Friday, June 29, 2012

Recap: Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles S2E6 "The Tower is Tall but the Fall is Short"

This one was kinda talky.  Talky is not what T:TSCC does best.  But here we go:

Sarah and Cameron are rifling through someone's home office when they are interrupted by the homeowner, an esteemed child psychologist, Dr. Sherman, who also used to work with the armed forces.  His name was apparently written on their basement wall in that guy's blood (which I totally don't remember).  Anyway, the Connors want to know why Skynet is interested in this guy, so they make an appointment to see him as a family, Sarah and John and Cameron.  Cameron plants a bug in his office.  John, even knowing this, seems to  want to talk and makes a solo appointment.

Catherine Weaver is having a photo shoot at her office.  Her daughter Savannah doesn't want any part of it and when Weaver tries to insist in that warm, machine-like way she has, little Savannah pees her pants in fear.  Later, Weaver's assistant tells her boss about this miracle worker child shrink, Dr. Sherman.  The next day, Weaver's crack techie team calls her into the lab to notify her that the artificial intelligence they're working on is slowing down, acting out, playing with photographs instead to doing the tasks they give it.  Weaver is mightily displeased.  But she has mothering to do: she and Savannah meet with Dr. Sherman.  Sherman gives the little girl some toys to play with and notices that she picks out the one that indicates fear.  As Cameron eavesdrops via the bug, Savannah tells Sherman that she "wants her old mommy back."  Sherman takes this to mean that Weaver changed after the helicopter accident that killed her husband/Savannah's father.  He tells Weaver that her daughter is worried about losing her mother too.

Derek, out for a run, catches sight of a small, lithe, dark-haired woman.  She runs from him and he chases her, tracking her to a hotel.  "Jessie," he says.  "Hey, baby," she replies, and kisses him hard.  She tells him that John Connor didn't send her back and he asks if she's gone AWOL.  "I need a place to rest," Jessie whimpers, "When everything ends, I want to be here with you."  Loyal-to-the-cause Derek is troubled by this: "I don't want everything to end, Jessie.  Not again."  He leaves.

At John's appointment with Sherman, he's a little defensive. Sherman notes that John checked all the exits when he came in the room and asks him if he ever feels like running, escaping.  John, glaring at the lamp Cameron bugged: "All the time."  After the session, Sherman tells Sarah that he thinks Cameron may have Aspergers syndrome (ha!) and that John reminds him of the veterans he used to treat.  "That boy needs to talk ... to somebody," he tells her.

Weaver gets called back down to the lab.  The AI is still acting up.  When she returns to her office (apartment?), Savannah is watching a video of her real parents - her dad and her real mother, pregnant with her, whom Weaver is impersonating.  Meanwhile, Ellison is skulking around the building, getting curious about why he isn't allowed down in the basement.  He asks Weaver what's down there and she tells him they're "building something."

John wants to go back to see Sherman again, ostensibly to figure out why Skynet is interested in him but also because he really does need someone to talk to.  Sarah is hurt that he won't talk to her.  A little later, Derek tells her that John is depressed and does need someone to talk to - it's important.

Elsewhere in the city, another Terminator comes through, this time a red-headed waif.  This latest T-888 heads to Sherman's office where it kills his receptionist as she's heading to her car.

Weaver has Sherman come to her office, telling him that the AI she's working on is modeled on a child and it's refusing to cooperate.  She shows him the images the AI keeps playing with and he laughs, interpreting it as a riddle: Why is a math book so sad?  Answer: Because it has so many problems.  He says that if the AI were a child, a gifted one, he'd think that it was bored with what they're giving it and entertaining itself.  Weaver is intrigued.

Derek returns to Jessie's hotel room.  He's glad to see her.  They do it, athletically.  Afterwards, when he heads to the bathroom, she hides surveillance photos of him and John under the bed.  Is she a Terminator?

At John's next appointment with Sherman, he yanks the bug.  He starts to tell Sherman about the day that Cameron got blown up and those two thugs attacked him and his mother.  He wants to tell the shrink that he killed the guy but he can't bring himself to say it.  Meanwhile, Cameron is concerned about the static she hears from the dismantled bug and heads into the office building, right alongside the T-888 who is posing as a temp replacement for Sherman's receptionist.  The two Terminators recognize each other in the elevator and start fighting.  It's a weird fight, boring and with tinny clanging noise, not the usual crash and bang.  Cameron eventually kills the red-headed T-888 but sticking its stiletto heel through its eyeball and twisting it into a knot.

When Weaver picks Savannah up from her latest session with Sherman, she offers the doctor a job as a consultant to help her raise her petulant AI.  Unfortunately, with the bug no longer in place, the Connor gang misses all this - which they would surely be interested in.  In the closing scene, Sarah herself goes to Sherman and finishes John's story, telling the doctor that it was her son who killed the intruders in their home and that's why he's so damaged right now.

See?  Too talky and hardly any Cameron at all.  We learned some stuff, sure, including why John is so angsty (like we couldn't have figured that out), but not my favorite episode.

Previously on T:TSCC / next time on T:TSCC

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Book review: Dissolution by C.J. Sansom

I like British mysteries and I like historical literature, so when I found Dissolution by C.J. Sansom recommended on, I figured I'd hit the jackpot.

Set in Tudor England, hunchback lawyer Matthew Shardlake is a member of the Reformer movement, led by Thomas Cromwell, as King Henry VIII seeks dismantle the Catholic Church's hold on England.  Cromwell is leading the charge to dissolve the kingdom's monasteries.  Unsurprisingly, there are those who do not take kindly to the King's men trying to take away their religion, and one of Cromwell's commissioners is murdered while negotiating the closure of the monastery at Scarnsea.  Shardlake and his handsome and hale protege, Mark Poer, are sent to Scarnsea to investigate the murder.  Once there, however, they find two more murders to solve amid a morass of sexual assault, homosexual behavior, theft, embezzlement and - most troubling to a loyal Reformer - treason.

Shardlake is quite intelligent and is loyal to Cromwell and the King, but he struggles to know whom to trust.  The monastery's infirmarian, Brother Guy, is a gentle, educated Moor who offers a new way of looking at things to the lawyer.  The abbot is of weak character, preferring to hunt the countryside with local landowners.  Brother Mortimus, the prior, runs the day-to-day operations of the monastery and is a harsh-minded brute.  Brother Edwig, the bursar, has an extremely tight fist with the monastery's money and his parsimonious ways frustrate Brother Gabriel, the librarian and cantor.  Everyone Shardlake interviews is hiding something and in 1537, there was not much in the way of forensic science to help point the way.

Dissolution is a solid enough book, but nothing brilliant.  I was able to guess who murdered Cromwell's commissioner, despite the red herrings sprinkled throughout the chapters - and I almost never guess whodunit.  Shardlake is a tough protagonist to identify with: because of his physical deformity, he keeps at a remove from the other characters, and yet Sansom doesn't do much to make the reader feel sympathetic towards him.  I did find it interesting to read a bit about the resistance to Reformation; so much seems to be written (or on cable) telling the stories from Henry's and Cromwell's side, it was nice to get another point of view.  I understand that there are a series of Shardlake mysteries but I don't think I'll indulge in another one right away.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Recap: Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles S2E5 "Goodbye to All That"

Cold open: some suburban dad named "Martin Bedell" gets offed by a ginormous T-888.  Over to the Connor compound, where Derek explains that in the future, a Martin Bedell is one of John's closest buddies who helps put the Resistance together, so this T-888 is out there trying to eliminate all possible Martin Bedells, just like all the Sarah Connors in the original Terminator.  The gang sets out to protect the two remaining Bedells in the L.A. area: one is at the Presidio Alto, a military boys' school.  John and Derek head off for P. Alto while Sarah and Cameron are tasked with finding the other guy.  On the drive up to the school, Derek points out that the military academy will be as good (read: convenient plot contrivance) as place as any to take on a Terminator, what with all the soldiers and weapons and all.

Ellison meets with Catherine Weaver, who is annoyed about her nuclear power plant shut down from a couple of episodes ago.  Ellison goes to investigate.  He meets up with Hank from Breaking Bad, who is all fired up and about get a federal investigation launched himself.  Hank shows Ellison the valve that had been mysteriously opened and then mysteriously closed, with no security footage.  He tells Ellison that it would have had to have been someone with the strength of Superman to open or close that valve.  They also check out the damaged tanks where Sarah torched the shit out of the Greenway-Terminator.

When our boys get to the school, the sight of all the soldiers sends Derek into a flashback with his brother Kyle (John's father).  Kyle and the commanding officer of whatever ragtag unit have decided to disobey John Connor's order and make a run at a convoy that's hauling a bunch of human prisoners.  Derek thinks it's too risky.  Back in the now, Derek meets with the schools' headmaster who agrees to have John on a three week trial period.  Plus, in another fortuitous plot-contrivance, Derek can sub in for an instructor who can't make it for another week or so.

Sarah and Cameron find the other Martin: he's a little boy, about nine or ten, I guess.  They rescue him just as the T-888 shoots his house up.  The girls drive off with young Marty as the T-888 tries to give chase.  They go back to the Connor house.  Marty is a little freaked out by the assassination attempt, plus Cameron can be a little scary.  Later, Cameron thinks they should have engaged the T-888 instead of letting him go, but Sarah's like, not with a little boy around.

At the school's firing range, John is kicking all kinds of ass, of course, but also not following the rules too well.  He meets Martin Bedell, a senior cadet, who makes John go for a job with him as a demerit.  They find Derek out there in the woods, lurking by a big tar pit a la La Brea, scoping out the place.  Derek instantly recognizes Bedell as the disobedient CO in his flashback.  A little later, Derek is supposed to run a meeting with a bunch of cadets and plebes.  He tries to get out of there quickly but some of the guys have questions about all the action he's seen, how many "kills" he's made.  Derek gets right up in one kid's face and tells this awful story about gut wounds.  Now all the guys are freaked out, except for an observant John who's all, hmmm, poor uncle Derek has been through a lot.

Flashback: Bedell, Derek and Kyle get ready to lay mines to attack the convoy.  Now: Bedell joins John at lunch, noting that Derek is kinda intense.  They talk a little, bonding, and Bedell confesses that he's thinking of leaving school for a girl.  He swears John to secrecy and John's like, when don't I keep secrets for people?  Later, Derek finds John in the library and complains about how exposed the school is.  John tells him that Bedell is going to leave but Derek says no, he's not: he's going to graduate and then he's going to go to West Point.  John starts to feel his destiny crushing in on him.

At the Connor house, there's a t.v. spot of Marty's parents pleading with the "kidnappers" to release their son.  But Marty is actually more upset because he's got a book report due Monday and he didn't get a chance to pick out a book yet.  He, Cameron and Sarah start pawing through the house's bookshelves.  Cameron finds The Wizard of Oz, saying, "It's John's favorite."  Marty: "Who's John?"  Sarah sends Cameron off to Marty's house to "keep things contained."

Ellison stops by the bar where the plant workers hang out and chats with the bartender about Carl Greenway, discovering that Sarah was involved.  He goes back to Weaver and reports that he thinks "one machine" opened the valve and "another machine" closed it, and then they had a fight.  Weaver is intrigued by the idea of a second machine and tells him to keep at it.  Back at the bar, Hank from Breaking Bad has been drinking pretty heavily when a hot chick hits on him.  They go out back and boink up against the side of the bar ... until the hot chick morphs into Weaver who spits Hank like a kebob.  Also, when he falls down dead, his pants are totally zipped up which seems like an inefficient way to bang a chick behind a bar.

Derek gets a call from Sarah, warning him that Cameron has learned that the T-888 went to Bedell's house and now knows about the Presido Alto.  It's got a couple hours' headstart but Cameron is on her way up there too.  She snaps at Derek for not sticking with the plan of snatching Bedell and hiding him and John away.  I must say that Brian Austin Green is looking pretty hot in the episode.

The cadets head out into the woods for a strategic exercise.  Derek tells them that  the mission has changed: there's a man with a gun coming this way and they are to signal when they see him.  They are under no circumstances to engage.  Meanwhile, Derek and John set up claymores while Bedell frets about the last-minute mission change.  After dark the T-888 makes his way through the line, the cadets obediently signalling his approach.  Derek shoots one of the Terminator's eyes out and then runs, the T-888 chasing.  When it runs past the claymores, John blows them but this barely slows the machine down.  Bedell panics and tries to run; the T-888 focuses on him until John distracts it by shouting, "Hey! It's me, John Connor!" The T-888 checks its objectives and is thrilled to note that it is supposed to terminate both John and Bedell.  It chases John and falls into a convenient tar pit, where Derek shatters its skull and John sets it on fire.  Bedell watches, stunned, as the metal skeleton sinks into the tar.  John and Derek wait until it's submerged and then walk off into the woods.  Strangely, Cameron - who has just gotten there - just watches from the shadows.

The next morning Sarah takes Marty to a bus stop, telling him to go three stops and then get off and call his mom,  But if he's ever in trouble, he should call her and say "book report," and she'll come for him.

As John and Derek get ready to go, Bedell's all, "I'm supposed to stay here and then go to West Point like I don't know the end of the world is coming?  Like any of this matters?"  John:  "Yeah, it really does matter."  Okay then, says Bedell, I'll see you around, Connor.

On the ride home, Derek tells John what really happened/is going to happen to Bedell: he suicide-bombed that convoy tank, enabling Derek and his crew to rescue forty human prisoners, including John Connor.  Derek: "He died, John.  He died for you.  We'd all die for you."  Shit - that's pretty heavy for a teenage kid to hear, even if he is the savior of the world.  I guess that's where the title of this episode comes in - as John says goodbye to any hope he has of getting away from his destiny.

Previously on T:TSCC / next time on T: TSCC

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Book review: The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness

The narrator of The Knife of Never Letting Go, Book One of Patrick Ness's Chaos Walking series, is Todd Hewitt, the last boy in Prentisstown.  There are men in Prentisstown, and very young men - just barely more than boys - but Todd is the last child.  Oh, and there are no women or girls at all.  The town was ravaged by a virus, the Noise, that made every male's thoughts audible to those around him.  There is no secrecy, no privacy.  Everyone can hear what everyone else is thinking.  The cacophony has driven some men mad but worse, it has killed all the women.  Only men are left in Prentisstown - and the animals, which can talk/broadcast their thoughts too.

One day, about a month before Todd is to become a man at age thirteen, he and his dog Manchee go out into the woods surrounding the town to fetch some apples.  Even in the forest there is no quiet as the squirrels and birds and other assorted critters contribute to the Noise.  But then, out there, Todd finds a spot of true silence: it's coming from a girl, alive, about Todd's age, and cowering in the bushes.  Things happen very quickly after that as Todd realizes that the town is hiding a terrible secret.  Todd, Manchee and the girl Viola must run from the men of Prentisstown, out into a world that none of them knows.

I realize I'm being particularly vague here, with little to no plot outline.  But I don't want to spoil The Knife of Never Letting Go and to tell much more would reveal too much.  This YA fantasy novel, with touches of science fiction, is pretty good and I have a feeling that it's going to get better as the series progresses.  It is heart-wrenching, funny, tender and violent.  The book is written very much in Todd's voice, complete with misspellings and mispronunciations (which is a little distracting sometimes), which conveys the urgency of his and Viola's situation.  The dog Manchee provides much of the needed humor; the start of the book is great:

The first thing you find out when yer dog learns to talk is that dogs don't got nothing much to say.  About anything. "Need a poo, Todd."  "Shut up, Manchee."  "Poo.  Poo, Todd."  "I said shut it."
Awesome - and giving a pretty clear picture of Todd and Manchee right from the git-go.

TKoNLG ends on a big cliffhanger, clearly intending to continue in successive books.  I'm looking forward to picking up the next one.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Recap: Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles S2E4 "Allison from Palmdale"

Flash to the future resistance: Cameron runs for her life through the resistance's tunnels.  A net catches her and she falls, screaming.

The present: John drops Cameron off at the market while he goes to get more computer stuff.  Her chip is clearly not right as she keeps having those future flashes, then just completely zones out, knocking over a pile of watermelons and then standing there in a fugue state.  In a future flash, the girl we see is not the Terminator Cameron but a real girl, Allison Young, part of the resistance, and it was she who got captured by the machines.  At the market, the cops are called and they end up sticking Cameron in jail.  Cameron can't remember who/what she is.

Back at the house, Sarah has to take Casey to the hospital because she's cramping and bleeding.  The doctors want to run some tests and Casey asks Sarah to stay with her.  In a rare display of humanity, Sarah stays with her.  Through the whole episode, in fact, and they talk about motherhood and protecting your children.  And Casey's baby daddy shows up and he wants to take care of her, but he's a cop and asks Sarah too many questions for her to be entirely comfortable.

John returns to the market, looking for his "sister."  A bystander tells him what happened so he heads for the police station.  In the meanwhile, the cops let Cameron go and a street kid, Jody, notices how much cash Cameron has on her and decides to become her new BFF.  They head off together, just an hour before John shows up.  A cop tells him that Jody tends to hang out on the Boulevard, so John heads there.

Ellison goes back to meet with Catherine Weaver again.  Shirley Manson looks a bit haggard, if you ask me.  He's reluctant to hunt the machines again, he says, given the massacre that happened last time.  She encourages him to take the job.  Later, Ellison goes to see his ex-wife, who also works at the FBI, and asks her to run a check on Weaver.  She does, and Weaver is clean.

Jody gets Cameron to buy lunch.  They are interrupted by a thug who thinks Jody stole from him.  Cameron, not knowing who she is anymore, hands the guy her wad of cash and yells at him to leave them alone.  Jody is discouraged by the loss of the money, but takes Cameron to a halfway house so they can crash for a couple of days.  The only catch is that they'll have to talk with a counselor - Jody advises Cameron to lie about everything.  In Cameron's session, the future flashes start to bleed through: Cameron thinks she's Allison.  She remembers a phone number and tries to call her mother.  A young woman answers.  Yes, she's "Mrs. Young" but she's only just pregnant and doesn't currently have a daughter.  Aw - Cameron just called her future mom.

John tracks the girls to the restaurant where another dude tells him about the halfway house.  When he gets there, the girls are happily playing foosball.  Cameron doesn't recognize John and insists she's "Allison from Palmdale."  John realizes her chip is wonky but tries to reason through it.  Cameron gets another future flash: Allison, trying to escape, running through a room full of caged humans and animals.  She climbs out of the tunnels and thinks she's free, but is snared in another net.  She is brought before one of her captors, the Cameron-Terminator.  It seems as though the machines built Cameron after they had captured Allison, using the human girl as the template and hoping to infiltrate the resistance that way.  Cameron asks Allison where John Connor's camp is.  Allison refuses to give up the information.

Back at the halfway house, John tries to make Cameron come with him.  She freaks out, shoving him away, so the staff kick him out.  The therapist talks to Cameron again, and Cameron now tells her that she thinks she's a machine, sent to "kill John Connor and stick his head on a pike."  The therapist is required to report any talk of violence so after Cameron leaves, she makes a call.  The cops show up at the halfway house but Cameron and Jody have already scarpered.

Ellison goes back to Catherine Weaver's office.  He takes the job.

John has followed Jody and Cameron to Jody's parents' house.  The girls are there to rob the place.

Future flash: The Cameron-Terminator snaps Allison's neck when Allison lies to her.

When Cameron realizes that Jody was going to leave her in the house to take the fall for the robbery, she grabs Jody around the neck.  John bursts in, finding Jody on the floor.  She's okay, though, just woozy.  For some reason, now Cameron recognizes John, saying "We have to go."  They drive off, heading for home.  Clearly John's got some work to do on Cameron's chip.

Previously on T:TSCC / next time on T:TSCC

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Recap: Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles S2E3 "The Mousetrap"

On the road, Charlie and Michelle stop for gas out in the desert somewhere.  While Charlie is futzing around with the soda machine, a pick-up truck pulls in.  It's Cromartie and he jumps into Charlie's SUV and drives off, Michelle still in the passenger seat, shrieking for her husband.

Back at the Connor household, John hooks up illegal cable for the immensely pregnant Busy Phillips (character name: "Casey").  A news story about Laszlo/Cromartie's FBI massacre comes on, throwing John for a bit of a loop.  When he goes back to his house, Charlie calls him on his cell.  Charlie's a mess, trying to hold back his tears.  John hands the phone to Sarah.  Charlie tells her that Cromartie took Michelle and asks her to help him. Sarah doesn't want John to know what's going on - because he'll want to get involved - so she acts like she's blowing Charlie off, but finagles his location.  After she hangs up the phone, she stuffs a bunch of guns in a duffle bag, tells Cameron to keep an eye on John, and heads out to the truck.  Derek tells her that this is the absolute wrong thing to do: if she gets involved, Cromartie will use her to get to John.  Sarah's like, are you coming or not?  Derek: wait, let me get my favorite gun.

Cromartie has Michelle tied to a chair in some abandoned building.  While he's busy wiring explosives and machinery, she struggles to free herself.

John and Cameron go out to buy a bunch of computer stuff.  He gets a call from Riley [oh friggin' great] and asks Cameron to drop him off so he can meet her.  Cameron reminds him that she's supposed to watch him.  When she goes to get in the truck, John bolts, disappearing into a parking garage.

Ellison gets a phone call from Catherine Weaver.  She says she has a job opportunity for him, seeing how she assumes he'll be leaving the FBI once his administrative leave is over.  To entice him to meet with her, she promises they can talk about who - or what - killed all those FBI agents.

Sarah and Derek find the distraught Charlie.  Sarah can't think how to track Michelle and Derek's all, you know she's dead so there's nothing we can do.  And then Michelle (not dead) manages to get to her cell phone and calls Charlie.  She tells him where she is, then she has to hang up because she hears Cromartie coming.  He wires up her chair with explosives while she watches, bug-eyed and terrified.

Oh dear god who the frick cares as John and Riley chat meaninglessly.  It's like the worst flirting ever.  Cameron tracks them down and stares at them.  They run off, trying to lose her.  Fat chance of that: she's a Terminator.  Finding her target is what she does.

Sarah, Derek and Charlie make their way to the abandoned building where Michelle is.  Derek finds her first, noticing the wired chair.  They ask her where Cromartie is and Derek goes after him, saying that if he's not back in fifteen minutes, they should leave without him.  Meanwhile, Michelle is totally freaking out, her muscles twitching and burning from the adrenaline coursing through her.  Sarah snarls at her to hold still, and then sends Charlie out to the truck for some tools.  When he's gone, Michelle asks if Sarah is here for Charlie.  Sarah: "I thought this would be easier.  I thought you'd be dead already."  When Charlie comes back, he reports that Cromartie has destroyed the car's engine.  Sarah thinks for a minute - why mess with the car when humans are so easy to kill? - then figures that this was all to separate them from John.  She just rips the wiring off Michelle's chair (no actual bomb) and calls her son to warn him.

However, as Derek stalks through the buildings, searching from Cromartie, he finds a computer set up to tap into cell signals: Cromartie hears Sarah's call to John, gets the password and hears enough of her voice to mimic it.  Then he blows the bomb he did set and the nearby cell tower comes crashing down into the building.  Cromarte calls John, using Sarah's voice, and tells him to meet at the pier.  Cromartie drives off.  Sarah, Derek, Charlie and Michelle get ready to walk to the highway - but Michelle has a pretty big wound gouged out of her back.  Nonetheless, she insists that she can keep up.

Catherine Weaver and Ellison have their meeting.  Weaver tells him that she knows about the machines.  She wants him to help her find another one of them.

John ditches Riley to go to the pier to meet his "mom."  Cameron finds Riley and asks where John went.  Sarah and her gang carjack a van.  As Sarah drives the van like a lunatic, Michelle screams in pain.  She's bleeding out from the wound in her back.  Charlie hollers at Sarah to stop and, after some hesitation, she does.  [But why? This is dumb: Charlie should want her to drive as fast as she can to a hospital, not stop in the middle of the desert.  I guess he wants his wife to bleed to death without being jolted?]

John walks along the pier, finally spotting Cromartie and realizing the trap.  They chase around a bit, then Cameron shows up and starts looking for John.  Around and around and around ... until John dives off the pier in an attempt to escape.  Cromartie jumps in after him ... and promptly sinks to the bottom and out of reach.  John comes up for air and sees Cameron staring down at him from the pier.  John: "A little help?" Cameron: "I don't swim."  John: Well, no shit.  Some time later, Cromartie walks out of the ocean, none the worse for wear.

Sarah reconnects with John, who immediately notices the big pool of blood coagulating in the back of the stolen van.  He glares balefully at his mother.  She takes him to the hospital where Charlie is sitting, stunned and crying, his wife's wedding ring on his finger.  Charlie sobs and John puts his arms around him.  Cut to Michelle's funeral, where Ellison stands next to poor Charlie.  The Connors do not go to the funeral, which was smart since Cromartie is there, searching for them.

Previously on T:TSCC / next time on T:TSCC

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Recap: Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles S2E2 "Automatic for the People"

Zack Ward ("Zone" from Dollhouse) is another freedom fighter sent back from the future.  He arrives naked in an alleyway, as they all do, but with a nasty chest wound.  He struggles to his feet and runs off.  Meanwhile, the Connor gang is getting ready to leave their safe haven church.  John checks on Cameron who tells him that he is no longer trustworthy since he risked his life to save hers - he is not to do that again.  Sarah wants John to go back to school and attain some semblance of normalcy while the rest of them find a new place to live.

So John does go to school - and with his new, non-emo haircut looks oodles older than the rest of the students.  He watches his classmates in the hallway and is aware of the disconnect.  Later, a pushy blonde girl, "Riley," starts talking to him as he's brooding and convinces him to buy her lunch.  I find her annoying but John seems to like her and invites her home with him after school to see the new house Sarah has found.

The new house is nice.  Derek and Cameron scope it out as a very, very pregnant Busy Phillips gives Sarah the sales pitch.  Sarah says they'll take it, furnished as is, and can move in pretty much now.  Some time later, Zack Ward crashes through their garden door (so much for the security deposit) and dies on their floor, but not without gasping out "Stop Greenway! Two days ... Serano Point."  Serano Point is a nuclear power plant, and in a brief flashback we learn that it will somehow be important to the resistance.  Sarah says she and Cameron will go undercover since Derek has a tendency to kill people when he does.  Like her hands are clean.

Across town, Charlie is surprised to find Ellison in his house when he gets home from work.  Charlie is forced to 'fess up and tell wife Michelle ("Penny" from Lost) all about Sarah still being alive and in L.A., and oh, btw, there are killer robots from the future here too.  Michelle storms out and Ellison tells Charlies that they should leave as their home is no longer safe.  "Where is?" pouts Charlie.

Sarah and Cameron get jobs as temporary janitors at Serano Point.  They identify Greenway, whose boss is "Hank" from Breaking Bad and who is riding Greenway pretty hard to get the reactor back up and not be paranoid about a melt-down.  Later, Sarah "runs into" Greenway at a local tavern (Hank watches them suspiciously from across the bar).  She chats with him, learning that he's a cancer survivor (big scar on his arm) and he's not popular at the plant because he halted the reactor from coming online before and people are worried about their jobs.  Meanwhile, Cameron hustles a bunch of plant workers in a pool game, and also scans a bunch of their ID/access badges.  Sarah, Derek and Cameron talk that night: if the plant powers up and melts down, it'll contaminate half the state, "and Skynet wins."  But if Greenway shuts down the plant, the resistance won't be able to use it in the future ... "and Skynet wins."

John and Riley are hanging out at the house.  Whatever.  We're supposed to be (1) slightly suspicious of this new girl, especially when she builds him a Lego robot and (2) glad that he's found someone his own age to hang out with.  But I mostly find their interactions boring.  Sarah, on the other hand, is ripshit that John brought a stranger home.  He digs his heels in, though, and Riley stays.

The next day at the plant, Sarah uses a forged access badge (compliments of Cameron) to follow Hank into a restricted area.  He catches her and tells her to clean up a hydraulic fluid spill in a room full of toxic waste barrels.  She suits up and goes in, but panics and comes back out.  Hank scans her with a Geiger counter and tells her she's "all crapped up," making her strip and get scrubbed down.  Later, it was all a ruse to get her stripped and show her he had power.  Sarah is more freaked out and less angry than you might assume; all she can think about is how Cameron told her she was going to die of cancer.

Ellison stops by to see Charlie and Michelle off.  Michelle still has her cranky pants on.  I wonder if we'll see Charlie again.

That afternoon when Sarah sees Greenway in the plant's operations center, he doesn't recognize her despite their long and friendly talk at the bar the night before.  He also doesn't have that big scar on his arm.  Sarah calls Derek, who has broken into Greenway's home to see what he's found: poor Greenway, hung from a ceiling fan.  The plant comes back online and Greenway sneaks away to open a coolant valve.  Alarms start going off.  Sarah finds Cameron mopping the floor in her janitor role and tells her that Greenway is a machine.  She has to tell her a number of times before Cameron even responds, which freaks Sarah out.  "Go fix the leak!" she snaps.

Machine-Greenway goes back to the ops center and kills everyone there (well, he only knocks Hank unconscious).  He sees Cameron on the monitors, trying to close the leak, and goes back into the plant after her.  Terminator fight!  Cameron does not seem to be at her best.  Sarah and a newly-arrived Derek try to stop the melt-down from the ops center but can't figure it out, so Sarah runs down into the plant.  She runs through that room with the radioactive barrels; Derek, following her, opts to find another way around.  Sarah grabs a gun from a guard and shoots the bejeesus out of Machine-Greenway, knocking him into a vat of something that dissolves his skin and puts him out of commission.  Cameron closes the leaky valve and the melt-down is averted. Cameron is still acting weird and Sarah doesn't like it.  Later, Cameron puts the pieces of Greenway and the security footage into an empty radioactive waste barrel - it won't be found there.

Back at the house, Sarah notices some smears of blood on the door to the basement.  Someone has written a bunch of messages in blood on the wall, some pertinent to what just happened - but I can't really make it out.  Who did that?  Zack Ward?

Oh dear: because of the incident at the plant, there's a press conference announcing a new partnership between Serano Point, six other plants and some firm that produces automated machines (I missed the name of the company but it wasn't Skynet), in order to eliminate human error.  And also human jobs, I suppose.  When the press conference guy gets back into his car, he morphs into Catherine Weaver.  The machines are beginning to take over - but it was still a boring episode.

Previously on T:TSCC / next time on T:TSCC

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Mini movie review: The Big Year

The Big Year was a Mr. Mouse request, as I am trying to be more accommodating with the queue.  (If only he would decide he likes science fiction and horror!)  After we watched it, pretty much both our reactions boiled down to: "Meh."

It's a slim premise: Steve Martin, Jack Black and Owen Wilson are three nutso birdwatchers birders who are in competition to see the most North American species in one year.  OW is the reigning record holder and is completely obsessive, abandoning his pretty, young (third?) wife just when she's about to start fertility treatments.  JB is a divorced schlub with a nothing job and a strained relationship with his dad.  SM is a highly successful businessman who put his family aside first for his company and now for birds.  They travel all over the continent, become friends and learn life lessons.

The thing is, Martin, Black and Wilson are three very funny guys in a not very funny movie.  Maybe they were supposed to be playing it straight, in which case Black's slapstick pratfalls were entirely out of place.  I don't know - it just didn't do much for me.  I did enjoy the various locations that were filmed but jeesh, we didn't even see that many birds.  The Big Year will never be one of those movies I end up watching just because I came across it on cable whilst flipping channels.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Recap: Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles - S2E1 "Samson and Delilah"

The recaps of S2 are dedicated to my old friend, Joe B.  Happy Summer!

In the wake of the explosion, Cameron is down and not entirely intact.  Sarah and John start outside to see what happened when the two bad guys who just blew up their robot burst into the house.  They capture the Connors, one holding them at gunpoint and generally beating on Sarah while the other searches the house for that hard drive.  Luckily everything inside the house is happening in slow-mo which gives Cameron enough time to drag herself out of the wreckage and limp into the house.  She crushes one bad guy's skull and lurches upstairs as an accidental fire rages on the first floor, heading for a propane tank.  By the time Cameron gets upstairs, the other bad guy is dead: John managed to kill him, saving his mom from certain doom.  It's good that they've freed themselves too: Cameron's chip was damaged in the explosion and now she thinks her orders are to terminate John.  Sarah and her son dive out the window as the propane tank explodes, knocking Cameron down.

Back at the apartment complex, Cromartie decides to leave Ellison alone for now.  Charlie, as EMT, arrives on the scene and is stunned by the carnage.  Then he hears the call about the explosion at the Connors' home and heads there, where he is relieved that the two bodies pulled out of the building are not John and Sarah.  Also, he finds Derek, disguised as a firefighter, who has pulled the mangled hard drive out of the house.  They fret about John and Sarah and then drive off in Charlie's ambulance.  Derek can't help needling Charlie about his continuing feelings for Sarah.  And what about your repressed feelings for her, Derek?

Sarah and John make a run for it, getting into a car accident and then hoofing it.  John's leg is bleeding pretty badly and Cameron tracks them by following the blood droplets.

Shirley Manson, of Garbage fame, is apparently running some big ol' tech company.  She's very sleek and poised.  She takes possession of the Turk computer, having paid some guy oodles and oodles of money for it.  She pets the Turk like it's a cat, then tells her secretary to call all the department heads together for a very important meeting.

Heh: Cameron cleans her torn and dirty face with (a) baby wipes and (b) a staple gun.

Sarah and John take refuge in a Spanish church, asking for sanctuary.  The priest agrees and takes them back into the rectory.  Sarah wants to talk about what has happened to Cameron.  They're freaking out a little since she knows absolutely everything about them: their bank accounts, weapons stashes, emergency contingencies.  They're going to have to kill her, they agree.

Back at the FBI, Ellison gets debriefed and totally covers up what he knows about ruthless killer machines from the future.  Which is probably wise if he wants to stay out of the loony bin.

Cameron tracks the Connors to the church.  The priest tells her that there is no one there but she insists on taking a look around.  Sarah and John have set a trap for her, though, and electrocute her, knocking her out for the two minutes it takes her system to reboot.  John tries to dig the chip out of her head but there isn't enough time.  She starts to wake up and they bolt, stealing another car.  Cameron gets up and resumes her hunt.  Sarah drives like a friggin' madwoman through the city - with a queasy shaky-cam.  Cameron heads them off and Sarah hits something, launching the car which flips and lands on its roof.  Sarah is hurt so she sends John off on his own, with Cameron lurching implacably behind.  For the record, I absolutely adore and covet Cameron's girl biker boots.

John staggers into a warehouse.  He gets into a truck and hot-wires it.  Cameron advances on him ... and then bad-ass Sarah shows up in her own truck, pinning Cameron between the two vehicles.  John climbs up on the hood and opens Cameron's head.  She begs and pleads, crying, saying that she ran a report and is all better now - she doesn't want to go away, she loves him and knows he loves her.  John hesitates and then yanks out her chip.  Cameron collapses.  Good acting on Summer Glau's part, by the way.

Some time later, Derek and Charlie have reunited with the Connors.  As Charlie patches Sarah up, Derek says they'll need to get going soon, due the the swath of carnage they left in the city today.  The hard drive is trashed, unfortunately, so they still don't know who bought the Turk.  John is wicked upset about the 20+ people Cromartie killed at the apartment complex because of him, and also because he doesn't want to abandon Cameron.  He wants to try to fix her chip: "I need her.  She saved my life.  She saves my life!"  Sarah says it's too risky so John steels himself and says, "Then let's burn her."

Out in a junkyard somewhere, they cover Cameron with that phosphorus or whatever they used to flash burn the last one.  John says he's ready to do it ... then pulls a bait and switch and shoves the chip, which he's been working on, back into her head.  Sarah: "No! She'll kill you!"  "There's only one way to find out," he snaps.  Cameron reboots and John puts his gun in her hand, asking if she's here to kill him.  Cameron considers: at first her programming tells her to terminate, then an override kicks in.  "No," she says, "I promise."  She hands the gun back to him and he stares triumphantly at his mother.

Ellison runs into Cromartie at the burned-out Connor homse.  "I'll never lead you to her," he tells the machine, "I won't do the devil's work."  "We'll see," muses Cromartie.

Shirley Manson (that's annoying: per IMDB, her character's name is "Catherine Weaver") announces to the company's department heads that she is plundering their teams for a new project, "Babylon," that will change the world.  The department heads are rather displeased but apparently she's powerful enough that their displeasure means nothing.

The Connors go back to the church to clean up and have something to eat.  Cameron takes Sarah aside and tells her that if she ever goes bad again, Sarah should not let John bring her back.  Sarah's like, well, no shit. Later, Sarah tries to talk to her son about their horrific day (his birthday, on which he got to kill his very first man) but he has locked himself in the bathroom and is cutting off all his hair.

Back at Catherine Weaver's office, one of the department heads bitches to another in the men's room about what Weaver is doing to the company.  When the other guy leaves, one of the urinals suddenly morphs T:2-style into Weaver herself, right in front of the guy's terrified eyes.  "Sorry I piss you off, Mr. Tuck," she says coldly, "but the feeling's mutual."  And then she rams her silvery bayonet of a finger right through his eye socket.

Previously on T:TSCC / next time on T:TSCC