Major props to them naming this episode after one of my favorite games, "Queen's Gambit".
Wait, they're talking about Chess?
Oh...and some SHOCKING casting that is crazy ironic, and an announcement about future reviews of this show. Join me, won't you?
LAST TIME ON THE SHOW: Wow....that was quite some "last time" montage, covering everything from the explosion/time travel in the bank vault to the girl at school jumping to her death to Sarah's dreams and everything in between. Holy crap, this must be one busy episode coming up.
We join our heroes as they do homework and chat casually over killing Andy, the wonder computer chess guy from two eps ago. Cameron remarks they should have killed him when they had the chance, to which Sarah looks dubious. Just about then Sarah gets a call from Andy...he's spent every waking moment re-creating the Turk chess computer, and is getting ready to enter the tournament. Andy seems to have an unwitting wish to have his head turned into a shotgun cavity, it seems. Sarah looks grim as she plans to go to the tournament and see Andy, knowing what a victory by his new computer probably means for his length of time remaining on this earth. Sarah sends John off to school, worried that too many absentees will put him on someone's radar. THE TRUANT OFFICER IS A TERMINATOR~!
Cameron and John return to school, where there has been an outpouring of grief over the girl's suicide. A much-too-slimy but-in-a-casual-way GUIDANCE COUNSELOR offers to...well...counsel anyone having trouble dealing with their grief. John speaks with a blonde girl from one of her classes, and both admit to not knowing her but feeling grief just the same. We get our usual "Terminator No Understand Your Human Customs" bit as John explains to her that people are leaving the girl notes to help with their grief. John explains that sometimes crying isn't enough. How emo, John.
Later, John is working in a shop and befriends another guy by taking up for him in Spanish. This seems to earn him the grudging respect of the Spanish-speakers. His new pal warns him about this other girl in school that John had been seen with, telling her that she's trouble. John seems to shrug it off, and it seems he might be a little interested in the blonde chick. Hey, anything that keeps him from an awkward scene trying to explain why he's humping his robot sister probably sounds like a good gig to him right about now.
Meanwhile, Agent Ellison shows up to question Surrogate Dad from episode 1, the guy that Sarah bolted on and who assumed she was dead. Ellison grills him, thinking that if Sarah or John were alive, they might have sought help from him. Surrogate Dad is adamant that they are dead, and anyway the woman he knew was Sarah REESE, not Sarah Connor, so he's really not going to be much help. Surrogate Dad's current wife Penelope Widmore watches on, but it appears she thinks something might be up.
Cameron is meanwhile called into the Guidance Counselor's office...yeah, I think where we all think this is going is where it's going after all. The Guidance Counselor is especially interested in the fact that Cameron was one of the last to speak with the girl before she died. Given all the ads for "Jumper" that I'm seeing on TV, I'm thinking the girl's parents probably have a lawsuit pending. "Anwyhere is possible...especially splatted on pavement." Cameron shares the girl's frantic outburst in an uncanny impersonation, and this seems to shake the guy fairly visibly. Anyway, Cameron quickly picks up on this guy's excessive interest in what she knows and turns the tables on him, asking if there's anything that HE would like to share with her. When he clams up, she remarks that she seems to be over her grief now and takes her leave.
After school, John, Sarah and Connor go to Andy's tournament. Andy seems exceedingly happy to see Sarah, and again my dread of "Sarah Connor's Dating Adventures" flares up. Andy tells her that his new computer isn't as 'smart' as his old one, but was more adaptive and almost...moody. In fact, it's just more....HUMAN...than before. Sarah seems positively joyous to hear the new machine described in this fashion, and you can almost hear the clock ticking closer to DEAD ANDY. Andy has a partner, a cell-phone yammering dude who takes a few seconds to tell Andy, "She will never sleep with you" before yapping some more into his cell phone. Hey, thanks, man...awkward, for sure. Anyway, Sarah is alarmed even more than usual to learn that the winner of this chess tournament gets A MILITARY CONTRACT. Maybe their plans are to put Al-Queada in checkmate, seems as good a strategy as any we've tried thus far.
We progress to the tournament, and Andy's Turk computer is doing alarmingly well as Cameron glares at Andy from the sidelines. Things look especially bleak as the Turk is able to take the Queen of the Japanese computer, and John all the while offers vaguely sage-sounding commentary on what's going on. Sage-sounding in the way that people who don't really know chess talk when they're trying to pretend they know chess, but whatever. But just as suddenly, the Japanese player swoops in and puts the Turk in checkmate...hence the episode title. Damn, I was totally hoping for Natalie Portman to show up, too. Oh well, you can't have it all.
Meanwhile, Surrogate Dad's wife talks to him about the conversation earlier with Agent Ellison, and she makes it clear that she knows he's lying, because he has a "tell". Great, put Poker on ESPN2 ten hours a day and suddenly everyone is speaking the lingo. He finally goes "all in" and admits that he doesn't know if Sarah is alive, but that he saw John. Penelope Widmore seems to think calling Ellison back is the right idea, but Surrogate Dad isn't so sure...after all, what sort of Surrogate Dad turns over his kid to the cops?
Sarah goes to speak with Andy and console him about his loss as Andy and his partner argue over the Turk's failure. Sarah seems satisfied that Andy can be allowed to live for now and takes his leave, but as she's moving down the hallway she bumps into a stranger. This tingles her Sarah-Sense and she hesitates for a minute before running back down the hallway. Too late...Andy's dead, and the Turk is gone. Cue dramatic beat.
(I'm not one to celebrate over a dead body, but at least we won't be subjected to five episodes of awkward dating before they do the horizontal boogaloo..."I'm a computer geek". "I'm a paranoid mother of the future savior of mankind, and I'm damn good with a shotgun. I'm also contemplating killing you to save humanity." "Wow, that makes me so hot.")
Sarah charges back out into the hall and catches a glimpse of the guy that she bumped into, and he's not wasting any time. She takes a shortcut to head him off at the pass (I DETEST THAT CLICHE~!) and soon she's locked into hand-to-hand with the mysterious assailant. He seems reluctant to fight her and is more interested in getting away, but unfortunately for him the Conveniently Timed Cops arrive to arrest him. Man, those guys are FAST, the murder happened like five minutes prior and they already know that THIS IS THEIR GUY. And we get a good look at him, and OH SNAP, IT'S THAT GUY FROM BEVERLY HILLS 90210. Great, so we make some jokes, and they take it and go stunt casting with it. Awesome.
Sarah returns home and she's able to deduce that this guy is their missing Freedom Fighter, thanks to the barcode tatooed on his arm. Aw hell, it's jailbreak time. But they'd better hurry, as soon Freedom Fighter 90210 is being questioned by our intrepid Agent Ellison, who is seemingly assigned to every murder case in the city as of late. FF90210 is reluctant to talk until Ellison thankfully lays out the pieces as to why he's investigating all these murders--there's a common element, but it's blood. FF90210 says, "but it's not my blood, is it?" To which Ellison replies that no, it isn't, in fact it seems...synthetic. FF90210 helpfully let's Ellison know that "We're all going to die." Uh...that isn't helpful in the investigation...or is it?
Ellison offers him a transfer if he'll cooperate and says he'll be in touch, but we quickly learn our potential Andy-killer has bigger problems--the T-800 that Cameron tangled with in an earlier episode before running from her is apparently after FF90210, and has gotten himself infiltrated in the pokey. That sounds a little more homoerotic than I intended, but you get the point.
Sarah shows up with a new hairstyle, and this is enough to get her in to see the captive. Man, she should've thought of that sooner. "No, I didn't kill Dyson. That chick had longer hair. See?" FF90210 tells her she shouldn't be there, and that he knows who she is. He claims he doesn't want to be the one to "bring metal on the Connors". I guess he won't be giving her that VOIVOD mixtape, then. She gets some more information from him, and he instructs her to leave and run far away. When she gets up, he says, "You're prettier than in your picture." This stops her in her tracks for a moment...."what picture?" Turns out he's referring to the picture his brother used to carry around with him, and makes reference to...THE REESE BROTHERS.
Yep, turns out FF90210 is actually KYLE REESE'S BROTHER. Let's let that sink in for a moment. I always wondered if they'd ever go in that direction with the franchise in general...if Sarah would ever somehow interact with the Reese from the 'current' timeline. To be honest, I'm not sure what to make of this. It could be really cool, or several levels of suckage. I'll give them the benefit of the doubt for now. Anyway, Sarah then realizes that they can't leave him in the lockup, and begins plotting escape. But would she be in time? Our T-800 casually busts out his cell and goes to where Derek Reese is located, only to find....he's gone!
Seems as though Derek took Ellison up on his offer to transfer after all, and is being loaded onto a transport truck. Cue the cavalry as John, Sarah, and Cameron show up to hijack the truck. Cameron climbs up over the top, punches out the window, tosses a guard out, and Sarah tells the other one to run, and make it snappy. But before they can get loaded up, the T-800 shows up again, and the chase is on. They close the doors and speed away, but the T-800 has great footspeed and manages to climb aboard the back. Unfortunately for him, Cameron is waiting and they have a KNOCK-DOWN DRAG OUT FIGHT as the vehicle is rocking all over the highway. Careful, you two lovebirds. Cameron gets the upper hand and jacks the guys head through the side of the vehicle, shredding flesh from his skull and ripping off his arm during the ensuing melee.
They climb out of the truck to make their escape, but those pesky Terminators just won't stay down. He gets the jump on Cameron and bashes her in the face repeatedly. Thankfully Cameron has stronger skin stuff that doesn't shred off at the slightest contct (either that, or it's in her contract--"no metal face for me, thanks.") He grabs a gun and hesitates a good five seconds (for dramatic effect) as he lines up Reese in his sights. Cameron has almost perfect timing in that she slams a metal pole into the T-800's firing arm just as he fires. I say "almost perfect" because the bullet still hits Reese in the lower abdomen. Cameron wraps up the T-800's head with the pole and disassembles some chip that shuts down our villain for good. Y'know, for unstoppable killing machines, there sure seem to be a lot of methods for stopping them. Cameron gives a very puzzled look at the chip, as it seems to have some significance, but we aren't filled in on what that might be.
They flee the scene and get Reese to their house, but he's fading fast and Cameron says she won't be able to save him, he's too badly wounded. Sarah starts talking about going to the hospital and kidnapping a doctor at gunpoint to help, to which John gives her the "ARE YOU OUT OF YOUR MIND?" routine. It's then that she fills John in that the man laying dying on the table is his Uncle Reese. Upon learning this, John makes a mad dash out the front door. I think we can see where this is headed.
Ellison is now on the scene of the jailbreak and is questioning the guards, asking how a 5'6" pair of females got such a jump on them. During his poking around at the scene, he finds...the Terminator's hand that came off during the struggle. That might be difficult to explain, that's for sure.
Back to the Connor's house, and Sarah is doing everything she can to keep Reese alive. Right as he appears to be tapdancing toward the grave, in bursts John and Surrogate Dad, who doesn't seem as shocked as you might expect to see Sarah alive. After that brief hesitation, he goes to work saving Reese, and we fade to black.
The Verdict: Y'know what? That wasn't so bad, really (despite the as-advertised groaner of "I call shotgun!" "I call 9 millimeter!"). The show is establishing its own mythology and is taking a few unexpected turns--I fully expected Andy to become the new member of their club and Sarah's love interest, and to see him lying dead quite suddenly was a bit of a shock.
The show reminds me of the sci-fi and horror stuff that Fox used to show when the network was young...back when stuff like Werewolf and Friday the 13th were on. I don't think another network would've given a show based on the Terminator a shot.
It's still got some lazy writing and not terribly great dialogue, but it is improving. I'm willing to tag along and see where it goes.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5
And now a note...I think that this will be the last of the Terminator episodes that I do a review for. For one, interest in them seems to be declining, and I'm pretty sure you guys have spoken and want to see more boardgaming stuff from us, at least for awhile. Not doing these will free me up to do other types of content on Tuesdays. Second, I'm finding watching the show now to be almost work as I'm thinking of what to write up about it while the episode is still going on, and I'd rather just enjoy it for some mindless fun.
So thanks to everyone for reading these, and if you get a chance, check the show out. Reward a sci-fi series (even if it's not perfect) instead of more reality shows, which the world needs a whole lot less of.