Season 4, episode 19: “One Small Step”
A couple of years ago, I made a movie. A romantic comedy that involved the lead character dipping into dreams every now and again, one time encountering the zookeeper from his childhood. She intones, “Boy, you sure stepped in the bat guano this time.”
And this week, I get to talk about bat guano. See how things go in circles?
This episode is the last before the season finale, and it’s another one where lots of things come together – seemingly at random – to form a disaster that only Carter can fix. Well, OK, this week is not the week Carter has all the answers. But he does get to scream like a girl again. And he gets an arc of character development that he’s never really seemed to need before. I’ve never thought of Carter as prejudiced in any way, but the writers have carried his mistrust of winky-blinky gizmos to apply to the relationship between SARAH the Sentient House and Deputy Andy the Android.
Turns out, Andy’s been having some sleepovers at the House, and Carter makes a comment that would have gotten him slapped by the ACLU if he’d said “white” instead of “human”. And Jo calls him on it, so he spends the rest of the episode feeling guilty that he basically compared Andy to a toaster.
Not a good way to start the day.
But wait! It gets better, because Carter has to answer a call from Dr. Welke, who’s prize cow Lenore is now a big puddle of goo in the barn. Goo. Melted cow. Thus, our mystery for the week is set in place. Now he’s really in a mood, not only because he has to take a jar of cow goo to Allison, but also because there’s poo all over the Jeep.
This episode also marks the return of Taggart (Matt Frewer), who seems a little awkward around Jo. Remember, they haven’t seen each other since the whole time-travel thing, so Jo’s clueless about what their relationship was before… Taggart’s been gallivanting around the world, collecting experiments for the Astraeus project.
At once, you know something of his will be involved in this cow puddle problem.
Carter takes his cow sample to Allison. But wait! It’s not Allison. It’s a “virtual” Allison. She’s working on a VR communications system so the Astraeus team won’t feel so lonely. Meanwhile, Henry has used the FTL system to bounce real-time comm gear to Titan, with the plan of setting up contact before the team gets there. Which is what he’s working on when Grace comes in to tell him she’s just been named Captain of the Astraeus. So things are really looking good for the Deacons.
Not so much for Zane and Jo. Zane is still miffed that Jo dropped out. But is it really about the mission? Hmm? Zane’s just acting all snarky and childish because he doesn’t want to admit what he’s really feeling: that he likes her. He wants to kiss her. (Wait. That’s a Sandra Bullock movie… nevermind.)
In the meantime, Jo and Taggart are going through the stuff he’s brought back, circling the whole awkward bit until Taggart reveals that he proposed to pre-1945 Jo. Oh. And Jo, of course, isn’t sure how to handle that. But Taggart’s made his peace with it.
Carter’s investigation of the cow goo leads him to the first alternate for the mission team. Since Dr. Welke now has no experiment, he’s resigned, which leaves our good friend Dr. Parrish next in line. So of course, he’s Prime Suspect. Until he slips on Carter’s Jeep, which is now a puddle of goo.
Now, remember what was on the Jeep in the barn? I think that’s a clue that the poo makes it goo.
This is pretty much confirmed when Taggart tells Jo about his bats: brown bats, genetically engineered to produce guano that can be used for fuel on Titan. And they’re loose. Oh, surprise. So the bats are going all over Global Dynamics, making things not work right. Including the FTL transporter, which ends up sending Deputy Andy to Titan. Where it’s almost 300 degrees below Zero.
Turns out, the bat guano is reacting to Xylene, a component in the Jeep, the cow experiment, and a lot of the electronics at GD. So now the bats are producing a super-acid guano because they’re supposed to be on Titan, not on Earth. So everything the super-guano hits is “protonating” – breaking down and changing at the sub-atomic level – everything it touches. Which leaves Andy stranded on Titan in the path of a pretty massive methane storm.
The whole “Carter learns to treat Andy like a person” bit seemed a bit off for me. Carter’s always struck me as being the resilient type who’s learned to take Eureka in stride, especially after so much time there. So an android is in love with a house? That’s Eureka. Instead, the writers have manufactured a prejudice for Carter to overcome as part of the A-plot, and it just didn’t work for me. Of course, the bats in the house mean that Carter gets to scream like a girl again…
What I did like was seeing Jo’s vulnerability and self-examination. It’s good to see her be a girl every now and then, and Taggart’s talk of a walkabout seems to be setting up what Jo will be doing during the season break. I’m predicting now, in the season finale next week, she’s taking a leave of absence to go “find herself”.
I also liked seeing the tables turned between Zane and Fargo. This time, it’s Fargo giving relationship advice to Zane, and really hitting the nail on the head as to why Zane’s being an ass. And despite not getting much screen time, it was good to see Dr. Martin again this week, if for nothing else than continuity from week-to-week. I like it when recurring characters show up even if they don’t have much to do in the episode’s plot, because that makes the story universe feel a little more built and solid.
In the end, of course, everything works out. An enzyme from the female bat gives them what they need to fix the system just barely in time. Carter uses Allison’s VR signal to get Andy over to the spot where he landed so they can snatch him back. Fargo manages to restore SARAH. Zane and Jo have a bit of reconciliation, although Jo leaves the door open for being gone when he gets back, thus reinforcing my thought that she’s going on a walkabout of her own.
And Carter invites Allison to move in.
Fun lines this week:
Parrish: “I did not melt Lenore!”
Carter: “Nothing says ‘good morning’ like a jar of cow.”
Holly: “Into the huge tank of poison gas, bats, and super-acid?”