Review: Eureka 3.16 – “You Don’t Know Jack”
Original Air Date: August 28, 2009
Rating: TV-14 (Recommended for people 14 or older)
This is an elevator episode. I am sure there are other names for this type of episode. You could call it a living room episode, or a flashback episode. I am not sure what Hollywood insiders call it. But I call it an elevator episode. Basically, it’s the kind of episode you do if your show is running over budget. You stick some main characters in a broken elevator, and while they are waiting to be rescued, you have them sit around talking about all the adventures they have had. It’s an excuse to make an entire episode out of flashbacks from previous seasons.
It doesn’t have to be an elevator. It could be a meat locker, or the local pub, or a hospital room, or whatever. The point is to produce a really, really cheap episode, which this makes possible, because the only new footage is the footage you shoot in the elevator. And because the only new dialogue that has to be written and filmed is variations of “Hey, you remember when I walked in on you with the cucumber? Let’s have a flashback of that,” the actors and writers and other behind the scenes people get a rest. The editing staff has to go into overdrive, but everyone else gets a rest.
In a previous review, I said that if they ever did an elevator episode, they should have Fargo and Jo stuck in the elevator, because they are developing a great straight guy/funny guy comedic timing. But I suspect the folks over at Eureka didn’t read that review, because they put Carter and Dr. Blake together. That’s okay, though, because Carter and Blake have a great chemistry too. Also, their relationship is kind of the glue of the show.
We start off with Dr. Tess Fontana distributing story catchers to the gang over at the Café Diem. The dream catchers create a wireless neural connection with your optic nerves so everyone can see your memories. Global Dynamics, it seems, wants to create a time capsule. If this were a normal town, they’d just record some people talking about stuff, and collect a bunch of junk that will show people in the future what people in the present were into, and throw it all into an old trunk that they bury behind the town high school. But this isn’t a normal town, so they’ve developed a device that reaches into your brain and records your memories. What could go wrong?
Fargo could go wrong. But first we have to watch Carter and Dr. Blake talking about Blake’s pregnancy. Carter has been practicing his breathing, and he’s excited about the big graduation ceremony from the natural birthing class. Too bad, Carter, because it’s the woman who does the breathing. Plus, they can’t go to the ceremony because duty calls. It turns out Global Dynamics has an annual sonic cleaning, and Blake has to stick around to make sure everything is secured.
The sonic cleaning is a process that breaks down all organic compounds at a molecular level. It’s Eureka’s version of tenting your house to kill all the bugs. So, Dr. Blake and Sheriff Carter have to make sure everyone gets out of Global Dynamics before the sonic cleaning starts. This is where Fargo comes in. He sneaks into the room where all the memories are being gathered, and uses the device to show him all the Fargo memories that everyone is downloading from all over Eureka. Being the guy who starts the most trouble, he doesn’t like what he sees.
But the rest of us like what we see. The only thing better than a Fargo montage is a Dr. Blake montage (for different reasons, of course). But the Blake flashbacks aren’t coming until later, so we first get treated to some tight editing showing us the most goofy of the goofy Fargo moments. It’s great. In fact, when they release the DVD for this season, they MUST include an extended Fargo montage special feature, complete with humorous music and fast edits and perhaps a running commentary by Neil Grayston (the actor who plays Fargo). They should also have an extended Dr. Blake montage, with slow motion shots of her running on the beach in a bikini. But back to Fargo.
Fargo doesn’t like what he sees, so he reprograms the master memory collector thingy to erase the memories of Fargo, and replace them with his dreams of himself. The inadvertent result is to erase all the memories of everyone who uses the dream catchers.
As a result, some of the scientists start acting funny. Carter and Dr. Blake head to the super secure area that Fargo had just left to figure out what is going on. They ask the scientist who is in charge of the sonic cleaning to wait until they get back, since they don’t want to die, but otherwise don’t seem especially concerned about what’s going on. Of course, the scientist running the sonic cleaning has used the story catchers, so he forgets that Carter and Blake are still in the basement of Global Dynamics, and starts the sonic cleaning protocol. This shuts Blake and Carter inside the super secure basement. This means if they don’t find a way out, they’ll be dismantled at the molecular level. It also means, being stuck in a room with a memory machine, they have a great excuse to spend the rest of this episode presenting various flashbacks to us viewers.
Welcome to the elevator.
Rather than go into detail about all the characters having flashbacks, let me just mention two of the awesome ones. The first awesome flashback is Dr. Blake. We get to see all kinds of action shots that remind us that, even though she is totally hot now, she was even hotter before she cut her hair. I wisely resisted declaring aloud the need for slow motion bikini running, since my wife and I were watching together. But she doesn’t read my reviews, so I can declare it here. Maybe in the DVD release.
The other awesome flashback is a dream sequence. Carter puts on the memory watching thingy to see whether Fargo was indeed the person who caused all the trouble. Instead of memories of Fargo (which he erased) Carter gets one of Fargo’s dreams (which he replaced the memories with). It’s a dream sequence with Fargo as Zorro, Stark as the bad guy, and Jo as the damsel in distress who thinks Fargo in an oversized black mask speaking highly Gringo-accented Spanish is totally hot. In other words, it’s completely ridiculous and totally hilarious.
Dr. Blake starts losing her memories, but Carter brings them back by getting her to remember the most intensely emotional memories. They include a lot of Stark flashbacks, but they also include a lot of Carter flashbacks (Carter is such a stud). They figure out a way to contact the outside world. Since Zoe and Tess are the only people who have not actually used the story catchers, they figure out what the problem is, and rescue Carter and Blake at the last second.
Blake also starts having her baby. Throughout this episode, Zoe has been feeling sorry for herself because she’s the only person besides her father and Jo without multiple PhD genius. She feels like she has no purpose. But she helps deliver Blake’s baby, which helps her figure out her calling in life. She’s either going to be Major League baseball’s first female catcher, or she’s going to be an OB/GYN. They’re not clear on that subject.
Also, Tess starts to lose her memories, but Carter brings them back by kissing her (he’s such a stud). Presumably this works because the of the whole thing about emotional memories being the strongest memories. Again, Carter is a stud. But I have to say this scene doesn’t work very well. Carter and Tess don’t have much chemistry. Carter and Blake have a lot of chemistry, but not Tess and Carter. Still, it’s cute and cuddly, so it doesn’t ruin the moment too much.
After a few bits of dialogue to establish that Blake is leaving the show for a while to take care of her baby, we get a happy ending.
Some thoughts: Elevator episodes are not supposed to be especially ground breaking. They are supposed to give the budget a break, and perhaps remind the audience about some of the more important relationships and dynamics and character traits of the show. And I have to give credit to them for actually creating a little tension and humor instead of taking the lazy way out (like the mid-80s sitcoms always used to do), and just having the characters sit around and say “remember back when XYZ happened?”
So, this isn’t the greatest episode (except for the Fargo montages and the Dr. Blake flashbacks), but it’s pretty good as far as elevator episodes go.
I am excited about next week’s episode. [SPOILER ALERT!] The previews indicate they are bringing back Dr. Jim Taggart, played by Matt Frewer of Max Headroom fame. This character was a lot of fun to watch, and anything that Matt Frewer touches is interesting, so I hope they are bringing him back as a regular character.