SG-1 is training a group of recruits to test their limits when joining an SG team. After a training exercise, it becomes apparent that the SGC has been overrun. It is up to Colonel Jack O'Neill and the four young recruits to find a way to stop the incursion.
SG-1 is busy training a group of four young Stargate Command recruits (Lt. Kevin Elliot, Lt. Jennifer Hailey, Lt. Carl Grogan, and Lt. Satterfield) for the rigors of off-world missions using several lifelike scenarios.
The episode opens with O'Neill and Teal'c leading the four recruits to an abandoned warehouse, where they hope to find Major Carter and Dr. Jackson—whom Jack says were taken by the Goa'uld.
O'Neill and Teal'c go inside, and the young soldiers—commanded by Lieutenant Elliot—rush in a few moments later when they hear gunfire despite Elliot hesitating over the situation.
The recruits find O'Neill and Teal'c unconscious on the floor, and Sam and Daniel pointing weapons at each other with each claiming the other is a Goa'uld despite Sam insisting that she's a Tok'ra.
Lt. Grogan subdues Carter which in turn draws Elliott's anger and the group begin bickering amongst themselves about Grogan shooting her but there's a nasty surprise in store as Daniel reveals that Sam was telling the truth all along: she's a Tok'ra and he's actually a Goa'uld.
Without waiting for a response, he uses his gun to shoot the four recruits who are stunned by the revelation.
Seconds later, the training exercise ends, and as everyone recovers, Colonel O'Neill chastises Elliot and his team for failing.
Later in the SGC mess hall, Carter talks to O'Neill about Lieutenant Elliot. Jack recognizes that Lieutenant Hailey("Prodigy") is brilliant, but thinks that the rest of the team doesn't hold great promise for the future of the SGC. Elliot is a fine Air Force Academy graduate, but being in the SGC takes an extra something. Jack believes that Elliot thinks too much, and that makes him indecisive.
Back at the training facility, Colonel O'Neill leads the recruits in another simulation. They are to infiltrate a building believed to house a valuable piece of Goa'uld technology. They find the device, but it is booby-trapped. After a moment of indecision, Elliot orders his team out, and the device explodes. But one of his men, Grogan, doesn't make it out. O'Neill condemns Elliot for leaving a man behind, and declares the exercise to be another failure.
And as a result, the leader already considers himself a "wash-out" for leaving one of his team (Grogan) behind during a simulated explosion.
Colonel Jack O'Neill receives a phone call from Major Samantha Carter, warning him about a situation at "Sierra Golf Charlie"; he consequently attacks the personnel that met him near the training area; one of the opponents manage to shoot him back. The trainees offer their help, stating that they're all that's available.
Infiltrating Stargate Command, they use the armory to stock up on stun weapons and back-up "live ammunition" handguns. Reaching Carter's lab, they find out that the entire SGC, including the rest of the SG-1, appears to be under a sort of Goa'uld mind control last seen on the planet Argos (identified as P3X-8596).
The plan is to have the cadets shut off the gate, and then destroy the device. However, when outside the Embarkation room, O'Neill recalls them, ordering them to fall back to the lab where he is.
On their next sortie, they retrieve Carter, and upon returning to the lab come to the conclusion that O'Neill has been "infected."
On their third attempt, they manage to reach their goal: they disable everybody in their way (including Dr. Daniel Jackson) and rig the supposedly mind-controlling device with C-4. When it doesn't explode (it was clay, not C-4), SG-1 and Major General George S. Hammond reveal that the whole thing was a very elaborate ploy set up by SG-1, Hammond, and the SGC personnel; the "real" bullets were in fact blank ones. They congratulate the lieutenants.
Hailey, however, is still in the Embarkation Room, trying to finish her part of the mission. Suddenly, the Stargate engages and opens a wormhole that turns out to be releasing deadly radiation. Hailey tries to manually override the Iris, but is electrocuted in the process and passes out. The leader of the team of cadets, Elliot, ignores Hammond's orders to evacuate and runs into the room anyway to attempt to rescue his fallen teammate. She turns out to be not only fine, but also a part of this last training exercise. SG-1 congratulates the cadets again, and all four members are told that they have a bright future in the SGC.
Air Force Academy; Argos; C-4; Cell phone; First Prime; Foothold situation; Gamma ray; Goa'uld; Intar; Iris; Jello; Level 14; Level 16; Level 18; Level 19; Level 20; Level 26; Level 27; Level 28; Manual iris control; Major Mansfield; Nanite; Pelops; The Pentagon; Protein marker; SG-3; SG-17; Special Operations; Stargate Command armory; Stargate Command monitoring station; Zat'nik'tel
O'Neill: What's your excuse?
Satterfield: I didn't believe Dr. Jackson was a Goa'uld.
Carter: Why not, Satterfield?
Satterfield: I don't know, Ma'am. That was just my instinct.
Hailey: She thinks he's cute.
O'Neill: Okay, so one of your team members distracted you into getting shot by the enemy and you want to poke holes in the training scenario.
Elliot: It wasn't a fair test.
O'Neill: There's such a thing as over thinking a situation, Lieutenant. When you're dealing with what we deal with, you've got to think on your feet and think fast. These and other clichés will be available to you all for one more day of training with me. After that, you'll either be assigned to an SG team. Or not. Dismissed.
Carter: (About Elliot) You have to admit he's got leadership potential.
O'Neill: Do I?
Carter: Grogan. He'll make a fine addition to an SG team one day.
O'Neill: He'll make a fine target. He's good at getting shot.
Carter: Okay, Satterfield's bright.
O'Neill: I give her high marks for her... high marks. But I'd never go into combat with her.
Carter: And there's Hailey.
O'Neill: Oh yeah. Four foot nine fighting machine.
Carter: Try to remember when you were in their shoes.
O'Neill: I wore boots.
Elliot: You're injured. You're going to need help.
O'Neill: This is not an exercise.
Elliot: No sir, it's a foothold situation. And from what we just saw it looks like it's already reached outside the SGC. You need our help.
O'Neill: Forgive my bluntness, Lieutenant, but I was just about to fail you. I'm not sure I want your help!
Elliot: Can't speak to that, sir. But at the moment we're all you've got.
Elliot: (after seeing Dr. Jackson on the monitor) Looks like their leader is Dr. Jackson.
O'Neill: I always knew he wanted that office.
- The set for the training ground warehouse was previously used in the Stargate SG-1 episodes "Tin Man", "Watergate" and "Beneath the Surface".
- The plot is similar to that of the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "Lower Decks".
- This is Michael Shanks' 100th episode.
- This episode was originally short so the scene in which Colonel Jack O'Neill and Major Samantha Carter are eating in the Mess hall discussing the recruits was written and added.
- Lt. Kevin Elliot is assigned to SG-17. This is the first mention of the newly created team.
- The recruits use the Intar stun weapons from the episode "Rules of Engagement".
- This is the second appearance of Brigadier General Michael Kerrigan. The first being in Stargate SG-1 episode "Prodigy". In that episode he says that he did not have any knowledge of Stargate Command.
- Elisabeth Rosen appears as Lt. Jennifer Hailey, who originally appeared in the episode "Prodigy".
- Courtenay J. Stevens appears as Lt. Kevin Elliot, a role which he would reprise in the episodes "Summit" and "Last Stand".
- David Kopp appears as Lt. Carl Grogan, who would return in the Season Five episode, "The Sentinel".
- Grace Park (Lt. Satterfield) is better known as Sharon "Boomer" Valerii, Sharon "Athena" Agathon and other Number Eights on Battlestar Galactica.
- Nominated Leo for "Dramatic Series: Best Director" (Andy Mikita)
In other languages
- French: L'Épreuve du Feu (Ordeal by Fire)
- Italian: Terreno di Prova (Proving Ground)
- Spanish: Terreno de Pruebas (Proving Ground)
- Czech: Zkouška ohněm (Trial by Fire)