Wednesday for the spectacularly guest-star filled "Brain Storm."

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