Zhaan also very kindly and wisely tells him that the reason he couldn’t stay on that planet wasn’t only that Crichton revealed the ugly truth to them about it but because the fact that it was always too easy should have been a sign. The sort of dream he longs for isn’t one that can be found; it has to be built, and it takes time, time which she assures him he still has. On a rewatch, this lovely moment resonates on two levels, both bittersweet in different ways. Firstly, what Zhaan doesn’t know and D’Argo hasn’t told her is that he did attain this dream once, with a wife and son, when he was very young, but that that paradise was ripped away from him. And ironically, it was partially due to the very hyper-rage that sent him down to this false paradise planet in the first place. Secondly, we know that D’Argo will later try to re-create this with Chiana, but again he will be trying to force the issue, as he should know that she would never have been the type of person to want to settle down in that way. This dream of his will never be fulfilled, however he will eventually die while trying to protect his best friends and their ability to have a happy life with their child, which is beautiful and sad. Again, though, this is a crucial episode for D’Argo’s development. The tannot root simply forces that hidden side of him to reveal itself.
Another character who starts to show another side to herself, but in this case to discover an ability she never knew she had, is Aeryn, who–while John and everyone else are down on the planet–is forced to perform some scientific experiments on Rygel by herself, without the help of any of Moya’s experts in the field. In “Premiere,” Crichton told her she could “be more” (as did Velorek, another scientist, even earlier), and here she finally starts to show that potential. When Rygel is nearly assassinated on the planet by what seems to be a bomb, she goes back up to Moya with him, only shortly afterwards realizing that somehow his own bodily fluids have turned explosive. Only on Farscape would bodily function humor not only figure prominently in an episode but also be crucial to the story, for in fact, it is how Aeryn comes to figure out that the tannot root he ingested is what wreaked havoc on his system, and then, through experiments, to realize that tannot root is a key ingredient in chakan oil, which powers PK pulse weapons, and that therefore this not-so-shiny, happy planet is actually unknowingly creating weapons for their enemies. It is this piece of information that ultimately snaps D’Argo out of his fog.
What’s great about it is that we see Aeryn really pushing herself outside of her comfort zone for the first time and actually discovering that she’s pretty good at attacking a problem and solving it with her mind, largely on her own (meanwhile, the fact that Aeryn was the one alone on Moya in the first place also sprang directly from biology, because the planet is too hot for a Sebacean to withstand in the daytime). There’s also wonderful irony in that this occurs in the very episode before John’s heart will be temporarily won by a PK tech, who soldiers like Aeryn always looked down on, even though they are, of course, crucial.
This scenario also provides wonderful bonding time between Aeryn and Pilot, who admits to Aeryn that science doesn’t come naturally to him, either, asking her to keep his secret. When she asks him why he told her, he says it’s because he trusts her, which is incredibly touching–particularly given she’s a former Peacekeeper–but also underlines why learning the truth about her in “The Way We Weren’t” will be such a gut-punch betrayal to him. Also, in retrospect, I wonder whether his not yet being fully versed in all of the science in Moya’s databanks is because he’s still so young and wasn’t Moya’s original pilot.
Other odds and ends:
–Aeryn’s absolutely hilarious line to John that Volme “gives me a woody,” which is, of course, a mangling of the English idiom, “the willies,” is the series’ first example of Aeryn trying to learn some of Crichton’s language, which becomes an important point in later episodes. At the time, although she may not realize it yet, it’s indicative of her starting to learn from his world just as much as he’s been learning from hers, and to even show an interest in it.
–The bedroom moments between John and Zhaan are priceless. I love that all of the characters on the show exhibit a level of sexual tension at different times. It’s so very Crichton to be Earth-modest and gentlemanly and offer to take the floor, and so very Zhaan/Delvian to write that off as nonsense and tell him to get in bed with her. The later moments where her hand lands on his crotch during her sleep, and he wakes spooning her are funny and wonderful.
–This episode is the first time that we learn that Zhaan became a Delvian Pau in prison, that she was fully savage when jailed and then one day found her calling and spent years in her cell, meditating and gaining her priestly powers. Interestingly, we later learn that this isn’t fully true. She was actually a priest (though presumably at a far lower level) before being incarcerated, but she lost that centering to her anger and rage. And so she more re-found her path in prison than found it for the first time. But I don’t think it’s any coincidence that she addresses her darkness for the first time two episodes before she will again succumb to it. Zhaan’s struggle to maintain her spiritual balance will be a major aspect of her character for the rest of her run on the series.
–Also, in retrospect, the fact that Zhaan feels most happy and at home in the hot sun, planting, is another clue as to her physiology.