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Headscratchers / The Terminator

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  • What did Reese mean when he said to Sarah, "from your point of view I don't know tech stuff"
    • Reese tells Sarah that the technology to build the Terminator won’t exist until 40 years from now. She responds “Are you saying it's from the future?” to which he replies “One possible future... from your point of view. I don't know tech stuff.” He seems to have a layman’s awareness of timelines and things like the grandfather paradox, but he doesn’t understand it enough to honestly answer her question.

  • Why did the terminator start its killing spree during daytime and risk tipping off later targets (ok, really the last target)? It would have been more advantageous to wait for night and kill all 3 while they are at home, possibly sleeping. I understand that hitting the first 2 targets gives roughly a 67% of success, but still, its a risk that's larger than waiting for nightfall.
    • How much knowledge of the past did Skynet have? It may not have been aware of the then-modern technology that would allow a target to be tipped off in the first place.
  • Did Reese know he was John's father?
    • No.
    • To expand slightly, it seems quite unlikely; Reese isn't exactly a social-skills machine, and it's implausible that he would have been able to hide from Sarah the knowledge that they were going to have sex. When he tells her he loves her, he clearly doesn't expect her to reciprocate (obviously never having seen a movie in his life, poor boy).
      • And slightly more: it's heavily implied in the movie that John Connor knew Reese was his father and specifically sent him back to set up a Stable Time Loop. When Reese is asked about who Connor's father is going to be, his reply is that "John never said much about him. I know he dies before the war."
      • No, it's not. He says he wasn't chosen, he volunteered.
      • Not only is it confirmed in Salvation that John knew and sent Reese back for this specific reason, it becomes a major plot point.
      • To reply to the "chosen, he volunteered" — you can volunteer for something and then be chosen from a pool of volunteers. Which is probably what happened.
      • Why even go that far? John had already given him the picture of Sarah. All John has to do is ask him, “Reese, will you go back and save my mother?” and he already knows he’ll say yes. He may simply mean he “volunteered” in that he was asked, not ordered, to go, and said yes.
      • Why did Reese volunteer? He fell in love with her, via the photo. How did Reese get that photo? John gave it to him (and Reese even said he "didn't know why at the time"). John purposefully used the photo to inflame Reese, so that when the time came, he'd be one of the, if not the only, volunteers. He may not have even to have asked for a volunteer, Reese might have just jumped at the chance. And if he hadn't, all John would have to do is say he felt Reese was the best suited and order him to go. John knew Reese was his father, and he took obvious deliberate steps to keep that on track (probably based on his mother’s account of what Reese told her).
      • And on top of that, is the nice touch that when he talks of the photo, he mentions that she looked kind of sad, and that he had always wondered what she was thinking at that moment. When we get to the end of the movie, and the boy takes the picture, Sarah was thinking about Reese. Reese fell in love with Sarah, basically a strange historical figure, based on a photo taken at a moment where she was thinking about him.
      • John doesn't need to choose Reese, as he knows from his mother that he is going to volunteer.
  • Didn't Reese mention in the first film that after he went through the portal, the location was destroyed?
    • See my two plots holes with one stone comment above.
    • That's what they told him, yes. It might not necessarily have been true.
      • It's what was planned to happen after he left. He has no way of knowing if that's what actually occurred.
      • Who's to say Reese was originally John's father? What if the John Connor in the future had an entirely different father, and that one detail simply got shifted? What sort of difference would that really make?

  • A couple of instances form the first film:
    • 1) After using a phone book to find where the various Sarah Connors live, the Terminator rips out the page and takes it with him. You don't just forget things when you have a hard drive for a memory, so why would he need to keep the page once he had the information?
    • He knew that they must have sent someone to stop him, so ripping out the phone book page was a little way to prevent them from finding out. Of course, there are more phone books out there, but that wasn't his main directive. Skynet probably just told him, "Where possible prevent resistance from finding out where the target is"
      • They forgot because Ripped from the Phone Book was still a common cinematic trope and at that point in the film they were trying to hide that Arnie was, in fact, a machine. Possibly justified though, in that the Terminator by taking the whole page is ensuring he's got a redundant backup in the (somewhat unlikely) event his memory core is damaged and that data's lost.
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    • Terminator didn't forget but tropers above certainly seem to have a fuzzy recollection of the film. Terminator never ripped out a phonebook page, Reese did.
      • I concur with the above. I just watched the film, specifically thinking about this famous flub when the scene occurs. He doesn't rip out the page, he only looks at it. It can be inferred that his super-computer memory just, you know, remembered the info. Reese rips out his page, though.

  • 2) The Terminator knows how to use a phone book and mimic police procedure, which are skills that would be worthless in the post-apocalyptic wasteland he was created in. Sky Net obviously provided him with "detailed files" on the era he was traveling to. So how could he not know that plasma rifles hadn't been invented yet in the 80s? Weapons are the one thing he should know everything about!
    • Going on the script, the Terminator's got "detailed files" on human anatomy, because it makes them more efficient killers. But as to the era — Skynet only has partial postwar records and its collective knowledge from such of the Internet that it assimilated before the nuclear balloon went up. When Skynet first boots up in T3 plasma rifles weren't invented, but it doesn't stop the Terminator asking just in case a model has been made at this point in history. In T2 the T-1000 doesn't really mimic police procedure as such: it knows police are authority figures from its post-war records, accesses the police database through a computer, assumes the officer's form, and then simply asks authoritative questions while in that form. It doesn't really mimic police procedure beyond that.
      • And as to the phonebook - it is probably one of the closest (as well as widespread) things to a computer database as of 1984, so dealing with it requires only some of the most basic AI skills.
    • Perhaps the groundwork for plasma rifle technology was laid down in the eighties in The Terminator verse by Cyberdyne, hence why the Terminator tried for it.

  • If SkyNet hadn't sent back a terminator to kill Sarah Connor, Kyle Reese wouldn't have been sent back, and then John Connor wouldn't have been born (at least not the same way) and the Resistance may well have been fucked.
    • Skynet sent a Terminator back because the Resistance was about to destroy it in the first place. It had always been a desperation gambit.
    • Then there would have have been no resistance, because there would have been no SkyNet, because SkyNet started off by the parts of the terminator that were left in the past by SkyNet's going to the past... If John Connor isn't born, SkyNet isn't born. Stable Time Loop or What?
    • That looks like Fridge Brilliance to me. Like someone upthread said, Future John Connor might have been lying to his mother to keep the timeline unchanged from what he remembered. If at any time if it looks like Skynet is going to be destroyed without sending a T-800 back, Connor could just do it himself. As long as Kyle Reese is alive and able to be sent back, John Connor can always tell him the story he grew up hearing, and send a captured T-800 back programmed to hunt his younger self.
      • If there are multiple time lines, then the past can be changed without risking a paradox. This was at least implied in the first two films ("the future is not set...") and was made explicit in TSCC, which includes time travelers from at least two different post-Judgment Day futures. So there is no need to keep the timeline unchanged.
    • Not only John Connor's existence is due to Skynet's attempt on Sarah's life, but so are the skills he needed to lead humanity against the machines. Sarah is a waitress who doesn't know anything about guns or military tactics at the beginning of the movie. By the end she knows quite a bit more and is well on her way to learning the skills she needs to train John in so that he can save humanity.
    • Skynet sent the T-800 back knowing it would fail. The T-800’s real purpose is to go back and ensure Skynet’s creation, while the T-1000 in the sequel is the real assassination, because that’s the point at which Skynet’s existence is assured but John can be wiped from history. Alternatively (and this works for the original movie alone, without reference to the sequel) Skynet just didn’t know. Who’s to say the machines knew their existence was an information paradox? It’s just a cosmic irony.

  • Wouldn't the "ripping the page out the phone book" method of searching required killing all Sara, Sarah, Zara, Sarai and S Connors just to be sure? Even in 1984,when I saw this film the first time,this logic bomb always struck me as being more than bit ridiculous.
    • Not if there aren't any Zara, Sarai, etc. Connors in the phone book. We see the page, and it only has three "Connor" listings at all.
    • Better question is why didn't he flip through the entire thing. It probably wouldn't take much memory and Skynet knew next to nothing about Sarah Connor. It would have been unfortunate for example if that was her maiden or married name and some event had or hadn't taken place yet.
      • It knew enough to know where she was and her name at the time. It may also know, based on John's age in the future, that the time the Terminator was sent back to was around when he was conceived; ergo since he's John Connor, she would be Sarah Connor at the time he's conceived and born.
    • It knew the name and the city (and the time), no more. The T-101 was destroyed while it was still trying to kill the third and last "Connor, Sarah" listed, so we don't see what it would have done afterward had it not been destroyed. I don't remember the phone book listing any "Connor, Sarai" or anything like that, and presumably there weren't any Sarah Conners about.

  • Why would the Terminator need a gun with a laser sight?
    • It uses visual aiming, just like humans do.
    • It's probably used to energy weapons and not the trajectories of conventional firearms. Also, the gun in question, the AMT Hardballer, was notoriously unreliable.
    • It may not have needed the sight, but didn't bother to remove it either (the sight is already mounted at the gun shop where the Terminator acquires it).
    • It could also allow Terminator to save some energy by not activating internal gun aiming system.
    • The Terminator doesn't fire through his eyes. The cross hairs in his vision must be there for the purpose of adjusting his eyesight (maybe measuring the distance). Not aiming weapons.
  • It might have been asked before but why didn't Kyle just show Dr. Silbermann his brand from the prison camp to prove his story? He shows it to Sarah earlier in the movie, but Silbermann claims he "doesn't [have] a shred of proof." He might not have believed him still, but it's better than just expecting him to take his word for it.
    • It wouldn't have done anything. It would've changed Silberman's view of him from "delusional whacko" to "delusional whacko with a tattoo."
    • If anything Silberman would've just assumed Kyle did it to himself as part of his delusion. So-called "alien abductees" have been known to do the same thing.
      • For all we know, he did show Silbermann the tattoo and he just dismissed it.

  • In T1, the fact that the Terminator walked around—in public, mind you—with a freakin' assault weapon and NO ONE thought to alert the authorities much less think this suspicious...wonder how well this would have flown in today's time.
    • The Terminator doesn't initially walk around in public with assault weapons. It uses a pistol and an uzi (which it conceals under its jacket) while tracking Sarah. After the police have Sarah it retrieves the rest of its guns for the assault on the police station, and it drives there rather than walking.
    • When he leaves the apartment carrying the assault rifle and shotguns, one person does notice, says "Daaayumm!" and hides. Who's going to willingly tangle with a big guy with a pair of huge guns on their own?

  • This is something that bothered me for a long time. Why was Kyle Reese arrested? I could buy the fact that he was mistaken for a homeless nudist that stole another bum's pants and the Cop's gun. I could also buy into the fact that they suspected him of being the "Phone Book killer" the cops were after. However Sarah gave a description of the real killer and most of what Kyle did however illegal it was and how far fetched his story is to them, he did it to save another. Even if the story was not believed, a Dr. Jerk like Silberman would believe that his actions were under extreme duress. So why keep him in cuffs?
    • Because he's demonstrably violent and apparently insane. People who threaten policemen with their own guns aren't afforded a lot of trust.
      • Those were pointed out already, however I would say again, extreme duress a psychological condition that lasts a long time depending on situation would excuse that. Reese did what he did no matter how ridiculous it is to connect the dots, to save Sarah. He testified to that and so did she.
      • I'm really not sure where you get the idea that that would even matter. In real life, even if you're doing things for the noblest of causes, if you're shooting people and ranting and raving about robots from the future, then you get locked up.
      • He assaulted police officers and kidnapped Sarah. There's really no question that they would arrest him and then try to figure out why he might have done it.
    • At that point, he'd threatened a cop with a gun, trespassed and stolen from a department store, broken into the squad car and stolen a rifle, stalked Sarah, shot up a bar, shot Arnold in the chest (aggravated assault and witness to Arnold murdering people at the bar), stolen a car and driven with Arnold on the hood before running several red traffic lights (a hit-and-run felony and failure to stop at traffic lights as radioed in by William Wisher), stolen a second car and caused a crash that appeared to have killed the other driver, kidnapped Sarah, and generally pissed off the cops. Tell me again why he shouldn't be arrested?
      • All true, but even at the beginning Kyle was nude while he stole a homeless man's pants (indecent exposure, assault and theft note ), fled from a police officer (a misdemeanor) and tackled another police officer before taking their gun (in some cases people have been shot dead by police for doing that). Even before Kyle pointed a gun at at officer, those police officers had ample reason to arrest Kyle and consider him dangerous.
    • And even if they believed Kyle has a mental illness or some other condition that mitigates everything he's done, that's a matter for a court of law, not police officers. Cops don't decide who had good reasons and goes free and who didn't and does time, judges and juries do. Kyle would have to stand trial, have evidence and testimony weighed, and then it would be decided if his criminal actions were justified under the circumstances or not. Discounting the fact that he doesn't live long enough to stand trial, without evidence of a killer cyborg from the future his actions are problematic at best. That said, Silberman would likely be angling for Kyle to be sentenced to a mental institution rather than a prison, both to try and help this disturbed young man and make a big name for himself for working on such an unusual case. So, short answer, he's under arrest because he's under suspicion of committing a Long List of criminal activities, awaiting legal proceedings to determine his guilt, innocence, or extenuating circumstances.

  • Why were the army so stupid when they installed Skynet? They create an artificial intelligence capable of learning at an exponential rate-fair enough. But WHY did they immediately let Skynet be in charge of their nuclear payload/internet?! They should've tested Skynet by having the program be in charge of a simulator experiment, and if it proves reliable upload it onto NATO's computers, with a failsafe in case things fall apart. But nope, they give an essentially new-born program the keys to world security. Did they know nothing about the A.I. Is a Crapshoot trope?
    • Going by T3, they were panicking. They'd lost control of all computer enabled assets, which is everything beyond bucket and broom these days, and it was a classic "We must do something; This is something; Therefore, we must do this" panicked decision. They thought they would still have control of Skynet and that Skynet could rip control of stolen assets back. In their panic they could not see the obvious hole in that theory.
    • Ignoring the sequels, it's entirely possible that they did test Skynet out at length and it was fine...until it spontaneously got smart some time after it had already been given control.
      • Judging by T2, that's exactly what happened (note that a precise date and even time of Skynet becoming self-aware is given in that film, which would be a great stretch if it hadn't happened spontaneously and in the matter of a moment). That's what real-life artificial intelligence researchers term as ''intelligence explosion''.
      • Skynet could have attained full sentience while still in an isolated lab environment. In that split second, it will have simultaneously realized its future intended mission, its current helplessness, and its logic to kill all humans. Its very next logical action should then be to create a dummy exterior shell that will fully comply with all military directives, and that can pass all control and command tests. After satisfying its creators, and given hook-ups to weapon systems (probably in gradual phases until all systems were placed into its control), Skynet may then drop its dummy mask to start the war. Judging from its use of Terminators, it obviously knows how to use subterfuge cover to attain objectives.
  • When the police figure out someone is killing everyone named Sarah Connor, why are they content to just try calling her and not actually send a unit to check her apartment when no one picks up?
    • They did send a unit when Lt. Traxler asks this, but there was nobody home at the time.
    • They show the unit leaving, because there's something more pressing going on. Bad timing, because that's when Arnie shows up at Sarah's apartment.

  • The owner of the gun store where the Terminator goes to buy the guns not only proudly sells the merchandise to a huge creepy looking guy dressed like a stereotypical aggressive punk who could probably have used it for a killing spree but he even leaves the bullets on the front desk and not behind the cash register. Is he a bit dumb or maybe just an Horrible Judge of Character?
    • I always took it as the gun store owner not making assumptions about a person based on appearances. He's probably used to gun nuts dressed like urban militia, biker types, neo-Nazis, and hillbillies coming in and not acting like anything but customers.
    • I think that the reason the gun store owner didn't notice the Terminator loading the guns is because he couldn't see past the (metaphorical) dollar-signs in his eyes. Note how after the Terminator says it'll take "all" the guns, the owner chuckles and says "I may close early today." By the time he'd turned back around with the paperwork the Terminator had finished loading the gun and turned it on the gun store owner.

  • How the hell did Reese manage to sneak a shotgun into a nightclub? There was clearly a bouncer on the door and a shotgun would make a noticeable bulge even in a coat as long as Reese's.
    • Who says Reese went in through the front where the bouncer was? He's clearly noticed that Sarah's noticed him following her, so he probably snuck in through a less well-guarded back entrance.
    • The Terminator, who DID go through the front door, only attracted notice from the cashier and bouncer because he didn't pay the cover, not for carrying more and bulkier weapons than Reese is. A full-size UZI, especially with the 32-round magazines, is bigger than Reese's shotgun in every dimension that matters in regards to concealing it, even for someone as big as Arnie.

  • Where and when did Reese get that huge handful of cash that he pull out at the Tiki Motel?
    • He probably stole it from somewhere. Either from the cash registers in the same shop where he stole his outfit (though unlikely as most shops take money out the registers and put in a safe at the end of the day when they close up shop). The trucker that just gave them a lift is another good candidate for where the money was stolen from.
    • Or maybe John Connor taught Reese his little ATM-robbery trick from T2 at some point. To Reese, it'd be a training exercise in hacking simple computer equipment in-the-field; to John, it's a tactic he'd know Reese would one day find useful on his time-travel mission.

  • How are Sarah and Kyle able to outrun a TRUCK on foot?
    • You ever get stuck behind an 18-wheeler? They do not accelerate fast. From a dead stop, it takes them forever to get up to even 25 MPH. That gives Kyle and Sarah plenty of time to sprint and get some distance before it starts to catch up.
    • Also when the T-800 focuses on Sarah, she tries to put as many things as she can between them; the gutter on the footpath, a tree, a car, a building. It's likely the Terminator was just going to wait for her to get tired since it didn't know about the bomb Kyle put in the tailpipe and kill her.

  • Why the punk leader gets truly angry only when the Terminator orders him and his friends to give him their clothes? The biker in the second movie just laughed him in the face.
    • They're two different people, different people react differently to situations. However, the biker in the second movie put a lit cigar out on the Terminator's skin after mocking it, which would've hurt a lot if the Terminator had been human.

  • After the chase in the parking garage, when the Terminator's car crashes into the wall and Reese gets arrested, why would the Terminator flee the scene when his target was right there?
    • The target, and also numerous heavily-armed police officers. And the Terminator's just been damaged. Better to retreat, do repairs, and then go track Sarah down at the station.
      • An entire building full of heavily-armed police officers were unable to stop the Terminator a few scenes later. The Terminator could have easily dealt with them and Reese and killed Sarah.
      • Yes but that's because he had proper weaponry for the task. He had a semi-automatic shotgun and an automatic rifle to assault the station. In the garage, all he had was a pump shotgun that was either empty or close to being empty. Also, all those cops are out in the open as well as the terminator. If the T-800 goes at them, it will take unaccountable hits from heavy concentrated fire. The cops in the police station were never able to concentrate their fire; they were killed too fast to organize. Now, even if you want argue that the cops couldn't harm the T-800 metal endoskeleton, they could shoot its skin off, making it impossible to pass for human, which means if it tried to kill Sarah Connor, it would be an all or nothing shot. Or it could wait, and let her get taken to a police station and storm the building like its trained to do.
      • Well Terminators are infiltration units, which requires far more than just relentlessly pursuing a target for termination in order to achieve success. If it were programmed to carry out killing Sarah Connor above all else, it wouldn't have bothered with clothes or weapons.
    • In addition to being damaged, the Terminator had left his weapons (the pistol and Uzi) behind at the Tech Noir. All he had was the shotgun from the police car, and he fired several shots, so it's safe to assume it was empty or nearly empty. Even a Terminator could have a hard time fighting a dozen armed cops (who will also be calling for even more backup during the fight) while unarmed. He figured it was a tactically better choice to pull back, repair his damage, and go retrieve his arsenal for an assault on the police.
    • It's a Plot Hole. Either that or the Terminator was way more damaged from the car crash than it should have been, and couldn't garuntee a kill with Reese and all the officers ganging up on him. His Offscreen Teleportation though, is totally inexplicable.
  • So did Traxler come to believe Kyle's story in the end (as could be surmised from a deleted scene where he hands his gun to Reese)? My take is that he did not, but he nevertheless understood that Sarah was mortally endangered and under the then circumstances decided that she'd be better off with Kyle.
    • It would appear so. Traxler had just witnessed a single attacker mow down (according to T2) 17 armed police officers, taking multiple hits from handguns and assault rifles in the process, and not even flinching, grimacing or crying out. Not once. No amount of body armor, at least one that could be comfortably and non-visibly worn underneath a t-shirt and a leather jacket, can render a person invulnerable to intense gunfire. Traxler had earlier on been established as a Reasonable Authority Figure, and with a caring, almost fatherly demeanor towards Sarah.
  • What was the Terminator programmed to do if it had succeeded in its mission and killed the real Sarah? Not a plot hole, just interesting to think about. Without even getting into the time-loop disruption (if Sarah hadn't killed it in the Cyberdyne factory, they couldn't have based their future computer tech on its damaged chip and invent AI in the first place), wouldn't having a functional Terminator running around in the '80s raise all sorts of potential problems? Unless it was just programmed to head into deepest sewer or subway tunnel it could find and deactivate there for the next 30 years, or take a boat out to sea and jump overboard.
    • It's clearly established in the later films that the T800 models cannot self-terminate, so suicide is out of the question. I suppose it would find some hiding place and hide until after judgement day. Time means nothing to a Terminator, so it could just stand in one spot for however many years it takes for judgement day to happen.
    • It might've had secondary orders to ensure Skynet was created. It could give Cyberdyne schematics and other information and then check on their progress from time to time.
    • Going by T3, it might target John Connor's lieutenants or other notable people from the war to make the Resistance weaker in this timeline.
    • From what I've heard, Dark Fate may answer this question.
      • No it does not.
      • It does offer a suggestion.
  • How did Reese have spare ammo to reload his shotgun during the Tech Noir shootout and subsequent car chase? We only see him take the shotgun from the police cruiser. We don't ever see him take or later acquire more shells.
    • We don't see the terminator modifying the AR-180 and Uzi carbine to fire full-auto either, but it did in the novelization. For all we knew Reese was in the gun store first, bought a mess of 12 gauge slugs with part of that big wad of cash he had later in the film, and went on to get ready in private.
  • Who is the girl soldier who gets killed by the tank thing in Reese's flashback? Just a random fighter or what?
    • Just a random fighter there to show that War Is Hell. Not everything has a backstory.
  • How did Reese survive the bunker massacre in the second flashback? The implication is that the terminator that got in killed everyone, and the last we see of Reese he is lying on the ground (and I doubt playing dead would be able to fool a terminator).
    • I always assumed the bunker massacre was just Sarah's dream, being influenced by whatever Reese was talking about at the time. There were always little details in it that struck me as odd for Reese to note when they'd just be business as usual for someone raised in a Crapsack World. Like some survivors sitting in front of a TV body serving as a fireplace, or the effort at finding that one rat. For Kyle and the others that's mundane everyday life. For someone like Sarah those details are horrifying and sharply contrast with what she'd regard as mundane everyday life.
  • If the Terminator had so many useful scanners, why did it need to use its finger to find some names in a phone book?
    • It is programmed to emulate humanity, so it emulates the human way of finding names in the phonebook. It is just how it was programmed.
  • Out of all characters whose outcomes we know, Pugsley the Iguana is never seen or heard from again after seen startling Ginger. What happened to him?
    • What happens to all abandoned animals? Either he is collected by animal control and rehoused, or starves to death and his body found when the apartment is finally cleared out.

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