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Friday, April 28, 2017

Jem Reviewed: Episode 58 - Homeland, Heartland

Can you believe that there are just eight more episodes to go in the Jem Reviewed series?  This project just flew right by, didn't it?  Last week, we saw Jem try her hand at being Beauty in "Beauty and the Beast".  And this week, we're going to the country of Yugoslavia in this latest installment.

Well, okay, technically we're going to Croatia...but back in 1988, it was Yugoslavia.  In Jem Trivia, I can tell you that prior to 1991, Yugoslavia was one nation, but by April 1992, it had split up into five different countries.  Either way, the city we're visiting is Zagreb, and the episode we're looking at today is Episode 58: Homeland, Heartland.

It's also the last episode that was animated in Korea as opposed to Japan.

The star of today's show is Danse, and we quickly learn that Danse's origins are from Yugoslavia.  Both of her parents were born in the country, and Danse is excited to finally be able to visit the place where her family history originated.  Well, that, plus Jem and the Holograms, Video, and Rio are flying to Yugoslavia as well to film a music video for their latest single with the Zagreb ballet.  But Aja and Kimber have a conversation on the plane and we learn from that conversation that Danse's mother was one of the star ballerinas for the ballet.  She went missing years ago when Danse was a little girl, and although it seems unlikely for Danse's mother to be in Zagreb, it could serve as the starting point for solving the mystery.

Once they arrive in Zagreb, Jem is introduced to their guide and liaison, one Anton Nivich.  I believe Anton is an ambassador of sorts for the nation and agrees to be their tour guide as they arrive at the building where the Holograms will be filming the video.  Anton does offer a word of warning for the American tourists.  He tells them that the artistic director of the ballet - one Victor Krosach - is not a fan of the band, and dismisses their music as anything but art.  This statement makes Kimber see red, but Jem is determined to change Victor's attitude.

But it seems as though Jem is going to have her work cut out for her when we see Victor in action.  He is at a rehearsal along with his prima ballerina, Vera, male ballet dancer Stefan Horte, and three other ballerinas.  He basically calls the three extra ballerinas elephants, and he dismisses Jem and the Holograms as talentless Americans.  I wonder if he and Minx from the Stingers are related?

Of course, Stefan defends the Holograms by stating that he likes them a lot, and when Jem and the others arrive, Jem wastes no time in telling Victor where to stuff his opinions.  Victor and Vera are not impressed by Jem...however once Victor locks eyes with Danse, his attitude does a complete 180 and he changes from Mr. Hyde to Dr. Jekyll almost instantly.  That's kind of creepy.  He agrees to let the Holograms stay, and he introduces himself to Danse, though he accidentally calls her Nadia.

Danse explains that her name is Giselle Dvorak, to which Victor reveals a portrait of legendary ballet dancer Nadia Dvorak - Danse's mother!  And I have to say that aside from the obvious hairstyle difference, Nadia and Danse are definitely mother and daughter.

But while Victor seems enchanted by Danse, Danse's attention seems to be more on Stefan.  It appears as though Danse's feelings are reciprocated as well, as Stefan can't stop staring at Danse either.

It's decided that Danse and Stefan will work on a dance together as Jem and the Holograms rehearse for the video.  I have to say that I've been kind of rough on the songs for Season 3 and haven't found them as creative as the previous seasons...however I do love "Music and Danse".  It's definitely a love song, but not overly loaded with too much sugar.  It works out very well in its context, and I think it's genuinely a great Season 3 song. 

Plus, Danse and Stefan obviously have heat and chemistry.  I mean, she's only known him for three minutes and already they're kissing.  It's official.  Danse is the new Kimber.

After all, she has not only Stefan in love with her, but Victor seems obsessed with her too.  Victor practically steamrolls over Stefan's dinner invitation and makes it a point to show Danse around the city.  Stefan leaves with his tail between his legs, and Danse is left very conflicted.

Shortly after that awkward moment, Danse is surprised with a note underneath the door.  While there is no indication as to who it is from, the note tells Danse that if she is looking for answers regarding the whereabouts of her family, she should go to the village of Bled where she reportedly has living relatives there.  Danse isn't sure what to make of it, so she asks Jem for advice.  Jem seems to suggest that Danse convince Victor to take her to Bled, but warns her to be cautious.  Even though Victor has been nice to Danse, there's something about him that seems off.

Well, I suppose the tacked on scene before the commercial bumper in which Victor blames Nadia for leaving him and making a vow to keep her daughter by his side forever followed by him shattering a champagne flute against the wall might be one indication that Victor might be a little bit cuckoo.

Apparently, Danse and Jem don't see Victor as being much of a threat - at least not yet.  They tell him of their plan to hop on the first train to Bled to locate Danse's family members in hopes that they will know where her mother is.  Victor decides that he will accompany them on the trip, and makes a comment about how the town is near the Julian Alps, which can be quite dangerous. 

Someone who isn't impressed by this turn of events is prima ballerina Vera, who tells Victor off...but Victor tells her to mind her own business where Danse is concerned and that he can crush her star power just as easily as he created it.  After all, she's just as guilty of making Danse's parents disappear as he is!  Whoa!  I expected there to be a cover up of some sort, but I never expected Vera to be involved as well.  This mystery has just gotten even more exciting, I have to admit.  This is shaping up to be a good episode!

Danse, Jem and the Holograms, Rio, and Stefan all board the train to Bled, and Raya is amazed at how close Stefan and Danse have gotten - especially since they only just met a few hours ago.  Truth be told, I think Kimber still holds the record for the fastest time that anyone has fallen in love with someone on this show, but it does set the stage for song #2.

The thing is..."Falling in Love With a Stranger" is a really bad song.  I mean, I get that there are only so many ways you could incorporate a rhyme with the word stranger, but the lyrics are so basic I could have sworn that it was written by a nine year old.  Definitely not Jem's finest work, even though the video part shows the budding romance between Stefan and Danse - as well as the green eyed monster known as Victor who is not happy that the two of them are together.

In fact, once Danse excuses herself so that Victor and Stefan can have a conversation with each other, Victor essentially issues a threat against Stefan to stay away from Danse or else.  Of course, Stefan isn't interested in any threats to his budding romance, and he basically tells Victor to go flock himself.  I'm sure that Victor has learned his lesson.  And if you believe that, I have a plot of land to sell you.

That plot of land happens to be in Bled.  It's got a nice little inn there and that is where the Holograms will be staying.  While they are settling in, Danse reveals to Stefan that her mother went missing when she was a child and doesn't know where she went - and that her father died before she was born.  In a way, I can see why Danse spends so much time with the runaways at Haven House - and why Danse seems like an honourary Starlight Girl.  She more or less was orphaned at an early age.  Makes Danse's story very heart crushing.

Unfortunately for Danse, the people at the inn seem to be very unfriendly.  Any time she asks them for any information about the Dvorak family, they pretend they don't know, or they clam up whenever they see Victor.  It's very...strange.

At least a little boy sitting nearby seems to be a lot more open.  I guess if you want to know the truth about someone or something, just ask a child.  Children can be quite honest, you know.  Thanks to the child, he lets Danse know that the Dvorak family has had farmland near the Julian Alps for hundreds of years, and chances are they are still there.  Danse thanks the boy profusely and sets out towards the Dvorak farm.

Once Jem, Danse, Rio, Stefan, and Victor arrive at the Dvorak farm, Danse sees a man working outside.  He's obviously much older than she is, but he immediately recognizes her and sheds a small tear of happiness.  She introduces herself as Giselle Dvorak, and the man responds by saying that he is her great-grandfather Johann Dvorak!  And while Danse is thrilled to have found the place where her family came from, that happiness quickly fades into frustration when Johann responds quite coldly to Victor being there.  I get the feeling that Victor has done something really horrible to the Dvorak family.  I hope he didn't kill Danse's mother.  And even so, would the show really go into a storyline that dark?

After a very uncomfortable dinner, Danse is crying outside and she is convinced that her own family doesn't even want her there.  Stefan and Jem try to console her, but Danse is really upset.  The poor girl.

Fortunately for Danse, Johann later explains that the family does love her very much and that she really does remind them of everything good about Nadia.  But they have less than flattering things to say about Victor.  They do not trust him, and they want Danse to stay away from him.  Danse questions why this is the case, given that he has been so nice to her, so Johann decides that rather than tell her why, he'd rather show her why.  Johann has a friend who lives in the mountains of the Julian Alps, and he can explain the situation better than anyone else can.  Danse agrees to go with him, and Stefan tags along as well to make sure that Danse is okay.

But shortly after the trio leave, Jem notices that Victor has gone missing, and Jem seems to think that if Victor was tipped off, he may do something to harm either Danse or Johann, so she gets Rio to follow along behind them in case something happens.  I never thought I'd say this, but Rio comes off pretty decent in this episode.  Mind you, it's only maybe three times that this has happened in fifty-eight episodes now, but still...when he's good, he's very very good.

And Victor is very very bad.  It seems as though his plan is to use a gigantic rock to kill either Johann or Danse.  I'm thinking that since his obsession is with Nadia and her daughter, his intended target is Johann and once he's out of the way, he can kidnap Danse and enslave her into his ballet troupe forever.  Ah, so he's going full on caveman here.

Victor planned for everything - except for Rio jumping him from behind.  I don't think Rio really planned for it either as he and Victor roll down the side of the mountain causing a major avalanche!

Fortunately, Rio and Victor manage to leap to safety before the snow buries them.  But Danse takes a direct hit from the cascading snow and is quickly buried underneath six feet of snow!  WHAT?  They killed Danse?!?  You BASTARDS!

Fear not!  A randomly placed mountain man appears from the distance and happens upon the scene.  Wow, it's a good thing he was there in the middle of nowhere near a deserted mountain path!  The man runs towards Johann and Stefan and the three of them try to dig Danse out before she suffocates.  Rio corners Victor and tries to get him to help, but Victor runs away like the yellow bellied coward that he is.  Rio tells him just that in not so many words too.

Once Rio joins the search and rescue efforts, it doesn't take too long for the four men to find Danse, although she is unconscious when they get her freed.  Our mountain man tells the men that he has a cabin nearby and that he can help Danse recover.  Eh, why not?  He seems more trustworthy than Victor anyway.

And here is where the bombshell of all bombshells is detonated.  When Danse wakes up and the man gazes upon her, he nearly dies of shock.  Johann explains that the man is Peter Dvorak - Danse's father!  Say WHAT?  I thought he died!  Even more confusing is the fact that once Peter figures out the truth, he denies Danse and tells her that she reminds him of how Nadia abandoned him!  This story gets more and more complex each second!

In a series of flashbacks, we learn that Nadia was once the prima ballerina of the Zagreb ballet, where some twenty-five years ago Victor was still the artistic director.  Victor developed a strong bond with Nadia and it is implied that Victor fell in love with her, but that those feelings were not reciprocated.

That's because Nadia fell in love with Dr. Peter Dvorak, and despite Victor's rage and jealousy getting in the way and threatening Peter with great harm if he pursued Nadia, the two got married and shortly after that, Nadia became pregnant with Danse.

At the same time this was going on, a flu outbreak was present in Yugoslavia, and there was a shortage of medicine.  Peter only had a limited supply of penicillin to dole out, and one day someone broke into his clinic and stole the medicine.  Can you guess who it was?  

To make things worse, whoever stole the medicine reported Peter for trying to sell it on the black market to make a profit and he was taken to jail for several years!  And he cursed Nadia ever since for abandoning him when he needed her the most.

To which Danse calls shenanigans and explains to her father that Victor tricked Nadia into thinking that Peter had died in hopes that she would stay with him.  But with Nadia being pregnant, she knew it was dangerous to stick around, so she fled to America where she gave birth to Danse and shortly after that, she disappeared.  She did send Peter letters, but Peter claimed to have not received any of them.  Peter turns away from Danse and tells her to leave, telling her that the very sight of her breaks her heart.  Wow, that's harsh...and sad.  Tearfully, Danse agrees to leave, but she promises that she will find a way to clear her father's name and to find out what Victor knows.  Whatever it takes.  Wow, so even though her own father told her that she was a painful reminder of his past, she still wants to help him.  Danse's heart is 100% pure.  Love this character.

One character I am hating is Victor, and he seems to have a plan that will buy him some time and get Danse on his side for good.  All he has to do is plant some stolen defense plans in Jem's possession and they will go to jail, and Danse will have to agree to marry him if she wants to see them freed.  This is really sadistic, and even Vera is concerned that this plan is beyond him.  But psycho Victor is determined to make it work on all counts.

Frustratingly, it seems to do the trick as the authorities immediately corner Rio and Video once they arrive back in Zagreb (Danse and Stefan have taken a cab to Victor's place so that Danse can confront them in person).  Jem, Kimber, Aja, Raya, and Shana manage to escape in the kerfuffle but the authorities are in fast pursuit of them.

Jem thinks quickly though, and the Holograms run towards a museum where they disguise themselves as statues.  The police run past them, and this gives them a window of escape.  They still have to find a way to foil Victor's plans and to clear their names, and Jem seems to think that only one person can fit the bill.  They rush towards the offices of Anton Nivich, thinking that he can help.  But that still won't help bring Victor to justice as he covered his tracks quite well.

Meanwhile, Danse confronts Victor about everything she learned about her father, and Victor makes no attempt to even hide the fact that he orchestrated the disappearance of her parents and framed Jem and the Holograms for espionage.  Stefan is ready to murder Victor, but Victor essentially promises to let them go.  He tells Danse that not only can she be his wife, but he will make her the new prima ballerina of the Zagreb ballet - RIGHT IN FRONT OF VERA!  Oh, if looks could kill...

Well, how about a mountain man?  Seems that Peter has had a change of heart and makes an appearance in Victor's office.  He and Victor get into a physical brawl and it ends with Peter throwing Victor on top of a desk which shatters it into several pieces. 

And with that, we have evidence of the fact that Victor purposely kept Peter away from Nadia.  Inside the desk is all of the letters that Nadia wrote Peter.  She never forgot about him...Victor kept them apart.  I imagine in those letters will also be proof that Victor caused the crime that got Peter framed in the first place.  This is what you call laser guided karma, Victor!

Of course, there's the issue of the stolen defense papers, and how Jem and the Holograms could be in serious trouble - at least until a scorned Vera tells the authorities the whole crooked plan implicating Victor for everything.  Vera also sadly confesses to her own role in the plan, but she is more than willing to accept her punishment.  After all, Victor's will be much more severe than anything she could face.  Did Zagreb have the death penalty in 1988?  If so, well...that's showbiz, Victor.

At least with the demons exorcised and the chains holding Peter down being finally broken, it allows for a tearful reunion between father and daughter.  And now that Peter and Danse are back together, it's time for the final song of the show which...

...wait...we're hearing Music and Danse AGAIN?!?  Seriously?  The music budget must have gotten seriously slashed during Season 3.  Oh well, it's still a nice song.

And some great news for Danse.  Peter has agreed to go back to the United States with Danse where hopefully he can rebuild his life.  But he also has one final thing that he must settle...finding Nadia.  Unfortunately the series ends before that mystery can ever be resolved, which is a shame.  But at least Danse has found a new love interest in Stefan, and she has her father back in her life.  All in all, a terrific episode!  Could be my favourite of Season 3 so far.

Coming up next week, the Stingers make their return.  Oh joy.  And hey, it looks like the Rio/Jem/Riot love triangle gets turned up a notch.  Oh double joy.  Why am I dreading this one?

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