Season One: Exploring IN STITCHES


    In Stitches is one of the earlier episodes of Jem, and for that reason getting a grip on the status of the groups can be a bit difficult. It's a story that requires you to believe some rather surprising things in order for it to work, but it also gives centre stage to a very sidelined Hologram, Shana, and for that reason alone I think it's one of the more precious episodes. There's also some pretty big legal issues raised by it - which I shall come to in due course. At its root is competition between the Holograms and the Misfits for centre stage in the video of Italian designer Tony Cassini, and the setting is Venice. Yes, Venice, Italy, as LinZ kindly clarifies at the start of the episode. (For me, that seemed obvious, but then the first time I watched this, I didn't realise there was a Venice in America, too. xD)

    Before I go into detail of other elements of the plot, can I just say that I am not sure exactly who is breaking the most laws in this episode. It's more or less a contest in its own right, with both sides neck-and-neck. Of course, I have to begin by explicitly debunking something that apparently is still a really rife belief among some Jem fans. That is that the things Zipper does are not necessarily ordered by the Misfits. I find this important to raise, having seen a few articles recently in blogs talking about the Misfits needing to be arrested for attempted murder and such like. Princess and Singer ought to dispel that myth - and the fact that Zipper quite often is not under their orders or control. Often he's under Eric's, but that isn't the same as being under the Misfits'. Just want to put that out there, because it comes up again in this episode.

    Let's begin with Zipper, since the topic's here. Zipper's law breaks in this episode - stealing Shana's designs (albeit they turn out to be Ashley's) and then later stealing Shana's outfits from Danielle's very badly defended villa. I don't know whether impersonating a gondola driver is also a crime, but for the time being, let's go with that. Quite a mild rap sheet for this episode. The first can probably be associated to Eric's orders, since he seems to know about it. The second is off his own bat, since he appears with the outfits and offers to sell them to Eric. Eric is hiring seamstresses and Pizzazz and co are completely in the dark about this plan, so the theft is originally Zipper's own sin. In Zipper's defence, he does come rescue the Misfits on the speedboat. Well, two of them, but he does wait to let them pull Roxy aboard.

    Now, let's look at Eric. Eric's illegal sins in this episode - hiring Zipper, and paying him for the theft of the outfits. I don't think there's much else we can put at his door this time, albeit he continues to go along with the theft. No direct attempts on anyone's life, no violent orders. Also fairly tame.

    The Misfits. This one is a bit more complicated. They're guilty of I suppose, plagiarism. They stole Shana's designs and they dyed them black. But there's something weird about this for me. I'm not justifying what they did, it was bad, but I wonder how they're so unworried when the original outfits got wrecked. The original outfits were never worn by the Misfits. They must have had them re-made, presumably by the seamstresses hired by Eric. But then, they didn't have custody of the outfits, which ripped - at best they might have had half. Plus, when you look at the outfits, they aren't exactly the same in pattern to the JATH ones. So while they're Shana's outfits - they're also, somewhat, Misfit outfits by this point. Pizzazz apparently doesn't understand plagiarism (see In Search of the Stolen Album for this theme again), and obviously they stole the ideas from the outfits Zipper took - but can we essentially leave that at their door this time? There is the scene in the shoe shop, but I'm sure that they didn't leave without paying. If they had, someone would've kicked up a fuss about it. More likely they were on charge to either Eric (who apparently has a villa there) or Harvey, one or the other.

    Right. Jem and the Holograms. I'm not even going to count infiltrating Eric's villa, since they went with good cause. No, I have two other issues to throw at their door. Number one, Jerrica is committing serious passport fraud. She's on an aeroplane under a false identity, with, I assume, a false passport, while pretending her real self is in New York. Her shift to her real self on the plane is a major problem. It's not just humour for the audience, it's actually pretty serious in terms of crime. I doubt the Italian authorities would be all that amused if she turned up as Jerrica with "Jem's" passport. And what is on Jem's passport, anyway? Her 'Real name'? The one that doesn't exist? This is one of those plot issues for me. Surely she should travel as Jerrica, and change to Jem when there...? Although then people might wonder how she crossed borders. Jem/Jerrica fly abroad a lot, too. That's repeat offending, isn't it?

    And it gets worse. I don't know, really, who to blame for this one, but Ashley. Ashley secludes herself aboard the plane in the chest where Shana's fashion stuff is meant to be. Ashley is the one who's breaking the law but she's 13, 14 - do we blame her? And the Holograms don't know she's there till she appears in Danielle's place - but do they then contact the Starlight Foundation? The American Embassy? Someone to make things official? No. They take her shopping for shoes. So Jem is travelling on a fake passport, and Ashley is travelling without a passport. Now, I've been to Italy - albeit not the North - and I assure everyone that Italian airports do have customs gates and passport control, and they do take things as seriously as anywhere else. I wonder whether the animators actually gave thought to this. Maybe they've never tried to travel to Europe before. Even as an EU citizen, I need my passport to cross into Italy. And this predates the EU. So yeah. Passports. Big issue.

    For me this is one of Shana's best episodes bar none. She has her moments in the Talent Search, too, but I like her better in a way in this one, because she really shows that no-nonsense down-to-earth intelligence that we don't get to see her exhibit as much as maybe would be nice. She is known for making wry comments and asides at times during the series, but here she's all guns blazing. A key quote, "I'll pulverise them!" when she realises the Misfits have taken her (Ashley's) designs and dumped her in the water. Later, too, she gets as angry - and she stands up to the Misfits time and time again. Yet her insecurity about her ability that Talent Search shows up is here, too. Roxy's phonecall at the beginning does make her panic a bit about her designs and whether she's good enough for the contest. It's this real element of Shana that appeals to me as a Jem fan. Shana is a very grounded character in a lot of ways, and In Stitches also gives us the other side of her personality -the creative side. She's not so musical as the others, although she plays drums and bass - but she is very talented and artistic. More, Ashley is inspired by her.

    The Holograms are also very supportive of Shana and listen to her a lot in this episode. I like that band chemistry. It doesn't always flow that evenly, but it's a good episode from the point of view of Hologram unity. I think maybe because it's early and also there's no Rio. Rio complicates so many things, it's often better when he's not there.

    So, we assume that the Misfits and the Holograms have as little to do with each other as possible. In that case, though, some questions.
    How does Roxy know the phone number for the Starlight? She seems to get it right away.
    Is it logical to assume Shana would immediately recognise Roxy's voice over the phone? Have they clashed enough at this point?
    Why does Kimber know that Eric has a villa in Venice, and which one it is, specifically?
    How does Ashley know that LinZ outed Shana's designing on her show, when she wasn't watching it, and, more importantly, how does Roxy know Shana designs for the Holograms if it's not general knowledge at this point (as Ashley's comment indicates.)
    Spying much, do we think?

    Another thing that I want to raise for people's consideration. I've mentioned before about special favours/everything going for the Holograms without them really trying. So this episode turns out that they're staying with Danielle du Voisin, who just happens to have prepared a whole studio for Shana to work in. Not that she's biased or anything. I know they're friends but this is a convenient stuck up friendship with your generic titled personage and therefore not very impressive as a plot device to me. However, this aside, there's another moment where I feel the Holograms get ahead of themselves. Enter Tito, the gondola driver who they beg to take them to the Rock Fashion Show. Except none of them remembered to bring money. Apparently Jem and the Holograms expect to be ferried everywhere without paying. Tito tells them he's a businessman, and he won't take them for free. Are we meant to criticise him because he doesn't want to pick up a bunch of strangely dressed Americans who can't pay him? Kimber even tries the arm fondling technique. Very dodgy. Of course, then Jem and co have a great idea - sing a song. To begin with it looks like Time Is Runnin' Out is the background for them running through Venice, but it turns out they're just busking. Without mics or instruments or equipment. They look ridiculous. They probably sound it, too, though people are throwing Lira at them. Tito, being a smart dude, collects up the money then offers them a free ride. Aja's makes the critical comment, "what a guy", but I think she's being unfair. Tito may have kids to support at home. What right do they have to expect a free ride just because they're stars? That sounds like something the Misfits would do. Except...they don't.

    I have to spare a moment for this, because I adore this song. I also adore the video for it. I think it's really well put together and its the kind of song which I can imagine the Misfits actually releasing and getting a hit out of. Also, it's not one of those in your face forced on the audience videos. It is in Shana's face, but the guys in the shoe-shop, though bewildered, seem to fall under the spell and end up dancing with the Misfits. We have hints that Pizzazz is capable of charming men from other episodes - Rock and Roll Express in the desert and the undisclosed history with Sean to name but two instances. This seems another of those moments. Designing Woman is also used as background music when the Holograms are flying out to Venice. I find that interesting. Is it foreshadowing for the preparedness of Zipper waiting for them in the gondola when they get to Venice (apparently gondolas appear at airports in Venice, or that step was skipped, but let's not go there.) Pizzazz also utilises the high ground a lot in this video. She looks down on Shana, and she is atop the shelves, kicking boxes. It's not quite the 'giant' motif of other videos, but it is a "dominant" position. Considering the lyrics for a moment, it's also interesting how Pizzazz randomly brings Jem into the video's thought processes (Jem is not in the shoe shop with Shana and Ashley) when she's singing about girls "mooning over this or that guy". A message about Rio, maybe?

    They all look like they're having so much fun, though. And they can dance. Designing Woman is one of the best songs in the Jem series, hands down.

    All right, so I've got this far through the episode and I've barely even touched on the key plot theme, which says a lot about the episode I think. Cassini's video or contest or whatever it is is introduced via LinZ's show, and Cassini, like later guest idiots, makes the mistake of not being able to choose between Jem and the Misfits. I noticed some interesting things about LinZ's presentation of the show, though. Firstly, the inclusion of the Limp Lizards. They come up again and again in different contexts. Eric might have hired them as a lousy band to make the Misfits "sound terrific", but apparently at this point they're American style candidates. But by the Bands Break Up, they're playing in a club and there's a distinction between them and the "real celebrities" of Misfits and Holograms. So what are their status? I wish that we;d had more information on them. They're the band that ghosts in the sidelines...but probably their career attempts are more realistic than those of the star acts.

    Second observation from LinZ's show comes in the photo pile. Remember Kimber in Truly Outrageous, complaining it was all about Jem? Well, when LinZ mentions the Misfits, its a photo of all three of them. Yet when she mentions Jem and the Holograms, it's an image of Jem. So this is still a real situation. Jem has more status than the Holograms in the public eye, whereas the Misfits are viewed more as a collective, even though Pizzazz sings. Interesting dynamic data.

    The contest itself is so completely irrelevant to the story that although it's the reason both groups are in Venice, it really doesn't seem worth much more of a mention. It's good because Shana stands up to the Misfits, and the Misfits don't go destructive and start ripping things up - Pizzazz uses that charm again, this time on the judge. I'm a bit confused about Danielle's role, and the fact Ashley is there despite her status as illegal entrant to the country (maybe Danielle pulled some shady strings? At least that would make her interesting), but it seems a very rigged contest that both American groups come first and second. The whole event is designed to showcase Misfits vs Holograms and Holograms win.

    So apparently, from his first words to the seamstresses (Silencio), Eric speaks Italian. He has a villa there, so that isn't impossible. Of course, he then uses English to them the rest of the time, and they don't actually manage to speak a word. Some odd giggling, and that's about all. It's hard to gauge whether this is evidence of multiple languages from Eric's point of view. Jem, however, definitely does NOT speak Italian, since she says "Grazie" to Tito, and she pronounces it, "Grah-tsee". I believe - and I don't speak Italian either, but I have been there and I'm sure an Italian Jem fan will clarify if need be - the word is correctly pronounced "Grah-tsi-eh". So Eric might speak Italian, but Jem/Jerrica is stuck in English. The Misfits? It's not clear, though you'd think they'd suss out that one of the seamstresses was not who she seemed when she understood Roxy's instructions (in blunt English) about using servant stairs. A missed opportunity, perhaps, to out Jem,( although she does out herself moments later by turning off her disguise. Not really designed for breaking and entering, this one.)

    A mention too here for the third place contestants, the Japanese group. Now, I listened a few times to the name. I hope that the band are called "Giri" 義理 which means something like "obligation" or "justice". However it sounds a bit like "Geri" 下痢 which, awkwardly, means "diarrhoea". A subtle but important difference, I think you'll agree...

    After all those fights about the costumes, Shana magically manages to re-design new ones on the spot that magically win the contest, even though they are Synergy's projections and therefore not legitimately made outfits. Is that cheating? Given the provocation, perhaps not - but they could've done that from the start, really. But how much of this is Shana's and how much Synergy's is a bit of a concern for me based on the Depends on the Mood video at the start. At one point Jem is wearing an outfit which Shana then draws out on paper. So who really is creating these designs? Is that just a video motif, or is Synergy a silent partner in all of this? In which case, who is using whose ideas really?

    I like In Stitches, although it requires some suspension of disbelief with all the legal issues and stuff going on. I love it for the subtle evidence and information about Roxy -which I have spent next to no time on, but I think is neat anyway (we see that she can swim, we see her plotting psychological warfare on Shana, which is a more Jetta characteristic in later episodes, and we see her trying to play it high class with the 'servant stairs' comment. More importantly, though, this is Shana's episode and I won't take that spotlight away from her. Some people find Shana boring, but I fancy they just haven't bothered to understand her. I don't think there's much to dislike about her, and I'm glad that she had this episode in which to shine.

    Episode rating: 7/10.


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