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Friday, December 23, 2016

Jem Reviewed: Episode 40 - Alone Again

We're almost at the end of the POP CULTURE ADDICT'S ADVENT CALENDARDay #23 is here, and it happens to be a Jem Reviewed kind of day!

I only wish the subject matter was appropriate for the holidays...but it is a very special episode.  Come to think of it, all these episodes lately have been special as we learned that Roxy couldn't read last week.

This week, we have a Misfits free show!  Say what?

This is Episode 40: Alone Again.  And the star of this show is the newest girl to join the Starlight Home for Foster Girls!

The thirteenth girl to become one of Jerrica's kids is Laura Holloway.  Her parents died in a car accident a month earlier, and Laura's been feeling depressed ever since.  Laura's social worker seems to believe that all she needs to do is be around other girls her age and she can start to heal.  But Laura's not exactly in the right mood to be friends with anybody.

We see how depressed Laura is when she is taken into the rehearsal studio at Starlight Mansion where Jem and the Holograms are practicing.  Most 14-year-old girls would be over the moon to be staying at the same house that Jem and the Holograms seemingly live in, but Laura's too sad to even think about it.

Jem also notices that Laura is holding a guitar and suggests that Laura have a jam session with them, but Laura tells them that she isn't very good and would rather just be by herself.  I guess losing her entire family four weeks earlier has made Laura very self-conscious.  Jem suggests that Laura go to the rec room to meet the other girls while she changes into finds Jerrica for her.  Laura reluctantly agrees, but she's still feeling down about herself.  Wow, this is turning into a great Christmas episode, huh?

Laura enters the rec room where Ba Nee force feeds Ashley a ping pong ball.  Well, okay, Ashley and Ba Nee are playing ping pong and Ba Nee accidentally hits the ball into Ashley's mouth.  Ashley tries to convince Laura to play a game or two with her, but Laura isn't in the mood.  Mrs. Bailey calls the girls to the dining room for lunch which gives Jerrica the opportunity to introduce herself to Laura. 

But when Jerrica tries to get Laura to open up, Laura bursts into tears, tells Jerrica that she's feeling afraid and inferior.  To Jerrica's credit, she does try to make her feel better but Laura just wants to be alone.

Later on, she grabs her guitar and starts singing a song about how alone she is.  My goodness, Laura is melancholic today.

That said, the song she sings - "Alone Again" is incredibly touching.  It's weird hearing someone else sing a song that isn't a Hologram, Misfit, or named Ba Nee, Krissie, or Ashley.  It's also the first time we hear an acoustic song performed in the show.  Whatever the case, Laura can play the guitar and sing very well.  And as she sings, the Holograms listen in and are happy with what they hear.

In fact, Jem loves Laura's music so much that she offers Laura the chance to sing a song with them on stage at their next concert.  Considering that Laura herself has told them that she thinks she sucks, does Jem really think that putting Laura on stage with the lack of confidence she has is a great idea?  It also doesn't help matters much that Kimber basically guilt trips and tricks Laura into saying yes.

At Laura's school - which apparently has a teeter-totter in the yard - she is stressing out about singing at the concert, and she actually wishes that an earthquake or tidal wave or sharknado will strike and the concert will be cancelled.  Wow, that escalated!  At this point, a teenage boy sits on the other side of the teeter-totter and engages conversation with Laura.  He introduces himself as Bobby Braddock, and he has something that will calm Laura down at the concert. 

It's here that he pulls out...THE PILLS!  Uh-oh!  Laura, remember what they told you in school?  Drugs are bad, m'kay?  You better not take those!  But because Laura is genuinely afraid to perform at the concert, she decides they can't hurt and takes the packet of pills from Bobby.  Oh, Laura, what have you done?

As soon as Laura gets back to Starlight Mansion, she opens up her lunch box, takes a pill, and at first deduces that they are merely a placebo and that they didn't work.

But then Laura sees her lunch box turn into a tropical bird, and she decides that she wants to be a bird too.  It's clear that the drugs that Bobby gave her were laced with some sort of hallucinogen which causes Laura to believe that she sees things that aren't there.

And because Laura believes that she's a bird, she opens up the window to her THIRD STORY BEDROOM, walks out on the ledge, and prepares to take off!  It's a good thing she accidentally kicks a potted plant off the ledge because the crash is enough to alert Jerrica to the danger.

A shocked Jerrica yells at Laura to get off the roof and not to jump, but all Laura can do is tell Jerrica to shut up because she knows that she thinks that she is prettier and more talented than she is.  Man, just what sort of stuff is in those pills anyway?

Jerrica rushes upstairs and charges into Laura's bedroom and tries to pull her back inside, but just as Jerrica reaches the window, the ledge starts to give way, and Laura falls to her death.  The end.

No, wait.  Jerrica grabs Laura as she falls, and manages to pull her back up to safety.  With ONE ARM.  I wonder if Jerrica's been taking some of those pills too!

Once Laura is safe and sound, Jerrica demands to know what happened, and she believes that Laura seemed to not be herself as if she was on something.  But an angry Laura tells Jerrica that she is fine and that she needs to leave her alone.  But we all know that Laura is anything but fine.

Sure enough, Laura immediately confronts Bobby about the pills that she was given, saying that they made her feel weird.  Bobby apologizes and gives her another packet of pills, telling her that these ones will be much better.  Yeah, because the Bobby Braddock Guarantee is written in gold.  Stupidly, Laura gives Bobby another chance after he promises to see her play at the concert, and because Laura has developed a crush on him.  Why is it that depressed young girls always fall for the bad boys?

So, we watch a montage of Laura high on drugs, and she's exhibiting all of the classic signs of a drug abuser.  She's irritable and nervous.  She breaks every dish in the house because she's not able to concentrate.  And she can't sleep very well at all.  In fact, because the drugs that Bobby gave her are distorting her common sense, Laura decides that it will be a wonderful idea to practice her guitar at four in the morning.

Needless to say, when Laura is high as a kite, her playing skills are about the same as they would be if a sober Laura tried playing the guitar after she chopped her hands off with an axe.  Her playing is so bad that it wakes up about half of the Starlight Girls.

Ashley is extremely furious at Laura because she has a history test coming up and she needs her rest.  But when Laura refuses to stop playing, Ashley jumps on top of her and starts beating her up!  Holy hell, is this Jem and the Holograms or a CBS After School Special?!?

Ba Nee starts crying, telling them to stop fighting which awakens Jerrica who breaks up the fight.  Both Ashley and Laura are told to knock it off.

The next morning at breakfast, Laura tries to pass a pitcher of orange juice to Ba Nee, but the drugs have made her a bit shaky and she accidentally drenches Ba Nee in a Tropicana bath!  And when Ba Nee screams at Laura, Laura has a full on meltdown at the breakfast table, telling everyone to stop looking at her.

She runs to her room crying and hysterical and practically tears her room apart looking for more pills.  When she finds the bag underneath a table lamp, she is horrified to learn that she has used all the pills up.

By this time, Jerrica has put two and two together and realizes that Laura has a vurry serious problem and that if Laura lets her, she can help her.  But all Laura does is push Jerrica out of the way and runs out of the house.  All she cares about is getting another hit of drugs from Bobby Braddock.

Too bad Bobby's prices have just gone up.  Laura's first two doses were free of charge.  But now that Bobby sees that she's hooked, he now charges her thirty bucks for another dose of drugs.  And until Laura crosses his palms with the cash, he won't have anything to do with her.  So, basically Bobby's a big jerk, and Laura's a drug addict because of him.  What are we going to do now?

Why, sing a song, of course!  "Nightmare" is a song that we've heard before in Episode 32, but I find this to be a much more effective use of the song.  It packs a bigger punch by showing Laura's dependency on drugs becoming a personal nightmare for her rather than Jem being driven crazy by a bunch of doppelgangers.

And Laura's nightmare continues to worsen when she actually resorts to stealing money out of Jerrica's purse to pay for the drugs!  Jerrica manages to catch her in the act, and this prompts Laura to shove Jerrica against the wall and run away from the mansion.

You can definitely see the toll the drugs have done on Laura's face in this screenshot.  And while I would probably argue that this storyline is being sped up for convenience, I think that for a cartoon it's been telling this story very effectively.

So, Laura is back at school, and she's practically harassing students in the hallways looking for Bobby so that she can give him the stolen cash for some more pills.  On her way to find Bobby, she runs into Ashley who is still pretty sore with her.  Ashley tells Laura that she's a real jerk and to leave her alone before storming off.

Ashley is walking down the stairs when she stumbles and drops her history notebook on the floor, scattering her notes all over the place.  Well, look at that!  Bobby's now hanging around Ashley and is now offering her pills too!  Oh, I get what the sleaze is doing.  He's preying on the insecurities of young people (Laura performing in public, Ashley worrying about her history exam) so that he can bait them into buying his drugs.  What a pig!

At least Laura overheard the whole conversation between Ashley and Bobby, and Laura bursts into tears - not because she was completely wrong about Bobby, but because she was too weak to resist him and his drugs.

Fortunately, Laura still has one ally on her side.  Jerrica comes to the school in search of Laura, and Laura immediately apologizes for taking the money and being a real jerk to everyone.  Jerrica offers to take her for a ride so that they can finally talk about it.

At first, Laura won't say too much - at least until they talk about Bobby Braddock, and Jerrica suggests that Laura enroll in a group session where she can get help for her drug addiction.  Laura seems to think that she doesn't need it, but Jerrica seems to think that it is a good idea.  But Jerrica tells Laura not to do it for Jerrica.  Rather, she should do it because Laura thinks it's the right decision.

Naturally, Laura is defiant when she sits down for her first group session, and she doesn't seem to think that she has a problem.  But one woman in the group won't let her take that attitude and basically coerces Laura to take the first step in admitting that she has a drug problem.  Once she does this, everyone in the group vows to help her overcome it and tell her that they're all been where she is.  It's a short, but effective scene.

Later on at a video arcade, Ashley and Laura are playing a video game when Bobby Braddock the drug kingpin arrives to sell both girls drugs!  Oh, great, so Laura's relapsed and is taking Ashley down with her.

No, wait.  The whole thing is a set-up.  A pair of undercover cops come out and arrest Bobby for selling drugs to minors.  Of course, with Bobby being a minor himself, I guess he'll be back on the streets in no time thanks to things like the Young Offenders Act.  But for now, thanks to Ashley alerting the cops about Bobby selling drugs and Laura agreeing to wear a wiretap, it looks like Bobby won't be back to hurt anyone else.  Sure enough, this is Bobby's last appearance.  Truth be told, this is Laura's only appearance on the show as well.  But at least she patches things up with Ashley before she goes.

And Laura's recovered enough from her drug treatment program to perform with Jem and the Holograms at their concert - which Laura promised to do before she got hooked up with Bobby Braddock.  The difference is that now that she's got friends and is sober, she's really developed this great inner confidence which radiates within her.

Jem announces that the song that they are about to sing was written by Laura, and that song is "Look Inside Yourself", a great song about self-esteem and loving yourself.  It's Jem's version of Whitney Houston's "Greatest Love of All".

And that wraps up our very special episode of Jem.  I gotta tell you, when I found out that I'd be reviewing this episode two days before Christmas, I was left trying to figure out how I was going to do it.  In the end, I decided to just go with it because the gift of helping someone find sobriety again can be the greatest gift one can give somebody else.  And, well...finding the self-esteem that you thought was gone forever can be the best gift you can give yourself.  Believe's something that I have struggled with practically my whole life.  At least I can proudly say that I never resorted to drug abuse to get through it...not everyone can make that claim.  And in this edition of Jem Trivia, a hotline number was posted at the end of this episode in its original run, which urged teens to seek help if they were under the influence of drugs or knew someone who was.

Next week...Jem opens her own radio station?!?  Yeah, okay, why not?  She's had more jobs than Barbie at this point.  What's one more?

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