Tuesday, October 19, 2010
Land of the Lost: Season Three (Episode Eight: Hot-Air Artist)
Season One: Part One, Two, and Three.
Season Two: Part One and Two.
Season Three: Part One, Two, Three, Four, Five, Six, and Seven.
Episode 8: “Hot-Air Artist”
A hot-air balloon crashes in the Land of the Lost and Jack goes to investigate. He meets the pilot, an American from 1920 named Col. Roscoe T. Post. Post is a colorful character, too dumpy to be dashing, but certainly larger-than-life and flamboyant with his handlebar moustache, aviator’s helmet, piped pants, and white scarf.
As Jack leads Post back to the temple - talking mostly about Post, his favorite subject – they encounter Grumpy. Jack’s able to drive the T-Rex away by using a small tree as a catapult to launch a rock at Grumpy’s head. The only reason it’s worth mentioning is because Jack uses the technique again later in the season, so it was significant at least to the writers.
The discussion turns to Post’s plans to repair the balloon and leave the Land of the Lost. Jack convinces him to take the Marshalls with him, but it doesn’t take much persuasion. Post’s always after a headline and rescuing a family of strangers from a world of dinosaurs is a particularly nice one. He’s even more keen on the idea when he meets Cha-Ka, whom he plans to take on a world tour to exhibit as the Missing Link when he gets home.
As Post and the Marshalls work to repair the balloon, Jack and Will have an interesting conversation. Will verbalizes that if they go back with Post, they’ll be in a time when none of them have even been born yet. The reason this is interesting is that it’s a complication that the Marshalls have run into before, but haven’t openly discussed. Many of their plans to go home (in this reality as well as the one from the first two seasons) involve hitching rides with people from various time-periods. They’ve consistently acted as if getting back to Earth was always preferable to staying in the Land of the Lost, regardless of what time they ended up in. As Jack says this episode, “Whichever time, it’s got to be better than this” and “We’ll worry about that once we get out of here.”
That seems awfully short-sighted to me. The Land of the Lost has the advantage of being a sort of hub for inter-dimensional and time travel. Surely it would be better to stay there until they could find the way back to their time and place, instead of just taking the first train that comes along.
Meanwhile, the Sleestaks are disturbed that yet another human has arrived to threaten their supremacy in the Valley. Following the advice of the Voice of Wisdom (the only skull in the Library of Skulls who talks to them in this reality), the Sleestaks destroy the balloon, seeing it as Post’s source of power. Ironically, this works against their own interests by preventing the humans from leaving. Voice of Wisdom indeed.
Of course, the real purpose of the Sleestaks’ vandalism is to pad the episode and drag out the tension about Post’s plans for Cha-Ka. He and the Marshalls rebuild the balloon, but Holly begins to notice and distrust Post’s special interest in the pakuni. She shares her concerns with Jack, who decides he needs to have a talk with Post.
Before Jack has a chance to do that, Will reports that he’s discovered pakuni prints. They don’t appear to be Cha-Ka’s, so the Marshalls grow hopeful that their problem may be solved. If there are still pakuni in the Valley, they can leave Cha-Ka there in good conscience while they take off with Post. Unfortunately, Jack and Will are unable to track the monkey-people down. They follow the tracks, but the trail ends at a cliff-face, as if the pakuni disappeared into the wall. The mystery isn’t solved this episode – or even in the rest of the series – so I wonder if it’s something the writers intended to revisit later on and never got to. At any rate, it ends up being another tactic to extend the plot and delay the ultimate conflict between the Marshalls and Post.
Eventually though, the conversation has to be had and Jack sends Cha-Ka and the kids into the temple to make one last meal before they leave. Cha-Ka gets very excited, saying he wants to make stone soup. That’s of course a reference to the Season One episode “Stone Soup” where Rick uses the stone soup trick from the old story to fool the pakuni into cooperating with him; another example of the two realities' closely paralleling each other. It’s not the last time Cha-Ka will mention stone soup this season either.
Jack threatens Post, saying that he intends to protect Cha-Ka should Post have any hidden motives for taking him along. Post denies that he does and claims that he’s simply fond of Cha-Ka and likes having him around. The conversation ends uncomfortably, but with the two men’s understanding each other.
There’s yet another delaying tactic by the writers when Torchie shows up and nearly blows up the balloon’s hydrogen tanks. Jack’s able to drive him off though by sacrificing enough hydrogen to blow up in Torchie’s face. And because of all the trouble they’ve been having, Jack decides that the men should take shifts guarding the balloon during their last night so that they can leave first thing in the morning. Unfortunately, he unwisely gives Post the final shift, giving the airman plenty of time to work unhindered at getting himself and Cha-Ka away while the others sleep. Or that’s Post’s plan anyway.
Cha-Ka wakes up before the others and helps Post get the balloon filled, but when Post tries to leave without the Marshalls, Cha-Ka fights him and creates enough noise to wake the others. The Marshalls hold on to a dangling mooring line and keep the balloon from floating away long enough for Cha-Ka to slide down the rope. Then the Marshalls let go and allow Post to fly away, presumably to escape the Valley.
It’s getting a bit frustrating that visitors keep popping into the Land of the Lost and escaping again regularly, conveniently leaving the Marshalls behind like a fantastic version of Gilligan’s Island. It opens up the series to a lot of fun ideas, but it does get ridiculous. This won’t be the last time the show follows that formula either.