On Eureka, a tender interplanetary robot love story

Yesterday's Eureka was quite literally its most batshit ever, as super-charged, ultra-acidic bat guano almost killed the show's most adorable couple: the robotic Deputy Andy, and Carter's smart house S.A.R.A.H. Love between AI has never been so almost tragic.

"One Small Step" finds Global Dynamics making the final preparations for the big Astraeus mission to Titan. The official photographs have been taken (although, considering this is presumably a top-secret mission, I'm guessing those won't be hanging anywhere beyond Cafe Diem), Henry's wife Dr. Grace Monroe has been named the mission's Captain (which is a rank that kind of awesomely owes more to science fiction than NASA - in the "real" world, she'd probably be Commander), and everyone's favorite animal-loving Australian lunatic, Dr. Jim Taggart, is back in town with some Titan-ready critters.

Of course, one or two things go spectacularly wrong. First, Deputy Andy is transported to Titan when he's caught up in an accidental FTL launch. Second, random parts of the town (including, of course, Carter's jeep) are mysteriously melting. While Carter, Jo, and Taggart try to figure out what could be causing this sudden buildup of goo — it turns out to be super-charged bat guano, because of course it does — the rest of the team desperately tries to bring Andy back before the harsh conditions of Titan kill him. And, just to make things worse, his cybernetic girlfriend S.A.R.A.H. (also known as Carter's house) has also succumbed to the acidic super-guano, and it's not at all clear whether these two starcrossed AI will live out the day, let alone see each other again.

I hate to say it, but "One Small Step" kinda lived up to its title. For all the interplanetary travel and super-guano mayhem, this felt like a weirdly quiet episode, a final bit of throat-clearing before next week's big mission to Titan. Now, there was still plenty to enjoy here, a lot of which had to do with Deputy Andy being marooned on Titan. There was some effective drama, particularly a great little scene where Henry tells Carter that Andy is quite literally one of a kind. I'm not sure the episode did a whole lot with its theme of how human and artificial intelligence aren't all that different, but that one scene pretty much nailed it. Kavan Smith was great as the stranded Andy, working some nice quite desperation into his eternally chipper demeanor. And, brief though it was, the shot of Saturn rising over Titan was pretty incredible, and a nice reminder of why space exploration is so awesome in the first place.

On Eureka, a tender interplanetary robot love story

The rest of the episode, however, felt a bit minor. It was perfectly enjoyable, to be sure, but missing that extra something that would really elevate it. Part of my problem with this episode comes from a pair of rather odd story beats. When Jo is talking with Taggart about how they last parted, we learn that she turned down his "proposal", but exactly what said proposal was is discussed so obliquely that I figured we were headed towards some shocking twist as to what it actually was. The assumption, of course, is that it was some sort of romantic proposal, considering their history in the original timeline (not to mention the season one alternate timeline, where they were taking naked picnics and everything) and Jo's current concerns about her relationship with Zane. But it remained so resolutely ill-defined that I half-expected a big, joking reveal where it turns out Taggart just wanted her to come hunt things in Australia with him or something sort of silly like that.

Admittedly, I wasn't exactly hoping that twist would happen, as it would have cheapened the whole point of their interactions, but I can't shake the feeling that there was something off about that scene. Perhaps it's just the fact that the Taggart/Jo coupling is such a relic of the show's distant past that it really doesn't make sense anymore for either character. I'm not sure it ever made sense, honestly, but at least you could sort of see it when both characters were regulars. Here, without any immediate context, maybe the whole thing just seems a little too preposterous, particularly when so much has happened since then between Jo and Zane.

The other weird non-twist was S.A.R.A.H.'s memory. Fargo makes it clear that S.A.R.A.H. may have lost big patches of her memory, and that there's nowhere to know what she's forgotten until they switch her back on. Deputy Andy then comes in, and she doesn't immediately respond when he greets her...until it becomes clear that she was just overcome with emotion at seeing him again, and they go off and have whatever their equivalent of sex is (best not to think about it). Apparently, the only thing S.A.R.A.H. forgot was the bat incident itself, although I suppose we could discover new patches of forgetfulness in future episodes.

I'm not quite sure what to make of that moment. From a storytelling standpoint, I feel like if you set up the fact that S.A.R.A.H. has lost some of her memories, then she really should forget something relatively important. I can see why the writers wouldn't want to go so far as to wipe her memories of Andy — that's probably too cruel a twist for Eureka, unless of course they hit the reset button almost immediately in the next episode. But as it stands here, it feels like a rather weak choice.

On Eureka, a tender interplanetary robot love story

There's an argument that that scene ties in with the question of whether Andy and S.A.R.A.H.'s love is any different from its human counterpart. Insofar as the scene addresses that question, it rather squarely comes down on the side that, no, it's not any different at all. From that standpoint, S.A.R.A.H.'s pause really is a twist - since we think she's just a computer, we expect the pause to be an error in her systems and a sign that part of her memories have been erased, because why else would a computer pause? The answer, of course, is that she's more human than we think, and so the pause is an emotional moment. I'm not really convinced that the scene as presented sells all those ideas - again, the whole thing just felt slightly off to me - but yeah, there might be more to this than I saw initially.

Anyway, those problems aside, this is still a decent episode. Matt Frewer's Australian accent and general presence is as ridiculous as ever, but he actually gets a bit of genuine emotion out of his scenes with Jo. The bat guano plot wasn't one of the show's great mysteries, but it's a neat, awesomely disgusting idea, and felt like some legitimately mad science, which is always nice to see. Zane and Jo's story had a good payoff that seemed in keeping with how emotionally limited those two characters really are, and it's always fun to see Fargo provide some legitimately good romantic advice. The guy's growing up.

But now, it's time to put all that aside, because next week is the big season - not series! - finale, in which the gang finally makes it to Titan. If that was the "One Small Step", then I'm definitely ready for the "One Giant Leap."