Episode Review of Stargate SG-1 Season 8: "Citizen Joe"

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Episode Information

Title: "Citizen Joe"
Story by: Robert C. Cooper
Teleplay by: Damian Kindler
Director: Andy Mikita
Rating (out of 4 stars): **
Reviewed on: August 19, 2007

Synopsis from GateWorld


This is this season's clip episode, with yet another clever twist.

For the second episode in a row, we begin with someone breaking into O'Neill's home while O'Neill was shopping (for more beer!). (As Joe says, "You could try locking your front door.") Joe Spencer, a barber from a small town in Indian, bursts into O'Neill's kitchen with a gun, exclaiming that O'Neill has ruined his life. From there we go into flashbacks, starting seven years ago.

Joe purchased a strange-looking stone at a yard sale seven years ago. Unbeknownst to him, it is one half of a Goa'uld communication device. He discovers that when he touches it, he sees visions of SG-1's missions. The first mission he sees is season 1's "Within the Serpent's Grasp", where Apophis's fleet is coming to destroy Earth. Using the stone, he begins to vicariously experience SG-1's missions.

Soon he begins describing these missions to his family, friends, and customers as stories he has made up. Although initially dubious, they warm up to the stories, at least for a time. Then his wife suggests that people are getting tired of them, so she suggests that he write them down instead. He begins typing up the "stories", and over the years it becomes an obsession with him. He begins driving away his wife and son, as well as his customers (apparently he hasn't completely stopped talking about them).

It's clear that Joe's use of the stone has become an addiction when his wife tries to throw it out, and he searches through the garbage until he finds it. Finally, his wife leaves him, taking their teenage son. Joe tries to convince her that his visions are of real events - he even tracks down all the SGC's public cover stories and explains what the real events were. Of course, she does not believe him and thinks he is delusional.

During these years, Joe has tried contacting O'Neill numerous times by mail and phone in order to determine the veracity of his visions. However, he is concerned about being made to disappear, so he doesn't include enough information in his letters for the Air Force to realize he knows the truth about the SGC (as Martin Lloyd did in season 4's "Point of No Return"). He has also tried to sell his written stories to various magazines, only to be uniformly rejected.

Eventually, the bank forecloses upon his house. In a final act of desperation, he breaks in on O'Neill (which is where the episode begins). However, his gun is fake, so O'Neill quickly gains control of the situation. Once Joe reveals how much he knows about SG-1's missions, O'Neill takes him to the SGC for investigation.

From here, the episode turns into a Stargate SG-1 fan's dream: to experience the Stargate SG-1 world, with the stargate and everything else being real. He meets Carter, Daniel, and Teal'c, who are all confused at how he knows so much about them. After Daniel examines Joe's stone, he realizes what has happened.

Joe's stone is one half of a Goa'uld communication device. The other half is an identical stone that SG-1 discovered along with the quantum mirror in season 1's "There But for the Grace of God". O'Neill handled that stone, and Joe handled his. They both have the Ancient gene, so they both activated the stones. Then whenever they were within close proximity to the stones, they transmitted their thoughts to each other. The SGC's stone was near where O'Neill wrote up his mission reports, so Joe was fed narratives of the missions. But did O'Neill also receive thoughts from Joe? Apparently so, since he remembers Joe's bowling league and barber shop - he just never actually mentioned it to anyone.

Now that Joe's stone is in the SGC's possession, he will no longer receive the visions (nor will O'Neill). At this point, he just wants his life back. O'Neill visits with Joe's wife to patch things up.

Most of this episode involved clips of past SG-1 episodes or scenes of Joe's life. Past clip episodes have had clever premises to make them interesting, and this one is quite original. However, ultimately it is not as satisfying, for several reasons. First, the framing story about Joe is rather depressing: we start out with the humor of seeing Joe adapt his visions to stories, but as he becomes more addicted to "watching" the missions, his story becomes rather sad and pathetic. Although his life is supposedly fixed in the end, what will the ramifications be for him? He can't be separated from his wife for over a year with no long-term effects. Plus, he was essentially addicted to his visions - how will he handle having them stop?

Second, there were no effects of this show. The previous clip shows (season 1's "Politics", season 6's "Disclosure", and season 7's "Inauguration") have been used to change the course of SGC policy or US politics. Nothing like that happened here. We get a bit of a laugh, and that's it.

Finally, in a related reason, there was no theme to the clips we were shown. No theme was apparent (such as "how SG-1 screws up" like in previous clip episodes) - we basically just got a recap of the series' high points.

Some smaller notes. Carter's deduction that O'Neill's secret omelette ingredient was beer was a hoot. Also, they seemed to be having an unnaturally casual conversation. Throughout the show, the critiques of Joe's listeners were obvious and funny references to the series' fans' comments. Toward the end of the show, when Joe began to regale SG-1 with his knowledge of their exploits and even greeting Teal'c with a traditional Jaffa salutation, we did get to imagine ourselves in Joe's place, meeting them.

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