How on earth could Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles follow up with the excitement that was Cameron going bad and the introduction of the new T-1001 model, Catherine Weaver (played by the delectable Shirley Manson)? Why with a possible nuclear holocaust, of course. A Terminator is sent back in time to cause a nuclear meltdown, and the Connors and crew must stop them in this episode - Automatic for the People.
The episode starts with a man being sent back in time, bringing with him a large hole in his chest, clearly a resistance member shot while trying to use the time-travel device. He steals some clothes and runs off, and we quickly cut over to the chapel where the Connors are hiding.
Sarah remains skeptical about whether or not Cameron can be trusted, and asks Derek for advice. He responds by saying he spent the evening praying. Despite John's assurances that it was a minor malfunction, Sarah remains unconvinced. John notices that Cameron is healing quickly, and asks her if she's ok. Cameron says that he can't be trusted anymore, he's taking too many chances, and that it upsets her.
The decision is made that the best thing for John right now would be to go back to school - a little bit of boring could be good for him. However, Sarah makes the decision that this time around Cameron won't be returning to school with him. When John gets to school, he feels decidedly disconnected, and ends up cutting his first class of the day to go and sit out on the lawn, where he remains for most of the day. While sulking out there, he is approached by a very attractive blonde named Riley, who calls him a weirdo and comments on him being there all day. She ignores John's efforts to make her leave and insteads suggests that they go cut class together and get some food - with him paying, of course.
Meanwhile, realizing that they can't very well stay holed up in the chapel, Sarah is off house-hunting. Unsurprisingly, she's less interested in typical selling features of the house then it's defensive abilities. The house, fortunately, is already furnished since it's just a sublet. The woman showing the house is the potential next-door neighbor and seven months pregnant, and I already forsee future "wacky neighbor hijinks". The Connor's take the home, of course.
Agent Ellison goes to visit the Dixon's - although Charley isn't there at first. Michelle (his wife), lets Ellison in, and shows that Charley had brought a gun into the house, commenting on the fact that Charley hates guns. Charley returns, and Ellison informs him that they need to talk.
Back at the Connors' new homestead, Sarah is trying to settle in when the injured time-traveler from the episode's beginning breaks in. He tries to tell them to stop Greenway, and warns them about the danger at the power plant while Sarah and Derek tries to save him. Although Derek offers to take care of the problem at the power-plant himself, Sarah refuses to let him go alone, saying that it's too likely that people will end up dead if things are done his way.
After a brief future-flashback, where we see Derek attacking the power-plant, we get to see Derek, Sarah and Cameron outside the plant, where they are preparing to sneak in to find Greenway. Sarah and Cameron manage to get in as "temps", after watching a brief, amusing training video. While getting the tour of the plant, Cameron manages to identify Greenway by scanning the ID badges of the employees.
While things may be going ok for the Connor clan, things are less happy in the Dixon home. Charley and Agent Ellison have just finished telling Michelle about the fact that Sarah and John are alive, and that machines from the future, disguised as ordinary humans, have been sent to kill them. Michelle, for obvious reasons, has trouble accepting this - even with Charley trying to explain that his feelings for Sarah are gone. Ellison warns Charley that he and Michelle need to leave, since the Terminator's could track them down.
John and Riley are off sneaking a snack where they talk a bit about themselves, with John being his typical dour self, and Riley sending him every sort of possible signal that "Hey, I dig you." John, eventually picks up on this, and asks if she wants to come see the new house.
Inside the power plant, we get some needed exposition about the source of the potential disaster - with the plant being close to going online, its' essential that the cooling process be set-up right. Sarah chats up Greenway to try to get information, and picks up his pill bottle. Greenway is called away by a plant official, who has a disagreement with him about the activation of the plant, and Sarah follows. She sees the two argue, although she is unable to hear what the argument is about.
Riley and John arrive at the new Connor house (which John somehow has a key to, despite not having seen the house yet.) John is nervous and Riley teases him about never having taken a girl home before, and the two investigate the house.
Greenway is sitting at a bar after getting off work, and Sarah follows him in to chat him up and pump him up for information. Cameron, meanwhile, scans the bar, and tries to re-find her feminine wiles by flirting with some guys playing pool. Of course, she's really just doing this to get more opportunities to scan ID badges. Unsurprisingly, with a computer brain and precise contol of superhumanly strong muscles, she's a natural at pool. Sarah finds out that Carl Greenway is a cancer survivor, which freaks her out considering her impending death by cancer. Greenway explains that a cancer survivor in a nuke plant is automatically a black sheep, but he says that the reason he's drinking alone isn't because of that.
Outside the bar, Derek breaks into Greenway's car to get more information on him. While rifling through Greenway's effects, someone else goes up and smashes out the window. Initially, Derek thinks that he's under attack, but when the person flees without seeing him in the car, it becomes obvious that the target was actually Greenway.
Cameron, meanwhile, is finding that she has a natural talent as a pool hustler, having collected a good sum of cash from the men she's been playing. The three Connors meet where they exchange information about the smashing, and Sarah explains that Greenway's enemies come from his caution. Greenway has a record for stopping tests if the safety measures aren't up to par, and people in town worry that if he stops the upcoming test, the plant may be shut down - taking away jobs. The dilemma comes from the fact that if Greenway stops the test, the plant may be shut down, preventing the Resistance from using the plant in the future. But if the test isn't stopped, and things aren't safe, the plant may melt down, killing millions and pushing things closer to Judgment Day. Either way, Skynet wins.
Riley and John continue their exploration of the new house when Sarah, Derek and Cameron come back. John introduces Riley to the "family", leading Sarah to immediately pull John away to talk. Sarah isn't thrilled about John bringing a girl home - especially one John barely knows. When Riley offers to leave, John instead takes her upstairs to his room. Sarah considers interrupting them, but instead leaves them alone. Cameron, instead, begins creating a new ID card for the plant, using a barcode she visually scanned.
In John's room, John and Riley discuss the future, which John surprises Riley by telling her how much he considers the future. The two of them, surprisingly, end up spending the night talking and not doing anything else.
The next day, at the plant, Sarah follows the foreman who had the argument with Greenway. She follows him in to a "hot" room, possibly setting up the cancer diagnosis Cameron warned her lies in her future. Sarah is discovered by the foreman, who tells her to suit up and clean up a spill in the radioactive material room. Panic overtakes her, and she is unable to stay in the room, but when she leaves she finds that she has been exposed. She is taken away to be scrubbed down, a very unpleasant and slightly humiliating process, where she is hosed down by several other people still wearing rad suits.
John wakes up to find that Riley is still in his room. She stayed the night, and woke up early, she spent her morning build John a robot/big scary man to protect him while he slept. She tells him she's heading out to try to make it to English, though John says he'll probably skip it again today. She asks to call him, and John programs his number into her phone, explaining that whenever she calls she needs to start off by saying the day and date.
Sarah, meanwhile, has been deemed clean and is given her clothes back, where she's told that she wasn't actually radioactive. It was a "hiccup". In other words, it was done to embarrass and humiliate her.
Ellison helps the Dixons get on the road, although Michelle is still clearly unhappy with Charley. Ellison hands Charley a bible to help him get through things, but says that he may be staying behind.
Greenway, however, is acting unlike himself. When a subordinate says that everything is fine for the test to proceed, overriding any possible safety considerations, Sarah realizes that things are off. This is made worse when she notices the lack of scar on his arm. She calls Derek, who is inside Greenway's house. In the home, Derek finds Greenway's body, making it clear that the Greenway inside the plant is a Terminator. Sarah comes to this same realization just as the plant goes online.
Mecha-Greenway makes his way through the plant where he begins to sabotage measures, ensuring that a meltdown will occur. Sarah finds Cameron and warns her about the problem, and Cameron doesn't immediately respond, saying she's thinking about what to do. Sarah finds this suspicious and unlikely. One of the other plant officials runs off to tell the foreman that there's a problem with the plant, and that Greenway has lost his mind. But while this is occurring, Mecha-Greenway slaughters everyone in the control room.
Derek rushes to the plant to help, while Cameron tries to avert the melt-down. She is attacked by Mecha-Greenway, and the two have a nice little Terminator-on-Terminator battle. Sarah forces her way back into the "hot" room where she then proceeds to the main reactor. She sees Cameron and Mecha-Greenway fighting, and shoots him repeatedly, which lets Cameron throw him into a transformer, burning off his false flesh and exposing his endo-skeleton. Derek (who managed to find a way there that doesn't involve running through the "hot" room) arrives just in time for Cameron to finish shutting down the valve Mecha-Greenway had sabotaged.
Cameron hides the Terminator remains in a vat of "radioactive waste", along with the security tapes that show what happened in the plant. Later, Cameron scans Sarah and tells her that she's clean. Sarah tries to find out if the days events are the ones that lead to her cancer diagnosis, and when she presses Cameron on the issues, asking if she's a time bomb that's just going to go off someday, Cameron responds in turn with "Am I?"
Leaving Sarah, Cameron goes into the house to talk to John about Riley. When John asks her if Riley is safe, Cameron responds that girls are complicated. John also tells Cameron that he doesn't have to prove his trustworthiness to anyone - including her. Cameron walks away, just as Riley calls John with the appropriate password (date and month). When he asks what she called about, she responds "just testing" before hanging up.
Back outside, Sarah notices some bloody marks on their outside porch. She tracks the blood to find that their "guest" from the opening of the episode has written numerous other warnings, in addition to the one about Greenway, but did so in his own blood before he burst in on her. Sarah shows the message to the others and then goes to take a long, and much needed, hot shower.
The episode ends with a Press Conference that the power plants are joining with "Automated Systems" to automate and perfect the security process. The executive gets into his car, where he morphs back into the shape of Catherine Weaver. It turns out that everything is proceeding exactly according to Skynet's plan.
Be back here in seven for the ominous sounding The Mousetrap.