Sam Carter’s Cheating Heart

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Following the heels of Scarlett’s Fidelity is a Virtue, if It’s OTP article, which described how writers seem to think unfaithfulness is okay as long as it’s the “meant to be” couple cheating to be together, I wanted to address the issue of whether Sam Carter was a cheater at the end of Stargate’s Season Eight, or just a lovelorn babe. I’m continually struck by how women who criticize her behavior get accused of being judgmental due to jealousy, while male fans defend her honor like knights protecting a damsel. They can’t both be right. And the female fans stand doubly accused: wrong, and motivated by petty jealousy.

Let the Sam Carter cheating trial commence.

Exhibit 1. In Grace (Season 7), Sam decides her unfulfilled romantic interest in Jack is an unhealthy pipe dream, and it’s time to move on and risk a real relationship – a mature, brave decision. She starts dating Pete, and cares for him enough to get clearance to tell him about the Stargate program. Their relationship progresses off screen, with occasional remarks to remind us he’s still in her life.

Exhibit 2. At the end of Season 8, while she’s still dating Pete, Sam makes an unprecedented visit to Jack’s house, tells him how nervous she was about coming, and asks him if he still sees his ex-wife. He refuses to discuss it. Later, we are beseiged with this bit of dialog:

Sam: Sir, at your house before Daniel and Teal’c showed up, what I was gonna say was…

Jack: I know.

Sparks literally fly in the background of the dimly lit scene as they stare at each other in the classic “50/50 shot” this show uses for kissing scenes. I suppose you could convince yourself they were discussing a bake sale, and the question about his ex was totally random, but let’s stick to the obvious. It’s not exactly a deep show.

Anyway, nothing apparently comes of this and Sam continues dating Pete.

Exhibit 3. In Season 8, Pete proposes. Before accepting, Sam chats Jack up to see if he might still be interested in hooking up someday in the future. He deliberately misinterprets her question, so it remains unanswered. She accepts Pete’s proposal. Until now, we were a little confused, but at this point, there can be no question of Sam’s commitment to Pete.

Exhibit 4. In the end of Season 8, Pete transfers his job from Denver to Colorado Springs to be with Sam, and buys her dream home for her. As they’re planning their wedding, she abruptly dumps him to go not be with Jack some more.

The defense for Sam Carter has argued that it’s so tragic and awful for her that she can’t have her dream job, the respect of her peers, and the only man who really makes her toes quiver, that we can hardly expect her to behave rationally. Besides, the defense maintains, Jack was always The One, so Pete can’t expect her claims of love, fidelity and intent to marry to hold any weight. As evidenced by Pete’s dialog in the dumping scene:

I knew from the beginning. Guess I just thought when you said yes that… I hope you get what you want.

Your bad, Pete. How could you think her choice – freely given as an adult – to marry you trumped her romantic destiny? Don’t you know being with The Hero is all The Girl exists for?

The prosecution’s case rests on one simple fact: no matter how you examine the evidence, you must conclude either that Sam cheated on Jack with Pete, or on Pete with Jack. Clearly, she pursues both relationships simultaneously, which is the definition of cheating in a traditional, monogamous relationship. She’s not just confused. She’s not just experiencing an attraction. She went into the relationship with Pete knowing she had unresolved feelings for Jack, and rather than fight those feelings, she pursued them, and in the end, picked the feelings over her existing relationship.

I can only conclude that the male fans who defend Sam picture themselves as Jack: the stud who’s so awesome, he not only wins the girl, but snatches her from the arms of another (loser! ha!) man without lifting a finger, without making a promise, without whispering one arduous word. The man who melts the brain of a brilliant astrophysicist and turns her into a hair-twiddling teenager, drawn irresistibly to him, no matter how she fights it, like a paperclip to a magnet.

Comments

  1. scarlett says

    Threads was the first episode I watched all the way through (I’m something of a latecomer, but made up for lost time!). When She calls it off, she’s surprised Pete takes it so calmly. Not knoiwing any of the backstory, I took away from it the feeling like SHE’D dumped HIM, then had the nerve to be insulted he didn’t plead and beg.

    I don’t know how people can justify her behaviour. I find it insulting that they never examined her behaviour. If they’d portrayed her as a brilliant but selfish woman with a child’s sense of entitlement, a Scarlett-esque character who relentlessly pursues a man who doesn’t want her, only to realise by the end of the show she’s ruined her life and chance for happiness over it, and face up to the fact she screwed up and has only herself to blame, that would have been OK. I could have empathised with such a character. Or if she’d remained oblivious to her flaws, but have everyone else aware of them – a selfish, vain human being who’s tolerated only for her brilliant mind.

    But to have her relentlessly pursue this man, sacrificing other relationships along the way (one of these days I’m going to do an article on ‘Heroes’), at the end of it having nothing to show but that damn ‘not exactly’ comment and pretend like everything’s blissfully perfect, that SHE’S blissfully perfect, was insulting.

    And I never understood why shippers were so insistant on coverting non-shippers. I don’t know how big a culture of anti-shippers there are doing the same thing, but the GW and Sony anti-SJ threads get a shipper defending the cause every week! Because we don’t like the couple to begin with, and having some fan with tunnel vision calling us all stupid and jealous is going to change our minds… I don’t understand the logic of those people. It’s the same kind of minds that prompts chevenistic men to come onto this site and tell us we’re wrong.

    The only thing I can compare it to is my deeply religious family. I have several aunts and uncles who try to convert me everytime they see me. I always got the impression their faith was quite brittle (far more so then mine), so brittle that they couldn’t have any non-believers poking at their fascade. Maybe it’s the same with some shippers – they know they’re standing on thin ice, and don’t like us throwing stones at it…

  2. Jennifer Kesler says

    As for the shipper/anti-shipper debate, I think both sides had a handful of rampaging crusaders that made the whole thing difficult. Everyone got attacked by them sooner or later, which led to defensiveness, which led to arguments over misunderstandings.

  3. Katherine says

    Honestly, I never minded Sam getting rid of Pete because right from the start, he seemed creepy as hell. I mean, he basically stalks her when they first start dating, following her around, getting her checked out by his buddy, finally butting into a raid and getting shot by Osiris. I took an immediate dislike to him. Sam definitely had no chemistry with him, and tons with O’Neill. Stringing Pete along wasn’t very fair of her, but I was glad she figured out she wasn’t in love with him.

    That said, I’m not really a shipper either. While Sam and Jack may be in love, they don’t seem to have enough in common to really pull a true relationship off. They work great as colleagues and friends. Why spoil that? I don’t see why Sam has to be in a relationship at all. Her job is pretty all-consuming, and very fulfilling. None of the men on the show are in long-term relationships. It would be nice to see a woman who doesn’t need a man to “complete” her.

  4. Jennifer Kesler says

    I suspect we weren’t meant to like Pete too much, so we would be so happy when Sam dumped him, we’d overlook issues like how she went about it. He was just a Plot Device Boyfriend from the start, I think – existing only to drive our leading lady into the arms of the leading man. Of course, they can’t exactly go that far with Sam and Jack, so they imply everything and then hide behind plausible deniability. ;)

    I agree that it would be great to see a woman who doesn’t need a man to complete her, and that Sam’s an ideal candidate because she has the dream job of every little girl who doesn’t want to be a model.

  5. scarlett says

    As far as Pete being creepy – I thought she was a bit nuts in the first place, not to have dumped his ass cold for stalking her like that. But it didn’t excuse her for going about dumping him EVENTUALLY the way she did.

  6. sbg says

    Gotta say that while Pete’s actions were inappropriate and ill-advised, he wasn’t stalking. I don’t excuse his behavior, but I get very itchy when people call him making inquiries about a woman who, well, acts shifty when he tries to get to know her better stalking. Pete’s a cop. He saw evasiveness and investigated…even if he shouldn’t have.

    Stalking typically involves possessiveness on the stalkers part and terror on the stalkees. I saw none of that between Sam and Pete.

  7. Jennifer Kesler says

    Also, early on, she tells him that a lot of her boyfriends have died mysteriously. Combined with her later evasiveness, I can see a remark like that setting off warning bells.

  8. scarlett says

    fair enough… but I thought something should have twigged when he realised that her file had been erased, that maybe it had been erased for a reason and he might be putting her/him in danger by persuing it.

  9. Jennifer Kesler says

    I agree with that. Ultimately, the whole thing was so poorly written, it’s hard to tell what the writers intended to put across, or how we’re supposed to interpret any of it. I doubt the writers thought the ep through 1/10th as much as the average viewer, let alone fans.

  10. scarlett says

    Also, the bit where he gets zapped by Osiris/Sarah Gardener, and she promises him if he lives, she’ll let him in on everything – was that meant to be an indication of how much she cared him, or just stupidity on her part, promising him something she had no authority to give?

    Don’t think I’ll to the Sheppard article. Stargate from s6 on was just too poorly written to start taking apart male characters.

  11. Jennifer Kesler says

    Also, the bit where he gets zapped by Osiris/Sarah Gardener, and she promises him if he lives, she’ll let him in on everything – was that meant to be an indication of how much she cared him, or just stupidity on her part, promising him something she had no authority to give?

    See, that’s where I get cynical. To me the question is whether or not they meant to make her look stupid. Because I find it hard to fathom the writers not realizing she was making a promise she couldn’t keep; and I notice they don’t make the guys look that stupid nearly as often. If ever. I can’t help being suspicious that they do it on purpose, to send a meta-message.

    Don’t think I’ll to the Sheppard article. Stargate from s6 on was just too poorly written to start taking apart male characters.

    Well, that’s a good point, actually. It isn’t really worth picking apart the writing past season 6 – it’s just bad, bad, bad. I only look for the possible meta-messages in those later years.

  12. E says

    Ok, first off, I’m not an affionado of the show. I only started watching for Ben and Claudia BUT…the bit I’ve seen from season 1, the scattered season 8s don’t convince me of the Jack/Sam sparkage.

    Why does Sam want Jack? He never seems to treat her well. He doesn’t seem to show a spark of romantic interest in her. He’s not even all that nice to her. Yeah, early on they were kind of cute around each other but, by the time season 8 rolls around I’m asking :WHY? Sure, Pete’s not Mr Excitement but at least he worships the ground she walks on. Jack acts like “oh, it’s you.”

    I recently watched New Order where Jack is part of the Ancient ship via the ancient device or something. Anyway, Sam is presumed blown up by the replicators. Teal’c “witnessed” it, and when Daniel appears on scene, he asks about her and looks appropriately dismayed to learn of her demise.

    Does Jack ask or look concerned when he’s goofing around being Mr. Cute lines and is whatevered to the ship? No. He’s too busy being clever. That was the moment that made me think–frell him! (Yes, it’s the wrong show, I know).

    I read recently that Browder was considered for the role of Pete. Wow…now there’s something I would have liked to have seen.

    Jack who?

    “I can only conclude that the male fans who defend Sam picture themselves as Jack: the stud who’s so awesome, he not only wins the girl, but snatches her from the arms of another (loser! ha!) man without lifting a finger, without making a promise, without whispering one arduous word. The man who melts the brain of a brilliant astrophysicist and turns her into a hair-twiddling teenager, drawn irresistibly to him, no matter how she fights it, like a paperclip to a magnet.”

    I think you’ve hit the nail on the head. In the world of fan fic, this would be your classic Marty/Mary Sue. I want the pretty girl to love me because I exist. I don’t have to be nice or suffer or anything.

    Sam–he’s just not into you. (hook up with Mitchell while you still can).

  13. Jennifer Kesler says

    I obviously agree with you. I loved the mentor-student relationship Jack and Sam had in Season 1: a man teaching his trade to a female apprentice? Cool! I loved how they were like oil and water, but appreciated each other all the same.

    Once the writers started focusing on sexual tension, Jack stopped mentoring and generally treated her more like an annoyance than a fellow officer. For me, it wasn’t just the intrusion of a ship I didn’t personally care for; it was the loss of the really fascinating relationship that had come before.

  14. Natasha Lei says

    Let me get one fact through to you all right now: Carter wasn’t cheating on Jack or Pete.
    The reason I think Carter made the decision to dump Pete was because at the end of the day, she realized that she was just using him as an excuse to applease her dad. However, she misinterperted what he meant. He finally got his mesage through in “Threads”, althought she probably knew all along. And it wasn’t her fault that Pete put a downpayment on the house.
    As for Jack, they both know there are military regulation that seperates them and because their jobs are so important, (I mean, saving the planet every other day!) they can’t risk their commision, with the fate of the planet at stake. I know all of you are probably shouting at me right now that now that Jack’s reassigned to Washington they could get together but at the end of the day, they’re still officers.

  15. Gategrrl says

    I know all of you are probably shouting at me right now that now that Jack’s reassigned to Washington they could get together but at the end of the day, they’re still officers.

    Er…no, because to me, any way you slice it, they’re bad for each other. But that’s just me, another ex-fan of the show, saying what she thinks of the characters according to her own world-view. Why would I, or anyone, shout at you? I’m really not exactly sure where you’re coming from.

  16. Amanda Weinstein says

    What is interesting to me is that this discussion frames things in a a way that only admits of two interpretations: i.e. Sam’s decision to end things with Pete being justified by One True Love (which I don’t buy) and or Sam’s decision to end things with Pete being an awful retrograde choice for her character and betrayal of Pete. There’s something disturbing to me about the fact that the whole context is so broken that a reasonable third interpretation for Sam’s choices is never advancd.

    Sam’s relationship with Pete always struck me very differently. The Sam/Pete dynamic annoys me for the same reason Ron/Hermione in Harry Potter annoys me: the trope of pairing an incredibly bright, intellectual female character with someone who cannot meet her needs on an intellectual ground, and yet doesn’t really have anything else (like great social intelligence) to balance that mismatch. As a result, Pete’s a character who strikes big warning bells with me on a lot of levels, and he strikes me from day one as an interesting short-term date who is a bad match for Sam long-term, and is way more invested than she is. To me Sam winds up in a long-term relationship with Pete because the Jack thing clouds her judgment in a reverse way—namely, she convinces herself that all her misgivings about Pete are due to her unresolved issues with Jack, rather than very legitimate warning signs from her gut, and therefore allows the relationship to continue far far longer than she should have.

    I find it notable that when she ends the relationship with Pete, as far as we know, she has no reason to know that Jack and Kerry are over. My preferred interpretation of the situation is that knowing about Jack and Kerry liberates her to acknowledge that even without the pole of the other relationship she and Pete are a bad match; that regardless of what is going on with Jack/Kerry at this point, or what might happen between them later, what Sam Carter is choosing here is to be single rather than be in a relationship that does not work. [Guy that adores you, if he isn't intellectually compatible with you and doesn't really relate to either of your major passions and is totally uncomfortable around your real and found family? Not so great.]

    And oddly enough, as far as the two lines from the breakup scene that you cite? The first “I hope you get what you want,” does not have to be interpreted as Jack. It can also be interpreted as Carter wanting a relationship that works for her, in its own time, rather than a “normal” relationship that she’s forcing out of a sense of guilt and obligation. And her line in the breakup scene did not strike me as her expecting him to beg. It struck me as her expecting a much more vicious onslaught of criticism for having “led him on.” I.e. I think while Pete took her comment one way, she meant it quite another.

    Is this what the writers intended? Sadly, in hindsight I’m forced to admit it probably wasn’t. But it is what I saw (with great relief, given my inability to see Pete as a credible match for Sam) when I first saw Threads.

  17. says

    The reason I framed the article as I did was I found it very hard to believe the writers were suggesting anything other than “Sam and Jack are meant to be, yet can’t be, so their other relationships are doomed to failure.” Kerry’s remark about regulations in her breakup with Jack as much as confirmed this is what the writers were thinking (as much as J/D slashers liked to imagine she meant Daniel, I don’t think that’s at all what these writers meant).

    I like your interpretation, but I think it ignores some subtle (and not so subtle) lines and gestures the episode makes. Which is fine – if we didn’t “correct” bad TV in our heads, 99% of what’s on would be unwatchable! But for the purpose of assessing the writers’ intent… I wish I thought your version was what they had in mind, but I just don’t see it.

    This, incidentally, is why Stargate has some of the best fanfiction out there – it’s so close to being brilliant, yet falls so far, and that makes it really easy for even semi-talented writers to make up the gaps.

  18. sbg says

    Is this what the writers intended? Sadly, in hindsight I’m forced to admit it probably wasn’t. But it is what I saw (with great relief, given my inability to see Pete as a credible match for Sam) when I first saw Threads.

    It would have been nice to view it the way you did. I think I’d been conked on the head with the proverbial Jack/Sam ship hammer to many times to have ever considered it that way.

    Your reasons for not liking Sam/Pete are a major part of why I could never buy Sam/Jack, either. They don’t mesh as a couple beyond physical attraction. I shudder to think of their converstions.

    Sam: Sir, er, I mean Jack, blah technobabble, blah.
    Jack: I like cheese.

    To this day, I can’t help but be mightily disappointed with what TPTB did to Sam’s character. The second they stopped writing her like a person, a scientist and a military officer and started treating her like a Precious Object, there was no turning back.

  19. e says

    I started watching the show in season 9 and have dropped into some old episodes…

    My advice to Carter: Forget O’Neill. He’s old and busted. Cam Mitchell: New hotness.

    Mitchell clearly respects her knowledge and abilities, clearly needs her on the team, and clearly gazes upon her beauty with puppy dog eyes.

    In all seriousness, though, I’ve yet to see one episode in which Jack displays anything akin to love for Carter. I think I’ve seen more sparks between Mitchell and Carter.

    Blasphemy. I know.

  20. Amanda Weinstein says

    Not blasphemy. Different people just see different things. I find Cam existentially boring as a character and therefore not particularly hot, even though he’s conventionally good-looking. I don’t drool over Jack, but always found him intriguing, because he plays WYSIWYG and dumb but isn’t. I think all of us bring different experiences, both life experiences and grounding in fictional tropes, to a story, and therefore it is possible for people to have very different views of a character or a relationship dynamic that are in their own way grounded in the text.

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