After watching last night's Warehouse 13 episode, I think I've discovered the secret of its recent amazing batting average: Pacing. "Merge With Caution" ran through a half dozen gags in the course of one episode, and none outstayed its welcome.
And there are spoilers below, this being a TV recap and all.
So yeah, a lesser TV show would have devoted most of its running time to the "Pete and Myka switch bodies" storyline, and it would have gotten seriously old around the half-hour mark. For one thing, there are a certain number of stock things that you're more or less obligated to go through in that sort of story — the guy in the woman's body can't keep his hands off the breasts, walks funny and wows other guys with the sports knowledge, the woman in the man's body understands what women really want, etc. — and it's easy to overplay that sort of thing.
But luckily, thanks to some standout performances by both Eddie McClintock and Joanne Kelly, the gag mostly worked really great — and it checked out while we were still having fun. In particular, I loved McClintock playing up the self-consciousness about being topless in public, and Kelly's spot-on imitation of McClintock channeling the Three Stooges. (Which is what Pete seems to be doing a lot of the time, so it was especially funny.)
The episode also touched on the idea that Pete and Myka gain more understanding of each other as a result of this experience without hitting us over the head — Myka understands that Pete wasn't just whining about his leg injury, for example. And we get another reminder that being a Warehouse agent is a career with a short life (or brain) expectancy and that it's hard to have a normal life and relationships with this sort of crazy shit happening all the time. And then there's the fact that Pete finds himself in Myka's body after she's already had three vodka tonics. (I loved Myka saying that if she'd known they'd be swapping bodies, she'd have had juice.)
Like I said, a lesser TV show would have seen all this great story potential in the body-swapping thing, and milked it dry. Any one of these ideas — including Pete struggling with the fact that he's in a tipsy body, or Myka having to try to act like Pete around Kelly — could have filled a lot more time. But the episode gave us just enough of these things to put them in our minds, and then moved on. Which, you know, is called respecting your audience.
And I have to say, if the show is moving towards having two artifacts of the week instead of one, it might not be a bad thing at all. You've got two teams you can put in the field now, so why not two artifacts at a time? Not only were Claudia and Artie just as great as field agents as you knew they would be, but it gave Leena something to do — which is a major plus, in my book. Leena does just fine as the "home base" person.
I already thought this was a great episode for fans of the Artie/Claudia mentorship before Artie got zapped and fell in love with Lauren — they work great together, and their different problem solving techniques are great to watch. Plus you are statutorily required to love "I am feeling sort of clammy." But after the zapping, this went to a whole new level, what with Artie's awesome love poetry and hideous attempts to spruce himself up, and then the whole dueling handcuffing thing.
I have to say, somewhere in America there is a body-swapping, handcuffing, silk stocking fetishist who is very happy about "Merge With Caution."
And there was a lot of really great one-liners in this episode — I can't even remember half of them, but there's an incomplete list here.
I'm not entirely sure how Myka could patch things up with football guy after all the weirdness that happened, but it probably does help that she looked amazing in that blue dress. And yay for Pete and Kelly, I guess — I sort of hope the Pete/Kelly thing doesn't become too serious. I was rewatching the pilot a while back, and it goes to great lengths to establish Pete as a playa, a side of him we haven't seen enough of since then.
Anyway, this was a really fun episode that kept throwing out fun new ideas and entertaining new gags every few minutes, but managed to include a touch of menace when needed. The other thing that's nice is that the characters are generally competent and smart, even when they're under the influence of whatever supernatural geegaw they're dealing with this week. It's always a nice plus to see characters who are good at problem-solving, and I think that's another reason Warehouse 13 has been fun lately. Pacing, problem-solving and a willingness to get seriously ridiculous. It's not a bad foundation for a TV show, really.