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Eureka, “This One Time at Space Camp…” (4.18)

Young Jo breaks her arm after a fall.

A review of the episode, written by Amy Berg and directed by Andrew Seklir, after the jump…

Perhaps it was the advance buzz from Amy Berg via Twitter. Maybe it was the string of slightly-disappointing episodes before it. Maybe it suffered from, in part, being a sequel to a plotline I found really disappointing the previous week. And maybe, as I outline below, one particular subplot overpowered everything I liked about it. But I didn’t like “This One Time at Space Camp…”.

It’s been hard to sit down and write this review because I’ve been having trouble nailing down exactly why it was so disappointing. The writing was good, with the characters largely in character and on tone. I loved Fargo’s flashback, and Zane’s flashback, and Parrish’s too. And though I didn’t like how the character was used last week, I like Wallace Shawn a lot. And yet, once the episode was over, my frustration with the Jo plot of this episode was able to overcome the enjoyment I’d had from the rest. And that’s unusual.

I’ll get it out of the way now: I hated Jo taking herself out of the Astraeus race, and particularly how the show got her there. I’ve enjoyed the ‘reality show’ aspect of this season, of who will go and who will stay, and my absolute favourite part of it was Jo and Zane. Zane being unable to go, and encouraging Jo to defy expectations and qualify. Zane believing in Jo and helping her along the way. Zane earning his pardon and his spot on the ship. If Jo dropping out had felt organic to her character and the story, I would have been gutted but enjoyed the story. But the story here is essentially, “Jo is competitive, and makes stupid mistakes when she gets competitive, and didn’t really want to win anyway.” Which is pretty awful, especially in light of how awesome Jo is, but it also directly contradicts my favourite scene of the season, where Zane gets Jo to realise that she not only really wants to go, despite pushing down everyone else’s doubts she could, but can. So this plotline really annoyed me as a viewer and a fan of Jo, because it felt like out-of-character manipulation to get her out of Astraeus that ended up also feeling like a potshot at the character. If this was yet another moment of Jo needlessly doubting herself, I’d understand, but the episode plays it as a reasonable thing for her to doubt. Other characters, I could see this with, but not Jo, not the way she’s been written this season. Her entire character arc has been about believing in herself and fighting for what she wants, and here, that’s completely contradicted. If the two-part finale addresses this, I’ll be less bitter, but this wrecked the episode for me.

Of course, I also wasn’t a huge fan of how the Wallace Shawn story played out. It wasn’t badly written, and the only excuse for my disinterest is, I guess , a disconnect from the story because of how it was mangled last episode. Which isn’t fair to Berg and Seklis, or really anyone involved in this episode. That said, this story had the same flaw, it felt to me, as “Clash of the Titans” (4.17): instead of addressing what ways the Jack/Allison relationship might realistically effect GD/Eureka/Astraeus, the plot emotionally manipulates Shawn‘s character into rooting for them.

So, I’m still ambivalent about the episode. Hence the late review. Here’s hoping the season wraps up with a bang. I”m excited, though. Astraeus has been a long time coming…

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