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Review #3509: Eureka 5.5: “Jack of All Trades”

Posted on the 16 May 2012 by Entil2001 @criticalmyth

Contributor: Gregg Wright

“Body swapping episode”. The mere thought of the concept sends shivers down my spine. And these are not shivers of excitement, but of dread. Often, I wonder if there’s been some sort of edict set down by the gods of television, decreeing that all sci-fi shows must, at some point, do a body-swap episode. It’s one of the most popularly-utilized tropes in sci-fi television, but not only am I sick and tired of it, I’m not convinced that it ever really worked. Maybe there are rare exceptions were uncannily good acting results in a truly convincing body-swap, but in almost every case, it’s impossible to see the exercise as anything other than the actors mimicking each other, to the best of their abilities. Suspension of disbelief just isn’t there.

Review #3509: Eureka 5.5: “Jack of All Trades”

After seeing the promo for this episode, I did begin to worry. But part of me remained cautiously optimistic. “Eureka” might make it work, I thought. Unfortunately, that didn’t turn out to be the case. The episode probably handles the body-swapping idea better than many other shows have, but the inherent weaknesses of the idea result in a sub-par episode. None of the actors attempts to mimic their fellow actors’ performances are outright atrocious. Most are actually pretty good, all things considered. I suppose the best way to enjoy this episode is to just try to enjoy it for what it is: the actors just having some fun. Colin Ferguson, not surprisingly, comes out in front. And Nial Matter shows an unexpected degree of range in his imitation of a supremely uncomfortable Carter. Whenever the body-swap mechanic isn’t being used to generate awkward humor of this sort (some of which, I must admit, did illicit a smile from me), it’s being used to explore deeper character issues.

I was a bored by most of the body-swapping shenanigans, but I did like how the confusion resulting from the body-swapping tied in neatly with Carter and Jo’s current confusion over how they feel about each other, and seemed to add fuel to the fire of Zane’s jealousy. And it was interesting and a bit creepy to have Allison in Carter’s body, telling Jo what she wants to believe Carter would say to her. I’m actually not terribly fond of this current Carter/Jo drama, but I suppose it has to be said that the possible future for Carter and Jo created by the Matrix was not unbelievable. Jo wasn’t wrong to think that the thought must have crossed both of their minds at some point, being that the two of them have been such good friends for so long now and are both attractive. Still, I preferred the more father/daughter type of relationship they had before, and I wish they’d kept it that way.

There’s much more to the episode than just the body-swapping, though. Wallace Shawn returns as the DOD psychologist Warren Hughes, there to decide which Astraeus crewmembers are fit to keep their jobs in the wake of recent events. This results in my favorite scene of the episode: Warren and Fargo having an epic laser tag battle while conversing about Fargo’s mental health. As with Warren’s last visit, there’s a bit of a worry that he’ll make some horrible, life-changing decision for one or more of the characters. But like before, Warren makes the right call in the end. I find Warren to be an amusing character, so as far as I’m concerned, the more of him we see on “Eureka”, the better.

One important underlying thread to the episode is Zane’s work on what remains of the Matrix mainframe. Zane has clear motivations for wanting to know more about the Matrix, and Fargo has clear motivations for wanting nothing else to do with it. I liked that Zane showed such an unexpected soft side when trying to convince Fargo that letting him continue working on the mainframe might be the right thing to do. Fargo wants none of it, but Zane predictably goes ahead with his work. This leads to the very unsurprising reveal that Holly’s consciousness is still somewhere inside the Matrix mainframe, right before Fargo has to make the hard choice to shut it down to save his friends, possibly losing Holly once again. Of course, it seems all but assured that Holly isn’t gone for good, now.

The other big bombshell is Jack’s proposal to Allison. She accepts, and Vince breaks out the champagne, but I don’t think that this means that the tensions between Jack, Allison, Jo, and Zane are over with. Allison and Zane are likely to remain somewhat paranoid about Carter and Jo, who will likely remain somewhat awkward around each other. And there’s more relationship trouble for another couple as well. Grace’s decision to temporarily leave Henry really seems to come out of left field. All this over a fake, evil Henry in the Matrix? Seems a bit excessive. I can kinda, sort of understand how the Carter/Jo situation could arise, but Grace’s departure is just forced drama for the sake of drama.

Whether or not you enjoy this episode will likely hinge upon your appreciation of the humor derived from all the body-swapping. Given that this type of episode is something that’s seemingly almost impossible to do truly well, “Eureka” deserves some credit for at least succeeding at doing it better than most. But the episode is still a mixed bag and probably the weakest episode of the season’s first five episodes. These missteps seem to have become fairly rare for “Eureka”, though, so I’m generally confident that it will bounce right back from this to something that works better.

Rating: 6/10

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