(Delayed) EPISODE REVIEW: Warehouse 13: “Secret Santa” (Season 2, Episode 13)

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First of all, sorry for the delay. I’m basically off duty this week, and, well, you know. Stuff happens. Or in this case stuff fails to happen, I guess. In any event, this isn’t my normal beat, so bear with me if I miss a few subtle points.

PLAY BY PLAY

Claudia is looking forward to spending her first-ever Christmas with people she cares about. Her brother - last seen breaking his spine falling off a catwalk at CERN, but inexplicably not paralyzed here - is in town visiting. Pete and Mika are there. Lena the perpetually underdeveloped and annoying character is there. Artie is there. Artie’s a grinch, however, Pete and Mika are going off to be with their families, and Lena is just Lena, you know? It’s like spending a week with the bastard gene-spliced love child of Councilor Troi and Guinan, so it’s not exactly a party every time she’s around. And the writers seem to forget she exists for months at a time. Basically the only thing she’s got going for her is that Genelle Williams is really really really really pretty. Yowza.

Anyway: bottom line it’s shaping up to be yet another for-suck Christmas for Claudia.

Then everyone’s holiday gets called off so Pete and Mika can go investigate a supernatural home invasion (I prefer the phrase “Break in”) in which Santa Claus trashes some dude’s house, then zips up the chimney. Meh. This has never been the smartest of shows. It quickly turns out that the victim is a very dated 1980s caricature of a yuppie type who’s job has destroyed his family. He’s a land developer who’s trashing a strip mall to build a new real mall. The most likely culprit is a guy who runs a novelty shop and is disgruntled. Of course this is Warehouse 13, so it can’t ever be the first lead, and he turns out to be a blind alley.

Meanwhile, Santa attacks the developer a few more times, and presently he turns out to be essentially the developer’s supernatural doppelganger, a kind of ghost of Christmas past, back when the guy was nicer and more idealistic, before the service of mammon has corrupted his soul. Meh. As I said, never the smartest show. So it turns out the guy’s daughter collects antique Christmas ornaments, and of course one of these is an artifact, and she unknowingly wished that her life could be the way it was before her parents split up. Cue jackass Santa ghost guy.

A typical W-13 showdown ensues in which Doppelganger attempts to kill Developer and take over his life, but the guy is saved by - I swear to you, I’m not making this up - a hug from his daughter. Banished to outer darkness, the spirit (or whatever) disappears and the developer’s family gets back together. Everyone lives happily - if implausibly - ever after.

MEANWHILE, in the vastly more interesting subplot, Claudia decides to get Artie the very same piano he learned to play on as a child. She quickly tracks it down to a music school in Philadelphia, which - in a twist that should surprise no one, but actually did surprise me - is run by Artie’s dad. He refuses to sell, and wants nothing to do with Artie. She lies and says Artie is dying, so his dad relents and comes to Lena’s boarding house to say goodbye. Later, finding his dad in the house, Artie wants nothing to do with him until Claudia lies again and says that his dad is dying. The two men talk, and quickly discover the ruse. They’re initially furious with a generation of pent-up anger spilling out, until they realize they both hate “The annoying gentile girl,” Claudia more than they hate each other.

ULTIMATELY, everyone realizes that - say it with me - ‘Family is whoever the cast of a TV show happens to be, and not people who raised you and shared their lives with you’ - the timeless Christmas message. It’s a triumph of work friends over real life! Hooray! Everyone (Including Lena, who they suddenly remembered is in this show) settles down for a Christmas dinner. And we’re treated to the best scene in the episode:

Artie’s dad: “Shouldn’t someone say words or something?”
Claudia: “Grace. We call it grace.”
Artie’s dad: “Well, then….”
Claudia: “Does everyone wanna’ hold hands?”
Artie and his dad simultaneously: “No.”
Claudi: “Ok, then: Baruch atah Adonai, Eloheinu melech ha-olam, asher kidshanu b’mitzvotav vitzivanu al sefirat ha-omer…”

The End

OBSERVATIONS

Seriously: the Baruch atah Adonai prayer at the end was just a blow off gag, and probably somewhat questionable in both religions, but I didn’t see it coming, and it put a great big old smile on my face. Nice moment in an otherwise…sigh…in a show that was otherwise entirely too much like Warehouse 13.

The A-plot, as usual, was a snoozer. Immediately obvious, too easily resolved, not particularly funny. Meh. Tying it to the famous Christmas Truce of 1914 was a really good idea, though. For those not in the know, in the first year of the First World War, an unofficial truce broke out on Christmas eve. The German and English troops sang to each other across No Man’s Land, and eventually started playing soccer and giving each other cobbled-together presents. Then, the day after New Years, they went back to killing each other again. I will now subject you to a cloying Paul McCartney song. I apologize in advance for this:

Of course this brought down merry hell from the commanders on both sides, and heavy bombardments were ordered on Christmas for the duration of the war, just to prevent this kind of thing happening again. Also, of course, a number of soldiers on both sides were more than creeped out by the sight of masses of the enemy lurching towards them, singing carols. They shot first, and opened presents later. Many a festive grunt died with very surprised looks on their faces. I generally feel that way about the holidays myself.

The opening credits were humorously re-done for this one episode. I liked 'em.

The B-plot was the far more interesting part of the show because it had some emotional heft, it wasn’t all that cloying, and unlike Joanna Kelly and Eddie McClintock, Allison Scagliotti and Saul Rubinek can actually act. Well, to be honest, I haven’t made up my mind about Allison Scagliotti, but she’s just so much more charismatic and personable than everyone else in this show that I just can’t help but like her. Unfortunately, the episode cops out a bit and wraps up the whole ‘reconciliation’ thing too fast and too cheaply, but everything leading up to that is golden.

And, hey, Judd Hirsch! Who doesn’t like Judd Hirsch? (Excepting Loue de Palma, of course). The scenes of the two of them annoying hell out of each other while playing piano are the second best thing in the episode.

Claudia’s looked really weird in the first scene in the episode - poorly lit? Spray on tan? Bad makeup? I dunno, but I haven’t watched this show in a while and I was a bit shocked at how bad she looked. “Gah! What happened to her?” It was just that one scene, however, and then she was back to normal.

This is the official end of Season 2. Given that it’s Syfy’s highest rated show, however, it’s already been picked up for a third year. Meh. Syfy was never the smartest network.

WILL CONSERVATIVES LIKE THIS EPISODE?

Sure. There's a gay kiss played for laughs, but apart from that, Why not? Who cares? Bah, humbug. It’s a Christmas episode. It doesn’t matter.

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