The God of ’90s Nostalgia answered my prayers: this is a decent episode of ANIMORPHS.
We open on Rachel reading a magazine in bed while spooky camera angles stalk the exterior of her window. It’s the episode where Rachel gets sexually assaulted already? I figured that would be the season finale.
Oh, shit, it’s Tobias!
Rachel is mad shocked that Tobias wasn’t captured and sent to Yeerk breeding camp or whatever aliens do with angsty teen boys in leather jackets. Tobias tells Rachel that during the Yeerk pool assault, he stayed in morph for more than two hours, and that he’s now permanently trapped in the body of a bird. Rachel says, “No!” Tobias responds with birdface.
Rachel is in denial but Tobias is all, really, I’m stuck, there’s no turning back, no backing down, nowhere to hide, THEME SONG TIME Y’ALL. HOLD BACK THE DAAAAAAAAAAARKNESS.
At school, Rachel is wearing the same outfit she wore last week. She voice-overs that Tobias fucked up and is now stuck as a hawk. I already know that, Rachel. Marco and Jake show up at her locker, Marco yelling about how shitty it is that Tobias is now a bird. They decide to not yell about aliens in the hallway and reconvene at the barn later that night.
Rachel’s friend from last week, Melissa, shows up looking SAD. Rachel starts grilling her about the creepy alien club meetings she’s been attending. Hey, it turns out that Melissa’s dad is alien-infested Principal Chapman. That sounds like a premise to me!
In the barn, Rachel really wants to break into the Chapman house and “do something.” Jake tells her to simmer down. Rachel wants to morph into Chapman’s cat and infiltrate their house to save Melissa from being infested by her dad/looking too sad to shop.
At the Chapman house, Principal Chapman is having an awkward dinner with his daughter. Mrs. Chapman is out of town because the show didn’t want to pay another actress.
Rachel creeps around outside. Why is she breaking into their house at dinnertime? Jake was right, Rachel, this is a shitty plan.
After almost being spotted, she either comes back later or goes around to the other side of the house (it’s hard to tell with this editing) so she can lure the cat outside with food and morph into it.Jake shows up too late to stop her from morphing into the cat and heading inside.
At the dinner table (so I guess that settles that), Chapman sees Cat-Rachel and is all, “FUCK YOUR CAT MELISSA.” Man, I love that the Yeerk in Chapman’s head completely detests all animals with such fervor. Rachel cats her way down to the basement, where she goes human again and starts rummaging through Chapman’s tools (?). He’s about to go ruin her plan when neglected child Melissa desperately pleads for him to help her with her homework and tell her he loves her. Chapman is undeterred, but luckily he keeps stopping to do random tasks such as checking himself out in the mirror.
As Chapman gets closer to the basement, Jake checks his watch and says, “C’mon, Rachel, let’s go.” What timetable is Jake operating under?
Then the real cat gets back into the house, so Jake is really accomplishing a whole lot this week.
Chapman gets to the basement and the show does that thing again where someone is about to be caught but then the camera turns around and they’ve morphed an animal already. Chapman sees the cat and yells, “Cat!”, which cracked me up.
Then Chapman goes into his secret room behind the walls and doesn’t notice that Cat-Rachel follows him in. Your enemies are literally defined by their ability to transform into animals. You’ve seen them be cats before. You deserve whatever you get, Chapman.
Anyway, Chapman calls up Visser Three on the shitty hologram phone. He tells the Visser that Melissa is getting suspicious and that humans are really hard to understand, man. Visser Three tells Chapman to stop crying already. He says that the homing device plan as “a fiasco,” which is a great description of last week’s episode, and that his Top Yeerk Scientists haven’t managed to unlock Elfangor’s disk.
Rachel spends the scene looking cute as shit, look at that cat!
In a much-more-bored tone, Chapman says, “Andalite. But which one.” Visser Three is like, “You’re kidding, right? This is why I choked you out in Episode 2. Just bring me both cats.” The cat playing Rachel does a pretty poor job of conveying her emotions because it is a cat.
Due to how much of a fuck-up Chapman clearly is, Visser Three demands he brings Melissa along, too, so they can just put a slug in her ear already. Chapman takes off in his car, and Jake runs after it for a while before remembering that he can turn into a dog. If getting stuck in pipes is Jake’s biggest weakness, chasing cars is his biggest strength.
Chapman shows up at a swanky gated house and drives on it, Jake getting stuck outside. Because he has the power to morph into much smaller animals and animals capable of flight, Jake wastes his time digging a hole under the fence.
Chapman meets up with Visser Three and some goons and plops his cat carrier down because this is serious business. Visser Three looks worse than ever before. Rachel says, “Meow.”
Visser Three morphs into a hideous bald man named Victor Trent because there’s no way they could’ve gotten that Visser costume to pick up and hold a cat.
Jake, human again, sneaks toward the scene and says, “Hold on, cousin,” which couldn’t be a more awkward line (I’m sure the show will prove me wrong soon). Vissser Trent decides he will leave the cats locked in the carrier until the two-hour morphing limit expires and Rachel is trapped forever. He turns to Chapman, pissed that he didn’t bring Melissa. But that argument is cut short when Jake the Dog tackles the alien overlord to the ground. So why the fuck did he turn human a second ago?
Jake attempts to free Rachel from the cat carrier in the ensuing chaos of the Visser falling down, but he fails because he’s a dog. The flashlight goon squad grab him and tie him to a post. Visser Trent is just like “lol” and goes back to bitching about Chapman’s daughter.
So, it turns out Chapman became a voluntary Yeerk host on the condition that his daughter be left alone. Visser Trent rages about how the Yeerks do not negotiate with humans, and I’m left wondering the circumstances of this deal. Clearly more Yeerks than the one in Chapman’s head had to be involved, because it’s not like that particular Yeerk brain slug could just crawl over to Chapman’s house and strike up a deal with him. And I know there are voluntary controllers, but why would the Yeerks agree to such a deal? If Chapman was in the position of knowing about the Yeerks and their intentions, it was likely a scenario where they could’ve just forced him to become a controller—and even if they did strike this deal, once he was infested, he’d have literally no way of ever fighting back if they did infest his daughter. I don’t know, man. This doesn’t check out.
Visser Trent tries to stick his finger up Chapman’s nose, and that’s the last straw.
Chapman starts beating the shit out of the Visser and screaming, “Leave my daughter alone!”. So regardless of how it occurred, it turns out Chapman is a pretty cool guy and loves his daughter enough to temporarily break free of his Yeerk’s control.
While the Visser concerns himself with helping Chapman’s Yeerk reassert control, Jake gnaws himself free of the rope and lets Rachel out. The two run off into the woods, Yeerk goons armed with laser-flashlights (I honestly can’t tell when their flashlights are guns and when they’re just flashlights). They’re almost caught but Tobias shows up to peck some Yeerk dude’s eyeballs out.
Chapman gives Visser Trent some line about how infesting Melissa would only anger his host more, and the Visser is like, “Fine, whatever, I don’t even care, she’s a fourteen year-old girl and not at all helpful to our war cause. I just can’t stand your shit anymore. Go home and yell at your cat.”
A bit later, Rachel and Jake walk down the street with Tobias on Jake’s arm. You can tell Shawn Ashmore is real psyched to be buddies with this bird.
Rachel apologizes for doing exactly what Jake said not to do and then almost getting both of them killed, but he is like whatever, I’ve got a bird.
Jake peaces out so Rachel and Tobias can have a heart-to-heart. Tobias says that being a bird is pretty chill because he gets to skip school. Rachel brings up the picture her sister took of the two of them, which is accompanied by a terrifying piss-yellow-toned epileptic flashback.
Tobias doesn’t want to see it, but Rachel makes him look at it. Was she just carrying this photo around all day in case she saw Tobias again and she needed to make a speech?
Anyway, she tells him, “The guy in the photo is still you, and we’re gonna get him back.” She tells him to never forget that his human self still exists, and Tobias says, “Maybe I want to forget.”
Then he flies away without saying goodnight. Good to know he’s still a dick.
At school, Rachel leaves a note for Melissa that says, “Your father loves you more than you can know,” signed “A Friend.” Melissa decides not to kill herself for now and the two make plans to go shopping or talk about boy butts or whatever teenage girls do. Rachel’s textbook is titled “MATHPOWER.”
This episode was fine, and next to the last two atrocious entries, it looked even better. They covered the entire plot of Book 2: The Visitor, and considering what they had to work with, they did so pretty pragmatically. Despite some minor bits of confusion (why did Jake morph from dog to human to dog again in the span of thirty seconds? Why did Visser Three become Visser Trent for no stated reason other than to make filming easier), they wrote a solid story that made sense this week, and I’m thankful for that.
The biggest fault I can find is that even though this is a Rachel episode, we learn way more about the Chapmans than we do about her. Because we don’t have access to her internal thoughts, Rachel has no dialogue at all when she’s lurking in the Chapman house as a cat or when she’s brought to Visser Three (until Jake rescues her), and that’s a huge portion of the episode, so most of her screentime is just shots of a cat doing cat stuff. When we did get to see her as human-Rachel, we saw much more of her aggressive, “we need to get shit done” personality than we did in the first few episodes, which is nice.
The Tobias situation is weird and not handled that well. They really stretched out getting to the reveal of him being stuck as a hawk (which occurs at the end of the first book), but then really rushed through the reveal itself. The book also kinds of glances over it, but two books later we get one completely focused on him. I’m not sure when we’re going to get a similar episode (if we ever do), so it’s very likely that we’re not going to get much of one of the better book storylines.
Adaptation Rating: 4/5. Not a 1:1 adaptation, but they made the best episode out of Book 2 that they probably could have.
Character Development: Tobias is a bird now. Chapmans are people, too.
Special Effects: 2/5. I don’t know. Visser Three looked shittier than before, but I guess the couple of morphing shots didn’t look that bad. Or did they look completely terrible? I honestly can’t tell the difference anymore. This is the fifth episode.
’90s Bullshit: “Cat!”
Overall Rating: 4/5. If this was the only episode of ANIMORPHS I had ever seen, I would think it looked like a decent show.
Next Week: The Animorphs discover an injured Andalite on Earth in what is sure to earn a 1/5 Adaptation Rating.