John finally gets back to Earth... in 1985...
Click here to read the Farscape World synopsis for this episode.
One thing that Justin Monjo seems to have a knack for is capturing reactions. He demonstrated this superbly in season one's "A Human Reaction", and has another chance to really show off in "Kansas", as he gets to capture the crew's emotions once again as they visit Earth, but this time John is returning home for real. From Aeryn's wonder at the joys of Wheel of Fortune and joining Kermit with the alphabet in Sesame Street, to John savouring his first taste of milk – real milk – in over three years, it all fits together perfectly.
The cast deserves a lot of credit for this episode, as they clearly had a lot of fun and seemed to enjoy every last minute of it. As such, the sense of wonder of aliens visiting Earth for the first time played out really well. The quality of acting on Farscape is almost always excellent, but here the actors just seemed to shine that little bit more, as their reactions were almost child-like in some ways.
It may sound like I'm harping on, but I really did feel that the return to Earth for John, and the first visit to real Earth for the crew was captured extremely well, and I could list far more than the moments I've mentioned above. "Kansas" was just a whole lot of fun on many levels, with a lot of laughs and a lot of moments to be savoured. For instance, seeing Chiana climbing over the bonnet of young John's car only to slide in through the window was hilarious, and also went to show how alien Earth is to the Moya crew.
The time-travel conundrum presented was also a wonderful plot device that has the opportunity to serve both the larger plot, presenting John and the crew with some interesting problems should they have altered the future, and also allowed some magnificent scenes to be captured within this episode. Notably for John, he finally gets back home, except it's the past, so he knows what should happen and what he has to do, but he can also do things he couldn't before. Most importantly, he gets to see his mother for the first time in years. She had died four years prior to him getting thrown into the Uncharted Territories, so this is a magnificent opportunity to explore his feelings for his mother, and what it'd be like to be able to see her again knowing she was going to die. Of course, the first moment he gets the chance he speaks to her, and the look on Ben Browder's face just says it all about John. Just looking at him you can see just how heartbreaking it is for John to be in this situation, and how he'd love to say more but he knows he can't, to try and get the timeline back on course.
Later, too, we have John go to see his mother while he's invisible. This scene is also excellent, and here one has to give kudos to Carmen Duncan, as she reacts to John's touch and his words just how one might expect. It's extremely moving to watch, and proves once again how amazing Farscape can be at doing great drama and emotions. It's also fantastic that Carmen Duncan returned to play the role (following the character's previous appearance in "Won't Get Fooled Again"); we have truly been blessed with the fact that thus far, all the actors who reappear much later in the series have been able to return to do so again.
One aspect that I personally found quite interesting, and curious in places, was the crew's use of English. Aeryn has been learning the language for a long time, so although it's a bit stilted, she does a fine job, and again Claudia Black's portrayal seems very realistic, especially in her conversations with the sheriff. Chiana manages to pick up several words from context, or so it seems, and manages to at least get by with John. D'Argo is happy with "yes", "no" and "bite me", but what of Noranti? In several places she seems to speak quite fluent English in places, as witnessed in the encounters with the policemen in the house. It's very strange and left me wondering if, perhaps, there's more to her than meets the eye. It would certainly raise some questions if indeed this was the case, and not a simple snafu.
The entire backdrop of "Kansas" was John's past, and for me that made it extremely good viewing in and of itself. We've been inside his head several times during the series (sometimes, quite literally), but here we finally get to actually see what he was like as a bratty teen, back in the days when he lost his virginity to Karen Shaw. At this time in his life, John is clearly something of an unknown quantity, with a lot of anger built up inside him that seems to stem, as with so many people, from how he views the relationship between his parents. His mother is submissive, and tends to back down from his father, who is a famous astronaut, quite hard and set in his ways. The two seem to fight fairly often, and John simply can't stand to see his mother back down all the time. It's a common problem that all children have; their parents' behaviour really can affect their own. But we, and therefore John, know that his younger self will grow out of this phase, and although he'll lose his mother, he will become a great astronaut himself. This just makes it taste all the more sweet when John and his younger version interact, as the older knows all what his younger self couldn't see at the time, such as the fact that he can influence his father's decisions, what he says does matter, and his father does love him.
Of course, we also get to meet some of John's girlfriends. First we have Kim, the sweet wholesome girl, and then we have Karen Shaw, who we know from mentions in past episodes ("That Old Black Magic" and "Losing Time") is the girl John loses his virginity to in the back of the 4x4. What a masterful stroke it is, then, to find out that Karen Shaw is actually Chiana. Little did he know, but he actually had sex with, and met, all these aliens 14 years before he got lost in the Uncharted Territories. I was completely stoked by this twist, I have to say, as I really never saw it coming. Such a seemingly throwaway point in a few episodes in past seasons, actually ends up being something like this. Whoever came up with that idea needs a huge pat on the back.
Gigi Edgley is another cast member that deserves a special mention – she was fantastic in this episode; really digging down and pulling out the Chiana we know – the one that is young, carefree, takes risks and does what she wants. Fantastic.
Just being back on Earth added not only some novelty to the proceedings, but allowed for smacks of humour just about everywhere. Aeryn watches Kermit and a girl on Sesame Street reciting the alphabet and mocks her because she's so slow. Noranti experiments on the policeman and starts twisting his ear out of shape because she's put him in a coma. Rygel discovers the wonders of chocolate and sweets (or "candy", if you prefer), and gets a sugar high, violently stabbing a pumpkin. Chiana and D'Argo mistake giving someone the finger for an Earth greeting, and so wander around sticking their fingers up at people they don't know. Even one of the last scenes, giving a nod to The X Files is hilarious, as you have Mulder and Scully look-alikes listening to the sheriff as he tells his story of aliens. But even given the humour it was fantastic just to watch the crew on Earth. What on Earth can be in store given the cliffhanger is anyone's guess, and I'm not even going to go there.
The other running plot in the episode was the Peacekeeper story, as we finally find out who Scorpius' spy is aboard Grayza's Command Carrier. It's Braca, and given the hints in previous episodes, I'd guess that most people had it figured out (since they played up to the pilot in "Promises" so much), but the Scorpius/Braca reunion is extremely interesting (and no, I don't mean the kiss and the ensuing face-grasp). We discover more about Grayza's plans through Braca; she is planning to negotiate a peace initiative with the Scarrans. Scorpius remains adamant that they're using her; and will betray the agreement as soon as their forces are powerful enough. Braca seems to agree, and insists she must be stopped. Yet Grayza is definitely smart, and clearly doesn't trust Braca implicitly, since she leaves the nice surprise behind on Moya – the creature left to capture Crichton – and purposely keeps him out of sight. What game she is playing is anyone's guess at the moment, but it has crossed my mind that she may well know about Braca spying for Scorpius, but is keeping it to herself for her own reasons.
So, in short, the Peacekeepers are still looking for a peaceful compromise with the Scarrans, although how many Peacekeepers and Sebaceans support that remains to be seen. How the creature left on Moya plays in to things is yet to be seen. Whether history was entirely affected or not is unknown, since we don't know if John got the timeline close enough to bounce back on course. Plus you have the extremely bizarre ending – suddenly Moya is orbiting Earth, with humans, including John's Dad, aboard.
"Kansas", with the crew's visit to Earth, is great fun to watch, and Justin Monjo captures the characters in exquisite detail, with Farscape veteran Rowan Woods bringing his usual class to the directing chair. Having Farscape back is, in and of itself, wonderful, and the final eleven episodes of this season, which have been touted as some of the show's best ever, are to be savoured. Thankfully, this episode gets the run off to a delightful start, and is one of the most entertaining outings of the season.
Besides, how can you not like an episode that ends on a cliffhanger with the line, "Was it a bass, or a trout?"
I love to hear your views, whether you agree or disagree, so feel free to e-mail me your feedback. Review by Dani Moure.
To see Mary Wood's review of "Kansas", click here.
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Did You Know?
When John is telling the others about getting trapped in a fire, he clearly said, "Afterwards when NASA called, he refused to leave." One would presume that this was purposeful, since he was talking about a NASA missing, although it is possible it was just a slip-up and should've been IASA (the organisation John and his father work for).
Despite everyone else, even Aeryn, stumbling through their English, Noranti seems to have no problem conversing at all.
Braca is Scorpius' spy on the Command Carrier. Braca tells him that Grayza is trying to create a Peace Initiative with the Scarrans, while Scorpius believes the Scarrans will go along with it until they are at full force, and will then strike.
John loses his virginity to Chiana in the back of his truck, thinking she is called "Karen Shaw" and is dressed up for Halloween. When Noranti makes him forget everything, Chiana ensures that it's everything except Karen Shaw in the back of the 4x4 (referring to his Dad's car where he said he always expected to have his first time). This event was previously mentioned in That Old Black Magic and Losing Time.
The timeline may not have been perfectly restored. First, Noranti doesn't have time to make the Sheriff forget all that he saw, and he later reports it to officials, and second, John and Jack clearly make eye contact after young John is revived following the "fire".
Despite the crew returning through a wormhole to get back to Moya, it may not be the original one they came through. Clearly Moya has somehow been relocated from her previous position to orbiting Earth.
Just how did Jack and the suits end up on Moya, and what exactly happened to cause this?
That Old Black Magic
A Human Reaction
Won't Get Fooled Again
Self Inflicted Wounds, Part 1: Could'a, Would'a, Should'a
Self Inflicted Wounds, Part 2: Wait for the Wheel
Infinite Possibilities, Part 1: Daedalus Demands
Infinite Possibilities, Part 2: Icarus Abides
Into the Lion's Den, Part 1: Lambs to the Slaughter
Dog with Two Bones
What Was Lost, Part 1: Sacrifice
What Was Lost, Part 2: Resurrection
I Shrink Therefore I Am
Young John: "Yo, hero, read the middle finger!"
Aeryn: [watching Sesame Street] "R, S... S. This girl is slow!"
Rygel: "I think you broke a rib!"
Aeryn: "Shut up."
D'Argo: [attempting to drive the police car] "Machine... Go."
Rygel: "But I love this... and you-you-you won't buy me anymore! I want Kit Kat, and M&Ms, and Pez, and Reeses Pieces!"
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