Season Two: Exploring THE TALENT SEARCH 1 & 2


    (part 1 and 2)

    Though I consider Glitter and Gold the true "start" of the second wave of episodes, by dint of it's advertising qualities, this is where the season truly begins. Two new characters are introduced here in the form of Jetta and Raya (three if you count Craig Phillips), adding a whole new dimension to the band setup. More significantly, this season marks the beginning of more "in depth" episodes, exploring the characters in clearer detail rather than formula, and panning out some background. Talent Search is no exception from this rule and, in it's two parts, is one of the best episodes from the season.

    Raya is one of four children, with a father who thinks the world of her and her ability, and a mother who also loves her dearly but who doesn't quite understand why her little girl wants to play the drums! Lacking in self-belief, Raya's initial reaction to Shana's leaving the Holograms is "Jem's lost her drummer? How terrible!" Her father throughout the episode is the driving force behind her wish to join Jem and the Holograms. In fact, I'm not entirely sure that Raya does want to be a Hologram - at least, not for most of this episode. Trying out is her father's idea, and she only decides to go for it when her mother says that "no young lady wants to be a drummer." (This is one of the few 'spark' moments Raya has. Another is depicted in the screen capture at the top of the page!!) She gives up at the first obstacle, and Sr. Alonso has to convince her to go back and audition. Whilst Jem and the Holograms are impressed by her obvious ability, Raya entertains the possibility that the contest is all for show and that the competition (Craig) will win, a notion nurtured by the scheming Eric Raymond. Raya meets Eric for dinner and when the Alonso nursery is trashed she immediately runs to Eric for help, willing to lose any chance of being a Hologram in doing so. (Why Sr. Alonso doesn't have the nursery insured is beyond me.) This could also suggest a naivety, too - that it does not occur to Raya for one moment that her involvement in the Talent Search, Eric's promise of a contract and the trashing of the nursery could all be linked in some way. In fact, it is not till almost the end when Jetta is wearing an orchid in her hair that Raya realises what has happened (see capture above).

    Raya has an unusual introduction to the series because, unlike many of the core characters from the beginning, she discovers Jem's real identity the first time she meets the group, after accidentally overhearing a conversation. (I say accidentally - she does return to the studio on an honest errand but I think curiosity gets the better of her!!) The fact that she will maintain Jerrica's secret is not assured for most of the series, because even though she does not tell her father, she does seriously consider using it to barter with Eric Raymond for the future of Sr Alonso's nursery.

    The clear contrast here between Raya and her suggested nemesis (though it rarely pans out this way), Jetta, is ambition for the musical life. Raya never seems to believe that it is real and when Shana decides at the end of the episode to return to the Holograms, this automatically means in Raya's mind that she is surplus to requirement, so she slips away without a word to anyone. She never actually tells Jem that she knows the secret, until she gets her chance at the press conference to act to protect it, and the Holograms realise that she knows. I think that she holds Jem and the band in some awe and is afraid of how they will react to her if they know she knows. Also, despite her potential duplicity in this episode, she does it for good means so I also think she doesn't tell Jerrica because she doesn't want to bias the contest in her favour (indeed, when Craig drops out, she says, "But I'll only win by default!")
    However, to some degree Raya *is* surplus to requirement. Even at the close of the episode, in the "All's Right With The World" video, Raya is being left behind and it takes Shana to pull her aboard with the rest. Despite being excited about winning, I don't think any of it is a serious career choice for Raya till the next episode (Scandal) when she realises what it will entail.
    One of the most touching things about this episode, however, is the loyal support of her father and the fact that at every opportunity he will tell the surrounding crowd "That's my daughter! That's my daughter!"

    The overwhelming difference between Jetta and Raya is, as I mentioned above, whilst Raya swithers about being a Hologram, Jetta has no doubts about becoming a Misfit. We have no background for Jetta in this episode either, only that she plays with a (terrible) British group called the Tinkerbillys. She knows nothing about the Misfits, whereas Raya is obviously knowledgeable about the Holograms, yet she throws her lot in with them at the first opportunity, even raising her fists to Roxy (a brave move indeed!) to defend her right to do so.

    People like to be abusive about Jetta because they don't understand her, and only skim the surface. Her obvious desire to be a Misfit is exhibited in her sabotage of the Alonso nursery. It is not the only time she uses her brains and initiative during the series, but it is clear that this move is intended as a message to her new band -"look at me, see what I can do. I can be part of your band and cause trouble too!" She is no stranger to playing it rough - here is a girl, who, having been in Los Angeles probably only a few weeks and without legal paperwork not only knows who to go to to get the job done, but manages to give them orders and send them scurrying away like rats to obey her. Here is a character with plenty about her - whether you like her or not, her debut to the series is far more emphatic than Raya's in every way.

    The relationship between Jetta and Pizzazz is almost immediately evident. It is Pizzazz who makes the offer to Jetta about being a Misfit (despite the singer's hostility to a new Misfit ten minutes earlier), it's Pizzazz who bypasses Eric's concerns about work permits by saying Harvey will see to it, and then it is Pizzazz that we see most often in some capacity with Jetta for the remainder of the episode. However, Talent Search isn't just about Pizzazz finding someone she can click with.

    The issue of Jetta's lie in the nightclub must be addressed for it causes so much debating controversy. It is said by the army of Jetta-haters out there that Jetta is a compulsive liar (ie unable to control or realise her deceit), but this is disproved later on in Britrock where she is WELL AWARE of the lies she has been telling. Therefore she is not lying compulsively in the nightclub. That can be dismissed at once. However, is she really lying at all? In short, is she really trying to convince Pizzazz and company on their first ever meeting that she was visiting the Prince of Wales? I don't see this at all. We have to look at Jetta as she is - wily, manipulative, shrewd and, of course, British born. It makes perfect sense to me that her throwaway line in the nightclub is just that  - a sarcastic riposte to Eric's remark about work permits. There's no motive for Jetta to lie here. She has already been asked to join the Misfits. It's fairly obvious that Jetta is employing good old sarcastic wit (something she does fairly often, if you watch her), and her true meaning is "Do you think I'd be playing in a dump like this if I had legal paperwork?". The reaction of Eric and of Pizzazz further supports this - that they have UNDERSTOOD her remark to be flippant and sarcastic. Eric's response is simply "then you can't legally work here" and Pizzazz immediately shrugs it off and starts talking about her father taking care of a permit for Jetta. All of this is key. Far too much emphasis is placed on the line in the nightclub, which is as it should be seen - Jetta's sarcastic wit.

    However, by the time of the press conference Jetta is willing to deliberately deceive the public about who she really is. There are a number of reasons you could find for this. Firstly, it's possible that the line of attack was put forward by Eric, who clearly does not believe that she is blueblooded but could have used her flippance to spark a publicity campaign to excite the press about her connections. It's not inconceivable that Eric instructed Jetta to take this line, though I find it quite hard to believe Jetta would listen to Eric about anything she didn't have to. Secondly, it could have been spur of the moment, when the press were questioning who she was. Perhaps a desire to prove herself to Roxy, or match up to Pizzazz could also be behind it. Or maybe it's a conglomeration of these things. Roxy does not believe Jetta is blueblooded either - she says to Stormer about the rumour, "if there's a rumour, Jetta started it". And Stormer merely smiles. Honestly, I don't think Stormer believes Jetta is blueblooded either. Even in Britrock when Jetta is spouting off about playing darts with the Queen Mum, Stormer is focusing simply on the "England" part, and not Jetta's lie. This casts a slightly different slant on things, if we take into consideration the idea that maybe it IS only Pizzazz who believes Jetta's lies, and maybe therefore they are only THERE to impress Pizzazz. At this stage we can see it as another way of consolidating her Misfit-hood - Pizzazz is yet another stranger at this stage that Jetta manipulates to ensure her longevity in the United States. We must remember that at this stage in proceedings Jetta has not had long enough to become a proper part of the Misfit unit, and it is this that she seeks to achieve. Later episodes will show her friendship with Pizzazz more clearly, but at this stage Jetta is very much focused just on staying in America and superstardom with the Misfits.

    Maybe it is Eric who leaks the idea to the press, but it is probably Jetta's pride that makes her invent a "new identity" for herself to further ingratiate herself with Pizzazz - to make them virtual equals in terms of society. As I've said before and will say again and again, pride is Jetta's real vice. Not deceit.
      Jetta's relationship with Stormer is also very clear. If we focus again on the theme of Jetta establishing herself as a Misfit, whatever it takes, her behaviour towards Stormer is as logical as her attitude towards Raya. Both are strangers who can be manipulated in some way to strengthen her role in the group. Jetta is unpleasant to Stormer in Talent Search because it suits her ends here to be so. By later episodes - Roxy Rumbles, Britrock - this animosity has entirely gone and Jetta is one of the group as much as Stormer is. But you have to remember that this episode is almost all about survival for Jetta, and ambition to be a Misfit ranks top above everything, whatever the cost.

    To be strictly accurate, this section should be called "Craig and Stormer" and "Craig and Aja" since Aja never discovers that Craig is Stormer's elder brother and there is no dialogue between Aja and Stormer at all in this episode.
    Craig is one of the strongest male characters aside from Rio and Eric to star in the Jem series - no mean feat for a man who only appears in two episodes (three if you count the splits of Talent Search.) When we first meet him wr discover that he is visiting his sister in LA and is a musician who usually plays in Europe. There is something interesting to note here. At the time of his meeting with Aja, Craig has absolutely no idea who she is. This is significant because it means that Jem and the Holograms have NOT broken the European market yet!

    Craig also says he came back to visit his sister, yet Stormer reacts with complete surprise when she finds out he is one of the two Hologram semi-finalists. So there is some confusion here. Has Crai come back to see Stormer but got sidetracked by Aja and the Talent Search? Does Stormer know Craig is in town, yet Craig has kept the Talent Search a secret? Neither of these make a whole lot of sense, especially the latter, since at several points throughout the episode Craig puts Stormer first - before his feelings for Aja, before his desie to be a Hologram and before his better judgement. It is clear therefore that the Phillips' are very close and Craig will do anything to help and protect his sister. Jetta and Pizzazz soon use this closeness to try and manipulate Craig into finding out who Jem really is, and for Stormer's sake Craig asks Aja for the truth, causing her to pull away from him. At the end of the episode he tells Aja that he must go "back to Europe where I can avoid conflict." Evidently by this time he has appreciated the full horror of the Misfit/Hologram feud - quite possibly from both sides, considering how much time he has spent with the Holograms - and has decided that for Stormer's sake he must leave Los Angeles and Aja well alone.
    Aja's reaction to Craig throughout Talent Search and Britrock is the only hint of a real romantic relationship for her. There are other guys in the series (Mozart for example) who she flirts with, but none she falls so much in love with as she does Craig. Despite his asking her about Jem's secret, she forgives him almost immediately (very uncharacteristic for stubborn, suspicious Aja), and the news he is going back to Europe is enough to bring tears to her eyes.
    Though Aja and Craig will pick up their romance again in Britrock, Craig's role as Stormer's brother is perhaps more significant on a long-term basis. It is Craig who tells Stormer that she is "too good for the Misfits", and Craig who tells the group to "treat her right", or else. But I think it can hardly be a coincidence that two episodes down the line Stormer finds the strength to stand out against her bandmates' teasing and do her own thing. Craig's interference has begun something and Stormer as a character blossoms throughout the second year of episodes.

    Well, having roundly focused on the Talent Search theme of the episode, this particular "talent search" must also not be forgotten. It is the first (and only) time that we ever see Shana's fashion designing at odds with her musical responsibilities, and the choice she has to make between the Holograms and Liz Stratton highlights a few things. Firstly, Shana's loyalty. However much she wants the chance, Shana would never leave the band in the lurch. Aja says "Shana's so loyal, she never would have left if we hadn't made her", and it's true. the Holograms, realising what a great chance this is for Shana, go to great lengths to encourage her to go, even to the point of hurting Shana's pride and feelings. This brings us to something else, however - Shana's lack of conviction in her own ability. In some ways the scenario is all wrong, for the well meaning Holograms plant the seed in Shana's mind that they want rid of her and she likely feels that she has let the side down by not being as intuitive a musician as Aja or Kimber. Perhaps she even feels at this point that they have simply kept her on and tolerated her because she is a Starlight girl, and not because they believe she can do the job. The Holograms' deception forces her into a contract where she finds it hard to voice, even to Anthony, how rough her work is becoming and how unreasonable Liz Stratton is. It is clear when Jerrica calls Shana to invite her to the Talent Search that Shana is still smarting over the way she left the Starlight Mansion. The Holograms' interference might well have cost them Shana's friendship and also cost Shana her happiness had it not been for Anthony bringing Shana back to the Holograms and straightening out the misunderstanding. And, interestingly enough, Shana welcomes Raya - the effective competition - with open arms, perhaps recognising in her the same insecurities that lurk within herself.
    Shana;s relationship with Anthony Julian is almost as long running in terms of the cartoon as Rio's with Jerrica, but far more stable. Where the Holograms manage to upset Shana, Anthony realises that they only want what's best for her. He is constantly checking up on her to make sure she's ok, and although it was him who brought her the news of Liz Stratton's contract, he tells her "whatever you choose, make sure it's what you really want." In short, the Holograms decide for Shana what they think is best for her, whilst Anthony will support her, whatever decision she wants to make.
    The replay of Show Me The Way exhibits pretty graphically how Shana is feeling - that she's wrapped up in a project that it out of her control and that she can't go to the friends that she's always trusted because, in her eyes, they have pushed her away. Talent Search is one of Shana's best episodes for showing her as a rounded cartoon character and not just the fourth Hologram!

    I love Talent Search. How could I not? We get to see Shana in depth, we get to see Aja in love and we get to see a wide range of Misfit moments regarding band loyalty, ambition and self-belief. We also get to meet Raya, who sadly will not get many other episodes which focus so strongly on her, and Jetta, (a star is born.) Great start to the season!!

    Episode rating: 8/10.


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