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When we left SG-1 (Mitchell, Daniel, Teal'c, and Vala), they were trapped and trying to solve puzzles before they got smooshed by the lowering ceilings. Daniel solves his and Vala's puzzle (rather trivially, I thought), and they are released. Daniel yells help to Mitchell who then solves his and Teal'c's puzzle.
At this point, Mitchell is able to draw the sword from the stone, but a knight appears and attacks him. The knight is some kind of projection and is insubstantial to anyone but Mitchell; his hits on Mitchell do not do physical harm, but injure him nonetheless. The fight does not go well for Mitchell, but in a nice flashback to his physical therapy sessions after his fighter crash, he finds an extra well of strength and manages to win. After a few more tedious acts of literally following hologram-Merlin's instructions, the treasure in the cavern is revealed.
The treasure does consist in a large part of gold and other precious materials, so Vala is in seventh heaven. However, there are a few other objects of interest. Daniel finds a book that seems to tell the history of the Ancients: they called themselves the Alterans, and they did not originate on Earth, but came here from somewhere else. They also find a large Ancient device, which turns out to be some kind of communication device that utilizes the communication stones first discussed in season 8's "Citizen Joe".
> Daniel is extremely excited to try to use the communication device, since he wants to learn as much as possible about the Ancients (AKA the Alterans, AKA the ascended beings). Even Vala is interested, since the Ancients were possibly the most powerful race that ever existed in the galaxy. Daniel and Vala insert the two communication stones into the device, which activates it and immediately causes them to become unconscious. The newest doctor, Dr. Carolyn Lam, begins monitoring their vital signs while Mitchell and Teal'c watch over them.
Daniel and Vala find themselves inhabiting and controlling other peoples' bodies on another world. The world appears to be some type of medieval society, and they immediately jump to the conclusion that it is very far from Earth, possibly in another galaxy. They discover that the society is very rigidly structured and has extensive religious services for gods called the Ori.
They discover another set of communication stones hidden in the house of their "hosts". They also come into contact with an underground of people dissatisfied with the religion of Origin, since the "facts" the Ori tell them don't match up with archaeological history. Daniel surmises that the Ori may be humans the Alterans left in this galaxy long ago, and who have now ascended.
So far, the society seems somewhat regressive, but no threat. However, Vala is accused of being "overcome" by some actions that occurred off-screen: essentially, she is accused of being possessed. She is chained to an altar in the town square, where she is to be burned to death by flaming oil. This is a classic medieval "test" of being a witch: if the Ori know she's not a witch, she'll survive the test; if not, then when she dies she'll be with the Ori. In a rather shocking turn of events, she actually is immolated while Daniel is held captive nearby. It was a very weird, but effective, feeling to see something so awful happen and not have it prevented by an SG-1 member.
Back at the SGC, Vala's body is in distress when Vala is in trouble, but Dr. Lam, Mitchell, and Teal'c can do nothing. There's no apparent way to turn off the device, and they cannot remove the stones. Mitchell wants to try to shoot them out, just feet from Vala and Daniel's bodies, but fortunately Dr. Lee convinces him not to. When Vala is burned to death, her body at the SGC dies.
An Ori Prior (akin to a priest) arrives and brings Vala back to life (including her body at the SGC). He takes Daniel and Vala with him to some unknown location as the episode ends. How and why did he arrive in such a timely manner? I suspect it has to do with Daniel's near-hysterical explanation of the communication device when he tried to get them to stop burning Vala. This implies quite a level of surveillance of Ori-dominated society for him to have picked up on this odd tidbit of information and then travel there so quickly. What are his intentions?
As a very minor subplot throughout this part of the episode, Teal'c is still struggling with the formation of the Jaffa government. He, Rak'nor, Bra'tac, and Rya'c are pushing for a completely democratic high council via elections, but their opponent, Gerak, favors a high council whose representatives have the most military resources. Gerak's faction wins the vote, effectively making Gerak the leader of the Jaffa.
This episode has some very odd turns. The Arthurian legend aspect disappears once the treasure is found - was Merlin-as-an-Ancient just a means to an end, getting the device? Then there is another abrupt jump when Daniel and Vala use the device and wind up somewhere completely different.
The decision by Daniel to try out the communication device was pretty irresponsible. Although, as Dr. Lee said, sometimes you just have to turn on some of the devices, it seems they could have done a little more preparation. Specifically, it seems like they should have informed General Landry of their plans; although it's hard to fault them for this lapse when Landry had just basically told them not bother him unless they had some results. As I mentioned in "Avalon, Part 1", this is a very different command approach from Hammond or O'Neill - I think he's going to have to learn to keep himself more informed or face more sudden crises like these.
What is the story behind the Ori? Daniel jumps to a lot of conclusions, the biggest leap being that the Ori are ascended beings. He bases this on the rebel's statement that the Ori do in fact have "powers". That's pretty slim - we've seen plenty of cases where advanced technology appeared to be magical or godlike, ascended beings not required. However, bringing Vala back to life was quite a feat, and something that we've seen few beings able to do: the Nox and the ascended Ancients. So maybe Daniel got lucky with his speculation again.
If the Ori are ascended beings, they clearly have a different agenda from the Ancients who are ascended. The Ancients have a noninterference directive which they enforce upon each other, while the Ori are posing as gods. I can't help but feel that the discovery of the Ori is rather convenient, with all the SGC's former enemies neutralized. And the posing-as-gods idea is pretty well-worn. We'll have to see where this goes.
Vala joins Daniel as someone in the SGC who has been dead and then brought back to life, although Daniel is still ahead two to one. Being burned to death seems like a very traumatic experience - how will it affect Vala? Daniel is likely to feel at least somewhat responsible for Vala's experience, since he was the one so determined to test the communications device. (I might add that he was also the one who believed that Vala could fake her way through the Ori world on her own.) At any rate, their experiences here seem bound to bring them closer together and at least moderate their sniping.
The new doctor, Dr. Lam, appears to be a more serious minor character than the varied doctors we've seen since Dr. Frasier's death. She definitely seems to have a dislike for the military, but clearly the challenge of the posting appealed to her. Actually, it wasn't clear - is she a military doctor? It's hard to believe otherwise, but given her disdain for military matters, it would be odd. What relationship does she have with Landry? He seems to be trying hard to get on her good side.