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Episode 209: Complications

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Air Date November 17, 2008
Written by John Wirth & Ian Goldberg
Director Steven DePaul
Prior episode "Mr. Ferguson is Ill Today"
Next episode "Strange Things Happen at the One Two Point"
"It's connected. It's all connected."
- Sarah Connor.

Derek interrogates Fischer

Sarah's mystifying nightmares creep into her real life – but what do they mean for her and John? Meanwhile, Derek and Jesse investigate a possible Skynet conspirator.


Normal 002

Derek Reese in the shipping container

Normal 001

Jesse confronts Fischer


Cameron says that she can feel


Cameron and John on a stakeout outside of Ellison's house


A younger Fischer gets a little torture of his own


Ellison reveals Cromartie's body to Catherine Weaver


Sarah sees the three spots on the bloody wall

The show opens with a dream sequence, the gist of which is this: A trio of cactus sprouts up from the ground near where the gang buried Cromartie in the last episode. Sarah and Cameron (who is inexplicably watering the ground) look on as John appears and is grabbed by one of the cactus' arms.

Sarah awakens in the back of the truck on the way back from Mexico and has John pull over so she can vomit. Cameron wonders if she might be pregnant. Before they leave, Sarah sees a tortoise on its back by one of the car's wheels. She turns it right-side-up and lets it go on its way. We see an ill-looking Sarah back at home being tended to by John and Cameron. The consensus is that someone must return to Mexico and burn Cromartie's body.

Derek meets Jesse at a warehouse filled with storage containers. Jesse tells him she saw a Charles Fischer (Richard Schiff) at the mall, hit him over the head with a brick and now has him tied up in one of the containers. Fischer is from the future, she tells Derek, he works for the machines "and he's gonna die." Derek doesn't recognize the name or the man, which surprises Jesse. Jesse tells Derek that Fischer was one of the top 'Grays,' or human traitors who worked for Skynet.

Cameron and John head back to Mexico to finish the job with Cromartie's body. On the way there, they have a discussion about how Cameron has "sensation" and how she "can feel".

When the tape is ripped off Fischer's mouth he gives another name, claiming the whole thing is a mistake and he is a watch repairman from Pasadena. Jesse continues to rough the man up, but his story doesn't change. Outside the container Jesse insists Fischer was one of the most important of the Grays war criminals and that the machines kept him hidden and free of persecution. Derek refuses to kill the man until he admits being Fischer.

Sarah has another dream, this one involving Cameron, Cromartie, a maternity ward and small turtles in the place of infants. Sarah sees a tortoise missing from one of the cradles, and turns to see Cameron sitting down, appearing to be nursing a child. Cameron looks up and smiles at her. When Cameron gets up, she has a baby tortoise in her hands. She walks by Sarah's outreached hand, and gives the tortoise to Cromartie. When Sarah wakes up she is pointing a gun at her reflection in a window and finds a trio of dots on a pad of paper in front of her.

Cameron and John attempt to dig-up Cromartie but find that the body is missing.

With Jesse gone, Fischer continues with the different name/watch maker story. Fischer's credibility appears to hit a snag when Derek notices a prison tattoo on the inside of Fischer's right arm: a clock with no hands signifying a life sentence.

Derek sends a camera picture of Fischer to Cameron, who is in the car with John. She tells Derek there is no record of the man in her memory banks, but doesn't tell John the particulars of Derek's question, simply stating, "Everything's okay. Don't worry about it."

Sarah arrives at the office of Dr. Sherman, the psychiatrist from several episodes earlier. She talks her way into his office after telling him about her dreams.

John and Cameron stakeout in front of James Ellison's house, where Cameron asks why Sarah turned the tortoise right-side-up in Mexico. They enter Ellison's house, and Cameron throws Ellison around the room, while John asks about the whereabouts of Cromartie's body. Ellison says he doesn't know where it is and John believes him.

Back in the compartment, Jesse arrives with another, younger man. Jesse pulls back their collars to reveal that they have identical birthmarks on their left shoulders. The younger man says his name is "Charlie Fischer," that he is a service technician for a company that does seismic retrofitting. Older Fischer sticks to his story until Derek starts pulling the fingernails off of younger Fischer. Older Fischer says the trip to the past was a reward and he was in solitary confinement at Pelican Bay when judgment day happened. When the machines got to him afterward, he helped teach them "what makes people tick" to avoid being killed.

Sarah continues her discussion with Sherman, but the session quickly breaks down when it becomes clear she will not tell the doctor any specifics about her life.

Jesse, who doesn't buy that Fischer isn't on a mission, tells Derek that Fischer helped explain to the machines how to get information out of humans. Over a period of weeks Fischer taught Skynet how to use torture. Jesse then reveals that it was Derek, not her, who was tortured by Fischer, though he still has no memory of the incidents. Just as Derek is about to turn his gun on younger Fischer, Jesse shoots and kills older Fischer.

After asking John about the three dots, Sarah apologizes to him for not killing the kid at the bowling alley, an inaction which allowed Cromartie to find John. However John comforts her saying that she is no murderer, and he knows that.

After burying older Fischer, Derek suggests to Jesse that perhaps the reason he has no memory of the torture is that his actions in the past have altered the future and they are now from two slightly different futures.

When young Fischer next arrives at work he is grabbed by Homeland Security. The agents tell him that several nights earlier he accessed the computer networking system, which allows access to military industrial systems. Young Fischer denies the charge, and we see via flashbacks that it was actually older Fischer who got through security and installed a "roving backdoor" to the systems which the government still cannot remove.

Weaver and Ellison meet, and we see that Ellison does, in fact, have Cromartie's body. "We need to learn how they work," he tells her, "How to fight them. It's up to the two of us." During this conversation we are shown young Fischer explaining himself to authorities to show where he was kidnapped, but all the evidence was cleaned up. He was convicted of treason and incarcerated in a super-max security cell at Pelican Bay State Prison.

Following one final dream, Sarah goes to the bloody-name wall and spots exactly the same three dots on the wall, next to the name of Carl Greenway.


Main Recurring Minor Uncredited



(Cameron sticks her bare foot out the car window, while John drives)
John: What are you doing?
Cameron: Feeling what it's like to get away from it all.
John: I don't think you are.
Cameron: What do you mean?
John: If by feelings you mean emotions, I'm pretty sure you still don't have any of those. And if by feeling you mean what it feels like to have the wind blow through your toes or your hair...I'm pretty sure you can't feel that either.
Cameron: I don't think you understand how we work. I have sensation. I feel. (Cameron sticks her arm out the window) I wouldn't be worth much if I couldn't feel.

(Derek calls Cameron on her cell phone)
Cameron: Hello?
Derek: Hey. It's Derek.
Cameron: Is it?
Derek: Yeah, I know. Shocks the hell out of me, too. Listen, I need to talk--
(Cameron abruptly hangs up, forcing Derek to call back)
Cameron: Hello?
Derek: (sighs, and punches in the security challenge) I need to talk to you.
Cameron: (punches in the security response) So talk.
Derek: I'm sending a picture to your phone.
(Derek sends a picture of the old Charles Fischer)
Cameron: I got it.
Derek: Who is it?
Cameron: I don't know.
Derek: You've never seen him? He's not in your memory banks or whatever? There's no record of him?
Cameron: No. Who is he?
Derek: He's... He's just this guy. I thought maybe I knew him.
Cameron: He looks hurt.
Derek: Don't worry about it.

(Cameron and John are on a stakeout outside of Ellison's house)
Cameron: There are many things I don't understand.
John: Like what?
Cameron: The tortoise.
John: What tortoise?
Cameron: It was on its back by the side of the road in Mexico. Your mother turned it over.
John: She was helping it.
Cameron: I know. But why?
John: Cause that's what we do. When we, uh...when we see something that's, pain, or in trouble, or whatever, we try and help it.
Cameron: Empathy.
John: Something like that.
Cameron: But not everyone would turn the tortoise over.
John: No. Some would just leave it there.
Cameron: Some would probably drive over it and crush it.
John: Yeah, I guess they would. Is that what you do?
Cameron: (Cameron sees Ellison's car pull into the driveway) It didn't seem like much of a threat. We're not built to be cruel.
John: Yeah, that's one for cyborgs.
Cameron: Yes. (Cameron sees Ellison get out of his car) That's one for us.

Agent Baldwin: Charles Fischer?
Young Fischer: Yeah.
Agent Baldwin: FBI, department of homeland security. Need you to come with us please.
(In an FBI interrogation chamber)
Agent Baldwin: Two nights ago, you entered the building unauthorized At 4:16 A.M. What were you doing here?
Young Fischer: That's a mistake. Two nights ago? No. I wasn't there. I would have no reason to be there at that time.
Agent Baldwin: Computers don't lie, Mr. Fischer. At 4:23, seven minutes after you entered the building, there was an unauthorized access to the computer networking system. (The elder Fischer passes through building security)
Young Fischer: That wasn't me.
Agent Baldwin: This system allows user access to all primary military-industrial complex computer systems.
Young Fischer: I'm telling you that this is all a big mistake. (sniffs) I do seismic retrofitting. I don't even know how to access a computer system. Why would I do that? (The elder Fischer hacks the system)
Agent Baldwin: I don't know, Mr. Fischer. You tell me. Why would you install a roving back door into those computer systems? One that we can't dismantle so far. You want to tell us how to do that as well?
Young Fischer: I don't know what you're talking about. I wasn't there.
Agent Baldwin: What happened to you? You look a little banged up. Want to explain that?
Young Fischer: I don't know if I can.
Agent Baldwin: Try.

Continuity notes

  • This implies this never happened to him — which would mean that Derek and Jesse are from two alternate timelines.
  • This episode acknowledges the possibility of alternate timelines created through the alterations made to history by the Resistance, such as Sarah, John, Cameron, Derek, and Skynet. Namely through Derek not remembering Fischer's experimentation on him. It could, however, be related to the events from the episode "Queen's Gambit" and the room in the basement.
    • The timeline has been changed by the Connors several times in the past. A good example is Judgment Day: presumably as a result of the Connors' actions, Judgment Day has moved from August 28, 1997 [1] to April 21, 2011.


  • Fischer is yet another predestination paradox inducing character, in that the actions of the Future Fischer directly lead to the incarceration of his younger self and the creation of his own Judgment Day survival scenario. If Fischer had not traveled into the past and incriminated himself while installing Skynet's back-doors to the defense grid, he would not have been safely serving a life sentence when the bombs fell.
  • Fischer may, in the future, have been prompted to be more sadistic to Derek Reese during his torture because the latter had ripped out a young Fischer's fingernails in the present.
  • The endos being briefed by Fischer in the "Jesse future" are all identified as Series 888s.
  • This episode introduces the concept of Grays, Skynet collaborators, to a live action continuity.[2]
  • This episode includes the first Sarah Connor dream sequence involving Mimetic Polyalloy.
  • The three dots Sarah keeps seeing could refer to the Triple CPU of the Series 888. Being painted on the wall just next to Greenway's name, it might also indicate "verified" Terminators or targets slated for termination or replication.

Deleted scenes

  • Derek buries Fischer's body.

Terminator references

Real-world references

  • The cut on Sarah's hand was real, and had to be written into this and future episodes after Lena "overcommitted" during the filming of the scene where she crushes Cromartie's chip with the buttstock of her rifle.
  • In the film Blade Runner, the Voight-Kampff is a polygraph-like machine used in the film by Blade Runner units to assist in the testing of an individual to see if he or she is a replicant, an artificial humanoid. It measures bodily functions such as respiration, "blush response", heart rate and eye movement in response to emotionally provocative questions. The first replicant shown in the film is asked a hypothetical question: “You're in the desert, you see a tortoise lying on its back, struggling, and you're not helping — why is that?” Replicants are shown as being unable to understand the question. This is cleary the inspiration for the scene of Sarah helping the tortoise. Later, Cameron shows that she has an answer, even if it is not a human answer.
  • The Grays could be a references to the supposed aliens "Greys", known to abduct and torture humans. Betty and Barney Hill, and Travis Walton are among the thousands who claim to have been abducted and subjected to horrifying medical procedures.


  • Q: What is the meaning of John not being afraid when he is grabbed by one of the cactus' arms in the dream sequence?
    • A1: (Speculation) Dreams often carry some kind of message. In this dream, Cameron grows up the cacti on Cromartie's grave. This might be representative for the efforts of the Connors' to stop the Judgment Day and the machines. But whatever they do, it seems not to be possible to change destination, to stop the machines from being invented and created. It's even worse — their efforts are like watering the cacti which hastens growing of the desert plant like Cromartie's body given to Catherine Weaver and her Corporation, hastens the technological advance, which inevitably leads to the rise of the machines. Being aware of this, John finally gives up fully accepting what will happen nor being scared anymore.
    • A2: (Speculation) Since TSCC is the story of John's coming of age as well as of Sarah Connor, it could be a hint of Sarah's fear that she'll lose John (a fear she mentioned to Cameron when she was being stitched back up again in the pilot), and maybe even a hint that she might lose John to Cameron. In interviews, Josh Friedman has stated that Cameron was added as a female counterpart to Sarah, as a girl that could draw John away from Sarah. However, Cameron is also a Terminator. Furthermore, later in the dream sequences, Cameron takes the turtle (which lay in the empty crib, so could be seen as a metaphor for John as Sarah's baby) and gives it to Cromartie, which would reinforce Sarah's fear.
    • A3: (Speculation) The dream may be prophetic of a future where an alliance between rebel Terminator factions and humans lead by John Connor is possible. (Speculation) The imagery of the cacti holding a docile John may foretell the shape this alliance will take - it could be read either way, that the cacti are protecting John or that they are seducing him. Cameron's behaviour thoughout both seasons indicates that her mission comes from the rebel faction (possibly with future John's agreement) rather then from the Humans. Cameron uses her sexuality as a controlling mechanism but ultimately hordes endoskeleton parts and chips, potentially to fulfil a mission of delivering a chip and endoskeleton for John Henry (which she subsequently has to donate hers, defying the present Connor's order's)
  • Q: In Sarah's dream three dots appears on the ground. Is there any significance to this?
    • Main article: Three dots (Note: The page contains spoilers)
    • A: The three dots in Sarah's dreams most likely stems from the bloody wall, first time seen in episode "Automatic for the People" with text and symbols written in blood. The wall is considered some vital information from the future, like information or names of people they using or looking after to kill. However, the actual meaning of the tree dots are yet to be revealed, but there are a few options of what it may be:
      • A1: (Speculation) It may symbolize the exact position of the CPUs in the head of the T-888.
      • A2: (Speculation) On Fischers arm, there is a tattoo which contain three dots. It may be a symbol of a future organization he is in.
      • A3: In "Strange Things Happen at the One Two Point", Sarah are investigating the company Dakara Systems, assuming the companies logo is connected to the possible prophetic dream of the tree dots. She believe the company is involved in the development of the Turk.
      • A4: In "Self Made Man", going through some old archives, Cameron accidentally come over a terminator sent by Skynet, who are sent back in the wrong year. The three dots may refer to the three stars, as a part of a constellation. The terminator use star constellations to determine which year it is in. Maybe Sarah's prophetic dream is about a specific event in time.
      • A5: Sarah incorrectly identifies them as matching the three LEDs on the stolen Turk that Weaver purchased earlier in the season
  • Q: Is Cameron's denial of recognizing Charles Fischer another of Cameron's lies or another verification that Fischer is indeed from an alternate future timeline?
    • A: While it is possible that Cameron is concealing information for the purposes of some "hidden agenda," it can be more easily interpreted that she really didn't know who Fischer was. When Derek sends her the picture of Fischer she denies knowing him, but he asks her if she is sure, and she double checks on his request. If she was purposefully hiding any knowledge of Fischer, it seems pointless for her to double check the photo. Cameron's decision to not tell John what Derek wanted could be interpreted as her wishing to hide information. But, given her actions during the conversation with Derek and her increasingly unexplainable, human-like behaviour during the episode, it may simply be an example of her reassuring John to put his mind at rest.
  • Q: While Cameron wasn't sure if Enrique was an informer ("He was possibly lying"), now she seems to be very sure that Ellison has stolen Cromartie's endo ("He is lying"). Why is she so sure? And why does she not act like in the Pilot (which would mean to terminate him)?
    • A: Cameron has extensive capabilities to read human physiological reactions that indicate if a person is lying (as revealed in a previous episode). Taking the time to get in close proximity and be hands on (while beating him) allowed her to verify what with Enrique (at range) was basically an assumption.
  • Q: Why would Ellison rather die than to give back the endo? Is he speculating that his life will be spared anyway?
    • A: Ellison is a Federal agent, sworn to protect, and feels that his plan to utilize the resources of Zeira Corp in discovering the weaknesses of the Terminators will be more effective than the destructive rampage that usually follows a Connor exploit. It is still in his nature to favor organizations over individuals, and he would be very certain that the Connors he has come to know are not killers of humans.
  • Q: Does Cameron accept orders from John? (It seems she would rather terminate Ellison until John intervenes.)
    • A: In the episode "Gnothi Seauton", Cameron tells Sarah that she is programmed to follow the John Connor, but not this John Connor. As he gets closer to self-actualization as the person he is "meant to be" she will likely defer to his judgment more and more.
  • Q: Why do Derek and Jesse spare the young Fischer's life despite knowing what he'll turn out to be in the future?
    • A: Jesse states that the young Fischer hasn't actually done anything yet. Realizing that Fischer in Derek's timeline maybe didn't torture him and therefor perhaps she's hoping that this experience will change him for the better, unaware of the predestination paradox Fischer has created for himself. Derek is still coping with the events that led to his execution of Andy Goode, and until now has not been made aware of tangible effects of his tampering with the timeline. Perhaps he is finally realizing the possible extent of the consequences of his actions.
  • Q: Why didn't they try to get information about his mission from Fischer before they shot him?
    • A1: It's possible that Derek was going to ask after he shot the young Fischer. Jesse's actions prevented him.
    • A2: Derek and Jesse believed Fischer when he told them that he wasn't here for a mission, but as a reward for his service to Skynet (obviously a lie).
  • Q: If Derek had shot the younger Fischer, what would have happened to the older Fischer?
    • A: Probably nothing. Multiple parallel timelines are interacting in the same space-time already. The "Future" of the 2007 Fischer would be eliminated from that point forward in the resident timeline, but the past actions of Fischer from the timeline shared by him and Jesse would perforce have continued to exist. Evidence of this is from the fact that Derek still exists, and has knowledge of the actions of Andy Goode, which drove him to the past and his execution of Goode. Derek's "memory" is constant, but the future as written from that point forward is different.


  1. At the beginning of the film Terminator 2: Judgment Day, the T-800 says that this is the date of Judgment day.
  2. Previous examples of Skynet collaborators exist in the Terminator franchise such as the Luddites of the S.M. Stirling from T2: Infiltrator trilogy.

External links

Episodes of Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles
Season 1 Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles pilot episode • "Gnothi Seauton" • "The Turk" • "Heavy Metal" • "Queen's Gambit" • "Dungeons & Dragons" • "The Demon Hand" • "Vick's Chip" • "What He Beheld"
Season 2 "Samson & Delilah" • "Automatic for the People" • "The Mousetrap" • "Allison from Palmdale" • "Goodbye to All That" • "The Tower Is Tall But the Fall Is Short" • "Brothers of Nablus" • "Mr. Ferguson is Ill Today" • "Complications" • "Strange Things Happen at the One Two Point" • "Self Made Man" • "Alpine Fields" • "Earthlings Welcome Here" • "The Good Wound" • "Desert Cantos" • "Some Must Watch, While Some Must Sleep" • "Ourselves Alone" • "Today Is The Day, Part 1" • "Today Is The Day, Part 2" • "To the Lighthouse" • "Adam Raised a Cain" • "Born to Run"

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