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The episode opens with the unexpected early return of SG-1 from a mission. Only O'Neill, Carter, and Teal'c return. They are soaking wet and are in such shock that they can barely speak; however, they convey that Daniel died on the mission.
Naturally they are taken to the infirmary for examination and many tests. Dr. Frasier concludes that they are in good condition physically, but psychologically they are in deep shock. It is disconcerting to see even Teal'c in such a condition. Dr. Frasier insists on SG-1 taking at least a week off, since she is concerned about post-traumatic stress. General Hammond doesn't agree with her strategy, wanting to put them out on another mission as soon as possible. Can he really think that this is the best idea?
General Hammond de-briefs each remaining member of SG-1 on the mission and the circumstances of Daniel's death. They all agree that he died in a fiery eruption from one of the volcanic vents on the planet's surface, calling out for help just before. They had arrived on the planet near a seashore, thus leading to the episode title "Fire and Water". Hammond wants to send another team to look for Daniel's body, but all of SG-1 is adamant that it's too unsafe.
In extremely short order, Hammond declares that Daniel is dead. We don't get a good feel for how much time is passed, but certainly it's just a day or two (especially in connection with Daniel's timeline for the episode). Even if Hammond thinks it's not safe for another SG team to go to the planet, why not send a MALP to look for the body, or at least investigate the circumstances as much as possible? I don't think Hammond would doubt SG-1's testimony, but it seems like more due diligence should be done regarding Daniel's death.
A funeral is held for Daniel in the gate room, with a color guard and great solemnity. I appreciated how they worked the Stargate into the ceremony. I was thinking during this scene how Teal'c must have been coached a bit in what to do during the ceremony, but that he would understand and appreciate the need for such a ceremony...
...and then when we get to Daniel's wake, held at O'Neill's house, Teal'c doesn't understand it at all. He clearly feels the party is too happy for what it commemorates, so Carter tries to explain it to him. At the wake, we get the first hint that events are not as they should be, as O'Neill has a bit of a breakdown after a flashback of Daniel's death. He ends up smashing the window of Hammond's (!) car.
We skip to Daniel, who is very much alive on the planet. In fact, I hadn't seen this episode in quite awhile, so when I remembered that Daniel had "died" in this episode, I rolled my eyes to myself, and thought, "Again?" This episode really can't hold a candle to far better episodes latter in the series dealing with Daniel's death.
Daniel has been taken captive by a fish-like native on the planet. He's being held in an underwater room. The native begins communicating with Daniel. At first, the native and Daniel have no language in common, but it seems like as Daniel keeps talking, the native somehow gains knowledge of English and is able to speak it.
The fish-like native, named Nem, wants to know what happened to his mate, Omoroca. She apparently went to Babylon on Earth thousands of years ago to help protect the humans on it from the Goa'uld. He has no idea what happened to her. Daniel knows some Babylonian history, but can't recall anything about her. Nem is convinced he has the knowledge somewhere in his brain, and threatened to hold him until he can remember.
Initially, Nem has little regard for Daniel, thinking that he works with or for the Goa'uld, because Teal'c was one of his companions. Daniel splits his time between protesting his lack of memory about Babylon and his hatred for the Goa'uld. He even tells Nem about Sha're. Nem is not convinced of either.
On Earth, SG-1 is becoming more and more convinced that Daniel is alive, despite the recurring flashbacks they are all having of his death. One of the odd things that they notice is that their flashbacks are all extremely similar. They begin working with Dr. Frasier, General Hammond, and Dr. MacKenzie (who may be some kind of psychologist). Dr. Frasier has done some additional tests that reveal that all of SG-1's brains have been affected or altered in just the same way - perhaps an alien being affected them?
Dr. MacKenzie thinks that they have been somehow conditioned to give certain responses and think certain things. Carter volunteers to be hypnotized by him in order to try to figure out what really happened to them on the planet. I am very skeptical about the effectiveness and reality of hypnosis, but since it's not been shown to be completely ineffective, I won't complain about it here.
Under hypnosis, Carter re-lives the mission to the planet. SG-1 walked across a barren plain with volcanic vents to a shallow sea. A fish-like being (we know to be Nem) came out of the water and looked them over, detecting that Teal'c had a Goa'uld in him. He began communicating by writing in the sand, which Daniel reciprocated. Nem then knocked them all unconscious. We get flashes of SG-1 being probed or altered in Nem's underwater laboratory. Carter comes out of the hypnosis realizing that Daniel is still alive, and they left him behind. O'Neill reassures her that they will go back to get him.
Meanwhile, Daniel has not completely convinced Nem that he really can't remember anything about Omoroca. Daniel offers to let Nem use his brain/memory technology to dig out any information from his mind. Nem warns that Daniel could be injured or die from the process, but since Nem isn't going to let Daniel go without the information, Daniel figures he has nothing to lose. Daniel is strapped into a machine (like those we saw in Carter's flashbacks) and as the procedure begins, obviously is finding it painful. Nem eventually gets Daniel to state (from his deep memories) that he read that Omoroca was killed by a Goa'uld posing as one of the ancient gods.
And that's it! Nem is satisfied that he now knows "what fate Omoroca". I suppose this is closure for him, but it is extremely anticlimactic. Did he expect any other fate, given that she never returned?
The other members of SG-1 return to the planet. Daniel follows Nem out of the underwater laboratory and surfaces near the beach. He convinces SG-1 that Nem is not a threat. Before Daniel and the rest of SG-1 leave, he tries to convince Nem that they could be allies, but Nem isn't really interested.
This episode wasn't great, but it wasn't bad. Part of the problem was that I didn't believe for a moment that Daniel was actually dead. Of course, I've watched the series before. The first time I saw the episode, did I think he was dead? I don't remember for sure, but I doubt it. After all, it's half-way through the first season, so it seems incredibly unlikely that a major character would be killed at this point, especially in off-screen action and at the beginning of an episode. (Of course, season 7's "Heroes, part 2" proves me wrong on most of those points.) At any rate, because I didn't believe Daniel was really dead, it made a lot of the episode somewhat interesting, but not engrossing or especially important.
In addition, the two plot line that evolved - SG-1 experiencing memory changes and Daniel communicating with Nem - were not very exciting. SG-1's flashbacks and growing realization that their memories were altered was pretty ho-hum, although it did provide possibly the only time O'Neill would run away from a full glass of beer!
Daniel's scenes with Nem were also not horribly compelling, because they were a lot of exposition and demonstrations of Daniel being upset. I can sympathize with Nem's desire to know what happened to his mate, but it seems like he picked a convoluted way to figure it out. I appreciate that he didn't kill the other members of SG-1 out of hand (especially since he thought Teal'c was a Goa'uld), but I don't think he though through is actions. There was no way he could be certain from his extremely limited communication with Daniel that Daniel had any knowledge of Omoroca. Also, what did he plan to do with Daniel when he had either gained the knowledge or determined that Daniel didn't know? Kill him? Let him go back to Earth? I suppose it's realistic that Nem was seizing the opportunity presented by SG-1's arrival, but this all just seemed odd.
And in the end, Earth did not gain an ally. We didn't gain any additional knowledge about the Goa'uld, beyond the fact that Omoroca had fought them and died. The planet upon which Nem lived did not seem to be useful in any way.
Speaking of Nem's planet...from the view of the sky we are giving as SG-1 walked to and from the Stargate, it seems that the planet was really a moon of a gas giant planet. We saw the gas giant (with a banded atmosphere like Jupiter) looming in the sky, with several other large moons also nearby. This is perfectly plausible. Either the jovian planet had migrated into the habitable zone around its star, or the star was in a evolved state such that its high luminosity was sufficient to warm the planet and its moons at a larger distance. It was a nice touch to have a planet like this, even if it was not mentioned. (I wonder if the writers had even specified this, or if the special effects team just decided it would be cool.)
There were some nice character bits in the episode. Daniel's apartment seemed as we might have expected - lots of artifacts and books around. It was interesting and appropriate to learn that he keeps hand-written journals about each of the planets they've visited. The part from Abydos that Carter read, about Daniel hoping that O'Neill would get Sha're back, would have been especially poignant if Daniel had actually been dead. As it was, it seems like it would lead to uncomfortable conversation - "um, while we thought you were dead, we read your diaries."
Another humorous bit involved Dr. MacKenzie playing ocean sounds in order to try to get SG-1 to relax. They just annoyed O'Neill, but then we find Teal'c completely mesmerized. As we'll learn later in the series, Teal'c doesn't sleep, but meditates instead, so it's fitting that he'd fall into a trance state pretty easily.