starring Steve Kanaly, Michele Scarabelli, Wayne Crawford, Fats Bookholane, Lance Scott and Sandor Smit
It’s early in the morning and Jessica is unpacking some boxes as she and Jack begin to move into their rebuilt house. Jack is reading a letter out loud. It tells that Taylor Moore, the eminent painter, and his assistant are coming to Okavango. Taylor Moore is immensely admired by Jessica and when she learned that he was going to be in the country, she invited him to stay at Okavango for a week. However, Jack is upset. He asks how Jessica can trust “someone whose arrival is preceded by a press kit”. Jessica tells him that she believes Taylor Moore is one of the best artists of modern times.
Jack becomes half-convinced but only when Jessica suggests that Taylor might leave them one of his paintings. At that moment Kyle and Nealy shout to them. As they move outside, they all watch in marvel as a huge hot-air balloon drifts down outside the house. Taylor Moore has arrived and Jack prophesises – “This is a big mistake…” but Jessica is enraptured by the beauty of the calm balloon riding the gentle air currents.
Jack immediately puts his foot in it by not recognising Taylor Moore. Jessica tries to cover for him by introducing herself. Taylor Moore begins with…
“Oh, my number one fan…
Although I’ve painted many a portrait yours is the sort of beauty that breaks an artist’s heart…”
Jack quickly halts the flattery by introducing himself as “Jessica’s husband”. Taylor Moore is clearly offended that Jack didn’t recognise him but attempts to cover it by subtly emphasising Jack’s disinterest while Jack proves equally adept at finding his own words to subtly insult Taylor Moore. Jessica quickly stops this game of “one-upmanship”.
Inside the house, Jessica hands around drinks of lemonade while Taylor Moore reminisces that their house reminds him of a summerhouse he once owned. At that moment, Moore’s assistant (Billy, who is coloured) carries the artist’s luggage into the house. As Jessica shows him where to take the heavy suitcases, Jack calls Kyle in to help. Before he can do so, Taylor Moore bellows that he doesn’t need any help – after all that’s what he “pays him for”. There follows a moment of shocked silence before the man takes the cases further into the house on his own. Taylor Moore then continues to stab at Jack by bolstering his own knowledge of fine wines – but Jack clearly has no idea what he’s talking about.
The painter secretly notices Jack’s job title from a nearby envelope and he begins to get surprisingly friendly – saying that he’s looking for a good attorney who he can trust and like. He continues to butter him up by saying that he heard about how good an attorney Jack was due to his great works. As Taylor Moore leaves the room, Jack suddenly spots the envelope. He’s no longer impressed.
Later Taylor Moore is sketching the animals and he calls for Billy to bring him his paints. He rapidly becomes aggravated when Billy doesn’t arrive immediately. He leaves his artwork and goes to search for him. He finds Billy writing a letter to his daughter. Billy tells him that he didn’t hear him shouting and as Taylor Moore’s voice becomes more raised, the nearby Jack can’t help but listen in. Jack hears him address Billy in a most distasteful way – constantly calling him “boy” and insisting that he should be spending his time fetching and carrying for him. Billy is very apologetic and quickly puts his pens away.
Jessica is cleaning up after some of the animals as Jack tells her what he heard. However, Jessica is convinced that Jack just misheard the man and that he is simply looking for reasons to dislike the artist. Jack is adamant that what he heard was demeaning to Billy and consisted of racial slurs. Again, Jessica protests that maybe Jack heard these things out of context.
Billy is continuing to unpack with the assistance of Nealy when Moore bursts in again in a furious rage for Billy’s supposed tardiness. When he sees Nealy, he immediately becomes mellow – but, as can be seen from the girl’s eyes, his attitude change wasn’t “immediate” enough.
Jack and Jessica return to the house to find Moore teaching Kyle about the arts. Jessica is well impressed that the man has made such an impact on Kyle and even Jack begins to doubt what he heard earlier.
Later, over tea, Jessica asks about Moore’s paintings that are on display at the Guggenheim. Taylor Moore is in his element and his conversation causes him to subtly “name-drop” some of the historical figures that share the same gallery as his works. Picasso, Toulouse-Lautrec and others. The more names he drops the more disinterested and tedious Jack finds the conversation but the more enamoured Jessica becomes. Jack underplays the conversation with style by countering Moore’s overbearing attitude with his request that Jessica passes him the plate of cookies. Jessica continues to blindly play up to Taylor Moore’s self-gratifying ego but becomes annoyed with Jack’s menial interruptions. Moore shouts for Billy to bring him the special bottle of wine that he had previously spoken to Jack about. However, Billy is busy…
In fact Billy is in his element and is enjoying himself. TwoDays has taken him to a nearby Tambu village where there is much singing, and dancing, and happiness. However, all of this enjoyment stops suddenly when one of the Tambu stares down TwoDays and Billy… The two new friends look at each other in puzzlement.
Back at the house, Taylor Moore is enjoying his wine as he takes in the beautiful early evening view of Okavango. Jessica soon joins him. In the conversation that follows, a number of interesting points are raised. Discussing Okavango Jessica reveals…
“I’ve fallen in love with it… Big cities don’t have the same appeal they used to.”
Taylor Moore agrees with her stating that no matter where he travels, from city to city, the “wrong element” always seem to take over – he defines the “wrong element” as people in the slums etc. This is clearly a different viewpoint than Jessica’s reason for liking Okavango as she states that better education would help such people. Taylor Moore disagrees, saying that the money would be wasted on people who “don’t want education”. As Moore continues to rant, Jessica starts to consider that she may have misjudged the man – particularly when he begins to insult TwoDays’ ignorance, despite the fact (as Jessica is quick to point out) that TwoDays can speak six languages and has immense knowledge of the land. Moore continues to rant with seeming ignorance but the conversation is interrupted by a Tambu boy raising the alarm that there is trouble in the village. Jessica calls for Jack…
There is a skirmish in the village as Jack and Taylor drive up. Jack rescues TwoDays and Billy from the centre of a fight. While Jack checks to ensure TwoDays isn’t hurt, Billy tries to explain what happened but Taylor won’t let him speak. When he tries to explain again, Taylor strikes him down with a blow. With severity, Jack warns Taylor to never touch Billy again…
As they prepare for bed, Jack and Jessica discuss the situation. Jack tells Jessica that Taylor Moore is a “pig and a bigot” and that it’s an insult to have him in the house. Jessica agrees and wonders how she missed seeing it in the first place.
The following morning, Taylor is continuing his art lessons with Kyle when Jessica and Jack approach. Jessica holds her husband back as she speaks to the artist. She tells Taylor that he must leave. She calls him a racist and tells him that they won’t put up with that kind of behaviour. Taylor is both surprised and offended. He tells Jessica that the painting isn’t finished yet and when it is it’ll “look wonderful”. In a solemn tone, Jessica replies, “I don’t really care, Taylor” – although her voice says that she does.
As Taylor prepares to leave, Jack and Jessica talk to Billy to offer him work in Okavango even though they can’t pay him much. Billy, however, declines. He admits to the many things that Taylor Moore is but he also admits that he pays well – and Billy is intending to use that money to send his daughter to university. Billy goes to fetch some more bags and TwoDays explains about the previous night. The fight started because some of the village men told TwoDays that he was “dishonoured” for helping white people but Billy defended his honour and TwoDays stepped in the middle of it. Jessica asks why the men would think what they did because TwoDays is no servant to them. TwoDays smiles…
“Ignorance comes in all colours…”
THE MICHELE SCARABELLI FACTOR
Nothing Is Black And White is a splendid episode and one which highlights the remarkable ability of Okavango to teach a lesson to the viewer in parallel to a lesson that one of its characters is learning. It also poses the interesting question – which is it better to be? Like Jessica – naïve and occasionally wrong; or like Jack – skeptical and forever believing you’re right? I know what my answer would be. However, the true wisdom of the story is spoken by TwoDays when he says “Ignorance comes in all colours…”
The episode works so phenomenally because it plays on the naïveté of Jessica to take everything at face value. This is such an interesting angle to take because up until now, Jessica’s naïveté has been her greatest strength. It’s what enables her to accept her surroundings so enthusiastically; to work with the animals with such enjoyment; to appreciate the beauty around her so wholeheartedly; and to have a great idealistic view of what the world is capable of – given the right impetus. But this time, it’s her ability to take everything without question that causes her to be so very wrong. She idolises the great painter – only to later find that he’s a bigot. She then sees Billy being persecuted – only to later find that he’s doing what he wants to do for his own purposes. Jessica is so totally wrong here. However, due to the way in which her greatest strength is turned around on her, she becomes the most well-fleshed out character in the show – because, by the end of the episode, she has learned one very valuable lesson herself. Seeing that she can learn from this experience emphasises so strongly to the viewer that they, too, can learn from similar experiences.
Watch for some of Wayne Crawford’s best scenes so far. When Jack first fails to recognise Taylor Moore there follows a subtle scene where both men take verbal pot-shots at each other. And later, around the tea table, Crawford displays some keen acting skills when Jack’s constant “menial” interruptions play so well against Moore’s egotistical rhetoric. Jack is, finally, seen as a man with a unique intelligence. Can it be possible that there is now someone (Taylor Moore) in Okavango who is more self-centred than Jack..? Let’s hope not otherwise this will diminish Jack’s impact as a character. The scenes between these two characters are great to watch.
There is also a quaint little scene in which Billy and Nealy discuss their favorite places. Billy says his is in Nairobi – his home; and when asked for hers, Nealy says “…with my mummy and Jack – and sometimes Kyle.” One feels that Jack could learn some wisdom from this girl.
Nothing Is Black And White is a sheer masterpiece. It professionally handles a topic that many other television shows either fight shy of or mishandle badly. All of the characters come across as well balanced and well thought through. Not one scene or one piece of dialogue is misplaced and all of the actors are at their peak.
Michele Scarabelli, in particular, portrays Jessica with expertise in this episode. We have the chance to see a truly great actress at work – a chance not to be missed! Also watch for the many scenes full of magical moments in which Michele plays Jessica’s naïveté in a way which redefines wide-eyed cuteness. Michele’s sterling performance here is typical of her skills and talents. Brilliant!