Swap Meat

Warehouse 13
Syfy Channel, Tuesdays, 9/7 c
"Merge with Caution"
Written by Neil Scovell
Directed by Anton Cropper

Myka: Pete, get your hands off my breasts.
Pete: Myka, how'd you know that?
Myka: Because you're still you and I'm still me, even though we're in different bodies.

It seems to be part of the unwritten rules of genre TV that at some point, the leads must suffer from amnesia, have a baby, or swap bodies (not necessarily in that order). My only surprise is that Warehouse 13 is fulfilling this contractual obligation so early in its run; this is a stunt usually reserved for those shows where writers have run out of ideas. This being the Warehouse, the miracle is achieved through use of an artifact. Pete and Myka get their hands on it when chasing down a jewel thief who seems to vanish from the scenes of his robberies; when he drops a backpack during a chase, Pete picks it up and finds a statue of a griffin—a mythological creature composed of various other animals. They dip it in the usual Mylar anti-artifact disposal bag. Before it gets dunked, however, we get a freeze-frame of first Myka's and then Pete's eyes glowing with a lovely glow worthy of any number of Omen remakes. Uh-oh. Unaware that they've been affected, Pete and Myka split up to enjoy a "normal" weekend—Pete to a date with Kelly the veterinarian (Paula Garcés, Defying Gravity) and Myka to her high school reunion.

"Now you can show him that smart girls grow up pretty!" —Pete

Oh, that's another Unwritten Rule—at some point, no matter how mature and adult the characters on a genre show are, there has to be a reunion. Talk about writing down to your 18-to-49 demographic. Anyway, Myka dresses to the nines, but is clearly uncomfortable at it, as she hangs out at the reunion drinking vodka tonics all by her lonesome. Pete is rolling around in the sheets with Kelly, and gets up for a snack. And then the Artifact kicks in, and they switch bodies. Or actually, what we saw was their minds switching from one body to another. Pete's body gets taken over by Myka, and vice versa, leaving Myka to deal with Pete's lover and a hairy chest, while Pete the alcoholic finds himself in Myka's body, fighting stiletto heels, an unwanted alcoholic buzz, and an amorous former classmate of Myka's, Kurt Smoller (Cody Runnels, WWE).

I don't usually like "stunt" casting, which is what it is when a network casts a star of one of its shows as a guest star in another show, especially if it's a cross-genre casting (reality vs. scripted). It's as much product placement as the obnoxious and constant Twizzler references in every episode of this series. Cody Runnells is just such a "stunt", but he actually came off rather well. His performance seemed natural and unforced—as one would expect from a professional wrestler, who has to make his performance look unscripted every night (yes, I'm snarking on "professional" wrestling). I still have no idea what professional wrestling is doing on a network devoted to science fiction; maybe it's a fantasy thing? At any rate, Smoller brought a certain swagger to the role that perfectly suited him.

"You know, one day you're going to make some lucky guy a very sarcastic wife." —Pete

Body switching episodes are always interesting from an acting point of view; what we are seeing is an actor doing his/her impression of a co-star. In this case, Kelly and McClintock did reasonably good impersonations of one another. Kelly playing Pete altered her voice and body language superbly while playing a scene where Pete-in-Myka's-body gets down with the guys at her reunion. McClintock playing Myka-in-Pete's-body tried very hard to be a good boyfriend (within limits), but lacked the sparkle Kelly brings to Myka. Back at the Warehouse, Leena (remember her?) figures out that the Artifact is actually half of a pair of bookends formerly belonging to Robert Louis Stevenson, author of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. The heads of the bookends have been exchanged, somehow enabling a body switch.

"Two bodies really can't occupy the same space." —Pete

But just as I was settling into this switcheroo, the directing took some weird turns I couldn't follow at all. Pete and Myka (or is that Myka and Pete?) go looking for the missing "bookend"—and it finds them. In the hands of the jewel thief and his alter ego, a security guard (or is that a security guard and his alter ego… oh, never mind), the closer the two bookends get to one another, the faster the "switching" takes place. And now it's not limited to souls, apparently. During a very confusing hallway fight, bodies keep switching in and out, then merging. What started out as something that swapped one person's consciousness into another body now is physically moving bodies around, and combining them. It took me quite a while to puzzle out whether this was a directing trick, a special effect, or something like the merging camera angles in Caprica to show us one actor playing two roles. In the end, the jewel thief and the security guard's bodies did merge, and the results were not pretty.

"Well, we're a team. Claudia and Artie. Ardia? Clartie?" —Claudia

The B plot in this episode was much more charming and less forced. Claudia discovers an "anomaly" all on her own—insurance executives giving away half of what they own to various charities. Artie takes her along and they track down a femme fatale who is charming the socks off various men, using her own socks. Actually, they are Mata Hari's silk stockings, a cute touch. What I liked about the teamwork on this story was that it was Artie who kept trying to use technology to achieve their ends—such as instructing Claudia to hack into the security cameras in a garage to find out where a subject was going. But Claudia the networking geek uses old-school techniques—she just asks someone where the man was going! Artie falls under Mata Hari's spell, and he is hilarious as a smitten nerd. Claudia handcuffs him to a closet bar while she goes off to intercept the subject, and Artie uses his mad geek skills to cobble an electromagnet out of an electric iron.

"I was doing this when MacGyver was still trapped in his crib." —Artie

Artie gets to use all kinds of neat artifacts from his black doctor's bag in this one: anti-femme fatale spray, earbuds that ward off seductive Sirens, and so forth. But what I really loved was when he took down a bad guy with a gun by shining a light through a shard of the original Pharos, the lighthouse at Alexandria that was once one of the Seven Wonders of the World. I love history trivia. The best part of this secondary story, though, was the wonderful teamwork and camaraderie between Artie and Claudia. She's humanizing him, and he's mentoring her. It is a great partnership, and I am glad it continues so well.

This was not one of the stronger episodes, but even a bad episode of Warehouse 13 is funny, smart, and watchable. There's always a surprise, whether it's Myka/Pete getting kissed by an old high school crush or Pete/Myka trying to walk in high heels. The artifacts, as always, are the cutest thing about this show (the Original Can of Worms? Seriously?), which is not at all a knock on the characters. I could watch these guys for a lot longer than thirteen episodes. Syfy, are you listening? Scripted comedies are a lot more fun, and better candidates for syndication, than lame wrestling "contests". Take note.

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