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Stargate | ‘Window of Opportunity' as a Metaphor for Pandemic Dating

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Stargate SG-1’s ‘Window of Opportunity’ (S4, Ep6) has always been one of my favorites. For those who haven’t seen it: While exploring Planet P4X-639, SG-1 gets caught in a Groundhog Day (1993) loop. Captain Jack O’ Neill (Richard Dean Anderson), the gruff commander, and Teal’c (Chris Judge), a member of the Jaffa who joined the team in the first episode, are the only ones who realize. At first, they try to convince Sam Carter (Amanda Tapping) and Daniel Jackson (Michael Shanks) of their circumstances. But when the loop starts again (and again. And again. And again.), Jack and Teal’c realize they’re on their own. They have to discover how they got trapped in this time loop — and how they can get out. 

Watching old episodes, I notice a lot of Jack’s bad habits. He deflects when asked to talk about his feelings, hiding behind quippy one-liners and arched eyebrows. He usually leaves the bonding and emotional intelligence parts of the job to Daniel, the archaeologist.

New planet that requires understanding the culture? Daniel’s territory. Reacting with compassion instead of frustration when faced with a new problem? Sounds like Daniel. But ‘Window of Opportunity’ lets you see all these habits back to back. They’re unrelenting. And it’s only then that you get a true appreciation for how much things are not working. Jack doesn’t have Daniel’s brain to help him translate the ruins on P4X-639 that could be the key to ending the time loop. With every loop, Daniel forgets what they translated. And, much to Jack’s chagrin, any notes or recordings disappear between loops too. Jack can’t rely on Daniel to help. He has to figure it out on his own. 

Daniel Jackson (Michael Shanks) and General Hammond (Don S. Davis) in ‘Window of Opportunity’ – S4, Ep6. | MGM, 2000.

See also: Video | Watch the Stargate A.I. Cast Readthrough Here

Groundhog Date

Dating in a pandemic can feel a lot like Groundhog Day. 

I first connected with The Teacher on a dating app. I had gotten used to having to strive for someone’s attention or boxing up my frustration when a person would respond with a few short phrases and no follow-up questions. Imagine my quiet delight when I would check my phone to see full sentences and paragraphs that showed our overlapping interests. We lived in two different states, 90 minutes apart. The weekend he and I were supposed to have our first date, he had to reschedule; he was new to ethical non-monogamy and his partner was panicking about him and I dating. He wanted to make sure she was okay. I went on a long bike ride, letting my heart rate rise and fall and pushing my frustration through my feet. Years before, I had dated someone who made plans confidently and broke them quietly. I played the Cool Girl and always pretended I didn’t care. This time, I would stick up for myself.

“I can appreciate you wanting to make sure she’s okay,” I texted him. “And it also makes me feel unimportant.”

He apologized. We talked about boundaries. I came home with a clearer head.

Finding another time to see each other proved challenging. There were Covid tests to take, waiting periods, real-life responsibilities. All the while, we kept talking. He would text me during the day. I would keep him company on the phone while he drove home from school. It was weeks before we had our first in-person date in a coffee shop that kept the windows open even in the chilly early-winter afternoon. 

Winter break offered a chance for us to spend time together with less risk. He would be on break from school; we both would be able to quarantine. We made a plan: Ten days of quarantine in our respective apartments. Then I could drive down to his apartment and we could spend the night together. “I’m excited to see you tomorrow,” I texted him the night before. I forced myself to watch Blackfish (2013), poke at Greek takeout, and not check my phone every ten minutes. 

See also: Stargate | SG-1’s Rules for the Perfect Sci-Fi Show by Kayleigh Dray

The morning of, I got a response. “Me too. I’m at my mom’s. Let me know when you’re headed here and I’ll drive back.”

I hadn’t left my apartment for more than daily walks in over a week. I had no idea how to fit my nonplussed reaction into a box that only fit 140 characters. Had he forgotten that we talked about this? I took a shower before tapping out a response. Did his mom work from home? In an office?

He understood my trepidation. As I was drying my hair, a text appeared. “Have I ruined everything?”

I didn’t want to have done this for nothing. Even though I was frustrated and annoyed, I still wanted to see him. This had been a plan weeks in the making. I told him I was on my way. After an hour and a half of checking how many miles left until I got there, I  pulled up in front of his apartment. I got there just as night crept up. He had gotten back from his mom’s only an hour before. 

After months of buildup, all I wanted was to touch him. I put my overnight bag on the kitchen table chair. Leather handles peeked out from the top of the bag. 

But after only about two hours, his touch slowed. He needed to talk to me. I heard the tone before I processed it. What was wrong? Nothing, he said. He was just emotionally exhausted. He really needed alone time tonight. “Do you mean you need the bedroom? Or the entire apartment?”

My brain might have added the wince when he said, “The entire apartment.”

My hair was mussed and my skirt pooled around my waist. I swallowed my frustration and outrage. I scraped the bottom of my emotional well and offered compassion and understanding. We were making dinner when the sadness started bleeding in. His partner had left a note on his kitchen whiteboard. “Eat more veggies.” A Christmas tree twinkled in the living room because she had wanted one. She was everywhere in the space. I wanted that. 

I left before 10 PM. I drove back in the dark with only the glow of the GPS for company.

I woke up the next day emotionally worn out. I meandered around my favorite bookstore and dove into comfort reads. I checked my phone with one eye open; I didn’t want to see a text from him. I didn’t want to fake being happy or pretend that him kicking me out after a few hours was fine. A few days later, he called. He wasn’t ready to do this. He loved the idea of having multiple partners. The reality was harder. 

Despite everything, it still hurt. When he asked me how I was doing, I deflected. “You don’t get to see that part of me anymore,” I remember thinking. I got off the phone without ever raising my voice or using a cutting word. 

The next day, I was making a tray of peanut butter cups, which required crushed graham crackers. Usually, I would toss graham crackers in a plastic bag and roll a glass jar over them. But this time, I put as many as the bag would hold and hurled them at the door. Thump. How. Thump. Dare. Thump. Him. 

See also: Stargate | Why the Aschen are SG-1’s Most Insidious Enemies by Timothy Wier

Jack O’Neill (Richard Dean Anderson) and Teal’c (Chris Judge0 in ‘Window of Opportunity’ – ‘Window of Opportunity’ – S4, Ep6. | MGM, 2000.

Thrown for a Loop

Once you’re stuck in these loops for so long, it’s hard to know what will make them stop, leaving you with a certain existential dread. After the — fifth? sixth? — loop, Teal’c finds Jack in the commissary glowering at a plate. Jack picks up a squirty, bright red ketchup bottle. He squeezes a stream of red high fructose corn syrup on his plate. “I’m telling you, Teal’c, if we don’t find a way out of this soon, I’m going to lose it.” At Teal’c’s confusion, Jack continues, switching out the ketchup bottle for the mustard. As he talks, he punctuates his sentences with more squirts onto the plate. “Lose it.” Squirt. “It means go crazy.” Squirt. “Nuts.” Squirt. “Insane. Bonzo. No longer in possession of one’s faculties. Three fries short of a happy meal. Wacko.” He holds up a plate with a smiley face drawn in ketchup and mustard. 

I dare you not to laugh at that scene. It’s gratifying watching someone who holds themselves so tight let go. But if you’re Jack? Let’s just say I know what it feels like.

Tipping Point

While I was dating The Teacher, I was also dating The Musician.

The Musician and I reconnected when work brought me to his city in November 2019. I went to visit him again in January 2020. I planned to be back in his city in half a year. Frustrating, but not impossible. But then: March 2020. All travel plans were off. 

We kept talking and video chatting. When I started talking to The Teacher, I turned to The Musician for support. I now understood what people meant when they talked about relationships informing each other, not replacing one other.

The Musician usually came to my coast for the holidays. We talked about seeing each other. I had roommates and he had elderly parents; I looked into us staying in a hotel for a few days. He would need to take several Covid tests. The day he was supposed to arrive, a snowstorm blew through. “Is your flight still on?” I texted him. He called me a few hours later. He didn’t want to take the risk with Covid. The snowstorm had cemented his decision to cancel his plans.

I drove down to see The Teacher soon after. And, well, you know how that ended. But when I told The Musician, I didn’t feel so alone. 

The Musician and I talked on the phone once every month, then once every two weeks. Then it seemed like we were talking once a week. And then multiple times a week. We were each living separate lives, but we still, somehow, managed to stay connected. 

Vaccines were available. Maybe I could visit him and enjoy the warm weather. On the phone one night, I told him what felt like a big, scary confession: I didn’t know what being together would look like, but I wanted to try. “I think you’re great,” he started. “Can I think about it?” 

I am the girl throwing herself against a stone wall again. And again. “Sure.” 

Later that week, I went to a smash room near my city. It’s a magical place where you can break shit safely. I wore a plastic safety mask, goggles, and gloves and got to choose my breakables. When I stepped inside the smash room, ’80s hair metal welcomed me. I took a baseball bat to a computer monitor. I opted for a sledgehammer as I turned ceramic plates to pieces. With every hit, I thought of how hard it was becoming to be with The Musician. I was furious. Some part of me knew it didn’t have to be so difficult. I pitched baseballs against the windowpane set up on the opposite end of the room. I took a metal bat to mugs, tossing them in the air and then swinging for the stands. I wanted out of this loop. I didn’t want to be stuck wanting what someone couldn’t give me. 

Breaking the Cycle

What happens when the loop ends? For Jack and Teal’c, life continues pretty normally. SG-1 goes on to other planets, completes other missions. But there’s this understanding beneath it all: maybe it’s time to try a new way. 

My phone stays quiet these days. I see friends, turn in pieces on deadline. Do yoga while taking in the winter sun. When my friends talk about their dates — sometimes fun, sometimes awful — I listen and offer my reaction when needed. The loneliness suffocates sometimes. When friends shrug their shoulders and insist that they just stumbled into seriously dating someone, I want to book another session in the smash room. But other times, the quiet feels like a balm. I can paint and listen to podcasts. I pay more attention to people’s actions, not just their words. I guess you could say I’m trying to find my new way too.


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Megan Hennessey is a freelance writer and editor. You can catch her analyzing TV shows and movies at home or rolling up her sleeves at wineries around the world.

Follow her on Twitter @HegMennessey or say hello at meganhennesseywrites.com

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