Episode 11: “Ancient Guardian”
On the run from a party of Sleestaks at night, the Marshalls enter a part of the Valley that they’ve never been to before. Near a cliff, they find a large, wooden statue carved to look like a Sleestak. There are strange symbols all over it and the Marshalls naturally assume that the statue’s purpose is to point the way out of the Land of the Lost. How could they not?
They don’t want to decipher it in the middle of the night though with the Sleestaks and Grumpy the T-Rex on the hunt, so they decide instead to haul it back to the temple where they can study it at their leisure. They don’t spend much time with it before they realize that they’ll need Enik’s help. Will volunteers to ask the Altrusian come morning.
He and Jack spend the rest of the evening imagining what it would be like to finally get home. The only reason I mention this is that Jack speculates that most people won’t believe the Marshalls’ stories of the Land of the Lost. “On the other hand,” he notes, “somebody might want to write a book about it. Or a movie.” And just like that we have a way to make the Will Ferrell movie – however awful and unfaithful to the show – fit into official continuity. If it’s a movie within the show I feel like I can watch it and satisfy my curiosity without getting all ticked off at it. I’ll just imagine the Marshalls watching it too and rolling their eyes about how Hollywood got the details wrong.
Meanwhile, back at the cliff where the statue was, a large, shaggy creature emerges from a crevice and climbs over a pile of rubble to terrorize the Sleestaks in their caverns. Enik’s able to drive it away with a laser-shooting crystal before it reaches the hatching chambers, but the reptile-men are understandably distraught. Enik and the Sleestak Leader ask the Cave of Skulls why the Ancient Guardian has forsaken them and learn that the Marshalls have taken the Guardian. The Leader wants to kill the humans in retaliation, but Enik sees some benefit in talking to them first. He doesn’t believe that they know what the Guardian’s for.
However, the Sleestaks visit the temple while the Marshalls are asleep and steal the statue back (it’s sitting outside because Cha-Ka freaked out and wouldn’t let the Marshalls keep it inside). As the humans mourn its loss the next morning, Enik arrives and learns that it’s already gone. He tries to explain why the Sleestaks are upset about it, but Holly and Will are determined to dismiss the lizard-men’s attachment to “that old statue.” Jack’s more sensitive though, or at least more curious. He wants to know how the Guardian prevents the Hairy Monster from the High Country from coming into the Valley. Unfortunately, Enik doesn’t know. All he knows is that it works. He gives them a stern warning never to disturb it again.
When Enik’s gone, Jack also dismisses the Sleestaks’ belief as superstition, but he seems content to abide by Enik’s wishes. Rather than study the statue at home, the Marshalls make plans to go back to the cliff and examine it there. When they do though, they find a pissed off Enik waiting for them. He knew they’d be back to mess with it some more.
They explain that they just want to look at it, but while they’re talking the monster emerges, even though the Guardian is in its proper place. The creature even knocks the statue over and breaks it. Enik rushes back to warn the Sleestaks and the Marshalls take the opportunity to steal the statue again, hoping that the Sleestaks won’t mind now that they know the statue doesn’t stop the monster.
Back at the temple, there’s kind of a cool moment when Holly points out that the Guardian must have been somehow effective since the monster’s never come down from the mountain before. “Not while we’ve been here,” Will agrees.
That makes Jack pause. “Yeah?” he asks. Apparently, he hadn’t considered that, but is willing to take the kids’ word for it since they’ve been there longer than he has. It’s a nice acknowledgment on his part and a small nod to continuity, which has become more and more rare as the season’s progressed.
As Jack examines the statue, he turns it around to get a look at the back and the eyes (made of glass or some kind of crystal) to start to glow. Almost immediately, they shoot beams of light and start a small fire on the other side of the temple courtyard. The Marshalls don’t realize what caused the blaze at first, but Holly takes another look at Jack’s notes and realizes that the Guardian’s markings are numbers, not letters. With that information, Jack’s able to piece together that the equations have something to do with optics and that the Guardian started the fire. In time, he figures out that the statue stores solar energy and uses it to generate a heat ray.
Though the Sleestaks try to kill the Marshalls during the night, the family shows remarkable compassion for them once Enik explains that the monster has begun attacking the hatching chambers for eggs during its raids. They set out first thing in the morning to return the statue to its rightful place, this time making sure that it’s oriented correctly on its pedestal (something the Sleestaks hadn’t known to do when they put it back before). With the Guardian in place, it heats up the pile of rubble that the creature has to climb over to leave its crevice. That makes the rocks too hot for the creature to touch and prevents it from entering the Valley. The Sleestaks are saved.
Later, back at the temple, the family goes over Lessons Learned and decides not to mess with things they don’t understand. I wonder how well that message would’ve stuck had there been a fourth season. Unfortunately, we’ll never know.