Terminator: Mr. Ferguson is Ill Today

This episode had some good elements and some not-so-good elements. Overall, I liked the general pacing, the “semi-flashback” technique, and where the story ended up, but there were a couple of bumps in the road along the way.

I’m glad that they brought the Cromartie arc somewhat to a close (assuming he truly is terminated)---if only because the continued near misses would have gotten stale pretty quickly---but I hated the final shootout. I’m all for cool, slow-mo, shoot-em-up sequences, but when you throw in the Spaghetti Western/Mexican Standoff Music it pushes things right over that line from cool to cheesy. Cromartie going down in a hail of big, honkin’ bullets was well and good, but the staging and the music just made the scene so corny that it didn’t feel like an end truly befitting his character.

For me, the best part of Cromartie’s death was the emotional breakdown it triggered in Sarah. She’s been wound so tight, for so long, hardly ever letting a trace of emotion other than anger show. Even in her in her private moments, she keeps her emotions reined in pretty tightly. Finally letting go of some of that tension, fear, and grief for all that she’s lost will hopefully do Sarah some good. At the very least, it seems to have shown John that she feels the toll of their war just as keenly as he does. She's not an emotionless, hard ass. She's just trying to deal with the cards they've been dealt as best she can. Maybe now they can repair their relationship, or build a new one and move forward. Of course, every episode I think we’ve gotten a breakthrough that will finally be the turning point for John, but it has yet to pan out. Is this finally the one?

I’m glad that Agent Ellison got to be involved in the takedown of Cromartie. I especially loved his exchange with Sarah at Cromartie’s graveside. Her response of “That’s a lot to you?” to his complaint that he’d lost his marriage and his career to her war against the machines was perfect. Such an understated, simple response that says so much about what the war has cost Sarah and her family. The enormity of what was left unsaid in that response is no doubt what led to her finally breaking.

John and Cameron having a heart to heart in his room: intensely creepy and fascinating all at the same time. Watching Cameron trying to manipulate John was really eerie. She really pulled out all the stops: stripping down a bit, joining him in bed, etc. It’s unsettling to me that he would even remotely consider being romantically involved with her. The things she said about them talking in the future make it sound like they are pretty close. But how close? And is it only because she took the form of someone he cared about? Shuddery.

John and Riley trying to have a heart to heart in the honeymoon suite in Mexico: not nearly so interesting. For me, most scenes between those two are like nails on a chalkboard. This episode spent way too much time on their budding, dysfunctional relationship. Especially after the great teaser scenes with Sarah and Cameron. At least it wasn’t in school. I give Riley credit for having enough chutzpah to grab the camera from the guy in the bar and to later help in their escape from the cell, but the “teenagers in doomed love” bit I can do without. I’m with Team Connor on this one: John needs to ditch Riley before he gets her killed (and before they lull the audience into a coma).

I liked the title for this episode. At first it seemed kind of bizarre, given that the events of the episode had nothing to do with a Mr. Ferguson. But I started thinking that maybe “Mr. Ferguson is ill today” was something Cromartie said when we first met him way back in the pilot and he was pretending to be a substitute teacher for John’s class. I don’t actually recall if that is the case (and I don’t have the DVDs to check it out), but if so, I love it as a title for the episode in which Cromartie is finally vanquished. It brings things full circle. Very fitting.

Other thoughts:

Some of the staging for the various scenes was awkward and struck me as overly "artsy." It drew too much attention to the "art" of direction and left the scenes feeling very unnatural. Too much conspicuous foreground/background positioning. Especially the shootout, the Sarah/Ellison/John/Riley scene in the hotel, and the gravesite scene at the end.

Sarah cutting her hand on the aluminum can was pretty gross, but I love the way she was then going to defend herself with the can. A very resourceful fighter that Sarah.

I hope someone went back to Cromartie's car and collected all the Connor research. Don’t want to leave that paper trail laying about.

When did Cameron make a small bomb? She told Derek she raided his stash because they needed to make a small bomb. Is this something that happened awhile ago? If she hasn’t done it yet, why is she making a bomb?

Final rating: 3.5 out of 5. It was better than last week, but had too many disappointing and/or boring elements for me to go with a higher rating.

Jess Lynde is a highly engaged television viewer. Probably a bit too engaged.

12 comments:

Billie Doux said...

Another good review, Jess. I am really enjoying having someone else's reviews on my site, especially since I love T:TSSC, too.

I really liked the way they did all the bits from different perspectives. I think you're right that it came off as "arty", though. I thought at first they were going to do Rashomon. But I still liked what they did.

Is this really the end of Cromartie? Since he had taken that poor actor's identity, they can't just bring in the same actor as another Terminator. Though it would be funny if they did. Just like Deadwood.

Paul kelly said...

Hi Jess,

Nice review. I have to agree with you on the Spaghetti western type ending. It did seem a little out of place. I was similarly surprised with the first seasons Johnny Cash ending. Great ending. Bizarre music (no disrespect to Johnny. Who doesn't love him belting out "My name is Sue....how do you do")? Generally the series music is heavy...and the adverts we get over here in the UK are like mini heavy metal videos. So their choice of music for the important season set pieces does puzzle me a little.

And to be controversial for a moment, I think I'm the only human alive who actually likes Riley. John has no-one really...apart from a crazy robot chum that keeps trying to kill him, a semi-mental Mom who's probably killed more people than I've had hot dinners, and a war torn uncle from the future. He needs a friend and I'm glad she's there. Granted her storyline isn't the most interesting thing I've ever seen. Neither is Casey's for that matter....but they add some much needed levity to the carnage, explosions and death.

Paul

Jess Lynde said...

Thanks for the comments, guys. Glad to know you are enjoying having the reviews up on your site, Billie. I'm kind of hoping that once they switch the show to Friday I'll be able to get them up more quickly. Work and family are constantly conspiring against me when it comes to being timely after the Monday episodes!

Billie, I'm not really sure if this *is* the end of Cromartie. If not, I won't complain too much. I think maybe it was time for him to go, but I'm going to miss him a bit. I enjoyed Garrett's performance.

Paul, interesting points re: Riley. I agree that John does need someone besides the crew he has now. But I find their scenes together just painful. And he's putting her in terrible danger.

sloth15 said...

Couple things about this episode. I'll go against the grain (as per usual) and say that while I thought some of the directing techniques were weird and out of place, I everything about the shootout. They are in Mexico, and I think a lot of the scenery was supposed to show them being removed from technology. It is dusty, most of the scenes are absent electricity, and Cromartie is making his symbolic last stand. (Was it at a church? They kinda battled evil Cameron in a church too.)

I'll say what everyone is thinking, but not stating: They better come back and incinerate his body, or else I'm sure we'll see him again.

As for Riley, I think she is essential to the story. Maybe not the star crossed lovers angle, but at the moment she is the only character not 'in the know.' (Oh, and the preggo neighbor.) The Connor's & Co. are keepers of a HUGE secret, except that everyone in the show knows the secret. Riley represents the divide between the present and the future.

Lastly, no one has mentioned my favorite part of the episode yet: when Cromartie points out that Cameron is broken. He's reading Sarah like a poker player and asking if Cameron is acting strange, and if her chip has been damaged. Naturally we'll see more about Cameron's damaged chip.

(Oh, and you ask how John can even consider getting down with Cameron? Seriously, did you see her in that scene? It has been a while since I've been a 17 year old boy, but Summer looked pretty damn hot.)

Paul Kelly said...

Sloth15: Well said...lol. There's been a lot of talk across the forums recently, panning the idea of a potential John/Cameron hookup on the grounds of it being somehow creepy/disgusting. Has no-one seen Battlestar Galactica? Having sex with robots is the new black. It's not like they look like Tweaky or V.I.N.C.E.N.T anymore.

Jess: I agree completely that Riley being with John will likely result in her getting killed. In fact, I half suspect that this has been the plan all along.

Billie Doux said...

Paul,

"Having sex with robots is the new black" made me laugh out loud. You're so right, too. :)

Jess Lynde said...

Yes, Paul, that line was hilarious! And Sloth15 also has a great point re: Cameron being totally hot in that scene.

Paul you also make a good point about Terminator vs. BSG. I find the notion of John/Cameron a bit creepy and don't really want to see them go there, but it doesn't bother me at all on BSG (except for maybe that one hookup in the first half of S4). Probably because the robots act much more human on that show. And maybe because on BSG, the robots seem to have actual emotions. On Terminator, they are largely portrayed as souless, emotionless creatures (even though they make you wonder sometimes with Cameron). I think that's why it bothers me. John is emotionally damaged goods right now, and I think hooking up with his robot protector would be very ill advised. I vote for Riley over Cameron.

Paul Kelly said...

Jess said "Except for maybe that one hookup in the first half of S4".

Haha.....that was more to do with it being Saul though wasn't it? Nothing to do with the robot aspect at all.

Peter said...

Regarding John and Cameron having sex, I would like to quote a well known expert on the practice, Spike: "Sex with robots is more common than most people think." (Angel S5 episode Lineage)

Jess: As far as not hooking up with "souless, emotionless creatures" - you have not been dating recently have you?

Also, I actually like Riley. She has an edge and a bit of an attitude and provides a nice relief for John. And I keep thinking that when I was 17, I would Have been blown away by someone like Riley. I think that the tension between the life they live and a more normal life is what is driving the emotional arc. You see it in Sarah's eyes; the pain is almost palpable. I loved the scene at the end when she discusses their life with Ellison and then goes midevil on Cromartie's chip. They are all on the edge - the tension is just overwhelming. I think Riley provides a brief, unreal escape for John. Now that Riley has seen the danger of hanging with John, she can make her own decision about the future. If she decides to stick around, I think Sarah, Cam and Derrick should back off - the "push her away for her own protection" rationale will no longer be an issue.

Anonymous said...

I also like Riley, she is a comfort for John but seriously, he needs to get his head straight. I get why he wants to be with Riley, but it just comes across as a bit immature. What will it take for him to smarten up, get Riley killed?
I also liked the different perspectives, it elevated the episode for me.
But the shootout with the Mexican music is really kind of cheesy.
But much better than the previous episode.

celticmarc said...

Sorry Jess. I'm giving this one a 4.5. The same story from different characters' perspectives ? Oh, I love, love, love that ! So of course, blissful watching. Indeed, a bit too much at the end at the Church, but epic for me.

The shooting at the police station reminded me of T1 (the first movie). And "finally", Sarah cracks up. Too much is just too much. Kudos Miss Headay.

And Jess, I do not want to take you for granted. So therefore, blissful reading. I cannot imagine myself now watching a TV show WITHOUT a review from this site.

celticmarc said...

"Tweaky or V.I.N.C.E.N.T"

LMAO

beedy beedy beedy