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Eureka, “Of Mites and Men” (4.16)

The Astraeus candidates fold paper cranes.

A review of the latest episode, written by Terri Hughes-Burton and Ron Milbauer, and directed by Mike Rohl, after the jump…

This show is so consistent that I find myself saying the same things every week: loving the Jo/Zane plot, the Henry/Grace plot, Felicia Day and Wil Wheaton have fit beautifully, Colin Ferguson is hilarious, and the Astraeus mission is a wonderful framing device that has given the back half of this season great momentum. All of this, still true. Honestly, if you’ve watched the show in past weeks, you know this one was exactly the same: an hour of mildly-ridiculous hijinks with great characters.

The Zane/Jo dynamic here is noteworthy, though, because we get some fresh beats between them. Jo wondering if Zane cheated her test for her is great. Erica Cerra plays Jo with such confidence that this plot, giving her all this vulnerability, is giving us a real look inside the character. You get to see how her fear of ‘going for’ the Astraeus mission, and opening herself up to the chance at losing it, makes her afraid. And the idea that Zane would cheat for her, and that she might need him to, hurts. She can’t necessarily tell if he’d cheat for her because he loves her, or because he still wants to send a message to the Astraeus organisers. And the final moment, after Zane has been officially pardoned, works well in being two completely separate character beats: in saying that he’ll only stay in Eureka if he wants to, Zane is re-affirming his semi-commitment to Jo, but all Jo can see if him going off into the world and leaving her behind. Whatever the logical flaws around their character arcs, the character work from the show and these actors is one of the show’s strongest points.

Joe Morton and Tembi Locke, as Henry and Grace, have such a fantastic chemistry that it’s often hard to look past that and criticise the plotline underneath. That said, for the first time their tension didn’t feel right to me. The way they argued and interacted felt ‘off’, manufactured, despite it making sense for these characters to conflict over this issue. Allison, too, felt a little off; her reaction to being sidelined felt much more petulant and personally offended than I’d expect from her. These plots felt more like they relied on the chemistry of Morton/Locke and Salli Richardson-Whitfield and Colin Ferguson which was a shame. And though the Holly/Fargo kiss was a cute moment, the script didn’t even attempt to address the reason Holly held back last time: the fact that them kissing was seen as a potential threat to the Astraeus mission back in “Glimpse” (4.13).

Perhaps because the character work was a bit shaky, some of the logic jumps I’d normally forgive from Eureka also felt shaky. The big one being, Zane’s pardon. After seeing exactly how much damage he can do (with the out-of-control mites), I wasn’t entirely convinced Wenn would be comfortable just pardoning away his criminal record. I wish we’d gotten at least one scene between Wenn and Zane to get a sense of their dynamic, so we could understand why she’d take that leap of faith in him. Hughes-Burton and Milbauer also wrote “Momstrosity” (4.06), my least favourite episode this season, so I think I see where these pitfalls came from.

(One last thing. “Maybe you should tighten it. A lot.” might be the worst line this season. Not only does it continue this episode’s trend of mishandling Allison completely, it makes absolutely no sense. Of course, we get Parrish and the bug, so all is forgiven.)

That said, the script has its strong points. In addition to the strong Jo and Zane plot, this script is very good with the comedy. These writers have a special knack for writing Dr. Parrish: his overconfident flirting, his mannered intensity. And the idea of Carter in a suit was a visual gag that enriched the whole episode. And they nailed both Zane and Jo. So while this episode is probably the weakest installment of the Astraeus arc, it still had plenty to offer.

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Comments
2 Responses to “Eureka, “Of Mites and Men” (4.16)”
  1. I could not agree more with your observations regarding Allison especially, (I actually did a double take after that ‘maybe you should tighten it’ line. . .petulant indeed). The writers have historically done the most ‘violence’ Allison’s character when trying to shape their story arcs: (S2) she became a mindless simp with Stark as he tried to separate Kevin from the artifact, a mortal danger which his repeated lies to her actually created; what little I saw of S3 &3.5 she became an inflexible, unthinking bureaucrat. S4 has gone a long way toward restoring the humor and playfulness, the self-assurance and the vulnerability I found so appealing in her (S1)
    character *sighs* but there have been stumbles.

    • R. Lackie says:

      I think the more opportunity they give Salli Richardson-Whitfield and Colin Ferguson to play against one another, the more relaxed and playful they write Allison, and that’s definitely come out this season. I thought she was fine in season 3, but they’ve largely made her much more enjoyable this year, thankfully. As you said, “the humor and playfulness, the self-assurance and the vulnerability” she has when they play to it is brilliant. The actress is definitely talented, which helps when her characterization stumbles (like here).

      My Allison wish list for 4.5 is an extended scene between Allison and new-Kevin. We got a bit in the space fair one in 4.0, but in 4.5 Kevin has had all of his scenes with Carter. That’s a bit disappointing, because I’d say the Allison/Kevin relationship is Allison’s version of Jo/Zane and Henry/Grace – similar in how it reflects the time change, yet her own flavour. But her “yes, finally!” relationship with Carter has overshadowed that relationship completely.

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