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Recap / Stargate SG-1 S4 E3 "Upgrades"

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"I thought the devices were supposed to enhance them physically, not make them stupid!"
— Gen. Hammond

The Tok'ra scientist Anise comes to earth looking for human test subjects to trial armbands that are supposed to enhance the physical capabilities of the wearer. O'Neill, Carter and Daniel volunteer and enjoy the benefits of super speed and strength, but Hammond and Fraiser begin to worry that the devices are making them reckless — a fear that proves to be justified when they decide to defy orders and undertake a mission to sabotage a new ship being built by Apophis.

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First installment in the "Anise trilogy", featuring the first appearance of Anise/Freya.


"Upgrades" provides examples of the following tropes:

  • And a Diet Coke: Carter asks for a diet soda with her four steaks when she, O'Neill and Daniel break out of isolation to get food. She defensively explains that she "likes the taste better" when she catches the other two looking at her oddly.
  • Bar Brawl: The trio instigate one when one of the other patrons insults Daniel, with two much larger men standing up for each member of the team.
    Jack: Well... This is a cliche.
  • Battle Discretion Shot: When the aforementioned bar brawl takes place, the action cuts to exterior of the bar after O'Neill flips the first guy, with the sounds of the fight continuing on.
  • Beneficial Disease: It turns out that the armbands work by releasing a virus into the wearer's system, which somehow alters their physiology to enhance their natural capabilities. Unfortunately, this means that the effects only last until the body develops an immunity to the virus.
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  • Big Damn Heroes: Teal'c shows up when the armbands start to fail on Apophis's ship, taking out two Jaffa that had caught O'Neill and Carter off-guard while Daniel was unconscious. It's later revealed that he was actually acting on orders from Hammond.
    Teal'c: It seems my assistance is required after all.
  • Big Eater: In addition to ordering four steaks each at the bar, the trio are shown constantly snacking on energy bars once they put on the armbands. Anise explains that this is because their metabolisms have increased in order to cope with their bodies' new energy requirements.
  • Bullet Time: Happens when O'Neill and Carter dodge a staff blast from one of Apophis's Jaffa.
  • Call-Back: To "The Fifth Race"; O'Neill and Teal'c once again take part in a boxing match, but this time it is O'Neill who lays out Teal'c with one punch thanks to his increased strength.
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  • Clingy MacGuffin: Once the armbands are on, there's no way to remove them until the body develops an immunity to the virus and they come off on their own. Fraiser mentions at one point that she's tried everything short of surgically removing their arms; Hammond responds that he's keeping that option on reserve.
  • Comes Great Responsibility: Apparently this is the literal translation of the inscription on the armbands.
    Daniel: The inscription says "with great power comes great responsibility."
    Anise: And the ability to affect great consequences.
  • Continuity Nod: When Jack and crew escape tumbling back through the Stargate, he reminds Hammond that he was pulled back in from retirement at the end of “ A Hundred Days”.
  • Deadly Upgrade: In an indirect way. The armbands aren't deadly on their own, but they cause the wearers to act extremely recklessly and have a habit of falling off at the worst possible moment.
  • Distracted by the Sexy: Both O'Neill and Daniel seem to lose their train of thought when Anise/Freya comes through the stargate.
    O'Neill: [about the Tok'ra] It seems like every time they show up, there's all kinds of...
    [He trails off as Anise steps out of the wormhole.]
    Daniel: Yeah, that looks like trouble to me.
  • Does Not Know His Own Strength: O'Neill has a lot of these moments while he's adjusting to the armband. He accidentally knocks Teal'c out with one punch, breaks the device Anise gives him to measure his strength, kicks a chunk out of the drywall in Hammond's office, and knocks Siler down a flight of stairs with a friendly pat on the shoulder. Hammond later chews out the entire team — sans Teal'c — after their bar brawl because of this trope, pointing out that with their enhanced abilities they could easily have killed the men they were fighting.
  • Expy: Anise/Freya, who also appears in the next two episodes, was intended as a competitive response to Seven of Nine from Star Trek: Voyager. Her actress, Vanessa Angel, had even auditioned for Seven of Nine.
  • For Science!: Anise's primary motivation, which is why she is so willing to cut corners and seems not quite as concerned as she should be about the well-being of her subjects.
  • I Can Explain: As Hammond is about to give O'Neill, Carter and Daniel a dressing-down for sneaking off base and getting into trouble:
    Hammond: Can you explain to me why several witnesses put you people at a restaurant in town last night?
    O'Neill: Sir, I can't tell you how —
    Daniel: [talking over him] Sir, I can explain that. [Beat] ...No, I can't.
  • I'll Take Two Beers Too: When they're at the restaurant, O'Neill starts by ordering three steaks "with everything", then explains to the waitress, as she starts to walk away, that that's just for him. The other two follow suit by asking for the same, upping it to four steaks. And a diet soda for Carter.
  • Meaningful Name: Discussed:
    Anise: You may call me Anise.
    Daniel: Anise?
    Anise: It means "noble strength".
    Daniel: I'm Daniel. It means, uh, "God is my judge".
    O'Neill: I'm Jack. It means... [sighs] What's in the box?note 
  • Mildly Military: The team discuss their less-than-stellar track record at obeying orders when they realize that they've defied Hammond by leaving the base:
    Daniel: Well, it's not like we haven't defied orders before.
    Carter: Well yeah, but that was to save earth.
    O'Neill: Earth, steaks — there's a difference?
  • Minor Insult Meltdown: Daniel starts a bar brawl in response to some random guy calling him a geek. Jack even tells him to let it go, and Daniel decides "No, not this time."
  • No One Gets Left Behind: Taken to ridiculous extremes when the armbands stop working on a ship that they've just rigged to blow. Not only does O'Neill refuse to leave Carter when they're trapped on either side of an energy barrier, but Teal'c and Daniel refuse to go back to the stargate despite the fact that they're already off the ship and have no way of getting back on try and help the others.
  • Phlebotinum Breakdown: The armbands fall off of their own accord while the team are in the middle of a dangerous covert mission.
  • Readings Blew Up the Scale: Anise has O'Neill squeeze a device that looks like a small metal ball to measure his strength, which results in him crushing the ball in his hand.
  • Separated by the Wall: Carter and O'Neill end up trapped on either side of a forcefield when their armbands fail before Carter can get through but after O'Neill is already on the other side.
  • Some Kind Of Forcefield: The core of Apophis's ship is protected by forcefields which the team is able to pass through thanks to their enhanced speed allowing them to perceive the energy fluctuations in the barrier.
  • Super Speed: The armbands grant this to their wearers, allowing O'Neill, Carter and Daniel to escape the base before anyone notices they're gone, take out about a dozen Jaffa without pausing for breath, and pass between the energy fluctuations in Goa'uld forcefields.
  • Super-Speed Reading: O'Neill and Daniel are both shown to read an entire book in a matter of seconds, and Daniel mentions that he was able to cross-reference the language of the Atoneik against every language on earth in less than an hour. A variation also occurs where Carter takes the opportunity to write a book on wormhole physics, but is typing so fast that the computer is unable to keep up with her.
  • Super Senses: Implied to be another effect of the armbands, though it isn't given as much attention as the others. Carter mentions that she is able to see as well in the dark as she is in the light, and Daniel stops wearing his glasses, suggesting that his vision has been fixed.
  • Super Strength: The armband initially enhances O'Neill's strength to five times that of a normal human (which is sufficient to lay out Teal'c with one punch), and eventually makes him so strong he breaks the measuring device being used to gauge his strength. Later, Daniel carries extremely dense weapons-grade naquadah in his pack (which normally requires 2 Jaffa to carry), and all three members of SG-1 with the armbands manage to curb-stomp Jaffa with ease.
  • Teeth-Clenched Teamwork: Fraiser makes no secret of the fact that she neither likes nor trusts Anise, and is only tolerating her due to her knowledge of the armbands.
  • Tested on Humans: Anise needs human test subjects to study the effects of the armbands, since they don't work on the Tok'ra (since the symbiote nullifies the virus the armbands use as a vector for superpowers).
  • With Great Power Comes Great Insanity: A downplayed example; the armbands don't make them insane per se, just extremely reckless, impulsive and overconfident.
 
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