Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles: "The Tower Is Tall, But The Fall Is Short"
B+

Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles: "The Tower Is Tall, But The Fall Is Short"

B+

Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles

"The Tower Is Tall, But The Fall Is Short"

Season 2, Episode 6

Curious confluence of events; I spent most of Sunday reading a book for review, and that book just happened to be about therapy–a topic near and dear to the heart of tonight's episode, "The Tower Is Tall, But The Fall Is Short." It's a fascinating history that can be distilled to a simple concept: when it comes to mental health, what most people really need is someone to listen to them. The real trick is in finding the right someone, along with a safe place where you can vent your frustrations without fear of judgment or reprisal. In "Tower," the right person is easy; but as always for the Connor family, "safe" is a relative term.

Ridiculous as it was (and really, if you can't handle ridiculous, you shouldn't be watching this show), it looks like the blood memo in the basement is going to serve as a plot motivator for the rest of the season. This time around, Sarah, John, and Cameron investigate one of the names, Boyd Sherman. Sherman is a family therapist with a military background, but an awkward group therapy session with Mom, Son, and Robo-Sis fails to yield any more information. The office gets bugged, Cameron goes on listening duty, and John signs up for a few more sessions. Which, inevitably, bothers Sarah; while Headey's performance is different from Linda Hamilton's in a lot of ways, one thing both Mama Connors share is a fervid devotion to their child, and a near pathological inability to understand that a boy's best friend really shouldn't be his mother.

The therapy sessions are interesting, if not particularly revelatory; by the end of the episode, we finally get confirmation of what we already knew, that John killed Sarkissian way back in the first five minutes of "Samson and Delilah." Still, it's nice to have a voice of relative sanity on the show; Sherman (Dorian Harewood) is just the sort of reassuring authority figure John could use in his life. There's a great bit when Sherman tells John that anything he says in session is between the two of them. John looks over at the bug on the end-table. We've already seen Cameron sitting outside with her earphones on, listening to every confidential meeting between doctor and patient–it's a nice reminder that for John, there are no private conversations.

I dissed Shirley Manson last week, and while I don't completely take back my criticisms, "Tower" goes a long way to assuaging them. At the very least, she finally gets something to do beyond make snide comments and fail to be menacing. Our speculation about the true nature of Weaver's daughter is answered; Savannah is a real live girl, and while we don't know for sure why Weaver is keeping her alive, their relationship made for some of "Tower"'s best, and funniest, moments. During a photo-shoot, Weaver manages to follow the photographs instructions with geometric perfection (although she hasn't mastered smiling yet), but can't engage Savannah. She's terrified, and Weaver has no idea how to handle it. At the advice of her assistant, Weaver brings Savannah to a counselor–who just happens to be Dr. Sherman.

In trying to find ways to kill the time in between action set-pieces, The Sarah Connor Chronicles has done well exploiting the comedic potential in robot-human relations. Like Cameron's growing consciousness, Weaver is trying to understand a situation that goes beyond her programming, and the result actually makes you feel a little sorry for her. Scenes with her mis-responding to the therapist's cues, or studying old videos of the real Weaver (another mystery solved), are especially effective, because they speak to that part in all of us that doesn't entirely understand the social responses the rest of the world seems so adept at. It's hilarious, creepy, and a little sad, watching Weaver try to impress both her "adopted" child and Sherman with her learned humanity.

It also leads to questions about the development of Skynet. Weaver has a team working in the basement of her building on a burgeoning A.I., but they're having problems; the system is taking more time to do less, and it's become obsessed with throwing a certain sequence of images out over and over again. It's only when Weaver has the bright idea to bring Sherman in that the mystery is solved. The therapist deals with children every day, and in the A.I., he recognizes a maturing child. Even better, the kid's got a sense of humor. ("Why is a math book so sad?" "Because it has so many problems.") The assumption at the end of "Tower" is that Sherman's name was on the Connor's Wall o' Dried Claret because Weaver hires him as a consultant to work with the A.I., but I'm not entirely sure his work is a bad thing. I'm definitely curious to see where we're going with all this, that's for sure.

The episode's third plotline, with Derek meeting a former lover named Jesse, has potential, but there wasn't much in the way of pay-off this week. I did like the idea of soldiers from the future using the time machine to go AWOL; if we're going to have time travel be a regular event, it makes sense that a few people would try and sneak into a safer place than the present. Problem is, Jesse may be lying. She may not even be Jesse. In two weeks, she apparently points a gun at someone, so here's hoping we find out then.

So, looks like another dead spot next week, but to the good, Fox has officially picked up T:TSCC for the full season. At the very least, we should get a couple of these questions answered and a few more scenes of Cameron kicking ass. The elevator fight was totally cool; even the sound effects hurt.

Grade: B+

Stray Observations:

--Ellison was pretty damn superfluous this week. Unless he's planning a trip to Delos sometime soon, I don't believe he's hunting that hard for robots.

--Funny how much more human Weaver looks with her hair down.

--Sherman's assistant got screwed, didn't she?

--So why is Weaver keeping Savannah around?