Season One: Exploring ADVENTURE IN CHINA
Britrock website copyright EA Woolley
ADVENTURE IN CHINA
This is one of the early episodes of Jem and it's fairly formulaic - Jem vs Misfits, Jem wins in the end thanks to help of a local girl. This formula does appear again in the series (Hot Time in Hawaii is one that springs to mind) yet somehow each episode has it's own twist. This time we're in China - so we're expected to believe, Jem and the Holograms have a big following there - and the battle is on for who will play the concert at the Great Wall. Character-wise, Aja and Roxy are in many ways more significant in this episode than they maybe are in other episodes - Roxy has a real lead role in this one and Aja's Chinese roots are made plain to all.
SOMETHING IS MISSING...BUT WHAT?
Well. We could start with Jerrica's ethics, but no. The earrings. This is a very weird episode really as regards the Holograms. Jerrica sings "Something Is Missing" about the earrings that Roxy stole, but in truth it isn't the earrings that she's mourning at all. If anything it's Synergy - without the computer's holograms she is unable to transform to Jem, but the realisation must have sunk in that without the earrings, there is no way to communicate with Synergy outside of the room at the Starlight Mansion. Synergy has already proven herself a valuable ally, giving good advice and often getting them out of jams. Though they are not happy about missing the concert at the Great Wall, I think the bigger picture is also there, too. Jerrica knows that no earrings means no Jem and no Synergy. But even additional to that, it means no Holograms, no Starlight Music and no funding for the Starlight Foundation. And, even though at a later point Jerrica chooses to give up the Jem hologram for a while (Glitter and Gold), this is entirely out of her control. Since it's clear control is important to Jerrica right from the off, this is perhaps the biggest blow of all. Having said all of that, her desperation and anger does not justify her jumping to conclusions and attempting to steal a pair of earrings from a Chinese museum. The earrings turn out to be fake, but why they could not just have gone and spoken with the curator is beyond me. Jerrica just grabs them out of the case - setting a terrible example to kids everywhere. That is one of those "dodgy" heroine moments that Jerrica could do well to lose ;) Since a big part of this episode is about not stealing someone else's property like the Misfits do, it's rather a large faux pas.
But then, this episode DOES have a few weird moments. Jem refuses to remove her jemstar earrings to go through the metal detector - yet there is no reason to suppose Synergy's ray will be switched off if she does, since Jem takes them off when she goes into the Chinese Spa Bath, leaving them on the side. And here is another weird moment, since when the earrings are stolen, Jem morphs to Jerrica, revealing that she is wearing her kimono IN THE SPA BATH!. And why (why why WHY?) doesn't Jerrica tell Rio that Jem is missing, rather than "I don't want to talk about it"?
In case it's not obvious to anyone already, Aja is Chinese-American, and in this episode we get to see how much a part of her it is. She's is excited about playing in China that when they think they won't get to do their show, she is actually in tears (something very foreign to Aja throughout the series. Equally, when the earrings are missing, Aja proves she has another ability - she both reads and understands Chinese characters, telling us that her heritage before she was a Starlight girl maintained a good part of Chinese culture and custom. You can only imagine, therefore, how thrilled she is to be a part of this tour. In fact, it is Aja who takes the Holograms to the museum, wanting to look at Ancient Chinese Art. Yep, she's well into her culture all right, though this is probably the only time it is really touched on!
ROXY, LEAD MISFIT?
This episode is a weird one from the point of view of the Misfits. Though usually Pizzazz is at the helm of what the band do, this episode casts Roxy far more into the lead role. It's Roxy who orders Stormer to throw the earrings from the train - an order immediately obeyed. It's Roxy who seems to be sitting talking to Eric about how to handle the Holograms on the plane. (Why Roxy is sitting by Eric and Pizzazz is across the aisle is very strange considering the usual setup!). When Eric tells her it wasn't easy to get into China, Roxy comes over all thoughtful and says that "we'll just have to see what we can do about changing their minds." It's Roxy who notices something funny about the earrings and, being Roxy, she trots on over and swipes them herself! And of course, it's Roxy who sends the cable car mad!! But the key scene is when the Misfits are doing Kung Fu - Pizzazz says "guess we'll have to brush up on our Kung Fu" while it's Roxy who says "Come on!", while it's Roxy who decides Aja will be okay climbing up the rock face and decides that it's time for the Misfits to go. All the usual Pizzazz roles!
Yet the strange thing here for me is that Roxy does not notice anything unusual about them once she has them in her hands. Throughout the series we often see Roxy tinkering with machinery or electronics or something gadget-like in order to make it cause as much chaos as possible. It seems odd, therefore, that she does not notice the wiring and realise that these earrings are holographic projectors (or at least some mechanised part of Jem's act.) Instead they simply clone the earrings many times in order to cause as much confusion as possible. You might agree with me that it's also weird that, even after causing all this chaos, the Misfits do not realise that the earrings are the key to Jem's act, because they never again make an attempt to steal them. No, I don't think they're that stupid, either - Stormer even makes it clear that she knows Jem always wears the earrings when she performs. So why they didn't is a mystery to me!
Roxy's two main weaknesses are also on show in this episode, if you're quick enough to look for them. Firstly, when they are on the aeroplane, Eric asks Roxy if she wants to see the view. Roxy's response is "who cares about a big wall?", as if she's really not interested. But we discover in a later episode (Music Awards) that Roxy is petrified of heights. This is the first indication in the series, therefore, about her phobia.
The second weakness is her illiteracy. When the band get off the plane, there are fans waiting to greet them with a banner reading "Misfats." Roxy is absolutely oblivious to the fact there is the wrong name on the banner - she simply points out that they have supporters too, and it takes Pizzazz to notice the spelling mistake.
And there is Roxy's bond with Stormer, too. It's Stormer she tells to throw away the earrings. Stormer she sits next to on the plane. If you watch closely in most episodes, the Misfits have a 2 - 1 formation, with Pizzazz usually left with Eric or out on her own. In most episodes it doesn't matter because she's lead Misfit. But in this one it's slightly different, with Roxy as central figure and Pizzazz and Stormer alternately "with" her.
Well, it has to be there. The token native girl who saves the day. The writers get a lot into a short space of time with Lin, the chinese girl whose father finds Jem's real earrings. Firstly, there is the scene where Lin defends herself from the bullies, and this is the covert "anti-bullying" message that the episode conveys (not quite as flawed as the anti-theft one!). Then there is the touching scene where Lin offers her precious earrings to Jem to help her, and they turn out to be the real earrings. This is the "giving is good" message, but I find it an amazing amount of coincidences that Lin manages to find the EXACT earrings. Oh well. It's quite sweet really, how this little devoted fan from a poor background manages to save the day.
First off, I must give Jerrica an award for most dodgy line - "Follow that rickshaw!" Aside from that, it's a fairly straightforward episode with a few veiled messages. For me the most interesting part is Roxy's changing role in the Misfits - but I bet you guessed that, huh?
Episode rating: 7/10.
Original site concept c. 2001
This version c.2014
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Britrock website copyright EA Woolley