Here's the moment in last night's Warehouse 13 that won me over: It's a quiet character moment that feels real. The only humor is a sly Harry Chapin reference. It's a reminder of what this show's capable of. Spoilers below...
The Warehouse 13 holiday episode, "Secret Santa," was a solid little episode that didn't try to do much more than remind you the show exists, and has fun, silly plots and engaging characters. (But not much Leena, and no Mrs. Frederic, for some reason!) There were a few laugh-out-loud funny bits — notably, Artie dipping/kissing Claudia's brother, and Claudia running around making up that people are dying — and a plot that manages to wrap Father Christmas in with a theme of absent fathers. (Oh, and the nutcrackers who do just what the name suggests were pretty great too.)
What I liked about that moment is that it brought the episode a little bit more down to earth, and gave the episode's theme a million times more resonance. It's nice to feel like Pete and Myka are real people, with real pasts and a genuine friendship that goes beyond Pete making borderline sexually harrassy jokes about Myka's middle name and her "grand tetons." I've said all along that Warehouse 13's great strength is its characters, and the strength of its core cast, and this was definitely in evidence a few times last night.
So there were two "absent father" stories last night — in the "A" plot, a guy named Larry is a successful developer of shopping malls who evicts small business people and doesn't have time for his family. (Another lovely bit of dialog was when Myka says her parents ran a mom-and-pop business, and Larry says in that case Myka should know how terrible they are.) Larry's being harrassed and pro-wrestler-threatened by Santa Claus — who turns out to have Larry's face, and seems to want to replace Larry. The Santa version of Larry is everything Larry used to be — caring, family-oriented, warm and fuzzy — and the artifact that's causing the Santa Larry problem turns out to be a remnant of the famous Christmas Eve truce from World War I.
Meanwhile, in the "B" plot, Claudia decides to get her surrogate father, Artie, the perfect present: the piano he played as a child, when he was at his happiest. But when she tracks down the actual piano — an artifact which has no magic powers, except that it's important to Artie — she finds Artie's father, whom he hasn't talked to in 30 years. Claudia gets father and son back together again by telling each that the other is dying, and when they discover the truth, they're both so united in being pissed off at Claudia that they get over their differences after all. It all barrels along a little too quickly, and Judd Hirsch is basically doing the same "cranky Jew" character he played in Independence Day among other places. But it mostly works as a sign of how much Claudia and Artie really care about each other (in spite of Artie saying "there would be paperwork" if anything happened to her) more than it does because of Artie's hastily-sketched relationship with his dad.
Update: And as people have mentioned in comments, the T-shirts were also amazing, and I totally want a "Man Ray's Camera" T-shirt.
As usual, the core relationships on this show are what make it most watchable — the Artie/Claudia relationship and the Pete/Myka friendship are the show's nuclear reactor. When the show finds time to have the core characters talking about the episode's themes amongst themselves, as in the clip above, then you have something special.
But what did you think?