Wow, I almost forgot this show even existed! Terra Nova returned last night after a baseball-related week off, but you wouldn't know it based on how quickly it got back into its groove of being entirely mediocre. "Bylaw" gave us a look at the colony's justice system, moved Josh's storyline forward by an inch, and sent a message of hope to all baby dinosaurs that they can hatch healthy as long as Elisabeth keeps playing God.
Things started off as they often do on Terra Nova: near an outpost with either a scientist or a soldier you've neither seen before nor care about, followed shortly by a dinosaur eating that person. To death! Science stud Malcolm was on the crime scene, analyzed it in a hurry so he could get back to ogling Jim's wife, and said, "Looks pretty straightforward what happened here to me!" And that's when we knew things were very much not straightforward, that they were practically crookedbackward, because Malcolm is an idiot.
It turned out the soldier had been murdered! Murder weapon? Dinosaur! The so-rare-it-never-actually-existed Nykosaurus, if my ears didn't deceive me. That forced Jim to don his Silhouette 8568 sunglasses and switch into CSI: Terra Nova mode. His investigations led him to the soldier's mistress, which led him to the mistress's civilian husband, who confessed to the crime because he was asked about it. Case closed! And there were still 35 minutes left in the episode to focus on Lt. Washington's eye makeup and watch Josh practice his guitar.
But there was still the matter of what to do with the confessed cold-blooded killer, and that's when the discussion of crime and punishment started. Commander Taylor had never dealt with a murder before, and it was up to him to either imprison the murderer or banish him to the great unknown, where he'd probably be pecked to death by bird-osaurs or have his memory erased by a virus. Or possibly join the Sixers. Thank the lord the murderer wasn't a soldier with an intimate knowledge of how Terra Nova's security and armed forces work, because if he was banished he could end up in the hands of the Sixers and really help them strike a blow against Taylor and Terra Nova. Sarcastic foreshadowing!
After an obvious and unusual close-up of a suspicious-looking soldier, Taylor announced that he was banning the confessed killer, who moped as he walked through the gates to fend for himself. But after a convenient argument with Elisabeth over morality, Jim began to suspect that the guy who'd confessed wasn't the killer, hunted him down in the vast expanse outside of Terra Nova in about 30 seconds, and learned the truth: The guy had confessed to save his wife (the soldier's mistress) from taking the fall, because she'd obviously killed the soldier after getting dumped. So Jim and the dude went back to her, and she was all like, "What? I didn't kill nobody." And thus a lesson was learned: Don't take a murder rap for a loved one without first knowing if she's actually guilty. So those two, despite infidelity, one of them using the other to win the Terra Nova lottery, and a huge disparity in attractiveness, lived happily ever after. Seriously, that's what happened.
But even though we'd solved the case of the Incredibly Stupid Couple, we still had no clue who used a dinosaur to kill a perfectly innocent soldier. At this point, there were about 15 minutes left in the episode. So Jim did what he should have done in the first place—actual detective work. He went through the victim's old financial records (yes, Terra Nova is protected by a wall of logs, but it also keeps detailed online records of its citizens' banking histories), and discovered the victim was owed a lot of money, which exposed a gambling ring at Bar Terra Nova. Then there was an extremely complicated plan to fake an arrest of the jolly Australian bartender to root out the actual culprit, and it worked! The murderer (or indirect murderer, because let's be honest, the dinosaur is the one who should've been on trial) was a soldier who was terrible at poker or Uno or whatever they played and owed the victim a lot of Terras. I'm not even going to start on where the Terra Nova Mint is.
So in the end, one of Taylor's men—a soldier with an intimate knowledge of how Terra Nova's security and armed forces work (foreshadowing callback complete)—was banished into the wilderness, where his only real chance of survival would be to team up with the Sixers. Cased closed for REAL this time. Aside from the time wasted on chasing the wrong lead and the fact that we didn't care at all about any of the suspects, it was the best murder mystery in Terra Nova's history.
Meanwhile, Josh was still trying to get his future girlfriend shipped back in time, so his employer, who is responsible for a ton of illegal activities in Terra Nova yet still doesn't mind doing shots with the underage son of the colony's head of security, told Josh that he needed to meet with Sixer head honcho Mira. Josh, along with Skye, trekked halfway across the planet to meet her under the cover of darkness in dino-infested jungle so she could tell Josh that if she helps him, he'll owe her a favor one day. Case closed!
Even more meanwhile, Zoe (the kid) wanted mom to save an in-egg baby dinosaur that has its front paw stuck to its neck. But it wasn't just any dinosaur, it was an Ankylosaurus, which—no joke—is one of my top five favorite kinds of dinosaurs of all time. It's the original armored dinosaur, and it defends itself with a clubbed tail. Pretty awesome. Elisabeth saved the dinosaur, and the Shannons decided that they may keep it as a pet, "at least for a little while," which sounds like a fantastic idea. Case closed!
I don't know if this is a good sign or a bad sign that this was actually a decent episode, by comparison, of Terra Nova. All I know is that centuries from now, when aliens have destroyed us and are passing time by watching our old television shows, they'll ask themselves, "How did Terra Nova set up wireless internet and GPS tracking?"
– I'm starting to see other sites trail off on Terra Nova coverage and declare they aren't recapping the show anymore. I will do no such thing! I'm in this for the long haul! Which I hope doesn't last longer than a 13-episode first season.
– Josh seems to be getting worse at playing guitar.
– Exactly how valuable is money in Terra Nova? How do people get paid? Where does the money come from? If there's a bar, is there a restaurant? Is the open-air market the only way to get food? I thought there were teams of people who divvied up the work to make the place sustainable? Didn't Jim start off on the agricultural team? Wasn't that team responsible for providing food for the entire colony? I always thought the place was like some rad hippie commune, but apparently if you owe someone money it's a motive for murder. Can one of you guys come up with some sound economical reasoning for how Terra Nova's financial system works?
Follow TV.com writer Tim Surette on Twitter: @TimAtTVDotCom