Last night's Terminator episode was pretty much pure win. I love the "dysfunctional family trapped in a cabin with a monster outside" thing. It's always a recipe for goodness. And once again, we saw the show building on the Terminator mythos from the movies without going too far off the reservation. Spoilers ahead.

If you missed last night's episode — if you're one of those people who calls yourself a science fiction lover but disdains this show — you missed out. We followed the same dysfunctional family, the Fields clan, through three different time frames. First, there was the present, where Sarah and Cameron rescue the Fieldses from a Terminator that's there to kill one of them. (And along the way we discover that Mr. Fields is doing illegal dealings with a cybernetics company, and Mrs. Fields is having an affair with a douchebag next door.) And then, six months from now, Mr. Fields is dead and Mrs. Fields is dying of a gunshot wound while giving birth to the douchebag's baby. And finally, in the year 2027, the baby grows up to have the crucial immunity to a deadly pathogen unleashed by the killer cyborgs.

Terminators Always Come In Through The Front Door

I'm a sucker for that kind of family drama, where an outside threat suddenly stirs up all sorts of secrets. (Except for the Fields' daughter, who apparently isn't a lesbian after all, to the great disappointment of one of my friends who was watching this episode with us.) Sure enough, a certain amount of melodrama is built into the format, but I don't mind melodrama with killer robots. And it works pretty well here — you can see in the clip above, just as the drama is verging on ridiculous ("Your core is a slut!") suddenly, you get a moment of genuine pathos and nobility, when Mr. Fields volunteers to die for his family (in vain, it turns out.)

All of the regular cast members were on pretty much top form here. Sarah was once again the right kind of psycho — psycho and competent, crazy with a purpose. The way Derek refers to her — "Until Sarah Connor walks through that door, this is the safest place to be" — was just note perfect. And Derek was once again totally magnetic, remembering his first meeting with Jesse, keeping the slightly bratty Fields girl in check, and not even taking any guff from the dying pregnant lady. Cameron got a few great moments too — I love the moment where Sarah and Cameron both say "no" simultaneously to bringing the dog along. Jesse was back to being her awesome sarcastic self.

Terminators Always Come In Through The Front Door

I wish I could say that my love for last night's episode had nothing to do with the absence of John Connor and his cat fancy girl. Honestly, the best I can say, though, is that I admire this show for trying lots of different stuff with its format. This week's episode was about as different from last week's as you can get. Well, actually, they were both a bit melodramatic, but this one felt more like a horror movie, and less like a teen romance. (And of course, last week's 1920s segments were unlike anything the show's ever done, or will likely ever do.) Even when this show stumbles, I appreciate the inventiveness.

Terminators Always Come In Through The Front Door

The other thing that was bold about this episode was the way it tossed you in the deep end with Derek and the pregnant Mrs. Fields — and then tossed you in the deep end again, with Sarah and the Fields bunch under attack. It's not a show that seems desperate to pander to new viewers — which may be why it seems to be stuck fluctuating in the 5.2-5.9 million range.

Terminators Always Come In Through The Front Door

If, as seems pretty likely, this is the last season for Sarah Connor, the Terminator franchise will still have benefited massively from all of the new ideas it's brought up. I could get smacked around for asking this, but was this the first time we've seen Skynet using biological warfare? Also, I really want to see an episode all about the reprogrammed T-888 captaining a submarine — especially if Beastwizard can play the tinny in question.

Terminators Always Come In Through The Front Door

Other random stuff:

Poor Charles Barkley. I guess the Terminator got him.

Sarah got to be a role model to a young person without us having to hear about how she's a terrible mom. Yay.

I loved the whole digression about rabbits from Jesse. Nice shout-out to the movie Rabbit-Proof Fence.

I got stupidly misty when Derek said he wasn't waiting to die, he was waiting for Jesse. Awww.

What did you think?