A stargate malfunction causes the wormhole to shut down while Teal'c is still en route to Earth, trapping his energy signature in the gate's "memory buffer", and the team is given just 48 hours to resolve the situation before normal operations resume and Teal'c is lost for good. While Carter works on the technical side of things, Daniel travels to Moscow along with Major Davis to negotiate for access to the Russian stargate, and O'Neill joins forces with Maybourne to investigate Colonel Simmons, who hints that he knows more than he's willing to share.
First appearance of Dr. Rodney McKay.
"48 Hours" provides examples of the following tropes:
- Ask a Stupid Question...:McKay: Is there lemon on the chicken?Server: ...It's lemon chicken.
- BFG: Teal'c uses a dismounted Death Glider cannon in the opening scene.
- Blackmail: Simmons attempts to blackmail Hammond into giving him a Goa'uld hand device in exchange for the information on how to get Teal'c out of the gate.
- But He Gets the Job Done: Implied to be the reason that Hammond sends Daniel to Moscow rather than somebody who is actually a trained diplomat.Hammond: (into phone) I'll get our best man for the job on a plane right away. [...] (to Daniel) The "best man" I was talking about is you.
- Butt-Monkey: Siler gets electrocuted by the excess energy when they get the gate running again.
- Call-Back: O'Neill explains Teal'c disobeying orders to take down Tanith as a "Jaffa revenge thing".
- Character Name Alias:Maybourne: If you need me, I'm at the Accent Inn, checked in under the name of Cassidy.O'Neill: David or Sean?Maybourne: Butch.
- Continuity Nod:
- O'Neill tries to attack Maybourne when he first shows up, still believing him to be the one who shot him in "Desperate Measures". Later, the two pay a visit to the Goa'ulded Adrian Conrad, who was introduced in the same episode.
- Daniel reminds Chekov that SG-1 recently risked their lives to search for a Russian team.
- Deadly Euphemism: Maybourne offers to have Simmons "taken care of" or "make him disappear". It's not entirely clear whether he's joking or not.
- Fantastic Racism: Simmons states that numerous Americans have lost their lives going through the gate and questions how Hammond can care more for Teal'c than "one of their own".
- Insufferable Genius: McKay.
- Jerkass Has a Point: Since it's long before his later Character Development set in, McKay is an unrepentant Jerkass in this episode, but he does have a point in that Carter's modifications to the dialing program have had disastrous consequences in the past.
- Passive-Aggressive Kombat: The negotiations with the Russians start out this way, before they degenerate into outright aggression.
- Plot Tailored to the Party: The episode is structured in such a way that each main character — apart from Teal'c — has a job to do that plays to their key strengths; Carter works on the technological, science-y side of the equation by working on how to actually get Teal'c out of the gate's buffer, Daniel gets to handle the negotiations and political wrangling, and O'Neill once again teams up with Maybourne and puts his black ops training to good use in investigating the NID involvement.
- Publicly Discussing the Secret: O'Neill and Maybourne have a fairly loud argument specifically mentioning the Goa'uld and O'Neill getting shot in the middle of a public parking lot.
- Race Against the Clock: The team is given 48 hours to figure out how to get Teal'c back before they have to resume normal operations. It's later revealed that this was a totally arbitrary deadline based on McKay telling the Pentagon that Teal'c would already be dead.
- Sniping the Cockpit: Teal'c does this with Tanith's al'kesh at the beginning of the episode.
- Technician vs. Performer: The main difference in McKay's and Carter's approaches to tackling the problem; McKay puts his stock entirely in the theoretical principles of gate operation, while Carter is much more able to think outside of the box and come up with creative solutions.
- Teeth-Clenched Teamwork: Between Carter and McKay.
- Teleporter Accident: Tanith's al'kesh crashing into the DHD on the planet causes the wormhole to be terminated while Teal'c is still in transit, resulting in his energy signature getting trapped in the buffer.