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As the episode opens, General Hammond and SG-1 are showing off the SGC and the Stargate to the Secretary of Defense. (He's only called "Mr. Secretary", but I'm assuming that Defense would be his department.) The Secretary has been disappointed at the SGC's progress thus far in procuring technology to help protect the Earth from the Goa'uld. SG-1 protests loudly, but make little impression.
Uncharacteristically, Teal'c puts himself forward and suggests that they procure a technology that the Goa'uld are still trying to get for themselves. He says that on one world, there are alien creatures that possess the power of invisibility; the Goa'uld have not yet succeeded in capturing one in order to figure out its secrets. In short order, SG-1 go on a mission to that planet.
The region of the planet where they land is somewhat mountainous and densely forested. Almost immediately, SG-1 think they might have seen a hint of the creature, so they head off. Teal'c describes the creatures as able to maneuver quickly in the air as well as hover and having sharp teeth. After a short period, they realize that the Stargate seems to have disappeared from behind them.
They split into pairs to begin searching for the Stargate. O'Neill and Daniel see some kind of movement in the air, which may be the creature. O'Neill prepares to shoot it with a tranquilizer, but a staff blast shoots by it. Over the radio, Teal'c and Carter say that they did not shoot at the creature. O'Neill and Daniel see Apophis and some Jaffa go by - apparently Apophis has arrived to hunt for the creature, too. What are the chances of that?
SG-1 meet up to decide on a plan of action. Daniel is especially adamant that this is their chance to capture Apophis and find out where Sha're and Skarra are. To sweeten the idea, he also mentions that they could learn about Goa'uld technology from him. O'Neill and Teal'c seem amenable to the idea. Carter has the only cool head, saying, "Are we seriously entertaining the idea of going after Apophis?...half the ordnance we're carrying is tranquilizer guns."
The others are carried away with the idea and quickly plan an ambush to take out the Jaffa and then tranquilize Apophis and bring him back to the Earth. Teal'c says that Apophis will have a homing device to enable them to find the Stargate.
To their credit, SG-1 sets up the ambush so that Apophis and his Jaffa will be walking through a ravine, and SG-1 will have the high ground. However, once they open fire, we can see the big weakness in their plan: fire power. Daniel is shooting at the Jaffa with a hand gun! In addition, Apophis is protected by some kind of forcefield that is activated by weapons (energy or bullets) heading toward him. O'Neill is caught in the open while trying to shoot the tranquilizer. In short order, he, Carter, and Daniel are shot dead by staff weapon blasts.
Teal'c confronts Apophis with "I die free" and looks ready to make a final stand and die when he disappears. The bodies of SG-1 disappear, as well as that of a Jaffa they shot. Apophis is perplexed and enraged that his traitorous First Prime has disappeared.
Daniel, Carter, and O'Neill wake up, amazed to be alive. They have been transported to a primitive hut in the forest. Outside the hut, they encounter some of the native people, the Nox. (Teal'c also arrives.) The Nox cannot speak their language at first, but seem completely peaceful and content. They appear to be completely at home in the forest, with even their hair reminiscent of twigs or a bird's nest.
The natives feed SG-1 some fruit and soup. A little boy, Nafrayu, introduces himself. SG-1 tries to talk to the natives and also chat among themselves. Eventually the native man that seems to be in charge, Anteaus, says that he will take them to the Stargate. Apparently it took him some time to learn English (as Carter says, "not much time.").
Anteaus refuses to return their weapons, even though he is aware of Apophis's presence. SG-1 try to convince Anteaus that Apophis is a very bad guy, and that since Apophis now knows of the natives' existence (since they helped SG-1), Apophis will be after them. Anteaus is unperturbed and insists that they will leave after they have rested.
A bit more conversation reveals that the Nox have healed someone else from their fight: a Jaffa. He is still recovering in the hut. Teal'c identifies the Jaffa as Shak'l, a not-so-subtle reminder that the Jaffa are slaves to the Goa'uld. Shak'l's forehead tattoo is gold like Teal'c's. Does that indicate he is now First Prime for Apophis?
SG-1 continue to try to convince the Nox that they are in danger from the Goa'uld, but Anteaus is completely confident that they are in no danger, even though he makes it clear that the Nox don't defend themselves.
SG-1 confers among themselves. They decide that since they are responsible for making Apophis aware of the Nox, they must defend the Nox, even against their wishes. They also decide to take Shak'l back to the Earth - at least they can possibly learn somthing from him. Meanwhile, we get intermittent scenes of Apophis searching for Teal'c and SG-1.
Teal'c tries to convince Shak'l to betray Apophis as well, but Shak'l holds Teal'c in complete contempt, vowing to take Teal'c to Apophis. O'Neill and Carter make bows and arrows, to the fascination of Nafrayu. O'Neill tries to explain to the child why they fight Apophis, but fails. Nafrayu decides to learn more about SG-1's enemy and disappears after one of the invisible creatures comes by.
Anteaus appears before O'Neill, almost seeming angry. He doesn't want O'Neill teaching Nafrayu about weapons and fighting. From Anteaus's speech, he seems willing to let Nafrayu die (but without fighting) rather than having him learn about violence. Incidentally, Anteaus reveals that the flying creatures do not have the ability to make themselves invisible - the Nox make them invisible to protect them from hunters. So apparently the Nox are against violence even against animals, which fits in with their seeming adaptation to the forest.
Shak'l has recovered enough to plot his escape, even while under Teal'c's guard. He has some kind of dagger concealed in his armor. He stabs Teal'c and then Lya, the Nox female. He escapes. Teal'c manages to call for the others. Teal'c's injury is only a flesh wound, but Lya is dead. The other Nox quickly assemble to perform a ceremony that brings Lya back to life in short order. Shak'l has witnessed this and goes off to tell Apophis.
Nafrayu, still curious about Apophis and the Jaffa, appears before Apophis in the woods. Apophis zaps him with his hand device, apparently killing him. The Nox and SG-1 find Nafrayu and return him to the huts for the resurrection ceremony. SG-1 anticipates a trap, since the Nox are vulnerable during the ceremony.
O'Neill argues with Anteaus about protecting them, but Anteaus is adamant that there will be no fighting or killing. O'Neill pretends that they are going to leave them and find the Stargate, but in reality SG-1 spreads out to protect them. O'Neill thinks that Apophis's protective forcefield will not work with relatively low-speed objects, so he's planning to try to get Apophis with the bow and arrow.
Apophis and his Jaffa approach as expected, and SG-1 ambushes them. They take out the Jaffa. O'Neill lines up to take his bow shot at Apophis when the Nox make Apophis disappear.
Later, SG-1 has gone back to the hill where the Stargate should be. Antaeus says that the Nox have sent their enemy back through the Stargate. That's an incredible statement right there: how did the Nox manage to send an angry Goa'uld and his Jaffa through the Stargate against his will? O'Neill should've gotten a clue from this, but just warns that the Goa'uld will be back, by ship if the Stargate is buried.
Anteaus seems unconcerned about the threat. He finally deigns to reveal a bit more about the Nox: he shows SG-1 what appears to be a huge city floating in the sky above the forest. SG-1 is astounded. Anteaus assures them again that the Nox are safe and opens the Stargate for SG-1 without using a DHD or having the whoosh. SG-1 heads back to Earth, realizing at the end how wrong their assumptions were about the Nox.
This is a very important episode for the series because of the introduction of the Nox. We will find out later that the Nox are one of the four major civilizations in the galaxy, participating in the "library" featured in "The Torment of Tantalus", for example. Clearly, they have incredible technology, as they transport from place to place instantly, make things invisible at will, having huge floating cities, and bring people back from the dead.
However, a lot of this episode is frustrating - intentionally so, I think - as we see what appear to be primitive, mystic people set themselves up for destruction by the Goa'uld. We know that SG-1 are not perfect, but we feel their sense of duty in protecting the seemingly weak Nox.
By the end of the episode, we can see the events in a completely different light. The Nox were trying to save SG-1 (and Apophis and Jaffa) from violence on their planet, while not revealing too much about themselves. As SG-1 kept pestering them for more and more information, the Nox tried to answer, but not completely. I wonder why they didn't just reveal that they were very powerful and in essence say, "We can take care of ourselves without violence. Go home." Were they worried that SG-1 or Earth would keep returning to bother them? That doesn't seem like an issue, since they let the Goa'uld show up any time for "hunting". Perhaps they felt that revealing themselves would cause humanity to lose some of their innocence somehow. This is a puzzle to me.
It seems that the Nox as major civilization have a different attitude toward other races than the Asgard. The Asgard have established protected planets and seem to be actively counteracting the Goa'uld in some ways. The Nox, however, seem content to remain on their own planet and have little interaction with other races. Of course, I may be jumping to conclusions based on little information.
I would be fascinated to learn about how the Nox evolved as a race as well as how their technology developed. Were they always completely peaceful? Did they ever fight among themselves? When they were at a lower technological level, how did they keep themselves from being enslaved or destroyed by the Goa'uld? Is their civilization old enough that they developed in a time before the Goa'uld were a threat? Did they remain hidden and quiet enough on their planet that the Goa'uld didn't notice them? (And if so, was that by luck or because they knew somehow there was a threat out there?) Were they violent in the past and managed to fight off the Goa'uld?
I also wonder why they didn't want to share knowledge at least a bit with Earth, since SG-1 professed to favor peace. The Nox have perfected defensive systems; surely Earth could use that technology. Of course, the Nox have to realize that any defensive technology could also be used offensively, which would be against their philosophy.
SG-1 should have learned a lot from this encounter, especially not to make assumptions based on appearances. However, this mission would be seen as a failure from the point of view of the Secretary of Defense, since they did not acquire any new technology. How much longer with the Stargate program operate without any concrete gains? The program must be extremely expensive to run, and its execution must be especially difficult since it must remain secret.