Season Two: Exploring DANSE TIME



    This is one of those episodes which I really think, with some reflection, ought to have been spread out over two. The reason I think this is because a lot of the action doesn't actually happen until about halfway through the episode. We're dealing with another of Xanthos's philanthropic projects - you have to love Xanthos for his completely oblivious attitude towards the real evils of the world, not least the real evils of Eric Raymond - and a competition to make a rock music video on the theme of friendship and goodwill. Although this is the introduction for the episode, it's not the core theme. That lies with Danse - and an injury suffered on set.

    There are a lot of undercurrents involved in this episode, few of which are really voiced out loud. To begin with, an old rivalry is resurfaced right back at the start - both Eric and Jerrica are present at Xanthos' announcement of his contest. If anyone had thought this rivalry had cooled at all, then the opening of this episode would dispel those thoughts completely. I find an irony in the fact that Xanthos is presenting information on how friendship and goodwill are important, and then literally five seconds after he's done, Jerrica and Eric are facing off about which group is going to win the prize. Of course, Jerrica has an altruistic motive in mind for the prize money - the Haven House, which, of course, should tell most ardent Jem viewers that Danse is going to be involved in this episode, since the two go hand in hand. Eric, on the other hand, is strangely certain the Misfits will win. Jerrica tells him that "The Misfits don't know the meaning of friendship and goodwill", to which Eric retorts, "they understand the meaning of money", or words to that effect.

    If Eric had stopped to think about it for a while, he'd have realised that this was one of those episodes which was hopelessly stacked against his girls. One has to think that the only reason he would even begin to imagine the Misfits taking part in this contest was because of his deep rooted hate of Jerrica, and his desire to top her group. There's no other reason for a rational businessman of Eric's avaricious nature to suddenly risk his band's tough girl image on a video which, let's face it, might have been about fluffy kittens and flowers.

    Either way, Eric and Jerrica's lack of friendship and goodwill lay the groundwork for this episode. This is important, because there is little if any actual conflict between Jem's girls and the Misfits at any point during this ep.

    I've touched on Eric's motives in this; now I have to look at the Misfits' reasons for taking part in this random scheme. We first see the Misfits in make-up, preparing to film their video for the song, Free and Easy - at least, that can be inferred from the set up of animation, since by the time Eric appears, they've finished their video. Roxy's getting stressy with the poor make-up artist, a girl called Rouge - and Stormer's getting all serious and saying that making the video is a lot of fun. The interesting thing is that Eric isn't there. The Misfits are making their music video without him telling them what to do, or overseeing them. In short, they're taking responsibility for the marketing of their own video. And, aside from Roxy's snap at Rouge, they're not causing trouble, but they're getting down to work. The comment is even made that they want to get the video finished so they can go and have some fun - yet they're not trying to skive off the work of doing that video. So maybe they want to be 'free and easy', but they clearly have a sense of responsibility about them. Season 2 and 3 do give this view of the Misfits more than Season 1, where they seemed to not really care if they had music backing or they didn't and just caused random hell. The image of the Misfits and the things that are required to promote that image are more important to the band in this season and onwards (TV slots, interviews, videos, music company contracts, wages, etc). This may be Jetta's inclusion, or it may simply be a different slant from the writing team as they delve deeper into characters.

    When Eric turns up, he tells them to junk the video. They're not amused - Jetta tells him that 'it's terrific' - and Eric acts like someone's making them do a video on friendship and goodwill. Interestingly, Eric doesn't tell them outright that they're going to compete with Jem. Instead, he tells them that they're gonna win $250,000 if they make the best video. Aside from Stormer getting all dreamy about the concept of 'friendship and goodwill', the Misfits are sold on the idea of the money - but I have a major problem with this. Music videos do not come cheap, and we later find out that the Misfits have hired Jem's crew by paying them 'a bunch of money'. How much the video costs vs the prize money is anyone's guess, but it seems as though there's not a lot of financial reward for taking part in this out-of-character contest.

    It's hard to know why the Misfits allow Eric to junk their awesome video for some new one on a theme that jerks with their image and is not going to end well. Had Eric mentioned Jem, then it would be easy to suggest that Pizzazz's competitive streak and desire to stand top would be the telling factor, but since we can only infer they know something about Jem's involvement because they hired the crew (which might've been a coincidence or done without knowing Jem was in the same contest), I can only assume that this is one of those awesome plot moments in Jem which, when you take it to pieces, makes no sense. I think we can agree that if the Misfits have just made a video, they probably know what making a video entails, including cost. And I doubt they're going to overlook the fact that they're not going to get much of a prize from massaging Eric's desire to beat Jerrica.


    It's very unusual to see Danse in a Jem episode in such a dispirited state. I've said it a few times but for me Danse is the character Jem ought to have aspired to be. She has none of the side or the bitchiness that Jem sometimes exhibits, and is a genuinely good girl without being nauseating. However, the one message you can take away from Danse's demeanour in this episode is how important her dancing is to her.

    To be fair, Danse's injury is highly suspect. I doubt there are many injuries which could be so easily cured in 3 weeks yet potentially threaten Danse's ability to walk or dance again for all time. But this is a cartoon, so let's let that one slide. The fact of the matter is that Danse is withdrawn, snappish and unlike herself to begin with in the hospital's care. In fact, it isn't until she encounters Cisco that she starts to turn her attitude around.

    Cisco and Suzy are both powerful bit part characters in this episode. Danse has three love interests in the series and this one for many fans is the real deal - certainly I think she ought to have stuck with Cisco and made it official, because they have a chemistry that Danse doesn't have with either of the other guys in later episodes. Cisco is blind, and at the hospital because he is going to have a revolutionary surgery on his eyes to restore the sight he lost as a small child. Their first meeting is prophetic - she can't walk and he can't see, and the two of them collide. But, after that, it is Cisco who is the driving force behind Danse's recovery. At one point he falls in the pool and Danse has to climb the ladder to get the ring to save him. Whether Cisco really can swim or whether he played the whole scene to get her out of the chair is unknown, but it's safe to say that without his encouragement and positivity (and, may I say, his independent spirit), Danse would probably not have recovered in time for the video shoot.

    Suzy, the other key player in the hospital, is slightly different from Cisco in that she is not really actively involved in Danse's recovery process. More, she's highlighted for her positive attitude on a couple of occasions. Danse asks Cisco at one point - "do you think she (Suzy) will ever walk again?" to which Cisco replies, "Suzy believes that she will, and that's all that matters." In the later Takes Work video, Suzy is shown throwing off her crutches and walking. The undertone here is the power of positive thinking. Both Suzy and Cisco have been dealt different blows by life, but both of them are working to overcome it. Through these two, Danse is inspired to work hard to regain her dreams too - but there is a wider message to the watching audience that if you have a challenge in your life, you can overcome it if you believe in yourself and try.


    There's no two ways about this. Where are they? Seriously? We see them watching Danse's physiotherapy on one occasion, and then, if memory serves, they visit her twice - once after she enters the hospital and receives her diagnosis and once when she is in rehabilitation. In both cases, their focus is not on Danse's mental state or physical state but, I hate to say it, the progress of their video. I have no idea what kind of friendship that is meant to convey, when two complete strangers are the key forces in Danse's recovery, and her so-called friends are standing around fussing about the video they aren't able to make. There's also the obligatory dig at the Misfits hiring away the crew - but as I think Shana? says, you can't blame them for that. They need to earn a wage too, and Jem and co can't pay them presently. Since that's the only time the Misfits cross over into Jem's territory, and they do it legitimately by paying a wage, it's surprising that they even care about it. Let's be real here. This is Jem. We've seen them make music videos without a crew before - why is that so important now? And yeah, they want Danse in it, for Haven House - but does that justify putting undue pressure on her to heal by a deadline? Surely, if the Haven House was that important to raise funds for, then they would have gone ahead and done a video without her instead? But no, that's not an option, because "Danse is the best" (quote Jerrica). You have to wonder if, lurking in her mind here is the conversation with Eric Raymond, and that shadows over her good intentions for her friend and her video. Which is ironic, since the whole core point of the video is something showing Friendship and Goodwill. Something which is distinctly lacking in the Holograms' attitude towards the whole situation. I actually wonder why they didn't take cameras and just film in the hospital - which actually, when you see the Takes Work video, a lot of it seems to be involved with, suggesting they did just that - but that's another matter entirely.

    Also, I should mention here that Jerrica does try to cheat the competition in one regard in this episode. She goes to Xanthos and tries to get an extension on the contest. Xanthos is a completely fair man, and refuses her request as unfair to other competitors - but since it's usually Eric who tries to twist the rules and change the conditions, generally with a bribe...I think it's important to point out that Jerrica's not above trying to sweet-talk the organiser on odd occasions either.


    So to finish with, a small expose on the gratuitous humiliation of the Misfits in this episode. Of course, it all centres on Eric, and, of course, the unspoken non-hero of the episode, a mad Scottish (one believes, from the terrible accent) prop operator called Red who accidentally caused Danse's accident at the start of the episode and is at the heart of the issues for the Misfits' video as well. Basically, Eric has decided to dress his Misfits up as gumballs, because that's the meaning of friendship and goodwill in his world. Apparently everyone loves gumballs - everyone except Pizzazz, who apparently, as Roxy tells her, hates everything. The Misfits are all dressed up in gumball suits, and getting ready for filming, when Eric decides he wants to play with the props. It all goes wrong, Eric tries to blame Red, and the crew get ticked off and go back to Jem. The reason that this scene annoys me so much though is that the Misfits do nothing wrong in the episode at all, and absolutely nothing to deserve the way they are treated at the end of this sequence. Eric messed with the prop and tried to lie about it - the Misfits saw through his lie and confronted him, at which point the crew - led by Red - release the stage settings so that the Misfits all fall over on gumballs and their video comes to nothing.

    There are many scenes in Jem where this kind of humiliation awaits the Misfits, and I generally accept it as the villains getting their comeuppance, but only, surely, if those villains did something wrong. This gives the message that it's okay to humiliate the Misfits just because they are the Misfits - the not-popular crew - and that is completely different. I think this mentality exists in society a lot more than it ought to, with people deciding that other people "deserve" bad treatment because they aren't with the in crowd - and therefore it's not a mindset that a kids' show ought to have been promoting.


    Jerrica and company win, because Danse makes it back to perform in time for the contest. Thanks to Cisco, Suzy and her hard work - not thanks to Jem and the Holograms. Xanthos awards them the prize that everyone knew would be theirs already. The Misfits don't get to enter, though, so who knows whether gumballs would've won Xanthos over in the end? ;) I can say, with a Misfit gleam in my eye, that this time Jerrica won by default. Albeit the Haven House kids got the money, and honestly, isn't that the only thing that really mattered anyway?

    A good solid episode, but I'm d ocking 2 points for the non-necessary humiliation scene.

    Episode rating: 6/10


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