starring Steve Kanaly, Michele Scarabelli, Wayne Crawford, Fats Bookholane, Lance Scott and Sandor Smit
Storm clouds are crashing overhead and the rain is pelting down. Under a makeshift cloth, two men are talking about a consignment of ivory… One of the men has a hat with a zebra pattern band around it.
At Okavango, the McKenzies are receiving a delegation of seven month old elephants. Jessica looks sweetly at the animals and says…
“They’re just scared little babies…”
As Jack and Jessica talk with the keeper of the elephants, he says how grateful he is for places like Okavango which, through their kindness, help to stop poachers from killing the elephants for their ivory. Jack and Jessica tell the keeper, Atherton, that he must stop the poachers. However, Atherton tells them that the situation is more complicated than that. Because of the ever expanding human population, there isn’t enough space for all the elephants and so some have to be legitimately “culled”. When Jessica asks why people just don’t make more space for the elephants rather than killing off an already endangered species, Atherton tells them of the lack of money. If it wasn’t for the sale of ivory from legitimate culls, there wouldn’t be enough money to preserve the elephants that can be supported.
Jessica sees a table full of elephant food being set up and says she is relieved that their elephants won’t starve – to which Atherton reveals that all the food there will only last these elephants for one week. And the baby-elephants need feeding every six hours.
It’s three o’clock one morning, and it’s Jack’s turn to feed the elephants. He creates enough fuss that he wakes up Jessica and then both of them hear loud explosions in the distance.
The following morning Jack and TwoDays are investigating the source of the explosions. They find the ravaged remains of shot elephants – all with their tusks removed. Jack investigates and, together with the authorities, they find some men who were forced to help load the tusks onto a truck. The people responsible were two armed men – the leader was in his forties, white, about six-feet tall, dressed in bush-fatigues and wore a felt hat with a zebra band… Just the same description as J.D.!
J.D. is in the middle of a garden party when Jack storms in and accuses him of attacking the animals. J.D. proves to be very cagey but, of course, Jack has no proof. However, J.D. does state that no matter what else he may be, he isn’t a poacher. Driving off, Jack is not convinced.
Back at Okavango , Jessica is having trouble with Nealy. The girl has it into her head that her mummy has been involved in the killing of elephants. Jessica can’t understand it but she can’t talk to her daughter because Nealy has locked the bedroom door. Jessica sends Kyle to fetch the spare key and he returns with Jessica’s comb – made of ivory. This is what Nealy has seen. Jessica explains that her grandmother gave her the comb many years ago and that she certainly wouldn’t have killed an elephant for it. As Jessica enters Nealy’s room, she hears a commotion outside. For the moment, Jessica ignores the noise as she rekindles the love between her and her daughter. By the time they get outside they discover that the elephants have overturned the table and destroyed their weeks worth of food.
Jessica says that she must drive into town to replace the food. As she drives the jeep down the trail, she comes across men working on a truck that is bogged down in the mud. They stop to let her drive passed but as she does so, Jessica spies badly hidden elephant tusks. She pours on the speed but one of the poachers raises his rifle and fires.
When Jack discovers that Jessica is missing, he begins an all out search. He finds her jeep with one of its tyres in tatters. Then, a short way down the road, he sees the poachers’ truck – still struggling with the mud. Jack grabs his rifle and approaches steathily. Finding the cover of some bushes, he looks through his binoculars and sees the bound and gagged figure of Jessica in the back of the truck. At that moment, the end of a rifle hits Jack’s shoulder from behind. Jack turns around and is relieved to see that J.D. has come to help him.
J.D. comes up with a plan to shoot the poachers before they know that they’re there but Jack won’t agree to killing them. Then Jack sees Atherton drive up and is afraid for the keeper’s safety. However, that’s when Jack sees the man put on his hat – Atherton has the same zebra striped hat as J.D.!
Realising that the McKenzies have been duped, Jack and J.D. race to the rescue like Tonto and the Lone Ranger. Each man takes one side of the truck and get the jump on the poachers. However, there are just as many guns on the helpless Jessica as there is on Atherton and his men. Jessica is scared for her life and Jack doesn’t know what to do. With his hand pistol pointed at Atherton’s head, J.D. suggests that they just all shoot at once and see who’s left standing. Atherton doesn’t like the odds and orders his men to put down their weapons. Just at the same time, TwoDays arrives with the authorities.
When Jessica is released, she storms across to Atherton and slaps him across the face telling him that he’s supposed to be protecting the animals – not making money out of killing them. As she walks away, Atherton tells Jack that “your wife packs quite a wallop”… And Jack punches him so hard that Atherton collapses to the ground. J.D. walks by and purposefully tramples Atherton’s fallen hat into the ground.
Later, Jessica and Jack are watching the elephants as they discuss their fate. Jessica says…
“Atherton was right about one thing… They are doomed…”
Jack remarks that it’s more than just poaching that is destroying the elephants – it’s civilisation. Jessica continues…
“Why do we have to own the whole planet? Why can’t we share it?”
THE MICHELE SCARABELLI FACTOR
Oh what a shame. Just when this series was going from strength to strength, highlighting all of its topics in a sensible, adult and clever way – up pops a story in which the message is hidden behind a “let’s blame J.D. because he’s supposed to be the bad-guy” story. And just to make it “interesting”, let’s get someone to kidnap Jessica, threaten to kill her and up runs “our hero, Jack” to the rescue. One almost expects Jack to swing through the trees in a loincloth!
The episode is saved, though, by some magical scenes led by Michele. First when Jessica explains about the comb to Nealy, there is so much love between the two characters that the viewer can’t help but be touched. Then, in the final scene, during which Jessica opens her heart to the plight of the elephants… a true tearful moment, and one which could have been better handled than it was by the Jack character. When she’s allowed the chance to act the way she was born to do, Michele is just wonderful!
From a series that has handled all important topics sensibly and cleverly, this episode unusually resorts to desperately throwing the message at the viewing during the end scene. The other episodes so far have all made their message very memorable by subtly weaving the message into the viewer by means of the whole story. We’ve had the plight of the rhino; the threat due to road construction; racial bigotism – all handled brilliantly. Unfortunately, this episode won’t be remembered as the one that highlights the danger to the elephants – it’ll be remembered as the one in which Jessica is kidnapped.
Okavango has shown itself to be better than this.
It’s almost funny when you see that Jack retains his previous self-centredness by ensuring that when it’s his turn to get up and feed the elephants, he makes enough fuss and commotion that wakes up Jessica. Considering his past record, I’ll bet he wouldn’t put up with Jessica waking him up with the same fuss and commotion if it was her turn to feed the animals.
As the “cute woman who gets kidnapped”, Michele plays the role well but it is clear (from scenes such as her heartfelt plea in the final segment) that Michele is capable of so much more. At least she gets a chance to lay into the bad-guy after Jessica is saved by “hero” Jack.
This is an enjoyable action/adventure to watch, but to see Okavango at its best, look elsewhere.