SG4-10: Beneath the Surface

The four gets captured and ‘stamped’ into being underground workers off-world.

Last time on Stargate SG-1: Daniel manages to figure out a way to keep Jack from making a tough decision.

 

Name of the Game

The episode opens in media res, with the team now believing themselves to be just more of the underground workers that create the energy used for the greenhouses that grow their food.  Apparently the surface is covered in ice but in time the people will reclaim it.  Everybody gets gruel for breakfast, with Kegan who serves them claiming there’s no bread for Thera (Sam).

Jonah (Jack) and Karlan (Daniel) get into a fight when Jonah (Jack) lashes out at Kegan for refusing to give Thera (Sam) bread, which is broken up by Teal’c, who remembers his true self opposed to his worker identity of Tor.  He brings up them being friends and them being part of SG-1 before he’s dragged off, with the workers’ supervisor Brenna (who gave the info-dump speech earlier) claiming he’s “night-sick”.  She then gets Kegan to give Thera (Sam) some bread.  I’ll be using both names for most of the episode just to keep it clear who’s who.

Later, Tor no longer recalls being Teal’c and thus doesn’t react to Jonah (Jack) to his relief and confusion.  Thera (Sam) has ideas on how to improve some of the devices’ efficiency and Brenna agrees to see her later.  Jonah (Jack) is impressed by Thera (Sam).  Later, he double-checks she’s okay and they both acknowledge they’re workaholics.

10Daniel&Kegan

Kegan dislikes Thera (Sam) and con siders her arrogant while Karlan (Daniel) admires her brains when they see her heading to Brenna’s office.  As seen above, Kegan is African-American so that’s cool, particularly as she’s not a full-on antagonist.  Plus it’s hinted that maybe she and Karlan (Daniel) have some kind of relationship or the start of one going on.  While she’s neutral about Tor (Teal’c), Kegan considers Jonah (Jack) arrogant as well.

Back at SGC, Walter sets up a video chat between General Hammond and Administrator Caulder (of P3R-118).  Caulder claims the search party can’t SG-1 and it’s very icy outside their domed city.  Hammond takes full responsibility for his people and is worried about them.  Once the link has been closed down, Caulder wants to see Brenna about the “new workers”.

Karlan (Daniel) is having a dream about the Stargate with Jonah (Jack) present and wanting them to go to the other side.  But Kegan doesn’t want him to leave.  I suspect this is Daniel’s subconscious torn between his former life (which he currently doesn’t remember) and the new one imposed upon him.  A confused Karlan (Daniel) wakes up.

Walter and Hammond have a brief video link with the SG search team, led by Major Griff.

10Daniel&Teal'c

Karlan (Daniel) goes over to Tor (Teal’c) when he’s shoveling coal.  He asks the other man about his ‘injury’ as his lower torso is wrapped in bandages (no shirt for him!) as well as the ‘birthmark’ on his forehead.  But Tor (Teal’c) no longer remembers anything about SG-1 so Daniel has to back down.  Both men are grumpy by the end of the conversation.  Kegan is annoyed with the duo as well, particularly as she doesn’t want Karlan (Daniel) to get in trouble with the higher-ups.

Cold as Ice

In the domed city, Brenna visits Caulder about Teal’c having to be ‘stamped’ with the Tor identity again.  Once again it’s his symbiote that is blamed for the technology no working as well on him.  Brenna shows Caulder Thera’s ideas about the plant, which she likes and is impressed by.  But Caulder is concerned about the workers no longer being needed and finding out they’ve been lied to all this time.

Furthermore, he doesn’t think they’d ever ‘fit in’ with the rest of the city’s residents.  I half-suspect all the workers are ‘stamped’ city civilians (or descendants thereof) who broke any rules of the city which makes this ‘justification’ all the more absurd.  Caulder wants to maintain the status quo and only wants what will allow for uninterrupted power.  A dismayed Brenna leaves.

10Brenna

Thera (Sam) later visits Brenna’s office to ask about her ideas.  Brenna vetoes the improvements and claims there’s too much risk of a permanent shutdown.  She explains, “I’m sorry.  This plant is all that stands between us and the ice.  Uninterrupted production is more important than efficiency.  You may return to work.”

When the blonde expresses her confusion about the brunette’s change in attitude, she’s told to leave and does so after stating the workers’ motto of “it’s my honor to serve”.  Thera (Sam) ends up complaining to Jonah (Jack), who cheers her up by being silly and mentions having used dangerous explosives in another life.  The idea intrigues Thera (Sam) and is very relevant given their actions just last episode.

Major Griff and his team return to the Gate room.  He reports to Hammond there’s no trace of SG-1 out there and it doesn’t make sense for either Sam or Daniel to want to leave the domed city and less even sense for Jack to be okay with that idea.  In short, he thinks that Caulder is a “damn liar”.

Uniting the Quartet

Kegan is visited by Daniel, who wants to know how he got here as now that he thinks about it, he can’t remember his past.  She dismisses Jonah and Thera as suck-ups and social climbers, and warns Daniel to pick either her or them before leaving.

Tor (Teal’c) is doing stuff among the machinery when he collapses.  There’s rumbling and apparently the pressure is too high and the section is about to blow.  A pair of guys drag Tor (Teal’c) to safety.  Thera (Sam) comes over and learns about the pressure overload.  She, Jonah (Jack), and Karlan (Daniel) team up to save the day.  Kegan helps out by urging along the evacuation.

Brenna has to tell Tor (Teal’c) to rest before she expresses her gratitude to the trio.  But Thera (Sam) is grumpy as if they had done the alternations she suggested this wouldn’t have occurred.  Karlan (Daniel) brings up SG-1 and his feeling that they are part of a “bigger, grander thing” before mentioning his dream of the “big, glowing puddle”.

Thera (Sam) brings up she has had the same dream to Jonah’s annoyance.  His temper isn’t improved when they agree to meet up later.  Karlan (Daniel) sneaks off after hours, with Kegan in the bed next to him seemingly asleep (that’s the key adverb there).

They sit in a corner for their meeting.  Karlan (Daniel) rightfully suspects their memories have been altered and quizzes Jonah (Jack) about his past, who’s stubborn on them being true despite their fuzziness.  Jonah (Jack) brings up the possibility of them being night-sick.

“I don’t think so, sir,” Thera (Sam) refutes.  This derails them, as they’re unsure why Thera would call Jonah ‘sir’.

Hammond is staring down at the Gate from the briefing room.  Janet comes in with the medical reports on the search team (they’re all fine).  Caulder has claimed that searching the city has turned up nothing on SG-1.  Hammond suspects Caulder wants to keep the city the way it is opposed to opening up fully to trade with Earth.  When he brings up the idea of doing a covert search-and-rescue plan, Janet volunteers herself.

Kegan doles out the breakfast gruel again; Karlan (Daniel) gives Thera (Sam) his piece of bread even though she got one today.  That’s cute.  Karlan (Daniel) reports he dreamed about the “pool of light” where Tor, Jonah, and Thera were present as well.  Jonah (Jack) claims he dreamed of mining while Sam dreamed of letters and numbers- SG-1, DHD, and GDO.  Then Jonah (Jack) gets fascinated by an upside down white bowl and doesn’t know why.  There’s a momentary flashback of Jack in the domed city.

Later, Kegan expresses her anger at Karlan (Daniel) for making friends with Thera and Jonah.  Apologizing, Daniel then leaves.  In the makeshift infirmary, Brenna refuses a guy to remove Tor’s bandages at all before leaving.  The guy is worried as Tor’s condition is worsening.  But when alone, Tor wakes up enough to start undoing his bandages.

Not All Bad

Jonah (Jack) and (Sam) are sitting side by side.  Evidently he vaguely recalls a bald man in short sleeves who’s important to him.  Just as everybody thinks he’s thinking of General Hammond, Jonah (Jack) suggests his name is Homer.  Apparently Jack is a hard-core The Simpsons fan.

10Jack&Sam

Acknowledging she just has “vague images” Thera (Sam) cuddles up to him.  Jonah (Jack) admits, “I remember feeling feelings.”

“For me?”

“No, for Tor,” Jonah (Jack) snarks.

Thera (Sam) laughs.

“I don’t remember much, but I do remember that,” he tells her.

“So?”

“So… I’m just saying.”

“Well, then, I feel better.”

It definitely is endearing to see them so open and close to each other.  This is likely a glimpse at what they’d be like if they weren’t so firm on not breaking the no fraternization rule.  And it’s sweet that even before either had a clue about their true selves they had resumed their closeness.

Literally Breaking the Glass Ceiling

Reporting to Caulder, Brenna expresses her fear that Tor (Teal’c) might be dying due to the effects of the stamp on his species.  She’s been told the other three have been meeting in secret and might be remembering.  I suspect that Kegan felt scorned and tattled on them.  Caulder wants to send them outside and hates them for “passing judgment” for how the workers are treated.  Brenna can’t and/or won’t stand up to Caulder.

That night, Jonah (Jack) is studying the upside down bowl again, trying to remember.  He flashbacks to meeting with Caulder about the “slave labor force” SG-1 had discovered underground.  Jack doesn’t want to trade with a government that enslaves part of its populace.  It’s likely any slavery wouldn’t be tolerated by him, but that’s not relevant in this case.  Jack mistrusts Caulder.

The lights turn up and it’s time to get up.  Jonah (Jack) heads over to Thera (Sam) to explain his theory on what’s going on but then a guy tells them to report to Brenna’s quarters.  Tor (Teal’c) is resting on his cot when the guy witnesses a pair of dudes placing him on a stretcher to be taken to Brenna’s quarters.  Once they’re gone, the guy finds the discarded bandages.

The trio is in the office when the pair of guys come in to put down Tor (Teal’c).  Once they’re gone, Karlan (Daniel) states kel’no’reem and Jonah (Jack)  defines it as a form of meditation to keep himself alive but without his memories Teal’c can’t do it.

Brenna admits their memories have been altered and gives them their true names.  At first she went along with the plan as she thought it was necessary to protect the city but things have gone too far.  She wants them to go home where their memories will come back faster.

But then Caulder and a pair of guards come through the secret passage that presumably links her quarters to the city.  Caulder scorns Brenna as week and shoots her in the arm.  The guards turn on the three but the guys take them on.  And yes, this includes Teal’c.

Evidently once he removed his bandages and figured out he was different than the others his memories started to come back.  So he did go into kel’no’reem for the night so his symbiote could heal him.  Brenna obviously needs to go to an infirmary soon.  Caulder doesn’t think they reach the Stargate at all but Jack wants to use him as a hostage.

10Caulder&Team

Daniel reminds him that they also need to reveal the truth to the workers.  The five go out onto the uppermost walkway, where Jack reveals the truth which Caulder denies.  Kegan doesn’t trust Jack but also has no clue who Caulder is.

Shooting one of the skylights, Jack proves there is no ice or snow immediately above them.  Without the frosted glass, the workers can see the skyscrapers above.  The sunlight and comparatively fresh air awe the workers.  Caulder claims they’ll never be accepted in the city.

Jack concurs so SGC will transplant them to a beachy planet to set up their own civilization.  Caulder tries to argue that they’re destroying a way of life but Jack doesn’t care since that’s no excuse for how the workers were treated.  They leave him standing on the walkway alone.

The three humans go back to Brenna’s quarters and Sam insists on Brenna coming with them, as she did realize what’s going on is wrong and tried to fix things.  Apparently Teal’c went down to help the workers with the initial adjustments to their worldview.  Daniel guides Brenna through the passage.  Sam and Jack are left alone in the office.  Jack fibs he was trying to remember Hammond earlier.  There’s a wistful moment, but they do want to go home so they exit through the secret passage.

Conclusion

Not going to lie, I enjoyed this episode more than I thought I would.  I’m going to credit the episode director Peter DeLuise for that.  Teal’c was mostly side-lined this episode, but what material he did get was great.

Daniel nearly found some sort of happiness with Kegan, but I suspect it wouldn’t have worked in the long term.  But I do like how both major secondary one-shot characters were women, and Kegan was also black.  Jack and Sam were drawn to each other despite their lack of memories, which is adorable.  And I’m pretty sure that Sam got a haircut (possibly not by choice).

Caulder was the worst of the Rich Old White Man tropes.  Perfectly content with the status quo as it best benefits him and his ilk, he hates anybody who points out how the system only benefits a small minority.  But apparently he’s worse at shooting than Stormtroopers given how he only hit Brenna in the arm.  Not that to say that didn’t hurt or isn’t a serious injury, but it’s also clearly a non-fatal one if treated quickly and well enough.  Oh.  Maybe Caulder intended for Brenna to have a slow and painful death in that case.

I know the workers were kept in the dark about the city’s existence and that’s why they were so cut off from it.  But I have to wonder if the reverse is also true and the majority of the citizens are unaware of the workers’ existence.  Like, there’s an elite ruling class that lives in the city and keeps a distant eye on the workers but the lower city classes don’t fully know where the power for their city comes from.  Also, is Brenna from the city or from below?  I already voiced an earlier theory on where the workers come from and thus why the ‘stamping’ technology was already in use.

Hopefully there’s eventually some kind of coda on what happened to the workers and Brenna.  Particularly as I’m a little worried about Brenna getting mistreated (somewhat understandably) for her role in the deceit.  As far as they’re concerned, her change of heart might have been too little too late.  Plus how it was inspired by the aliens, not them.  I find her a fascinating character who did ultimately realize the current system’s flaws, even if it took outsiders for her to do so.

Weirdly, I’m vaguely reminded of Spirited Away.  The name-changes are probably what make me link the two since that aspect functions in more or less the same way in both stories.

 

Next time on Stargate SG-1: Jack deals with a conspiracy theorist who knows about the Stargate.

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