EPISODE REVIEW: Warehouse 13: “Duped” (Episode 8)

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Well it seems as if Warehouse 13’s days of inconsistent storytelling are definitely coming to a middle. After last week’s well-above-average episode with a consistently-told, generally solid and engaging storytelling hampered only occasionally by random bouts of Counselor Troi-ing, we find ourselves this week right back to a slightly-better than half-assed story, halfassedly told. That said, it’s still one in the plus column, it’s not a loss, but the average is much lower than it should have been.

PLAY BY PLAY

It’s a week after the evil Robin Colcord from Cheers ran Artie through with a sword, and then ran away to guest star another day. Artie is ignoring his job and trying to find the guy, and he’s got Mika, Pete, and Claudia doing inventory in the warehouse, rather than their normal duties. Lena, the pretty-yet-annoying expositional aid for the more slow-witted people in the audience (Trekies, mostly) is on hand to exposit yet again - imagine that - about how Artie isn’t doing his job. They bicker a bit, and Artie admits Lena’s right. Meanwhile, Mika is all pissy in the warehouse because Artie lied to her, or didn’t tell her everything, or didn’t ask her to the prom, it’s all a little vague. Curiously, she doesn’t seem to be upset about Artie committing treason during the cold war, which you’d think was something a Secret Service agent would be a bit more upset about than the whole “opening your feelings thing,” but no matter. Pete, meanwhile, is “Playing with himself again” (As Mika puts it), playing ping pong with Lewis Carroll’s mirror. This is a minor recurring gag which we’re probably seeing the end of here. They bicker, a disco ball falls while Mika’s looking in to the mirror, there’s a big flash and some unfortunate disco music, and when the dust has settled, Mika is acting slightly off, but not so much that anyone in the show notices, just us in the audience.

The next day, Artie gives Mika and Pete a new assignment: there’s a boyfriend/girlfriend team of cons in ‘Vegas who are having disproportionate amounts of luck, far more than the laws of probability should allow. He sends them out to find out how it’s happening, and stop it. Mika is unusually authoritarian during the briefing. Claudia, meanwhile, offers to track down Robin, but Artie smacks that down with surprising venom, warning her that he attracts people to the dark side of the force, and no one survives it, and he’s evil, evil, evil - look what happened to that poor Kirstie Alley! A onetime promising actress, a gangbusters career, he strings her along for a couple seasons, seduces her to the dark side of the force, now she’s all fat, can’t hold a job, nobody likes her, and even Robin Curtiss is getting more work than she was. Robin Curtiss! And that doesn’t just happen to girls from Kansas, it can happen to anyone! Anyone! Chided, Claudia backs down.

In Vegas, things go surprisingly easy. Mika dresses up in a little black mini-cocktail dress number, . she looks damn good in it, and Pete gives Mika a nearly-invisible 2-way ear radio. They instantly find the con-couple (Zane and Jo, slumming from Eureka), and Pete searches their room while Mika observes them, looking for the artifact, and claiming not to have found anything. Of course she’s lying: They’re obviously holding a ‘lucky’ betting chip, but she doesn’t want Pete to know it.

Meanwhile, back in the warehouse, Artie explains the disco ball (From Studio 54) to Claudia while they’re straightening up, and they discover Mika in the looking glass. Artie refuses to believe it’s her, and refuses to let her speak because he’s been burned by magic mirrors before (Well, really, who hasn’t?), but Claudia figures a way to speak with mirror-Mika until Artie shuts it down. We flip back and forth between the Warehouse, where Artie refuses to let Mika speak, or believe that it’s actually Mika, and the team on assignment in Vegas. This accomplishes nothing, and it’s kind of tedious, so I’m just going to concentrate on Vegas, then come back to what little there is of the other stuff.

Shadowing Zane and Jo, Mika and Pete make out for a bit, and then he follows Jo, confronts her about the artifact, and convinces her it’s bad. She gives it to him with surprisingly little resistance, and he agrees to just let her go. Artie calls and has the hotel page Pete. Mika, meanwhile, has trapped Zane in his room and decides to kill him ‘cuz she’s a psycho killer. She fries the guy with the Tessla, and Pete lies and says the guy is dead, then tries to arrest Mika. Mika quickly takes him down and fries him with the Tessla, too, then gets away.

While all this is going on - and it takes a while - back at the warehouse, we’re told that “Alice in Wonderland” is basically PR written by the Warehouse staff to distract people from the true purpose of the mirror, and that the real Alice was a juvenile psycho killer who whacked a whole lot of people in the 19th century, and was then trapped in the mirror by a couple Victorian warehouse agents, one of whom died in the process. No one knows where the original mirror came from, nor why it has the powers it’s got, but, eh, end of story. They eventually, tediously realize that Mirror-Mika is the real one, and Vegas Mika is actually a psychotic 12-year-old English girl who’s been trapped in a mirror for 144 years. He calls Pete to warn him, and has the hotel page him.

Mika comes back to the warehouse to smash the mirror, and uses the lucky poker chip to see the very-near future, and thereby walks right in to a trap that the team has set for her. Mika is freed, Alice is reenmirrorfied (New word. I made that up, can you tell?), and that’s pretty much that.

The end.

OBSERVATIONS

I like the “Kirk out” gag, and I liked the “Redshirt” gag last week (The first time. The second time, not so much), but these Trek gags are going to get tedious really quickly, so I hope they go easy on ‘em.

Reality Check: “Alice’ Adventures In Wonderland” was published in 1865. If, as the show maintains, it was written by the Warehouse to prevent people from finding out the truth about the mirror and Alice, then it follows that Alice has been in the mirror for 144 years, and she’s evidently been in the warehouse for at least that much time. So explain to me how a British girl from the 1860s - a crazy one at that - is going to be able to instantly understand things like American Money, modern hair care, Las Vegas, Gambling, Alcoholic Libations, Slutting it up like a drunk Marilyn Monroe to get in a room, electricity, cars, telephones, modern slang, ray guns, and admittedly hot little black cocktail dresses? Seriously: Not the kinds of things your average 10-year-old British Kid would instantly grasp. (“Alice” was 10 at the time the book was written, but the girl in the episode looks about 12 to me) How the hell is she able to fit in? How the hell was she even able to get dressed without tearing something, or walk in heels? I’ve dated enough women in my life to understand there’s a learning curve in these things, and Alice should be walking around like a horse, not like a well-practiced call girl. Added to which, how can she even walk in Mika’s body without smacking in to things and falling over? Seriously, think about it: Mika’s at least a foot taller than “Alice,” and has much longer arms and a thinner build. Her reach is different, her center of gravity, her balance should be different, *AND* she’s in unfamiliar surroundings - realistically, she should be clumsy as hell, and dinging herself up something silly. And let’s not even think of what a thirty year old woman’s hormones would do to the brain of a ten-year-old girl if she were suddenly exposed to ‘em all at once.

I realize I’m quibbling here, but that’s a HELL of a lot of fairly obvious logical stuff to ask your audience to ignore just to move the plot forward. Really, it’s beyond the tipping point: when it gets to this level, you’re not really politely asking them to suspend their disbelief, you’re actively *hoping* they’re stupid, and simply won’t know stuff. “Gol darn, they didn’t have coctail dresses and Vegas casinos and electricity at the end of the civil war? Well, ya larn something’ new evah’ day, don’t’cha’? Now then, what was that you wuz sayin’ about where babies come frum agin?”

MOST of this could have been solved by simply giving Alice/Mika a few more ‘tells’, a few more quirks, make her clumsy, make her confused by every day words, make her put her dress on backwards, then realize her mistake and fix it, stuff like that. But, no, the script obviously says ‘play it subtle’ and Joanne Kelly plays it subtle. She actually does a good job in the episode (Though I don’t like the ‘crazy voice’ she uses), and of course she looks fine, and I’ve got nothing but good things to say about her this time out, but the script stinks on ice. And while Mika has never acted even remotely like a Secret Service agent, I again blame that on the quality of writing , and not on the actress.
On the other hand, I’m blaming more and more stuff on Eddie McClintock, who plays Pete. Every week he’s getting a bit more cringingly awful. It’s like he hasn’t found a comfortable range for the character, who was introduced as something of a lothario, but here two months in to the run of the series, is increasingly just being used for comedy relief. He doesn’t really have a knack for comedy, no timing, he over-sells everything. He’s like your friend’s annoying kid brother who constantly tries to be the center of attention, and drives people to avoid him instead. They don’t know how to write him, they don’t know what to do with him, they don’t know where they want him to go (Love interest? Sexual tension? The muscle? Dorks on ice? What?), he’s really the least essential part of the show.

The only other contender for ‘least essential part of the show’ is Lena, the Counselor Troi wannabe, who actually gets a decent performance tonight, for the first time in the show’s run, and she doesn’t explain stuff to us, thereby making the show talk down to it’s audience. In fact, they use her in a reasonable manner for a psychic under the circumstances.

Claudia has little to do beyond be underappreciated and smart, but I still like her. This might be me turning in to a dirty old man, or it might just be that I like the energy she brings to the show, though it seemed to be a bit directionless tonight, and the disco dancing gag really made me cringe for some reason. Never been a fan of disco. Well, of course, I wouldn’t be: I’m a republican. But then, there was Betty Ford, so I guess it’s possible…

In essence, they only gave us half a story tonight, and the meanwhile-back-at-the-ranch Warehouse stuff moved painfully slow, while the Vegas stuff actually moved unnaturally briskly for this show. There were no false leads, no sleuthing, they just went there, did it, left. It was too easy, frankly. The episode was fundamentally off balance, which is a shame because the idea at the core of it was strangely compelling, or could have been if it had been taken a bit deeper. Why was alice mad? How does a 10 year old girl know what a 'good kisser' is like? Why does she appear to have limited powers over normal, mundane mirrors? A lot of opportunities pissed away for no good reason.

The final bit, where they have to lure Alice in to a trap by letting her see only the future they want her to see, is actually very clever, but almost ludicrously undersold. The show could have eaten up a whole lot of dead air in the back-at-the-warehouse scenes simply by discussing and trying to figure out the ways to defeat someone with limited precognition. That’s a neat idea, and while I’m reasonably sure the method they figured out would have worked, it would have worked even better for the audience if we had the problems inherent in it nailed down for us before hand, so as to add a little tension and some “There’s so many ways this can go wrong” feel to it.

So: Disappointing after last week, but hopefully next week will be better.

For those of you who don’t normally follow our site, you may have missed the news that Warehouse 13 has been picked up for a second season. Huzzah! Just thought you’d like to know. See ya’ next week.

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