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PROVING GROUND
 
RATINGS SCORECARD
GATEWORLD - * *
FAN POLL - 7.58
SYNDICATION RATING - 2.6

Season Ratings
EPISODE NUMBER - 513
DVD DISC - Season 5, Disc 4
ORIGINAL U.S. AIR DATE - 03.08.02
SYNDICATION AIR DATE - 01.06.03
WRITTEN BY - Ron Wilkerson
DIRECTED BY - Andy Mikita
GUEST STARRING - Courtenay J. Stevens (Elliott), Elisabeth Rosen (Jennifer Hailey), Grace Park (Satterfield), David Kopp (Grogan), Michael Kopsa (General Kerrigan)
SG-1 trains a team of raw cadets, and Colonel O'Neill is forced to take them into a real-life battle situation when he learns of a possible alien incursion at the S.G.C.

Colonel Jack O'Neill, Teal'c and a team of four young S.G.C. recruits approach an abandoned warehouse, where they hope to find Major Samantha Carter and Dr. Daniel Jackson -- who Jack says were taken by the Goa'uld. O'Neill and Teal'c go inside, and the young soldiers -- commanded by Lieutenant Elliot -- rush in a few moments later when they hear gunfire.

They find O'Neill and Teal'c unconscious on the floor, and Sam and Daniel pointing weapons at each other. They both claim the other is a Goa'uld. They subdue Carter, but Daniel reveals that he is a Goa'uld -- and shoots them all.

The training exercise ends, and Colonel O'Neill chastises Elliot and his team for failing.

In the S.G.C. mess hall, Carter talks to O'Neill about Lieutenant Elliot. Jack recognizes that Lieutenant Jennifer Hailey ("Prodigy") is brilliant, but thinks that the rest of the team doesn't hold great promise for the future of the S.G.C. Elliot is a fine Air Force Academy graduate, but being in the S.G.C. takes an extra something. Jack believes that Elliot thinks too much, and that makes him indecisive.

Back at the training facility, Colonel O'Neill leads the recruits in another simulation. They are to infiltrate a building believed to house a valuable piece of Goa'uld technology. They find the device, but it is booby-trapped. After a moment of indecision, Elliot orders his team out, and the device explodes. But one of his men, Grogan, doesn't make it out. O'Neill condemns Elliot for leaving a man behind, and declares the exercise another failure.

The Colonel gets a phone call, and the recruits overhear the word "foothold." A group of soldiers arrive and order O'Neill to relinquish his weapon -- and he shoots them. Jack is injured in the process, and Elliot's team learns that there has been an alien incursion at the S.G.C. Despite O'Neill's reservations, he allows them to accompany him back to the mountain. He has no one else.

Once inside the compound, Elliot and his team discover that everyone on the base has been taken over by Goa'uld nanites -- tiny machines within the bodies of S.G.C. personnel. Dr. Jackson is the leader of the invasion, using alien technology to control the others.

O'Neill remains in a security room, and sends the young team to Carter's lab to find a way to counteract the nanites. On the way, they meet Major Carter -- who claims that her experience as a Goa'uld host has made her immune to the nanites' control. They take her back to O'Neill, and discover him untying an S.G.C. security guard.

Worried that the Colonel himself has been compromised, Lieutenant Elliot shoots him with his training weapon (an intar, first encountered in Season Three's "Rules of Engagement") and takes command.

The team makes their way to General Hammond's office, and after a firefight manage to subdue Dr. Jackson and Teal'c. Lieutenant Satterfield tries to turn off the alien device that is controlling the nanites, but it begins to build toward self-destruct. They clear the room, but the device does not explode.

General Hammond and SG-1 enter the room, revealing that it was all another training exercise -- one that they passed with flying colors, even outwitting O'Neill and Carter's attempts to guide their actions. But they realize that Lieutenant Hailey is absent -- she's in the Gate Room attempting to regain control of the Stargate, believing that the invasion is real. Elliot and the others see her receive a major electrical shock, and fall unconscious.

The Stargate is active, and Carter reports that massive amounts of gamma radiation is pouring through -- a Goa'uld attack. General Hammond orders Level 28 evacuated, telling the team that Hailey is already dead by now. But Elliot steals Carter's access card and rushes into the Gate Room. He manages to close the iris and rescue Hailey.

But as he picks her up and heads for the door, the blast doors to the control room raise -- revealing Hammond, SG-1 and the rest of his team, applauding. It was yet another test, and Elliot demonstrated that he was willing to risk his life rather than leaving one of his people behind. As for Hailey -- she was in on the training exercise the entire time.

O'Neill congratulates Elliot, and Hammond tells him that he will be assigned to SG-17. His teammates will also be assigned to the S.G.C. as positions become available.


ANALYSIS
  • The S.G.C. is now training new recruits on a regular basis, consisting mostly or entirely of top graduates from the Air Force Academy (and probably other U.S. military academies). Each S.G. team participates in training exercises on a regular rotation. The scenarios occupy several floors of Stargate Command every few months, and are observed, recorded and carefully reviewed by the S.G.C. and the Pentagon.

    The point of the S.G.C.'s training exercises is to introduce non-terrestrial factors into recruits' approach to a problem.

  • The S.G.C. has adapted the intars recovered from Apophis' training camp ("Rules of Engagement") for its own use in training personnel. Intars deliver an energy burst capable of stunning its subject, though even at its maximum setting the device does not render the victim unconscious (at least not for more than a moment). They are identifiable by the red-colored jewel at the base of the handle.

    The S.G.C. has apparently modified some weapons -- including pistols -- to accept either intar cartridges or standard, live ammunition cartridges interchangeably.

  • Cadet Hailey has recently graduated from the U.S. Air Force Academy ("Prodigy"), and was immediately recruited by the S.G.C. She currently holds the rank of lieutenant.

  • Trainees are given access to a large amount of information about S.G.C. technology, the Goa'uld, and past team missions. Elliot knew of SG-1's mission to Argos ("Brief Candle"), and Grogan knew how zat guns function. Satterfield was also educated in reading Goa'uld. Since not all trainees make it into the S.G.C., it stands to reason that they are required to sign non-disclosure agreements regarding such military secrets.

  • No one is assigned to an SG team without the recommendation of an SG team commander. This hearkens back to the pilot episode, when O'Neill recommended Major Kawalsky as commander of SG-2 ("Children of the Gods").

  • Lieutenant Hailey drops a hint or two that she was in on the plan. For starters, she was the one who alerted her team to O'Neill's cell phone call from the S.G.C. -- prompting them to take the bait. She also readily offered an explanation as to why Carter would not be affected by the nanites.

  • When the trainees arrived at the S.G.C., they discovered that the Stargate was active. Though the S.G.C. may have coordinated a team to dial in at the right time for the purposes of the scenario, it was most likely an outgoing wormhole.

  • Training exercises which occur on the base must be carefully coordinated around the S.G.C.'s normal operations. O'Neill was forced to order Elliot and Hailey away from the Gate Room when SG-3 unexpectedly returned early from a mission because they were under attack by the Goa'uld.

  • In next year's budget, Hammond will propose an off-world training facility. This is one step away from an off-world Stargate Command base, which he and O'Neill proposed two years ago. That request was denied ("Shades of Grey").

  • General Kerrigan has been informed of the existence of the Stargate and the S.G.C. during the last year. When we saw him nearly a year ago, he was assigned to an administrative position at the United States Air Force Academy ("Prodigy"). It's probable that he was brought into the loop when the S.G.C. began training academy graduates for service in the program -- probably, therefore, within the last year.

  • Lieutenant Grogan was zatted by Teal'c, but didn't completely lose consciousness. This is not entirely without precedent; O'Neill, for example, remained conscious after being shot with a zat in "Prodigy" (though he had help from smelling salts). The Jaffa Fro'tac also remained conscious after O'Neill zatted him in "Family."


  • CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT
    Jack O'NeillJack O'Neill - In training the future of the S.G.C., Colonel O'Neill was adamant that the trainees learn a lesson close to home for him: never leave a man behind. Jack himself was left behind by his commanding officer, and lost four months of his life in an Iraqis prison ("A Matter of Time").

    O'Neill is a hard-nosed and unforgiving officer when it comes to training young recruits. Only Hailey had seen his softer side, and had seen him risk his life for his team ("Prodigy"). In the end, Lieutenant Elliot is probably more like O'Neill (minus the experience) than Jack would care to admit.


    NOTES
  • The S.G.C. has developed a device that modulates the wearer's voice, in order to make them sound like a Goa'uld. The controller for the device is held in the pocket.

  • The access shafts from the surface of Cheyenne Mountain to the S.G.C. sublevels are locked with electronic locking mechanisms. If an incorrect code is entered (if O'Neill was telling the trainees the truth), tear gas is released to subdue potential intruders.

  • Carter's lab is on Sublevel 19.

  • The S.G.C.'s dialing computer is isolated from the base mainframe (if Hailey is to be believed), making it impossible to hack in from outside the control room.

  • Assuming it wasn't made up for the training exercise, the dialing computer can be locked out from control of the Stargate through a panel in the Gate Room.

  • There is a security office on Sublevel 16, from which all base cameras and sensors can be monitored.

  • Lieutenant Elliot was at the top of his class at the academy. He has now been assigned to SG-17, commanded by Major Mansfield.

  • SG-3 is still a Marine unit -- a fact established back in "The Broca Divide."

  • The control panel in the Gate Room allows for manual control of the iris.

  • This is not the first Stargate role for actor Michael Kopsa (General Kerrigan). In addition to playing the character in Season Four's "Prodigy," he also played the alternate reality news anchor in Season One's "There But For the Grace of God."

  • UNANSWERED QUESTIONS
  • Was O'Neill really about to fail Lieutenant Elliot?

  • For how long has the S.G.C. been running training scenarios for new recruits?

  • Which Goa'uld's forced were attacking SG-3?

  • Will the Pentagon grant Hammond's request for an off-world training facility? Who will command it? Will it operate year-round?

  • When did Elliot take Major Carter's access card?

  • What training exercises did they put Hailey through?

  • Did Elliot know that the mission was a training scenario?

  • When will Hailey, Grogan and Satterfield be assigned to SG teams? Which teams?

  • PRODUCTION
  • "Some episodes you hate at the pitch stage but end up warming up once the story has been broken. Others, you hate at the outline stage but end up actually liking once the script comes in. Still others, you may hate at the script stage but love once the episode is completed. This is one of those rare episodes that I took issue with from start to finish and, to this day, ranks as one of my least favorites. Why? Because it's not about our characters. That and the all-too predictable late twist that anyone who has ever watched television before will see coming a mile off.

    "On the other hand, the episode was notable for an appearance by a then relatively unknown Grace Park as one of the young cadets."
    (Writer/producer Joseph Mallozzi, in a post at his blog)

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    CHARACTERS
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    SG-17
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