Terra Nova’s eighth episode, ‘Vs.’, brought with it a major storyline reveal, further character development and conflict between community members and within individuals. Be warned, spoilers ahead!
The episode begins with Mira in her hut, bringing a huge dragonfly in on her wrist like a hawk, wondering what news there is today. Back at Terra Nova, we find Taylor interrogating Boylan regarding his potential involvement with the Sixers. Taylor demands to know what Boylan told the Sixers and Boylan insists he gave them no information, only selling them medication. Taylor doesn’t believe him and sardonically wishes him a good night as he locks him in the cell and turns on a blaring siren.
At the Shannon house, the kids are making props for the Harvest Festival play. We find that Zoe will be playing the part of Commander Taylor in the annual play celebrating Taylor’s successful journey through the time portal. Josh asks to speak with Jim privately, saying everyone from the bar is worried about Boylan because no one has seen nor heard from him since his arrest. Jim tells his son that Boylan is “being detained” and he’s being questioned by Taylor. Josh tells his father Boylan transgression was just business and he wasn’t the first to go behind Taylor’s back… what he did didn’t make him a spy. After all, Jim himself has done things without Taylor’s knowledge. Couldn’t Jim just check in on him? Jim agrees.
Jim comes upon Taylor as Taylor is sending a military convoy out into the jungle. Jim tells Taylor he’s interested in visiting Boylan, so the two men proceed to the detention cell. Boylan is incoherent, singing deliriously. Concerned, Jim asks what’s going on and Taylor tells him that he’s spiked Boylan’s food in order to get him to talk. Concerned, Jim tells Taylor that it looks like he gave Boylan too much of the drug. Taylor says that it’s possible, but doesn’t seem to care as he’s determined to get the truth about the information he believes Boylan has given the Sixers. The men are interrupted when Washington comes in and tells Taylor they have a situation that needs his attention. As Taylor leaves, Jim says he’ll stay behind and give Boylan some water to help flush out his system. Jim gives Boylan the water and the confused and drugged Boylan thinks Jim is Taylor and begins to babble threats at him. He says the truth is buried at Pilgrim’s Tree and he’s going to tell the world and then it will be all over for Taylor.
Jim decides to investigate. He looks up the location of Pilgrim’s Tree and travels to its location. He begins to dig and soon finds the buried truth that Boylan spoke of… a human skeleton. Jim brings the skeleton back to Terra Nova for his wife to examine. Elisabeth finds that the person was most likely a middle aged man who probably died due to a bullet wound to the chest. She said he most probably had been buried for 4-6 years. The body was also missing part of its right arm. Because of the nature of Boylan’s delirious accusations, Jim decides to hide the skeleton from Taylor for now and asks Elisabeth to find out as much as she can, but to keep her investigation quiet.
Back at the camp, Jim tries to get more information from Boylan, giving him more water and asking him why he sent him to find the body. Taylor walks in, interrupting Jim’s efforts. A still delirious Boylan begins to blabber on about “it” being such a nice shady spot, so Jim quickly covers in an attempt to quiet him saying he was there trying a little good-cop/bad cop, which, unfortunately failed. Taylor ominously says that maybe it’s time for the bad cop to step in.
In the center of camp, we see Maddy leading the children through rehearsal for the Harvest Festival play. As they take a break, the large dragonfly flies by and a nearby soldier, fearing it might bite one of the children, swats it down with his rifle. Maddy looks at the fallen dragonfly and discovers the insect has an microchip attached to it. Malcolm examines it and confirms the dragonfly was being used by the Sixers as a means of spying on Terra Nova, much in the same way carrier pigeons are used to carry messages between two points. However, the microchip was damaged beyond the point of any information retrieval and the insect’s wings were too injured to fly to the spy embedded in camp. As Malcolm agrees to continue to work on the problem, Taylor’s second in command Washington comes in and tells Taylor that the convoy he sent out was ambushed by the Sixers. They knew exactly when and where to strike. Further, the convoy was put together after Boylan was put in jail, so he couldn’t have been the one to give Mira the information. Taylor concurs and agrees to release Boylan.
Jim and Elisabeth reconvene to discuss her examination of the skeleton. She was able to determine that the DNA did not match anyone on any known Pilgrimage. Furthermore, based on the body’s molecular signature, the person came to Terra Nova between the Second and Third Pilgrimages. With this in mind, Jim goes to the bar to try to get more information from the newly released Boylan. After a little cajoling, Boylan tells Jim what he knows. Boylan admits that he helped Taylor bury the body, but he said he didn’t know who the body was or how he died. It all happened about five years ago when Boylan was still in the military. It was the last night he was ever on active duty. He was on patrol outside the gates and he saw a light in the jungle and heard a strange noise. He went to investigate and found Taylor standing over a dead body. Taylor, who was friends with Boylan at the time (though not since), asked him for help. Boylan said Taylor was crazed, saying it was Lucas’ fault and that Lucas “called” the man and that he came through the portal because Lucas asked. Boylan also said that night was the last time anyone from Terra Nova had seen Lucas, but he was certain Taylor would never hurt his son.
At the med center, Elisabeth walks in to find that Malcolm has opened her station and has found the body. Elisabeth is angry at what she feels is an invasion of her privacy, but Malcolm says everything that goes on in any science station is his business and is angry with her for not telling him and for not following proper procedure and informing Taylor. He leaves to go tell Taylor immediately.
Malcolm returns with Taylor to discuss the matter with Jim and Elisabeth. Instead of telling Taylor the true source of his information regarding the body, Jim says an anonymous note was left on his door. He said he didn’t bother Taylor with it because he figured the person was a victim of a slasher attack. Taylor says he wants to see the note and believes that Jim is wrong, that the body is a Sixer; that he’s always believed some of them falsified their DNA scans to cover criminal records. He then tells Jim and Elisabeth that he appreciates that they don’t want to him to be distracted from things like Boylan and the Sixers, but they really need to keep him apprised of things. With a steely gaze, he tells them they’re still new to Terra Nova and they still have a lot to learn.
Back at the Shannon home, Maddy and Josh help Zoe, in her Commander Taylor costume complete with beard, practice for the Harvest play. Jim and Elisabeth discuss their belief that Taylor suspects they believe he secretly killed and buried someone beneath the Pilgrim Tree and he’s not going to take their continued investigations lying down. Juxtaposed with this conversation is Zoe, dressed as Taylor, practicing a speech about coming to Terra Nova to give humanity a fresh start and embracing the principles of justice, fairness and trust as a basis for the new society.
At the science lab, Malcolm has good news for Taylor – he’s figured out that the Sixers are using a specific sonic signature to draw the dragonfly back and forth. Malcolm hypothesizes that by now, if they’re lucky, the spy is wondering why he or she hasn’t received the next message and will still be broadcasting the signal in an attempt to lure the dragonfly in. Malcolm has surgically repaired the dragonfly’s wings and placed a locator chip in its leg, so if the signal is still on, the dragonfly should lead them right to the spy. They release the insect and begin to follow it through camp.
At the Harvest Festival, Jim and Elisabeth sit with the rest of the community to watch Zoe and the other children act out the moment when Taylor was assigned to go through the time portal for the communal good of humanity by his commanding officer. As they watch they play, they notice the child playing the general has his sleeve pinned up to make it look like he is missing half of his right arm. At this point, the identification of the body clicks and Jim and Elisabeth move away from the play to confer. Jim says he remembers that the general was reported missing several years ago. He must have come through the portal and the only reason they could think of that they would send the general through the portal would be to relieve Taylor of his command. Right as they come to this realization, Taylor, Washington, Reynolds and Malcolm arrive and place Jim under arrest for conspiracy and endangering the welfare of the colony. The dragonfly went into the Shannon’s home. Taylor said evidence was found that proves he was in communication with the Sixers. Elisabeth demands to see the evidence, but Taylor suggests they go quietly to avoid ruining the festivities for everyone.
Jim is placed in the same detention cell used for Boylan. He angrily confronts Taylor telling him that they both know he’s not a Sixer spy. Taylor tells him that there may be a perfectly innocent reason the dragonfly came to his house and if that reason is found, Jim will be let go and they’ll move on and find the real spy together. Jim knows what Taylor is really saying – if Jim drops the investigation of Taylor, he can go free. Jim says no and as Taylor starts to walk out the door, Jim asks the question that not only stops Taylor in his tracks, but leads him to tell the real story. Jim asked him why did he kill the general, why did he refuse to step down? According to Taylor, the people that sent the general are the same people that sent the Sixers. They hate Taylor because he found out what they are planning for Terra Nova. Terra Nova was never really meant to be a second chance humanity, it was meant to be a wellspring of resources for 2149. Taylor’s enemies mean to plunder its resources, send back all the commodities until there’s nothing left, leaving Terra Nova in the same state as the earth they left behind. Lucas was on their side the beginning. He was brought over on the Second Pilgrimage in order to secretly develop the technology to make the portal work both ways. When Taylor found out what Lucas was doing, he destroyed all his work. Lucas hated him from that point and went OTG two days later. Taylor went after him and caught up to him just as Lucas brought the general through a newly constructed portal to take command of Terra Nova. When Taylor refused, he was told that the people he thought were in charge in 2149 never actually were and that there are “bigger players” involved so Taylor should just step down graciously. Taylor refused and the general tried to kill him, so Taylor was forced to kill his mentor in self defense. Then, he had to deal with his son. Lucas pointed gun at him, but Taylor was able to disarm him. Taylor refused to kill his own son, but told Lucas he was a traitor and he never wanted to see his face again. Lucas said he would see him again and he’d better hope he extended to the same kindness to him. That, Taylor said, was the last time he’d seen his son. He knows Lucas continues to work on the calculations to open the portal in both directions – he paints them on rocks to taunt him.
Jim asks why Taylor kept this all to himself. Taylor said that if the inhabitants of Terra Nova knew that all of the blood, sweat, and tears they’d put into building Terra Nova was built on a lie and was likely going to come to nothing, they’d probably just give up and lay down and die. He won’t allow that, he’ll fight on even if he has to fight alone. He then tells Jim he’s free to go. Jim tells him he didn’t need to take things this far. Taylor disagrees – with his own son working to destroy their homes. Would Jim fight or would he bow down? Jim replies “I’d fight. I will fight.”
Jim and Taylor leave the cell and Taylor tells the team and Elisabeth a mistake was made and Jim is free to go. The soldiers accept Taylor’s word, Elisabeth looks curious and Malcolm is completely flummoxed.
Taylor then gives a speech to the assembled community at the Harvest Festival reminding them that it’s a time to of reckoning their accomplishments together and of giving thanks. He also introduces the newest member of Terra Nova, a newborn baby boy named for Taylor. Taylor closes by telling the community he’s thankful for each of them and they’re all his friends and family and without them, he’d have nothing. The show ends with fireworks being let off in the sky over Taylor’s shoulder. In the jungle, we see Lucas sitting by a lonely fire, looking at the fireworks in the distance.
I felt this week’s show was significantly better than previous shows. This storyline had purpose, it moved things forward in a real way. We had a big reveal as to what the Sixers’ purpose in the past is. However, can we trust Taylor’s version of events? After all, when Jim met with Mira, she cautioned him that the Sixers were on the side of angels, so to speak. We now know what the writing on the rocks is all about too. We know it’s Lucas’ work and not just some deranged cave man.
I enjoyed getting into Taylor’s head and seeing his character development. This episode saw him become a more multidimensional person with varied motives as a leader. His relationship, or lack thereof, with his son, his sense of mission and personal burden are all important facets of his personality and inform all aspects what he does. I imagine we’ll see his relationship with Jim further develop now that A) Jim’s in on the secret and B) Taylor sees Jim as more of an equal. Or, perhaps we’ll see them clash like two alpha dogs.
Was everything in this episode good? No. I thought the end, especially during Taylor’s speech, was too melodramatic and overly sweet. Also, some things were again too obvious – for example, using Zoe as a mini “Taylor” to frame the community’s perception of Taylor was a little heavy handed. But despite there being room for improvement, I continue to be glad ‘Terra Nova’ is on the air. Personally, I’d much rather have a SciFi/Fantasy show on the air than another police procedural or reality show.
In conclusion, this episode was titled ‘Vs.’ and that title seems particularly apt. We saw Father vs. Son, Personal Burden vs. Community Goals, Hope vs. Despair, Truth vs. The Hidden, Public Perception vs. Reality, and Authority vs. Civil Disobedience.
What do you think? Please share your thoughts below!
If you need to catch up, check out our recap from last week’s episode: ‘Proof‘.