Episode 2 asks: How many loud birds does it take to ruin sex with your wife?

By James Hibberd
Updated January 14, 2020 at 08:08 PM EST
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The second episode of Pretty Prehistoric People sidelined the show’s budding mythology questions — What’s going on with the Sixers? What’s the deal with Taylor’s son? What are those gold markings? — and instead focused on two very straightforward stories: 1) A man tries to have sex with his easily distracted wife, and, 2) Bird attacks!

We start with a rover breaking down on a jungle road in a rainstorm. It’s surprising that anybody is allowed to go outside the compound at night, especially during a storm (and I continue to be surprised there are so many roads in a prehistoric jungle). The rover door opens and for a moment you half expect to see Wayne Knight smuggling his can full of Velociraptor embryos, but that’s the wrong Spielberg dino project.

Wait: There’s something above them, in the trees. Ahh! The red shirts the men are attacked.

Next morning at Terra Nova compound, the kids get survival training. They learn which way is North, that worms are food and that fire scares animals. Maddy gets an answer right and she’s given a verbal “gold star,” which just isn’t the same thing as a real sticker. Teens Josh and Skye then wander around the farmer’s market wearing what looks like the contamination suits from Breaking Bad around their waists (adding a meth lab to the Terra Nova camp would definitely spice things up).

Meanwhile, little Zoe continues her suicidal tendency to attract danger, asking dad if she can keep a freaky Venus flytrap -style biting plant in her room. Amazingly, he says yes. Perhaps Jim’s judgement is off because he’s focused on trying to get his wife Elizabeth into bed. He was in prison for two years, after all and, hey, there’s no Population Control at camp Terra Nova, so they can just have at it.

Terra Nova fans get Jason O’Mara shirtless for the second time and it looks like the makeup team went a little overboard with the spray-on abs. The man appears to have, like, a 12 pack, which I’m not certain is biologically possible. But sadly his romance with Elisabeth is interrupted by a creature screeching outside. She insists he somehow make the wildlife quiet. C’mon, they’re not staying at the Maui Sheraton. They’re living in some wild prehistoric militant-hippy jungle commune. They were kept apart for years. Is she really going to let one bird derail this moment?

Jim shoos away the bird, comes back and his wife is now with Zoe, who has managed to block his action. “She needed a cuddle,” Elizabeth explains. I wanted Jim to snap: “Well Daddy needs more than a cuddle!” But Jim is a nice guy and shrugs it off — or perhaps secretly hopes the man-eating plant will take care of this.

Med lab: The bodies of the soldiers from the opening attack are found. And, for spending the night dead in the jungle after being killed by animals, they are remarkably intact. New character alert! Dr. Wallace (Tudors actor Rod Hallett) shows up all and knows Elizabeth from school. We immediately get the sense that these two share some history. They suspect “Tree Darters” were behind the attacks, but Jim proves his usefulness by discovering a tiny tooth that suggests a new creature is the culprit. Later, Taylor reveals Wallace actually recommended Jim’s wife.

Back at home, Jim asks his wife if she ever dated Wallace and she says, sure, they did for “half a minute,” and one wonders what that means exactly. Shared a table during speed dating? Drunken make-out in a bar?

Jim and Elizabeth attempt to fool around again. She struts into the bedroom acting all enticing while wearing a truly unsexy-looking negligee. But, darn it, it seems once again she can’t possibly have sex with those noisy birds around. Jim goes outside again and this time is joined by Josh. They spot a few of the birds on the fence and Josh chucks a rock at them. Suddenly they swoop down and attack. This will hopefully teach Josh not to throw rocks at birds.

Next day: Josh and Skye are once more wandering around the farmer’s market, which soon is going to seem like a really lame date idea (“What do you want to do?” “Um, how about the farmer’s market again?”). There’s a riff on Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds as the fences fill up with those evil creatures, which we learn are called pterosaurs (fill that out on your Terra Nova Dino of the Week card).

Suddenly the birds attack the marketplace and there’s a lot of frantic running and arm waving and panic. None of the civilians gets seriously injured despite the birds managing to kill three armed soldiers the other night. I couldn’t help picturing what it must have been like to shoot this scene before the CGI pterosaurs were added, with dozens of extras scrambling around waving their hands in the farmers market to fight off phantom prehistoric birds as a director yells “Bird attack! Bird attack!”

Back at the lab, we learn we’re dealing migrating birds who’re coming back to spawn — “we built Terra Nova on their breeding ground!” Which I guess is the prehistoric version of the ‘ol Indian burial ground plot device, except with flying evil birds instead of coffins in your swimming pool.

Of course, the real problem is that whoever designed this paradise made the rather severe design flaw of assuming a 25-foot-or-so-high ribbed fence could stop threats. I mean, it’s perfect for preventing, say, cow-sized animals from wandering into camp. But if something is small enough, or big enough, or has wings, then the colonists are screwed. What would help is if there was a giant domed cage over the camp. Almost like an aviary. And having that would be really weird because it would be like the colonists were inside a giant bird cage while the birds were all kept outside of the cage … and writing thoughts like that make me wonder how many college students are getting high while watching Terra Nova.

Despite this high-stakes crisis, Jim continues to act all paranoid about Dr. Wallace, accusing him of only putting Elisabeth on the Terra Nova colonist list so he could jump her bones (the logic being: if you eliminate 99.99 percent of the Earthly competition, your odds of workplace romance go way up). If you think about it, it’s a bit rude for Jim to assume his wife got the referral job because she’s attractive. And if Wallace really wanted to tilt the odds in his favor you’d think we would have stocked that lab with single hotties rather than Brits with poor taste in negligees, three kids and a violent cop husband.

“I hope I’m wrong about you Malcolm!” Jim warns Wallace and, since this is that kind of show, he almost certainly isn’t wrong, but Jim could still lighten up — Wallace just got here, his recommendation of Elizabeth for Terra Nova rescued the Shannon family from a horrible future, he’s trying to solve your very pressing bird problem, so dammit Jim, maybe cut the guy some slack.

So the Terra Nova medical staff come up with a Star Trek: The Next Generation-style solution to the bird aggression, which is where the writers solve a crisis by constructing a sentence like this: “Well if we tech the tech the tech, and then tech the tech, the tech just might tech-tech and our problem will be fixed!” In this case, the tech involves bird pheromones, which the scientists have to replicate by playing with a virtual holographic thingy where they move molecules around, a scene during which this line is said: “Damn these pheromone modules are unstable!”

The group needs somebody to be a hero and drive out to disperse the stuff. Naturally masculine Commander Taylor, grizzled he-man of the oiled biceps, volunteers. “Leave that to me,” Taylor declares, confident in his ability to disperse pheromones wherever he goes.

Back at the house: We now get the climactic action scene, where the kids are trapped and birds sneak in through the air vent (great, there goes Zoe’s hiding spot). Again, this must have been hilarious to watch during shooting. That one young solider who’s been hitting on Maddy proves useless and Zoe once again tries her best to put herself in danger.

Taylor and Jim drive off spraying the pheromones and the horny killer birds follow them, leaving the kids alone. We don’t see what happens next to Taylor and Jim, and it might not be suitable for broadcast TV. But Taylor reassures us afterward that moving all the ferocious birds to a new place was “exciting” (but surely not more exciting than Zoe trapped under an ottoman, right?).

Later: Having twice been denied sex, Jim returns home triumphant. He’s relocated thousands of birds in order to give his wife the dead silence she needs to get aroused. The kids are asleep in the outer room, so they pull the screen closed on their bedroom and we see their silhouettes — which presumably will be making all sorts of shapes in the next few minutes which the kids could see if they wake up, so let’s just hope that didn’t happen.

So. The birds mated. The Shannons mated. Everybody’s happy. Are you? Was the bird attack episode of Terra Nova something to tweet about? (sorry). Did you like the stand-alone dino-of-the-week format? Or did you want more answers to the premiere’s mysteries? And is it fair that only Jim and Elizabeth seem to be having sex on this show?

Business: Here’s the recap for last week’s Terra Nova premiere. Check out my Game of Thrones recaps here and my recap of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Pt. 2 here. Follow me on Twitter here.

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