Recap / Stargate Atlantis S02 E13 "Critical Mass"

Here we are, gloating about the in-fighting among the Wraith. How are we any different?
—- Dr. Weir finally starts to come to grips with her own hypocrisy.

The Atlantis long range scanners pick up a pair of Wraith cruisers headed vaguely in their general direction. Not to worry, they're fighting with each other and not particularly aimed at Atlantis, so one wonders why we even mentioned it. But what's this? We've cut back to the SGC, and it's General Landry, and Major Barrett, and Dr. Lee—heck, even Walter! Basically, every SG-1 cast member they can dredge up except the members of SG-1. It turns out that the Trust has a (probably human) Mole on Atlantis, and the Goa'uld (remember them?) have rigged the city to explode the next time they dial Earth! Which is later today!

Dr. Lee figures out a way to use the Daedalus and some Stargates to relay a message back to Atlantis, and they shut down the gate and unplug the ZPM just in time. Well, that was easy. And now begin the search for the mole in their midst. Immediate suspicion falls on the hateful Dr. Kavanaugh, currently on board the Daedalus, because he's just so hateful! McKay suspects Lt. Cadman, because he has issues with her in general, but nobody pays him any attention. Weir calls Caldwell back to Atlantis and starts interrogating folks. Caldwell calls back to Earth for permission to do so—and then heads back to Atlantis anyway before waiting for a reply.

Unrelated to anything else going on, Teyla's mentor person is in the process of dying of nothing in particular. Dr. Beckett seems to think his hypocratic oath requires him to give her a pacemaker against her express wishes, but comes to his senses eventually. She dies, and the Athosians hold a complicated funeral thing which involves Teyla singing throughout the rest of the drama in the episode.

Such drama comes in the form of the gate up and dialing Earth of its own accord—which fortunately does nothing, since the ZPM is unplugged. While everybody is freaking out over nothing, the distress beacon activates, and the two Wraith cruisers (remember them?) put aside their differences and head over to check it out. Time to cloak up—which requires plugging the ZPM back in, which leaves the city vulnerable to a critical overload if the systems really try—which of course they do. Fortunately, there's a password which will shut everything down. They just need to beat it out of the mole before the ZPM explodes in half an hour from now.

Clearly, the best solution is to start torturing Kavanaugh for information, who has somehow incriminated himself by not having any friends. In case it doesn't work, Caldwell prepares to evacuate everyone to the Kill Sat planet in the Daedalus. As they are lifting off, Lieutenant Cadman rushes in—she has discovered based on some records anomalies that the mole is in fact Colonel Caldwell—who is a Goa'uld! Good thing they haven't actually started torturing Kavanaugh yet. Sheppard tazes the Goa'uld until Caldwell's personality resurfaces and reveals the deactivation code. The city is saved (just in time!) and Hermiod gets to work on modifying Asgard beam technology to safely remove the symbiote.


  • Big-Lipped Alligator Moment: Teyla's song might count as one.
  • Child Hater: Zelenka, played for laughs. The reason he gets sent to World O’ Children is that McKay is one too, and has slightly more clout.
    Zelenka: My sister has a child. He breaks things. He throws things. He smears things onto furniture.
  • Cold-Blooded Torture: Ronon's plans for Kavanaugh.
  • Custom Uniform of Sexy: Lt. Cadman's hair. As a Marine, it should be short (like Carter's) or tied up (like in "Duet") while she's on duty—but it's just not.
    • Acknowledged in the audio commentary for exactly this trope: she's sexier with her hair down.
    • Although, when Carter takes over as head of Atlantis in season 4, she has long hair (guess Amanda Tapping finally put her foot down.) It is Hand Waved as a result of more lax military protocol on the base (given the whole "other galaxy, not terribly accountable to anyone" thing.)
    • IRL, it's because the Air Force was not a consultant for Atlantis. They enforced the hair on Carter's character as long as they had approval over it on SG1. At some point during the making of Atlantis, some AF pilots offered the actor who played Sheppard a ride in one of their shiny planes if he got his famously messy hair cut to regulation length. The producers (ironically, the same producers who wouldn't let Jason Momoa cut off Ronon's signature dreads) wouldn't let him.
  • Distress Call: Used to attract the Wraith to Atlantis; McKay responds with a fake distress call attached to a bit of charred rubble to not give away their continued existence.
  • Everyone Has Standards: Subverted. Only Rodney seems disturbed at the idea of torturing Kavanaugh. Everyone else present, including Shepard and Weir, barely show much in the way of restraint.
  • Exact Time to Failure: seems averted at first, when McKay gives a ballpark estimate of “we have maybe half an hour”—then played straight as all of his subsequent numbers are impossibly precise.
  • Fainting: Of the Girly Man Faint variety for Kavanaugh, at the prospect of his impending torture.
  • Glowing Eyes of Doom: The classic Goa'uld eye-flash proving that they are right about Caldwell
  • Going Critical
  • Interscene Diegetic: Teyla's song is heard while the rest of the base prepares to evacuate.
  • Meaningful Funeral: Among the Athosians, it is considered a rare blessing to die of natural causes. The Ring Ceremony celebrates this while honoring the deceased.
  • Moral Event Horizon: It's actually a bit disturbing that only McKay seems to think that torture is wrong—and possibly only because he himself was tortured that one time
  • Not Themself: It's a bit surprising that even Caldwell is okay with the idea of torture—until it turns out to be on account of being a Goa'uld at the time.
  • Popcultural Osmosis Failure: Dr. Lee is the only person who knows what he's talking about when he compares the relay setup to the Twilight Bark; when he changes the analogy to Lord of the Rings, the rest of the room immediately starts nodding.
  • Red Herring Mole: Dr. Kavanaugh looks pretty suspicious—until you realize that's how he acts all the time.
  • Teleporters and Transporters: Apparently the Asgard can just beam Goa'uld symbiotes out of people.
  • The Cast Showoff: Yeah, that's actually Rachel Luttrell singing there.
  • The Mole: Col. Caldwell.
  • Throw the Dog a Bone: Dr. Lee manages to be the one to save the day, at least at first, when he figures out a way to relay a message to Atlantis via the Daedalus.