“I’m not sure that any of this is real,” Aaron tells Priscilla. And it isn’t – last night’s episode was almost completely in Aaron’s head, with bits and pieces of reality bleeding through. In a season of lackluster episodes, I’m not sure I believe that such a brilliant one was real! It was nice to have an hour without the plodding Willoughby storyline, or the going-nowhere Patriot one either. If it felt a little “Lost”-ish, that’s perfectly ok. This was Zak Orth’s shining hour – he doesn’t have the star looks of Billy Burke or David Lyons, but he does have most of the best lines and the quickest mind on the show.
Aaron wakes up, in his pre-event condo, with Priscilla, his pre-event wife, at his side. He goes to work, where he’s the boss, and is asked to help fix some code that his programmers can’t figure out. “Were you this incompetent when I hired you?” he asks them. But he’s been having little flashbacks and moments of uncertainty – he’s sure he recognizes the woman in the press conference talking about a non-lethal weapon that’s been developed (of course, it’s Rachel, talking about the nano’s intended use); he startles a bit at seeing Peter walk through the office; and he’s sure he’s seen that “little guy” during the announcement of the weapon being used against the Taliban. Yes, Aaron, you’ve seen him – he’s the man who killed your post-event girlfriend, Cynthia.
So when Charlie shows up at his office, kills one of the incompetent programmers and makes Aaron leave with her, he figures out that, as much as he wants it to be, this isn’t reality. The Charlie hallucination – “Belly-Shirt Girl” – is killed by Dr. Horn and his merry band; they chase him when he suddenly finds Rachel, who doesn’t know who he is; and they try to get to him when she takes him to Miles (now a drunk, trying to convince Rachel to come back to him) and to Monroe, who is the first to “remember” Aaron. Once Aaron’s mind is able to wake them up and get them to help in this virtual world, swords and crossbows appear, and this version of Horn is defeated.
But Aaron realizes he has to wake up. What normally wakes him up? Rachel asks. (“Snakes chasing me. Every time,” Monroe offers. “No one asked you,” says Miles.) For Aaron, falling in his dream always causes him to wake up. “Falling it is,” says Miles. “So we have to throw you off a building. With any luck you’ll wake up before you hit the pavement.” “And if I don’t…” says Aaron. “Either way, the nano won’t get the code,” Rachel adds. And all of a sudden they’re on top of Aaron’s pre-event apartment building. Standing on the ledge, Miles, Monroe and Rachel disappear, and Priscilla shows up to beg him not to do it, that if he repairs the code, he can stay in this world with her. And you can see he’s tempted, but he knows that’s not a possibility – Priscilla is really the nano begging him to fix it. He falls, and he does wake up – to Dr. Horn about to torture him. But Aaron as figured out by this time that he is lucid dreaming and can control the situation – to a point.
Finally, really woken up, Aaron and Priscilla head back to Willoughby. They’ve seen lights flickering as the nano begins to die, and when they are found by Rachel and Miles, they see the Patriots ransacking an old electronics store. But the nano’s not done – angry at being left to die, lightning strikes everywhere – and hits Rachel. To save her, Aaron must choose between ending the emergency and restoring power – and Rachel, he feels, is family – he’d rather live without power than without her.
The writing for this episode sparkled – from Miles asking Rachel “Who’s Beardy McGee?” to the Tom Neville Insurance Agency. We can’t live in Aaron’s quick mind forever, but maybe if he keeps dreaming like this, he can dream up an answer to where the Patriots came from, and keep working on a solution to this turtle-slow season! A third season is still up in the air – if we keep getting episodes like this, I’ll be happy to join in the fan clamor for renewal. Have a present – the Tom Neville Insurance Agency commercial.