Review: Warehouse 13, “Love Sick”

review by Marguerite Krause

The Story

In Salt Lake City, several young women have died in an unusual way, and the local hospital receives a visit from Dr. Vanessa Calder of the CDC – who is also the doctor for the Warehouse. She immediately realizes that something strange is going on, and calls her Warehouse colleague and long-time friend Artie for help. At the Warehouse, the young members of the team-Claudia, Myka, Pete, and Steve-notice that Artie has dressed especially nicely for his trip to Utah, and tease him about his affection for Vanessa, which he tries to deny, with a complete lack of success. Claudia invites herself along on the trip to Salt Lake City, to serve as Artie’s assistant.

At the hospital, Artie and Vanessa agree that there is almost certainly an artifact involved in this outbreak of deaths because something is turning all of the organs of the victims into clay. As they work, Artie shyly flirts with Vanessa, who seems to appreciate his tentative expressions of affection, much to Claudia’s delight.

The next morning, back at the Warehouse, Myka and Pete wake up next to each other, naked, in Artie’s bed, his toothbrush tangled up in the sheets beside them. They both freak out, because they have no memory of how they got there or what may–or may not–have happened between them. They immediately set out to try to retrace their steps of the previous evening, in hopes of figuring it out…and locating Steve, who seems to have gone missing. (Throughout the rest of the episode, scenes of Artie and company and their investigation in Salt Lake City are interspersed with scenes at the Warehouse. However, the two storylines have nothing to do with each other, and I won’t try to recreate the interweaving here. Myka and Pete’s sleuthing is played for laughs, providing comic relief and acting as a contrast to the more dire predicament that develops in Salt Lake City. To sum up the subplot: Myka and Pete learn how they were accidentally affected by an artifact that made them feel drunk, which led them to misbehave in various ways, culminating in their locking Steve in a bronzing chamber and then being unable to set him free. Fortunately, before they passed out completely, they had enough wits left to know that they would likely be unable to remember what had happened, or where they’d trapped Steve, and so Myka had the bright idea that they should get undressed and into bed together because, once they woke up in that situation, they would be so upset they wouldn’t rest until they solved the mystery of how they got there. Which, by the end of the episode, is exactly what they did.)

In Utah, Artie, Vanessa, and Claudia study the gene sequence of the victims. Vanessa immediately knows there’s something wrong with it; instead of being carbon-based, it seems to based on silicon. Artie figures out that it contains computer code. Somehow, a computer virus is infecting people. Fortunately, Artie knows a computer expert he can call in to assist them: his friend Hugo Miller (René).

When Hugo arrives, he greets Artie and Claudia cheerfully, assuring them that he’s happy to offer whatever help he can. Then Artie begins to introduce Hugo to Vanessa, and Hugo’s entire face lights up.

“Vee!” he exclaims.

“Huey!” she replies.

Hugo strides toward her and gives her a warm, loving kiss–leaving Artie surprised and crestfallen. Vanessa explains that she and Hugo started as Warehouse agents at about the same time, and Hugo happily recalls how “…we used to hang out in the dark vault, play records, you and me and (he inhales meaningfully and continues in a constricted voice) Mary Jane.”

Hugo and Vanessa go off to examine the victims, then return to report to Artie. Hugo is fascinated by what seems to be a weird computer-human virus hybrid, and suggests that he should be able to write an antivirus to cure the victims…once Artie and Claudia find the artifact that’s at the root of the problem. It’s also clear that Hugo is enjoying reminiscing about the old days with Vanessa. Although she reminds him that they have work to do, he puts a fond arm around her shoulders as Artie and Claudia leave.

Artie and Claudia discover that all of the victims recently had their computers serviced by a technician from a nearby store, TigerDirect. When they go to investigate, accompanied by Hugo and Vanessa, they learn that the technician, Tyler, has just been fired, because he was caught hacking into the computers of beautiful, young, female customers so that he could spy on them. Claudia runs out into the parking lot, hoping to catch Tyler before he leaves. Inside the store, all of the TV and computer screens suddenly display the same image: Tyler. He has hacked into the store’s systems in order to take revenge on the manager who fired him and the coworkers who didn’t appreciate him. After insulting everyone for a minute or two, he remotely turns off all the lights in the store. At that moment, complex threads of golden light stream out of a necklace Tyler is wearing, into his computer, and then fill the screens in the store.

Hugo, staring at the screens, exclaims, “My god, it’s beautiful! Look at it!”

Artie looks at Hugo, looks at the screens, and calls out to everyone, “Shut your eyes!” He averts his own eyes and cups his hand over Vanessa’s eyes, protecting her. But the golden light streams out of the screens and into the eyes of everyone else in the store, including Hugo.

When the light fade, Hugo, grinning with delight, says, “Neat!”

It’s obvious that this is their computer virus. Hugo, still caught up in how marvelously interesting it all is, says, “The optical nerve must act like a coaxial cable, downloading the virus directly through the visual cortex!” Finally, he notices the solemn expression on Artie’s face, and continues, more soberly, “At least, that’s what it feels like.”

Once again, Hugo has looked at something he ought not to have looked at.

Vanessa, with her authority as a CDC doctor, summons an emergency team to place the entire store in quarantine. Artie sends Claudia, who was caught outside when the virus struck, to track down Tyler and find the artifact. Hugo, despite being infected, sits down to write the computer code for the antivirus. Vanessa warns that, if the rate of deterioration is the same for the people in the store as it was for earlier victims, all of them, including Hugo, have less than six hours to live.

As Hugo works on the computer, the progress of the virus can be seen in dark discoloration spreading along the veins his hands, and a worsening cough. Artie is worried, but gamely assures Hugo that they’ll solve this, and he’ll be fine. Hugo glances at Vanessa, who’s talking to someone nearby, and agrees that he has much to live for. He says, “So much time lost, if I had it all back, I’d spend every second of it with her.” Although it’s clear that Artie is heartbroken at the thought that his budding hopes for romance with Vanessa will never go anywhere now that Hugo’s in the picture, it’s also clear that he likes his friend too much to even consider trying to compete with him for her affections.

While they’re talking, Artie continues to study his recording of Tyler’s earlier appearance on the store’s TV screens, just before the virus broke out. Suddenly, Artie recognizes a Hebrew word on a necklace Tyler is wearing, and explains to Hugo that itthe word “emet”, which means truth. Artie figures out that this ties into the old Jewish legend of the golem. In the legend, a sixteenth-century rabbi creates a golem–a creature made of clay–to protect the people of the ghetto from a pogrom, and puts the word “emet” on the creature’s forehead to bring it to life. The necklace must be the artifact, and it is mixing the legend with the computer virus, thus turning the people it infects into clay.

The store manager, noticing the signs of the virus spreading up his hands and arms, begins to panic. Vanessa blocks his attempt to leave, but the virus jumps from his eyes into hers. Apparently, it has mutated. Worse yet, not only can it now spread from one person to another without a computer being involved, but it seems to progress much faster than the original version. Vanessa collapses almost immediately and begins to have trouble breathing.

Out in the city, Claudia finally gets the necklace from Tyler and the two of them return to the store. Hugo has lost the ability to see, but with Artie typing the last few bits of code for him, he completes the antivirus. Artie gets Claudia to throw the necklace to him (through the solid glass of the store’s front window, thanks to a handy artifact he has in his bag), puts the necklace around his neck, and presses “enter” on Hugo’s computer to activate the antivirus. This time, green light shoots out of all of the TV screens and computer monitors into the eyes of everyone in the store, and they’re instantly cured. Artie collapses to the floor for a moment, but soon opens his eyes, to see Vanessa leaning worriedly over him.

Artie smiles. “Is this heaven?” he asks her.

Hugo’s smiling face appears next to Vanessa.

Artie says, “I guess not.”

Afterward, as the CDC team packs up their equipment and Tyler is led off by the police, Hugo bounds happily up to Artie and Claudia to say goodbye, making it clear that he found the entire adventure to be a lot of fun. Then he goes to talk privately with Vanessa. Artie gives a resigned sigh and prepares to return to his solitary life at the Warehouse. Before he can leave, though, Vanessa comes up and tells him that she’s sorry, she has to go. Artie assumes that she and Hugo are now “together” and assures her, in a fumbling way, that he wishes them both the best….until Vanessa interrupts and explains that there’s nothing between her and Hugo. Yes, there was, once, but Hugo loves the young girl she used to be, not who she is now. She prefers Artie, because, “When you look at me, you see me.”

Artie’s hope is rekindled. And Vanessa’s parting words are, “You, sir, owe me dinner. A very nice dinner.”

Thoughts on “Love Sick”

I thought this was a delightful episode of Warehouse 13, and not just because of René’s highly enjoyable performance. The story manages to include most of the elements that make the show what it is. For example, it showcases lots of artifacts with peculiar powers, some of them producing humorous effects, others whose use leads to serious, even deadly, consequences. Also, as the plot unfolds, clues are revealed for those viewers sharp-eyed or devious-minded enough to catch them. Even though most viewers aren’t able to anticipate all the twists and turns of a Warehouse 13 plot, in episodes like this one, once we hear the explanation of what’s going on, all of the puzzle pieces fall in to place. Finally, in addition to containing enjoyable humor and sci-fi elements, the story explores the personalities of the main characters, and provides opportunities for them to develop personally and in their relationships with one another.

As for René, in this episode he gives us a Hugo Miller who seems eager to make up for lost time and live life to the fullest. (If you missed the first appearance of Hugo, in last year’s Warehouse 13 episode “13.1”, you can read a description of the story here, or look for a synopsis on the SyFy channel website.) Hugo is enthusiastic, cheerful, and completely open to new experiences. He expresses his emotions freely, easily dispensing hugs to his friends or a kiss “hello” to a one-time lover. The look of pleasure on his face as he wanders around the TigerDirect store while Artie is questioning the manager about Tyler is pure “kid in a candy store.” Another favorite moment is when Artie walks over to see how Hugo is progressing with creating his antivirus program. He finds Hugo hunched over his computer, typing away, a frown of concentration on his face and a pencil in his mouth. When Artie asks him a question, Hugo begins to reply with the pencil still between his lips, but halfway through his answer he casually spits the pencil out onto the desk beside his keyboard, continuing to talk without any break in the rhythm of the sentence. It’s that sort of completely natural yet idiosyncratic gesture that can make a character like Hugo feel fully real or “true”… at least, to anyone who ever works at a keyboard with a pen or pencil in her mouth!

If you missed it when it first aired, do try to catch “Love Sick” in reruns if you can, or check to see if it’s available on the SyFy channel website. It’s an entertaining story, and René’s performance is great fun. I hope the writers of Warehouse 13 will include Hugo in another episode soon!