The Goa’uld have put into motion a scheme to ruin the upcoming summit between the US President and the leader of the Tok’ra.
Last time on Stargate SG-1: Teal’c briefly reunited with his childhood sweetheart, who was then killed by her ex-symbiote who had faked switching to the side of the Tok’ra.
While I do include trigger warnings in my tags, I want to stress that this episode repeatedly involves people becoming “self-destructive” as the show terms it as part of having had their minds messed with by the Goa’uld. In other words, suicidal.
In a Tok’ra base, Martouf, Anise, Daniel and Jack are part of a committee that is scheduling a meeting where the US President will meet the leader of the Tok’ra on Earth. Said leader comes in to agree to a Wednesday meeting; his name is Per’sus, clearly a variant on Perseus. In mythology, Perseus was a demigod who loved his mortal mother, killed Medusa, saved and wed Andromeda, and generally got a happier end than most demigods. It’ll be another half a decade before Perseus Jackson is accused of being the lightning thief as far as the show’s timeline goes.
In any case, Martouf makes introductions and one of the SG personnel starts using a device to blast several beings. Jack manages to save Anise. Graham starts to come back to his senses, but is compelled to blast off his own head.
Post-credits, Martouf assures Daniel and Jack that Per’sus will recover just as Sam shows up to learn what happened. While relieved, Jack and Daniel want to know how Martouf can be sure they weren’t involved in the assassination attempt. Although he lacks a logical reason to back him up, Martouf is sure SG-1 is innocent.
Anise comes over to state that “Major Graham was a zatarc”. When Jack goes “What?” she clarifies, “the victim of Goa’uld mind control technology.”
Martouf is skeptical that such technology exists. Jack is annoyed but Anise/Freya manages to calm him down by admitting this information ought to have been shared but the Tok’ra High Council was unconvinced of its existence.
The Tok’ra want the summit to go on, as they refuse to bow down to Goa’uld terrorism. While I’m sure the phrase existed before 9/11, as seen by this episode airing over a year before it, it certainly has gained far more weight since that day. Jack interrupts Martouf and Anise’s argument to ask whether or not they have a “Zanex detector”.
Martouf and Anise accompany the SGC personnel back to Earth. Hammond offers his apologies and Martouf also apologizes as Graham was just as much of a victim.
As they walk along a hallway, Janet reports to Hammond that if there was anything to detect in Graham’s body it’s beyond Earth technology to do so. The same goes for sensing it before the brain-altering is triggered. Both are concerned about having to rely exclusively upon the Tok’ra.
The device to test for zatarcs is set up in a room. Behind a glass wall SG-1, Martouf, and Hammond are watching on in the adjacent room. Anise tests Lt. Astor, a teammate of Graham. I appreciate that Astor is a woman, although it does seem that the SGC mostly consists of guys. As Anise begins the questioning after placing a modified memory device on the other woman’s temple, Martouf explains how the technology works. It reads both conscious and subconscious thoughts to detect lies. It can only tell if a person is a zatarc, not what the mission is or how he/she would be ‘triggered’ to complete it.
When the technology starts to glow more orange-ish than blue, Anise has Astor repeat that sequence of events in more detail. A flashback occurs as Astor elaborates on what happened on SG-15’s mission. Huh, so are there more teams nowadays than in the beginning of the program? Despite being certain she shot a Jaffa guard before she and her teammates retreated, Astor is apparently lying.
Anise, Martouf, and Jack meet with Hammond in his office. Jack, after the events of “Upgrades” which he obliquely refers to, is suspicious of just how helpful Anise will be. The procedure to remove the false memory might end up causing brain damage. Hammond doesn’t want to put the base or the planet at risk. Anise reminds them that zatarcs become self-destructive when triggered, so Hammond decides to leave the choice up to Astor.
Astor apparently opted for the procedure, as the show cuts to her being strapped down in the chair again. This time Janet has joined the others behind the glass wall. As the procedure begins, with a beam of light going from the device to Astor’s head, the woman ends up in pain. Martouf has Anise stop, but Astor has already been triggered and becomes destructive. She breaks free and attacks the two guards. She shoots at the glass wall, damaging it but luckily not breaking it. Jack distracts her before she can target the ducking Anise. Off-screen she ends up being compelled to shoot herself in the head.
Trouble on Base
Hammond’s office again hosts a meeting: the general himself, Jack, and Anise. The Tok’ra researcher admits there must be a fail-safe to prevent tampering and apologizes, saying, “I hold myself accountable.”
“The Goa’uld are ultimately accountable,” Hammond refutes.
“Unfortunately, we cannot analyze the affected area of the victim’s brain post-mortem, due to the self-inflicted damage,” Anise explains. So while there’s a ‘reason’ for the Goa’uld to have the zatarcs commit suicide- to prevent their enemies from figuring out who is one- there’s no reason for the triggered rage to fade as they’re compelled to kill themselves. It’s clear with both Graham and Astor that as they turn their weapons on themselves it’s sinking in what they were compelled to do.
Since the summit can’t happen at SGC until they’re sure it’s safe, everybody else must be tested. When Anise reveals that SG-1 is up next, Jack goes, “D’oh!”
Intercut with footage from “Upgrades” is the actual questioning by Anise as Martouf and Janet watch on. It turns out that Jack and Sam are apparently zatarcs but Teal’c and Daniel are not. Jack and Sam end up being put in cells, although he does apparently visit her briefly.
At the briefing, Teal’c is in denial about his teammates being zatarcs. Since they’re the only apparent zatarcs on base, the summit is back on.
Jack is messing around with a yo-yo when Freya visits him to apologize, blaming Anise as without the armbands the mission wouldn’t have happened. Freya then thanks Jack for saving her life twice now.
“No offense, but I’d have done it for anyone,” Jack shrugs it off. Leaning over, Freya kisses him. In surprise, his feet slip off the table they had been resting on. Afterwards, he again channels his inner Isabella by going, “Whatcha doin’?”
There’s a brief discussion where apparently Freya’s original culture was a lot more open about matters of affection. It’s clarified that “Anise, [her] symbiote, is far more interested in Doctor Jackson on an intellectual level”. That’s interesting, particularly given Martouf’s earlier discussion with Sam about how the symbiote and host usually fall for the same being.
Freya kisses him again, further confusing Jack. He tries to use his zatarc programming as an excuse to not kiss her but she refutes that if she were the target he’d have been triggered long ago. When she asks “Is there someone else to whom you are loyal?” Jack stammers and sidesteps the question.
Jack acknowledges that humans have a lot of “inhibitions and stigmas” about intimacy and also there’s the matter of timing. Freya wants to help him and Major Carter as well as not make Jack uncomfortable again as she leaves. Closing the door, Jack is bemused.
Hammond, Daniel, and Martouf are in the briefing room discussing some phrasing for the treaty document when Anise comes in. She’s concerned that keeping them confined will trigger them anyway if they’re left incapable of fulfilling their programming. Everybody assumes that the summit will be the triggering event and postponing it might cause the same problem as the programming might not be complex enough to recognize a new deadline for completing the task.
Martouf visits Sam in her cell, where she’s using a laptop to write to her dad. He assures her that he’s sent word to Jacob/Selmak and he’s also here to give her an option. There’s the chance that doing the whole procedure- for Astor it was stopped midway- will undo the zatarc programming. It’s acknowledged that if unable to complete her objective, Sam will likely be triggered regardless. Martouf admits he’s become fond of Sam on her own merits as well as being his last living link to Jolinar. He and she then get into a debate about the side effects. Sam grumbles “some choice” which is what Jack said earlier about Hammond giving Astor the decision on what to do.
Over in Jack’s cell, Daniel has evidently given Jack the same option. When asked what he’d do, Daniel admits he doesn’t know. Jack reveals one of them made a pass at him, Daniel agreeing that it’s “odd”. Jack slips that the ‘snake’ likes Daniel before getting distracted by untangling his yo-yo’s string. In a tone that’s both snarky and sincere, Daniel muses that these sort of moments will be the ones he’ll miss most when Jack’s gone. Luckily Jack wasn’t listening to him.
At the last moment, Jack opts to do the procedure instead of going into a coma until another option is found. He figures that even if he dies, they can do an autopsy on his brain which might help out Carter. Daniel and Janet visit Sam to admit what he decided; she’s further upset when Janet informs her he’s hopeful that even if he dies, the information gained might save her. Sam watches him go by, flanked by two guards as they follow Teal’c. Daniel reminds her that it’s Jack choice.
The Gate room has been gussied up for the treaty summit. Daniel arrives to fill in Martouf and Hammond on what’s going on with Jack and Sam. Per’sus and his four guards come through the Stargate.
Janet is preparing to put a tied-up Sam under; the blonde is scared for both herself and Jack. Jack is being strapped down and set up for the procedure. Teal’c has his zat at the ready, as seen above.
Per’sus is pleased by the finished treaty. Martouf credits Daniel for the edits, but the other man is absent-minded due to his teammates’ situation. Air Force One has landed, so it’ll be a quarter-hour until the President arrives.
Janet is upping the dose as Sam realizes they were lying without realizing it as she collapses. The brunette stops the procedure and goes to the glass-walled room to use the PA to stop Anise before she can start the procedure on Jack. A groggy Sam arrives to admit that they were unconsciously lying about why they wouldn’t leave each other behind when they get a moment alone.
Jack gets retested and has to confess, “I didn’t leave because I’d have rather died myself than lose Carter.”
Anise presses, “Why?”
“Because I care about her. A lot more than I’m supposed to.”
The device returns to normal. Anise/Freya clearly has mixed feelings about this. Jack isn’t a zatarc, but it’s confirmed that he does in fact have feelings for someone else. Sam gets retested and it’s confirmed she isn’t a zatarc either. Janet and Teal’c are relieved as Jack helps her undo the chair straps. The pair decides to not mess with the status quo given their positions as teammates and being in the military (no fraternization allowed).
Anise affirms that everybody has been tested and she herself was never in a situation where she could have become a zatarc. Sam realizes, “What about Martouf?”
Daniel is contacted by a SG grunt… but the other man has already been triggered. Daniel tries to talk to Martouf just as the presidential group arrives, but Martouf backhands him as he prepares to assassinate both leaders.
Martouf gets shot a lot and an arriving Teal’c zats him. Sam comes in with a zat in hand. Coming back to himself as he starts to aim the device at his own head, Martouf goes, “Samantha?”
She zats him again and he collapses. Removing the weapon from his hand, she holds it up to prove the threat is over. Hammond checks that everybody is okay and admits that the real President is back on Air Force One just in case of something like this happened.
Per’sus understands why the deception happened but wishes this is the last time something like this has to be done by either group. Plus on a Doylist level it justifies not showing either a look-like Clinton or having to make up a President. Sam cradles Martouf’s body, grieving. Anise promises that his death will become a “noble sacrifice” as they can do a full autopsy to see any changes in his head. But everybody, especially Sam, is still upset by his death.
I’m not going to lie, I went into this episode expecting Anise/Freya to die since I knew this was the last Stargate SG-1 episode she’s in. But nope, Martouf is the one who ended up dead. I’m a bit surprised nobody brought up the idea that hopefully he’s with Jolinar again, especially as Martouf himself mentioned her earlier this episode.
Although it would have been nice for Anise to show up again, I can get the Watsonian reason why she wouldn’t want to interact with SG-1 again after figuring out why Jack isn’t romantically interested in her. It’s now official that Jack and Sam do have feelings towards each other in this reality, but the military forbids fraternization and neither wants to risk their careers. It’s definitely interesting how they’re putting work before love and this is depicted as a good thing… then again, this is no ordinary line of work they’re in.
I am sad Martouf died, as he was the Tok’ra we saw the most of and both the team and viewers bonded with him. Plus, it’s tragic that this could have been avoided had only he’d been tested as well. Anise/Freya won’t be showing up again either. Is Jacob/Selmak going to take over the role of diplomat between SGC and the Tok’ra now?
The Goa’uld continue to be terrifying and psychotic, but that’s not news. I wonder how they got wind of the summit in the first place. It’s possible that the zatarc technology will be used again in a future episode, but really, I wouldn’t mind if it wasn’t given how terrifying it is.
Next time on Stargate SG-1: Jack and Teal’c get stuck in a Groundhog Day style time loop.