Although “Nerve” and “The Hidden Memory” are considered a two-parter, technically they are actually a stealth three-parter, because although everything seemed to generally work out at the end of “A Bug’s Life,” the teaser of the very next episode reveals that they are still in a great deal of trouble. Aeryn is dying, because Larraq’s knife pierced a crucial nerve that can’t regenerate on its own and without which a Sebacean cannot survive–another harsh reminder of the differences between human and PK physiology–and the only way to save her is to get a tissue graft from a genetically compatible donor. But where to find a Sebacean tissue sample out here in the Uncharted Territories? Why, oh, yes, the Gammak Base to which Larraq had been heading! And how to infiltrate the base? By Crichton once again doing his Peacekeeper impression, only this time using Larraq’s identity and ident-chip that Chiana had swiped from him! It’s an ingenious solution both on writing and in-story levels, because it picks up immediately from the previous plot, it forces the team aboard Moya to once again do something they had hoped to never do again mere days later, using tools that had been made available to them in the previous episode, and it constitutes the first time that the people aboard Moya put themselves in this level of danger in order to save a shipmate.
Going after John in “Jeremiah Crichton” and “A Human Reaction” is one thing, as is banding together in the heat of battle to fight an enemy, the former because it doesn’t pose an immediate threat to their lives, and the latter because it’s mutually beneficial, but for John to actually submerge into the belly of the beast, slipping into a stronghold of their greatest enemies who have been hunting them down all season, by masquerading as one of them–a plan that is incredibly risky at best, monumentally stupid at worst–takes a level of dedication and love that is on an entirely different level than anything up to this point. This constitutes truly risking life and limb for each other in a way that only benefits the friend they are helping, and it is beautiful to behold–particularly the moment that even Rygel, when push comes to shove, agrees that “the only sensible course of action is…to do everything in our power to save Aeryn’s life.” Coming from the Hynerian who took a chomp out of her arm in the second episode, that is huge.
And nearly as impressive is the fact that Chiana volunteers to go down to the base with Crichton, taking on the same “server” role for “Larraq” as she did for John’s previous false PK identity. And although John is hesitant to bring her along, she argues that he could use back-up, as well as someone to distract attention away from him. This is the first time that Chiana really puts herself out there for her new friends aboard Moya, and again, it’s actually a selflessly motivated act. On some level, she might be getting a little tired of being cooped up on the ship and looking forward to some adventure, but this is more danger than she’d have to put herself through just for a thrill. What I think it really springs from is, again, that family meal at the end of “Through the Looking Glass”. After that experience, she really wants to be a part of this group and to prove herself to them, which probably surprises even herself on some level. And I love how John really gets in her face when trying to fully suss out her motives, because it continues to ride that fine line between older brother/younger sister and almost-sexual-tension that ripples in their relationship, but in a way completely distinct from how he interacts with Aeryn.
Shortly after arriving on the base, Crichton has his first real moment of danger when, after successfully getting past the first layer of security clearance (and thus again reiterating how large and widespread the Peacekeepers are; neither Crichton’s face nor Larraq’s are common knowledge to these people), he is nearly caught when they demand a hand scan for genetic verification. And yet after a remarkably tense scene beautifully drawn out by director Rowan Woods, John–seemingly miraculously–manages to fool the machine, with no immediate explanation given. And just when one might think, on a first viewing, that the writers had cheated, we find out the answer, and it is Gilina, the PK tech girl who had fallen for Crichton in…”PK Tech Girl,” and who had secretly overridden the security scan for him as soon as she noticed him in the officers’ lounge.
Gilina’s appearance is another example of really fantastic writing, drawing in a thread that had been established earlier in the season in a manner that pays off in numerous ways, one of the most prominent being that it demonstrates just how much Crichton has changed in the relatively short time that they’ve been apart. She’s actually taken aback by how hardened and distant he acts towards her, and while on the one hand, he is extremely on edge, given the life-and-death stakes regarding Aeryn, there are other factors at play. He’s no longer the more wide-eyed innocent he was when they first met, and he doesn’t know if he can trust her. Yes, they had that special time together, but having returned to their “real lives,” he doesn’t actually know whether she might have said anything to Crais, and furthermore, being even more acquainted with Peacekeepers than the last time they met, he’s even more uncomfortable with the idea of her continuing to help design/operate weapons for them. Furthermore, he has only just been through some very dark experiences, most significantly on the false Earth and in having to kill Larraq (and cope with the knowledge that he had unwillingly/unwittingly killed the scientist), not to mention the fact that his feelings for Aeryn have progressed since the last time they were together. And so while Gilina, sadly–tragically, even–still loves him wholeheartedly, his feelings for her have grown much more complicated. On one level, their paths couldn’t have crossed at a better time to help save Aeryn and later, him, while on the other, it couldn’t have happened at a worse time, given where his head is and where he and Aeryn are, emotionally speaking.