Overall Rating: 8.0
It's...so...META! They obviously put a lot of work into giving Teal'c the juiciest character bits this season in preparation for his becoming a great leader among his people in the years to come.
The Stargate Wiki has the details - check it out here.
I guess you never really know what Teal'c is thinking until you pit him against his own mind in a hellish repeating simulation of his own death at the hands of the Goa'uld. Of course, the episode starts out in a light-hearted way and totally fools you into thinking it's going to be about a fun game, rather than a probing psychoanalysis of Teal'c's most firmly held beliefs about himself and his cause. Which is awesome. For the viewer, the "uh oh" moment doesn't happen until about the third or fourth Teal'c killing when the twists start piling on and getting a bit unfair. You're laughing along as Teal'c gets blasted for his arrogance - maybe you think this is going to be about teaching SG-1 a bit of humility (they do seem pretty cocky when they get into a bad situation)...maybe you think it will be funny to watch other team members try to keep up with Teal'c's remake of the game. Then...slowly...the reality dawns on you. This is going to be brutal. You're going to get to watch Teal'c be made low and any delusional hopes he might have had about the ease with which he will one day defeat the Goa'uld get destroyed. And then he will quit...and then he will wish for death. WOW! Not exactly the "game" you had in mind when the episode started.
It would be a depressing episode if not for the finale. Instead it is merely realistic (with an uplifting finish) - given the incredibly long odds against success that Teal'c faces, the horrible things he's had to do to stay alive and to keep on fighting, the terrible cost he's paid in blood (his wife, his lover, many of his best friends all dead, others among the rebel Jaffa who have severed ties with Earth or still fighting for false Gods and calling him a traitor), how could he really believe that he alone could defeat the Goa'uld? If the game is really learning from his thoughts about the greater mission, then Teal'c is in deep kimche. HOWEVER...this is not a sad story, because after all of that torment, we get to the real reason that Teal'c has hope for himself and his people. He's made friends and those friends will fight for him. When Daniel enters the game, the tone switches - not just because he's got a little bit of a heads up for impending danger, but because Daniel is the one element in the game that he can trust - just as his friends on SG-1 are a rock upon which he can lean when he needs help in the real world. The bottom line is that we've made all of the progress we've made in fighting the Goa'uld, not because we are smarter, faster, stronger than they are...not because we use better tactics...but because we have hope, trust, and love to turn to for inner strength. Humans (and Jaffa) are social animals - we need other humans to survive and accomplish anything at all.
Actually, this episode is surprisingly tight...given the number of times they have to repeat simulations and the number of technical challenges faced by the players (not to mention they're throwing all of the rules at us in the form of exposition at the start)...they made essentially no mistakes - the continuity is perfect (other than the technical problem they had with the light in the naquadah generator only sometimes working...LOL). And the story is shockingly engaging once it takes a turn for the more serious.
Go Judge, Go! Go Judge, Go! Sorry, but when he's actually given something to do besides shoot things and raise an eyebrow at Jack while saying "indeed," Chris Judge proves over and over again that he is the perfect man to play Teal'c.
We get by with a little help from our friends. And not just in the humdrum day to day things, but throughout our greatest trials.