Eureka shows the past should stay buried as old friends and enemies return

On last night's Eureka, our heroes were haunted by the ghosts of their past, as beloved (and not so beloved) characters returned to wreak havoc. It was a twisty, crazy episode, and Eureka is clearly just getting warmed up.

Let's just get this out of the way right now - as soon as it became clear Nathan Stark wasn't really back from the dead, this episode was going to be at least a bit of a minor disappointment. On some level, I knew going in that Stark probably wasn't permanently back, if only because Ed Quinn was listed as a guest star for just this episode. Still, even though I've only recently become a fan of Eureka, Stark has become one of my favorite characters, and I must admit I was hoping against hope that he had somehow found his way home. (If you squint, there are maybe some very slight clues that Stark wasn't entirely Carter's hallucination, but yeah...he's still gone. For now.)

But once I got over this disappointment, I found "The Ex Files" to be a fun, engaging episode, even if it did feel like Eureka was mostly just clearing its throat for the big mid-season finale. Just as Jack and Allison are finally ready to pursue a relationship, they're visited by each other's exes - Tess has suddenly shown up at GD, and Nathan is back from the dead. This seems like enough soap opera fodder for five episodes minimum, but it turns out Jack and Allison are actually just hallucinating these apparent returns.

Eureka shows the past should stay buried as old friends and enemies return

Meanwhile, Dr. Grant has been recruited by Beverly Barlowe and her consortium (assuming that's still what they call themselves in this timeline) to destroy a very powerful new EMP device. She awakens Grant's old idealism about only using science to prevent another Hiroshima and Nagasaki, not to cause it, and he proves just as easily persuaded to switch side as James Callis's other iconic role. It helps that he's also hallucinating, in this case Adam Barlowe, the father of Beverly and one of his associates back in 1947.

Eureka shows the past should stay buried as old friends and enemies return

Just to complicate things further, Eureka is shaking itself apart, as events of massive sonic resonance cause structures to collapse from their own vibrations. This should have something to do with the EMP, but no one can figure out why. Fargo and Jo are also hallucinating, with Fargo seeing his fifth grade nemesis and Jo seeing the Zane she left behind in the old timeline. And, because there's not enough going on already, Zane is still pursuing Zoe, which he admits is only partially to piss off Carter.

This was one of those episodes where the mystery is so unclear and so fuzzy for so long that it's hard to get a grip on the episode, and I liked "The Ex Files" a lot more when I watched it again with the full knowledge of where it was headed. This episode probably posed too many mysteries for its own good. Is Stark really back? (No.) Why is Zane acting so inconsistently? (Because Jo's hallucinating one of them.) Why are the five of them hallucinating? (Because of a short circuit with this memory-sharing thing...it's a bit complicated, actually, but that's the gist of it.) What's causing the sonic resonance? (Beverly is behind that.) And what's Beverly actually up to? (She's out to steal the EMP device.) That's a ton of stuff to resolve, and it bogged the episode down the first time I watched.

Eureka shows the past should stay buried as old friends and enemies return

That said, once I did know what was going on, there's a ton to enjoy here. Ed Quinn is great as the ever so slightly exaggerated version of Stark that Carter remembers, and both Quinn and Colin Ferguson bring out their characters' old, albeit reluctant camaraderie. It's good to hear that Carter is happy to see Stark again, regardless of the circumstances, and the mental Stark seems genuinely committed to helping Carter solve the mystery. Considering Stark's sacrifice and his final goodbye to Carter in "I Do Over" are probably the series's most poignant, heartbreaking moments, I'm glad that they were able to bring the character back without detracting from his original farewell.

Eureka shows the past should stay buried as old friends and enemies return

Just when I thought I was getting a bit of a handle on Dr. Grant, he betrays Global Dynamics and his friends at the drop of a hat. Well, maybe not at the drop of a hat, exactly, but I would have liked to see more indications of his ultra-pacifist views earlier in the season. The Barlowes didn't need to prod him all that much to make him turn traitor, and I'm not convinced this change of heart was justified based on what we saw on the screen. Of course, this whole episode is a prelude to the finale's return to 1947, which hopefully will tell us all we need to know about Dr. Grant. Either way, he had the line of the night when Allison asked him who he was hallucinating, and he lied, "Tall, leggy blonde, slinky red dress." Now why does that description sound so frakking familiar?

Eureka shows the past should stay buried as old friends and enemies return

Finally, a word for Fargo. The character has truly come into his own this season, and he's really grown into the unexpected role of head of GD. While his successful confrontation with General Mansfield was the most obvious example of his new-found confidence, there were some other little moments that showed how far the character has come. His discussion with Zane about Zoe showed both guts and perception, as he correctly recognized Zane wants to irritate Carter by dating his daughter. And it was nice that mental Stark spared a moment to compliment the new and improved Fargo, even if it's a bit hard to work out whether that's what Stark thinks, what Carter thinks, or what Carter thinks Stark would think. Either which way, it's high praise. Now let's buckle up for that finale in two weeks' time. Whatever's about to happen, I'm guessing it's going to be big.