I'll be your host tonight in lieu of Zack Handlen, who had to be somewhere having a life. And I'll fess up, aside from reading Zack's recaps, I haven't kept close tabs on this show since season one. If I make any mistakes or miss any nuances, I am sure you all will help me out. But I feel like I'm on safe ground this week, because this is a fairly standalone episode - in the sense that almost nothing here is moving the main story forward.
Let's start with the main storyline. Troubled by nightmares about the man she killed, Ed Winston (Ned Bellamy), Sarah Connor has checked into a sleep clinic. She's splitting a room with her British roommate, a closet smoker named Dana (Michelle Arthur) who has nightmares that she's burning alive. She has an orderly named Hector, who has a coyote tattooed to the back of his neck and makes dreamcatchers for the patients - well, for the patients who really need it. And she's under the care of a creepy nurse (Julie Ann Emery), who is clearly up to no good. See, the nurse is illicitly sedating patients, and sneaking around in a locked room in the basement. With the help of her son John, Sarah breaks into the room and finds her worst fears realized: this is no ordinary sleep clinic. It's a Skynet facility that studies patients' brain scans, which will tell it everything about what makes people tick - and help feed its own ravenous, apocalyptic AI. Stop it, Sarah!
The trouble is, that storyline doesn't end so well. Nurse Hobson, who's a terminator, kills John, and then kills Sarah. But that's okay - because the whole thing was just a dream.
Yes, that's right: this is one of those "wait, which is the dream and which is the reality?" stories, which flips between two storylines and tries to confuse you as to which one is true. I'll just spoil the mystery here: In real life, Sarah is sneaking around the industrial part of town in the middle of the night, investigating Western Iron & Metal - a company that made the tools that work with the metals that went to the warehouse that ... well, you know how it is, we're going to chase down every link in the supply chain to Skynet until they're stuck doing episodes about the office donuts and the toilet paper. Anyway, she's poking around in the dark when suddenly she's tasered and kidnapped by a man - a man who turns out to be Ed Winston, the man that she evidently did not kill.
Ed ties her up in his van and injects her with a drug that'll supposedly get her to give up intel. He wants to know who she is, who she works for, and most important of all, who's working with her: who's her accomplice? Who else is interested in his employers? Eventually - mostly by studying her caesarian scars - he figures out that she's protecting her son John. He's in the process of calling his superiors and hatching a plan to use Sarah as bait for John, when Sarah chews off part of her wrist (coyote symbolism alert), frees herself from her handcuffs, and pounces on him from the van. Half-blinding him with a syringe, in a move that I'll call "the Saul Tigh," she manages to knock him down, and this time she shoots him dead, right in the melon. And then she drives off, muttering to us in the voiceover about the demons that visit in the night and the witching hour. The implication: she just murdered someone. For a good reason, sure, but it doesn't matter why. The witching hour came, and she's the witch. And also, "a bad bitch."
So, nice character moment for her. But the dream sequence was a hair over the top. I can't say I ever believed that the clinic scenes were real, and I doubt we were supposed to - that whole section of the story was too disjointed and obviously creepy, with its symbolism-for-beginners and its mystical janitor, and its patients who erupt in flames in their sleep. (Actually, Dana burning almost to her death was kind of cool.)
But the dream sequence did tell us a few more things about Sarah. (And I still do like Lena Headley's performance.) She's jealous of how well Cameron takes care of John: Cameron never sleeps. Cameron's pancake recipe is way better than Sarah's, which is basically just the one they print on the box. Sarah also worries that John thinks Cameron's sexy, which is, duh. And Sarah thinks Skynet is behind everything. Okay, we knew that.
Are they really going to keep this up until Judgment Day?
Final Grade: C+
— Sad to say I think I would've enjoyed this one more if Brian Austin Green and/or Shirley Manson were in it.
— Remember that episode of Buffy where they did this story? Buffy thought that instead of a Slayer, she was just a crazy girl in an asylum? But in fact, it was just a nightmare caused by some demon - remember how that show always blamed every silly plot device on some demon? They still do it in the comics, too - and at the end, she breaks the spell? Except that the episode also showed asylum-Buffy fading into a coma, never to awaken, and we never really knew what was real and what was the dream?
That was pretty cool.
— Even in my nightmares, I would've been shrewd enough to bring Cameron the killer robot to the sleep clinic before I broke into the secret chamber and tangled with the Nurse-bot. Cameron not smacking anything but a vending machine was a real dealbreaker for me.