Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Land of the Lost: Season Three (Episode Twelve: Scarab)

Sorry I couldn't get this done yesterday. Spent the day rescuing people trapped by snow. I may have watched a Shirley Temple movie too, but it had a surly lighthouse keeper and Buddy Ebsen as a dancing sailor, so it was also a very manly activity.



Season One: Part One, Two, and Three.
Season Two: Part One and Two.
Season Three: Part One, Two, Three, Four, Five, Six, Seven, Eight, Nine, Ten, and Eleven.

Episode 12: “Scarab”

While collecting firewood with Holly, Cha-Ka discovers a huge, golden beetle. Rather than continue to help with chores, he ditches Holly to catch the insect.

Back at the temple, the Marshalls are patient about Cha-Ka's laziness. As Jack points out, Cha-Ka doesn’t understand what it means to be part of a family that helps each other. They don't point it out, but this makes sense considering his background with the abusive Ta and Sa. Cha-Ka's defense for wanting to take the day off is that he worked yesterday, but the Marshalls explain that they did too. There’s still work to be done and they all need to pitch in and do it. That’s a great lesson for the young kids presumably watching the show, but also an indication of where the series was headed: less continuity and world-building; more adventure stories with moral lessons.

Cha-Ka gets what Jack and the others are telling him and promises to help, but before he has a chance, he and Holly argue over whether or not he should be able to keep the beetle. Holly contends that it’s wrong and that the bug should be let go. Cha-Ka ignores her, but as he’s putting the beetle into a cage, the insect bites him and flies away. It’s a painful bite and Cha-Ka decides he can’t go hunting for firewood after all. The Marshalls let him stay, but as soon as they’re gone he grins malevolently and trashes the temple.

His mischief doesn’t end there. Next he goes out to find Grumpy, taunts the T-Rex into following him, and leads the theropod to where the Marshalls are gathering their firewood. They escape – barely – and as they rest from the chase, Will notices Cha-Ka running through the jungle in the direction of the Lost City. They decide that Cha-Ka must be looking for them, so Will goes to get him while Jack takes Holly (injured while running from Grumpy) and the firewood back to the temple.
Cha-Ka enters the Lost City, sneaks past the Sleestak guards, and goes to the Cave of the Pit where the Sleestaks' pit god lives. There’s a new obelisk at the edge of the pit just begging to be toppled into it, so Cha-Ka obliges. It disappears into the foggy hole where we can't see anything, but I like to imagine that it hits the pit god on the head, because the creature immediately begins to bellow. That brings the Sleestaks running, letting Cha-Ka put his real plan into action. He sneaks into the Library of Skulls and steals the Skull of Wisdom.

Cha-Ka’s gone beyond mischief-making now. In place of the skull he sticks Will’s knife. The Sleestak Leader jumps to exactly the conclusion Cha-Ka wants him to, ignoring the attempts of Enik – who saw Cha-Ka leave the Lost City with the skull – to relate what he observed. The Sleestaks capture Will when he comes looking for Cha-Ka, and take him to the pit.

Back at the temple, Jack and Holly are confused about why the place is a mess, but don’t suspect anything’s wrong until Jack notices Cha-Ka lurking outside. When Jack tries to find out what’s going on, Cha-Ka makes a run for it, kicking and biting Jack in the process. He’s no match for Jack though, who overpowers him and carries him back inside. Even then though, Jack and Holly only think Cha-Ka’s being uncharacteristically naughty, not actively evil.

In the Lost City, Enik’s still trying to explain about Cha-Ka and is still being shouted down by the Sleestak Leader. The Leader starts a primitive hour glass and tells Will that he’s going into the pit if he doesn’t reveal the skull’s location before time runs out. Enik tries one last time to intervene, but the Leader shuts him up again, saying that Enik should be spending his time praying that Will’s sacrifice appeases the pit god. If it doesn’t, Enik’s next. It’s surprising to see the Leader turn on Enik so quickly, but it’s not out of character. The Sleestaks have never appreciated Enik’s cooperation, which makes his dedication to helping them learn and improve as a race that much more noble.

Making no headway with the Sleestaks, Enik visits the Marshalls at the temple and confronts Cha-Ka about what he saw. Cha-Ka freaks out and confesses that he took the skull, but isn’t telling where it is even though it means Will’s life. “Cha-Ka not like Will! Cha-Ka not like Sister! Cha-Ka not like anybody!”

Holly realizes that something’s seriously wrong and wonders if the beetle that bit Cha-Ka was poisonous. That’s the piece of the puzzle that Enik needs. He questions them about the beetle and declares that it’s Tula, not Aquagirl, but the ancient scarab once worshipped by the Egyptians. When offended – as Cha-Ka did by trying to take it captive – it stings and releases the evil nature of its victims, sending them down a path of self-destruction.

How Enik knows about the Egyptians is a mystery, but we can speculate that all the testing and exploration he’s done with various time-portals may have allowed him some peeks at Earth’s history. At any rate, he says that the only way for Cha-Ka to be free of the curse is to atone for his misbehavior by finding the scarab and treating it with kindness.

The problem of course is that Cha-Ka refuses to cooperate. Holly knows that the scarab lives in the swamp and they find it quickly, but rather than feed it a delicious flower that Holly finds, Cha-Ka runs away…right towards Lulu, the two-headed monster that lives in the swamp.

Jack saves Cha-Ka and tries to explain that he’s going to kill himself if he doesn’t straighten out. That seems to sink in and Cha-Ka reluctantly offers the scarab a flower, but before the beetle can eat it, as if the pressure of doing good is too much for him, Cha-Ka runs off into the jungle. Jack and Holly leave the scarab to its meal and go after him.

Meanwhile, Will’s time has run out and the Sleestaks are about to push him into the pit. Cha-Ka narrowly saves the day by running in with the skull and threatening to toss it into the hole if the Sleestaks don’t release Will. The tactic works, but as soon as the Sleestaks get the skull they chase Will and Cha-Ka out of the Lost City and keep on chasing them. Fortunately, a thunderstorm is just getting started and the lightning sends the Sleestaks back into their caves.

Will and Cha-Ka meet up with Jack and Holly and the four return to the temple to hunker down for the storm. Cha-Ka’s learned his lesson about laziness and offers to keep the fire stoked since the others did all the collecting of the wood.

Though I miss the complexity of the first season, this episode shows that the new direction of the series could've been worthwhile. Having a main character temporarily turn evil was a staple of '70s adventure television, but even considering that lack of originality, this was a tense episode with a great lesson for kids that wasn't forced, but felt organic to the story.

1 comment:

Wings said...

Don't recall this one too well, but it does seem like one of the better episodes of the third season. And Enik having witnessed different moments throughout Earth history is an interesting thought!

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