Sunday, April 10, 2011

THE BEST (AND REST) OF KIMBA: Episode 10, "Two Hearts and Two Minds"

It was clear from their first meeting in "Battle at Dead River" that Kimba and Kitty were fated to be together, and the highly enjoyable "Two Hearts and Two Minds" wastes little time in taking the lions' relationship to the proverbial "next level." Kimba's concern for Kitty's safety leads him to leave his jungle and serve as a "free agent of justice" for the first, but certainly not the last, time. As a "perk" of the trip, we get glimpses into the past lives of Pauley Cracker and Kimba's parents. Not much to dislike here -- except, well...

Disclaimer: The actions of human beings in this episode are not meant to represent the actions or attitudes of ALL human beings. Some human beings are NOT gun-toting maniacs, warmongers, tyrants, and/or firebugs. The Management thanks you for your patience and understanding in this matter.

Remarkably, this won't be the only time that a plot is set in motion by a piece of baggage dropped from an airplane (cf. the later "Diamonds in the Gruff"). The obvious question arising from this opening sequence is, why doesn't Kimba go to "rescue" Kitty right away? Well, he's obviously confused and/or puzzled, and who wouldn't be? Despite Kitty's look of fright in the picture, she is not in any clear danger, and Kimba has never before departed his jungle kingdom for voluntary outside adventures (the shanghai job in "The Wind in the Desert" doesn't count, of course). Ultimately, his unquestioned subconscious attraction to/desire for Kitty, so memorably displayed in his clay-tinted dream, his night-sweats, and the much-discussed "palpitations of the heart," points him in the right direction, though it takes some additional verbal prodding from Dan'l Baboon, Pauley, and Bucky to finally get him to go. This sequence is handled in just the right way, getting its points across with relatively sparse dialogue.

In the depiction of the lantern-jawed Director's Assistant (Gilbert Mack), we get the first hint that humans are not going to come off well in this episode. Getting the bag back by shooting Bucky would seem a rather distasteful act, but this guy seems to relish the prospect. With Kimba in his sights, he appears to get even more excited. And if you think this was an overreaction under the circs, you ain't seen nothin' yet.

The funny/tragic/semi-absurd tale of Pauley and Pauline (Billie Lou Watt) raises a lot of interesting questions. Was the city in which Pauley's hotel was located the same "city near the coast" where Kimba washed ashore and later met Roger Ranger and Mr. Pompus, as described in "Fair Game"? It would seem reasonable to me, especially since Caesar's jungle kingdom appears to be a stone's throw (or grenade's lob) away. Do hotel managers in that part of the world routinely have guns at hand that shoot plastic bags suitable for trapping macro-sized vermin? Do even mild-mannered-looking pet-shop owners eagerly pack heat at a moment's notice? And have you EVER seen as extreme a deus ex machina as the war that breaks out just in time to save Pauley's hide? (That's the fastest-growing "no man's land" I've ever seen, by the way.) It's hard not to feel sorry for Pauley, or not to feel outraged at the dreadful show that the human characters put on here. It's enough to convince one to, as Ralph Kramden said in that letter to his boss, "turn in your membership card in the human race."

One has to admit that Caesar comes off a bit like a bully when he meets the heart-broken Pauley. This is probably the biggest difference between Kimba and his father. Caesar is the pioneer who takes the lead in building a better animal civilization, and, as we all know from stories of the American frontier, pioneers can be a bit rough around the edges. Kimba's sojourn in civilization has "put him more in touch with his softer side," as the pop psychologists say. For all his abruptness, Caesar must have a softer side somewhere; otherwise he wouldn't have fallen for Snowene so quickly. He just has a harder time showing it. (Did an episode of Dr. Phil just break out?)

Pauley's experience in civilization helps to explain some of the more subtle elements of his personality. Living in a city has given the parrot the patina of sophistication, but the extent of his knowledge is limited, no doubt because his master wouldn't let him off that perch. Remember his "France is the capital of..." knowledge-mangling in "Fair Game" and his goofed-up mention of the "heepticopter" in Part One here. Also, as Kimba's "Are you kidding me?" reaction and Bucky's open scoffing at the start of Pauley's tale reveal, Pauley clearly has a tendency to... exaggerate for effect, no doubt partially due to his opinion that he knows more than he really does. This isn't the sarcastic braggadocio of Aladdin's Iago, quite, but it's along the same lines. Happily, it's usually harmless, rebounding against Pauley and no one else. It also can be used for good; witness Pauley's memorable over-the-top tantrum in the third act of "Jungle Thief."

Upon reaching Kitty's jungle, we meet Herr Director from Hell (Ray Owens), who immediately pitches into a hilarious dialogue with the hapless Lantern Jaw over the propriety of using an orangutan in an African shoot. This routine could almost be considered a meta-comment on the series' questionable but defiantly consistent use of animals that, in all honesty, shouldn't appear in a show set in Africa.

Herr Director finally got his chance at an Oscar when
the award for Best High Jump was instituted.

Herr Director's mindless manipulation of nature to suit his own purposes is taken to its natural extreme when he orders the "chungle fi-yah" that serves as the major danger in act three. Judging by Lantern Jaw's reaction, he must be a closet firebug on the order of Carl Barks' Benzene Banzoony. Roger Ranger would have to be in the next ten episodes in order to make up for the damage these fine specimens of humanity have done to our collective reputations in this episode. (Unfortunately, the next ep will be almost as bad in that regard.)

In a sense, Kitty gets the best of both worlds during the climactic action; she gets a chance to pitch into the humans herself before Kimba does and thereby earns permission to play "damsel in distress" after she's captured and caged. Kimba's dramatic vocalization in the helicopter would have had more impact had he not been seen conversing easily with James Brawn in "The Wind in the Desert" (can we just write most of that episode off as "fiction" and be done with it?), and, after all the movie crew have done, warning that he "might get mad" falls a little flat. Here is where some Caesar-like harshness would have been entirely appropriate, especially after we see that last shaky hand raise the pistol from behind the sandbags (in a helicopter?). Instead, the men get to "run away" sight unseen, leaving the rest of the episode to the funny Pauline payoff and the brief, but charming, scene with Kimba and Kitty indirectly expressing their love for each other. A neat, decidedly heartfelt episode.

Up next: Episode 11, "Catch 'em If You Can"... BUT FIRST, a few new "Kimba Konnections" to report, plus an ASTRO BOY BREAK!

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