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Episode Studies by Clayton Barr

at popapostle dot-com
Terminator: Complications "Complications"
Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles
TV episode
Written by John Wirth & Ian Goldberg
Directed by Steven DePaul
Original air date: November 17, 2008


Sarah begins having strange dreams of three dots; Cromartie's body disappears.


Read the story summary at the Terminator Wiki


Didja Know?


The upside-down tortoise scene in this episode seems to have been inspired by a scene in the 1982 film Blade Runner, in which artificial humanoids called replicants are asked emotional questions to reveal if they are human or not. One of the questions is about seeing an upside-down tortoise in the desert and would they turn it over or leave it there. Here, Sarah helps the tortoise and later in the episode, Cameron and John have a discussion about it, similar in some ways to that seen in the film.


Characters appearing or mentioned in this episode


Sarah Connor


John Connor

Kacy Cotton (mentioned only)

Cromartie (mentioned and in dream only, deactivated)

Derek Reese


Charles Fischer (elder)

Dr. Sherman

Charles Fischer (younger)

Rebecca (mentioned only, girlfriend of young Fischer)

Christine (mentioned only, object of desire of young Fischer)

Fischer's grandfather (mentioned only, deceased)


Didja Notice?


In Sarah's dream at 1:30 on the Blu-ray, notice that John is in a Christ-like pose. As has been pointed out in previous studies, John Connor, humanity's savior, has the initials J.C., frequently used in fictional stories featuring protagonists that are meant to be symbolic or satirical stand-ins for Jesus Christ (the novelization of Judgment Day even has Sarah realizing that one of the reasons she's thought of as crazy by the doctors at Pescadero State Hospital is that she has named her son to have those initials and has claimed he will save humanity). Hour of the Wolf has Cyberdyne executive Oscar Cruz thinking of John Connor's resemblance, and possible connection to, the returned Messiah.


Sarah's hand is wrapped in a bandage in this episode, from the sharp piece of aluminum can that pierced her skin in the previous episode, "Mr. Ferguson is Ill Today".


At 5:37 on the Blu-ray, the packing crate behind Fischer is stenciled with "Panowall 36". Panowall is a type of rear-projection system.


Jesse is carrying her Ruger P90 pistol during the interrogation of Fischer.


Fischer's driver license reads "Paul Stewart, 345 Blackburn Ave., Pasadena, CA 91106". There is no Blackburn Avenue in Pasadena, CA. The 91106 zip code is an actual one in Pasadena, however.


The signature on "Paul Stewart's" driver license looks fake to me, like it was done in a cursive computer font. Notice how fancy the "P" is. The font of the "California DMV" banner at the top is also plainer than the actual CA driver licenses of the time.

Paul Stewart driver license


"Paul", later revealed to, in fact, be Charles Fischer, claims he's just a watch repairman. He says he was looking for an Omega 321 movement at a secondhand store. He is probably referring to the Omega Calibre 321 movement used in its Speedmaster watches from 1957-1968. The Speedmaster has been nicknamed the Moon Watch because it was worn by Buzz Aldrin on his wrist outside of his spacesuit when he walked on the Moon during the first manned Moon landing in 1969 (Apollo 11).


In the nursery of tortoises in Sarah's dream, notice that the wall clock next to Cameron is in the shape of a tortoise or turtle, with tortoise shapes also representing the hours. The clock is set at 12:00. This may all be a metaphor for extinction (of humanity), as the desert tortoise is an endangered species and 12:00 also represents the hour of Doomsday on the Doomsday Clock established by The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists' Science and Security Board since 1947.


A paranoid Sarah pulls her Glock 17 on a reflection of herself in the door glass at 12:52 on the Blu-ray.


"Paul" claims he went to Bern, Switzerland to learn watch repair. Switzerland is known for the manufacture of precision timepieces.


When Derek tells "Paul" that his relationship with Jesse is complicated, "Paul" responds, "...I know complication. I'm a watchmaker. It's a--it's a watch joke." In horology (the measurement of time), a complication is a feature of a mechanical timepiece that identifies something beyond the hour and minute, such as seconds, day, date, stopwatch, etc.


Fischer's cover as a watch repairman is an ironic one considering he is a time traveller, possibly even involved in the engineering/mechanics of the time travel device used by the Greys in the future. His alias of Paul Stewart may be a nod to the American actor of the same name (1908-1986) who was part of the cast of the 1934-1938 radio news series called The March of Time.


Derek notices the tattoo of a clock with no hands on Fischer's arm and remarks that it is indicative of someone who has served time in prison. Derek goes on to say that the lack of hands on the clock stands for a life sentence; however, this is not true universally.


I have not been able to identify the two songs on the radio while John and Cameron are driving around at 18:05 on the Blu-ray. If anyone knows the songs and artists, send me a response at the email at the top of the page.


After stopping short of strangling Ellison on the floor of his home, at John's command, Cameron then rolls the unconscious Ellison onto his stomach. This is presumably due to the conversation she and John had earlier about finding a tortoise on its back.


At 23:55 on the Blu-ray, the photograph of Sarah and the dog from "Dungeons and Dragons" (the Lena Headey version of the Linda Hamilton photo from the end of The Terminator) is seen.


Also at 23:55 on the Blu-ray, two paperbacks are seen in the remains of Ellison's smashed coffee table. One is face down with no title visible, but the review quotes on the back cover are for the 1967 book The Chosen by Chaim Potok. The other book has only a partially visible title, "Intimat--" Intimate something? It looks like it's probably a romance novel.


The young Fischer tells Jesse he works for S.R.F, a seismic retrofitting company. Notice the polo shirt he's wearing also has "S.R.F" sewn onto the left breast. S.R.F appears to be a fictitious company, though this abbreviation is often used for the term "seismic retrofitting".


The elder Fischer finally admits who he is and that on Judgment Day he was locked in solitary confinement at Pelican Bay. Pelican Bay is a supermax state prison in Crescent City, CA.


The audio recording device seen at 34:09 on the Blu-ray has PCM-SOUND embossed on it. PCM stands for "Pulse-code modulation", a method of translating analog audio into digital. One of the audio tape spools on the device is branded as Memorex.


When Agent Baldwin shows young Fischer the login list of S.R.F at 40:50 on the Blu-ray, most of the names on it are actually people involved with the show: Jill Danton (producer), Kayla Franklin (assistant to producer), Jack Stentz (writer, story editor, co-producer), Ian Goldberg (writer of this and three other episodes), Ashley Miller (writer of several episodes), Hilton Smith (co-producer), Eric Matsumoto (production coordinator), Carlos Lopez (assistant production coordinator), Scott Meehan (art direction), Jared Fleury (property master), Mark Richardson (assistant property master), Scott Buckwald (property master), Julie Witherington (on-set property master), Josh Friedman (executive producer), John Wirth (executive producer, writer). There's only a couple names I couldn't identify as members of the crew, but I'd bet they were people who were involved in an uncredited fashion in some way: Jen Ward and Marina Neyman.


Near the end of the episode, young Fischer is seen locked in a cell, presumably serving a sentence for his older self having tampered with the military computer system. This places young Fischer in prison, where he is protected from the destruction of Judgment Day, introducing another predestination paradox to the Terminator universe (like the one of John Connor having to send Kyle Reese back in time in order to become John's own father).


The car Catherine Weaver drives at the end of the episode is a 2007 Mercedes-Benz E 63 AMG.


The end of the episode reveals that Ellison did dig up and bring back the body of Cromartie from Mexico, despite his claims not to have and despite John having been convinced he was telling the truth.


Unanswered Questions


Why does Derek not remember Charles Fischer as a leader of the Greys from the future when Jesse claims he should? It would seem that Derek's suggestion is true that even though he and Jesse knew each other in the future they came from, the Jesse who has now come to our present is from a slightly different future than the one Derek came from.


Agent Baldwin reveals that the elder Fischer apparently installed a roving backdoor into a restricted military computer system that they haven't been able to dismantle. Why did he do this? It would seem to be to allow someone or something access to the systems in the future, but the subject is not brought up again in the later episodes. It may have been a planned plot point for season three or later seasons, which never came to be.


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