Last night's Warehouse 13 gave us two stories of overachievers who pay a high price for excellence. And meanwhile, both Artie and Steve let the cat out of the bag about their huge secrets. And finally, we learned just how far Brother Data is willing to go for retribution. The common factor everything has in common: out-of-control ego, and maybe the wrong kind of empathy.
"There's Always A Downside" is mostly an artifact-of-the-week story, in which both artifacts turn out to be about achieving excellence while losing your sense of perspective.
A young jazz musician, Ethan, has gotten hold of a cigarette case that allows him to steal other people's pain (Sybok-style) and use it to become a great jazzman — the only problem is, the borrowed pain is killing Ethan. And people aren't being allowed to work through their pain and get over it, the normal way. But mostly, it's killing Ethan. (Who's played by Sam Huntington from Being Human.)
And meanwhile, a group of already high-strung kids at an elite prep school have gotten hold of Bobby Fisher's marbles, which give them amazing focus but also turn them crazy and give them Cyber-plague veins. The result: a bunch of homicidal teenagers, and then eventually an even more homicidal school principal. That snafu, in turn, results from Hugo (Rene Auberjonois) showing off to his nephew, whom he wants to turn into a future Warehouse agent.
Neither of these "artifact of the week" cases is particularly thrilling on its own — they feel very "of the week," in fact — but together, they do sort of give a composite portrait of how someone who's already ambitious can become a crazed egomaniac when he (or she, but mostly he in this case) gets hold of an object with awesome power. And the willingness to use people also seems like a common denominator here. Also, the Hugo subplot (which feels a bit half baked) is all about Hugo projecting his own insecurity onto his nephew, whom Hugo wants to turn into a great agent to make up for Hugo's own failures. Or something.
The real oomph of the episode, though, comes from the "arc" stuff — we get more evidence that Steve Jinks is empathically linked with Claudia. Much like Ethan is stealing other people's pain, Claudia is feeling Steve's pain. Whenever something bad happens to Steve, Claudia feels it. And this could be very bad news if anything especially life-threatening happens to Steve.
And this is sort of where the notion of "out of control ego" becomes important — Claudia didn't want to let Steve stay dead because she couldn't stand to lose anyone else. And now that she's brought him back, she keeps joking that she "owns" him. Claudia's self-sacrifice is at least partly about her own ego and her own needs, and even the price she's paying is about Claudia taking on Steve's own experiences.
Meanwhile, Brother Data comes to see Artie, ostensibly to track down the astrolabe but in fact to confirm Brother Data's suspicions that Artie is the culprit. And Artie winds up admitting it, but vows never to undo his use of the magic astrolabe. He explains to Brother Data about the horrible situation the world was in before he used the astrolabe — but Brother Data isn't particularly impressed, hinting that the world will have to suffer in any case, from the unspeakable evil that Artie has unleashed. (Remember that the evil is French Revolution-sized, but specific to its creator.) So the whole world is potentially going to be hit with some horrible suffering that's somehow appropriate to Artie's personality — another example of someone's huge ego inadvertently creating a self-centered disaster.
And once again, it's clear that both Steve and Artie are in a no-win situation. Steve can only be sure of saving Claudia by sacrificing his own life. And Artie's in a place where whatever he does, the world will suffer immensely.
And then, speaking of ego... we find out that Brother Data's goal isn't just to undo the harm that Artie did — it's also just to punish Artie for coming into Brother Data's house and stealing from him, ruining his life's work. Brother Data's pride is wounded, and he's not going to stop until Artie's life's work is ruined as well. Which means super-powerful artifacts are going to keep vanishing from the Warehouse and wreaking havoc (just as those marbles did.) And who wants to bet this will culminate with Pandora's box being wrecked all over again, so the same horrible fate awaits the world in both timelines?
In any case, Artie's still fixated on his nightmare about Claudia stabbing him — but it's already obvious the evil Artie's unleashed is going to turn out to be something much bigger and worse. And it will probably come from Artie's own unraveling mental state.