It's New Years Eve 1921, in a busy speakeasy in Los Angeles. Suddenly a fire breaks out -- commotion all around. People struggle to get to the exits, as we...
Land in the present. Late night at the Connor house where John searches the internet for more information on the three-dots. He tells Sarah that he's found hundreds of companies with three-dots in the logo but none of them sound like they'd bring the end of the world. "Keep looking," she tells him.
"Tomorrow." John's headed to sleep. Sarah hands off the laundry to Cameron: "You never sleep."
Somewhere on a college campus, Cameron buzzes at a door. A wheelchair-bound grad student greets her -- she's brought him doughnuts. "You never forget." As she enters, it's clear these two know each other well.
In the library, the grad student, Eric, questions Cameron about the most recent in her life like a friend who's familiar with her "normal" world. He asks about her trip to Mexico, John's girlfriend, the Connor house robbery. Clearly, he's attracted to her. Cameron notices he's not eating his doughnuts and asks if he has any books on artillery. After all she's a computer, an ever-growing database of information.
While Eric gets the book for her, Cameron glances at the old photos on the mantle. One catches her eye -- an old black and white of a man on a street, looking upwards. She knows him. "Not unless you're about, oh, a hundred and ten years old." He tells her the photo's from the famous New Years Eve speakeasy fire in 1921, as she imagines:
1921. Outside the speakeasy, firefighters douse the building with water. Bodies accumulated on the street, a woman cries on the curb, and the man from the photo paces through the smoke and ash methodically and glances up. He is a machine. In 1921. "I need to know what happened to him," Cameron insists.
John's awoken by his ringing cell phone. It's Riley. "John can you come get me?" she pleads desperately. He seems annoyed, but reluctantly agrees to go pick her up.
Back at the campus library Eric shows Cameron slides of periodicals from the time of the fire. We learn that Eric is in the wheelchair after suffering from bone cancer, but he's now in remission. Still, he's cold. On a slide they find a surprising photo of the Terminator, Myron Stark, with silent film star Rudolph Valentino outside the premiere of his film, The Sheik! We flash to:
The Sheik premiere -- the red carpet. Stark (the Terminator) compliments Valentino on his film. Back in the library, Cameron points out that Stark is actually looking at someone other than Valentino in the photo -- Rupert Chandler, the caption tells us.
Cameron wants to search the city and county records for more information on Stark, but Eric warns her that they are in the basement and it's locked up (she can't be allowed in right now). She heads down there anyways...
John enters a house party looking for Riley. He stumbles into the kitchen where he meets the home's host, Mike, a jerk from John's old high school. Riley shows up and is surprisingly alright and ready to party. But John is annoyed, after all she sounded like she was in trouble. Reluctantly, he agrees to stay.
An annoyed Eric finds Cameron in the basement going through the records. He's angry that he let's her in after hours whenever she wants and now she's broken his trust. He really needs this job but she insists that she really needs the information from the files. As he stumbles to return everything to its place, he falls out of his wheelchair. Eric rejects Cameron's offer of help.
Back upstairs, Cameron apologizes to Eric, insisting that she's sorry because they're friends and she doesn't have a lot of friends. Cameron couldn't have found any record of Myron Stark from before the fire. Eric suggests that maybe he was an immigrant pursuing the American dream. Either that or he robbed banks.... as Cameron imagines:
1921. Myron Stark exits a bank, Tommy gun in hand, firing away...
Cameron wants to see police records: yes, he did rob banks. It was an effective strategy. Days after the heist, Stark bought land all around Los Angeles and built houses. Stark took on Rupert Chandler, one of Los Angeles's big construction moguls of the time, in business and came out ahead. Eric tells Cameron that Fred Jeffers, Chandler's main man, went missing back in 1925 and was never found.
Eric is surprised to stumble upon a gun in Cameron's stuff. He tells her that he's seen cuts on her face before. "Sometimes I get into fights." He wonders why they're going to all this trouble -- why Myron Stark is so important? "He was doing something and I need to find out what it was." To distract him, Cameron shows Eric a little fun and teaches him to fire the gun in the library.
Riley plays video games with Mike and some others at the party. She hands it off to John who is clearly not invested in it. John decides to leave -- "this was a mistake" -- and Riley tells him she's coming with him. But when Mike claims Riley stole his lighter, he starts pushing on her, inciting a fight. John takes him down, punching his face in before she pulls him off and they leave.
Cameron and Eric watch a news report from 1985 -- a witness found the long-missing car of Fred Jeffers off a cliff on Mulholland Drive. Cameron imagines Stark confronting Jeffers in his car, throwing him over the edge...
Eric reads that Jeffers's death was the start of a bad time for Rupert Chandler, that continued with the death of his only son that New Years Eve in the fire... as Cameron imagines:
1921. Again, the street outside the speakeasy, post-fire. Chandler's boy, indeed, dead on the sidewalk. There must be a connection.
John drives Riley to a secluded spot on Mulholland and parks the car. John confronts Riley about her hot and cold behavior (pretending to be in trouble, flirting with Mike, etc), and she responds that she was just trying to get his attention like any teenage girl. He questions her why she even likes him, the loner weirdo... In their heart to heart, John reveals a lot about himself and his family -- that Sarah was in a mental institution, that she was once engaged and that his wife died when he helped tried to help them. John doesn't think he should be around people, it's dangerous...
At the library, Cameron interrupts Eric in the bathroom. She believes Stark killed Rupert Chandler's son.
Cameron carries Eric up the stairs and into the film vault to check out a documentary with an interview with a flapper who was at the speakeasy during the fire. Watching Ruby Demarco's interview, Cameron quickly realizes the speakeasy fire was actually an accident...
...electricity from a time bubble! Stark's time bubble! As he grabs clothes, Stark exits again into the ashy street and looks up.
Cameron exits the library and looks up at the sky. She's figured out what he was looking at -- the placement of the stars as it relates to the date. Stark was calculating what year he had wrongly traveled to! "Myron Stark was in the wrong place at the wrong time."
Back in the library, Cameron reads Chandler's kid's eulogy, where he talks of his dream to build Pico Tower. With his death, he plans on planting a memorial garden and leaving the property undeveloped. "That can't be right," Eric insists, "there is a Pico Tower in downtown LA." Someone built it anyways. Cameron imagines:
Stark offering Chandler money for the Pico Tower property on the red carpet of The Sheik premiere. "That land's not for sale." But Myron Stark bought it anyways. And designed the Tower. "It's about the building." Eric figures out that Stark disappeared two weeks before the property opened.
Cameron wonders what's happened at Pico Tower since it opened. Anything important on any New Years Eve? "Not that I can see," Eric responds. He tells her they had to close and retrofit after the last earthquake. He's not sure when they're reopening.
Cameron breaks into the Pico Tower which she discovers is reopening on New Years Eve 2010 with an event with the Governor! She checks out the place, imagining the grand reopening and the assassination of the Governor!
Cameron checks the walls and discovers STARK! Powered down with his Tommy Gun, Cameron accidentally awakens him, fighting him throughout the building and down the elevator shaft before pulling the chord so that the elevator demolishes him...
Back in the library, Eric discovers that Cameron has returned with bruises. She announces that she's come back to tell him that his cancer is back. He didn't eat his doughnuts, he's lost weight, and he had trouble pulling the trigger on the gun. She's actually been examining him throughout the night. Eric erupts at her. "No wonder you don't have any friends."
"You have no idea what it's like to have something inside of you that's damaged," he tells her. But she does and replies that "it's like a bomb waiting to go off..." Eric sends her away.
Night has given way to morning as John slips back in to the house, hoping to remain undetected. Cameron approaches, laundry in hand and questions him: "Where were you all night?" She wipes lipstick off his collar and knows immediately that he was with Riley. But he doesn't know about her secret night out...
The next night. Cameron buzzes the library door but Eric doesn't answer. It's a female grad student. "Is Eric here? He works the night shift. He lets me in." But the female grad student doesn't know who Eric is. Cameron offers her doughnuts, and as the female grad student let's her in, we know a new possible adventure awaits Cameron...
After all, she's a machine. She never sleeps.