If have learned anything from movies like The Matrix, I, Robot or Short Circuit it’s that nothing good comes from manufacturing artificial intelligence. If nothing else Short Circuit taught us that robots thinking on their own are just ridiculously annoying and stupid looking. Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles hammers home the dangerous aspects of playing with the A.I. fire. The episode “Earthlings Welcome Here” goes a long way in showing that the robots aren’t just here to blow the crap out of our world. They are going to mess up our faith in our loved ones, God, life and everything else we hold dear. Man, I hate these robots.
This episode focused on three decidedly separate storylines. The show’s writers have done a masterful job of interweaving settings, times, back flashes, forward flashes and the characters movements. I couldn’t do it justice if I tried. It’s easier to just look at the three plots separately.
First, we have the Cameron/ John/ Riley weird love triangle established a few episodes back. Riley has been brought back from the future to court young John and stop him from relying on Cameron’s robotic hotness. We learn some of Riley’s story from her time in the future. It seems she was a bit of an urchin in the future until Jessie (Derek’s girlfriend) finds her. Jessie and Riley travel back in time to meet up with John Connor. Riley arrives in the present looking sufficiently crazy and dirty until Jessie gets motherly with her and helps clean her up. (The scene of Jessie brushing Riley’s disgusting hair prompted my wife to claim indignantly, “They would never be able to get those knots out!!!”)
While John and Riley are hanging out, John notices Riley has a bruise on the side of her face. He questions her, she lies. Cameron questions her, she lies. Turns out Riley has been cracking under the pressure of courting John (who wouldn’t) and had asked Jessie to stop the mission. Jessie did what any other badass, futuristic, mommy-type does in a situation like that; slap her silly. Riley is devolving and the arc ends with John and Cameron finding her on the bathroom floor after attempting suicide; a legitimately sad part in the show.
Meanwhile Agent Ellison is still working with Catherine Weaver (Shirley Manson) to unwittingly reverse engineer the A.I. machine that will start Judgment Day. The machine, John Henry, has been given a robotic body and Weaver wants Ellison to teach the machine all about being human. At this point, we know Weaver is a machine herself sent back to get the A.I. moving in the right direction. We do not know her motives yet. (Sidebar: I can’t figure out if I think Shirley Manson is the best actress on the show or the worst. She seems so robotic and creepy which makes me think she is awesome. But she is so robotic and creepy that maybe she just stinks. I don’t know.) Ellison struggles with the moral and religious dilemma posed in teaching a robot to be more human. In the end, he acquiesces and explains to John Henry the importance of human life. He wants the robot to know that humans are special because we are God’s creation. Hopefully John Henry takes the hint and thinks twice about blowing the human race to kingdom come.
Finally, there is Sarah. She shows up at a UFO convention still looking for the meaning of the three dots. Turns out there have been a bunch of sightings of the three dots in the skies above California. People are convinced the dots are UFOs. Sarah knows better and sets out trying to find the company manufacturing these machine flying drones. She meets up with a guy Alan Park (dressed as a woman because he/she is on the lam) who has worked for the company producing these machines. He is on the run because he knows too much about the operation and is trying to find out the truth. He lets on that the company has access to futuristic robot technology. Sarah convinces Alan to get hypnotized in order to remember how to get to the company’s secret base of operations. During the hypnosis session, conveniently after he has walked through the directions to the base, Alan is gunned down.
Sarah has the information she needs though. She finds the warehouse where the no goodness is going down. She breaks in, but before she can get far a security guard shoots her. She is able to kill him, but she herself is injured. Sarah drags herself outside, looks up into the sky and sees the three dots. Only now the three dots are turbines for a machine flying weapon we know is used in the future to gun down the resistance. Mystery sort of solved. The episode ends with Sarah still lying on the ground at the warehouse.
This episode had a number of references to the first two Terminator movies which I thought were nice touches on the part of the writers. In the end, we are still left with questions. What is Catherine Weaver’s endgame? Will Riley make it? Can Ellison teach John Henry sympathy and compassion? Will Brian Austin Green get more kickass tattoos? Until the New Year!