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We have known for awhile in that it was election season in the Stargate SG-1 universe, as we saw Senator Kinsey running for election in season 6's "Smoke and Mirrors". This is a welcome nod to reality that TV series often lack. Fortunately for the SGC, Senator Kinsey did not become president. He apparently realized he was unlikely to win and so joined the ticket with the man who did become president, so now Kinsey is vice president.
We join the new President, Henry Hayes, on his first day in office. He is somewhat giddily enjoying his walk through the White House, but is brought down to Earth quickly when General Maynard, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, arrives to brief him on the stargate program. At first he is incredulous - who wouldn't be? He quickly becomes amazed and impressed by the program.
Kinsey follows his usual modus operandi: he tries to undermine the SGC so that he can take over control of the stargate, probably through the NID. He calls in Agent Woolsey from the NID to present a laundry list of transgressions by the SGC to illustrate why General Hammond and SG-1 are incompetent and should be relieved. (Incidentally, this is a great follow-up to Woolsey's investigation in "Heroes, Part 2". I wondered then why Woolsey appeared so quickly - apparently Kinsey was waiting for his chance.) General Maynard is forced into the role of defending the SGC.
During Woolsey's presentation and Maynard's defense, we do get some clips of past episodes to illustrate key points. However, we are not inundated by them. This episode really focuses on the turning point in the SGC command structure: will the new president "clean house" and change command personnel, or let things be? I was a little worried by the president's initial child-like attitude of glee, but he quickly settles down into a political veteran who clearly knows how to see through half-truths, misrepresentations, and spin that is being presented to him.
I will admit that Woolsey does have a valid point regarding SG-1 personnel: all of them have been severely compromised or injured in the past. If this were reality and not a TV show, certainly they would have been relieved of duty or transferred to other duties by this time. Heck, would any real person actually want to be doing that kind of dangerous and stressful duty for seven years? But in our TV show, we obviously grow attached to the characters and don't want to lose them. Plus, we can clearly "see" in the episodes that they may have been compromised, but now they are trustworthy again.
After Woolsey's and Maynard's competing presentations, the president seems inclined to leave the SGC as it is. However, this is where things start getting interesting. Kinsey blatantly tries to pressure the president into acceding to his wishes. It's fun to watch the president put Kinsey very firmly in his place. The conversation does make the president start wondering about some of his campaign donations and Kinsey's connections that may have been used during the election.
Privately, Kinsey makes some comments to Woolsey that make Woolsey begin to doubt Kinsey's integrity. (Took him long enough!) Woolsey does some investigating and even visits General Hammond to try to dig up information on Kinsey. He concludes that Kinsey's past connections with the rogue NID agents (as seen in season 4's "Chain Reaction", for example) are still in place, and that Kinsey has ulterior motives for his desire to control the SGC. Woolsey makes it clear in this episode (as he did in "Heroes, Part 2") that he is motivated by the sincere belief that secret military operations need lots of civilian oversight.
Finally, Woolsey gives his information on Kinsey to the president. In a nice scene, the president reveals he already knows the essentials of what Woolsey has discovered. But, he has to work with Kinsey politically, so he realizes that he has to throw Kinsey a bone on this issue. Exactly what changes he intends to make are left unstated, but will presumably have repercussions in the following episodes.
This episode is a good political reality check on the SGC. The changing of presidential administrations often has wide-ranging repercussions, and so it's hard to believe a program as important as the SGC would remain untouched. Now that we have met the new president (unlike his nameless and faceless but often-referenced predecessor), is this a sign that we will see more of him?
I have to give credit to Kinsey for his persistence. He tried to have the SGC shut down or transferred to something under his control in season 1's "Politics", he tried to gain access to the stargate and alien technology through the rogue NID as seen in season 4's "Chain Reaction", and he tried to transfer the SGC to the NID in season 6's "Disclosure". Is this persistence solely from Kinsey's moral objections to the SGC being run by the military? Clearly the business cabal behind the rogue NID group is more motivated by money - are they pulling his strings? As the president speculates in this episode, the stargate opens options for even broader ambitions. Whatever is motivating Kinsey, it must be something very compelling.
An odd thing about this episode is that the president did not meet General Hammond or SG-1. When General Maynard realized the point of Woolsey's presentation, he mentioned that Hammond should be there, but that objection was quickly swept away. Regardless of this, I would think that Maynard would have taken his own initiative to bring Hammond and SG-1 to meet the president. I would assume Maynard has met at least some of them himself and would realize how charming and impressive SG-1 can appear, which would really help their case. I realize that this was a clip episode, the point of which was to not include the main characters, but it's a logical flaw.
Well, that wraps things up. The episode provided a lot of logical back story and political reality, but it lacked SG-1. It was also very talky; the implications may be important and far-reaching for the series, but it was slow to watch.