On Eureka, computers are way too smart for their own good

Yesterday's Eureka showed in two very different ways just how dangerous it can be for AI to become as smart and clever as humans. The first story had our heroes facing the ultimate disaster simulation, while the other story, well...

Let's just say that some pretty damn massive spoilers lie ahead!

"Worst Case Scenario" has Eureka shifting into action mode after last week's big goofy (and massively entertaining) comedy. Global Dynamics is still working to rebuild its reputation with the Department of Defense in the wake of the Astraeus fiasco, and that means inviting a disaster expert and his wily AI program ADA to wreak simulated - and, soon enough, not so simulated - havoc on our heroes. But after getting a B+ on their first simulation - only 29 deaths! - ADA decides to get serious, knocks out her creator, sets in motion a bunch of very deadly threats including a missile launch, and then destroys itself just to make sure none of this can be stopped.

Meanwhile, Fargo and Zane follow up on last week's discovery that Holly's brain patterns might still be alive in "the matrix", Beverly Barlowe's ultra complex computer simulation. While nether expects to find very much in there, Fargo knows he has to find out the truth. What he discovers exceeds his wildest hopes, as Holly isn't just still present in the matrix, she's pretty much still alive and herself...except, you know, no longer in possession of a body. And so Fargo is left with the unenviable task of tell his beloved that she is actually dead.

The other main thread of this episode is the continuing tension between Carter, Allison, Jo, and Zane. In this case, it's Jo who is pissed with Carter for utterly shutting down her attempt to be honest about her theoretical feelings for him. Of course, she doesn't know that she had that conversation when Carter and Allison had switched bodies, leaving the pretty much eternally innocent and beleaguered Carter with not the foggiest idea what he's supposed to have done.

I think I'm ready for that whole subplot to be over with, even if I haven't disliked the love quadrangle as much as some of you have - and really, I don't think love quadrangle is even really the right word, since we still don't really have any sense that Carter has any feelings for Jo, and Allison certainly doesn't seem to have any interest in Zane. The last three episodes have done a generally OK job of spinning relationship melodrama out of the virtual reality setup, but since we still haven't gotten the slightest sense that what went on in there could happen out here in the real world, it seems silly to keep picking at the scab. I'm hoping Jo offering a toast to Carter and Allison's engagement, even knowing what Allison did to her, means we're ready to move on with all this.

My problem, I think, goes back to one of the things I actually like most about Eureka - that at the end of the day, these characters really do act like adults and professionals most of the time. The alternate reality that the computer simulation presented offered a uniquely Eureka way to bring the characters into interpersonal conflict, but all too often it's felt like the characters are going through the motions of a big fight rather than actually having one. No matter how bad it seems, we still kind of know it's only a matter of time before Jo realizes Carter isn't really an asshole, and it's only a matter of time before she makes her peace with Allison and toasts the happy couple. This isn't the most dramatic way to play things out - a lot of other shows would have strung this out for an entire season, for better or worse - but it does feel true to the characters, and so I'm fine with it. But seriously, I think we've seen enough.

Then there's the big return of Felicia Day as Holly. After three episodes away, her quasi-resurrection has some impact, and the show hit some effective emotional beats as we see Fargo realize he's found her again. Indeed, Fargo gets a lot of the best moments in this episode, with Neil Grayston and Niall Matter offering some nice depth to the unlikely but absolutely rock solid friendship between Fargo and Zane. Without ever approaching a whiff of "bromance", these two characters have reached a point where they would apparently do anything for each other, which is rather wonderful when you consider how far the two have come from their initial, one-dimensional, polar opposite characterizations. This cooperation and quiet camaraderie between Fargo and Zane is the sort of character work I'd say Eureka does best, and it certainly feels more natural than the fighting.

But what of Holly? Honestly, I'm not sure what to make of her in this episode. Both Felicia Day and Neil Grayston seemed weirdly stilted in their virtual scenes together, which might have been a subtle attempt to illustrate the ethereal quality of the desolate virtual reality...or it might have just been down to some wonky direction. In any event, there's still a lot of promise in virtual Holly, and I'm hopeful that the show is able to mine as much as possible out of the decision to bring her back. The virtual reality plot has placed all the characters in unlikely, difficult scenarios, and this one is by far the most intriguing we've encountered so far. Still, I'm grading this subplot more on promise than execution right now, as there was definitely something a bit off about the performances in those scenes.

All that leaves is the main plot of the episode. This is another episode I'd classify as a thoroughly solid episode of Eureka. Given the general quality of the show, that's by no means a bad thing, but the worst case scenario plot doesn't really offer enough twists and turns or big character moments that have elevated other episodes. It's an hour of television that knows what it's doing and gets on and does it with minimal fuss - which makes for fun watching but doesn't really lend itself to a deep analysis. Although, I'll admit - Carter and his jeep sinking into the Earth was a great little sequence, and another great moment in Colin Ferguson getting hilarious pissed off at his latest indignity - his look of almost disapproval with being sucked into the Earth was pretty priceless. It also set up what I've got to assume is the dirtiest joke in Eureka's five seasons. I think, even sight unseen, we've officially seen more than enough of Deputy Andy's fifty feet of high tension steel cable, thank you very much.