starring Steve Kanaly, Michele Scarabelli, Wayne Crawford, Fats Bookholane, Lance Scott and Sandor Smit
Due to unforseen problems, Okavango is out of money. Jessica says that they’ve decided to give it six months but if they can’t come up with $12,000 to pay off some of Uncle Bill’s debts, they won’t have that long.
Some distance away, Nealy and Kyle are exploring. As they marvel at the animals, a young woman comes riding by on a horse. Kyle is clearly interested. After being startled, the horse throws the girl…
Back at the ranch, Jessica and Jack watch as a noisy truck pulls up outside the gate. Two men climb out and approach them. They claim to be from the “Claymore Wildlife Institute” and they have shocking news. Apparently they had contracted Bill Schofield to provide them with a male black rhino for the purposes of preservation studies. When Jessica informs them that they are out of luck, they produce a receipt saying that they will need their original deposit of $15,000 returned. Jessica then discovers from the men that the balance of the payment would mean the black rhino would fetch a price of $100,000. She ensures that the animal would not be harmed in anyway – then she turns back to Jack with a bright and beaming expectant expression. Her thoughts are clear.
Back at the house, Jack is less than convinced. He belittles Jessica’s idea of catching the rhino themselves but Jessica turns to TwoDays who says that he knows how to catch such a beast. However, he is quick to point out that the black rhino is the most dangerous and fearsome of all rhinos. Jack practically bans the whole idea but Jessica is afraid that they’ll lose Okavango without the money. Before Jack can be convinced, Nealy shouts for her mummy…
Racing outside, Jessica sees Nealy running ahead of Kyle who is cradling the injured girl in his arms. Jessica examines the girl but she looks to be okay. At that moment, J.D. pulls up in his truck. The McKenzies quickly discover that the girl is J.D.’s daughter – Kimberly. With his typical blustering threats, J.D. gathers up his daughter and drives her away.
Later, TwoDays leads the McKenzies and a team to track the black rhino – the one known as “The Grey Ghost”. As the trail leads deeper, TwoDays gets caught by the rhino and makes a run for it. After an unsuccessful search for him, the team sets up camp for the night. Jack tells Jessica that he doesn’t want her to join the team tomorrow. He’s worried for her safety but Jessica insists that she will be going along. As Jessica retreats to her sleeping bag, Jack clearly still has objections.
As the morning sunlight breaks through the trees, Jessica’s voice can be heard shouting through the wilderness. For Jessica, still in her sleeping bag, is dangling from the branch of a tall tree. The sleeping bag has been fastened around her with a tight rope. Jessica’s shouting reveals that Jack has left her like that to prevent her from joining the hunt.
After much struggling, Jessica falls from the tree and impacts with the ground. The sleeping bag is still tied securely around her, thus restricting her movements. Then, through the trees, she sees the shadow of the rhino. Unable to move very far or very fast, Jessica frantically pulls at the sleeping bag but to no avail. She hears the pounding of footfalls and the rustle of tree branches… She looks up with panic in her eyes…
Through the trees comes Kimberly on horseback.
In the meantime, Jack and Kyle have located TwoDays. The Grey Ghost had chased him a long way but eventually gave up when TwoDays decided to spend the night in the safe haven of a strong tree. At that moment, they hear the sounds of the rhino…
Kimberly takes Jessica to the wooden cage wherein the rhino is to be trapped. Following a frantic race of the rhino chasing Jack, The Grey Ghost is finally trapped. Shortly, the two men from the “Claymore Wildlife Institute” arrive offering their help – but note that the rhino has already been caught. Just at the same time, J.D. comes racing up on his horse demanding to know where his daughter is. He recognises the two men as the most notorious conmen in the whole of Central Africa. It is revealed that there never was a $15,000 deposit paid to Uncle Bill. When the two men draw guns, J.D. and Jack launch at them. They are soon overcome.
With the rhino already caught, Jack is determined to sell it to a zoo to cover their already outstanding debt of $12,000. However, Jessica doesn’t feel right about keeping the animal caged. She walks slowly away feeling very disappointed. Jack tries to clear his conscience by talking to the rhino before the cage is secured. Climbing to the top of the cage, Jack takes a long look out over the plains as he thinks of the freedom the rhino once had. Slowly, he removes the metal bars. He looks back at the compassioned plea from Jessica’s face. He opens the cage and releases The Grey Ghost .
THE MICHELE SCARABELLI FACTOR
Michele continues to play Jessica with skill. Her talent enables Jessica to become multi-faceted and, as such, an infinitely more interesting character than she would have been if played by a lesser actress. Whether she’s standing up for Okavango, worried for Jack‘s safety, scared out of her life at the mercy of the rhino, or sad at the prospect of denying the Grey Ghost his freedom – it’s clear that Michele is more than just an actress in this series.
Whether it’s due to editing or some other factor is unknown but episodes of Okavango seem to have been destined to last longer than their broadcast time of twenty minutes. This is noted during the rapid fast pace of the first episode So This Is Africa? but it’s noticed even more here. Not only are we not told the specifics of the McKenzie’s financial problems (in the previous episode Uncle Bill had assured Jessica that although money would be very tight, they would just manage – there was no hint of mismanaged books or debts in excess of $12,000), but some dialogue seems to have been shortened in places and some scenes don’t flow easily into the next. We get to see a vague hint that Jessica is a nurse but it would be several episodes later before this would be confirmed. The opening title sequence doesn’t provide this information.
The episode, itself, has a number of strange factors which almost spoil what is a very entertaining and adventure story. The main factor is Jack‘s insistance that Jessica shouldn’t join the team following TwoDays’ encounter with the rhino. Out of all of the McKenzies, Jessica is the one most passionate about saving Okavango – if left to his own devices Jack wouldn’t even have begun tracking the rhino. It means so much to her that she’s a part of what’s going on but even, in the face of all the possible danger, having made her own brave decision Jack ruthlessly ignores her wishes and ties her up in a tree. Not only that but he leaves her on her own out in the middle of nowhere, in a situation where she could have been attacked by any animal. Ignoring his wife’s wishes; leaving her helpless in the face of potential danger – is this how Jack treated Jessica back in L.A…?
However, despite Jack‘s pig-headedness it is pleasing to see that Jessica allows him to make his own decision of releasing the rhino at the end.
In summary, this is a very enjoyable action-packed episode. The style of the first episode is maintained with the stunning African backdrop and the top-class performances from everyone involved. Due to Okavango‘s very nature, it was obvious that The Grey Ghost would be released at the end but the twist of the conmen was very refreshing.
One of the best scenes comes from the ending, just before Jack releases the rhino. Jessica has resigned herself to the rhino’s fate and is clearly deeply saddenned. Over the space of just a few moments the episode combines its captivating music and style to lead the viewer from total sadness, through to relief and happiness. Besides which, how could anyone not be affected by Michele underplaying Jessica’s emotions so perfectly – especially when releasing the rhino is so clearly the right thing to do.