The split-up narrative allowed for some interesting observations to be made about the different character perspectives.
Sarah is 'right'. She is always right. Riley is endangered just by being near John and by the end of the episode the bullets that Sarah predicts have indeed flown near her.
Sarah does not believe she is getting through to John--and she's right: things are worse than she knows, with John running away with Riley behind her back. While neither Sarah nor Cameron noticed John's absence, Sarah was quicker to question it than Cameron.
Sarah did NOT get what she wanted. John did not stop seeing Riley, he escalated the relationship and the danger. In Mexico, once again, Sarah advises Riley to leave. Her first attempt is polite and almost warm towards Riley, giving practical advice about how to get out. Once that fails, once Riley digs her heels in, a switch flicks back and she talks about her in the third person to John ('get her out of here'). She gives Riley an unimpressed look. Sarah forgets that one form of human 'stupidity' is loyalty and selflessness, something she distrusts in Ellison as well.
The most remarkable thing about Cameron's 'story' was the flickers of emotion we saw from her. There was a hint of a smile when she watched Riley leave, which would seem to belie her statement later that she can't be happy.
Cameron is deliberate in her approach with John--she removes her jacket and curls onto the bed beside him. John notices what she is doing.
Cameron believes John has listened. She repeats his own words and cites as evidence the fact that he is 'not stupid' (even though she herself made the point that he does do stupid things. She bases her knowledge of John on future!John. It seems like she has learnt to listen to John in order to understand what's going on with him: she says she knows it is lonely being John Connor. And when John says he 'knows' about Riley, she takes that as an indication that they are on the same page. What she does not see is the lie. If John does have a 'tell', she does not spot it here.
Cromartie later asks Sarah if Cameron has damage to her chip. She does. And yes, she makes mistakes. But does that also make her more human? And if so, would they take away her touches of humanity to make her a better protector of John?
Cameron's exchange with Derek made me realise how similar they are--their military thinking is mirrored but so is the dry bitchiness with which they greet each other. Derek is annoyed at Cameron depleting the store, Cameron counters by saying Derek's been hard to find. Behind that dig is genuine curiosity--she spies on his phone call. At this stage of the episode I thought Cameron might stumble on to Jessie, but I guess that's still to come.
I also really liked Derek seeing Cameron be almost emotional in Mexico, saying she can't let anything happen to John. Derek is the more practical soldier here, pointing out that they're no good to him dead. (It is, admittedly, harder to kill Cameron though!)
John's replay of the scene with Cameron was more intimate than Cameron's version. He is hyper-aware of her presence and at first I wondered if they were hinting at attraction, but we soon see that he was waiting for her to leave so he could skip town with Riley.
It's totally the wrong thing to do, but I kind of liked John for doing it. It was spontaneous and rebellious but it also isn't what you'd expect a teenager to do to piss off their parents. He revisits somewhere that meant a lot to him and his conflicted feelings about the past come to the surface there whether he wants them to or not. I also liked the way they played the romantic undertones between him and Riley. Both of them are cautious about getting involved and they're flirting round the edges of each other. It was convincingly teenage and awkward.
Things turned dangerous very quickly in Mexico and this whole episode works as a lesson in rashness for John if he chooses to heed it. But the truth is that deep down he always knew it was a bad idea to revisit the town, he just chose to wish otherwise for a while.
Riley does not get her own 'story' because she does not advance the narrative. But her character journey in this episode is interesting. She may come across as brash and confident but we see that she's also awkward in moments of greater emotional intimacy with John. She sends mixed signals about wanting this--she tells him they should be getting to know each other but says 'people are crap'. Her foster family background may be influencing her here. I liked that character touch because it gives her and John some common ground. Riley too has had to be someone new in a new family, though John's version of that is so much more extreme.
I also liked hearing about Riley spotting John's jumpiness. Again, I can buy that she would be drawn to someone in whom she saw expressed emotions she has probably felt herself at times (but for different reasons). As dislocated, 'homeless' individuals who distrust others and hide it, Riley and John have something in common. They also have similar coping mechanisms. Riley accuses John of deflecting unwanted questions with humour--she defuses an awkward situation by doing something goopy (jumping in the spa with her clothes on). Not to mention Riley's courage but sometimes misguided rashness. ;)
We didn't get much of a chance to see Riley's emotional response beyond her initial shock. She got points from me for not wanting to leave John, but once again Sarah was right--she had to go.
Finally we get to see Sarah and Ellison interact again! I liked their exchanges though Sarah was so tightly wound in them (until her final release of rage) that they felt very staccato. She is suspicious of Ellison, thinking he wouldn't have let John go, and she's unwilling to believe that he's simply grateful for his life because she also knows how much he's lost, even if she's quick to point out that other people have lost more.
Ellison looks for more than what he sees/experiences here: 'Then what?' Sarah offers him nothing. She has her role and it excludes all other investments, however fleeting. She wants no connections, no obligations/liabilities for any of them. But Ellison is still trying to make sense of his role. Unfortunately I fear that means we'll see more of Weaver.
Wow, EPIC ending! Visually so spectacular!
The ending I liked best though was John hugging Sarah and Sarah letting go briefly. At the end of it all, it really comes back to these two, and while Sarah is the cold, hard reality-speaker for most of the episode, for most of their lives, for one moment she's able to let go and admit just how awful it feels, how full of rage at how 'stuck' they are in these roles. It is John, who usually rails against his role, denying it, who comforts her. He hugs her protectively but also looks up, watchful, knowing that it will all happen again. Sarah and John express two sides of the one situation. In reality they both hold both 'stances' within them.