Review: Back to the Rock S2 – Episode 3 ‘When Mokey Met Lanford’

Published: April 17, 2024
Categories: Feature, Reviews

Who among us hasn’t been in a situation where we are stressed, scared, or angry, and all we want is to forget the negative feelings that won’t leave us alone? So, in order to cope, we fixate on something else; dive into delicious escapism. It can be something large and important in our day-to-day, or it can be a small, obscure thing that leaves our friends wondering what’s going on. And, if we’re not careful, that fixation can consume us and make us forget ourselves.

Turns out, Fraggles go through this too, y’all!

In the episode “When Mokey Met Lanford”, we see that the wind gusts are still bellowing throughout Fraggle Rock. And as it turns out, they’re keeping Mokey awake at night too. So much so that she mistakes four What-Not-esque Fraggles for her normal posse.

We sense that there might be something more brewing under Mokey’s surface, but she is quick to brush it off as her friends reintroduce the 30 Minute Work Week, accompanied by the song ‘Workin’’ (which we know from the original Fraggle series). Since it’s still pretty early into season two, this serves as a nice reminder to the audience of some quintessential characteristics of the Fraggle Five. (Though I still have some big questions about how the heck Red keeps the water clean by just diving into it??)

Suddenly hearing someone crying out in distress, Mokey finds a sentient plant (a Night-Blooming Yellow-Leaved Deathwort) whose been knocked over by the wind. Immediately – like, we’re talking in LESS than one minute of meeting him, folks – she invites this plant to come live with her and Red. This was particularly concerning for me since, upon seeing this lil green dude, my initial response was to yell “DON’T FEED THE PLANT, MOKEY!”

But as it turns out, this plant is Lanford, who you might remember from the original series. Mokey is all about this guy, while none of her friends take to him. Gobo tells the others, “I hope she doesn’t take it too far,” and clearly that’s what’s going to happen. Mokey says nothing when Lanford lashes out at others, takes Boober’s bisque pot for Landford to live in, wakes Red in the middle of the night with gong-wave mediation (accompanied by Pogey on flute), and ruins their friends’ group painting session. Basically, no one is a fan of the Mokey-Lanford team up that’s taking place.

We get to the meat of the episode when Red approaches Mokey about this erratic behavior, to which Mokey lashes out with, “His name is Lanford! This is about him feeling safe!” and man, if there was ever a clear sign that someone is actually talking about themselves through veiled language, this would be it. Instead of addressing these fears that she cannot yet voice, Mokey opts to move back to Lanford’s cave with him. They sing a catchy new song, ‘Just Takes Two,’ but all goes awry when Mokey starts sinking in some (aptly named) Sink Soil. Boober gives a moving speech about anxiety, and her friends all pull her to safety with the “grabby flappy” that Matt sent this episode (ie. a gym sock). Mokey moves back in with Red – with Lanford now living outside of their window, so I’m guessing we’ll see more of him moving forward.

Ultimately, this is an episode about the fear of lack of control. Mokey has no control over the gusties; it is a thing not only keeping her awake, it’s tormenting her. She’s so afraid of being blown away and of all the destruction it has the potential to cause, but she can only admit to this when her friends coax it out of her. In recognizing this in her, we see that Lanford was a coping mechanism all along. Sometimes, when you’re in a stressful (or even traumatic) situation, the best way to cope is to throw all of your energy into something else – a person, a piece of media, an activity, you name it.

Remember a little thing called 2020, and suddenly everyone got SUPER into birding and making sourdough bread and WandaVision? Yeah, it’s a little like that. Occasionally we need to distract ourselves from the awful things going on in our lives. And this is not always a bad thing! Having something to hold onto can help us survive and get through to the other side. But other times, if we go too deep into a new fixation and forget about the situation we are in, we’ll start sinking so deep that we begin to lose ourselves, lose sight of the people around us, and maybe let the stressful thing get too far out of hand. This is laid out quite literally with the Sink Soil, but hey, this is a kid’s show, so hitting the hammer a little hard on the head is kinda okay in my book.

I think there are two lines that really put this episode into perspective, which come from my main man Boober. Boober is initially sent on this own to talk to Mokey because he too deals with anxiety by obsessing over things, so he’s kind of perfect for the job. He tells Mokey both “It’s always easier to focus on what you can control” and “It’s okay to admit that you’re not okay. That’s when it starts to get okay.”  It’s only then that Mokey has the courage to admit her worry of being blown away by the wind and start to move past this fear, but now with her friends in tow.

As for the other creatures in this episode! The Doozers are hanging wind chimes to get a better understanding of the wind gusts. But as it turns out, by focusing so much on building the chimes, they forget to build their normal Doozer constructions and so the Fraggles begin eating the chimes, thus ruining the whole experiment. Cotterpin is then told, “It’s normal to pay attention to something new and exciting, but not at the expense of everything else,” tying it in with the rest of the episode. (Also, can I just say, the Doozers look SO DANG GOOD in this series. Holy cow.)

Checking in on the Gorgs, we get more of Pa’s re-growing hatred of the Fraggles and him practicing his sword fighting skills so he can better protect their kingdom. Junior discovers the strawberries growing in the garden, laying out more groundwork in the ongoing strawberry story-sure-to-turn-ecological-debacle.

With Doc and Sprocket, we see Doc having a true ADHD moment (speaking from my own personal experience) where she has to get work done, but can’t sit still until she finds out where a noise is coming from (ie. the Doozer wind chimes). We even see her try to crawl into the Fraggle Hole – a thing I am 95% certain Gerry Parkes’ Doc didn’t think to attempt! But of course, she gets stuck and gives up after Sprocket pulls her out. I mean, we can’t have Doc seeing Fraggles yet – this is only season two!

Look, times are tough right now, y’all. Delving into our phones, marathoning way too much TV, binging every article that comes out through a certain beloved Muppet-related fan-site – I absolutely understand the need. It’s okay to take your hands off the wheel and dissociate a little. But just don’t forget to put those hands back, at ten and two, and keep driving. Whether we’re talking about our personal lives or, heck, on a national and global news level, keeping your head in the sand to avoid the stress isn’t going to solve anyone’s problem. If you’re not careful, you’ll find yourself sinking too deep with things getting even more out of control – and there’s no promise some Fraggles will show up with a grabby flappy to pull you out.

Strongest Moment: Near the end of the episode, Doc tells Sprocket, “As if anything interesting was going on behind that hole.” We proceed to get this amazing sequence of shots – we go into the hole to see a Fraggle munching on a wind chime, cut to some Doozers building new constructions, cut to an Inkspot, Skenfrith, and this guy hanging out, cut to the Fraggles. It’s constructed so well, these shots of all the life and world that live just beyond Doc’s walls. 

Weakest Moment: The selfie joke was, and I can’t believe as a thirtysomething year old I’m gonna write this, very cringe. Mokey and Lanford posing for a selfie, which requires Mokey to run back and forth to paint it, did absolutely nothing for me.

MVF (Most Valuable Fraggle): Call me biased, but I’m gonna give it to Boober. His talk with Mokey near the end is what breaks through her fixation and pulls her out (literally and figuratively) to the other side. It’s a scene with a whole lot of heart.

The Grand Return Of…: Landford and Geraldine (Junior’s beloved turnip!)

Classic Musical Moment: ‘Workin’ – gosh, what I’d give for the concept of a 30 minute work week to catch on with us silly creatures.

New Musical Moment: ‘Just Takes Two’ is an absolute banger. Seeing as Fraggle Rock is a musical TV show, I feel like this song goes in the pantheon of “two” showtunes. (Looking at you ‘It Takes Two’ from Into the Woods and Hairspray.)

Fraggle Lore: We see Skenfrith briefly in one of the shots, the shapeshifting character from one episode of the original series.

One More Thing…: Look, it’s such a small moment, but when they’re all deciding on what to name Mokey’s new plant friend, Wembley goes, “Oh, I love naming things!” takes the world’s longest pause, looks down at his shirt, and then just says “Shirt.” I mean, that? That got me good.

Okay, One More Thing…: This is where I get to admit that I did not remember that Lanford was a character from Fraggle Rock until I was done watching the episode. He doesn’t appear in the original series until episode twenty of the second season, and we’re only through the first three episodes of season two of the podcast Fraggle Talk. And now I guess this is a plug, huh? Go listen to Fraggle Talk: Classic, y’all!

By Julia Gaskill

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