EPISODE REVIEW: Eureka: “Your Face or Mine” (Season 3, Episode 10)

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This was my second dedicated viewing of Eureka for the website here, and though I liked it fine last week, I find we’re solidly in sophomore slump territory this time out. It was enjoyable enough, I guess, but there were a lot of problems, the central mystery wasn’t very mysterious, the red herrings were actually walleyed bass, and the resolution was a bit Trek for my liking (“Oh, crap! We’ve only got three minutes left in the episode…ok, wave a magic wand and have everything be better again!”), but it felt sup-par. And kinda’ boring, really.

PLAY BY PLAY:

Sheriff Carter is going in for his bi-annual competency and fitness exam, just as Jo is finishing hers up. A woman we’ve never seen before tells Jo she’s perfect, then they lock Carter in a big room with ‘a test that is specifically designed for him and unlike any test anyone else ever faces.” He’s given a panic button to admit defeat, and then goes in. He’s told to push a button in the wall, and when he takes a step towards it, the floor falls away. He tries several methods to get to it, all of which fail rather comedically, and ultimately, after eating up about five minutes of air time, he just throws the panic button at the other button on the wall, and that resolves that.

I don’t want to give the impression by “Eating up five minutes of air time” that this wasn’t enjoyable or anything. In fact, it was pretty much the highlight of the evening, it just wasn’t, you know, up to their usual standards. Or rather not up to my nebulous conception of what their usual standards are.

Meanwhile, Jo is in charge and she’s called in to give her opinion of a super-hyper-technical DNA scanner that will allow the government to know people’s exact whereabouts at all times. As usual, Henry doesn’t like this, and as usual Allison thinks it’s at least got the potential to be swell. Jo casts the deciding vote in favor, and some guy we’ve never met before puts her in the scanner, which immediately malfunctions and electrocutes Jo. Turns out it was sabotaged.

Despite coming out of a two or three day long physical test that “May cause post traumatic stress,” and having been electrocuted unto unconciousness, and having to babysit Zoe, they let her stay in charge of the investigation. More electrical hoo-hah goes missing from around town. Meanwhile, Jo gets to acting wonky - she lets Zoe go out late at night, compliments her on her singing when she’s clearly terrible (Nice hat, though), and then sings a vaguely-steamy version of “Making Whoopie” to Fargo. Henry and Allison recognize that she’s acting oddly, but let her stay on the case.

The next morning she’s got no memory of what happened, and seems to be behaving normally, but she’s been framed by someone using the new DNA-scanner Magoffin to cover someone stealing yet more electronic stuff for unknown reasons. Jo takes this to mean the girl we never saw before who runs the competency testing must have done it, and indeed she did because she was hot for Fargo’s spindly bod, and knew Fargo was hot for Jo. Also, she appears to like guns. She was the one stealing all the electronics so she could build a machine that would allow her to take Jo’s place.

Then we get the obligatory Captain Kirk/Captain Garth switch-a-roo* where Jo ends up in a cell with the crazy lady running free, however Jo’s boyfriend suspects something’s wrong, and Fargo quickly realizes that the Jo who’s hitting on him isn’t what she seems to be. Fargo likes her anyway. I don’t get why everyone keeps saying she’s so plain and ugly. Take away the birth control glasses and she’s pretty cute, if a bit short for my tastes.

Anyway, then the writer flips the Prometheus switch and the doubletalk science goes bad, threatening to kill both Jo and Fargo’s new girlfriend, but, in a sequence that (once again) defines a Star Trekian anticlimax, everything works out fine. In the thrilling denouement, we’re told that despite three counts of theft, a very obvious case of identity theft, illegal use of government records, stalking, public drunkenness, two cases of wrongful imprisonment, and one case of deliberately falsifying information, they’re just gonna’ blow all that off and let Fargo keep his new girlfriend because in the end we’ve all learned an important lesson about life.

Carter is released from his travails, and told he’ll have to do it again next year, because he didn’t score all that good.

THE END

* - or, for the benefit of our gay readers, “The obligatory Captain Kirk/Janice Lester switch-a-roo”

OBSERVATIONS:

- Carter’s most of the way through his third year in the town, and the test is every other year, so shouldn’t he have done this before, or was it a new program?

- The idea of specifically designing a test for every person sounds cool and all, and I’m as fond of the old Chinese Civil Service exam system as anyone - moreso, actually - but it’s madly inefficient and a crazy waste of time. Also, it just screeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeams the kind of agonizingly overdone OCD that you’d find in a 90s Trek show. Specifically, I’m thinking of Wes yammering on endlessly about how the Thusansos of Generion IV age the coffee beans for a hundred years before putting them on the side of a mountain to be caressed by the polysaccharide-based mucus of the Yibit Yibit Snails, whereupon they’re dried, powdered, and quality-controlled by snorting a random sampling through a rolled up $20 bill before they’re finally shipped off to Hershey Pennsylvania where….goddamnit, Wes, just eat the freakin’ Chocolate already!

Sorry, sorry, sorry. I don’t want to give the impression that I dislike Will Wheaton or anything, I think he’s shiny and all, and I am CLEARLY exaggerating the problem, but it’s just the freakin’ writing on that show. And they - or at least one writer on the staff, I don’t know who - had some kind of burr under their saddle about chocolate, didn’t they? For instance, remember the time Troi was sitting around eating some chocolate ice cream and Riker wanders in, and she drones on for seemingly fifteen minutes about how she likes to put the heavy foreplay on her food before she gets around to eating it? So we have to suffer through her talking about foreplay for like fifteen minutes *BEFORE* she gets to the foreplay?

Ok, I’ve gotten a bit off my intended track, but my point was that whenever Trek tried to make something sound all amazingly cool and wonderful, they just ended up making things seem all fussy and anal retentive. And that’s how the idea of an individualized test in this episode struck me: fussy, Treklike and kinda’ dumb.

- For some reason, when Sheriff Carter says he’s “In the best shape of my life. I’m like a Viking,” I dunno, that was pretty hilarious. Best laugh of the night.

- There really was no reason for Henry and Allison to leave Jo on the case, aside from if they behaved rationally and took her off of it, then the episode would only have been 32 minutes long. There was no attempt at justifying their indecision, no “Let’s let her keep the job so we can observe her and figure out exactly in what way she’s gone goofy,” no, it was just a case of acting dumb to pad out the story.

- Lexi was conspicuously absent in this episode, and was it just me, or did Allison look considerably less pregnant here than she did last week? Wiki informs me that Sci-Fi regularly shuffled episodes out of their intended order so they could have all the strong ones in the first part of the run, and the craptastic ones later on in the season. I’m hunching they did that here.

- To use Dr. Who terms, this episode was the equivalent of a “Doctor Lite” episode, where the main character essentially makes only an extended cameo in it. I’m a relative newbie here. Is this the kind of thing they do often? And if it’s happened before, did the episode feel so off-balance those times, too? People who’ve watched this show more often, please let me know. In any event, my impression based on this episode is that there are shows where you can have the main character away, and still tell a pretty solid story relying on the rest of the cast, but this is definitely not one of those.

- I’ve got a problem with the way science was handled in this episode. I generally cut this show a wide assortment of slack for that because it *is* just a comedy after all, and sometimes they actually seem to be trying to deliberately make the science as bad as they can without people noticing, but really the whole “DNA Scanner” Thing didn’t make sense. First of all, think for a minute about how many cells there are in a human body. Think how long it takes your hard drive to reboot after a brownout, and now think how long it would take to scan THAT many cells, in real time, every day, to monitor everyone in a town. It’s kind of a waste of time and energy, beyond not being feasible with the technology we possess as a people. If you’re absolutely jonsin’ for a DNA sample, a cotton swab in the mouth is a fine way to get it, and if you really want to keep track of people, tagging them like we do endangered animals works great. A little sub dermal chip works wonders for about one ten-trillionth the cost of the ludicrous setup we saw here. (And for the record, if this was a Stargate show, or some other space-based show, I’d ignore it because they use imponderable alien tech all the time there, but this is allegedly something we crazy humans made up right here on earth)

- Beyond that, the political aspect of this show - barely touched upon and quickly dropped - is an example of how quickly these things can get dated. When it was filmed, a year ago, the Orwellian overtones of DNA-tagging everyone probably seemed “A real possibility in Republican America,” but now that we, as a party, have been thoroughly panted in the public polling place, that whole notion seems already rather old fashioned, doesn’t it?

- Not a mention of the aliens in this one.

- I’m still open to handing this show over to someone else to review, if you’re up for it. Anyone? Anyone?

- I’m assuming this series is cancelled, by the way. I’ve been unable to find any info about a 4th season renewal, SyFy has burried it in their Friday night deathslot in an off-season time of year, ratings are about half of what it was at it’s peak…all signs point to ‘no,’ but if anyone has any information about the long-range chances for the series, please let me know, ok?

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