The episode opens with a monologue from Sarah about her father, a war vet, sleeping with a gun under his pillow. She says he left 'blood, sweat and part of his soul' in a foreign land. She describes him as 'ever viligant, ever silent'. He did not talk about his experience in war. This is true of all the human characters in this episode--they all struggle to process what they have gone through, and go to various lengths to avoid talking, despite it being shown (within the episode) to be a healing process.
Dr Sherman assumes that John is the son of a veteran. Sarah is a veteran. Derek is a veteran. John has seen 'action' himself and, as we learn (for sure) in this episode, has killed. They all live in suspended animation with the war capable of bursting through daily life. A Vietnam vet's behaviour of checking exits and jumping at loud noises may be irrational in ordinary civilian life--but for the Connors the fear that makes them jump is real and necessary. When Cameron, Sarah and Derek all leapt into 'action' at the sound of a gunshot from John's room, their fear was that the worst had come to pass.
OMG, KENDRA, OMG!!! (It was hard for me to think of her as anyone but Kendra, but that was FINE.) I was unspoiled for that casting and I squeed so much when I saw her. I practically did a little dance of happiness. And I love Jessie already! She's super-cool (yay, another strong woman on the cast!) and Derek became instantly more interesting (and hotter!) to me around her. (She was so sympathetic I immediately started worrying she was a terminator--I don't think she is but her hiding photos under the bed was *most* intriguing.)
Jessie is another veteran, one who in another war might have been invalided home--she's badly scarred physically and emotionally. But from the war she fights there is no 'home', except in the past, and her only option out is to discharge herself. She's AWOL, she has claimed 'a place to rest'. It's selfish, it's cowardly, but isn't it also the only path to sanity? She suffers most literally from what Sarah describes as the 'homesickness' of veterans longing for a return to the past. She is more nihilistic than Derek, assuming there is no way to prevent the future war--she simply wants a personal respite before the end.
The parallel to John is very strong. He admits to Dr Sherman that he wants to escape 'all the time'. He has said before that he wishes he could just wake up and find himself free of the nightmare. There is no safe place, no place of rest for John. This sort of no-way-out feeling led Jessie to flee back in time, it could lead John to take his own life. While I don't think John is consciously suicidal, I also very much see his pressing need for an outlet. I liked that Dr Sherman was far more concerned about John than about Cameron, despite her Asberger's symptoms! And I loved that in the end John got his space to talk.
The theme of ending it, pulling the plug on life, is present in several other aspects of this episode. Weaver's technician asks if they should 'scrap' the AI when it displays unexpected behaviour. It turns out it needs a pyschiatrist to interpret it. The Terminator sent to protect or kill Sherman, who Cameron destroys, has a self-destruct switch. John assumes that Skynet don't want him reprogramming, but it's not just the machines who think that destroying something rather than having it learn new behaviour is the best way to go. Weaver looks for a way to make her child 'grow faster' (through therapy), and she views the impulse to destroy the AI as 'intemperate'.
I haven't been enamoured of Weaver's plot so far, but it came together in this episode very well for me. This is the first episode where they've successfully demonstrated her strangeness and people picking up on that (her ability to turn her head exactly as asked, but inability to smile warmly). I liked that and liked seeing her hit some situations where her programming is insufficient. When asked what her strongest childhood memory was she had to go away and swat up on it.
Poor Savanna! I found her wetting herself in fear and her obviously withdrawn personality really creepy. 'I want my old mummy back' was really dreadful, and I wondered what the psychiatrist would make of it but of course he attributed it to a change in behaviour in her mother following a tragic event--which is convincing. But I fear for that child, at the same time as it's interesting to see Weaver find a child the most puzzling thing to understand. She was never one herself and she understands neither her child or her AI.
Derek recounts his own moment of 'intemperate' impulse--an impulse to end his own life, though he masks the story as being about a friend. The way he tells it it came out of nowhere: 'just like that'. The fact that he had fought for so long didn't make it less likely--it made it more likely. And the same is true for Jessie and potentially for John: they keep going, fighting, on one track for years and then suddenly 'switch' and exhibit a new behaviour--one that wishes to escape it all.
John's belief that counselling is not safe is bourne out by the fact that his mother listens in. She hears him say that she is 'always right'. John feels that as an oppressive force in his life--his mother is right on such an epic scale all he can do is submit to it, and part of that is agreeing to be constantly on guard, constantly fearful. And he has trauma, something that he is very deliberately silent about. He says 'Nothing happened', though it very obviously did. I loved John's look of anger that he turned on Sherman when Sherman said that children do not have to protect their parents. It was a mix of anger at Sherman having understood without John saying anything and the rage of 'you don't understand'. I was glad because I think it means that Sherman opened up a space inside John for him to start thinking differently about what happened, perhaps start processing it.
The final reveal in the episode, with Sarah going to counselling too, took me by surprise but it rounded the episode out perfectly. Sarah lacks words, she says she lacks words of 'comfort or forgiveness' for her son. It's not for herself that she needs to go necessarily--but she remembers her father, perhaps, and wishes he could have found words for her. She goes for John, to see if she can learn to talk. She kept insisting to John that he can talk to her, that they do talk. But it has not been natural between them since the killing and forcing it didn't work.
All in all, a lovely episode with lots of ideas riffing off each other. And I want more Jessie! Also? Awesome Cameron-Terminator fight in the lift. :)