Deconstructing Moya

A Farscape Re-watch Project

Episode [2.19] – “Liars, Guns and Money Part I: A Not So Simple Plan”

Today, on Farscape

“Now, insert the rod! Insert the rod! Insert the rod! Insert it! Insert the rod, John!”
“You’re really not my type, Scorpi – ”
Insert it!”

Stark is back once again, with a plan to get the gang one step closer to freeing D’Argo’s son by pulling an insane bank heist on a highly secure Shadow Depository. And then Scorpius shows up.


Apologies up front to Tessa. Several times, now, she’s justifiably complained at this show’s overuse of the psych-out card of killing a cast member only for them to return, miraculously alive. Such is the case with Stark. Unlike the first time he disappeared, his death a couple episodes back was powerfully staged, with his speech about reconstituting his physical form ultimately brushed off as false hope. I knew he would eventually come back, as do all you other fans out there, but I forgot it happened so soon. I was trying to remember if there was a plot where it took some time to rebuild his body and the others had to assist him in some way, but now I realize that the memory was blank in my mind because it didn’t exist. He’s back, he found a ship, and he calls the others to let him dock. Yeah, there’s a brief moment of danger and pain, but that’s fixed when they reunite him with his mask.

I’m sorry, but this is almost as frustrating as the last time they brought Stark back, just quickly scribbling out a throwaway explanation for his arrival so they can move on. If they didn’t want to draw it out, then why “kill” him in the first place? It’s bad plotting, and I’m starting to get the sense that, at writers’ meetings, they passed around a hat with all the character names written inside, and everyone cursed and rolled their eyes when they wound up with Stark.

The one thing I liked about Stark? The return of his mania. The “Your side, my side! My side, your side!” line was a nice callback, and Stark is at his best when he buckles under pressure and frells his master plan up good by picking something up and smashing it on an essential device before D’Argo can tongue lash him to sleep. However, it still doesn’t make up for lazy plotting. While in his noncorporeal energy form, he found out where D’Argo’s son is being held, found out information on this Shadow Depository, found plans and keycodes for the place, and even helped ease an employee through death in return for further info. Say it with me, Church Lady:

Honestly, doesn’t half the fun of a heist flick come from watching all the planing and plotting and casing out of joints and gathering of intel and slipping in programs and tools and any little thing that will help along the way? Here, it’s all done for us off screen by a man who wasn’t physical at the time, and instead of guiding everyone through his master plan (a necessary contrast to it all frelling up later), he just tells them there’s no time and they have to do what he says. No wonder half of them want to kill him throughout the episode.

Now, all this said, things do pick up when we get into the Depository itself. The place is run by Natira, a sexy as squick crustacean with perfectly shelled stiletto heels (why?), and we know she’s a force to be reckoned with when she quickly captures and tortures D’Argo. It’s then up to Zhaan to don an eyepatch and a Baroness catsuit, poses as an Impatient Important Person, and deposit Rygel into a vault so he can switch vaults, and they can make off with crates full of loot.

And here’s where it really gets tasty: they decide to steal Scorpius’s loot after he shows up and John gets vengeance happy. To the point where our hero has to – damn, Harvey’s getting in the way again – Aeryn can smear some exploding gel on Scorpius’s cooling rods that will frell up his suit and hopefully pop his noggin. It doesn’t go exactly according to plan, of course, but it all leads up to an epic faceoff as Scorpy is dying with his head wide open, and John is fighting the chip in his skull which is painfully forcing him to get a new rod and save his tormentor’s life and his quaking hand is getting closer and closer and Scorpius is roaring and panting and oh so dripping with sweat and ick and John violently yanks himself away by singing the “Star Spangled Banner”.

It’s just two men shaking and panting at one another, and it’s one of the most epic and haunting showdowns I’ve ever seen.

The episode got off to a really rough start, but once the heist kicks into motion and all the characters fall into place, it’s one hell of a great show. And I love that, unlike the last three-parter, this first chapter tells a largely self-contained story. There’s a couple threads cliffhangered at the end, but it doesn’t feel like a single plot unnecessarily stretched out like “Look at the Princess”.

Disappointingly Explained Stark Reappearance Count: 2


I have to start by disagreeing with Noel. Plan movies tend not to be so much about the planning, but the execution. The plan itself is revealed to we unknowing watchers over the course of the heist. It’s certainly possible to detail how things will work, the complications in the setup, and the solutions and resolutions, but it tends to take more pre-heist legwork than you can cram into a single episode.

Notable exceptions include Oceans Thirteen and the entire Leverage series. Both very awesome.

Speaking of Leverage, I have to do a quick comparison. Aeryn is the Hitter, D’Argo is the Hacker, Zhaan is the Grifter, and Rygel is the Thief, with Stark as the Man with the Plan. Which may be why everything goes to hell so fast.

They could have thrown in a quick montage; Stark re-corporealizing, killing a guy to cross him over and strip the information he wants from his mind, stealing a ship, and sending the message to Zhaan. Could have made a more cohesive opening.

…nuts, I think I’m convincing myself that Noel’s right. Yeeeeah, alright, the setup is one of the funner parts of a caper. Different stories emphasize different parts of the event, setup and execution. Farscape leans towards the latter, and I do think it works.

So, now that’s out of the way. Has D’Argo ever shot down someone’s plan immediately? Early in the episode he claims that he hasn’t, but I’m fairly certain he’s been firmly against some of Crichton’s plans from the get go. He harps on this a bit at the beginning and end, and it looks like it’ll be a theme through the rest of the three-parter. Maybe Chiana’s had a mollifying effect on him.

Aeryn knows about Crichton’s visions of Scorpius from “Beware of Dog“, and she’s very aware that he’s starting to lose it. Hearing whispers, seeing him everywhere. He’s not bothering to hide it anymore, and you can see her concern. Whatever’s happening to him, it’s getting worse. Combining what he learned on the Breakaway planet with the new information about Scorpy’s cranial cooler, he devises a way to hit Scorpy where it hurts. But he still can’t do it. Harvey has sufficient control that Crichton just can’t kill Scorpy.

It’s like an implanted First Law: A Crichton may not, through action or inaction, allow a Scorpius to come to harm. Unless, as Noel notes, he’s singing the Star Spangled Banner. Such a good scene.

Also fairly important – John’s made the jump from killing people who are trying to kill him as they’re in the process to premeditation. He’s actively trying to bring about Scorpius’ end. It’s been a long trip from reluctance to acceptance to preemption to premeditation. Finally, Crichton is fully acclimatized to the Uncharted Territories.

There’s a lot of awesome here. The first flyover of the Shadow Depository. Zhaan’s eyepatch of power. Crichton’s itchy Harvey-in-my-brain dance. The brief, lampshaded plan to use the guards’ uniforms. Scorpius opening a heavy vault door with a casual shove. The docking web used to bring in Stark’s stolen ship. All of Natira’s interactions with Scorpius. Natira’s makeup and prosthetics. Natira in general.

We do wind up with a few questions: Are all Banneks inherently incorporeal, or just the Stykera? What was in the “special reserve” Natira placed in Scorpius vault? Just what are the eleven ingredients for the secret sauce? When D’Argo says that he’ll never distrust Stark again, how long will that really last?


I started off on this episode rather hyped, since it wasn’t only the start of another three-parter, but one that would be leading up to the season finale.

I’d been looking forward to getting to the “find and rescue Jothee” plot, and when the episode opened with the crew arguing over navigation, I figured it was about trying to find him. Except it turns out Zhaan took control of the navigation and has them running around looking for Stark.

What, what?

Oh yeah, she got a message from him suddenly saying he could be found again if they went along a certain route. At first the rest of the crew starts to wonder if Zhaan’s desire to believe he’s still alive is making her start to imagine things, but nope, they get the same message and it turns out he’s out there, easily locatable, and is returned to the ship with a minimum of fuss.

I have to echo Noel here. Why the hell did they kill him off in the first place if they weren’t even going to wait TWO FRELLING EPISODES before bringing him back? And if they absolutely had to bring him back this soon, why did they make his return a near-handwave by having his rescue happen off-screen without any conflict whatsoever? They could have at least made it interesting, having his return be an incredibly dangerous and risky event, and actually show him struggling to reconstitute when they arrive, to at least make it look like it wasn’t nearly as simple as they made it appear.

Seriously, when he was facing death two episodes back, the idea of him being able to put himself back together was presented as a remote possibility, a shred of hope to throw out that things might actually be okay (and he himself admitted not really believing it). But here, when Crichton questions how he’s alive, Stark just shrugs it off and talks about it more as if it was just the natural and predictable course of events.

If they wanted him back, fine (and don’t get me wrong, I like his character and I’m glad he’s not gone for good). But it would have been far more effective to save his return for the third season, in my opinion. It would actually give us time to sit on his death for a while, make us wonder if he maybe wasn’t coming back after all, and possibly get a decent amount of character development out of it (it would have been far more interesting to really have the situation be that Zhaan was starting to lose it again because she wanted him back that badly than for her having turned out to be right). On top of that, it doesn’t even feel like he was totally necessary for this story. Sure, he has a definite role to play in the whole thing, but I’m fairly certain they could have kept the main concept of this plot intact without him and it still would have worked fine. Some roles in the heist and how the idea came about would probably have changed a bit, but it still totally would have worked.



As to the heist and planning thereof, I agree with Noel that they showed us far too little of the crew working out just what the plan actually was. We don’t need to know the entire thing in detail, but we should at least have some inkling of what the intended plan was from the start. A lot of the fun in Heist/Plan movies is the contrast between what was expected, and what winds up actually happening. Seeing something go wrong in a plan is a lot more suspenseful when we know (or at least can make a reasonable guess at) just how wrong its gone and how badly that throws a wrench into the rest of the plan.

I have to wonder what exactly Scorpius was coming in to reclaim from the vault originally and whether or not it holds any importance. It could just be money, I guess (or some valuable substance that works out to about the same thing), but why would he be coming for it now if it was? Then again, the implication is that Frieza Natira took it for herself and used whatever it was up, so if it wasn’t money, what was it that could be expended like that? Or, it’s possible that she just sold whatever it was.

And, uh, whoops, guess Scorpy’s earlier fake-out didn’t really hold up against explosive super-heating gel. He might have been better in a heated room than he was letting on, but it doesn’t really matter how much he exaggerated his weakness when he gets liquid insta-bomb put straight into his brain.

And goddamn what a showdown between him and Crichton. It’s impressive as hell that they can make such a suspenseful and epic encounter out of a “fight scene” where next to no action is even happening. I was on the edge of my seat for the entire thing, I’m not even kidding. It’s redundant to say at this point, but it’s just another example of how good the actors actually are. There’s almost no action there, and very little dialogue (and what dialogue there is becomes increasingly difficult to understand as the scene progresses), and yet it’s probably the best confrontation I’ve seen in the show so far.

The implication seems to be that Scorpius is dead, seeing as Crichton resisted Harvey’s mental conditioning to save him, and there didn’t appear to be anyone else around to do it with his nurse incapacitated (although Braca was still alive and probably not far, so unless the crew took the time to make certain, it’s probably a bit too early to call that one just yet). Even if he actually is, though, I would imagine that Harvey is still alive and well within Crichton’s brain, and just because his real-world self might be gone, I’d imagine Harvey wouldn’t take that as a cue to pack up and leave. Even if the real Scorpy is dead (which again, it’s way too early to call), I seriously doubt he’s done making his presence known to John, at the very least.

Oh yeah, and the stuff they stole from Scorpy seems to be booby-trapped in some way, and appeared to be leaking something that looked similar to the fluid dripping from Scorpius’ head-cooler-thingy. So, there’s that.


Gimmicky introduction aside, the execution of the rest of this episode is fantastic. It’s starting to be a running theme here; the end of each season thus far has landed Our Heroes in some hyper-secure base of some sort, killing their dudes.

…I’m actually having trouble finding something meaty to talk about, since everyone already covered everything, so on to Things To Take Note Of:

  • Maybe it’s just me, but Natira comes off less of a crustacean and more of a sexy Xenomorph. Which…not exactly sure how I feel about that.

Hey, baby, mind if I jam my offspring down your throat?

  • I really want to restate how in awe I am at the absolutely gorgeous planetary landscape designs. They’re unique, distinctive, and really help solidify the realness of this universe.
  • “Insert the rod. INSERT IT. INSERT THE ROD.” I’m twelve, sorry.
  • …seriously, guys, I think I’m tapped out this episode.

Episode [2.18]: A Clockwork Nebari || Episode [2.20]: Liars, Guns and Money Part II: With Friends Like These

11 ResponsesLeave one →

  1. Guys, I have to beg to differ with you about the importance of Stark’s return, the bank heist plot lightness, and any science question. They are unimportant to the actual point of this episode and the next two. It is a character episode. What we are shown is the budding trust between John and Aeryn. Such amazing scenes.

    John has not been allowed by the clone to tell anybody about what is really going on. Aeryn knows he’s seeing things and maybe that he is seeing Scorpy and thinks it is Space Madness. John can’t tell her his fears until now. The most important scene other than John and Scorpy’s fight (and John’s discovery that he is right — Scorpy put something — a neurobio chip — in his brain), is when John tells Aeryn his terrible situation and admits his love — or tries to (he always has a terrible time expressing his feelings — note the mumbling) and Aeryn tells him she knows and reciprocates. It’s what keeps John going. Yet he is royally frelled and knows it.

    Look at the compulsions he’s under. Why would he volunteer to make sure the doors were sealed when they left the Depository? Why would Aeryn let him except to show her trust in his sanity? But John is compelled back to Scorpy, hence the fabulous scene between John and Scorpy where John’s stubborn resistance to being taken over are shown. He is tenacity against compulsion. And he really didn’t win. We never know Scorpius’ true position on anything. He’s always 10 steps ahead. So, John thinks he’s dead, but Scorpy could have easily been faking the extent of his prostration and reached out an put the rod back into his own head when John left.

    D’argo is truly irrational this episode. Guilt is killing him and as usual he takes it out on John. He has for the entire series. He totally refuses to recognize anything but his own needs. Stark manipulates this to further THE PLAN. John finds out and is massively ticked off. “It is okay to guilt trip me, but don’t lie to me.” Three characters and three types of insanity and Aeryn, Zhaan, and Chiana really pulling their friends through the fire.

    This is only the beginning.

    • Tessa

       /  April 22, 2011

      But that doesn’t change the fact that the entire thing is dragged down and distracted away from them by an EXTREMELY irritating, overused, and shoddily handled plot twist right at the start of things, and it comes close to totally destroying the episode for me. No, it’s not overly important that Stark was just clumsily thrown back into the story in the larger plot of the episode, but that doesn’t make it any less grating. Again, if his return from death wasn’t supposed to be even remotely an issue, why kill him in the first place, or if they really had to, why choose now to bring him back instead of waiting until they could have brought him back with more than just a hand-wave?

      It’s not important in regards to the plot, but it’s a huge issue in regards to the storytelling, and I’m sorry, but the very good character interaction in the episode (which there definitely is) doesn’t absolve them from that. They’ve done this far too many times now with no real point to doing it aside from getting cheap twists that have next to no impact now after having cried wolf so many times. It’s a very bad thing when I’m distracted from what would otherwise be an exceptional second half of the episode by getting stuck on the series of “what the hell” events of the first few minutes. The opening of an episode can’t afford to be that weak without detracting from the episode as a whole. I’ll say it again, there was no reason to bring Stark back this soon and with this fragile an explanation. I’m confident that they could have easily made this storyline work, with all of the character interaction and insight involved, without him having to be there.

      • Rita, you’re right that everything after the 10 minutes mark is an amazing episode, full of fantastic headgames and suspense. And I’m still with Tessa that everything before the 10 minute mark is nonsense. Just take Stark out of the equation, and have our heroes decide to take on the Depository alone. Aeryn recognizes a signal from her Peacekeeper days and tells them what it is. Crichton, Rygel, and Chiana (the master thief who did surprisingly little in the way of actual thieving this episode) want to go in for the money. D’Argo wants to cut loose until he realizes it helps the chances of freeing his son. Zhaan wants nothing to do with it, until D’Argo gets captured. You don’t need Stark for the setup. You don’t need the “Master Plan”. They’re going in blind and making it up as they go along, and, as with any good Farscape episode, for every two things they pull off, one thing goes terribly wrong. Thus, it becomes less a high tech heist plot, and more an old fashioned western bank robbery.

        Sorry about the ramble, but there are much better ways to get to the good stuff than what they gave us here.

  2. Tessa, looking at this from a “meta” perspective you are absolutely correct. Being a long-time Scaper, I suspect that I forgive the show a lot of bad writing — or rushed writing because of its huge heart. It is bad that Stark is basically there to further the plot in Season 2 when Paul Goddard is such a fine actor. Luckily, Season 3 brings him on full-time and stops the practice of throwing him away when he’s done. It does distract from the characterizations. I’m not the kind of TV watcher who worries about the underlying logic unless it is so badly done and the actors can’t cover it up — I find I’m swept away by the emotions of a piece so I forgive a lot.

    But the use of silly hand waving such as Stark as a plot mover distracted and annoyed my husband so much that he stopped watching the show. So, I totally understand your position.

    If Farscape had continued along the uneven path it took in Season 2, I think it would have lost a lot of viewers. But I think it is about this time that David Kemper took over as Executive Producer and Ben had a stronger role in the writing room.

    • Tessa

       /  April 22, 2011

      Possibly another difference here is that I don’t know anything that’s coming in the future – this is my first viewing of any of this. So it’s harder for me to step back and see the plot of the series in a larger picture, since I don’t really have one yet to see.

      I put a lot of stock in the emotional strength of performances and plots also, and that’s part of the problem here – Stark’s return was seriously lacking in just about every facet, emotional impact included. Yes, he’s not the point of the episode, I get that, but particularly in contrast to his “death” two episodes back, his return is so void of… anything that it comes off as incredibly frustrating. There’s not really even much feeling there on Zhaan’s behalf once he’s back after a quick “oh, yay!” before the whole thing is just completely ignored for the sake of continuing the plot.

      When a character dies, I really want to be able to care, to be shocked, to really feel hurt at their loss. Likewise, when they turn out to not be dead, it should be equally shocking, and it should make me feel relieved and happy, not thinking “oh god, they did this AGAIN”. There are one or two character death examples that actually would have hit their mark had they either stuck with it or not overused the device. Stark’s death was actually one of them, though Aeryn’s was probably the best done. Stark’s return is just very badly handled, as if they realized they needed him suddenly and just stuck him back into the storyline as an afterthought. It takes away from his emotional departure because it turns out the whole thing apparently wasn’t such a big deal after all (not to mention we have no time at all to actually grieve his loss before he’s back).

      I realize I’ve probably gotten very cynical about this kind of plot device, but like I’ve said before, it’s been thoroughly robbed of any effectiveness by now because of how often they’ve used it for next to no reason. Killing a character should be a huge deal, not something they do four times in one season just for the sake of doing it with no impact at all on the storyline because they always just come back.

  3. Weston: Has D’Argo ever shot down someone’s plan immediately? Early in the episode he claims that he hasn’t, but I’m fairly certain he’s been firmly against some of Crichton’s plans from the get go.

    I’m guessing D’Argo’s forgotten about the entirety of Season 1, where he was shooting down everything left and right.

  4. I actually don’t mind all the comings back to life that happen on Farscape, because I know that it’s only because life is not done sucking for them yet.

    How adorable was Natira’s fangirl crush on Scorpius? Awww.

    I wonder if the typically Farscape-like take on the “hero kisses the girl as guards run by looking for them” scene was on purposes.

    And Crichton’s last scene with Aeryn seemed like a Farscape take on “I love you – I know.”

    I really like that scene where Aeryn and Crichton step into gun detection territory and guards disarm them, because it got me thinking about how this show avoided the “what is this pink-skinned creature?” scenario. I like that the Farscape universe doesn’t treat Crichton like an outsider – instead, he’s just another soul lost in the cosmic wild west. It makes it all the more believable that once he forges relationships, he is able to accept it as his new home.

  5. You have officially passed me (although I am posting my write-up of the entire “Liars, Guns and Money” trilogy tomorrow . . . so only just barely.

    • Weston

       /  April 22, 2011

      Ah ha, I’ll be able to read your site without fear of accidentally cribbing it for mine. Excellent.

      *taps fingertips together*

  6. Weston

     /  April 22, 2011

    If Natira is the sexy Xenomorph, does that make Scorpy the Sigourney Weaver in leather?

    I… uh… need to think about this for a bit.

  7. Hello!
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