Yesterday's Eureka brought people to a literal standstill, turning them into living statues. And yet the show itself finally unfroze, providing major revelations and payoffs for multiple ongoing arcs - all while subtly acknowledging how rarely Eureka does that.
"Stoned" didn't have the epic spectacle of "Crossing Over" or the cleverly interwoven themes of "Momstrosity." The basic plot, in which an archaeologist and a team of construction workers found their skin turning into concrete, had some awesomely creepy moments but felt a bit flabby once the last statues were rounded up and brought to the GD medical center.
What really set this episode apart - other than Henry's wonderfully ridiculous Fargo-assisted singing and dancing sequence at the end - wasn't its fairly standard issue plot but rather its slyly meta commentary on something that has been holding Eureka back pretty much since the show premiered.
When I started recapping this season, I admitted that I had never watched Eureka before. Since then, I've blasted through the first three seasons on DVD, and such an intense Eureka binge has given me an opportunity to notice what the series tends to do well (which is a lot of things - this is a very good show, occasionally brushing up against greatness) and what the series tends to do...not so well.
If there's one thing Eureka has historically struggled with, it's endings, particularly to its longer-running plots. The artifact storyline petered out with very little resolution (and zero real explanation of what the artifact actually was), the show apparently lost interest in whether Jack would ever regain his memories of the deleted timeline, and the possibility of Jack and Allison ending up together - something that was treated as a matter of destiny in the first season finale - was seemingly forgotten with the resurgence of Nathan Stark and the arrival of Tess. As fun as Eureka can be on an episode-by-episode basis, when it comes time to tell a continuing story, the show tends to be just a big tease.
So that's what made "Stoned" so fascinating. It finally offered some payoffs, with the promise of even bigger ones still to come. But to get to those moments, it first subjected us to a barrage of misdirections and cop-outs, all of which seemed to show off the worst of Eureka's unambitious, indecisive side. But all of these apparent returns to normalcy were the actual sleight of hand, meant to distract us from the fact that big, big changes are coming. (Assuming the next few episodes don't undo them. That still has to be considered a concern.)
Let's run through all the apparent cop-outs. Jack finally asks Allison out on a date, only to find out she just thought it was a friendly dinner (and it got canceled anyway by the latest mysterious threat). Then Carter finally puts it all on the line and asks her whether they should give a relationship a try, only for Allison to tell him it isn't worth risking their friendship, a point he seemingly accepts.
Meanwhile, the Department of Defense is poking around Dr. Grant's forged personnel file, which raises the possibility that someone has discovered their time-traveling and will terminate them with extreme prejudice (or worse). But when Fargo and Jo enlist Zane to hack the Pentagon mainframe and figure out how much the opposition knows, he discovers it was just the IRS looking into Grant because a typo on his tax form said he has eleven dependents.
Even the episode's mystery-of-the-week had a few misdirections, mostly centered on the return of Carter's daughter Zoe. She has some super secret new object of affection, but apparently it's just the hunky archaeologist we've never met before. When the archaeologist and a team of construction workers start turning into living statues, she's seemingly unaffected. Well, all right, that one didn't have me fooled for a minute. The show wouldn't bother bringing back Zoe to not fast fossilize her.
But then, just when you think the show has passed another amiable hour without any real forward movement...the other shoe drops. Jack and Allison share a passionate kiss that takes them halfway across a GD corridor. Jo has a pair of disturbing revelations about Zane. He may have helped allay their worries about the Pentagon, but now Zane's suspicious of Dr. Grant - and if anyone is smart and devious enough to figure out the truth, it might be him.
Even that's nothing compared to the sickening realization that Zane is Zoe's new love interest. Which, if nothing else, is the sort of deliciously wrong thing the altered timeline makes possible, and should make for some intense awkwardness. (Although if the series really wanted to do something horrific, they should have made it so that the original Fargo and Jo of this new timeline were having a secret affair.)
Of course, the real revelation belonged to Dr. Grant, as he discovered the "IRS" knew way more about him than just his fraudulent dependents. A mysterious care package led him to the Depot diner for a morning meeting with somebody who knows he isn't, as he put it, "Charles Grant, GD historian, but Trevor Grant, GD history." Most intriguingly of all, the woman in the know is Beverly Barlowe, the town's traitorous, erstwhile psychiatrist. Whatever is about to happen next, it should be interesting.
Indeed, that goes for pretty much everything at the end of this episode. Dr. Grant's secrets may not be secret very much longer. Zane and Zoe really do appear to be an item now, which is just one more thing to torment Jo. And, best of all, Jack and Allison are apparently finally together. As Carter himself observed, "Why'd it take me four years to do that?" It's a question one can often ask of Eureka, but at least last night, they finally supplied the answers.