Warehouse 13: “For the Team”

The Inedible Hulk

Warehouse 13

Syfy Channel, Tuesdays, 9/7 c
“For the Team”
Written by Drew Z. Greenberg
Directed by Tawnia McKiernan

“Agent Bering, it seems we’re forever destined to meet at gunpoint.” —H.G. Wells

Now that we’ve had character-centered episodes for two weeks in a row, and presumably know Myka and Pete a little better, Warehouse 13 returns to the usual format of Find the Artifact. I have no problem with this. The toys are one of the best features of this show, the more outrageous the better. This week’s out-of-control artifact was one of the weakest, dramatically, that the show has had, but who cares? The fun is as much about the characters as about the gadgets.

Pete is still grounded until Artie is certain that the effects of last week’s brainwashing telegraph have worn off, so Claudia finally gets her first official assignment as a field agent. Or, as Myka reminds her, field apprentice. Her heroine-worship of Myka ramps up to eleven, to the point where she is trying to ape Myka’s stance, demeanor, and style of interview. The target is a northern California college whose wrestling team has gone from seven straight losing years to an unbeaten season—despite losing one team member to spontaneous combustion. Myka brings Claudia along with her to a locker-room interrogation that makes the still naïve and socially awkward younger woman extremely uncomfortable. She escapes in time to see one team member undergoing a transformation that strongly reminded me of every Incredible Hulk movie ever, before bursting into flames. Myka suspects the win-at-any-cost coach may be behind this sudden round of victories, maybe centered in the coach’s old medal. When they go looking for it, however, Myka and Claudia discover that someone has gotten to the office first: none other than H.G. Wells (Jaime Murray, The Rapture). It turns out that the McGuffin in this episode is ingestible: a body-building muscle juice called Boiling Point. When Claudia accidentally ingests some, H.G. has to rescue her, drawing on research she did on amino acids for The Island of Dr. Moreau. I love the idea that research for a seminal SF novel done 100 years ago saves the day in the 21st century. Brilliant.

Wells is one of the best villains to come along in the series’ short life. She has the requisite British accent, but she is also warm and personable. She tells Myka she is lonely, having outlived everyone and everything from her time. She wants to go back to the Warehouse, and says she used to be a Warehouse 12 agent. If she really was an agent, this should set off alarms in Myka and Pete. What kind of Regents are they dealing with, who are willing to Bronze one of their own? Myka, rightly disturbed from the beginning by the moral implications of the preventive incarceration without trial that is Bronzing, asks H.G. why she was Bronzed. H.G. evades the answer, which sets off more alarm bells. Is H.G. sincere in her wish for friendship? Or trying to manipulate the emotionally naïve Myka? By the end of the episode, it looks like the vote could go either way. H.G. leaves a Batman-style grappling hook of her own design as a parting gift for Myka. I am sure we will see this interesting character again.

I loved, absolutely loved, every one of Pete’s utterances in this episode, from his Scooby-Doo “Huh?” to Artie, to his fumbling yet heartfelt convo with the vet. The scene where Pete amuses himself with Timothy Leary’s glasses was hilarious. I think Eddie McClintock is doing an absolutely brilliant job with this character: he’s boyish (and yes, sometimes to the point of immaturity), goofy, fun, and unpredictable. Maybe that’s bad for a Secret Service agent; if so, God spare me any stories with real Secret Service agents. They would bore me silly. Yes, he’s got an ego—he would have to, to carry all he’s carrying. He’s still feeling guilty over some of his Secret Service past, he’s still an alcoholic (albeit a recovering one), and as we saw last week, there are a lot of demons in his personal closet. Pete chooses to deal with them through humor. It’s a great psychological ploy, hurts no one, and defuses the emotional burden he has to labor under. Frankly, I adore him.

Pete: After all, she’s already seen you naked.

Finally, I have to thank the writers for finally humanizing Artie this season. He was the most likable and approachable man in this episode he’s been, ever. And how “Artie” is it, to re-grow himself an infected appendix every year, just so he can have it removed by his favorite doctor? The whole idea of basing a romantic encounter on annual abdominal surgery is so completely insane that it totally works for Artie. Casting Lindsay Wagner, the original Bionic Woman, as Dr. Vanessa Calder, special MD to the Warehouse, was sheer inspiration. And the in-joke was furthered by the revelation that the ringtone for her Farnsworth device is the Bionic Woman“bionic” sound effect. Subtle but delightful—that’s the Warehouse 13 style. I hope we see more of Dr. Vanessa, and her special relationship with Artie.

One of the charms of this story was the “role reversal” aspect. Myka and Claudia, the women, get the active field assignments: investigating, running, jumping, being hoisted by grappling hook, even physically fighting (Myka vs. H.G. smackdown!). The men are incapacitated by virtue of either psychic or biological infection, and stay home to discuss the women in their lives. The “villain” was a woman, not a man. Best of all, the CEO of the bottling plant making Boiling Point juice was not the bad guy, a major departure from the norm for Hollywood. It’s so common to make an executive into a money-grubbing, soulless monster that it’s almost a letdown to see one on my screen—it takes all the fun out of the mystery. But when said executive turns out to be an altruist who is trying to help people, well, that’s a walrus of a different color, as Dr. Leary might say.

The only weak point of this show might be the artifact of the week. As it turns out, the actual artifact behind the Hulk-like transformations of the wrestling team is actually an ancient dipper used to sample the mix at the factory. Still, it seems to transform the Boiling Point muscle-building juice into something special, making it the first ingestible (and possibly indigestible) artifact we’ve seen. Certainly the dipper itself has a longer, er, shelf life. Presumably on a shelf in the Warehouse. As usual, there is no attempt to explain the why or how of these artifacts, something that might drive me crazy on one show but on this one doesn’t bother me at all.Warehouse 13 does not take itself that seriously, so neither will I. It’s still a fun, intelligent romp and I’m hoping it stays that way.