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Episode Studies by Clayton Barr

at popapostle dot-com
Terminator: Automatic for the People "Automatic for the People"
Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles
TV episode
Written by Natalie Chaidez
Directed by Jeffrey G. Hunt
Original air date: September 15, 2008


A cryptic message from a dying resistance fighter puts Sarah and Cameron to saving a nuclear power plant for the future.


Read the story summary at the Terminator Wiki


Didja Know?


The title of this episode is presumably in reference to the 1992 music album by alternative rock group R.E.M. Why? I don't know. It might be argued that both the album and this episode explore the theme of how one's identity changes as one grows older, but it's a stretch.


Actress Busy Phillips' pregnancy as Kacy Cotton in several episodes of this season of the series was not faked. The actress really was 8 months pregnant during shooting!


Notice that Cameron seems to glitch in minor ways several times in the episode. This is both a follow-up to the damage she received as seen in "Samson and Delilah" and a foreshadowing of her Allison personality coming to the fore as will be seen in "Allison from Palmdale".


Characters appearing or mentioned in this episode


Wells (Resistance fighter, named in "Complications", dies in this episode)

Sarah Connor (also uses the alias Kara to work at the power facility)

John Connor

Derek Reese

Cameron (uses the alias Cindy in this episode)

Riley Dawson

Mr. Hendrickson (teacher, mentioned only)

Mr. Amadon (teacher, mentioned only)

Kacy Cotton

Michelle Dixon

Agent Ellison

Charley Dixon

Carl Greenway (dies in this episode)

M. Buckwald

Mr. Nelson


S. Collins

Bradbury (Automite Systems spokesman, really Catherine Weaver)

Catherine Weaver


Didja Notice?


As the episode opens, a homeless man is seen sitting under the awning of Fawzi Abu Men's Clothing. The awning shows the business' phone number as 212-198-MENS and website This appears to be a fictitious business. The 212 area code listed in the phone number is actually a New York area code, not Los Angeles.


As the time traveller materializes, notice at 1:16 on the Blu-ray that we see the bullet that injures him is seen to exit his body during the transport, indicating the bullet was fired in the future and it traveled back in time with him. It must have entered his body while he was still in the future because non-living material cannot make the time-displacement journey; then it exited his body in the present.

Time-travelling bullet


After arriving in the present, the resistance fighter runs off clutching his chest wound. Then the scene does a snap cut to the figure of the crucified Jesus figure, also wounded in the chest, at the M. Jesus El Salvador del Mundo church.


Cameron's skin and flesh is seen to heal much more rapidly than that of a human.


The gun seen in the Dixon home at 8:07 on the Blu-ray is a Smith & Wesson Model 66 revolver.


Charley calls his wife, Michelle, "Mich" as a nickname.


At 9:06 on the Blu-ray, Sarah sees a barcode tattoo on the arm of the man who crashes into the house through the glass, letting her know he is a resistance fighter from the future.


At 9:12 on the Blu-ray, Cameron carries a Colt M4A1 while checking the perimeter around the house.


Sarah assumes that the resistance fighter was sent by future-John and that's how he knew where to find the Connors in their new rental house.


The resistance fighter dies from his gunshot wound. The later episode "Complications" identifies him as Wells. The name is probably borrowed from that of science-fiction writer H.G. Wells (1866-1946), author of the 1895 novel The Time Machine.


At 10:20 on the Blu-ray, a Resistance fighter in the future shoots down an aerial HK with an M141 SMAW-D rocket launcher.


    The Serrano Point Nuclear Power Plant of Avila Beach, CA seen in this episode is fictitious. There is a real world nuclear power plant in Avila Beach called Diablo Canyon Power Plant. Avila Beach is about 180 miles north of L.A.

    Serrano Point is later seen to be a resistance base in the future in "Alpine Fields" and "Today is the Day" Part 1.


The taco truck seen at 13:32 on the Blu-ray is a 1985 Grumman-Olson Kurbmaster.


Riley tells John that she went to St. Bibiana school until ninth grade. This appears to be a fictitious school made up for the episode.


At 13:42 on the Blu-ray, the Warner Bros. Records building can be seen in the background at 3300 Riverside Drive. This is right next to the Warner Bros. Studios lot where the series was shot.


The song playing at the bar when Sarah walks in is "Workin' Man" by Doug Lacy.


Sarah tells Carl that she just moved to the area from Elgin, Texas and Carl says that's near Corpus Christi. Elgin is actually over 200 miles from Corpus Christi; I'm not sure I'd really call that "near" (I guess in Texas terms if might be!). He also tells her he was once stationed at Ingleside Naval Base. Ingleside is a suburb of Corpus Christi; the Naval base there closed in 2010.


The jukebox seen at 18:54 on the Blu-ray is a Seeburg, possibly a 1954 Seeburg R.


Both Sarah and Mr. Nelson are seen drinking Penzburg beer at the bar. Penzburg is a fictitious beer brand that has appeared in a number of 21st century TV shows.


At 22:37 on the Blu-ray, the neon sign indicates the bar is called the Busted Atom.


    At 22:54 on the Blu-ray, Carl's vehicle registration shows it was issued on December 10, 2007 and indicates the vehicle is a Ford. The episode must then take place sometime after this date. However, both Sarah and Riley indicate it is November 16 (2007) in this episode.

    Since it is, at this point, two days after John's birthday, this places his birthday in this timeline on November 14. In Judgment Day, John's birthday is stated to be February 28, 1985, which makes sense since he would have to be born 9 months after his conception in May 1984 (when Sarah and Kyle made love in The Terminator).


Carl's address on the registration is 202 Agave Drive, Unit B, Los Angeles, CA 90073. There is no Agave Drive in Los Angeles. The zip code 90073 is a legitimate L.A. zip code.


The pick-up truck the vandal pulls up in at 23:02 on the Blu-ray is a 1971 Ford F-Series with CA license plate 2BAI142.


At 26:45 on the Blu-ray, the star pattern on the ceiling of John's bedroom is in the shape of the Orion constellation. Since the series has a number of nods to the first two Terminator films throughout, this one may be a nod to Orion Pictures, the company that released The Terminator.


Riley builds a robot out of Legos.


This episode establishes that the Connors have their contacts use the day's date as an identifier whenever they call on the phone. This seems to be a setup by the writers for the next episode, "The Mousetrap", in which Cromartie learns of this identifier and uses it against them. Later in the episode, we also see that the Connors/Derek respond to the day/month identification with the year.


At 28:10 on the Blu-ray, there appears to be a production crewmember in a striped shirt and shorts visible through the chain-link fence behind Sarah inside the power plant.


Charley's house address is seen to be 1244 at 31:55 on the Blu-ray, but the street name is never depicted. His car is a Toyota Land Cruiser J60 with CA license plate 2ABM53. Notice that the "Toyota" logo on the front grill has been, uh, vandalized to hide the brand name.


Agent Ellison is seen to drive the same car he drove in "What He Beheld".


The terms seen on the computer screen at the nuclear power plant at 34:05 on the Blu-ray (such as PWR, drywell, vessel, and wetwell) are actual terms used in the containment of nuclear reactors.


At 36:03 on the Blu-ray, Derek arrives at the power plant in a Dodge Ram pick-up.


The security guard at the power plant at 37:23 on the Blu-ray is carrying a Colt M4A1. Sarah knocks him out and takes the weapon during the reactor crisis.


A Jeep parked at the Connors' new rental home has CA license plate 2SBI653; the Jeep is later used by Cameron and the Connors in "Goodbye to All That" and "Alpine Fields". This same plate appeared earlier in the series on two different vehicles (in "No One is Ever Safe" and "Heavy Metal")!


At the end of the episode, Sarah discovers a list of names and places written in blood in the basement of the new Connor home. It was written by Wells before he stumbled into the house earlier in the episode. Many of the names factor into future episodes, but a few are left seemingly unexplained. A list of the words and some speculation about them can be found at the Terminator Wiki.

bloody wall


The owners of Serrano Point Nuclear Power Plant enter into a partnership with Automite Systems. This is a fictitious company specializing in the development of artificially intelligent systems. Since the spokesman turns out to be Catherine Weaver morphed into another alias, Automite is probably a subsidiary of her ZeiraCorp company.


The TV stations seen to be covering the Automite announcement are fictitious ones for the L.A. area.


Unanswered Questions


Who shot the unnamed resistance fighter (identified in a later episode as Wells) in the future just before he was teleported to 2007?


Why does the flesh of the Carl Greenway Terminator "burn" away after Cameron throws him into the electrical system of the power plant? The body seems to be burned down to only the endoskeleton.


How did Skynet happen to have a Terminator in the form of Carl Greenway to infiltrate the power plant? He doesn't seem to have been a T-1000 model since his metal endoskeleton is seen after Cameron throws him into the electrical system of the power plant.


Memorable Dialog


way to flatter a girl.mp3

I feel like a whale.mp3

do you think about the future.mp3

girls are complicated.mp3 


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