On Eureka, the past is a dangerous place

Yesterday's Eureka found our heroes confronting their pasts. For most, these flashbacks were the final test for the Astraeus mission. For Carter, it involved stopping Wallace Shawn as he tried to reenact all the sheriff's greatest, most dangerous moments.

"This One Time at Space Camp..." let us delve deeper into some of the characters' pasts, as they explained to Senator Wen (Ming-Na) why they should be picked to go to Titan. Zane explained he always wanted to be an astronaut, as typified when he hacked into NASA in fifth grade so that he could fool his classmates into thinking his dad was in space. Fargo went back to his time designing rockets at Galaxy Camp under the exuberant tutelage of Chief Tyrol (or, as I imagine he prefers to be known, Aaron Douglas). Jo remembered how difficult it was to grow up in constant competition with three older brothers.

Meanwhile, Carter and Allison have appealed the decision of the Department of Defense auditor Warren Hughes (Wallace Shawn) that their relationship poses a security risk...and the supervisor sent to hear the appeal is newly promoted supervisor Warren Hughes. He uses the same memory-visualizing technology that the Senator is using so that he can see whether Allison and Carter really do work well together. But a coffee-related mishap accidentally infuses Warren with Carter's memory, and he becomes hellbent on living out all of Carter's most death-defying stunts all at once.

On Eureka, the past is a dangerous placeS

Structurally, it feels sort of weird that we get to see flashbacks into the pasts of a handful of secondary characters instead of our main hero, but I suppose Carter at this point is just destined to remain a lovable cipher. I realize Warren was only looking for memories of Carter and Allison together, so I suppose it wouldn't have made logical sense to peer back further into Carter's past, but it's interesting that the show eschews using Warren's memory transplant as a way to find out something new about the sheriff...unless you count Warren bawling like a baby at the end, I guess. This isn't a criticism, exactly - Carter isn't the sort of character to hide any big dark secrets, and what you see is what you get. Sure, he's pretty closed off with his emotions, but he's hardly tortured by them either.

Anyway, if the show had gone down that route, we probably would have lost all the Carter wisecracks, and he was in fine form this episode. Colin Ferguson might actually have topped his comic performance in "Up in the Air" with this episode, and that's partially because Amy Berg's script gives him a ton of great one-liners. And while Joe Morton doesn't say a lot, he gets every ounce of humor out of Henry's reactions to Warren's Carter avatar. Indeed, Wallace Shawn isn't really doing a Colin Ferguson impression, I don't think, but it's just funny watching him play the part of square-jawed hero, and Shawn even manages to work in a hint of pathos as a man overwhelmed by sudden Carter-ness.

On Eureka, the past is a dangerous placeS

As for all the other flashbacks...well, they were cute, and Aaron Douglas was a lot of fun as a NASA scientist who is trying a little too hard to be an enthusiastic camp counselor. I'm not sure we gleaned any piercing insights into the characters from what we saw - a lot of this material had been mentioned or could have been inferred from dialogue in previous episodes, and they mostly serve to reaffirm the best parts of Zane, Fargo, and Jo rather than show us something we didn't previously know. They work well for what they're trying to do, and those kids are pretty adorable.

One thing that continues to quietly impress me about Eureka is that it isn't afraid to let the ostensible point of this season — the Astraeus mission — be carried by side characters. As this season began, I sort of figured the show would find some way to crowbar Carter onto the mission (hey, there's still time!), and it's been interesting to see how many main characters - Allison, Henry, and now Jo - have had to drop out, all for legitimate reasons that speak well to their respective characters. This show doesn't go in for a lot of tight, arc-driven plotting - and I am completely OK with that - but the show's done a nice job of slowly developing how Astraeus affects the various characters over the course of the season, and it's not over yet.

Sadly, it does appear to be over for Dr. Parrish, who returns after a couple weeks off in style: dickishly riding a recumbent bike. (Yes, he found a way to make the very act of riding a bike dickish. Parrish truly is a master.) This episode makes him about as big a loser as the show has made him thus far, as he loses out on both Holly and Astraeus, and all he has to show for it is a trophy he still clings to after twenty years. Wil Wheaton continues to be very funny in the role, and here's hoping he can remain in the foreground, even if he apparently won't be going to Titan.