Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles: “Desert Cantos”


Derek and Sarah and John and Cameron are driving along while listening to a radio report about the “accident” at the factory in the middle of nowhere. There’s no mention of killer robots from the future being involved, but then, why would there be?

They’ve clearly taken the scenic route to wherever they are going. There are piles of dead cattle strewn along the side of the road.

Their destination proves to be the small-town memorial taking place for the factory workers killed in the blast. John hates funerals. Sarah hates Skynet. John figures anyone who knew anything about what was really going on at the factory is already dead. Except for his mom. Who is convinced there’s gotta be someone else in the know, too.

Sarah sees the picture of the guy who shot her in the leg.

John sidles up to a lonely looking girl who is sitting on a park bench. He asks to join her. She says OK, so long as he doesn’t spew tired clichés about death. Her name is Zoe. Her dad worked at the factory. John spins a yarn about how his mother worked at the factory, too, and they came to pay their respects. Cameron stares them down from a short distance away.

A guy named Henry comes and tells Zoe it’s time for the candle lighting. John extends his hand and introduces himself, but Henry coolly walks away. He’s not Zoe’s boyfriend, exactly. He just wishes he was. Zoe excuses herself.

Derek walks among the mourners with his lit candle. Sarah is still staring at the picture of the guy who shot her in the leg. Some guy brushes past Derek, and apologizes for bumping him. Derek thinks he looks familiar. Meanwhile, the leg shooter’s widow approaches Sarah. She shares that her husband hated having his picture taken. Sarah tries to excuse herself, only the widow is glad to see a face that doesn’t remind her of all the loss that the town has suffered. She introduces herself as Diane Winston. She wants to know if Sarah knew her husband Ed? Sarah wisely keeps mum about having shot him.


Sarah is now sitting next to Diane at the church service. Diane shares that another one of the survivors, whose service they are now attending, used to project old movies on his garage door. She doesn’t remember the last time she and her hubby went to a movie. They had him working awfully weird hours at that factory, and she used to just leave his dinner for him in the fridge. A ‘two ships passing in the night’ sort of thing.

The weird guy who Derek recognized is of course Catherine’s henchman Mr. Walsh. She calls him to ask, “Do you have him?” Er…..not yet. Besides, everyone figures “he” died in the explosion at the factory. Catherine knows for a fact he did not. Poor Walsh is sweating bullets. A mysterious brunette sits down a few pews away. Walsh discreetly sits nearby and looks at her with interest.

Ellison is strolling around the corporation and noticing a lot of people wearing plaid. He approaches head nerd Murch, who explains that the plaid is an homage to Catherine’s deceased husband. “A genius,” according to Murch. He would expound further, had the elevator doors nearby not magically produced Catherine as if on cue. Ellison and Murch join her.

Some fellow steps up and prepares to deliver Eugene’s eulogy, but he has to take a moment first for a word from their sponsors. Yes, Desert Hear & Air’s parent company, The Kaliba Group, picked out such pretty flowers for the funeral, didn’t they? This captures Sarah’s attention, and Diane’s ire. She stands up and looks amongst the fellow mourners. She doesn’t think they should all be lulled by the pretty flowers. And how come nobody from the company actually came to the funeral? In fact – has anybody ever actually seen anybody from the company? Most of the mourners just sit and stare slack-jawed at her outburst. Diane storms out. Sarah follows. She picked a live one.

Derek stays behind, mostly so he can cast suspicious glances in Walsh’s direction.

Sarah finds Diane crying on a bench outside. Diane looks like she really needs to talk. And Sarah is all ears. Ed used to be in the military, only when he was offered a pretty cushy gig providing security for Desert Heat & Air, Diane pushed him to take it. But, in hindsight, why would a heat and air company need serious security? Diane wants to know what Sarah did at the factory. Sarah thinks on her feet and comes up with the sandwich cart girl angle. This helps her to be convincing when she says that she didn’t know what really went on there, beyond the consumption of tuna salad and corned beef. Ah, but Diane insists nobody knows what went on at the factory! Ed was really tight-lipped about it. Yet Diane is equally adamant about insisting that Ed was a decent man. Sarah points out that even decent men can get caught up in things.

Diane produces some keys that she found in and amongst Ed’s effects. Including a key to a storage locker. They didn’t have a storage locker. She figures that some doors are better left unopened, but Sarah disagrees.

Cut to Sarah opening the door that is better left unopened. She pokes around in the storage locker and finds some blood-soaked rags. For starters.


Walsh finds that his car has a flat tire. Derek materializes and offers him a lift. They drive along the processional. Walsh claims to be an OHSA inspector. Derek takes note of his cop ring, and figures that being an OSHA inspector is a big change after having been a cop. Derek asks what Walsh thinks happened. Even though he also says he doesn’t think Walsh would tell him, anyway. He shares that the townsfolk think it was no accident. Walsh asks Derek what he would do if he thought it wasn’t an accident. The air is thick with recrimination, and awkward silence, and weirdness. Walsh decides to get out and walk the rest of the way. ‘Cause Derek is kind of intense.

Sarah rides with Diane. She tells her the storage locker was empty. Diane declares her husband a stranger to her. Sarah flashes back to shooting Ed. So when Diane asks, in a speculative way, “What happened to him, Sarah?”, Sarah feels extra bad.

John and Cameron are riding with Henry and Zoe. Zoe hates this stupid small town, and hopes she doesn’t die here. She wants to travel and see cool places, like the Grand Canyon. This reminds her of her ex-boyfriend, Mike Thompson, who just ditched her out of the blue. And then sent her a postcard from the Grand Canyon. Mike’s mom worked at the plant.

Henry’s sick of this story, but it’s not stopping Zoe.

As Zoe continues, we see Sarah poking around Ed Winston’s storage locker. To hear Zoe tell it, Mike liked Monty Python movies, and playing lacrosse.

Which is right around the time that Sarah spots some lacrosse bat-thingie-whats-its in the locker.

Zoe explains that Mike’s mom violated some confidentiality agreement at the plant, and she and Mike just up and left in the middle of the night.

Sarah kicks at the bloody rags in the locker.

After Mike’s disappearance, Zoe then got a postcard from him from the Grand Canyon. Cameron and John exchange, “Yeah, he’s toast” looks between them. Henry is so tired of hearing about Mike Thompson, so he’d probably be glad to learn that Mike is toast. Only John and Cameron can’t exactly welcome Henry into their inner sanctum. What Cameron will say is that Zoe doesn’t love Henry the way that Henry loves Zoe. Which prompts Henry to slam on the brakes. Which nearly causes a collision. Which nearly attracts the attention of the police escort. John hops out of the car, grabs Henry, and flings him into the backseat, and commandeers the vehicle.

Zoe asks John if he wants to see something really messed up. Besides, she for one doesn’t want to go to another cruddy funeral.

They detour to go stare at the dead cattle that are strewn along the side of the road on the outskirts of town. She explains that one day the cows are fine, and the next day they’re dead. And the day after that, they’re gone. “Like Mike,” observes Cameron. They debate what might be killing the cattle. Idiots with guns, suggests Henry. No bullet wounds, says Cameron. John suggests it’s the water. Cameron thinks not.


They make it back for the funeral of Henry’s dad. Zoe reveals that the company is making massive insurance payments, and that they’re all rich now. What did Henry’s dad do at the plant, John wonders, and what was so secret about a heat and air conditioning plant? Zoe says the secret is that it wasn’t a heat and air conditioning plant. Duh. She figures it was a government project. These workers were, like, rocket scientist smart. No offense to actual heater and air conditioning repairmen, but……you know.

Derek arrives and takes his place next to Sarah. Walsh has also just arrived and slinks around the outskirts of the gathering. Derek asks if Sarah has learned anything more about that drone she thinks she saw. Sarah takes exception to his making it sound like a hallucination. She notices Walsh. Derek figures the best way to figure out what Walsh is looking for is to let Walsh find it. Only Sarah says that Walsh has figured out Derek is onto him. So she best be tailing him next. She calls Derek “Reese” again. Conveniently, Walsh chooses this moment to slink away, which gives Sarah an excuse to trail him rather than bask in the awkward moment between her and Derek.

Hot on Walsh’s trail, she spies him breaking into a nearby house.

John approaches Zoe after the burial of Henry’s dad. He shares that his dad died before he was even born. Zoe says her dad is a pile of ashes, so they’re both screwed. Which is weird, because earlier she was telling John about how she picked out a gray suit for her dad to be buried in. He calls her on this, and she gets uppity, and says John doesn’t know anything about what’s going on. She storms off. Cameron approaches and notes that Zoe isn’t crying. John says she’s not doing a lot of things.

Ellison enters Catherine’s lair. He’s wearing a plaid tie now. He talks about his dad dying. And how he can relate to throwing oneself into work in order to not deal with it. The point is lost on Catherine. Ellison wants to know how Savannah is dealing with her father’s death. This point is also lost on Catherine. As is the point about how Dr. Sherman, who had been helping Savannah deal with her father’s death, is now also dead. More blank stares from his robot boss. At some point, maybe he might even liken her dead shark eyes to those of John Henry. Who knows? Or maybe he just thinks she’s a cold heartless corporate-ladder-climbing bitch. She asks Ellison to grant her a little privacy so she can be “emotional.” Or practice emotion. Or something. She then asks her secretary to fetch her daughter. Because guinea pigs are useful in such experiments.

Sarah is casing the house that Walsh has just broken into. He’s taking a long time to complete whatever untoward activity he’s engaged in. She soon retraces his steps and hops into the window he pried open earlier.


John and Derek and Cameron are crashing the wake of the dead husband who is married to the mysterious brunette that Walsh was keeping his eye on earlier. It’s Zoe’s mom, it turns out. Cameron thinks it’s weird that Zoe hasn’t looked at her father’s picture once so far. John sees where she’s going with this. Maybe this guy isn’t dead? Derek thinks that’s far fetched. You know, more so than the existence of killer robots from the future. But then he stares at the widow and Zoe some more, and has to concur. The guy isn’t dead. Cameron thinks they should find him, before he is dead, for real.

Gun in hand (you know…..for a change), Sarah is skulking around the house that Walsh broke into. The house is empty. Except for down in the basement, the entrance of which is hidden by a secret movable bookcase. Sarah finds it. There’s a world of surveillance fun going on down there – the whole town is on camera, practically. She sees a blood stain on the floor, and follows the trail.

Meanwhile, John is poking around Zoe’s parents’ bedroom. Zoe catches him, which is kind of awkward. John poses the theory that her dad isn’t really dead. Which is super awkward. She tells him to get out. He follows her down the stairs, and says he wants to help. She insists he can’t. He tries to argue, but she points upward, to where the hidden camera lurks.

Ohhhhhhhhhhh. Right.

Sarah is checking out the creepy basement. Which is more of a labyrinth, which goes on forever, and leads Sarah to someone’s garage. She calls Derek. He explains he’s at a fake wake. She looks out the window of the garage and sees Derek.

Ohhhhhhhhhhh. Right.


The after-party moves down to the creepy basement. Derek, Cameron, John, Sarah, Zoe and Zoe’s mom are on the guest list. Sarah demands that Zoe’s mom tell her everything she knows about what was really going on in the factory. Zoe’s mom pleads ignorance. Which Sarah thinks is just typical of all these schmucks who sleepwalk through their lives and let Skynet in. Zoe’s mom gets all defensive about this. Besides, that insurance money is allowing her family one suh-weet do-over.

Cameron has been playing with the archived footage. She finds the part where Mike and his mom are being assassinated by Ed Winston and Zoe’s dad. Zoe is very confused about her not dead, but apparently evil, dad. John finds a boot nearby. Which gives him an idea as to where Zoe’s dad might be.

As Sarah, Derek, John and Cameron roll out of there, Diane spots Sarah and confronts her. She knows Sarah isn’t who she said she was. Sarah shrugs it off. She’s been called worse things than a liar. And she’s been shot in the leg. So some stranger’s indignation isn’t really gonna cause her to loose any sleep.

In Catherine’s office, Savannah colors quietly at a table. Mommy Dearest shows a sudden interest in Savannah’s tears. Savannah tries to explain that she misses her dad. Catherine offers up archival footage of this person. Which doesn’t soothe the poor tyke. Mostly Savannah misses sitting on her dad’s lap. Catherine invites her to take a seat in hers. Which is weirdly cold. Robot cold, even.

Derek, Sarah and their posse roll up to the roadside freak show where the dead cattle are scattered. They find a dead Walsh there, too. Sarah wants to know what this place is. Before they can debate the matter, the pond nearby starts percolating with bubbles. And then a drone shoots out of the pond and up into the sky. It shines a spotlight on the gang for a brief moment before flying off into the night. John finally looks at his mom like she’s not crazy. Which is probably a useful stance to take from here on out.

At the side of the road somewhere else, Zoe’s homicidal, very alive dad gets out of a big rig as the drone approaches. It flies into the back of his truck. He bolts it in, and then hits the road.

Yeah, this episode had a lot to take in. Or maybe you just want to watch the drone again. You can catch “Desert Cantos” – and other episodes from Terminator – right here on Fancast.

The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Comcast.

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