Review by Taylor Brown
Where do I begin?
Maybe with the fact that, as much as I've tried to keep my McKay fan-girling in check in my reviews, I feel that this is an episode not to hold back. The character has probably been through more ups and downs (literally) than any of the other characters on Atlantis, and "Duet" proves why it's so entertaining.
First, David Hewlett: We knew he was good at playing McKay, making him both annoying and likeable at the same time. But this episode was truly multi-task acting. In one episode, we see McKay, Cadman, and Cadman trying to act like McKay, and viewers can clearly tell each apart. The jarring, Gollum-esque cuts to show that McKay is speaking with two voices in the scene in Heightmeyer's office are unnecessary, as Hewlett excels at differentiating two characters in a back-and-forth argument.
McKay's date with botanist Katie Brown (nice last name choice there), and the ensuing fight between McKay and Cadman, is the highlight of the episode, including a little slapstick humor. David Hewlett manages to steal the scene from himself.
Like Cadman says, McKay's "own personal hell" could have some good side-effects, but those don't get explored too much. Both are soon placed in mortal danger, and Cadman volunteers to sacrifice herself. It is endearing for a character we hardly see throughout the episode, but I wonder how this would have been a different episode if the situation had been reversed and McKay had been stuck in Cadman's body. The two persons in one body routine could have gotten old fast, but instead "Duet" explores the concept in a way that leaves the viewer wanting to see more.
But let's not have McKay and Cadman's adventures in the same body completely overbear on some smaller moments in the episode. One such moment is Beckett's reaction to seeing the Wraith struggling after its Dart has been shot down. Instead of shooting the Wraith, he tells it that he can help. One sentence says a lot about Dr. Beckett, that the Hippocratic Oath applies to everyone and everything.
Other details make this more than just a silly episode. Zelenka gets outwardly angry at McKay for rushing things and tells him he can't help in his current state. Dr. Heightmeyer treats McKay and Cadman as if they are in couples therapy, complete with a physics metaphor that he can relate to. There is a girls' poker night on Atlantis. And McKay's room has the décor of framed degree after framed degree. The little details fill out the world in which these characters live.
However, all of these great scenes overshadow the secondary storyline. Ronon is not sure if he fits in Atlantis, and Colonel Sheppard spends most of the episode asking Weir if Ronon can join his team (can we call them "Atlantis-1?").
While this subplot works in bringing Ronon permanently into Atlantis, and there is a nice scene with Teyla about why she has joined the team, something is missing. The lack of emotion on Ronon's part seems completely at odds from his anger in "Runner." This and the lack of connection with the other events of this episode makes this part of "Duet" feel like a throwaway piece from another episode.
At the end of "Duet" there are still things that confuse or amuse me: Why do they bother keeping guards around Ronon when they let him keep his own gun? Will McKay ever get over Cadman using his body to kiss Beckett? And now that Cadman has her body back, will she pursue Beckett? Did Katie Brown ever find out who really kissed her?
"Duet," overall, is an entertaining, hilarious episode that just doesn't play it for laughs and shows off David Hewlett's acting ability. It turned out to be excellent.
Rating: * * * 1/2