Season Two: Exploring ONE JEM TOO MANY
Britrock website copyright EA Woolley
ONE JEM TOO MANY
This is the episode that slots in between the cutesy Scandal and the popular "The Bands Break Up", and for that reason, probably, it easily gets forgotten. I could say that, as a Misfit fan, One Jem Too Many was an accurate appraisal for the whole of the Jem series. But, being serious for a moment, there really are two Jems running around in this ep. Can we say Misfit scheme? Of course we can!
It doesn't seem to matter how many stunning switches and disguises Clash pulls off in the series, many Jem fans are still willing to dismiss her as the mindless, pathetic lackey of Pizzazz and the Misfits, with no talent and no potential to do anything other than cause trouble. And yet, this is another episode which would simply prove everyone wrong.
Of course, it doesn't take a genius to know that Clash is the "one Jem too many." In the first episode set we see Clash, someone else creates her disguise for her, and it's really Pizzazz behind it all. By this time, however, it's Clash herself who is creating and executing her disguises. Yes, Pizzazz is still at the helm, but it's really only a short step from this to what happens in Video Wars - where Clash DOES create her own alter-ego, and uses it independantly of the Misfits' command.
There are a lot of interesting things about Clash in this episode. We are never really told in the show why it is that Clash is never considered as a fourth Misfit. As far back as Last Resorts, we see her almost as one with the group. What changed? Why did they have to look so far afield for Jetta, when they had a fourth person of like mind and spirit so close at hand? Snippets from Father's Day flashbacks as well as events in Starbright suggest that Clash could have had percussive talent, if anyone had ever bothered to train it. And the Misfits never do have anyone to play the drums. So what is it, then, that pushes Clash into the background?
Perhaps this episode gives us that answer. At the very end, when the number is up, the fans demand that "Clash-as-Jem" sings to prove she's the real deal. Before Clash does so, there are anxious hisses from behind the curtain telling her not to. The Misfits, clearly, already know what the rest of the world is about to find out -that Clash is musically tone deaf, and cannot sing for toffee. And if they already know this, it implies that maybe the question did arise in the past. Somewhere along the line, Pizzazz and co have discovered that Clash cannot sing and from that moment on she's effectively blacklisted from potential group membership. We know that after Jetta comes into the picture, Clash is treated more and more casually by the band as a whole. And yet she is still determined to become a Misfit, despite it all. Her understanding of the Misfits and their music is obviously quite different from their own concept of themselves and what they do!
That scene on the stage at the end is also an interesting moment. Clash's singing ability is abysmal, but she knows the words to the song. Which tells us something else key about her. She mayn't ever be a Misfit or a musician, but she's a dangerous foe to have. She bothered to flesh out her character before taking her on and that shows a dedication and ruthlessness to her craft. What's more, too, she can perform a quick switch. When Jerrica chases her as Jem down a dead end corridor, she manages to switch from one disguise into that of a cleaning lady, all without being observed by anyone else.
Maybe Pizzazz and the others should watch out...if Clash chose to turn that ability on the Misfits, the result could be devastating for all concerned!
JERRICA and the ALTER EGO
If you've read any other of my in depth reviews, you'll know already that I hold the opinion that the Jem series sees a gradual mental breakdown in Jerrica Benton. From knowing firmly who and what she is, to a completely seperate pair of identities, Jerrica is in big trouble by the time this episode rolls around. We know right from the opening scene at the Starlight Mansion that she's under stress. The kids are messing around, fighting, and leaving their dirty plates everywhere. We're reminded, perhaps, that Jerrica isn't really all that old to be in the position of responsibility that she is, and this must also be taking a tremendous strain on her.
Another theory that's begun to take root in my mind after watching a few of these episodes back revolves around the Holograms. While we tend to think of them as a snug, knit group, I'm not actually so sure that that's the case. We analyse forever the misunderstandings and arguments that lead to Misfits snapping and walking out on their bandmates. Well, the same doesn't quite happen in the heart of Holo-central. We know that Aja, Kimber and Shana are Jerrica's closest friends, with Raya tacked on for good measure. What isn't often discussed, however, is that they really don't understand her - or what she's going through - in the least. In fact, by this point, I'm not even sure that they know her.
I used as an example in my analysis of Midsummer Night's Madness the fact that, even disguised as the Oracle, the other Stingers knew immediately that it was Rapture in a cape. In contrast, in this episode, whilst a fake Jem is running riot around the city of Los Angeles, the Holograms (and Rio, too) immediately jump to the conclusion that this must be their Jem, and that she's having some kind of mental breakdown. This highlights two key points. One (in the Holograms' case at least) - they are seriously concerned about the level of stress on Jerrica's sanity, and two (which can also apply to Rio) - Jem/Jerrica has become such a stranger to them that they can't distinguish between their friend and an imposter...not even when the imposter is acting so completely out of character. Which is the stronger sentiment? I guess we can't ever know for sure. But a rift is growing between Jerrica and her friends here, and the rift between her and Rio is crazy anyway. More on Rio below. If ever you needed a hint that the Holograms and Jerrica were no longer operating on the same wavelength, the opening conversation between them provides exactly that. When Aja suggests that a new outfit will cheer her up "one hundred percent", Jerrica's immediate reaction is to do with Starlight Music tax returns, and cents as in money. As Kimber says, "Jerrica, you're never any fun!"
Maybe part of the problem is that, in many ways, there are elements of Clash's behaviour that have justification. When she storms past the Holograms in the mall, her exclamation that she's getting "what's due me" is probably meant as a hint that Clash is taking Jem down, but it could also mean something else. Jem has been idolised as this paragon singer who loves everyone, helps every fan and even authorises her records to be sold cheaper for more people to afford them. But Jem fans are always telling me that Jem isn't a goody-goody - she's a person who acts out of provocation. If that's the case, then, Clash's negative behaviour could easily be seen as Jem finally snapping. Nobody can pretend to be good all the time, and I suppose, if Jem were genuinely feeling undervalued, she might act this way. Perhaps it is that, rather than any other reason, that makes the Holograms believe it is their Jem causing all the chaos. After all, they haven't exactly been doing much to help her out at Starlight Music!
This episode is one of the few eps where Jerrica sings. To me, it seems that she only does sing when something is badly wrong in the world. She sings in China, when Synergy's earrings are lost and she fears that Jem will be "missing" from her life forever. And she sings here, a song called "Imagine me", which is supposed to highlight the strains under which she finds herself.
Imagine Me does do that, but it also does a few other things. Firstly, while she is singing, there are two lots of images that are flung our way. The busy, overstrained Jerrica, and the free and easy Jem. It's interesting to me that Jerrica can only picture herself relaxed if she's in her alter-ego disguise. Maybe, as the eldest Benton and the one who has most responsibility, she feels like Jerrica has too many ties in the world to really be able to kick back and live her life. Right at the end of the song, Jem becomes Jerrica in the toga. But the next moment, Rio is on her and the song is over. And secondly, the song is another moment where Jerrica is acutely aware of her own troubles, and their potential solution. There are a whole lot of episodes in the series where Jerrica doesn't seem perceptive to anyone outside of her own world or troubles. We see her sing that "All's right with the world" in the most inappropriate place (at the end of Talent Search - more on that on that page). Though arguably Jerrica is the only one under strain in THIS particular episode - it's still another example of how Jerrica is preoccupied by herself and her own problems, to the detriment (perhaps) of her outside relationships.
Why we're supposed to believe a roman toga, complete with laurel tiara, is meant to signify freedom I don't know. And the laurel leaves symbolise something else, as well. To the Romans, they meant imperial power. Is that what Jerrica means here? That as Jem, she has control over things and over people in a way she doesn't feel she ever will have as Jerrica? This would seem to be backed up by the episode, because at the start she's struggling to make the Starlight Girls listen to her as Jerrica, but at the end, all the fans rush the stage cheering when she's Jem.
MISFIT SCHEMING, INC.
Well, this had to come into it, didn't it!
This episode is intriguing in terms of the Misfit plotting set-up. Normally, in an episode where Eric is involved, you expect him to be the master playmaker behind the operation. But not this time. This time it's Pizzazz in the driving seat, and it is her who has enlisted Clash's help without telling either her manager or her bandmates what's going on. These are unusual events. Pizzazz normally shares most things with the Misfits - either as a brag or because she feels like she's better in control that way. And Eric is rarely reactive when sneaking around is involved. But Pizzazz has reasons. "This time", she says to him, "I'm not counting on your promises. Our next album will have to outsell Jem's, because we're turning her fans against her in a big way."
So, perhaps she's learnt one thing by the opening eps of season 2 - that Eric is full of hot air and his plans never work out the way he says they will. But the beautiful irony of it all is, in perfect Misfit style, the girls have yet again missed the point.
By making Jem go out and act like a Misfit, they're turning the Hologram fans against Jem. But yet, the Misfits don't see the connection with that and their own behaviour. That perhaps they could win Jem's fans by behaving more like her in public circles, they just don't realise. Whilst the Misfit girls are always top dogs when it comes to dreaming up crazy and unpredictable sabotage schemes, the Holograms have a much better grasp on the concept of P.R.
Oh well, girls. There's another half a series to go for you to figure that one out!
Pizzazz is also much smarter and much more thoughtful in this episode than she usually is where schemes are concerned. Well known for being impulsive, loud and generally angry when these things get decided, this time she's quick to notice that Jem's planned big concert is probably a trap set to capture both her and Clash and expose their little scheme. And she even goes so far as to counter-scheme (a dangerous idea when you're a baddie in a goodie-biased kid's cartoon show). I really like her in this guise. It shows a whole new side to her, and maybe a hint of Jetta's influence, because it's exactly the kind of way Jetta pans out her Alonso nursery scheming in Talent Search. Food for thought, maybe?
It's also worth making a quick side-note that this is the infamous episode where the Misfits play "all change" with their instruments. In the Misfit song (the repeated Congratulations), Jetta has Stormer's synth while Stormer is playing Pizzazz's guitar! We always knew that Stormer was able to play the guitar, but can Jetta really play keys? Is this Misfit versatility, or just a bad animation error?
Rio. Oh boy. Geez. No wonder they think Jerrica's cracking up. This is one of those episodes where Rio conveniently forgets that he's dating Jerrica. He takes "fake Jem" to lunch, and gets ticked at her for being rude and obnoxious in his company. Am I the only one who thinks that Rio gets exactly what he deserves in this scene? He's blatantly two-timing Jerrica with her own alter ego - to the point where, since Jerrica is "too busy" to come out to lunch with him, he takes "Jem" out instead. What, exactly, about this little situation does he think is justifiable? If he was really a gentleman, he'd have offered to help her with her forms.
When he tells her (always one to state the obvious) that she's "acting like a jerk", I wonder what, exactly, he thinks he's doing?
In this instance, Clash's response is something that Jem should really consider saying to Rio herself.
"If you don't like it, take a hike. I can always get a new flunkie".
And considering that, where Jem is concerned, that is generally what Rio becomes, I think that hits the nail pretty well on the head!
And then...Rio trots into Jerrica's office to moan about Jem...and the way she acted on their date together, all coming on to Jerrica with his "anything for you" errand boy flirting. Sigh. Some men never learn.
"NOT THE REAL ME."
Maybe I'm the only one who sees the irony in the title of this last song. Jem, up on stage, singing about how Clash isn't the real her. Well, to be blunt, Jem isn't the real her, either. Is this what she's really saying to the crowd? I guess that's up to the viewer, but the more and more I hear this song, the more I think that it's almost a cry for help. Jerrica is swamped in a world where work is bogging her down, and only as Jem can she escape and feel like she's free. Only as Jem can she stand there on that stage and sing to people who actually want to listen to her and what she has to say. In the real world, it's not so simple for her. Nobody is listening, and noone is seeing how close she's getting to some kind of serious personality schism. So behind Jem's smile, is there something else? Is it, perhaps, a hint that "the real me" is being overlooked as Jem becomes more and more successful?
As a Misfit fan, I also have another slight take on this song. Some of the lyrics sound startlingly like the Jem of the cartoon series to me. The "girl with the nose in the air" - I refer readers back to the episode "In Search Of The Stolen Album" and the attitude with which the Holograms and Jem/Jerrica handle both the Storehouse club and the poor garage owner out in the desert. "Who put you through such agony" - but what does Jem (or Jerrica) do to Rio in almost every episode? "A girl who's mean and cruel"...but projecting a holographic eagle (Music Awards) is mean, and laughing as the Misfits crash land their contraption (Jem Jam) is cruel. But the most telling line is this one: "If ever I don't seem to care, just look into my eyes and you'll see - that's not the real me."
To me, that's saying that deep down, Jerrica does care. She just finds it increasingly hard to connect those emotions with the attitude and actions of her over-popular alter ego.
There was some rumour at one time that the musical track for this song was originally plotted out for a Stinger song. I have no idea if that's true or if the Stingers were even being thought up this early in the second year of episodes. But if that is the case, isn't it adding yet another irony to the song title? As the Misfits say, who is she, anyway?
I actually don't like this episode a whole lot. Nor do I hate it. It's kind of a grey area for me. I always love watching Clash do her thing, and I like the Misfits in scheme mode. I find their shuffling away on all fours at the end hilarious, and there's some interesting questions raised about Jerrica and her feelings towards Jem throughout. But the inclusion of the token kid-that-comes-to-Jem's-rescue plotline weakens the whole episode considerably. As if that theme hadn't been covered before in Hot Time In Hawaii, in Adventure in China...if you ask me, it sounds like Jem's fans are all meant to be six years old :S
Not a winner for me.
Episode rating: 6/10
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Britrock website copyright EA Woolley