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At the beginning of the episode, Martouf and two other Tok'ra arrive at the SGC. Martouf has bad news: Carter's father has been captured by Sokar. As discussed in previous episodes, Sokar has taken on the persona of Satan, and so he has created a hellish world called Ne'tu to imprison his enemies: Ne'tu. This is where Jacob Carter is being held.
There is more at stake than just Jacob Carter's life (and the Tok'ra Selmak's life). The Tok'ra have been gathering information the Sokar is preparing to attack the System Lords. If Sokar were to prevail against them, it would be bad news for the Tok'ra and Earth and anyone else looking to overthrow the Goa'uld, because Sokar's monolithic control would be much more complete than that of the squabbling System Lords.
Only one person has ever been known to escape from Ne'tu: Jolinar. She never revealed how she escaped. Martouf wants to use the memory-enhancing device (as seen at the beginning of this season in "Into the Fire") on Carter so that they can figure out how Jolinar escaped and mount a rescue mission. SG-1 of course invites itself along on the mission.
There is no time to waste, so Martouf takes them to a planet where an old Goa'uld cargo ship is waiting; they will fly it to Ne'tu and try to blend in as some of the prisoners. Teal'c will remain in the cargo ship to pilot in orbit and be ready to get them away quickly.
En route to Ne'tu, Martouf works with Carter to go through Jolinar's memories. Initially the setting on the memory device is too strong, and Carter gets to experience Jolinar's torture on Ne'tu - not fun! At a lower setting, Carter is able to start making sense of things. She ominously tells Daniel that Jolinar did something really awful to be able to escape and never wanted Martouf to know about it.
Once they arrive in orbit around Ne'tu, Martouf, Carter, O'Neill, and Daniel travel to the surface in escape pods. I'm not overly claustrophobic, but I can't imagine getting into those windowless coffins for descent down through the atmosphere. Wow.
Once on the surface, they make their way into the underground caverns where the prisoners are held - Carter is starting to remember more things as she sees them. In short order, they are identified as newcomers, surrounded, and have their weapons taken from them. (I found it extremely odd that they weren't searched more thoroughly, so that the communication device and Martouf's medicine were not taken.) Bynarr is the Goa'uld who is the absolute ruler of Ne'tu, reporting to Sokar, and Na'onak is his masked First Prime, who possesses the only staff weapon on the planet.
Carter recognizes Bynarr as the key to Jolinar's escape: Jolinar became his lover and somehow used him or his knowledge in order to escape. Carter identifies herself as Jolinar's host to Bynarr in the hopes of making some progress, but Bynarr banishes them all to the pit.
The pit is apparently a particularly bad prison cell. They discover Jacob Carter also in the pit. He's very badly injured. Despite the medicine that Martouf gives him, Martouf says Jacob will die very soon if they don't get him to the Tok'ra. Jacob says that he's discovered the Sokar's fleet is much, much larger than they had thought and Sokar's attack against the System Lords is imminent. Now they have a deadline not only because of Jacob's condition but also because of Sokar's attack.
I was thinking that the fact that Jacob was happy to see his daughter was a sign of how injured he was. It would've been more in character for him to have been upset that she and the rest of SG-1 got themselves captured because of him.
Meanwhile, Bynarr has traveled via rings to the neighboring planet to thank Sokar for bringing Jolinar's host to him. Sokar, of course, had nothing to do with the arrival of Martouf and SG-1. He's immediately suspicious and orders Bynarr to kill them right away.
In the pit, Martouf is about to relay Jacob's intelligence on Sokar's fleet to Teal'c to send to the Tok'ra, when the guards arrive to get Sam Carter. In space, Sokar's forces have detected Teal'c's ship and start a fight.
Sam is taken to Bynarr. Initially, Bynarr wants to know about Jolinar and is disappointed to find out she's dead - he wanted to torture her for her betrayal of him. Sokar punishes failure harshly - he plucked out one of Bynarr's eyes for Jolinar's escape. It's nice continuity that in the flashbacks we saw earlier in the episode, Bynarr had both eyes.
Sam has been recovering more memories in Bynarr's presence. She realizes there is a ring system in his quarters (where they are), and he has a device on his necklace that controls it. That's how Jolinar escaped to Sokar's planet, where she managed to steal a ship. Sam realizes she may not be able to act on what she's remembered, because Bynarr is on the verge of killing her, since Jolinar is dead and Sokar did order it. Suddenly Na'onak stomps in and shoots Bynarr dead. Sam is returned to the pit as the general population starts to go crazy with Bynarr's death.
SG-1 and Martouf realize that the unrest could be their chance to use the rings in Bynarr's quarters. They plan for Teal'c to intercept the ring signal, so that they will travel to the ship instead of Sokar's planet. They carry Jacob up to Bynarr's quarters, but unfortunately the control device for Bynarr's rings is missing from the necklace on his corpse. They barricade themselves in while Martouf attempts to "hot wire" the rings. Meanwhile, Teal'c is trying to evade Sokar's ships and be in the right place at the right time to catch them.
Unfortunately, their plan falls apart, as Na'onak and his minions burst into the room. They have no choice but to surrender. And then Na'onak takes off his mask to claim his true name: Apophis. A large portion of his face is covered by a metal mask, but his eyes still glow, and clearly he's not very happy with SG-1. And the episode ends.
This is an exciting episode. We've been hearing about Sokar a lot, so it's good to see just what he's like and what he does. Sokar himself is a pretty spooky-looking guy, which is weird eyes and long fingernails. I like the idea of him using technology to essentially anti-terraform a world to make a planet be like hell. I have to wonder how he's managed to accumulate the power and resources to build up such a large military force.
Apparently all of the Tok'ra have to try their hand at spying on the Goa'uld, since even Jacob Carter got into the mix. We learned previously that Selmak was one of the eldest of the Tok'ra, so you'd think they might not want to risk losing him to the Goa'uld. If Sokar tortured him, he'd learn a huge amount of priceless information about the Tok'ra.
This episode really set the stage for Sam Carter and Martouf to become a lot closer. With all of Jolinar's positive memories about Martouf, it seems like it would be almost impossible for Sam to start feeling at least a little the same about him. And Martouf certain seems to care about her, since he is incredibly solicitous of her. Except for when it came to using the memory device, which I thought was a bit odd. He really hadn't considered the fact that Jolinar's memories might be physically painful, so he should turn down the intensity on the device?
Martouf does seem almost unbelievably understanding. When Jolinar refused to tell him how she escaped from Ne'tu, he has to have suspected something of what she did, but yet he didn't let it come between them. Perhaps it's the fact that the part of Martouf that is a symbiote really is alien.
O'Neill was in fine form in this episode, with his repeated warnings to Martouf about not liking secrets, calling Martouf "Marty", and great one-liners, like Bynarr being the "EYE and ears" of Sokar. However, we do see that this is a front that he puts up in many cases; when Carter said that she really had to go confront Bynarr, he quickly became serious, and you could see how it pained him to let one of his team members go into such danger. I also appreciated how he and Daniel tried to provide support to Sam while not being to invasive as she was dealing with the memory device.
However, the "danger" in the episode was one of the few problems I had with this episode: everything seemed far too orderly and well-behaved on Ne'tu. This is a prison planet modeled after hell that has only one overlord, his First Prime, and a few minions. I would think that casual physical and sexual violence among the prisoners would be commonplace, and yet no one really bothered SG-1. The prisoners weren't really even that dirty!
Another facet of this not-bad-enough problem was Carter wanting to just confront Bynarr. Did she really think Bynarr was going to be happy to see Jolinar again? (Hadn't she put two and two together, so to speak, about Bynarr's eyes?) Even if Bynarr was happy to see the host of his former lover again, she didn't seem at all worried that Bynarr might want to renew that relationship. She seemed to have no real apprehension about being in physical or sexual danger until Bynarr actually said he was just going to kill her. This seems way too naive.
In addition, the scheme for SG-1 to escape was far too convenient, so I'm glad that it didn't work. I suppose that was the point - it was just a set-up for part two of the episode.
The reveal of Apophis in the end was a definite surprise. Even though the Tok'ra warned at the end of "Serpent's Song" that Sokar could revive Apophis with a sarcophagus, everyone at the SGC just assumed Apophis was dead. I can understand Sokar reviving Apophis in order to torture him to death, but I have to wonder why Sokar let Apophis live and even have a job on Ne'tu.
At any rate, Apophis seems to be making a power play now, getting rid of Bynarr and revealing himself. What are his plans? Is he going to use SG-1 somehow, or just take revenge on them for letting him die?