Season One: Exploring ISLAND OF DECEPTION
Britrock website copyright EA Woolley
ISLAND OF DECEPTION
Quite possibly the best first year episode for it's in depth characterisation and it's clear challenge of the normal "rules" each of those characters usually portrays. It's an episode about survival but, as the title says, it is also about deception and how a little white lie can go a long way...
A TANGLED WEB...
There are two main threads of deceit that run through this episode. Both start out as small and insignificant things and end up having a major impact on the plot.
The first example - nobody will be surprised to hear - belongs with the Misfits. Disgruntled that the Holograms are receiving all of the captain's attention, (even getting to play a song live), Pizzazz (we assume the creative genius here is Pizzazz) devises a trick in revenge. Bribing a sailor, the Misfits get the Holograms hiding in a lifeboat ready to surprise the captain - of course, the idea is that the Misfits will quietly cast the band adrift and let them find their own way home. Of course, because it is a classically ill-thought out Misfit scheme, all goes haywire. The holograms, disturbed by the noise of the winch jump out to cry "Happy Birthday!" - rocking the boat (literally!) and sending musicians into the sea.
For the record, as a Misfit devotee, I must explain why I call this "another classically ill-thought out Misfit plot." There is no malicious intent here to harm the Holograms - there rarely is in Misfit schemes, if you think about it, just reckless stupidity. Pizzazz shrieks to the Holograms "You weren't supposed to move!" before yelling to Stormer to "put it" (the winch) "in reverse!" The chaos also sent Roxy tumbling into the boat, so we see once more that protective Misfit instinct as Pizzazz and Stormer do their utmost to prevent everyone falling in. Major plot move number one here - once they're all in the water, the Holograms and the Misfits are stranded at sea and nobody knows that they're even gone from the boat till morning.
The second piece of deception is less straight forward and parts of it baffle me. On the one hand, you see JErrica do one of the most genuinely unselfish and brave things she does all series - she saves Stormer from drowning. She is the only character to notice Stormer's desperate struggles and hear her cry for help and she immediately goes to the rescue, shorting her earrings and reverting to her Jerrica form as she does so. (I consider this symbolic. Whenever Jem/Jerrica does something genuine and selfless it usually comes from Jerrica's heart and not her confused Jem persona.)
None of this is in itself deceptive, but it is pertinent nonetheless. To save Stormer's life, Jerrica has risked her secret identity because Stormer knows that Jerrica saved her and immediately her concern is for Jerrica's safety when they are all on the island.
Whatever part Jem's secret plays in any plot usually relies on some amount of self-protective deception. However, Jem's choice of solution here baffles me. When she explains to the other holograms what happened, they urge for her to project an image of Jerrica. Jem says "a hologram is not the answer, but I think I've figured out a way to fool them." This makes categorically no sense. For a start, in order for Jem and Jerrica to be seen together, sooner or later Synergy must project a hologram of one of them. And indeed, at a later point in the episode, she does project an image of Jerrica and then, at the end, one of Jem. My only explanation for this - and it's a poor one, with many holes in it - is that for some reason it's tied up in Jerrica's confused identity crisis - that to her Jem is the hologram, not Jerrica, and that she does not wish to confuse which persona is the real one by darting about projecting images of her real self. Maybe she finds it too creepy to come face to face with herself - I don't know. But she does do it in other episodes, so I don't know. And it would not have been hard for her to "switcheroo" when she had a moment alone. Jem's choice of solution is the second key plot moment. It is a dangerous lie, because it leads the bands into the jungle where they have encounters with wild animals, not all of whom are friendly. But, on the other side of the coin, it also leads them to Angus Bean and the radio, which provides their escape.
Stormer is a (perhaps the) pivotal character in this episode. She is often a confusing character to figure out, due to the contrasting way different writers tackle her, but I think this episode best encapsulates first season Stormer. I said earlier that this was a story of survival and it is - in this particular instance, Stormer's survival - not only her near-drowning incident, but the fact she is caught between the enemy who saved her life and the group with which she has placed her loyalties.
Almost drowning has had a distinct effect on Stormer. Her first question to the Holograms on the island is "Where is Jerrica?" And she pursues the matter, despite being shouted down by Roxy and Pizzazz. Stormer is clearly worried for Jerrica's safety. When the two groups slip into 'teamwork' mode, she acquiesces without a murmur and actually seems to enjoy it! Very significantly, too, she rescues Kimber from an icky, poisonous looking bug. The gesture may not have the drama of the sea rescue, but it is clear what it means. Stormer is repaying her debt to Jerrica by putting herself out to help Jerrica's sister. This is a very Misfit gesture in some ways - repayment in kind so she is no longer indebted to the enemy. But Stormer is more than just your average Misfit - she is confused and torn because, though she helps Kimber, when the redhead thanks her, Stormer brushes her off with an uncomfortable "ah, forget it!" It's almost as if she's worried that Pizzazz and Roxy might think she's over-fraternising with the enemy, and might not even understand her motivation.
I think Stormer is very bemused about the rivalry throughout this episode. Up to now, Jem and co have been the enemy pretty much because Eric and Pizzazz said so, and Stormer is afraid to go against either one of them. But by the end of the episode Stormer is beginning to see the Holograms in a little more of a real light. She voices the fact that she does not think that the Holograms have ulterior publicity moments for being on the island, despite what the other Misfits think. (On a side-note here, it's almost like Roxy and Pizzazz have to find a reason to blame Jerrica, knowing all too well that it was Misfit pranks that led them all to be washed up on the isle!). When she has a near miss with a wild boar, it's clear that she's shaken and would dearly like to accept Jem's comfort, but she is aware that the other Misfits are around and she dare not lose face.
Of course, Stormer does have another very important moment in the episode. One that is never really explained and that fans debate about even now. In the hermit's hut, it's clear that Angus is smitten with Stormer and she responds to his advances coyly yet with some pleasure, even brushing aside the other Misfits. He asks her if she believes in love and she replies "I don't know. Love's not easy for me."
Stormer is the only Misfit to get such a romantic interlude, brief as it is, and you wonder why it is that love is "not easy" for her. I can see two possible answers. One is simply that, as a Misfit, she isn't able to indulge her romantic side and take part in such "soft" emotions. (We do know from other episodes like Broadway Magic and Britrock, and the beginning of this episode that Stormer has a keen sense of romance.) The other possible reason is that Stormer finds love difficult because she has been spurned before and does not want to be hurt again. I like that theory (as readers of my fic will know), but we will never know, so it is entirely open to speculation.
LOVE'S NOT EASY...THE SONG THAT NEVER WAS
Stormer's romantic interlude with Angus brings me to this little question. The point was first raised on the TOJ! mailing list by - I believe - co-moderator Shannon, that the Jem song Love's Not Easy should have played in this episode rather than in Renaissance Woman, many episodes later. This is supported by a number of things. Firstly, Stormer says pretty much the exact words that could serve as a prompt for the Holograms to have a song. Second, there is an awkward scene with Jem and Kimber about love not being easy that somehow seems jerky and to be missing something - has a song been cut between Kimber's sympathy and her "well, I suppose love's not easy for anyone, now how are we going to get off this island?" remark. Third, Jem and the Holograms have only one song in the episode (Set Your Sails). Most first year and many second year episodes include two Jem songs, or at the very least have three songs in them. This episode has only two overall. Finally, Love's Not Easy is the only song from a second year episode to feature on a doll tape, suggesting that it's composition is pre: the launch of the second edition line and therefore it was chosen for second edition Kimber's cassette. The song fits awkwardly with Renaissance Woman and has no explanatory preamble. I think that this is because for reasons of episode length, the song was axed from it's original episode and used as a filler song later on.
There is a fair amount of amusing teamwork going on in this episode...all of which are great to watch and raise some interesting points.
Firstly, Pizzazz's behaviour has to be discussed. When Jem first starts to take control, she sulks and mutters about making a radio out of seashells in the most sarcastic, sullen way she can muster. She hates that everyone else is getting involved and listening to Jem and that she is not in charge. However, when Kimber calls on her to help land a fish, she comes to the rescue and has the chance to prove herself as an able preparer of freshly caught fish!! How she acquired such a skill I am not sure - was Pizzazz also a girl scout, maybe? Or did she learn this survival skill somewhere else? I suppose we shall never know! But the resounding praise she receives for her cooking at the campfire seems to bring her more into the circle and she is less of the sulky brat. For Pizzazz, control and being the best at something are both very important facets. By providing the food for the group she has re-established her usefulness and has been duly praised for it. And of course, by taking over the preparation of the fish, she has once more resumed an element of control. This is highlighted by the Misfits' song - It Takes Alot - which Pizzazz introduces with the instruction "Listen up! You can't stay soft and survive!". This is the command of a leader - Pizzazz obviously feels that it's time she took control of everything and she means to do it!
The Holograms are rather dim here - and they also lay themselves open to fan criticism. Throughout the series, the Holograms bitch and bitch about the Misfits, how they play, what their music sounds like, etc. Yet on the island they sit quietly and listen to the Misfits perform, enjoying the song without a murmur of complaint. This indicates that their unpleasant remarks in other episodes are probably rooted simply in annoyance that the Misfits even dare record any song, and that they are worried about the competition, not at all that the music is rubbish. Whilst the Misfits insult Jem and the Holograms themselves, the Holograms always target their rivals' work - and that's a bit below the belt for heroes :)
The reason I say they are dim here is because during the performance of the song, Pizzazz acquires the first aid kid. And yet the Holograms go to sleep oblivious, allowing the Misfits to creep away in the night unseen.
This seperation is key because it is only when the Misfits seperate themselves from the pack that they get into danger. In the Holograms' favour, annoyed though they are, they do come to the Misfits' rescue, and Jem uses Synergy to project a herd of elephants to save them from the wild boar. (Aja later makes the mistake of trying to give the Holograms credit for this rescue, which basically marks the end of any friendliness between the two groups as they leave the island. But then, it was never going to last. Roxy is already not keen on the idea of being friends, even if Kimber is!)
The Misfits and Holograms work well as a team. If nothing else, it proves that when there is a crisis, the two groups can more or less put their hate aside and work together. That would disprove any claim that any of the characters were 100% evil and selfish. But then, no sensible Jem fan would believe that, anyhow!! ;)
Finally, there is one other piece of teamwork I must mention. That is the teamwork back on the boat!! At the start of the episode, Eric mentions how he hates boats and asks "why couldn't we fly to the island like normal people?" Eric is not seen again till the end of the episode - we can only assume that he gets seasick! But when we do see Eric again, he is in company with Rio. It's the most unlikely scene ever, but these two have banded together in the same way as the girls have on the island in order to rescue their missing bands. And it proves that both Rio and Eric value their groups more than they value the rivalry between them. For Rio this is no surprise, but it does show a shred of human compassion in Eric that he has omitted even shaving in his vigil in the control room, waiting for news of his protegees!
IT TAKES A LOT...
It's worth noting for a moment the Misfit song "It Takes Alot" which is one of those songs that isn't about them being the best, but is about survival and being tough - "It's a jungle out there, so you had better beware."
I've already cited in my Starbright review the possibility of Pizzazz's metaphorical jungle for showbusiness...I think this song returns to that theme very nicely :) Though of course it is recycled for Rock and Roll Express, it is far more at home in Island of Deception. The lyrics are nicely ambiguous - "don't go turning your back, no telling what may attack" could refer to the wilderness in which they find themselves, or could equally be a Misfit warning to the Holograms - "Watch yourselves, because we're here and we'll pounce if you're not prepared." There is a lot of use of nature and wildlife, too -in this video 'Zazz falls into a spider's web, all three Misfits transform into fireflies, Pizzazz uses the fire as "magic" to change their attire and Stormer scares Kimber with a tribal mask. All of these things indicate that the Misfits associate themselves far more with the wild than maybe people expect. There is none of the materialistic things that you usually think of when you think of a Misfit video - no money, no cars, screaming fans, lights. Just them proving that they are more adept to surviving a hostile environment than the Holograms. And what environment is more hostile in the Jem series than the music industry? Stands to reason ;)
I love this episode. Stormer gets a major role, we get to see some sides of characters that we don't often get to see, and there is a heck of a lot of discussion material in the episode, much of which I have only barely touched upon. True, it is another time when we see the Misfits eating...and eating plenty...whilst in contrast the Holograms seem to avoid the need to eat - Jerrica even claiming to "skip dinner for a nap" so that she can become Jem at the captain's table!
It's also an episode with a strong message - small lies can get you into big trouble!!
Episode rating: 8.5/10.
Original site concept c. 2001
This version c.2014
Please ask before using the images on this site.
Britrock website copyright EA Woolley