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Friday, March 10, 2017

Jem Reviewed: Episode 51 - Out Of The Past

Last week was the fiftieth episode of Jem Reviewed, where we saw the Holograms and Misfits travel to Britain for different reasons.  And with that, there are only fifteen episodes of the series left to go.  Seems surreal, doesn't it?



And without a doubt, this episode is probably one of the most emotional of the whole series.  This is Episode 51: Out Of The Past.

We begin in the attic of Starlight Mansion, where Jerrica is doing a little bit of cleaning.  To me, it's the attic and I would say, why bother?  But Jerrica is NOT me, so she must make sure that everything is spic and span.  I'm guessing that she may be partially related to Danny Tanner from "Full House".  After all, by the time this episode aired in January 1988, the show was a few months on the air.



Jerrica's attention falls upon a black chest in the middle of the room.  Luckily there is no key, so she opens it with ease and to her shock finds some of her father's belongings.  I'm surprised too given that those belongings shouldn't exist as their old house burned down three years ago.  But maybe they had Synergy make some holograms of all their stuff so they could recopy everything.  It could happen.  Weirder things have happened on this show already.



The rest of the Holograms walk upstairs to see what Jerrica has found, and she holds up a black book with the initials EB on it.  I'd say that it would be a journal that Jerrica's dear old dad (I legitimately almost typed DEAD old dad, which wouldn't be wrong, but very insensitive) wrote.

The rest of the girls urge Jerrica to read the diary, and since Emmett's six feet under and unable to object to the invasion of his privacy, Jerrica obliges.  The first entry takes place when Jerrica was ten and it depicts Rio's first meeting with the Benton family.  We hear Emmett's voice narrating each diary entry, and it is here that we have our Jem Trivia for today.  The person doing the voice of Emmett is Wally Burr - who worked as the main voice director for the whole series!



We are also introduced to Emmett's lovely wife Jacqui Benton - who admittedly looks like an extra from "The Mary Tyler Moore Show".  Her look is sooooo 1970s!  Jacqui announces that Rio is staying for dinner which makes Jerrica's heart go flitter-flutter and Kimber making fun of her.  I'm surprised she doesn't remark how outrageous the situation is.  But at least the rest of the girls get a chuckle out of it.



The next entry depicts the date when Emmett and Jacqui took Aja in as their first foster child, and two things I need to note.  One, Aja's last name is Leith.  And two...Aja's hair colour is a natural blue.  Again, this is a show where Jem could win the Indy 500.  I believe anything at this rate.  Immediately, Jerrica and Kimber are upset that Aja is moving in and pout about it.  At least until Jacqui sits down with them and explains that as a foster child herself, she didn't want any other children to have to go through what she did, so she made the decision to share their blessings with others.  Wow...so the Starlight House for Foster Girls was Jacqui's brainchild.  Interesting.



Right around this time, Emmett Benton launches Starlight Music - the record company that has almost become a second home to the Benton sisters.

Not long after Aja moves in, the Benton family take in foster child #2 - a lavendar haired girl named Shana Elmsford.  Perhaps you've heard of her?



Unfortunately, Shana's not exactly blending into the Benton family dynamic very well, and she likes to keep to herself.  Jacqui seems to notice Shana's introverted side and believes that Jerrica can help, but Jerrica is too busy complaining about Rio not noticing her to care.  Wow, nice to see that Jerrica was just as snotty back when she was a kid.  Jacqui, however, doesn't take her attitude and smacks her one in the face calms her down by telling her that Shana could use her attention more than Rio.  And, you know, the way that Jacqui handles the situation is perfect because not long after, Jerrica takes Shana a tray of food and initiates conversation. 



In addition to being the Carol Brady of the Benton household, Jacqui had some musical talent (so that's where Jem and Kimber get it from), and one day she performed a sold out concert which was recorded on a set of master tapes courtesy of Rio and Emmett.  Unfortunately, that concert was recorded at least a dozen years ago, and the master tapes have since gone missing.  The plan was for Jacqui to have recorded a debut album, but she died before she could get in the studio - meaning that nobody ever really got a chance to listen to Jacqui in her prime.



Jerrica is disheartened at first, but when Shana suggests that the master tapes could be located somewhere within Starlight Music and that they could release that concert as Jacqui's debut album, Jerrica is thrilled, and decides to put that idea into action.

And in what is really her only appearance as Jem in this episode, the Holograms go on Lindsey Pearce's show to sing a song that Jacqui initially sang at that concert.



Now, having not heard Jacqui's version of "First Love", I certainly hope it was much better than this one.  I suppose that initially being recorded in the 1970s, that style of music fit in with the era very well...but by 1988, that sort of song was very much out of vogue.  But, still...Britta Phillips could sing a phone book page and make it sound decent.  And when Lindsey interviews them, Jem and Kimber bring up the record company's plan to release the concert recordings as an album as soon as they locate the master tapes.



Of course there are five little snags that could unfurl those plans and their names are Jetta, Stormer, Roxy, Pizzazz, and Eric Raymond.  It's especially personal for Eric Raymond in a way since he lost control of Starlight Music to Jem and Kimber three years earlier.  Let's just say that when Eric was kicked out of Starlight Music, he stole a few things from the building.  One of those things are Jacqui's recordings.  This...can't be good.



Back at Starlight Music, Jerrica, Kimber, Aja, Shana, and an extremely out of place Raya are tearing the offices apart looking for the master tapes, and they suggest looking for clues in Emmett's diary.  Jerrica doesn't seem to think it'd hurt and immediately flips open to a page with the date of August 13 - the day that Lela became the third Starlight Girl.



A couple of weeks later on September 5 - Jerrica, Shana, and Aja are inside of a treehouse located outside of the original Starlight House where Jerrica's mother initiates a special toast complete with lemonade all around.  It's a toast of friendship, and not only does it solidify the friendship that all of the Holograms share with each other, but it also shows us that while Emmett and Kimber might have had a special relationship, Jerrica and Jacqui were just as close.



At least until one stormy night at an airport.  Jacqui at this point was going on the talk show and small concert circuit to promote her as yet unreleased album, and as a result of this, she was never really home a lot.  When it comes time for Jacqui's flight to depart, Jerrica won't have it and she refuses to even give her a hug and a kiss. 



Jerrica irrationally tries to guilt trip Jacqui into staying by telling her that if she loved her, she'd stay.  Whether Jerrica could sense that something was about to happen or whether she was being a spoiled brat - well, I tend to think the latter.  But Jacqui has to go, and so she boards Flight 909 thinking that she will be back in a few days and by then Jerrica will have gotten over it.



But Jacqui never comes home again.



Judging by the plane wreckage and the fact that Emmett is despondent in this above image, I'm guessing that this is the moment that Jacqui's voice is permanently silenced.  And an extremely guilty Jerrica cries in Rio's arms.  Wow...this episode really sucker punches you in the gut, doesn't it?  And this was a kid's show?  It's more like an episode of "The Young and the Restless" or "Ryan's Hope" or "Loving" or whatever soap operas aired in the 1980s!



Even all these years later, Jerrica is still broken-hearted over how badly she treated her on what would be Jacqui's last day.  I'm starting to understand why the quest to release Jacqui's recordings on an album is so important to Jerrica.  She feels as though it is the only way she can truly apologize to her mother for how she behaved that day.  And just like that, I find myself not being so angry with Jerrica anymore.



The diary picks up on February 8, where it has been a week since the plane crash and Emmett is very depressed about it all.  It's not until Jerrica, Kimber, Shana, and Aja enter his room and tell him that they will pick up some of the responsibilities around the house to help him out.  But perhaps the most touching moment of all is when a normally stoic Aja breaks down in Emmett's arms and begs him not to send any of them away.  Emmett reassures them that they will always have a home as long as he is around and they gather around in a group hug with Emmett reaffirming that Jacqui has been a good influence on his girls.

Does anyone have a tissue?  Seriously?



We also get a chance to see one of the projects that Emmett has been working on.  It's in the infancy stages, but he has managed to use computer technology to create holograms.  Emmett states that his girls have given him the strength to finish a top secret project - but we're going to have to wait to find out what that is for now, as Jerrica has to take a phone call.



Oh, what a surprise.  It's Eric Raymond, and he has a deal that he wants to make with Jerrica now that he has control of Jacqui's recordings.  Of course, the price that Eric has put on the recordings in mighty steep.  His first deal is to sell Jerrica the tapes for one million dollars!  And Jerrica knows full well that since most of the profits from Jem's concerts and records go to the Starlight Girls, she doesn't have a million bucks to randomly give to slimy businessmen.  So, Eric makes a second offer.  If Jerrica gives away controlling interest of Starlight Music to Eric, he'll give her the tapes - which to me seems like a Catch 22 because if Eric gets Starlight Music back, he won't release the album anyway. 

The rest of the Holograms are disgusted but not surprised at Eric's latest plot, and Jerrica suggests reading through the rest of Emmett's diary so that they might come up with a plan to outsmart Eric.  Interestingly enough, the next diary entry is all about Eric!



We all know that Emmett hired Eric personally to be his second in command, and we know that Emmett never really knew how evil Eric would eventually become.  What we may not have known was that Jerrica initially had a massive crush on Eric when she was just seventeen!  Guys, say it with me.  EWWWWWWWWWWWWW!!!  Even Raya seemed shocked at this admission, but Jerrica admits that she didn't know what she was thinking at the time.



The next entry talks about how Jerrica came up with the really stupid idea of using Eric to make Rio jealous...but all that does is show Jerrica just how ridiculous Rio's temper is.  But hey, at least he didn't kick a plant this time.

After that entry, Kimber starts to tear up, as she notices that there aren't many pages left.  Sure enough, right around the time that Eric and Rio developed their feud, Emmett starts getting sick with his terminal illness.  And as the last few diary entries are read, we can hear his voice get weaker and weaker as he gets closer to the end of his life.  Wally Burr does a fantastic job doing the voice of Emmett at this time, I should also add.



Of course, while Emmett is battling his sickness, we learn that he was building Synergy.  He notes that for fear of the technology getting in the wrong hands, he has to keep it a secret - and that includes Jerrica and Kimber at that time.  To protect his investment and his invention, he moves his workshop out of Starlight House and into an abandoned drive-in movie theatre - the same place where Jerrica and the others first meet Synergy.



And we also learn that Synergy is much more important to Emmett than we realize - have you noticed that Synergy's face looks almost exactly like Jacqui Benton's?  That was the initial idea...but when Emmett saw Jacqui's face in Synergy's monitor, he deemed the image too painful, so he altered it so that it would look different, but still have that familiarity to it.  So, Synergy is really a loving tribute to his departed wife...which means that having Synergy as Jerrica's mentor would be as if her mother were still by her side.  Mind. Blown.  Emmett also makes a note that he has programmed all of Jacqui's voice recordings into Synergy's memory banks so that Synergy could have a vocabulary that could rival Webster's Dictionary.



In Emmett's final days, he arranges for the musical instruments and Rockin' Roadster to be moved to the abandoned Starlight Drive-in Theatre, and on May 30 - the final entry in the diary - he holds the JemStar earrings in his palm, making arrangements for the earrings to be delivered to Jerrica after he passes.  Now, the date actually holds a lot of significance.  Way back in Episode 32 - the episode where Jem gets gaslighted - she reveals that her birthday is June 1.  Wanna take a guess that Emmett arranged for Synergy to deliver the earrings on Jerrica's birthday?  On the other hand, Jerrica lost her father on or around her birthday.  That would make it simultaneously the best and worst birthday she's ever had.



But Jerrica is too overcome with emotion over the revelation that Synergy seems to be her mother reincarnated.  But before she can say a word, Synergy projects herself into the room and tells Jerrica that she is no more or no less than Synergy - a final gift of love from her departed father.  Synergy also tells Jerrica that she has to make an incredibly difficult choice regarding the master tapes.  But after reading Emmett's diary, Jerrica comes to a final decision and sets off towards Eric's place of residence...however, before you start thinking that Jerrica is going soft, think again.  She flatly tells Eric that she is not giving him money, control of Starlight Enterprises, or a quickie in his bathroom.  Okay, I made that last part up.



Jerrica seems to have the idea that if she talks to Eric about how important the tapes are, he'll find it in his heart to give her the tapes no questions asked.  It's a nice thought.  A stupid thought, but a nice thought.  And Jerrica realizes just how wrong she was about Eric when he callously takes the tapes and tosses them into the fireplace. 



And with that, Jerrica smacks Eric across the face.  Hard.  The only thing that would have been better would have been if she had brass knuckles on.  I'd also consider it to be an even blow from the time where Eric cuffed her one during Episode 5.

But while hitting Eric Raymond might have felt great for a little while, by the time Jerrica arrives back home she is in full-on meltdown mode.  She tearfully explains to Kimber, Aja, Raya, and Shana what happened, and Shana and Raya immediately comfort her and tell her that it wasn't her fault.  But Kimber and Aja are off to themselves, and they seem to be more hopeful.



Remember the part in the diary where Emmett talked about programming Jacqui's voice into Synergy's memory banks?  Aja and Kimber came up with the hypothesis that Emmett may have programmed a copy of the concert into Synergy's memory banks and that the program might be so deep in the banks that not even Synergy could bring it up without a little help.  This is good news, but Aja warns Jerrica that it could be disasterous.  While Aja is just as much of an electronic genius as Techrat, the technology that Emmett used is such that it proves a challenge for even her.  Aja even warns Jerrica that if she screws up, she could completely kill off Synergy for good.  But Jerrica seems to feel that any risk is worth it - even if it means no more Jem.  And with Jerrica's blessing, they get to work disassembling Synergy.



Apparently the process to hack into Synergy's memory banks is a lengthy process.  Aja works through the whole night while the rest of the Holograms fall asleep on the ground.  But as Jerrica and company wake up to a new day, Aja goes A-HA!  Before long, a series of phrases pop up on a computer screen.



Hmmm...one of them is First Love - the song that the Holograms performed earlier in this episode.  There's also a song called Starlight, one called My Heart, and one called "Oh, Jo".  Wow, she wrote a song about Nancy McKeon and she died before "The Facts of Life" went on the air!



But the titles also seem to link to mp3 files long before mp3 files existed!  Sure enough, Aja's theory was true.  Jacqui's songs were definitely programmed into Synergy, and Jerrica couldn't be happier.  To celebrate, Aja clicks on the one marked Starlight, and we hear Jacqui singing the song that had the same title as her home, her foster girls, and her husband's record company.



"Starlight" is definitely a stand out song.  I have no idea who performed the vocals for Jacqui Benton (one theory I had was that it was Samantha Newark that sang it, but I don't think that is true).  Whatever the case, it's a beautiful song, and one that definitely brings a lot of emotion to the rest of the Holograms.  Even Raya sheds a tear even though she never met the woman in her life!  I'm thinking this probably should have been a Season 1 episode because Raya really has nothing to do in this episode. 



Whatever the case, the songs have been found, and a tearful Jerrica tells Jacqui that she loves her.  Okay, seriously, this episode is like a Barbara Walters interview.  I am NOT going to let this show make me cry!



Within a few weeks, the recordings are transferred from Synergy to another master tape, that tape is recorded onto records, cassettes, and CD's, and just like that, Jacqui Benton's album becomes a huge success.



We end off at the album release party where Jerrica formally apologizes for how she used Eric to make him jealous, and Rio doesn't seem to mind.  The two kiss passionately as the other Holograms (including Raya) hold up glasses of lemonade in front of a poster of Jacqui Benton - making a toast to friendship similar to the one that they made all those years earlier.



Okay, I'm calling it right now.  This episode is probably going to be my favourite episode of the whole series.  They blended past elements with a decent story to come up with one of the most emotionally satisfying episodes ever.  I absolutely love this one, and it really should have been the season finale.  That's how great it was.



It probably would have made a better one than the next two episodes, which will be featured over the next two Fridays.  Coming up, Jem goes Hollywood!  And Kimber is in yet ANOTHER love triangle.  Oi.

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