Season 3, episode 6: “Don’t Hate the Player”
It’s a night where Douglas Fargo is in two places at once. Well, three, actually… Let’s start at the beginning.
Claudia gets a call from Fargo’s phone, but Fargo’s not making the call. It’s one of the guys Fargo helped with launching a new video game company – Fargames (t-shirts are undoubtedly coming soon) – which uses a BioElectric Reality Augementation Interactive Device (BRAID) to immerse the player into the game reality. A headset and interactive gloves are the only visible attachment to the body, but Fargo’s added a new wrinkle in the mix: drinking tea from the teapot once owned by Beatrix Potter, the author of the Peter Rabbit stories.
Yes, it’s an artifact. On Artie’s “most wanted” list.
Speaking of Artie, he and Jinx get a call to help investigate the mysterious death of an art museum curator. The call comes from FBI agent Sally Stukowski, whom we met in the season opener. She called Jinx because she knows they do weird. So here they are, trying to figure out why a man would commit suicide when he had absolutely no reason to do so. And Artie notices the painting Stormy Night by Vincent Van Gogh, hanging directly across from the reinforced unbreakable glass that now lays shattered in pieces on the floor. Artie beats a hasty retreat, pulling Jinx out and telling him they have to steal the priceless painting.
Meanwhile, back at the living room that serves as the headquarters for Fargames, Claudia and Pete use the Potter teapot to dive into the video game to retrieve Fargo and his buddy Jerry. For some reason, they’re trapped in the game. It’s a pretty typical geekdom design on the inside: Pete is a gladiator character, while Claudia enters as an elf, looking a little bit like Jayna the Wonder Twin in her purple garb and elfin ears… hmmm. Remember she played Jayna on “Smallville”.
But I digress. Claudia rigs a steampunk headset so Myka can stay in touch with them, and off they go.
Artie stealing the art artifact (had to. sorry) is the more substantial B-story, as it ties in with the season’s overall arc involving Marcus Diamond (played by Caprica‘s Sasha Roiz). Using “memory paper” from Gutenberg’s printing press, Artie makes an exact duplicate of the painting and makes the swap, with the help of Jinx and Agent Sikowski, who pulls what looks to be a double-cross, leaving with the painting while Artie and Jinx get caught when the security system activates. Of course, she pulls them right out afterward, flashing her badge to the local cops and “taking custody” of them. So, why take the painting if she’s just going to hand it back?
Pete and Claudia are having a time of it inside the game, where they get to explore Fortress 13 with the help of a video game version of Artie (General Arthur) and Leena. At first, they figure Jerry and Fargo are trapped because they haven’t finished the game – rescue the princess and all that (who turns out to be another Claudia) – but it’s deeper than that. Because Potter’s pot makes the game feed off the player’s deepest fears.
So we get to see a new bit of insight into Claudia. We already know she’s spent time in an institution. In the game, we see what some of that was like, and it wasn’t good. On the outside, Myka figures out Jerry’s trapped in the game because of something to do with Hannah, his ex-girlfriend. Ex because he doesn’t have the guts to ask for her hand in marriage.
Myka figures she has to dive into the game to get everyone out because Pete’s fear was losing contact with the outside world, which is exactly what’s happened. So she puts on the gear, takes a sip from the Pottermobile, and she’s down the rabbit hole to save the day.
So Hannah, being Jerry’s “fear”, is in the game as the Grim Reaper of sorts, and now that we have Claudia in elfin ears and Myka in tight black leather, it’s time for the best moment of the entire episode: the use of Gerald Fried’s music cue from Star Trek‘s “Amok Time” episode. It almost makes you wish Pete or Fargo would have conjured up a lirpa…
And when Fargo channels Gandalf, it’s just icing on the cake.
Of course, everything’s going to come out all right in the end, because that’s what kind of show this is. And we get more tantalizing bits of the Marcus Diamond arc, which is going to turn into something larger involving the Regents (perhaps one in particular, played by Kate Mulgrew later this season). The big question, of course, is why Jinx didn’t pick up on Agent Stukowski’s duplicity. He’s supposed to be a human lie detector, isn’t he?
And SPOILER: [ what are the bugs that Stukowski planted in the painting, and why are they swarming in the warehouse?] We’ll have to wait to find out.
It’s obvious that even though “Eureka” and “Warehouse 13” (and now, apparently, “Alphas”) inhabit the same universe, the episodes are not chronologically together, because at the same time Fargo is trapped in the video game, he’s also trapped in an isolation chamber at Global Dynamics. Besides the numerous shout-outs to various genre classics, this episode felt like a fresh take on the “trapped in the box” idea that we’ve seen so many times. Even though a lot of it is predictable, it is so in a good way. This episode is for the fans, those who know the episodes and the music, those who spend hard-earned money on cosplay and replica props, those of us who sit in the basements and write about the awesomeness of episodes written by other fans who Get It.
The only thing missing was Felicia Day. But that would probably be just too meta, wouldn’t it?