Thursday, March 10, 2011

Land of the Lost: Season Three (Series Finale: Medicine Man)

Season One: Part One, Two, and Three.
Season Two: Part One and Two.
Season Three: Part One, Two, Three, Four, Five, Six, Seven, Eight, Nine, Ten, Eleven, and Twelve..

Episode 13: “Medicine Man”

The last episode of the series starts off on the right foot with Holly and Cha-Ka’s cooking dinner for the family. In a reference to a first season episode, Cha-Ka observes, “Cha-Ka like stone soup more better.” We’ve established that these are an alternate reality’s version of the Season One characters, but it’s nice to be reminded that some things are the same.

There’s also some genuinely funny banter between the two of them, but while they’re inside the temple gathering vegetables, someone makes off with their pot of water. When Jack and Will return with firewood, Jack goes into the jungle to search for the thief and is attacked by an American Indian in traditional clothing. Jack beats the Indian easily and it’s only then that the Indian realizes that Jack isn’t who he thought he was.

The Indian explains that his name is Lone Wolf and that he was trying to get back to his tribe with some medicine for a fever epidemic that's killing them. He’d ridden into a dust storm, was thrown from his horse, knocked unconscious, and woke up in the Land of the Lost. He admits to stealing the water to make some traditional medicine for himself, because he also has the fever and the White Man’s medicine he was carrying is in his saddlebags with the horse, wherever that is.

He doesn’t explain who he thought Jack was before he got a good look at him, but it’s obvious that he doesn’t expect sympathy from Jack, much less help. However, Jack of course insists on getting Lone Wolf to his feet and back to the temple where the Marshalls can lend him the materials he needs to heal himself.

At the temple, Lone Wolf reveals that he lives in 1877 and learned English under Chief Joseph. As the Marshalls (Will, especially) marvel over this, Cha-Ka rushes in. He’s been scared by a sound and when he describes it, the others realize that it must have been Lone Wolf’s horse. Lone Wolf becomes frantic about finding it. He has to get the medicine to his people. The Marshalls volunteer to help.

What’s weird about this is that everyone immediately takes for granted that all they have to do is find the horse to get Lone Wolf back home. Will even says, “All I need is a lariat and then it’s off to the Old West.” They seem to have conveniently forgotten that if it were that easy, this series would’ve only been one episode long, not three seasons.

Will finds the horse pretty quickly, or what he thinks is Lone Wolf's horse. It actually belongs to a US cavalryman who’s hiding in the bushes nearby. The soldier holds his rifle on Will and introduces himself as Captain Elmo Diggs. He’s been watching the horse, hoping that Lone Wolf would come try to take it so that Diggs could capture him. He tells Will that Lone Wolf has stolen government property and he wants Will to lead him to the Indian.

Before Diggs can get on the horse though, he collapses, sick with fever himself. Will takes compassion on him and offers to bring him back to the temple too. Naturally, when they arrive neither Diggs nor Lone Wolf are happy to see each other. Diggs continues to accuse Lone Wolf of theft while Lone Wolf insists that the medicine already belonged to his tribe. He explains that there were two consignments of medicine, one for the men in Diggs’ fort and one for Lone Wolf’s tribe. When the soldiers used up their own allotment, the Indian Agent in charge of the stores sold them Lone Wolf’s. Diggs claims to know nothing about this.

In spite of their differences, Lone Wolf allows the Marshalls to talk him into using his skills at natural medicine to heal Diggs the same way he’s healed himself. (There’s a brief conversation where he explains to Holly that he can’t use natural medicine quickly enough to heal his entire tribe. I thought that was kind of nice until I realized that the episode is full of this kind of thing: characters having side-conversations to explain plot holes. I appreciate the effort, but it became annoying after a while.) However, Lone Wolf insists on taking Diggs’ horse in return for helping the soldier. The Marshalls object at first that the horse isn’t theirs to give (Diggs is delirious with fever by this point and can’t speak for himself), but Lone Wolf convinces them that doing so is the only way they can save Diggs. They finally agree.

Once he has the horse, Lone Wolf explains that he needs to go into the jungle to look for ingredients for his cure. As he hurries off, Will wonders if he’ll come back. Diggs wakes up enough to participate in the discussion and says that they’ll never see Lone Wolf again. He insists that all Lone Wolf ever wanted was the horse because it’s the ticket home. Again, no one ever explains why this the horse is key, but everyone seems to believe it. With a horse, escaping the Land of the Lost is easy. On foot, it’s impossible.

After an hour, Jack goes looking for Lone Wolf. He catches up to the Indian and finds him hiding with the horse behind a rock, cornered by Grumpy the T-Rex. Jack tricks Grumpy into leaving and then confronts Lone Wolf who claims that Grumpy trapped him before he had a chance to gather what he needed. “Maybe we’ll have better luck together,” Jack says. Lone Wolf looks disappointed, but he has no choice but to stick with Jack and collect the plants..

Back at the temple, Diggs has second thoughts about allowing Lone Wolf to cure him. He thinks Lone Wolf may try to poison him instead. But the Marshall’s insist that it’s the only way possible to save Diggs’ life, so they all go through with it. Lone Wolf performs an all-night ceremony with lots of herbs and face paint and drumming and it seems to work. Near morning, Diggs’s fever breaks.

As the others rest from the long night, Diggs sneaks out to his horse and grabs some manacles to chain up the sleeping Lone Wolf. The sound wakes up the Marshalls who shame Diggs into releasing his prisoner. He also lets Lone Wolf take the horse as agreed, but then Lone Wolf selflessly invites Diggs to come along.

After they leave, Holly finally questions whether or not the two strangers will be able to get back to their time. To his credit and my surprise, Jack isn't taken aback by her doubt. Everyone seemed to take an easy escape for granted the entire episode, but Jack says that he’s not sure either. He also adds that it doesn’t really matter. “At least they’re trying together. In the long run, that’s really more important.”

And so the show ends with another nice lesson for the kids, which – like last time – I kind of dig. It’s a good message and it’s nicely presented without a lot of speeches. No more is said about the medicine or what the men will do with it if they find it though. Maybe that's too complicated a situation for a kids show. Whatever the reason, it's too bad. It's an important dramatic element that should have been resolved.

Another complaint is that there weren’t a lot Land of the Losty elements in this episode. For the series finale, it's very quiet. There are no Sleestaks, there's no plot to get home, and the dinosaurs – except for Grumpy – are mostly set dressing. Torchy and Lulu both make cameo appearances to growl at people, but they’re not part of the story. It’s a nice episode, but a downbeat one for the show to end on and that’s too bad. I wasn’t expecting them to make it home or anything, but it seems like the writers abandoned that part of the concept in the last few episodes.

But though we never see Jack and this reality’s Will and Holly make it home, we know that they did. After all, Jack and Will talked in a previous episode about how people would want to make a movie about their adventures when they got home to tell the tale. And that’s exactly what happened.


Wings1295 said...

Yeah, not a great "finale", but I am guessing no one knew it would be the final episode.

And I will take your idea that they made it home and the movie was made of their adventure. And that they hated it as much as I did. :)

Michael May said...

That's the only way I'm going to be able to make it through the movie. :)


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