Face your fears on 'Eureka'
The good news: Eureka continues to rock like the rockingest rocky thing that ever rocked. This was an episode that could have been schmaltzy -- the mysterious phenomena of Eureka teach Sheriff Jack Carter a very important lesson! -- but a couple of sly touches, some great dialog and Colin Ferguson's usual fabulously deadpan performance slowly turning panicked, then resolute, made it great. Everyone talking like therapists? Henry being awesome and potentially evil and still more awesome? S.A.R.A.H.'s contributions to family dynamics and (especially) the score? Glee.
The bad news: Many materials technology, cell phone radiation and decomposing vectors conspired to suck your usual blogger, Liz Pardue, into a transdimensional vortex. I won the Thunderdome competition for Eureka (good fight, though, Josh), and will be blogging the show until Liz is rescued --- it should take about three weeks. In the meantime, please be gentle with me.
My god, it's full of spoilers!
This week, Jack deals with the fallout of ex-wife Abby (booo!) preparing to take ZoÃ« away. Everyone keeps asking him if he's ok with this. He keeps saying he is. He's so, so not ok with it. Jack, stop trying to be noble and stoic and tell Abby ZoÃ« belongs with you, and belongs in Eureka. Passive-aggressive snarkery really doesn't become you. (On the other hand, sarcasm fits S.A.R.A.H. quite well, actually.)
While Jack is repressing, ZoÃ« is attempting to deal with her anger issues by doing some virtual therapy with the (most likely eeeeeevil) Dr. Beverly. And as soon as you see a virtual-reality headset, you gotta know something is going to go horribly wrong. Either it'll drug everyone into a sex-addled stupor, leaving Wesley Crusher and his first kiss to save the day, or it'll suck someone into the virtual world in such a way that they won't know how to get out. Eureka chose the latter path -- I guess Ashley Judd and Wil Wheaton were busy. It's probably for the best.
First, we get the spectacle of Jack contemplating the entire town nominated him for Punk'd -- but even for that, painting a house and installing a family with 12 kids seems a little far to go for a prank. Then we get Henry laying out the options: "You are either part of some theoretical, unknown, scientific discovery where people vanish from our world and memories, OR, you suffered a head trauma." Yes, true, Jack was whacked on the head by several metal spinny things, but in this town, the most logical explanation is almost never the correct one. But until Jack figures that out, we get to see his increasingly frantic reactions as more and more people disappear. Great job on Ferguson's part. I was getting a bit freaked out, too, even though by then, I'd figured out what was really going on.
Of course, this all just sets up the scenario for Abby to realize what a great place Eureka is, and how much ZoÃ« and Jack have become a part of it. Yes, it's lovely she got to see the whole town come out to show concern for Jack, but this was the eye-rolling part of the episode: Look at the town rallying around Jack! Look at how ZoÃ« refuses to leave Jack's side, saying he would never leave her! (Apparently she forgot how she told Jack he was a big wuss who gave up without a fight.) See realization dawn on Abby's face! It's something out of just about any Very Special Episode you've ever seen.
The Very Specialness continues when Jack realizes he's in a particularly harsh form of therapy, and that the only way he can get out is by letting ZoÃ« disappear -- even though he decides to go with her. Jack and ZoÃ« sell the scene, but it's something we've all seen before. Ditto the conversation Abby and Jack have after he awakes, where Abby says he's sounding like the man she fell in love with. Yes, offering to move back to LA was a noble sacrifice, but did anyone believe Abby would actually take him up on that after she learned that a town full of geniuses who have access to seriously wacky toys wanted him to stay? Her self-preservation instinct would have to kick in at some point. (I did, however, fear she would be staying when Jack told ZoÃ« that Abby thought he needed "adult supervision." Let's get back to possible sexual tension between Jack and Allison, shall we?)
I was prepared to like this episode for what it was -- a bit cheesy, a bit clichÃ©d, a bit disappointing for Eureka, but still good compared to just about anything else on TV -- when S.A.R.A.H. redeemed everything for me. Jack and ZoÃ« have a heartfelt conversation, the music swells, and my eyes start spinning in their sockets -- and then we realize this isn't the soundtrack, it's the house. "That was such a beautiful moment, I thought musical accompaniment seemed appropriate," S.A.R.A.H. chirps. Just like that, very specialiness is at once acknowledged and skewered, disposed of and enhanced. It made the episode.
Other things that made me happy: Tales of Fargo's American Idol audition. I would pay money to see that. Maybe, if the gods of special features are kind to us, we'll see it on the DVD bonus disk?
And then there's Henry. I've always loved Joe Morton, pretty much whatever he's doing, and Henry is a great character. I loved him when he was good, and I love him even more now that he's possibly going darkside. His storyline developed in that he found the chip Beverly had stolen from Kim's office -- I'm thinking it's a bug Beverly planted to keep tabs on Kim's work, what about you? -- and he was reminded that everyone still thinks he's a good guy. Jack's heartfelt thank you at the end, his "I don't know what I would do without you," that's just the sort of thing a potentially eeeeevil genius does not want to hear. Quick, Henry -- think of the minions! Think of the world domination! Think of the ill-tempered, laser-equipped sea bass! Don't let the sentiment sway you! Stay bad!