Sunday, June 24, 2007

Zorro: Capítulos 88-92 (June 18-22): Amazons and witches and poisons, oh my!


"Machala, Esmeralda": Vanya and Asalaya, Los Angeles hippies Amazons, circa 1810

Zorro moved along briskly during this week's segments. By the end of the week, Esmeralda had gone from months confined in a basement to almost being murdered to being sold to slave traders to being in a ship that sinks to discovering buried treasure in what looks like a tropical jungle at a spot a few feet away from what looks like a swamp to joining up with a ferocious tribe of Amazon warriors in the jungle. All of it taking place with in a few miles of Los Angeles.

You didn't realize there were swampy jungles near Los Angeles? That's why you need to be watching Zorro.

Esmeralda Sanchez de Xena has apparently become queen of the Amazons and is intent on revenge against everybody who's hurt her

Altogether, it was an exceptionally exciting week for Esmeralda. At orders from el Comandante Montero, Capitán Pizarro took her out into the woods to kill her, but Sargento García saved her, as I related in
my last Zorro post. Olmos then showed up with two pistols and persuaded Pizarro to leave Esmeralda and García with him. He promptly sold them to slave-traders, while Kamba back at the gitano camp got captured by his former fight promoters and sold to the slave-traders, too.

They were all put on a boat, where the crew leered menacingly at Esmeralda. The boat capital was name Gluck,played by Falvio Peniche, the brother of Arturo Peniche, the actor who plays el Governador Fernando. Esmeralda's amulet that her mother Sara Kalí had given her got a lot of attention this week, too. El Comandante ripped it off her neck just before he sent her out into the woods to be murdered. But Pizarro, who has faint remnants of a heart, gave it to her to comfort her in the minutes before he was going to shoot her.

Ouch, that's gotta hurt! Esmeralda's hand is branded with the map to her grandmother's royal treasure

On the boat, one of the crew ripped it off her neck, too, which kick-started Kamba's demon and so Kamba ripped off his steel manacles and starting strangling the crewman with the amulet. While doing this, he started a fire - to complicate matters on what's still a dark and stormy night - and the ship sank. But before they swam for their lives, Esmeralda grabbed the amulet, which had been heated by the fire and it branded its image into her palm but the burn caused her to drop it. When the ship sank, one of the crew saw it clinging to a piece of driftwood as he was swimming for his life in the stormy waters at night, and grabbed it. When he staggered into town, Diego was there and recognized the amulet. Diego took the amulet.

Back on shore that same morning, Esmeralda wakes up amidst the driftwood and finds García and Kamba still alive, as well. Thus they set off for a jungle adventure that is part Nancy Drew, part Blue Lagoon, part Treasure Island and part Xena the Warrior Princess. They plan to go find the gitanos but Esmeralda discovers Capitán Gluck, also still alive but immobile because of a broken leg and assorted other injuries. He was apparently washed or blown way out into the jungle.

Esmeralda nurses him a bit and he tells her a sob story about how he's not really a slave trader, he just needed a job and that's the only ship where he could get hired. He sees the brand in her palm and recognizes it as a star map. He offers to lead our jungle heroes to the spot. So Kamba and García carry him through the jungle, where he leads them to the indicated spot and they dig up a chest full of treasure. It's not pirates' treasure, it's Sara Kalí's mother's treasure, but it's buried treasure all the same. Esmeralda vows she's going to use it to avenge herself on everyone who's hurt her: el Comandante, Pizarro, el Gobernador her beloved stepfather, and, of course, Mariángel (Mangle).

In the jungle, no one can see you when your top falls down. At least that's what Esmeralda must have hoped when one of his biggest struggles in the jungle was to remain fully clothed

The captain gasps out his last breath to Esmeralda, who's staying with him while Kamba and García go to stash the treasure and get a cart to bring back the unfortunate captain, who warns Esmeralda that this part of the forest is muy peligroso beause Amazons live there. I thought when I heard this, it was too good to be true.

But, sure enough, Esmeralda soon spies a loin-cloth-clad woman being assaulted by a couple of Spanish low-lifes. Determined not to take any crap from anyone any more, she grabs a log and clobbers one guy in the head. The Amazon then escaptes the other guy, who then wrestles Esmeralda to the ground and tries to rape her. But the one Amazon has quickly been joined by several of her tribal sisters who promptly kill the assailant with several well-deserved arrows in the back.

I'm not sure if the Amazons are supposed to be Indians, or whether they are directly descended from Greek Amazons. Or maybe they are descended from refugees fleeing Carthage after Rome destroyed it, or possibly one of the Lost Tribes of Israel. In any case, they all have the remarkably healthy bodies one might expect from the air in pre-industrial Los Angeles and the presumed abundance of food and other good things in the tropical jungle that apparently was there around 1810. Or so it looks on the show, anyway.

One of the Amazons introduces herself as Asalaya. She summons another one, Vanya, to the front and puts her arm around her and says, "Machala". Then Vanya says to our heroine, "Machala, Esmeralda". I'm guessing this means "sister" in ancient Carthaginian. Then the Amazons bow deeply to her, and Esmeralda does the same in return. Apparently this cleavage-exposing gesture is a polite greeting ritual among the Los Angeles Amazons. At the end of Friday's episode, Esmeralda seems to have become their queen, or something, because she seems to be leading a hunting party that comes upon Kamba and García. Esmeralda looks at them with an enigmatic smile, perhaps hinting that the two of them are destined to become breeding stock for her newfound friends.

I have to say, this whole jungle adventure culminating with Esmeralda hooking up with the jungle Amazon tribe has been the coolest thing they've done in the whole telenovela so far. (That is, aside from introducing Valentina Acosta's the One the Only the Great Selenia, who as far as I'm concerned instantly became one of the top TV witches of all time.) With the Amazons on board, I'm thinking Zorro is going to be high on my list of Quality TV standards, along with such classics as
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's The Lost World and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. The way this is going, we could wind up with a final showdown, with General Alejandro's army facing off against Montero and Pizarro and they regular and hired-thug forces, with Zorro fighting on Alejandro's side at the head of an army of peasants, Indians, gitanos, the secret brotherhood of cowled democratic revolutionaries, and Amazons. Heck, Zorro might even persude those cannibals who almost made a human sacrifice out of Esmeralda in an early episode to join in!

"Loco por Olmos": Mangle only has eyes for him (until they do the Wild Thang, that is)

First, though, General Alejandro will have to smooth things out on the home front, where his Big Love arrangement has hit a  snag. Almudena was down with the bigamy arrangement, even grooming Yumalai/Guadalupe to move into the wife #1 role after Almudena dies. But she had to process it in Spanish-lady style as Alejandro having an affair, which means he was supposed to be discreet about it. But Alejandro forgot that in telenovelas there's always someone hiding around the corner to evesdrop, and he talked to Yumalai about their little trist on his and Almudena's wedding night, and Almudena heard.

Now she has to be an outraged wife for a while. And she demands that Alejandro kick Yumalai off the hacienda. To complicate matters, Mangle has been putting small amounts of arsenic into the medicine Yumalai has been giving Almudena, and now Agapito the doctor/dentist/undertaker has found that out and told Almudena. Almudena thinks it's Yumalai and/or Alejandro that is poisoning her. Quite a sticky situation for all involved.

Even more exciting than Esmerada's adventures was the fact that Mangle now has the hots for Olmos thanks to Selenia's love potion and/or her hypnosis. Mangle is obsessed with with the little guy now. What Olmos doesn't know is that the spell is temporary. After Mangle makes love to him the first time, the hypnosis will wear off immediately.

Selenia is planning to leave town because after Olmos threatened to kill her. Olmos blames her for cursing him in his mother's womb and making him a hunchback. We learn from a conversation Selenia has with her magic dwarf Tasisio that it was Selenia's mother that cursed Olmos. Aha! Selenia's not on the Elixir of Eternal Youth. And to carry on the family tradition, she needs to have a baby. And Aaron the Exorcist may just be ready for a new gig ...

Mirror, mirror, on the wall, who the coolest witch of all? Selenia visits Mangle's mirror (that's Mangle's red hair on the left)

On Friday, Selenia showed up in Mangle's mirror, telling Mangle how Olmos is just the right guy for her and looking pretty spooky, but also giving Valentina Acosta  the chance to show off her talent for facial expression. Seriously, some actors just have a special ability to convey a lot with facial expression and motions alone. Clint Eastwood is one. Lena Olin on Alias is another. From what I've seen so far, Valentina Acosta also has a special gift for that.

Speaking of my man Aaron, he showed up just in the nick of time to save el Governador Fernando after Fernando hung himself.

Aaron the Exorcist earnestly strives to save Fernando's life and his soul

Sometimes having an exorcist stalking you comes in handy. Fernando was depressed because Don Alfonso proposed to María Pía and she accepted. This was after Fernando beat Alfonso to within an inch of his life. Even with the remarkable recuperative powers of everyone in this show - except poor Miguel the gitano after Pizarro beheaded him - Alfonso still had a bruise and a scratch on his face for two days or so, though it seemed to be completely healed by Friday. The fight scene where Fernando won but María Pía was even more committed to Alfonso afterward reminded me of a song from the Eagles' one album that rose about the level of catchy pop, Desperado. In the song, "Saturday Night", the lyrics say:

Whatever happened to Saturday night?
Finding a sweetheart and losing a fight
She'd say, "Tell me, oh tell me, are you all right?
Whatever happened to Saturday night?


After rescusing Fernando, Aaron the Exorcist persuaded Fernando to put on a white robe and let Aaron baptize him in a pond. When they came out of the water, Aaron put a brown robe and cowl onto Fernando, and we don't see Fernando's face. This could be the makeover Fernando mentioned once before. Probably he figures María Pía would really go for him in a monk's robe.

There was plenty of action on the political front this week, too. Zorro returned to the Queen's bedchamber to visit with her. El Duque Jacobo was there and el Comandante Montero charged in with his sword and a bunchofsoldiers. Zorro knocked a dozen or so soldiers unconscious and escaped, with a little help from Padre Tomás. Tomás set a wagon full of straw on fire and then hid behind a building and laughed in delight. He really enjoyed getting in on the Zorro action.

Padre Tomás conspires with the Queen under cover of the confessional

It turns out that the Queen already suspected that some funny business was going on, which is why she wanted to come to Los Angeles. Thanks to intercepting a confidential letter of the Queen's, el Duque knows that she's close to discovering his plot, which includes having murdered her husband the king. On Friday, the Queen goes to confession with Padre Tomás, who then lets her in on what he knows about the conspiracy and promises to help her. He also lets her know that he's in league with Zorro.

On the gitano front, Sara Kalí is unable to reconstruct the amulet map from memory. So they plan to attend a citywide masquerade ball that the Queen is putting on in order to talk to the Queen. Zorro is also planning to attend for the same purpose. Plus, Diego and Bernardo have also deciphered the map. Will Esmeralda's Amazon sisters be as impressed with him as she is? Inquiring minds want to know.

Also, on the gitano front, Ana Camila/Sor Suplicios and cute-but-useless Renzo become officially engaged. This makes everyone happy but eternally-brooding Laisha, who's always had a thing for Renzo.

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