Oh heck. Where to start. This one pushes "love story" to the limits. We're set in Greece, Rio and Jerrica are having ANOTHER fight...and Jerrica decides to create yet another identity to try and get him back...meanwhile Riot is trying to use Jerrica to make Jem jealous...and Minx, as ever, is trotting after Rio. In the middle of all of this chaos, Rapture is pretending to be a great oracle, whilst Synergy morphs herself into an oracle of her own - to try and knock some sense into a Jerrica clearly on the brink of losing it!!! Raya's comment early on is that Greece is one of the most romantic countries in the world - but I don't think we can use THAT as a reason for the madness that happens while they're there! The major theme of this story also seems to be how many alternate identities the characters can dream up between we go!!

    This has to be one of the most indicative moments of Jerrica finally losing her marbles. There is some serious stuff going down with her in this episode. Yes, it's funny as heck to watch, but it's also more than that. The main thrust of the episode is really about Jerrica and Rio and how much they really love each other (or otherwise). The cartoon opens, pretty much, with another of their steaming rows - with Rio calling Jerrica a control freak and Jerrica getting snuffy about him talking about Jem. As the series progresses we see more and more instances where Jerrica is getting jealous of her own alter ego, and I think it would be fair to say at this point that she almost perceives Jem as someone else, not as part of her at all. When Rio simply suggests Jem might like to see the stage arrangements, Jerrica flies into a rage, throwing her notebook at him in the process: "Jem this, Jem that, maybe you'd be happy if SHE was your girlfriend instead of me!"
    Yes, clearly a girl with issues. But believe me, it doesn't stop there. Jerrica's obsession with Rio is almost as strong as her obsession with her alter-ego, as we soon discover. Amazingly, despite their many problems during the series, Jerrica and Rio breaking up is essentially foreign ground. Even back at the beginning, when Rio tries to extricate himself from the Jem problem, Jerrica begs him to stay on board because she needs him. The strain of the double identity on both of them is really starting to show by this point, and I think it's largely that from Rio's point of view which makes him kick out, and declare "we're through!" for perhaps the first (and only) time in the whole series. Jerrica, for her part, is so devastated by this that you can only assume that her ranting was intended to elicit a different response - so this is yet another example of Rio and Jerrica not being on the same wavelength. Jerrica needs reassurance that it's HER Rio loves, not Jem. Rio is angry because he feels like nothing he's done for the Hologram concert is good enough, and he misunderstands the fact that Jerrica needs that support. Rio's perception has never been very great, but in some senses Jerrica's paranoia over her own alter ego is as destructive to their relationship as anything. Quite honestly, I am surprised that a split up such as this one didn't occur earlier in the series, because all the ingredients for it have been there for some time by this point.
    For Jerrica, Rio is a piece of security, something she's always had and who was there for her when she lost her mother and her father. He's safe and reliable, and something she's learnt to cling to. It makes sense, therefore, that losing him - albeit temporarily - drives her a little bit crazy. She first becomes Jem, going after Rio as if nothing had happened between him and Jerrica. Then, when Minx moves in on Rio, she follows Synergy-as-Thedra's advice, creating a third identity - a brunette called Jamie - in an attempt to win Rio back under yet ANOTHER false name. She claims she doesn't want to see Rio -"Not as Jem and definitely not as Jerrica", yet as Jamie she runs right into him, and is quite eager to be in his company. Whilst Synergy is making a valid point, I find this behaviour slightly disturbing, as if Jerrica doesn't really care who Rio is in love with, so long as she has him with her. The fact she is also able to behave like Rio never hurt her feelings or made her angry is a clear sign that she dissociates Jem (and probably Jamie too) from Jerrica and Jerrica's feelings. There is a classic scene where Jerrica attempts to explain all of this to the Holograms, telling them  "I just wanted to see if Rio would go out with someone me, that is, now that he's broken up with me." Needless to say, they all think she's losing her marbles - and I wouldn't disagree.
    Rio, for his part, has absolutely no idea that his ex-girlfriend, the rock singer and this new chick Jamie are all the same person. (Did I already mention that he wasn't exactly perceptive?) I find this a key point to focus on, because while Rio is so oblivious to Jerrica's turmoil, there is no way they can ever really settle things and be a couple as strong as Anthony and Shana.

    There are no Misfits in this episode - and actually, I'm not sure they would have fitted into it all that well, even if they had been there. It is a good opportunity, however, to explore the Stingers a little more. Interestingly, at the start of the episode, after the breakup between Rio and Jerrica, the feeling about it among the Stingers is mixed. Minx - who has set her sights on securing Rio herself, is glad. Riot is dismayed - "now Rio will go after Jem, and Jem is fated to be mine!". There has long been talk of Riot's "charisma", that he can switch on and off at will. If ever there was an episode where this was utterly displaced, this one has to be it. Riot hatches a scheme to flirt with and flatter Jerrica in the hope of making Rio jealous and taking his attention away from Jem, but Jerrica's attention is clearly elsewhere - "Jerrica, I just kissed you!" "Did you? I'm sorry, I didn't notice". This shows a few things, in my mind. Firstly, that if Riot really did have a charismatic air he could turn on and off, Jerrica would have been as swept off her feet as Jerrica as she is when she is Jem. Secondly, that Jerrica and Jem are so seperate from each other that Jerrica is still loyal to Rio, whilst Jem subconsciously allows herself to feel a "free" woman, therefore open to Riot's charms. And thirdly, that Riot has a very, very good understanding of the people around him. He is perceptive enough to realise that Rio loves Jerrica - perhaps more so than Jerrica herself realises - and he manipulates the emotions of all concerned to try and put things back how he thinks they should be. I believe that Riot's "power" is not charisma based at all, but the skill of manipulation that Rapture also has in abundance. And really, considering that Rio has no such understanding of human behaviour, he is always at a disadvantage. As Riot puts it - "he's just insensitive, that's all." And yes, that's what he is...though he cannot possibly be blamed for all of it.
    Minx is probably the least manipulatively successful Stinger of all of them. Whilst she has her occasional successes with Rio, in general we see he is too much in love with Jerrica (despite his idiocy) to really allow himself to be coerced into anything. Minx is a flirt and plays games, but her frustration over Rio's non-attention and her delight when Rio and Jerrica break up are indicative to me that she has more feeling for him than she allows herself to show. (And this also tallies with events in a later episode,  A Change of Heart.)
    As for Rapture - maybe Rapture is the most interesting of all of the Stingers in this episode because of what she doesn't get involved in, rather than what she does. She is, of all the characters, immune to the 'romance' theme running through the show. In fact, after watching Riot charge after Jem and Minx chase after Rio, she declares it silly - "This is madness! I thought we were here to have fun!"
    We've already seen by this point that Rapture is both a conartist and interested in the occult. We now see that she has an understanding of local superstition and culture (although if I were Greek, I would be slightly offended by the way I was being portrayed in this episode.). She uses that knowledge to procure money from the local people, claiming to be a great oracle. Her focus, as ever, is on personal and material gain - but also on the thrill of fooling people she evidently considers below her notice. It's a challenge for her to walk into any situation and try and gain something out of it, and I think that's what she generally lives for -the challenge and the success of coming out superior. And yet, this episode also gives us an unpleasant aftertaste of "Villain Syndrome" where Rapture is concerned - a wholeheartedly out of character moment in order to slide the heroines back into the driving seat of the story. When speaking to the Holograms as "the oracle", Rapture makes a silly claim that they should all give up their jobs and become basket weavers instead. This makes the Holograms suspicious and they blow her cover, resulting in her being chased across Athens (I presume) by an angry mob of cheated people. In my mind, this is not an error that Rapture would logically make - she is far too slick and intelligent for that. Instead it throws up another idea - that the Holograms are not really a match for Rapture in terms of cunning or intelligence, and that such an obvious faux pas is in fact needed simply to put them back on the scent. This is telling to me - Rapture is probably the most dangerous major character the Jem series sees. Her total immunity to the madness in this episode also shows us she has no interest whatsoever in romance, and perhaps more, that she considers such a thing detrimental to the success of her group. Whether Rapture's interest is more in the Stingers success or in pulling off her games and tricks is often unclear and without more episodes to work from, I don't suppose we will ever know for sure. But either way this is a good episode for her, because rather than being one of Riot's 'minions', she goes off by herself and thinks FOR herself, proving that she does not need the Stingers egging her on to do the things that she does. (And as a sidenote, it's also interesting that, despite her hooded disguise as the Oracle, Riot and Minx know IMMEDIATELY that she is Rapture. There is something interesting in this - even disguised they can tell their bandmate by her behaviour and probably her voice also. Yet the Holograms have no idea that Jamie is really Jerrica until she reveals it to them - and of course, Rio has no idea that Jamie or Jem are both Jerrica, either. Perhaps the communication or the understanding between the Stingers is on a much stronger level than it is between Jerrica and the Holograms or Jerrica and Rio...or, maybe more likely is the idea that Jerrica's issues with her identity have pushed her away from both Rio and the Holograms from time to time till by this point none of them really know exactly who she is.

    Another topic that frequently comes up on mailing lists and other places is Synergy. Is she purely mechanical, at Jerrica's whim? Or does she have some spirit or personality of her own deep inside her mainframe, allowing her to make independant decisions and gestures of her own? Myself, I have always felt that she is the latter, and this episode could not provide more proof of it. Synergy, seeing that Jerrica is distressed by the situation with Rio, wants to help, but Jerrica dismisses her, saying that it's something she can't possibly understand. Synergy obviously takes this to heart, but it doesn't for one moment make her give up on her desire to show Jerrica how to solve her problem. Entirely of her own accord, she creates a new persona of her own - the Oracle Thedra - and since even Jerrica has no idea that Thedra is Synergy until near the end of the episode, I don't think it can possibly be said that here Synergy acts under anyone's command but her own. We have to always remember that Emmet programmed her with an element of his late wife, and it's that element that shows through now.
    Synergy's wisdom here is also key. For the first time in the series, someone puts into words an explanation for Rio's behaviour around Jem and Jerrica that doesn't make him look like a two-timing toerag. And it is Synergy - the computer - who is the one to figure it out, telling Jerrica to create a third identity to further consolidate her case before revealing who she truly is and before explaining the reasons why - "No matter what disguise you were in, Rio fell for you every time. Clearly your inner self is what attracts him - it will always shine through your outward appearance."
    It's a nice explanation and possibly grounded in some truth. I do, however, find it sad that in order to make Jerrica listen to this, Synergy has to go to the trouble of recreating herself as well. Perhaps this is a lesson for the Holograms in future - that Synergy always has the answers, if only they bother to listen!

    After this episode, there is something very, very odd about the closing video for Jem's song "Midsummer Night's Madness". Because of the Greek setting, there is an element of Greek mythology in the video. But it's more strange than that. Not just Jerrica and Rio's romance, but a more odd suggestion - Riot and Minx as Greek Gods up in the clouds. When Riot-the-God (We guess Zeus) sweeps Jerrica off her feet in a chariot, Minx seems jealous, and transforms herself into a rainbow haired being, chasing after Rio (with me so far?) And yet, as Rio and Jerrica find each other, Minx is transformed by a demon into Medusa....and she and Riot-as-Zeus kiss, moulding themselves into a statue of their embrace.
    What on earth are we meant to read into that? I am still suspicious that in the beginning Minx had a romantic attachment to Riot. But by this point her affection seems clearly towards Rio, and Riot's towards Jem. Are they simply images and the Gods represented in characters we can recognise? Or is there some subtle message in this that we're supposed to take note of? Whatever the answer, it seems a fitting weird ending to a fairly weird episode!!

    This is another episode where Raya seems conveniently forgotten from time to time. Though the Holograms are all disgusted that Rio has found a new friend (Jamie) so soon after his breakup with Jerrica, when "Jamie" chases after them down the street, she calls out "Kimber, Aja, Shana, wait up!" - no mention yet again of Raya, and this is all too common a happening. Poor Raya :S

    You have to laugh at Riot's classic and very true comment towards the end of the episode when speaking about Rio and Jerrica. "In my expert opinion, you deserve each other." He could not have spoken a truer word - though serious cracks still exist in this relationship that not even Synergy's wise explanations can overcome completely. I suppose after this it's no surprise that Rio is never told the secret of Jem's real identity...And yet, despite Jerrica's issues, she does also coin an interesting observation of her own. "Synergy, give Riot what he always pursues - an illusion." She could not be more right. What Riot pursues is the perfect woman, which doesn't really exist...and for that reason he will never be satisfied.
    For an episode without Misfits, this is actually a pretty good one, for it's character detail and it's general amusement factor. I still think the plot is nuts, but at least it says as much in the title, so what else can you expect? Possibly the best Stinger/Hologram episode of the bunch.

    Episode rating: 7/10.


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