Last night's Eureka was one of the funniest episodes in a while — Carter is forced to endure disappearing banks, floating jeeps, obnoxious geniuses, and, most terrifyingly, out-of-shape physicists. And somewhere, amid all the hijinks, an evil plot is brewing.
For one wonderful, glorious moment, Carter thinks it's his lucky day - he gets to investigate a bank robbery! Much to his displeasure, it turns out this isn't a typical bank robbery: the entire bank has mysteriously vanished. His investigations ultimately reveal that the bank wasn't stolen. Instead, it's levitating high in the air, thanks to a newly deposited Higgs field disruptor negating its mass... and, if Carter doesn't stop it, the mass of everything in Eureka.
While Carter grows increasingly aggravated with the town's super-science wackiness, the rest of the cast is busy prepping for the Astraeus mission to Titan, which this week means some harsh physical training at the hands of Lupo. But it's Allison who has the most to deal with - she's losing time and doing things she has no memory of, all under the secret control of Eureka's arch-nemesis Beverly Barlowe.
"Up in the Air" feels like a bit of a throwback to the Eureka of previous seasons. The episode's central plot is all about the townspeople being irresponsible with super-science, much to Carter's consternation, which then forces him to save the day pretty much single-handed, very much to his consternation. That used to be a fairly standard template for episodes - indeed, the show probably went to that well a few too many times in years past - but it's a refreshing change of pace to see it come back every once in a while.
A big reason why it's so much fun to return to the old formula is that Colin Ferguson is a master at comically pissed off acting.* Sheriff Carter is pretty much always a bit confused and irritated with Eureka, but here Ferguson and writer Kira Snyder turn that frustration up to eleven, with every line reading and facial expression selling Carter's mounting frustration with the callous geniuses who won't stop mistreating him - and that includes his easily distracted friends. Not since Nathan Stark was in town has Carter been quite so thoroughly abused by Eureka, and of course the gloriously dickish Dr. Parrish is behind it.
Indeed, it's Dr. Parrish who points out what makes the entire situation so ridiculously cruel to Carter: he doesn't even have anybody to blame. After all, Parrish may have had a dangerous Higgs disruptor on his hands, and another scientist may have been holding onto a vial of his grandmother's antimatter, but both of them did the only responsible thing and put their valuables in an osmium-reinforced bank. It's as though the very concept of Eureka is at fault here, and Carter is left to rage against his role as cosmic punching bag... with some pretty hilarious results.
Indeed, the whole episode has an oddly retro feel about it - not that I'm complaining. After six years, we finally get to see something that can make the buildings levitate, just like in the opening credits. Henry comments on all the times he's had to fix Jack's truck, which is why he's finally decided to reinforce the frame with a super-strong alloy. Of course, the jeep is just about the only thing that does not safely return to Earth, proving once again that, in Eureka, all roads in space apparently lead to the International Space Station.
Nothing is more retro than a return appearance from Beverly Barlowe. I've gone over my reservations with her character before - mainly the fact that I'm still not completely sure what her motivations are or what larger structure she fits into - but I'll table that for now, as this episode makes good use of her. While there have to be more dignified ways to remotely control someone, her manipulation of Allison actually makes a decent amount of sense, as weird mystery plots go, and the episode does a deft job portraying Allison's missing time.
I particularly liked the sequence where we zapped through an entire conversation between Allison and Fargo, only to find out that the Beverly-controlled Allison had maneuvered herself to become acting head of Global Dynamics. It's still too soon to judge the conspiracy as a whole — and I could probably quibble with all the logic of giving Allison quite so many chances to work out the truth and share her concerns with others — but overall, I think this is hanging together pretty well so far.
That aside, this is mostly a comedy-heavy episode of Eureka, which is another reason why I found it so refreshing. Erica Cerra gets to channel her inner R. Lee Ermey as the drill instructor (minus the constant barrage of F-bombs, but that's what the DVD is for!), while Zane tries to overcome his multiple felonies by participating in every training group.
What's great about this sequence - beyond the fact that it's, you know, funny - is that it works because these are characters we've gotten to know over the course of multiple seasons. It's a confident show that can build up a character as a real hard-ass drill instructor and then smash-cut to one of its regulars. That's the sort of introduction that most shows would reserve for a big guest star, and it's nice to see that, as far as Eureka concerned, Jo as a drill instructor is a more than big enough reveal.
Finally, there's the ongoing love triangle between Fargo, Holly, and Dr. Parrish. Maybe it's because this episode just generally reminds me of previous seasons, but their triangle feels like a twisted reflection of the old Jack/Allison/Stark triangle - hell, even Wil Wheaton's beard looks the part. I'm not sure whether any of this is intentional (the beard, at least, is probably a coincidence), but it's a fun callback, particularly since this now means Fargo is occupying the same position that Carter once did, which just feels all sorts of awesome and wrong. Except, of course, Fargo has power that he can gleefully abuse in his war with Parrish, which instantly sets him apart from the good sheriff.
As for the guest stars, Felicia Day continues to quietly peel back some more of the layers of Holly's bizarre exterior to reveal the person underneath - pretty much all my initial trepidation about her character is gone at this point, although I would like to see the show burrow a little deeper into who she really is. Wil Wheaton continues to be great as Dr. Parrish, who is very much...well, I was going to say the guy you love to hate, but really I just straight-up love the slimy bastard. Parrish is a breath of fresh, noxious air for the show, and it's kinda nice that so far he's not been softened or made nicer by interaction with the cast. The only thing I'd like to see is just what Holly sees in Parrish - we get a bit of a sense of it here and in the preceding episode, but it's still a little hard to grasp just what their relationship is.
"Up in the Air" is another strong episode for season 4.5, which has generally been a superior iteration of the show. (Even "Reprise", which I wasn't crazy about initially, got a lot better after a rewatch, as I kinda expected it would.) It's good to see Eureka kick back and reel off an hour of almost straight-up comedy every once in a while, and the episode also feels like a nice reminder of what has made the show fun in previous years. And now it's full speed ahead for next week's episode, which promises a big showdown between the forces of evil and the forces of good...plus Dr. Parrish, presumably.
*The high-water mark of which is William Shatner in "The Trouble with Tribbles." Obviously.