I’ll admit I’m not much of a shipper, and that’s probably a good thing considering the two characters I’m going to talk about in this episode guide. Jack O’Neill and Samantha Carter from Stargate SG-1 are a classic pairing in my mind, but their relationship would probably frustrate those shippers who love watching a series for a good relationship payoff to no end. Why? Because their relationship is never established, never clearly defined, and doesn’t actually appear to go anywhere. (Though, if you count deleted scenes, the two are definitely dating by the end of the spin-off series Stargate: Atlantis.)
It’s actually difficult to provide a comprehensive episode guide to these two because this relationship is so understated. Because Jack is Sam’s superior officer, any relationship between the two of them is forbidden. Over the course of the series, they acknowledge they have feelings for one another, but they also pursue relationships with other people because they can’t be together. In the end, though, they come back to one another (sort of, at least).
As you can imagine, there are plot and character spoilers throughout this episode guide, but this in no way tells you the overarching plot of the show. And as so much of the relationship development between the two happens in the quiet moments of episodes, I’d recommend only embarking on this as a rewatch, rather than a first-time play through.
”Solitudes” (Season 1, Episode 18)
After a Stargate malfunction, Jack and Sam are trapped on an icy planet with little hope of escape. Jack is severely wounded in the accident, and Sam must figure out how to keep them both alive. It’s one of the first episodes that focuses just on these two characters, and viewers get the chance to see just how good their rapport is.
“There But For the Grace of God” (Season 1, Episode 19)
This alternate reality episode (the first of many in the series) might focus on Daniel Jackson, but it’s got an important Jack/Sam moment in it. Specifically, Daniel enters an alternate reality that is very much like our own but with key differences. One is that Sam never joined the Air Force, and as a result, she and Jack are engaged to be married in this reality. It really plants the seed of a relationship between the two.
”Point of View” (Season 3, Episode 6)
It’s another alternate reality installment! This time, Sam from an alternate reality enters the SGC that we know and love. She’s come from a reality where everything has been destroyed and her husband, Jack, was killed. Alternate universe Sam and our Jack bond, and he ends up kissing her. It’s an attempt to console her, rather than to be romantic or express his feelings, but it clearly changes the way he thinks of our Sam.
”A Hundred Days” (Season 3, Episode 17)
Jack is on another planet during a devastating meteor shower, and while the rest of SG-1 is able to evacuate to Earth, Jack ends up trapped. For the next 100 days, the team back home works desperately to get him back, while Jack begins to give up on the idea of ever being rescued. No one is more determined to find him than Sam, and it becomes clear that her feelings for him might be stronger than their working relationship implies.
”Upgrades” (Season 4, Episode 3)
It’s in “Upgrades” that Sam and Jack finally begin to acknowledge how they feel about one another. They embark on a mission to destroy a Goa’uld mothership (if you are reading this guide without having watched the series, oh boy) and Sam gets trapped behind a force field. Jack should leave her behind and save himself, but he can’t. Now, it’s arguable that Jack would refuse to leave Daniel or Teal’c behind but the looks they give each other through that force field in this episode are everything.
”Divide and Conquer” (Season 4, Episode 5)
This episode sort of continues the storyline from “Upgrades.” Viewers could tell how Jack and Sam felt about each other in that episode, but it’s in “Divide and Conquer” that they’re forced to put words to it. The Tok’ra are on the hunt for a sleeper agent, someone who might betray them, and they think a member of SG-1 could be the culprit. Jack, Sam, Daniel, and Teal’c are forced to confront their memories and explain them to an audience. The investigation focuses in on Jack and Sam’s experiences on the mothership, and they’re forced to finally admit their feelings for one another (but also, the fact that they can’t act on them).
”Window of Opportunity” (Season 4, Episode 6)
This is one of my favorite episodes of the entire series. Jack and Teal’c are stuck in a time loop, and no matter what they do, they’re forced to relive the same series of events over and over. Eventually, they realize that they can use the time loops to do whatever they want without consequences. During one loop, Jack hands General Hammond his resignation so he can make out with Sam in the Stargate control room. (The fact that he resigned first tells you how seriously he takes the rule.)
“Grace” (Season 7, Episode 13)
This is a big jump (once two characters acknowledge their feelings for one another, but also that they can’t do anything about it, there’s not a lot of places to go), but in this seventh season episode, Sam has a lot of time to think about her relationship with Jack when she’s trapped alone aboard the Prometheus. She realizes that she’s fixated on him for so long because he’s unattainable and that it’s time for her to move on and find happiness.
“Chimera” (Season 7, Episode 15)
Sam starts dating a new guy, Pete, and she seems happy. The episode focuses on the conflict between Sam’s personal life and her professional life (not being able to tell those closest to you about a classified government job can make things difficult.) It appears as though Sam is moving on, and Jack is supportive of that.
“Lost City, Parts 1 and 2” (Season 7, Episodes 21 and 22)
Or is she? In “Lost City,” when Jack’s mind is being overwritten by Ancient knowledge and he’s in real danger of dying, Sam tries to confess how she still feels about him. Jack cuts her off, simply saying, “I know.” It’s a small thing, in a much larger episode and storyline, but it’s important to help Sam realize that maybe a relationship with someone else isn’t what she really wants.
“Threads” (Season 8, Episode 18)
This is a revelatory episode for both Sam and Jack. Pete’s proposed and Sam says yes, but her heart isn’t in the wedding planning. Meanwhile, Jack’s dating someone new. The episode follows both these relationships, but in the end, they both receive a wake-up call that neither of them will be happy in love until they acknowledge that their feelings for one another haven’t gone away and figure out how to do something about it.
“Moebius, Parts 1 and 2” (Season 8, Episodes 19 and 20)
This season 8 two-parter is basically the best Sam and Jack finale we’ll get. The team travels back in time and changes history by accident. As a result, the Stargate program never happens and the Air Force has to go find and unite the team to correct the timeline. It’s not exactly an alternate reality episode, but it’s close. It’s a fun close to the relationship, as after this, actor Richard Dean Anderson leaves the show (though he does return for some guest spots) and thus effectively closes the book on the Sam and Jack relationship.
However, if you really need closure, a deleted scene from Season 4 of Stargate: Atlantis makes it clear that Jack and Sam did, in fact, end up together.