Official Edgar Rice Burroughs Tribute Site
Since 1996 ~ Over 15,000 Webpages and Webzines in Archive
Episode 11: THE RETURN OF KUKULCAN
Tasi: Themba, there are some forces of nature which cannot be explained.
Tasi: Like you, Themba’s a man of two worlds now.
Tarzan: I left one world behind.
Tasi: So you say.NOTE: the spelling in the above title is the way it appears on screen. There seems to be some confusion regarding the spelling on the sub titles, however. I spell it both ways.
Also note: see below for the idea this might be 1917 or later now!?
Tarzan sleeping and living a cave, somehow, doesn’t feel right. Yet, here he is. Not sure if the novels have that or not. Tarzan dreams about a letter Jane has written to him, which relates how she is closer to his cousin William and William having proposed marriage. But anyway, frustratingly, Tarzan has a dream, this time of him being back in England where Jane (her face annoyingly covered by a veil) is marrying his cousin William. Her face turns into a python or snake of some kind.
Themba chases a girl Tasi (played by the same woman who played Tashi in RETURN OF TARZAN which from what I recall did not have Themba in it? This might be a different girl but the same actress?). Themba seems to be the village of The Wasiri now, instead of his deserted village. Tasi was spelled Tazi in my review of LEOPARD QUEEN. They play hide and seek but Tasi is bitten on the foot by a snake.
Tarzan calls the snake Hista’s bite and he didn’t do this. This thing’s fangs are too long and too curved. The healer (a woman?) agrees that this is not a snake of the jungle. The sub titles say that Themba uses the pronoun “him” to keep trying but the sound clearly says, “her,” both referring to the healer.
Themba names the healer as Kajilli when talking to Tarzan.
Themba wants to take Tasi to Dr. Vandine but Tarzan wants to make a litter (?) to carry her to someone else who can help her.
Two strong men carry Tasi’s makeshift stretcher (litter?) as Themba stays by her side and Tarzan leads. They have to stop but Themba thinks they can’t stay long as Tasi has a lot of pain.
A year ago Tarzan crossed by this area on his way to the Gray River. A man from a race Tarzan never saw before was saved by Tarzan from the claws of Numa. The man was not African or white, yet he knew the jungle like it was his own. A man in a mask comes and welcomes them and looks at Tasi while Tarzan stops the two warriors from attacking the man with words in their language. The man claims the bite was caused by sons of the serpent people, sons of the Kukulkan. Kukulkan was the god of all Mayas but certain Mayas were fanatics.
When Themba doubts about the Mayans still existing after vanishing over 1000 years ago, Tarzan brings up his tribe which vanished. Themba doesn’t know what happened to his tribe (will be ever find out?). Tarzan thinks that living in the west has blurred Themba’s vision. The man knows of a healing waters Cenota at the end of a river like a snake itself but it is said to devour a man. WTH? Tasi wants to try it even if Themba feels doubtful.
Tasi asks Tarzan to treat Themba kindly, he’s like a newborn to the jungle. Tarzan thinks it is sad to see how much Themba has forgotten, this episode underlining the differences between them and their exposure to the West and their reactions to it and how much it changed Themba’s outlook.
After he says he knows the jungle, Themba is snared upsidedown by his ankle in a trap that seems to use a dead snake (?). Tarzan frees him and just after that, warriors attack with spears. These seem to be the sect of evil (?) Mayans (though some look white and some look African and none looks Mayan?). Themba and Tarzan best a few but others have Tasi and one, the leader of the group it seems, had one of his men hold a knife to Tasi’s throat, “Drop your weapons or this one dies before she needs to.”
These “serpent people” have some scales on their face and/or skin? They wish to return to their own land and continues their savage dominion. Tarzan can find the portal but can’t open it. The man he once saved that is with Tarzan now can.
BTW the two shirtless warriors from the Waziri that accompanied Tarzan and Themba are gone. They seem to have died in the first attack by spears by the small group led by the evil Mayan Serpent people (though they look mostly human). Too bad we’re not told what happened, though we do hear what might be spears striking bodies?
There is an extended snake dance that one might find in a peplum movie from the 1960s. From the dance, four women put down a snake and from it rises a woman who dances seductively at Tarzan, who notices but doesn’t react (he’s loyal to the missing Jane!). She also has a snake on her so is she the snake? Is she a snake goddess? A snake god? A woman fooling everyone?
Lara plays it like he’s being mesmerized or hypnotized. So does the actor playing his Mayan friend (whose name I believe we have not heart yet!).
Tarzan throws his knife into a large snake and it turns into a humanoid form, dead.
The male leaders seems to say that this “brother” acted alone but was justified in his attack. Tarzan asks what they will take back to Maya. What the heck is going on? What does this dialog have to do with each statement made, almost as if each statement almost has, but doesn’t, little to do with each other. WTH?
The leader asked Tarzan if the flame of revenge has ever burned in his heart. We know from last episode it did…but now does not. Don’t we?
The attempt was made on Mullok (I guess that’s the name of Tarzan’s friend that he saved). Mullok seems to have vanished while the leader and Tarzan talked.
The snake girl is the daughter of the leader, who wants to follow Mullok back to Maya. They will use Tarzan to track him and leave the girl to die. The daughter talks the father into NOT leaving the girl to die. The leader’s name seems to be Garron. Tarzan takes the daughter hostage to his knife and will take her to assure that his friends will be safe while he is gone.
The daughter has seen into Tarzan’s eyes (she calls him the warrior) and knows he will not harm her as long as her father Garron will keep his word and keeps Themba and Tasi safe.
Tasi tells Themba he has yet to relearn the way of the jungle: that was nothing else they could have done for Tasi. What?
SHE has to tell Themba to trust Tarzan. What?
The daughter, with Tarzan, seems barefoot in long shots. She talks of changing the minds of those different than her people or of her people away from killing. Tarzan is reminded of someone and they talk of Jane and what if she is right.
Tarzan finds the head of the serpent and a very cool door made of a black tree design or a black tree itself leads the way. Suddenly, Tarzan is back there at night with Garron, his men, and Themba.
The men carry Tasi in. Tasi seems to be getting worse, only heard by her moaning (incredibly fake moaning btw). She doesn’t even really look sick or feverish at all.
Inside the caves past the door, strange things happen. Didn’t Tarzan say he can find the portal but not open it? Now, he needed to follow Mullok’s trail TO the portal in order to find it and…he seems to be able to get through it? Did Mullok leave it open for him? For the evil ones to follow?
AND now suddenly, the daughter, who was so friendly to Tarzan and his friends suddenly announces she does NOT believe him and lunges forward with snake fangs to bite Tarzan. We don’t even see IF she bites him or not. He pushes her away and feels his neck. Then, all of them go through the portal.
Okay, hold the fort: is it me just being picky or is this just bad writing? I don’t know.
They end up in…in another jungle. Themba even comments that they haven’t gone anywhere. Tarzan tells him, “We have, Themba. Through time.”
Okay, among the snake worshipping men carrying Tasi AND wearing the snake headpieces did I notice…the two Waziri warriors that accompanied Tasi, Themba and Tarzan at the start of this? WTF? Or am I mistaken? Were they converted? I thought they were killed? They just vanished? Gosh.
In a Mayan pyramid or temple, someone who looks like it might be Mullok (without his head piece) tells his people to secure the city and if the serpent people, who are on their way, win, life as they know it will cease to exist. Mullok goes to meet Garron and his men. They debate the reason Garron is here: to imprison their minds in the way of the snake. Garron defends by saying that is lies sent down by the ancients. THE Ancients from the last episode?
Garron declares no blood will be shed if Mullok’s people will follow Kukulcan but…didn’t Mullok already tell Tarzan that his Mayans DO follow Kukulcan? One of Mullok’s people, hidden, fires an arrow into Garron’s staff. In the meantime, Tarzan tells Themba to be ready to move out and run…with Tasi. Wait a sec, isn’t she still sick and on a stretcher? WTF?
The fighting starts. Themba carries Tasi away but is easily captured by Mullok’s men. Tarzan swings from a tree (how’d he get there?) and fights…Mullok’s men? WHAT?
What is going on?
Mullok’s men stop fighting Tarzan when one of them sees Tarzan’s neck. Mind showing us, you know, the audience? This warrior declares, “It is him. He has returned.” The warriors think Tarzan is Kukulkan returned. Garron seems pleased. Mullok less so.
Mullok and a taller, handsome warrior discuss this. Garron and his daughter discuss it, too. She does not like that Garron is going along with Tarzan being the Kukulkan.
Tarzan is brought food for devotions. Tarzan notes they have little food to waste on him. He orders them to bring Tasi to the healing powers of the Cenote. Themba asks, “What are you doing?” WHY would he protest this?
The two bring her to a smoking pool. There is a red ruby like diamond like thing in the center (reminds me of the Opar rubies). As they do this, Garon (or Garron) continues to indoctrinate the Mayans of this time (?) into the ways of the serpent God as he sees fit. Kukulcan will bring rain, end drought, and bring crops. If they turn their back on him just once, he will deny them forever Garron states. This gets the people to hail Kukulcan.
Themba tells Tarzan that there is no change in Tasi. Tarzan claims that the healing power is only as strong as her will to live. What?
Garon overhears Tarzan and Mullok talking about the situation. Tarzan never claims to be Kukulcan but never denied it either. Tarzan will not let his people be swallowed up by Garon’s ways.
Tarzan arrives early to an invitation by the daughter, who was asked by her father Garon to use Tarzan in whatever way she can. She is reluctant but does it. Tarzan is intrigued by the invitation AND by her, at least as far as Tarzan himself says. Is he lying? Is he losing hope in Jane and that romance?
She wants him to continue living what he calls a lie in order for the once mighty empire to return and start to change toward growth instead of isolation, loneliness and stagnation. She tells him maybe he is right and she should have more faith in the people to choose the right path. She gets him to drink with her and has put something in his drink.
Tasi’s foot is healed and her fever is gone. She tells Themba it is the way of the jungle.
Themba finds Tarzan making a speech about joining the serpent and finding life. If not, they will find death, Tarzan says, throwing the staff and making it turn into a snake. Themba tells Molluk that something has happened to Tarzan when Molluk thinks Tarzan lied to them. Molluk will not let the Mayan be destroyed.
Okay, totally surprising is that Tarzan, alone with the daughter, rips off his face and reveals he is Garon. The daughter now has more doubts about this. She doesn’t like that it is about power. He asks her again if she got rid of Tarzan and she tells him that she did get rid of Tarzan.
Tarzan is on the floor of the jungle, dreaming of Jane getting married to his cousin. The Snake Woman goes to him in the dream and they kiss. He’s also suited and goes to stop the wedding. Does he have gloves on? He turns what he thinks is Jane around and it is the Snake Woman.
The real snake girl goes to him and tells him that the wine was laced with her venom so he must get to the cenote to be healed. He claims there is no time as Garon is harvesting more followers.
Molluk attacks the real Tarzan when Tarzan goes to find Themba and Tasi who are in the throne room about to be “punished.” Themba is captured in trying to attack the fake Tarzan, first thinking this Tarzan can fight the poison but now declaring that this Tarzan is an imposter. The guards obeying the fake are about to toss Themba into a misty, smoking pit of snakes.
Shockingly, they threw Themba in and he starts to sink into them (?) just before Tarzan, the real one, arrives. Tarzan pulls Themba out (after a very long time!) when Garron attacks Tarzan, looking like…Tarzan.
It’s Tarzan vs Tarzan now!
One of them is flipped into the pit and, of course, it is Garon. Tarzan tries to save him and all he had to do was take Tarzan’s hand. Themba, after Garon “dies” (or does he?), says they have to get Tarzan to the cenote. Why? The poison doesn’t seem to be affecting Tarzan at all.
And then after the cenote pool…
Tarzan’s neck has a huge scale “bite” mark now? Maybe it’s worse than it was? Or maybe it grew larger? Maybe I just didn’t notice it?
The daughter says perhaps some day she will see the real Kukulcan. Tarzan asks if she is staying and she says yes. Tarzan, Themba and Tasi leave. Without the two warrior men who must have been slain.
Tarzan writes Jane a letter, “Jane, if my cousin, William, is ready, then maybe that’s who you need to be with. For me, I will feel the loss but I can’t change who I am. And the jungle is where I belong. All my love. Tarzan.”
He puts pen down near a book, the Mentality of Apes. This is a real book (published in 1917):
So where the pilot movie was 1914, the regular episodes must be in 1917 after this book was published. UNLESS, somehow Tarzan had a copy of the book BEFORE it was published. If the first half of the season was 1917, the second half might be 1918! OR, the first half was 1914 and the second 1915 or whatever. Either way, the book as shown looks like a published version, not a manuscript but who knows? For all we know it is an unpublished early draft? And it is 1914 or 1915 still? Or it is later, say 1917 or 1918?
Gosh. This was poor writing all around.
You can see in the synopsis where I found fault with…well, almost every scene, every line.
Joe, as ever, looks fantastic and more vascular than ever, the perfect depiction of Tarzan, visually.
BUT things just seem to happen. One line is stated and is sort of contradicted in the next line. Themba seems put off by his friend Tarzan to the point where they almost seem like enemies, which, this late in the series, is ludicrous. The actress playing Tasi is poor, to be honest but she capable of more so maybe it’s the direction. Things just seem to happen with no regard to consequence and/or we’re not told things. We are told things that seem not to be true. The snake woman doesn’t even seem to have a name! Not that we’re told it.
The basic idea is a great one but this is muddied writing no matter how you look at it or listen to it.
I’d say I think it’s about one faction of snake worshipping Mayans from the present are trying to return to the past to their former Mayan temple but AFTER the great empire time (?) in order to mesmerize them into worshipping in a greater way a god that they are already worshipping in peaceful ways in order to make them turn into tyrannical war driven controllers? Maybe? Molluk was saved by Tarzan so he returns the favor. Molluk came from the past. Tarzan knew where the portal was and could not open it. Until, erhm, the opposite happens.
The snake woman seems to NOT be human (but are the other more nasty snake Mayans humans or snake people in the literal sense? We may never know) and is seemingly sort of good until…uhm…she’s not a lot and then she is because she seems to love Tarzan, maybe? Two of the Wasiri warriors with Themba, Tasi and Tarzan seem to have been killed by the more nasty Mayans who are Garron’s men (who are Mayans).
Then we get the cliché of Garon posing as Tarzan and not accepting his hand in order to be saved.
Gosh, if this show were to compete with the likes of THE LEGENDARY JOURNEYS OF HERCULES and XENA or even SINBAD (which had two seasons) and ROBIN HOOD (which had FOUR!!!), it really needed to be better, have more cohesion, better stories, better ideas, better direction, and more depth in the characters. Unfortunately it doesn’t look like it ever gets better than this. This episode could have been good, even great but as it stands, it’s a total mess. I’m not sure it makes much sense, is certainly not dramatically presented, and feels tired and wishy washy.
Not a great episode and I wanted to like it so much with such a great premise. I seem to be writing that a lot about this show’s episodes.
The Jane stuff makes it even worse. With no Jane present Tarzan seems to give up on their “dream” and relationship based on letters from her (if those are even real or just his dreams?) and writes to her in the letter above, where he tells her it is okay to marry his cousin William. What? Did it play out that way in the novels?
Here’s what I could find on Wikipedia:
As an 18-year-old, Tarzan meets a young American woman named Jane Porter. She, her father, and others of their party are marooned on the same coastal jungle area where Tarzan's human parents were 20 years earlier. When Jane returns to the United States, Tarzan leaves the jungle in search of her, his one true love. In The Return of Tarzan, Tarzan and Jane marry. In later books, he lives with her for a time in England. They have one son, Jack, who takes the ape name Korak (the Killer). Tarzan is contemptuous of what he sees as the hypocrisy of civilization, so Jane and he return to Africa, making their home on an extensive estate in British East Africa that becomes a base for Tarzan's later adventures.
As revealed in Tarzan's Quest, Tarzan, Jane, Tarzan's monkey friend Nkima, and their allies gained some of the Kavuru's pills that grant immortality to their consumer.
So…Jane and Tarzan do marry? That makes things even worse in this episode. Surely, the Jane/Tarzan thing requires at least a full episode to do it justice and only that plot in one episode. Here, it feels like just an excuse to have other women woo Tarzan and kiss him. In HERCULES, they made Kevin Sorbo’s Herc lose his family and that includes his wife. Hera does them in but in some tellings of that tale, Herc killed his own children I believe and maybe even his own wife!!!
But even the dream sequence is messed up: we don’t really see Jane’s face or the cousin William or anything that might give us some resonance with the situation. It was just sort of there and I have the feeling, that like Themba’s missing people, this is not going to be followed up on.
And despite there being a lot of animals in footage, probably better footage than both the Ely show and the Wolf show, this still doesn’t feel like TARZAN despite a great Tarzan actor (Joe Lara) who looks like Tarzan and is a good actor. I guess Cheetah, Boy or any boy like Jai or Tommy, and Numa and Tantor and Jane sort of make it feel more like Tarzan, at least for me. The jungle, though actually South Africa, also feels less like Tarzan for me, too, as it looks almost nothing like the previous movies and TV shows!
Visit our thousands of other sites at:
BILL and SUE-ON HILLMAN ECLECTIC STUDIO
ERB Text, ERB Images and Tarzan® are ©Edgar Rice Burroughs, Inc.- All Rights Reserved.
All Original Work ©1996-2023 by Bill Hillman and/or Contributing Authors/Owners
No part of this web site may be reproduced without permission from the respective owners.