Season Two: Exploring THE BANDS BREAK UP
OVERVIEW... Britrock website copyright EA Woolley
THE BANDS BREAK UP
Possibly one of the best Jem episodes, this twenty minute slot is focused on two main things - the strength of friendship and the dangers of taking things (or people) at face value. Most specifically it explores the bands and their relationships.
KIMBER and THE HOLOGRAMS
The episode begins right at the heart of the problem with Kimber. This is not the first time that she feels herself undervalued within the group because of her age -we see it for the first time way back in Truly Outrageous/Kimber's Rebellion, where she takes it into her head to become a solo musician. That the same underlying problem should exist more than a year on tells us something about Kimber and her relationship with the other Holograms.
It is well documented that Shana and Aja are as much like sisters to her as Jerrica is, and this is blatantly clear by Aja's friendly jibe over the new song - "yeah, kid, we're older than you so you have to do what we say." In Scandal it was already suggested by Kimber's diary that sometimes Aja could be insensitive to the feelings of others, and here is a real life example of it. Kimber, ever the creative and emotional genius is as impetuous as she is musical. Though as a rule she and Aja are very close, Kimber is extremely obstinate when it comes to her music.
The importance of Kimber to the Holograms' set up is two-fold. Firstly, she provides the band's lyrics (note, not music - at no point during the series do we see Kimber write music, only lyrics, though from the opening scene of this episode it's apparent that she plays a part in group composition), and secondly she plays the keyboard melody. That she is a vital componant to the Holograms becomes clear when they play a set that goes all wrong because of her absence. It is interesting to note, however, that although Jerrica goes through Kimber's room and hassles her about her activities, the Holograms do seem willing to try to go on without her. In fact, their initial drive in the episode to recover her is after they see she has been spending time with Stormer. Two things can be drawn from this - firstly the old rivalry situation flaring up again (proof Jem can no more stand a Misfit doing well than Pizzazz can a Hologram, as by this time we all well know!). Secondly, though, the rivalry is so deeply entrenched now that Jem and the Holograms assume that Stormer is up to no good without bothering to check the facts behind it. Shana remarks "It looks like Stormer's been a bad influence."
Though they love Kimber, it is clear from this episode that the Holograms don't always understand her. By raiding her room and harassing her about Eric, Jerrica does not realise that she is actually pushing Kimber further away and playing into Eric's hands. This is not the only time in the series where, despite their sister bond, Jerrica and Kimber really don't understand how each other works.
One final note which just amuses me (though it's really not all that relevant to anything in particular.) Raya makes the remark "look at the makeup on Kimber! Ugh!" It's probably a good thing for Raya that she has the excuse of not being a Hologram for the first run of episodes. Kimber's makeup in this particular scene is pretty much identical to how Jem wears her makeup earlier in the series ;) Whoops!!
STORMER and THE MISFITS
Common Jem fan mythology would like to tell us that the Misfits only ever work for themselves, as individuals. That they have no respect or liking for each other and certainly no team spirit. However, in this episode there is very little to choose between Jem and the Holograms and the Misfits in terms of their reaction to their youngest members' defections. In fact, there is but one exception to this - while the Holograms, as I already mentioned, try and go on without Kimber as much as they can, the Misfits go to any lengths to try and get Stormer back in the fold, before they actively realise that they need her to play good music. It seems possible that they knew this all along, but also it's a case of Misfit identity. Stormer is "part of the pack", and Pizzazz sees no reason why this should change because of a bit of teasing. You would have thought that she would learn from this episode, but the same scenario plays itself out in Roxy Rumbles, though this time with Roxy.
The trouble with the Misfits is that they always see the world in a very different way to most people outside of the band. The half-frustrated, part-bored banter that sends Stormer off to prove herself is not designed to have this reaction - as ever the girls have hopelessly failed to predict the temperament of their youngest member. The fact they laugh as she storms out is proof of this fact - they do not even realise that her fighting talk is for real. (Perhaps it's worth suggesting at this moment that they way they treat Stormer here and indeed Roxy later on in the series is the way they are used to being treated by people and treating people, and they don't always realise when they cross the line)
Ironic as it seems, when the Misfits hit a crisis is when you best see how their social order works. Right at the start of the music studio scene it's clear that, even in just a handful of episodes, the hierarchy has shifted and Jetta has all but stolen the second-in-command position from under Roxy's nose. It is she and Pizzazz who share the joke to begin withand Roxy has to actively muscle in on the whispered plan before being included. It is a little strange to me that Roxy is willing to bitch at Stormer to keep face whereas in other episodes she blatantly or covertly takes Stormer's side, and it shows what a big shock to the system Jetta's arrival in the band has been to her. It's also worth saying that it is Roxy towards the end of the episode who first points out in words that the group need Stormer.
Though the Misfits initially find Stormer's show of temper funny, the mood soon changes when they see that a Hologram is part of the reason she has stayed away. Unlike the Holograms, though, whose only active foray into reclaiming Kimber is the "Bad Influence" song (strangely mislyriced for the occasion and sounding a lot more like Pizzazz and Jem fighting over a guy - perhaps it should never have been used in this episode at all??), the Misfits make more than one attempt to win Stormer back.
The scene where Pizzazz and the others attempt to bribe her back to the group is key for a number of reasons. First, it expresses the Misfits' acknowledgement that they need Stormer and therefore appreciate both her ability and her hard work. Secondly, it exhibits the only way Pizzazz knows of eliciting support from someone - via money and materialism, as she has been brought up to learn. Third, Stormer's willingness to be bribed shows not greed on her part - that would be out of character - but a desire to be appreciated and a real loyalty to the Misfits.
"All I ever wanted was to be appreciated." She tells them. Not, "All I ever wanted was a chance to shine as a solo performer", or "I hate the Misfits, leave me alone."
The final proof of the Misfits' desperation to reclaim their missing member comes in the ultimate humiliation - venturing into enemy territory (Starlight Music) to beg Stormer to come back - in full view of the Holograms. If that does not show that she is important to them, and that they know it, no scene in the series does. And, of course, Stormer realises it. "You don't really need me," she says to Jerrica. "But...they do."
Stormer's choice seems a bizarre one until you realise that she actually has what she wanted all along. Not to be or play with the Holograms, but for the Misfits to show a little appreciation for her and all that she can do.
"I'm an equal partner." she tells Pizzazz, and the transformation begun in Talent Search is truly complete. From here on in in the Jem series, Stormer as a driving force is born.
KIMBER AND STORMER: BACK2BACK
At first glance this seems like one of the strangest pairings the show could produce. Their initial meetings at the Teen Scene club do indicate that - both girls are overtly hostile and childish to each other. Yet it is here that you see how little the other Misfits and Holograms actually have to do with the reasons for the band feud. Kimber and Stormer each, independantly choose to please the fans by playing together, rather than maintaining battleground distances. And once they realise that they share something else - a true love of Music - then it is the start of a friendship never spoken of after Bands Break Up (although if you're observant it is hinted at in Shangri-La and Britrock).
Kimber and Stormer are both the youngest members of their respective groups, and both naive to the ways of business. It is Stormer who writes the music and Kimber the lyrics, but there is evidence that both girls help and influence each other's music as their project continues. Up till now Stormer has never stood out against Misfit will in a scenario where she can be recognised as doing as such, but not only does she make a conscious decision to come through and complete the album, she also allows the Holograms to help. In fact, taking it to the next level, it is Stormer who says "I hate to admit it, but, we need help!". Since help is obviously not going to come from Misfit Music, with Eric the manipulator behind things, then logic dictates that they will go to Jerrica. And until Stormer says it, Kimber does not even bring it into the equation. This is more proof that Stormer does not feel the rivalry as strongly as Pizzazz does, but it also shows us something else - that music is Stormer's raison d'etre, and that nothing is going to stand in the way of her hard work. Not even band rivalries. And in Stormer's favour, though she has nothing to lose materially by refusing to complete Back2Back, she goes ahead and does it anyway, so that Kimber will not lose her stake in Starlight Music.
There is a personal edge here as well. Stormer confesses to Kimber that this is the first "sincere friendship" she feels she has ever had - she is still feeling betrayed by the Misfits and the way they, even Roxy teased her. (Could it be Roxy's involvement in the teasing which really sent her off into the wilderness?) In return, although Kimber knows before Stormer that Eric Raymond is involved, she never once believes or challenges her new friend about it, despite the fact that Eric is effectively Stormer's manager. Evidently Kimber does not believe Stormer could be involved, even though weeks earlier they had been firmly on either side of the fence.
Mind you, as the girls say at the close of the episode, when the girls say goodbye -
"It's been fun..."
"More than fun - we learned a lot about each other!"
"Yeah..and a little bit about life!"
Eric plays a very strange role in this episode. Whilst it could be said that his first priority in the series is to make the Misfits number one, this episode goes against that. It suggests that he is willing to sacrifice the Misfits in his pursuit of control of Starlight Music. Since he already owns a music company (Can't Dance Music, I think it's called), this has to be tied up in revenge on Jerrica and Kimber as his buying of Misfit Music in Stingers Hit Town #2 is to get at Pizzazz. (What can I say? Boy has issues.) Maybe his motivation is simply for Kimber and Stormer to be a flop so that Stormer returns to the Misfits believing she can't make it as a solo artist, and for him to have control of half of Starlight Music.
The overall feel of this episode is that the rivalry between Jerrica and Eric is more important and deep running than the one between Jem and the Holograms and the Misfits. Despite learning of Eric's involvement (through Jerrica), Kimber keeps it a secret from Stormer as if afraid that involving his name might put an end to their fun playing together. It's clear she wants no part of the hate game Jerrica and Eric have been bandying about since episode one.
Eric's ploy is simple - give Kimber and Stormer a recording contract, claim half of Starlight Music as collateral and then refuse to promote the album, allowing him to win by default. This proves that his hate for Jerrica surpasses even his desire to make a tidy profit on sales from Back2Back. It also indicates that he is smart enough to know that Kimber and Stormer will be a hit - something which Jerrica herself is in doubt of, and the Misfits categorically state is impossible ("You're nothing without the Misfits! You'll come crawling back!" - Pizzazz). Perhaps it isn't so surprising that Eric has reached this conclusion, however. On many occasions he has tried to lure Kimber away from the Holograms with the promise of musical contracts and solo stardom, and since he originally signed Stormer, he must be well aware of what she can do. In light of all of this, Eric is willing to gamble a fair amount to regain his stake in Starlight Music.
KIMBER THE MISFIT AND STORMER THE HOLOGRAM?
Succinctly put - no. Everything in the episode goes against it. As already mentioned, neither girl really wants to leave their bands, they just want recognition for what they do within the bands they are already in. Yes, both are confused at points, but in the end both know where they belong, also.
In Kimber's case, though it is never vocalised that she could be a Misfit, there is an element here of the end of "Scandal" two episodes earlier, when she has Synergy transform her appearance into that of a Misfit. In her section of "I'm Okay", the Holograms AND the Misfits are seen reaching out to her, when she sings about not knowing who her friends are, and it suggests some confusion on Kimber's part about where she really belongs. Secretly I think she would like to be more of the bad girl, but her loyalties to the Holograms are too strong. Funnily, Jerrica never actually asks Kimber to come back to the Holograms, and Kimber never says that she will. It is just assumed by everyone at the end of the episode that this is what will happen.
In Stormer's case, things are far more clear cut. Jerrica does ask her whether she wants to be a Hologram, but Stormer refuses. The most convincing piece of evidence that she doesn't want to be a Hologram lies with Aja and all we learnt in Talent Search. Musically, Stormer would lose nothing by being a Hologram, though I suppose the fact that the Misfits need her is a big reason for her staying with that side - she's a girl who needs to know she's needed and appreciated. However, Aja's relationship with Craig is still a problematic prospect whilst Stormer stays with the Misfits. Stormer, knowing how much Craig likes Aja (as indicated by her words in Britrock), could easily have chosen to be a Hologram if she really hated the Misfits. That way her brother's pursuit of Aja would be without personal conflict and, being the romantic she is, Stormer would obviously want her brother to be happy.
However, she chooses the Misfits. This tells us clearly that, fun as it's been working with the Holograms to produce Back2Back, she really wants no part of any long term musical arrangement with them. Whatever else she is, Stormer is loyal and she knows where she belongs. The same could be said for Kimber. Though both girls have proven their point to the world, at the end of the episode it's more or less as you were.
A well worked episode with focus for once on two of the other members of the groups. Stormer's character transition is complete and Jerrica learns that Kimber cannot be like big sister all the time, a fact that by Father's Day she's neatly forgotten (bless her.) My only gripe is that I would have liked very much to have seen more music from Kimber and Stormer, more building on this friendship in later episodes and some more of "interim" scenes with Kimber and Stormer to clarify a couple of plot jumps. Otherwise? First class.
Episode rating: 9.5/10 (Well, nothing is perfect ;))
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Britrock website copyright EA Woolley