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Friday, May 19, 2017

Jem Reviewed: Episode 61 - That Old Houdini Magic

So, last week's episode of Jem Reviewed was insane.  Absolutely, completely insane.  Come to think of it, season three in general has been very much all over the place.  I'm just hoping that with five episodes left in the series that things start to calm down a bit!  

Let's see if this is the case with Episode 61: That Old Houdini Magic.  It's the second episode to feature magic as a common theme ("Music is Magic" was the first).  Let's see what tricks will be in store this time.

Well, we're inside of a gigantic mansion known as the Farnsworth mansion.  The occupant is one Mrs. Farnsworth, who is your typical definition of a rich widow.  Her husband passed away some time earlier, and she is now filling her time with throwing charity galas to raise money for the children's hospital.  That's nice.  The theme of this year's gala is Harry Houdini - a famous magician who captivated audiences with his magic tricks and illusions in the early 20th century.  The dress code is early 20th century chic, and the special entertainers include rock band Jem and the Holograms, as well as the famous illusionist Astral - who we haven't met yet.  But it seems like a great idea for a charity ball, and I for one would love to go.  Houdini is one of my favourite illusionists of all time.  I even did a school project on him when I was in the tenth grade!

All of the Holograms are dressed in their magic outfits and are eager to bring some magic to the stage.  It's also here that budding magician Kimber decides to get back into the magic game and perform a few tricks.  She immediately handcuffs herself to Raya - who I might add is not impressed by this at all.  And Raya's frustration grows when Kimber can't figure out how to unlock the cuffs.  Sigh.  Kimber, don't quit your day job.

The Stingers are also there, but for different reasons.  It seems as though Rapture is a huge fan of Houdini, even knowing when he died - October 31, 1926.  Rapture's constant talk about Houdini and how she idolizes him bores Minx to tears.  I'm surprised, since Houdini is Hungarian by birth.

Riot, meanwhile, is trying to turn up the charm and convince Mrs. Farnsworth to ditch the Holograms and promote the Stingers at the charity gala instead.  But to Riot's shock and horror, Mrs. Farnsworth does not take the bait and storms away leaving him open mouthed in astonishment!  I'm beginning to like Mrs. Farnsworth!

But when Mrs. Farnsworth introduces Jem and the Holograms to play their set for the pre-show party, Kimber and Raya are still stuck together.  And I don't know about any of you, but trying to play a synthesizer and drums with only one hand would be hard!  What are they going to do?

Before any of them can think, a cloud of smoke erupts in front of the band, and a strange figure appears to release Kimber and Raya from their steel shackles.  

Ah, so, this must be the famous magician Astral.  I guess when it comes to magic, she really has the power.

And what perfect time to feature a replay of a song from Episode 5 - "She's Got The Power".  As I stated back then, it's not the greatest Jem song.  But used in this context, I kind of like it a little better.  It's more interesting to write a song about a magician than a 7,000 pound computer that looks like Jane Fonda in her workout tapes.

The performance is a success and Mrs. Farnsworth and the Starlight Girls approve.  Jem and Mrs. Farnsworth are really looking forward to the benefit and they remark that both of them make a great team.  Too bad for Riot that Mrs. Farnsworth doesn't feel the same way about the Stingers.  She once again tells Riot that she isn't interested in featuring the Stingers and orders them to go away!  Oooh, that must bruise Riot's fragile ego!

Certainly it causes the Stingers to feel as if they have gotten stung, and Rapture makes it a point to seek out revenge.  I don't know what Rapture plans on doing, but she's the subject of today's Jem Trivia.  She's voiced by Ellen Gerstell, who has also appeared on "TaleSpin", "Darkwing Duck", "My Little Pony", and "Tenchi Muyo!".

Rapture happens to overhear a conversation between Mrs. Farnsworth and Ba Nee, where Ba Nee asks her why she wears so many watches.  Come to think of it, she does seem to be a walking advertisement for Timex.  Mrs. Farnsworth explains that a psychic she went to once told her that she would live as long as her watch kept ticking.  Unfortunately, she took that prophecy a bit too literal and she decided that if she wore dozens of watches on her arm, one would always be ticking and she would live forever.  It's all the ammo that Rapture needs as she plots her latest move.

She heads back to the display of the Houdini exhibit where a statue of Harry Houdini is located, and she grabs the white gloves off the statue and puts them on.  Of course, once Rapture touches the gloves, the security system goes off and alerts everyone to see what is going on.

Now here is where we learn how truly devious the Stingers really are - and it makes the Misfits look like the Teletubbies in comparison.  Rapture pretends that she is possessed by the spirit of Harry Houdini (even saying his real name of Erik Weisz to convince Mrs. Farnsworth), and that he has come to give her a message.  Astral and Jem are immediately aghast at Rapture's scheme and they instantly cry foul.  But whereas Riot failed to charm the elderly widow, Mrs. Farnsworth cannot say no to Harry Houdini.

Astral tries to tell Mrs. Farnsworth that Rapture is playing a cruel trick on her, and not to believe what she is saying, but Rapture is one step ahead of her.  She grabs a top hat and flings it into the middle of the room and asks Astral what this gesture means.  Astral explains that it was an inside communication between he and his wife.  Whenever they had a fight, if Houdini's wife threw the hat back into the room after he threw the hat in first.  And that seems to be enough for Mrs. Farnsworth to latch onto Rapture and believe everything she says.

Sigh...I take back all the cool things I said about her.

And, in the next scene, we discover just how devious the Stingers really are when they decide to do what they do best - screw with people's minds.  You see, with Mrs. Farnsworth doing everything that Rapture asks - so as long as she's pretending to be possessed by the spirit of Harry Houdini - the Stingers are taking advantage of her generosity as payback for not choosing them as the entertainment instead of Jem and the Holograms.  So, Rapture is making up this mumbo jumbo about how Houdini's host body needs new dresses and how the Riot and Minx need new clothes as well, and Mrs. Farnsworth has been reduced to the cash cow that keeps them dressed in black and yellow duds.  It's really painful to watch and it makes the Stingers even more cold-hearted than the Misfits.

For some reason, Astral is there as well, and she tries once more to get through to Mrs. Farnsworth, saying that the Stingers are playing a cruel trick on her.  But Rapture throws Houdini's glove on the floor and pretends that the spirit has left her body, which causes Minx to blame Astral for making him go away.  Mrs. Farnsworth is reduced to a blubbering mess as she begs for Houdini to come back and this continues until Rapture puts the glove back on.  I shouldn't be too surprised.  According to the Stingers, manipulation is the name of the game.

It's too bad that once again their personalities suck because their songs are incredible.  Yeah, the song "Mind Games" is essentially a declaration of mind-flocking 101 - but it is so friggin' catchy, I don't even care.  The video is quite good too in an Alfred Hitchcock kind of way.

Astral has had enough of this and decides that she wants to go and tell Jem and the Holograms everything that is going on, and the Holograms agree that Mrs. Farnsworth is being taken advantage of.  Considering that Jem goes goo goo eyed for Riot though, she may not be the best person to try and talk some sense into her.  Still, they have to try before the Stingers cause Mrs. Farnsworth mental distress or before they clean out her bank account.

Seems as though the Holograms and Astral are right to be worried.  Because now the Stingers are not only trying to convince Mrs. Farnsworth to let them perform at the gala, but they want her to donate all the money raised to a fictional charity that likely is going to be re-routed to the personal bank accounts of Rapture, Minx, and Riot.  Wow, is there no depth that they won't stoop down to?  This is getting insane.

By this point though, Astral has had enough, and she takes off her white glove and smacks Rapture across the face with it so hard her nose flies off.  No, wait.  Not even she'd do that.  But she decides to challenge Rapture to a magic duel.  If Rapture is really possessed by the spirit of Harry Houdini, then she should be able to best Astral at every opportunity - since Astral herself took magic lessons from a former associate of Harry Houdini back in the day.  Whoever wins the duel will take all of the prizes, including control of where the money donated will go. 

Ah, smart thinking, Astral.  If Rapture is really faking it (and we know she is), she'll be exposed as a fraud and the Stingers will be run out of town until the following episode.  But Rapture isn't ready to wave the white flag of surrender just yet.  Under the guise of Houdini, she agrees to Astral's duel.  Though, I get the feeling that Rapture's idea of winning the bet will involve a lot of cheating.  Hmm, maybe the Stingers and the Misfits are cut from the same cloth after all.

Speaking of cloth, it appears as though Rapture is having a difficult time trying to get out of the straitjacket that she is wearing - which is going to be difficult because Houdini used one for many of his tricks.

Of course, Techrat is there making fun of them.  My question is - when the hell was Techrat introduced to the Stingers?  I missed that episode!  Even more shocking is that he is actually quite willing to let Minx touch and caress him, but when Pizzazz so much as breathes on him, he looks ready to put out a restraining order!  This doesn't make sense at all...but what does make sense is the piece of jewelry that he's working on.

It seems as though that bracelet doubles as a remote control of sorts.  As Techrat demonstrates, it will come into play when Rapture as Houdini performs his most dangerous stunt - the Chinese Water Torture Chamber".  It's that trick where Houdini is chained within a straitjacket and is dropped into a tank filled to the top with water.  When Minx turns the bracelet a specific way and presses the ruby in the bracelet, the shackles will loosen and Rapture will be able to escape.  It sounds complex, but as long as nothing happens to the bracelet, Minx should have no trouble operating it. 

It's the night of the gala and everybody at the mansion is partying like it is 1919.  But the crowd is genuinely concerned that Mrs. Farnsworth is touting the gala as the place where Harry Houdini will be resurrected.  A few people in the audience believe that she has lost her mind while others think it will be a great show regardless.

Of course, with the Stingers being a no show at the gala, Jem and the Holograms seem to think that maybe they chickened out.  But when Mrs. Farnsworth goes out on stage to introduce the band, a flash of light fills the room and the attention is drawn to three sarchophagi - one gold, one silver, and one bronze.

The Stingers appear out of nowhere through the three sarchophagi - no surprise that an egomaniac like Riot would claim the gold one all to himself.

And just like that, the duel is on between the Stingers vs. Astral and Jem and the Holograms.  And this makes the first mash-up between the Stingers and Jem. 

"Believe/Don't Believe".  Which side do you like?  One thing I can say about the mash-up is that it is quite fun and that Britta Phillips and Gordon Grody really know how to blend their vocals together to create a decent song.  The Stingers, of course, want everyone to believe in their magic, while the Holograms tell everyone not to.  The song sounds better than that explanation.  Trust me on that one.

After the song is over, Rapture announces that she will now perform the Chinese Water Torture Chamber trick just as Houdini had done 70 years earlier...but she says it as if she really is Houdini.  Great, so she's now trying to deceive the audience.

Astral is absolutely horrified that Rapture is even trying to attempt the trick.  It's a very dangerous trick that has been attempted by several magicians since Houdini died and not all of the attempts were successful.  This is beyond scamming an old lady.  This has the potential to kill Rapture!  Astral begs Rapture not to go through with it, but she is too stubborn to even consider listening to her.  She prepares to lower herself into the tank, as she knows that Minx is the one controlling how the trick goes with her bracelet.

It's just a shame that in Techrat's rush to get the bracelet going, he neglected to make it water resistant.  A woman sitting at Minx's table spills orange soda all over Minx's bracelet shorting it out - just as Rapture takes a plunge into the water cage.  Minx realizes that she has no way to release Rapture from her shackles and rushes towards the cage begging someone to help her escape.

Astral reacts quickly, grabbing an axe and running towards the cage.  But with the cage being made of a very thick plastic that won't even crack, Astral realizes that the only way to save Rapture is to climb on top of the cage and go in that way.  

Astral dives down towards the middle of the cage, loosens Rapture's shackels enough for her to escape and saves her from drowning!  Astral saves the day!

Of course, Astral takes this opportunity for Rapture to come clean about her real intentions, and Rapture - who knows that she owes Astral her life - confesses that the Houdini thing was a joke and that Mrs. Farnsworth was punk'd.  Interestingly, the Stingers are allowed to leave the building without any repercussions.  You'd think that Astral would have at least turned them into bumblebees or something.  But then, Astral would have to be a sorceress...not a magician.

Poor Mrs. Farnsworth is feeling betrayed and taken advantage of, and even though the Stingers' plan was foiled, she's not happy.  It's up to Astral to try and make things right by having her star in one of her own illusions.

She locks her inside of a cage, performs a series of moves that keep the audience glued to the stage, and before you know it, Mrs. Farnsworth changes into a tiger!  How in the world did she do that?

Especially since Mrs. Farnsworth happens to be seated with the rest of the audience!  Teleportation!  I like it!

The audience loved it too.  Enough to donate more than enough to build the wing for the children's hospital!  And as Mrs. Farnsworth thanks Jem and Astral for all of their help, she announces that if there's anything that this experience has taught her, it is that she shouldn't wait for tomorrow when she should be living today.  Or, maybe that's a Kylie Minogue song.  The point is that she'll be living her life without fear, and as a symbolic gesture, she throws all the watches that she was wearing up in the air.

Again, nice gesture, but those watches are probably expensive.  

So, this episode wasn't as bad as the last couple.  I loved the Houdini angle of the show, and I thought that Astral was a nice new character.  The Stingers are still morally bankrupt, and I don't see that changing in the next episode.  

But why was Astral only on the one show?  Perhaps we'll find the answer next week as we are introduced to another new one shot character - and how her designs for success will leave her in stitches.

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