Ashley Warren October 18, 2011
Night in the jungle. While on watch, Wash and Dunham spot a heat signature in the jungle, which is unfortunate because dinosaurs are cold-blooded, so that means: human. The other unfortunate thing about this scenario is that both of these characters have names that make me wish I was watching other shows. What’s in the jungle? A little girl with crazy wild hair.
Her name is Leah Marcos (Morgana Davies), and she’s run away from the Sixer camp. Elisabeth manages to coax her out from under a table in the infirmary and everybody makes friends. We learn that she’s run away because both of her parents are dead (mother died of pleural sarcoma, father was killed by a slasher), and that’s she’s tired of being ignored and fed “scraps” by the Sixers. She tells the Shannons—and Taylor, who’s joined the conversation by now—that she was trying to find the portal back to 2149 so she could go and live with her grandmother in New Texas. When they tell her the portal only goes one way, she is visibly upset, so Taylor works his beard magic on her. “You’re the bad man,” she says, and he responds by telling her a story. He tells her that he remembers her and her family when they first came to Terra Nova, how she was only a tiny peanut, and that once upon a time he used to know the name of “every man, woman, and peanut” on Terra Nova. They look into each other’s eyes and come to an understanding. Maybe it’s just that Stephen Lang would have chemistry with an actual peanut if you put him on screen with one, but all of Taylor’s scenes with Leah feel this way, like the two of them are kindred spirits. After they’re done bonding, Taylor foists her off on the Shannons. And she’s just so adorable and crazy looking that the Terra Novans—including Taylor, with his soft spot for feral children—don’t even bother to question her story. This is mistake #1.
Mistake #2 is sending Wash and Dunham out to find Leah’s missing bag.
At the Shannon home, Jim kicks Degrassi out of his room so Leah can have it and make caves out of blankets. In the morning, they feed her breakfast, put her in a nice yellow dress, and try to run a brush through that crazy hair. But their nice morning is interrupted when the Sixers storm the gates with Dunham and Wash as their hostages, and Mira demands that Leah be returned to them. (I would like to take a moment to point out how much of a badass Wash is. She takes out like five or six men before she’s captured, and when she’s finally captured, it’s by Mira, another woman. If I was keeping score, that would earn the show at least a couple points.) Taylor refuses to just hand her over. He tells Mira to give him his people back, that Leah is not a prisoner, and that she’s free to choose whether she stays or goes. It’s at this point in the episode that we realize Leah is a plant. I don’t think the show wants us to realize it quite yet, but honestly? There is no way someone as smart and badass as Mira is going to let a little girl defect from the Sixers, not if she doesn’t want to give away her tactical advantage and whatever other secrets Leah might know. She just gives in when Leah decides to stay, and it is way too easy. Thus: Leah is a spy. Mistake #3? Believing the incredibly elaborate charade that just happened right there in front of their eyes.
With all that Sixer crap settled and supposedly out of the way, it’s time for Leah to assimilate. Leah and Taylor bond some more (best part of this exchange is when Jim tells Leah to “Whack him”), and other members of the community introduce themselves to show their goodwill. This includes the legless guy making jokes about how he’s misplaced his legs, and if Leah sees them walking around without him, would she let him know? She laughs. (This is another clue that Leah is a spy, because that is one of those jokes that isn’t actually a joke but is actually terrifying. Dude’s legs are walking around without him? Come on. That’s some Walking Dead level stuff right there. Who tells a kid that?) Leah’s hair also gets less and less crazy as the episode goes along, and it suddenly occurs to me while all of this is happening that she is probably the world’s first orphan.
The B-plot of “The Runaway” focuses on Maddy, who starts an apprenticeship with her mother in the infirmary. At first, she’s excited for the chance to follow in her mother’s footsteps, but it quickly becomes apparent that her delicate nerd stomach can’t handle all of the gross crap that goes on in a doctor’s office. A guy’s mutilated sausage arm makes her queasy, and later, a disgusting pustule on another guy’s back causes her to run out of the room. Degrassi doesn’t help matters later at home: “Did the overachiever just kind of sort of achieve?” And I’ve got to give him some credit here, because Landon Liboiron‘s delivery of that line is kind of great: just the right amount of annoying brother, not too much soap. (Jim’s response is great, too: “Josh?” “Yeah.” “Stop talking.”) Maddy’s story also makes it pretty clear that FOX is airing these episodes out of order. Last week Maddy and Lt. Hottie went on their first date, but this week he’s asking her if he can officially court her, and she is surprised about it. Confusing and annoying, guys. Not cool. (Another clue is that Mira doesn’t seem to know who Jim is, even though last week she went out of her way to point out how Degrassi working at the bar is going to help her spy on him. On a related note, this week’s episode and their little meet and greet in the Sixers’ tree house does clear up the confusion I had about why she would even want to spy on him in the first place.) Speaking of “courting,” what’s up with Reynolds? Why is he like that? Whatever happened to good old-fashioned hooking up?
Stuff with Leah starts to go pear-shaped. She ditches her first day of school to break in to the McMillen’s house and dig up a box hidden in the floor. When the house turns out to have been previously occupied by Mira, Jim and Taylor finally catch on that their little peanut is up to no good. They manage to catch her just before she reaches the perimeter and haul her back to Camp Dinosaur HQ for questioning. The kid is miserable. She claims she has no idea what the strange black wavy box is, or why Mira wanted it. She tells them that Mira has her brother Sam, and that if she didn’t do what Mira wanted, Mira would hurt him. Taylor and Jim argue about whether or not to believe her, but Taylor says that without proof, he’s not risking his men or his resources to attack the Sixers’ camp and find out. The little man inside of Jim who always wants to be a hero is screaming in pain, WE HAVE TO SAVE THE BOY! But Jim smothers him with a mind pillow and heads home sans Leah. Of course, as soon as they find a crayon-written note from Leah with a sadface on it, he’s out the door. “I’M SORRY. I HAD TO :(” This is apparently proof that Mira is a child murderer.
You gotta love the logic here, because this is the moment where the episode kind of loses all the nice momentum it’s built up. Instead of simply having Jim make the logical assumption that the note indicates Leah is telling the truth, that she believes Mira will hurt Sam, the show instead has him make the completely illogical and rather stupid assumption that because Leah believes Mira will hurt Sam, she is actually going to hurt Sam. As a result of this idiotic assumption, Jim rushes off into the jungle and gets himself captured by Sixers. A better route to go with this would have been for him to rush after a panicked Leah, who would have been intent on saving her brother. The effect of this would have been the same—Jim captured by the Sixers—but it would have been much less stupid. We still would have gotten to see Jim dangle from a tree and almost get eaten by a dinosaur. We still would have gotten to see him beaten up and thrown around like a rag doll. And we still would have gotten that meeting between him and Mira, which supposedly casts real doubts on his belief in Terra Nova, even though Mira literally tells him nothing. She’s like, you don’t seriously believe all the bullcrap about “starting over” and “second chances,” do you? And he’s like, SO WHAT IF I DO? And then this happens:
JIM: Then what’s Terra Nova about?
MIRA: You’ll see.
See, that can be read two ways. Terra Nova the colony, and Terra Nova the show. They’re TEASING us with META. You think you know, they’re telling us, BUT YOU DON’T ACTUALLY KNOW. Anyway, Mira finishes up her talk by telling Jim that Taylor pissed off some very powerful people back in 2149, and implies that they are basically controlling her actions by threatening never to let her see her daughter, Sienna, again. This is both lame and kind of cool. Lame, because I liked to think of Mira as a strong lady person who is acting under her own free will, and who genuinely believes that Taylor is up to no good. Cool, because this moment does bring the episode together in terms of parallels. The relationship between Mira and the mysterious “they” who are manipulating her is obviously meant to be analogous to the relationship between Leah and Mira herself. Mira is manipulated by powerful people out of her reach, and Leah is manipulated by Mira, a person who is much older and who has much more power than Leah herself. This strips Leah of any guilt we might have been attributing to her, but the question is, are we meant to feel similarly about Mira?
“The Runaway” ends with Leah and Sam reunited, with the promise of adoption by a lonely widow in Terra Nova. Leah hugs Jim, and everything is love and puppies. But it’s important that we remember: Jim doesn’t tell Taylor what Mira said about him. This means that Jim is starting to doubt Taylor? According to Mira, I guess we’ll have to wait and see.
Categories: TVTags: Alana mansour, Allison miller, Barbara marshall, Brannon braga, Christine adams, Dean geyer, Fox', Jason o'mara, Jon cassar, Landon liboiron, Morgana davies, Naomi scott, René echevarria, Rod hallett, Shelley conn, Simone kessell, Stephen Lang, Terra nova, The runaway