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Eureka: Ship Happens

...in which the town copes with the fallout from the ship’s arrival.

So, it turns out the ship that arrived last week was the Columbia, an unmanned interstellar exploration prototype built by Henry 20 years ago. Three years after its launch, the prototype went missing and the whole project was scrapped. Henry thought the ship was gone for good and never expected it to survive, much less find its way home. But since it was programmed to improvise, the Columbia did manage to survive. Moreover, it somehow adapted its pre-arrival signal to get the town’s residents to build it new landing facilities before it returned. Now the ship has brought home the knowledge it gathered during its 20-year voyage, which shockingly has been recorded in a cloned version of Henry’s lost love, Kim.

I thought the emotional stakes seemed high in the last episode, but ‘Ship Happens’ really took things to the next level. First, “Kim’s” return reopened old wounds for Henry and forced him to confront past mistakes. Then, to drive the stakes even higher, Zane comes dangerously close to dying, forcing him and Jo to get really real about their feelings for each other.

I was thoroughly delighted when Jo and Zane finally admitted they love each other. It’s been fairly obvious for awhile that these two are very much in love, but it was still a really huge moment for them to actually say it to each other. I’m so happy for Jo! Her sense of self has never depended on her relationship with a man (or lack thereof), but it’s clearly a connection she’s desired for a very long time, and I’m so thrilled that she’s found finally love with the right partner. So, naturally, I’m now terrified that some horrible fate will befall Zane. I know that Eureka is no Joss Whedon show, but the creative team still seems to have something against happy couples. See Exhibits A and B: Henry and Kim, and Stark and Allison.

On that subject, when Henry and Allison first started reminiscing about Stark and Kim, I thought it was just a really nice nod to the characters’ histories. Occasionally, the writers do remember the past, and I like that they allow Stark and Kim to remain a presence on the show. Of course, I should have realized this conversation was just prelude to bringing one of them back, but I was still completely shocked when the ship spit out its version of Romy (Andromeda) in the form of Kim.

Kudos to Tamlyn Tomita for creating a very different version of Kim, who was still quite sympathetic and affecting. I was surprised that Kim 2.0 seemed to exhibit emotions. I wouldn’t expect what amounts to a highly complex data recorder to have emotions (even though most of the A.I.’s in this town seem to be overly emotional). Then again, most of her “emotional” responses were in relation to Henry. Given that she was grown from Kim’s DNA and modeled on a detailed profile of Kim, it does make sense that she’d be “programmed” to respond emotionally to him.

In any event, this episode certainly offered a more nuanced and poignant exploration of a possible bond with an artificially created intelligence than we got last week. Even though the topic wasn’t explored too deeply, after the superficial treatment of Fargo’s relationship with his car, I was very pleased to see the show at least bring up the idea of what it means to be a “person.” I realize that Kim 2.0 is a very different entity than Tabitha, but I appreciated the emotional seriousness with which they tackled the subject this week.

Carter: “But … what is a person? Could there be a piece of Kim in there?”
Henry: “Scientifically? Impossible. [Long pause.] But don’t you think I’ve been asking myself that question since I saw her?”

I’m very curious to see where they go with Henry and Kim from here. Obviously, the two will continue working together to figure out a way to download whatever secrets of the universe the Columbia picked up on her 20-year voyage. But will he allow himself to fall in love with her all over again, even though she’s only a shadow of the real Kim? Will he have to lose her for a third time? I didn’t actually expect Kim 2.0 to survive this episode, and I don’t have a lot of confidence that she’ll be with us for long. However, the chemistry between Joe Morton and Tamlyn Tomita simply leaps off the screen --- how sweet and touching was the scene where he gifted her with a change of clothes? --- and the tragic poignancy of Kim and Henry’s relationship is undeniable, so I’m not too surprised the writers would want to milk this thing a little longer.

My favorite aspect of this episode was the ever-so-slight nod to Henry’s past actions in his scenes with Carter. I wish the writers had taken on this history more directly, because, despite all the memory flashes and hints that Jack remembered what Henry did to him last season, they’ve never truly addressed the mind-wiping or the rift in their friendship. They seem determined to have Carter hand-wave it all away, presumably because he understands Henry acted out of agonizing grief and he just wants his best friend back. Ultimately, I want the old Henry back, too, so I’m fine with the two men resolving their issues and moving forward, but it would be nice to actually see them working it out. That said, I’m willing to settle for the small scraps offered by this exchange:

Henry: “You know, we don’t have to save Kim … for me.”
Carter: “I know.”

To me, this brief moment read like Henry acknowledging the terrible things he did during previous attempts to save Kim and letting Carter know he’s truly changed. Then, Carter forgives him. Even if that’s not how the writers intended it, that’s certainly how Joe Morton and Colin Ferguson played the moment, for which I’m grateful.

Other Thoughts

OK. I’m officially digging the vibe between Tess and Carter. I really loved the hesitant but excited way she accepted the meteorite-watching date and the way he smiled to himself as she walked away. I’m now looking forward to seeing this relationship develop further. So, of course, the writers made sure to also throw in a scene showing the closeness between Allison and Carter. No easy paths to happy couplehood on this show. Sigh.

Allison: “Let’s take this one huge step at a time. Tess, is your bio-lab up and running?”
Tess: “Oh, yeah, but I was expecting a little more E.T. and a little less Henry’s ex-girlfriend.”

Allison’s having a little girl! “She’s likes excitement. Just like her mother.”

How fun to see Eli’s mom (Glynnis Davies, Stargate Universe) getting snippy about her toaster oven! “It’s bisque.”

Jo: “If Lieber says that boost converter isn’t his, I say we let Fargo and him settle it in a cage match.”
Carter: “I’ll put five bucks on Fargo. He’s scrappy.”

So how exactly did Kim saying the needle hurt tip Henry off that an organic computer virus was causing the electrical energy build up in Zane? I’m having trouble seeing the connection.

[Carter realizes Fargo didn’t return his boost converter.]
Carter: “Are you kidding me?!”
Fargo (sheepish): “What happened to respect for personal property?”
Tess: “What happened to trying to save people’s lives?”
Fargo: “Better late than never?”
Allison (sighing heavily and trying to explain to Tess): “He has some... good qualities.”

Tess (smiling as she watches Henry and Kim): “Oldest story in the world. Boy meets girl. Boy loses girl. Boy meets computer.”
Carter: “Well, everybody needs a hand to hold.”
Tess: “This is a really weird town.”

Final Analysis: Very strong episode. I’m delighted to have a version of Kim back, but long-term I can’t see this ending well for Henry.

Jess Lynde is a highly engaged television viewer. Probably a bit too engaged.

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