That was the most riveting hour of television I have watched in about a year. It was all so smart and had so much suspense. Real suspense of the I-totally-don't-know-who-is-going-to-win
Much squee is required... How chilling were the birds? There were so many things I loved about them, starting with the fact that we'd seen Sarah tell Cameron not to kill the bird when they first moved into the house. Seeing Cameron alone is rare, and seeing her talk to an animal was fascinating. Immediately it played as insight into the way Cameron views other living beings--humans--and how they confuse her with their illogical behaviour and fragility. Cameron's kill reflex has been discussed on the show already, obviously, and so even without seeing what this was building to, I was interested to see how she handled this situation. We've seen that she considers her 'story' to be one of killing everyone--but she tried not to kill the bird and it still wound up dead. I never guessed that by the end of the episode, the bird would be Riley.
What's going on with Cameron? My best guess is that this all stems back to her overriding her 'Terminate' instructions about John. That established a pattern where she could consciously override her programming. Since then she's struggled with her identity and while she may seem superficially the same has been behaving in less and less predictable ways. I think what we saw in this episode is that physically she's still very much a Terminator, and while she may wish to have 'free will' she still needs to overcome a physical predisposition to kill.
The episode ends with Cameron giving John the power to terminate her instantly if necessary. What a profound action on Cameron's part! She's forging the strangest of intimacies between herself and John. John is wary, suspicious and at times resists her overtures, but ultimately he accepts her gift and he doesn't reject her even though she might have killed his girlfriend and he knows it.
Also, he's not telling Sarah. He didn't tell her Cameron had been keeping parts from other terminators and I suspect he won't tell her about the termination button.
What is fascinating is that if Cameron hadn't been flawed, hadn't 'required' fixing, she would have killed Riley. 'It's usually not a decision' told us that. She is no longer receiving or responding to terminate instructions. Instead she has decisions to make--John tells her they're not for her to make, he's in charge. But what would cause him to kill her? If she turns against them, sure, yet her pure form--as a terminator--would have had deadly consequences for John too. It's a paradox.
Cameron revealing that John is 'ahead of schedule' initially elated me. I want him to beat FutureJohn! But then I thought about it more and if Cameron means it as 'you're closer to being FutureJohn', then it's actually quite chilling. Are the two Johns growing closer? Or is our John gaining something over him, changing away from him? That's what John himself asks in this episode--is it possible a) for John to keep secrets from Cameron and b) for him to know more than his future self. Cameron still thinks it's unlikely but given that she doesn't know everything, she can't rule it out.
There were so many chilling touches in this episode--like Riley reading the 'deadly to humans and domestic animals' label on the cleaning product. Riley was the 'mess' Sarah and Cameron were going to 'clean up' with deadly consequences.
It was equally chilling for Riley to see Cameron with her arm cut open so soon after she cut herself. Riley cut herself for attention and out of desperation. Cameron cuts herself with deliberate intent to fix, but the parallel is drawn... Cameron cannot directly kill herself like Riley could. But she cuts her wrists to try and get somewhere, to try first to fix and if that doesn't work to give the means of death into someone else's hands. Not so different from Riley... except that Riley fights for her life but loses.
Cameron says 'sometimes it's nice to have help' to John. This scene was juxtaposed with the one in which we see Riley not getting any help from the medical centre. Without a doubt, Riley was crying out to be saved, yet she wasn't able to reach out and trust John. Ultimately the Cameron-John relationship proved stronger than the Riley-John one. Jesse's training was too good--if Riley had been less loyal she might have opened up to John, admitted she was being played...
Instead she fled and took up her issues with the person who she loved more than John: Jesse. The raw emotion in the Jesse-Riley fight was amazing. Jesse believes everything she says to Riley, believes that she was making her a hero and that Riley should thank her. For Jesse, everyone dies, that's not in question: the question is how meaningful your death can be. Eariler Jesse told Riley to conquer her fear and remember the mission: that's Jesse, that's what she does. She blocks everything else out. Not just fear but love and human compassion as well.
Jesse is absolutely chilling. The revelation that she intended Riley to die shocked me. I hadn't intuited that far. I knew she didn't care for Riley, saw her as a disposable asset, but I hadn't guessed that she'd intended her to die from the outset. She lies to Riley, saying she won't let anyone hurt her--the complete opposite of the truth. It is Jesse herself who hurts Riley, puts her in this position and then kills her.
Oh my doomed, doomed, beautiful sexy ship. I loved seeing Derek and Jesse doing target practice together. With apples! Except they're not going to be 'apples', even though that was Jesse's line to Derek when they first met. All the seeds of destruction were in that scene. Jesse snarked at Derek about Sarah and Cameron ruling the Connor household. Derek challenged Jesse for progress on her own mission. They're going to fall apart and they're going to do so SOON, since Jesse ditched Derek and is now going to have to explain away the fact that she's been in a fight.
I haven't talked much about Sarah but I really loved her handling of the situation throughout. I liked that she quizzed Cameron on her thoughts about Riley and I like that she told John matter of factly that he better prepare himself for what Cameron would do. She is treating John as an adult who faces the consequences of what he's brought about. Instead of taking his place and railing at Riley, she pointed out that it was John who she should speak to and she gave the ground to John to deal with her. I like this shift in Sarah, not trying to protect him quite as much.
Poor clueless Derek, unaware of all this going on. I love that he's so completely the straightforward soldier here, continuing the mission regardless of 'distractions' and disappointed when others don't show up.
Tiny awesome Cameron/Derek moment? The both referred to Sarah as 'distracted' and Cameron let Derek take the lawyers research.
I loved the Sarah-Jesse scene.... ohh when this falls out it's going to be amaaaazing!