"Mr. Ferguson Is Ill Today" S2 / E8
This might be a karmic thing. Last week's teaser promised us a dead cast member, and god help me, I was praying for an end to the life of Riley. I don't have a particular hatred for blonde teenagers, but after weeks of meandering and plot cul-de-sacs, the show needs a kick, and bumping off John's would-be girlfriend would've made an excellent twist. For once, John could go all emo about something that was actually real, and not a series of vague pressures combined with an overly-protective mother. At the very least, we'd get some freakin' consequences for his pocket rebellion.
But like I said–karma. Maybe I'm being punished for something here. Because not only does Riley not die, in "Mr. Ferguson Is Ill Today," we lose one of my favorite characters on the show. If this is my fault, sincerest apologies. If it's any consolation, I knew not what I did.
I'd say roughly seven-tenths of "Ferguson" works, which is a significant improvement over the fractions we got in October. The episode's main gimmick, splitting into sections and showing the events of the story through the eyes of a different main character in each section, is more clever than dramatically effective, but it does have its moments, like Sarah experiencing the jail shoot-out from the trunk of a car. Also, it forced the writers to spend an entire show on one over-arcing story, instead of wandering through the sub-plots. The story wasn't as strong as it could've been, but just the change of pace was enough to hold my interest.
Plus–and here's were it gets a little sad–I'm just glad to find out somebody's at least trying to do something new.
So, John's still seeing Riley, and Sarah's still not happy about it. Cameron's not much happy about it, either, although it's always hard to tell with her. Back when T:SCC started up, one of the biggest dangers was the way Cameron and John's relationship could easily degrade into cheesy sex comedy crap. Having a robot protector who looks exactly like Summer Glau at the beck and call of a kid who probably still thinks the Sear's lingerie section counts as pornography could lead to all kinds of trouble. Fortunately, the show took the sensible route–Cameron was less a hottie bodyguard than an extremely bad-ass sister, and for the most part, John treated her as such.
Tonight things got a little weird. After watching Riley leave, Cam visits John in his bedroom; but not before taking off her sweatshirt. She climbs into bed next to John and they have a brief chat on the nature of being him. It's a moment with layers, but we're still not in Kelly LeBrock-in-the-shower territory. I read Cam's choices here as trying to get John's attention in the strongest possible way; she's manipulating him just like she did when her chip malfunctioned. There's nothing exactly sexual coming off either of them. John still sees her as a machine, albeit his machine, and Cam views him as nothing less then her very own personal Jesus Christ. She lets something slip about the conversations they'll have in the future, and it makes you wonder just what their relationship will eventually become, and if John's destiny to save humankind may not have a couple of footnotes.
The next day, John takes Riley on a trip to Dejalo, Mexico, a small town where he and his mother spent a year and a half of his childhood. At first things go decently; there's more flirting, more griping about the suckiness of people, etc. Their relationship seems more like something you'd get from a couple twelve-year olds; they've spent a good deal of time together, and there's something romantic going on, but they've barely held hands, let alone kissed. Makes for an interesting tension, although like everything else on this series, somebody needs to put out or move the hell on.
Eventually it all goes bad when John runs into somebody who remembers him from the old days. He and Riley wind up in a Mexican jail, where John places calls to Derek and his mother. Sarah seems to answer at home, but John is suspicious and hangs up; good instinct on his part, since earlier that day, Cromartie broke into the Connor residence and took Sarah hostage.
Yeah, yeah, we all know the drill: why the hell doesn't he kill her? Sarah's value as a hostage is hugely over-shadowed by her danger as an enemy combatant. Bringing her along for the ride, which Cromartie does, means there's one more component in the situation that he can't entirely control. It's basically one of those James Bond deathtrap moments. You have to accept it, or else you stop watching.
Anyway, Cromartie still manages to track John down. It isn't explicitly state (at least, I don't think it is), but we can probably assume he finds the jail the same way he found the bowling alley last week; the local sheriff runs John's various names through Interpol, and that sets up a red flag. Cro isn't the only one coming to play, though–Ellison, out for a jog, gets a call from another agent to let him know that the Connor name is back on the map. Ellison decides to help; he figures he still owes Sarah for saving his life back in season one.
So eventually everybody ends up in Dejalo. There's a gunfight at the jail, John, Riley, and Ellison escape the slaughter and rescue Sarah from Cromartie's trunk. When Derek and Cameron arrive, it's time our heroes set a mousetrap of their own, luring Cro into a church where Sarah and Derek can shoot at him from high ground. Cameron delivers the killing blow, and we get Cro's apparent last moments as his circuits break down and the world fades from view.
Yeah, the whole "deadly consequences" thing was largely a fake-out. Sure, a lot of Mexican cops died, but it's not like we actually knew any of them. Riley gets away just fine; instead, we lose the show's best villain, in a death that can only be referred to as "really goddamn lame." We got some decent action this week, and the structural tricks weren't half bad (although didn't anyone else notice how redundant they were by the end?); going by the teaser for next week, Cromartie may not even be gone for good. But we've still got that teenage liability running around, and the episode's last ten minutes still failed to live up to its first twenty. These days, I'll take what I can get.
--We get it. Sarah isn't very fond of Terminators. If it hadn't been so easy to kill Cromartie, I'd've had an easier time feeling her pain. (Although I definitely winced at the soda can bit.)
--Can't stress this strongly enough: Cromartie went down like a snowman in July. Was Sarah's "Tin Man" comment last season prescient? Is Skynet sending out aluminum killing machines now?
--About that title: I don't have Season One handy, but it sounds an awful lot like Cromartie's first line on the show.