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Wonderfalls 1x02 Karma Chameleon - Soulfulspike Review

By Vlad

Tuesday 23 March 2004, by Webmaster



Story by Tim Minear

Air date: Friday, March 19th, 2004

Jen...Why? Who? Oh, whatever...

By Vlad

A Soulful Spike Society Review


Welcome back to Niagara Falls, where life is frequently foggy and often seems to have you over a barrel. Let’s visit again with our slacker girl extroidinaire.

Ah, Generation Y! Within 30 years, the fate of our very world will lie upon their shoulders. They aren’t the Baby Boomers who ranged from the "WE Generation" idealism of making the world a hippy, trippy, beautiful and happy place to the "ME Generation" that wanted their piece of the pie while wearing their power ties and playing the stock market. Let’s not confuse them with their close cousin the "X Generation" that took the excess of both the Baby Boomer extremes, flipped them on their ear and tried to come up with some realistic expectations of surviving in a newer, harsher world. No, this is the "Y Generation"...so aptly named for their apathy: Why? What’s the point? Whatever... the attitude of the slacker. This is the second generation raised in a time of relative peace, born to parents that lived on junk food and who were too busy working hard to pay for all of life’s extravagances to be at home with their children. They are highly educated but have low expectations. They are cynical. Every president they have seen in their short lives has lied to them. They don’t believe in propriety, because they see no need to stand on ceremony. History doesn’t really matter because all it shows is that the future is bleak. These are the people that shall inherit the earth. This is Jaye Tyler, poster child for Gen Y. God save us all!

"So what’s this episode about?"

It’s about identity. We start off with Jaye having dinner with her family. Mom, The Author, has her latest book out and is celebrating the fact with her family. On her book’s jacket she describes her entire family with a blurb:

Karen Tyler is the award winning author of several best-selling travel guides. She resides in Niagra Falls, NY with her husband, noted area physician/doctor Darrin Tyler. The Tylers have three beautiful grown children. Their eldest daughter, Sharon, is a respected immigration attorney and the newest partner at the law firm of Merrifield, Hanson and Aldritch . Son, Aaron, is the youngest non-Asian to win the prestigious Fulton scholarship for religious studies and is currently pursuing his doctorate in comparative religion. Jaye, a daughter, is 24.

This causes Jaye to start wondering about her own identity. Surely she is more than a familial possession (daughter) and a numerical digit that simply marks the passage of time. At the end of time everyone wants to be defined as "something" by their own actions.

Jaye’s siblings snarkily point out that Jaye did graduate from Brown and...works in retail and lives in a trailer park. Jaye poses the question: "Those things are all facts. Should I be ashamed?"

And that is the question. Should anyone be ashamed of what they have done with their life? Do people have a responsibility to be something, something important. Jaye, as a card carrying slacker has eschewed all that. She merely exists, pretty much day to day, not really involved or interacting in her world. But, perhaps change is on the way Her recent interaction with the world of talking bric-brac has pointed her in a direction of helping others. She is feeling a dissatisfaction in her life. She is waking up from her self-absorbed dream life she has been walking through. But, it seems she still needs a push.

"Okay, so where does this "push" come from?"

Enter Binky, or more precisely, Bianca. Bianca comes onto the scene as a down on her luck, van dwelling vagrant, with a bad stutter, ashamed of her position in life and of the actions she has taken (theft of Jaye’s wallet.) A brightly colored stuffed chameleon and later a mounted fish tell Jaye to "Get her words out." After noting her potential retail skills, Jaye wrangles Bianca a job at the gift shop, working alongside her and seems about to gain a little relief from work, not to mention developing a potential new friendship. She passes on her wisdom about doing only that which must be done and never letting the world know your true potential. And it seems like the newly name-tagged "Binky" is flowering. She takes to the job like a duck to water. Even her stutter all but disappears. Jaye, it seems, has helped her get her words out.

But things aren’t all as they seem. New co-employee Binky grows to be more like her proclaimed mentor, Jaye, with every passing day: copying her speech patterns, her attitudes, her wardrobe and her hair. Jaye’s longtime gal pal, Mahandra, finally points out, "She’s a better you than you are!" Jaye finally draws the line when Binky starts putting the moves on her favorite bartender. Jaye is clearly interested in Eric, the bartender, but as all things in Jaye’s life, she seems to approach it with a pace that is all her own, i.e. non-existant. However, jealousy is a great motivator. So, Jaye goes on the warpath. However, just when we think we know what’s going on, we find out that looks can be deceiving.


It turns out that Bianca isn’t really the vagrant soul-sucker that we thought she was. After a hilarious interaction that occurs in Binky’s van (with the surprisingly spacious interior) where Jaye accuses her of being a SWF fiend (from the classic Jennifer Jason Leigh/Bridget Fonda movie,) we discover that Bianca is actually a Brown student studying Jaye. She’s writing a 5K word article on Gen Y Losers for a huge national periodical. And she has chosen our poster child slacker, Jaye, to be the ...well poster child for her piece.

After contemplation, Jaye warms to this idea and allows Bianca an "all-access pass to the prototypical Gen Y’er. She believes that this is what the chameleon means by getting her words out. Jaye and Bianca grow close again, and Jaye opens up to her, telling her all her thoughts on being a reclusive, non-ambitious slacker. Bianca sucks them all in.

"Great! So, Jaye gets 5,000 words defining her and all end up happy?"

Not so fast! Jaye does too good a job proclaiming her self-founded utopia of disassociation. Binky appears again, and this time, it’s no act. The Binkster has decided to toss it all away. She isn’t going to write the article because it’s too much pressure. She is going to follow Jaye’s life plan. She is going to live in a pressureless expectation-free zone. A zone where she can get what she needs and never has to worry about stuttering again. Which is all fine, except it is causing Jaye to lose her expectation-free zone. Bianca has managed to steal Jaye’s job, still intends to go after her potential boyfriend, Eric, and finally seems to be co-opting Jaye’s family. Jaye is forced to finally stand up and fight for what she wants, or at least to keep what she already had. Okay, "stand up" is perhaps a little too stalwart. Jaye reaches within herself and plays Bianca’s game more masterfully. She finally figures out what the chameleon and the fish have been telling her: "Get her words out."

Dusting off her skills and finally inspired, she manages to write Bianca’s article and submit it for her. Nobody out-Jayes Jaye Tyler! She then presents Binky with the magazine’s letter of acceptance and basically inspires her to leave. She finally, literally (pun intentional), got Bianca’s words out.

So, Jaye has learned her lesson?

Hold your horses! Jaye succeeded in merely maintaining her safe zone. She got her job back, removed the threat from her potential boyfriend, and took any competition for her parent’s attention away. Jaye didn’t grow, so much, as simply fought for her survival. She retained the things she needs but we still don’t see her reaching for the things she wants. However, Jaye is only 24. She has plenty of time to figure out what she wants as we see when she finally submits her 15 words for her mother’s new book cover: "Daughter Jaye lives in Niagra Falls. Her blurb and life are a work in progress." And a wonderfall...err..wonderful progression it is to follow!

I Never Metaphor I Didn’t Like.

Wonderfalls is heavy on the symbolism, some of it tucked very deep and away from first glance. Below are some of the things to note:

The Clothes Make the Slacker:

Not only does Bianca make the transformation into Binky by adopting Jayes dress and styling, the writers use clothing and its related paraphernalia in a much more subtle way.

Slacker Hangups: Bianca knocks a stack of t-shirts to the ground and then hurriedly folds them all back up in a neat stack. Folding clothing is so much harder than simply hanging it on hangers. Jaye is so the hanger girl and demonstrates this by first using her hanger skills to break into Binky’s van and then later defends against/threatens Binky with yet another hanger. Binky, new to her slacker-hood, is found to be defenseless, tho’ I suppose a point can be made that she does *ahem* fold to Jaye’s demands.

Great heaping piles: As Bianca slowly slides to the darkside, we see the clothes in the gift shop begin piling up. By the end, they are just tossed on the floor, the display shelves and the counter-tops. The shop has never looked so disorderly. Jaye always manages to do as little as possible to "maintain," while it seems Binky doesn’t do anything all all. Jaye does work within her own place in life, subtly, but Binky is merely a parasite or leech.

Jaye’s Losing InVestment:The Wonderfalls vests are an article of shame to Jaye, yet they are her article of shame. When Binky shows up to the bar wearing Jaye’s work uniform she is outraged. Not only because Binky is wearing her clothing, but because the world can see far too closely into Jaye’s life through that simple piece of monogrammed fleece.

Karma, Karma, Karma Chameleon...you come and go, you come and go:

The choice of the chameleon was tailor-made for this episode. The chameleon representing Binky/Bianca...she adapts to and adopts her surroundings for safety: her coloration depending on her location.

Things Off The Cuff

Below I have listed observances and notes I made while watching the program. They didn’t really fit into the review as written, but are interesting, nevertheless.

Am I the only one that thought Jaye looked truly"hot" for the very first time when she dropped off the ghost written article to Binky? Perhaps "doing" something does agree with her internally, after all. Perhaps she finally saw herself as others see her and decided to upgrade the look.

I loved the scene between Jaye and Sharon in the trailer. Sharon really lets down her hair with Jaye now that they share her secret about the lesbianism. Also, I thought the munching on the olives and celery out of Jaye’s fridge not only showed a remarkable ease with each other, but was a nice bit of continuity for the character. Sharon never lit up a cigarette once during this episode and it’s my hypothesis that she quit and the food was an oral substitute.

Notice how Jaye places her purse over the back of the seat next to her in order to isolate herself. Now, I have practiced this in theatres by placing coats in the seat in front of me, but I have never seen anyone do it in a social place like a bar. Most people invite company to sit beside them. Not our little reclusive, self absorbed Jaye!

Jaye’s address and birthdate: High and Dry Trailer Park, Lot C3, Niagra Falls, NY 14306 DOB: 1/22/80

And, finally, the show now has a theme song. After listening to it once, it sticks in your head. It is an evolving piece with very heavy Lennon/McCartney late 60’s/early 70’s overtones that range into some early 80’s ELP synthesizer sounds. I eventually sought out the entire song, which I was impressed with. It may be found in it’s entirety with a cute video of Jaye lip-synching it at the official FOX Wonderfalls website ( http://www.fox.com/wonderfalls ):

I Wonder Why the Wonderfalls

written and performed by Andy Partridge

We’re bobbing along in our barrel

Some of us tip right over the edge

But there’s one thing really mystifying

Got me laughing, now it’s got me crying

All my life will be death defying

’Til... I... know...

I wonder, wonder where the wonder falls

I wonder where the wonder falls on me

I wonder, wonder why the wonder falls

With everything I touch and hear and see...


Wound Up Penguin, Friday, March 26th, 2004 on FOX, 9PM EST