Thunderbirds Are Go!
Subject: Coelacanth This!
Airdate: October 27, 2000
Derek Barnes: Ethan Embry
Chloe Tanner: Lisa Sheridan
Jason Tatum: Karim Prince
Lan Williams: Lizette Carrion
John Lockhart: Ron Canada
"Subject: Coelacanth This!" Overview:
When the Freakylinks gang stumbles across a girl attacked by an "ancient evil," they stop to investigate the Thunderbird legend in the Georgia woods.
While driving home from a road trip to look for the Tennessee Bigfoot, Derek, Jason and Chloe come across a damaged car on a back road in Georgia. In the woods nearby, they find a terrified and injured girl, Cassie, who claims her boyfriend Brandon was abducted by something terrifying. In the nearby town of Owensmouth, the sheriff claims there's a bear problem and encourages the strangers to leave town quickly. But Chloe remembers a citation in a psychology book about a man who had a psychotic break in Owensmouth after seeing "ancient evil in woods," and tells Derek she's willing to investigate.
Though most of the locals agree with the sheriff that the woods are full of bears, a friend of Cassie's turns out to be a would-be-filmmaker who aspires to make a feature "like that one with the kids running around in the woods." She says they were all together after the Homecoming dance, but when she went home, Cassie and Brandon camped out in a tent to have sex. She draws a map of the area on her paper diner hat. Derek, Chloe and Jason find the campsite and lots of ripped clothing, then the sound of a beeping watch leads them to a tree with a torn-off arm high in the branches. As they leave the woods, a large man with a shotgun warns them that they shouldn't be out there.
The sheriff says the man, John Lockhart, has nothing to do with any ancient evil, and maintains that a bear killed Brandon. Derek and Jason visit the morgue under the pretext of discussing embalming Jason's grandmother so Derek can get a good photo of the arm. He e-mails the image to Lan, who visits the zoo to find out whether a bear could have ripped it off in such a manner. Meanwhile Chloe goes to the library and learns that Ezekiel Lockhart, John's son, was brutally killed in the woods nearly 30 years earlier. The Freakylinks trio visits Lockhart, but a bear attacks them as they sneak around his property. He saves them with his shotgun, then shows them a Native American Thunderbird totem pole he keeps to ward off the ancient evil. He also has a stash of dynamite for when it returns.
Lan calls to say that the bite definitely wasn't from a bear -- something snapped straight through the arm with no shear, like a pelican. Thinking about the legend of the Thunderbird, Derek recalls an alleged photo of the Thunderbird taken during the Civil War by a group of Confederate soldiers. He has Lan e-mail him the photo, which appears to show several men with a fallen pteranodon. Derek wonders whether this might be an allegedly extinct creature, like the coelocanth, coming out of hibernation every 30 years to eat.
That night, the Freakylinks trio, the sheriff, and John Lockhart all go hunting -- the kids for video, the sheriff for troublemakers, and Lockhart for blood. Derek realizes the bird probably lives in a cave in the ravine near where Brandon and Cassie went camping. He races ahead of his friends to find Lockhart already there, bleeding from a head wound. Something attacks him as Lockhart lights the dynamite. The sheriff hauls Derek out of the cave just before it explodes, saying he saw something, maybe it was a bear, maybe not. Whatever it was, it looked overdue for extinction. Back home, Derek files his report, then realizes Lan was sleeping in his bed while he was out of town.
Now this was a good, fun, early X-Files-ish episode, despite some nagging plot holes like the fact that we get to see footage shot by Derek on a video camera that exploded when the cave blew up. Because of the hideous home-video footage interspersed throughout the show, the producers get away with not-really-showing the pteranodon, which is probably a good thing if the cheesy makeup from last week gives any indication of the special effects budget for Freakylinks. The verbal Blair Witch references get a little annoying, but with luck the producers have gotten that out of their system now.
I'm still not clear about the sheriff's weird behavior -- why he thought lying to locals would protect them better than admitting there's something in the woods he can't protect them from. It's also too bad Lockhart isn't better developed as a character; we learn all about his 30-year-obsession with whatever it was that killed his son, but it's pretty silly that Derek figured out the nature of the beast in one day when Lockhart hadn't gotten past Native American myths. Still, Derek came across more appealing in this episode, like Mulder with no dark side. This doesn't make much sense, given how his brother died -- you'd think he would have more fear -- but he sounds like less of a know-it-all than he did last week.
The B-plot consists mostly of Chloe teasing Derek that Lan has a crush on him, which leads to some cute moments when Lan goes to the zoo on a mission for him and one of the naturalists falls for her new look. Chloe and Lan appear to be friendly, so I am wondering where the character dynamics will go with this development.