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Episode 12: TARZAN AND THE WHITE PEBBLE
We enter 1997 and thus presumably a new year in the fictional world too: so, 1915 (the first episode stated it was 1914) OR 1918 (ep11 shows a book that looks officially published and wasn’t published until 1917 at the earliest). So, it is possible that the first two episodes, THE RETURN OF TARZAN parts one and two, shown as one TV movie (in the summer of 96) took place in the fictional 1914 and then some three years or so passed until the third episode? OR, the last episode THE RETURN OF KUKULCAN took place in 1917 while everything before that took place in earlier years?
The second part of the credits have changed slightly with new clips from the past episodes added to the old mix and a few have vanished from the credits. The narration in the first half remains the same. These credits seem to move faster and are superior IMO.
They still have that embarrassing RAAAAAAA from Tarzan instead of the Tarzan yell, which hardly appears ever in this series.
Tarzan, seemingly very ape like, is using a stick to dig out winged insects from a mud nest and EATING THEM while an African tribesman, Seer Vusi, blind, walks on a log over water and falls in. Tarzan dives off a waterfall and saves him. Tarzan feels like the old man’s heart beats like the Wagambe drum on harvest day. The waters of the Majitse are cold as ice. Tarzan has seen turtles too scared to go for a swim. The old man considers Tarzan an insult and calls him Pink Flesh.
In these scenes Tarzan seems to be acting…odd, conceited or sort of juvenile?
The man and Tarzan, who pursues the old man, exchange insults some more. The old man knows Tarzan hides his past in an old wooden box. The old man tells Tarzan to explain to himself what he doesn’t know about his own past or something. Tarzan says, more to himself, “I should have let you drown.”
The old man continues to insult Tarzan, telling him his life has seen better men with more courage and bravery and who do not pretend to be what they are not.
He knows Tarzan’s name and claims when the winds blow in the wrong direction, the scent tell him of Tarzan’s adventures. Tarzan calls him a Seer and the Seer laughs. They seem to challenge each other. The Seer wants Tarzan to go climb up a hill and retrieve a white pebble for him.
“Oh, and one other thing.”
“Nice boots.” The Seer laughs.
Themba (the subtitles are now spelling his name as Timba but to be fair, Tasi’s pronunciation of his name sounds more like Timba than Themba) is practicing his speech for his first teaching about Latin to some tribe (her tribe?). She feels they should be teaching him about his own heritage.
The Seer holds up a large thorny bramble and throws it. Tarzan steps on one or that one? The Seer laughs. He’s annoying. I don’t understand Tarzan’s attitude here. WHY is he so insecure from what this Seer goads him into believing? And doing what this old man wants?
This happens again that Tarzan steps on one. He seems to be in a large area of thorns that he didn’t notice. The old man goes into his hut.
Tarzan roars as he steps purposefully on thorns and runs over them.
Themba or Timba arrives at the group of natives, some of them --- most of them, children. The chief Mulata asked him to come to them to teach a little Latin. Themba puts on glasses. We haven’t seen him wear glasses since his first episode (3-Leopard Queen). Themba didn’t start to wear his loin cloth over his shorts until ep7 or so, I think. Before that, he had variations of clothing that seemed to get more “jungle” as time went on.
The Seer talks nonsense about there being no magic here and the beetle rolling up a hill or something is stupid. He holds up a Tarzan voodoo doll and a gorilla doll. Suddenly, there are three gorillas near Tarzan. One attacks him savagely and bloodies him, throws him, and then is choked by him. Tarzan sees himself choking himself.
Tarzan seems to have killed the gorilla and is sad he has. He expresses himself in a gorilla sadness and OHHHs and AHHHs. What the F is going on?
Does any of this make sense with what we’ve seen so far?
Tarzan then sees three warriors on the top of the hill and they hold spears. These three look like paler versions of African men? They will not speak to him other than telling him he has not climbed the hill yet. He asked them if they work for the Seer. Tarzan, as they turn their backs on him and leave, yells, “I am a warrior!” What?
The Seer stirs a pot and this makes Tarzan get stirred in a mind numbing camera move. “Wandering in circles means you never find the true path.”
Is the show trying to do KUNG FU? The title and plot would suggest so with the “snatching the pebble” routine done in KUNG FU at least once and in most of the opening credits, probably all of the opening credits for that show.
More gibberish from the Seer who wants Tarzan to ask questions now but he asks the questions and most of them are gibberish again. He says it is time for Tarzan to climb the mountain that is himself. Tarzan climbs and encounters an African man in white paint who tells him that the blind man is amongst them all. “Find him in yourself.”
Tarzan feels stuck in the climb, “Like a rock rabbit.”
The hill has become a mountain.
Themba talks about love, “He loves, they love, the language of Julius Caesar…” what? Tasi looks unconvinced. Sebo, one of the boys, asks if Themba really is a friend of Tarzan. Sebo is the boy from THE SCARLET DIAMOND episode so he SHOULD already know the answer to this.
If the show is going to use characters from the past, maybe they should use them logically so that the past episodes inform the present but that doesn’t seem to be the case here. The most successful shows set up their own universes with consistent logic and events and characters that follow through from episode to episode. This doesn’t seem to be doing that and as we’re at episode 12, might not. At least there is an attempt but it’s a weak one thus far. No one that returns in an episode seems to have a consistent arc or events happening (La, Tasi, Sebo) or any follow through.
What’s even worse is that Tarzan’s character, which seemed consistent at least, is now, NOT. Here, he’s an insecure man, almost a young uneducated Tarzan, which makes no sense as we’ve already been told he’s educated and even stayed in the civilized world for a time before returning. He’s hiding himself. Quite a few episodes seem centered on teaching Tarzan something as if he’s incomplete and needs lessons from mystics and healers and weird magical beings who mean him only good? What? IMO this dilutes the character and finds him lacking.
The boys start acting like warriors but Themba yells at them, asking them to sit down. Was this filmed earlier in the season and left until now to air in this spot, the 12th episode. No one seems to be acting the way they should or did in previous episodes, as if those never happened.
Next, the old man makes fire blasts shoot up at Tarzan and also it looks like blasts of cold water from the ground are also shooting up at him. We hear a shorter version of the theme song as Tarzan avoids these, just barely, and then tumbles off the hill/mountain.
Sebo keeps asking Themba questions about Tarzan, such as “can he fly like an eagle” and “can he fight the crocodile, too?” This annoys Themba who is trying to teach the language of the new world.
Themba gives in to it and tells stories of Tarzan. A croc with only one eye ate the cow bull of Chief Zimbase. Themba’s presentation of this story scares the kids, especially Sebo.
The warriors are with Tarzan and the one talks to him, giving him cryptic messages and lessons, telling him he travels two roads and must pick one? Tarzan claims it is not his fault he traveled to another land, not his fault his mother and father are dead, not his fault he grew up raised by a she ape, and more.
The dialog here is weird. The warrior is told to go tell the Seer that he, Tarzan, does not choose his own path. The warrior points to a rock tied up on another hill (is this a bridge??)? He says there already is a difference? Made by chasing Tarzan with fire?
Tarzan goes to what looks like leftovers of a bridge and swings across it but has trouble getting across it. The Seer breaks his voodoo rope and the real rope breaks and Tarzan falls.
These scenes are interspersed with Themba’s tale of Tarzan vs the One Eye croc. Is this supposed to have importance? Does having three warriors mean something? It doesn’t really seem so. I mean I don’t need everything spelled out but I do wish there was some meaning here, something to do directly with Tarzan not being a victim as he seems to be here.
The battle where Tarzan killed One Eye took place in the cold water of the Majitse.
Tarzan falls near a dead elephant and white trees. A woman is humming. Or at least it sounds like a woman. The Seer laughs like Grandpa Munster. He’s scary.
Themba tells the children that Tarzan speaks Latin and that he will bring Tarzan here. He also asks them to try to learn it if Tarzan tells them to.
Tarzan wakes up in what looks like the set or some of it from LOST IN SPACE’s THE ANTI MATTER MAN. A woman is calling for Jack to wake up because it is time for dinner.
NOTE: as harkening back to GREYSTOKE, the movie, which took place “in the late 19th century” probably when Tarzan was a child. The Chris Lambert Tarzan was NO action hero but a man filled with angst as this Tarzan seems to be a lot of the time. AND Jack is the name used in the film for Tarzan’s father, too. My suspicions that this TV show is more based on GREYSTOKE than any other Tarzan or possibly trying to follow the novels more directly than any TV show or movie before it might be correct.
If so, I don’t know if that’s a good thing or not. I do know that GREYSTOKE is heralded as a great movie with great performances, cinematography and none of the silly elements of any previous Tarzan movie or TV show and yet…I found it completely boring and tedious.
Maybe if I saw it today as a more informed Tarzan fan and more of an adult, I’d appreciate it more but the boredom felt during that movie is so pronounced I feel it even today whenever the movie name comes up on the net or in conversation, if it ever really does as it’s mostly forgotten by non-fans.
Maybe the TV show here is trying to go for more of that but if so, they don’t really succeed …or haven’t yet in making this something equal to that movie or to something resembling entertainment.
In the Themba scene, there is something that sounds like a cat meowing.
Or a bird?
Tarzan goes to a tent where he sees carriers and one of them a chef, all of African nationality and his father who offers him brandy, signaling he sees Tarzan as an adult. They all seem to know him. Tarzan is wearing more civilized clothes fit for a jungle explorer.
Themba is looking for Tarzan. For some reason in this episode and maybe the last one, too, everyone has stopped pronouncing the hard “R” letter when calling for Tarzan so that it sounds like Taa-Zan.
Themba finds his bow and arrow.
Alice (not named as such), Tarzan’s mother, asks if he is all right. Jack’s been sleeping for hours and missed his father arguing with Chief Tose. Tose wants a fortune for the land of the mission.
Tarzan (Jack) revolts against this, knowing it is not real, “The jungle. The jungle is my home. You left me.”
The mother and father sound British but Tarzan does not.
The three carriers or chefs or waiters seem to be the three warriors in clothes and out of the white or mud coloring.
Tarzan always wondered what it would be like to be normal.
“You are this part of me that is dark and empty and I’ve never known how to fill it.”
Tarzan says he does not know how to live something he never…lived. The father and mother assert that they will never leave him and they are a family of three. Tarzan says they never fed him as a child. The mother says Jack nestled with her as a child. Out there, Tarzan/Jack says is where he lives.
What is going on? I get what they’re driving at here but it really doesn’t work well.
He knows what he must do now, and feels whole. He asks them to never leave him and the mother asks why should they ever. He says because there is a hill to climb. In the anti matter world or whatever that black area of white trees is a gorilla pounds Tarzan’s heart. Tarzan is on his back after the fall, out cold. Suddenly as the gorilla pounds they’re back on the plains of Africa. Tarzan wakes up and the gorilla points to the hill.
Themba, called Soft Foot by the Seer, finds the hut and knows this blind man as the Seer. Those who came before him know of his kind. He wants to know what he’s done with Tarzan. He spouts more gibberish to Themba about those who walk between the Sun and the dusk. Themba does neither.
At the top of the hill, Tarzan finds an ancient version of himself. Holding the white pebble. Sigh.
Tarzan asks if Bolgani is still alive. Nanu. Akuana. He asks if his world has changed. It might help if we knew who or what Nanu and Akuana were.
Nanu is the WORLD’S GREATEST ATHLETE.
This show is crazy!
Old Tarzan tells him he thinks the three are still alive because he managed to take them to the Malitse when the machines came to destroy the forest. Is this the river Tarzan mentioned earlier that the Seer fell in? It’s pronounced different and spelled differently. Old Tarzan shows him what the land will become. Factories, metal, machines, cars, roads. Many will live because of Tarzan who is a warrior and he must understand that. Sigh.
He sits here, old and wise and often sad. He gives Tarzan the pebble.
Tarzan touches himself. He cries. He asks if the Seer makes him whole. Old Tarzan says, “I live, don’t I?”
The Seer is outside with Themba who refuses water. The Seer drops the water on the ground and creates a small water hole (?) under Tarzan who falls down what looks like a rock slide at an amusement park into the water. As he laughs, the Seer is in the hut. What? Tarzan loses the pebble and the Seer knows it.
Tarzan finds it in the water and rises to the surface, “RAAAAAA!” Gosh. A different shot of this might appear in the credits for the first 11 episodes? This makes me think this episode was shot earlier than aired.
Themba declares Tarzan won when he sees Tarzan back. He could have warned Tarzan. He knows about the Seer, they can manipulate, mentally substitute the real for the unreal, demons with angels, their world is make believe, they cast spells. Tarzan asks him how school was and he explains the kids just wanted to know about him. Tarzan indicates he’s been schooled, too. Do we really want to see that in a Tarzan TV show?
The Seer’s whole demeanor has changed. He even seems to have eyes that don’t look blind. He laughs but now doesn’t seem grotesque or nasty. He is still blind. He gives Tarzan his bow and arrows; Tarzan gives him the pebble. They thank each other for their lives. The sun seems to be starting to go down.
“Pink Flesh. Next time, bring some lunch.”
Old Tarzan narrates: “A seer once pointed out my road, showed me that I was whole, a warrior. But he never talked about my future. Because that was my cause, my journey.”
We see the Seer crush the white pebble.
“It’s better that you understand and listen to that than anything else.”
The gorilla was Bolgani.
This was either the best thing ever tried on the character or the worst. I still don’t know which. I DO know that this is NOT what I want from a Tarzan TV show. I want action and adventure and this certainly was not it. It was, frankly, boring if not predictable.
The Seer is an obnoxious, unlikable character, neither villain nor ally but someone, another one who will teach Tarzan about himself.
Again, this dilutes the character to being a dysfunctional mess and I’m not sure Lara is really up to it to be honest, though he gives it his all. It’s also a sad, depressing affair with civilization intruding on the jungle, Tarzan getting old. Despite that we do not find out if Tarzan ever gets Jane back or goes back to Jane or anything about Themba. Instead Tarzan asks about three animals, only one of them we know anything about. I mean what are those other two he asks about? Maybe someone who read the novels might know.
In any case, for me, IMO, this is NOT how to do a Tarzan TV show. We’ve episode after episode of mystical things, visually stunning set pieces and photography and cinematography as well as interesting stock footage or live action newly filmed footage of animals, and some great costumes and sets but…something feels VERY wrong. Maybe it’s because it is unlike any Tarzan movie TV show other than the boring GREYSTOKE.
Again, I get that they’re trying to give Tarzan an arc to go on, a sort of vision quest, a sort of finding himself and settling into the character but this is all wrong. It feels all wrong for Tarzan as it would and does for DOCTOR WHO, BATMAN, JAMES BOND, CONAN, and many, many others. I get trying to do it once or twice but this entire series seems set to do that and as action heroes, it doesn’t work for any of them. It sure does not work here. The entire episode was longish and boring. I couldn’t wait for it to end.
Maybe someone else has a different POV and I sure would love to read it and find out what, if any merit, this has to others. I just saw it as another episode that was somewhat torturous to sit through.
I don’t even know what the point of the Themba scenes were and he might not have even been in it. I guess he’s comic relief again? If so, he’s not funny. Tasi’s in it briefly, too, during the “school” scenes.
I hope this show gets better but I expect it will be more of the same. Tarzan confronting himself and his insecurities, which is something I don’t expect nor want from a Tarzan TV show.
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