Eureka argues that even an altered timeline can't change who you really are

In last night's Eureka, Jo searched for the good in Zane against all evidence to the contrary, Allison tried to help a son she doesn't really know, and Jack discovered reality shifts aren't the only things that make people change.

Honestly, this felt like a sort of minor episode, perhaps because so many of the characters and ongoing plots seemed sidelined. (The fact that the big crossover event is coming up next week probably doesn't help.) As much as I'm enjoying what James Callis is doing with Dr. Grant, he hasn't been given a lot to do since coming back from 1947, and this episode was his smallest role yet. Henry's ongoing acclimation to married life was dismissed for the episode with his wife off to at a conference - honestly, it probably would have been more interesting to see how Henry would have dealt with that hotel room.

Fargo seemed a bit useless as head of GD, and although we got another big hint about how he got there - is he really just General Mansfield's puppet? - it would have been nice for him to play a more active role in the proceedings. I realize sending Carter off to Harvard was a necessary byproduct of the fact that Colin Ferguson was directing, but it still felt a bit weird to see Eureka without its sheriff. Oh, and though I've actually liked Jamie Kennedy in one or two things I've seen him in, his guest appearance highlighted everything off-putting and obnoxious about his persona.

That said, there was a ton of great character stuff going on that papered over a lot of these other flaws. As much as I think the challenging of giving everyone in their cast something to do and moving the master narrative forward at a reasonable clip defeated the writers here, they're still doing a superlative job at wringing the emotion out this altered reality, and perhaps only spotlighting a few relationships at a time is the best way to go.

It probably helps when there's some sort of thematic connection linking them together, and "The Story of O2" definitely had that: it was all about how three of our time-lost heroes - Allison, Jo, and Jack - deal with changes to the most important person in their world. One has changed for the better, one for the worse, and one not at all. Or, as the episode asked, are we sure that's all true?

First, there was Allison and her no longer autistic son Kevin. Releasing her son from such a debilitating condition is unquestionably a good thing, and I doubt anything could happen that would make Allison question that. But the fact remains she has no idea how to raise a "normal" teenager (and even in this reality, Kevin is far from normal), and that became very clear here. Allison unwittingly placed the entire town in mortal peril because she couldn't bear to watch Kevin lose the rocket race, even though Kevin was clearly OK (if not exactly thrilled) with that possibility.

Although she will one day be able to properly connect with her son, for now she's stuck with somebody almost as difficult and uncommunicative as the son she left behind: your average teenage boy. (And as someone with relatively recent experience with the condition, it doesn't get better anytime soon.) There's a cruel irony that she would go from a child completely dependent on her to one so clearly desperate to be independent, and neither provide her with a clear maternal role. And I guess that's how you end up stealing self-propagating oxygen and cheating your son to victory.

Next there's Jo and her newly unreformed non-fiance Zane. (I guess he's doubly her non-fiance, since she never even accepted his proposal in the old reality.) This was probably the most effective part of the episode, and that's partially down to the strength of Erica Cerra's performance. Nobody else has lost quite so much in this new reality - the destruction of her house was a seriously cruel topper - and Cerra really expresses that sense of loss without Jo ever quite coming out and stating it outright. The range of emotions she goes through when Zane calls her Jo-Jo again was probably the best little moment of the episode, and it really spoke to the complicated emotions one has to deal with when faced with a world that isn't quite your own.

Finally, there's Carter and his daughter Zoe. Although their subplot wasn't that interesting, again the character moments and larger themes held their b-story together. Carter visited her at Harvard because he was afraid the timeline shift had changed her, but he ended up dealing with far more mundane changes - those that come when your child moves on and grows up. She wasn't the Zoe that we knew, but that had nothing to do with the altered reality. Carter's recognition that things never stay exactly the same anyway is probably a big part of how he and the other four will eventually accept their changed lives. Let's just hope he's not trying trying to get a substitute Zoe by inviting Jo to stay with him, but I guess time will tell on that one. It always does.