Writing Error: Knowledge As An Excuse

Stargate SG-1's "Citizen Joe" is a fantastic episode. In fact, despite everything I write below, it is well-worth watching multiple times. Based on what I write below, I maintain the episode should have ended with the protagonist feeling justified. Full stop. That ending would cut out about 3 minutes, which could be made up with backflashes.

The episode makes a fundamental mistake at the very end. The protagonist finds out that he isn't crazy; the "visions" he was seeing were true all along. So the Air Force, namely Jack, tries to save his marriage by talking to his wife. 

But the protagonist's visions being true doesn't exactly change his prior behavior. Granted, he won't be able to "see" the mission reports anymore since he handed over the device that makes that possible. But Jack spent several years having the visions of his counterpart, and he never behaved irresponsibly. 

In other words, there's no reason to believe that the protagonist won't go right on telling Stargate stories to customers who have lost interest and giving up a stable income to pursue his hobbies--in other words, exhibiting behavior that his wife objected to in the first place (I'm not saying the wife was right; I'm saying, that's why she left). Will his personality really change?

One of the best message sitcom episodes of all time is "The Gambler" from Family Ties. Elise gets pulled into gambling. She doesn't spend time with her family. She doesn't even deliver her speech at the symposium to which she was invited. The obvious pay-off would be that she loses all her money.

She doesn't. She makes a bundle. But she gives it all to charity because she realizes that the behavior of obsession was destructive, whether or not she won money. 

The mistake "but the truth of the underlying belief excuses my behavior!" is a common mistake in television scripts (and, I suppose, human nature). It's the reason I got tired of Lie to Me within a few episodes. The grumpy behavior of the protagonist was supposedly excused by his "knowledge." To borrow and summarize several lines from Daniel, An all-powerful being may not be worth worshiping despite having lots of knowledge and power. It kind of depends on the all-powerful being's ethics.

To do House justice, the fundamental weakness of House's claim that his superior knowledge lets him off the hook was continually challenged by others. He was grumpy by default. But even House became tiresome.

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