Monday, August 24, 2009

Phineas Bogg Character Study: Part 3~The Bogg & Jeff Dynamic

Before I begin to break down this partnership,  it would be good to relate how the Bogg and Jeff dynamic all began....you can literally watch it from my video post here.

One very windy night, Phineas Bogg accidentally crash lands into the bedroom of 11-year-old Jeffrey Jones.  This is only mere minutes after we are introduced to the character and his current life situation at hand. It's not a very pleasant one...you could call it a modern Dickensian existence. A few months or weeks earlier, Jeffrey lost his parents in a tragic camper accident, and now he is stuck living with his aunt and uncle. It is unbelievable how callous his aunt Elizabeth is when she says things like... 

"Do you think I like being saddled with an 11-year-old kid? Why did Bill and Kathy have to die?"
  Elizabeth says this, not with remorse or grief for her dead siblings,  but rather like a spoiled brat who is stuck babysitting her surviving nephew. I can only imagine her crocodile tears at the funeral. Poor uncle Tom doesn't know what to do...Jeffrey will ruin their trip to Cancun! Too bad he couldn't reason that maybe a nice vacation is what the boy needs, and a man to talk to about his feelings.

Needless to say, the opening scene is all at once heartbreaking and cringe worthy...thanks in part to Meeno Peluce's great/believable acting and the terrible acting of the aunt and uncle. Thankfully, the fantastic occurs. The series did not waste any time sweeping you into this adventure!  It always boggled me how Jeffrey's aunt and uncle didn't hear all that glass shattering and dog barking racket coming from his room...but that's a dispute to take up with the writer and director.
 Phineas crunches his way into Jeffrey's room. He is disheveled, cranky, and very befuddled! He is looking for Christopher Columbus and senses right away that he hasn't landed in 1492. 
Within moments, Jeffrey's trusty dog Ralph leaps to his master's rescue and begins a tug of war with Phineas for his Voyagers Guidebook! Jeffrey tries mightily to hold the dog back. As he edges toward the open window, the unthinkable happens...he falls out!

Another qualm I must mention...less than 2 minutes earlier, Phineas landed on a balcony, You heard him hit the pavement and give a big "OOOMPH!"...now all of a sudden...the balcony is gone! Doh!

Jeffrey's sudden fall prompts a look of pure shock from Phineas and an immediate response...he risks his own life and dives straight after him. In this one action, we learn that Phineas Bogg is a man of great courage and valor. When ultimately tested with fight or flight, Phineas nobly chooses the fight for Jeffrey's life, and that decision changes his life forever.
I write this assuming you already know the evolution of Phineas and Jeffrey's relationship....if you don't, then you aren't a fan of Voyagers and probably just stumbled on this blog by accident! Still, continue reading and you just might want to see this great series!
Jeffrey Jones, although a streetwise kid from New York City, is also profoundly sensitive. He can be very sweet, intelligent and cloyingly precocious at times.  Phineas often calls him, the "History book in pants." His endearing ways truly grows on Phineas to the point where Phineas blurts out in the Trial episode...

"I love Jeffrey and I would never let anything happen to him!"

The love that Phineas has for him is extremely evident by the excellent episode, 'Bully and Billy.'
 'The Trial of Phineas Bogg' was supposed to be the series finale, so it was rather fitting that Phineas finally admitted his true feelings for the little guy. However, the show carried on for another 7 episodes. This admission by Phineas was both the first and last time you hear him say he loves Jeffrey.


Phineas and Jeffrey have a very funny, brotherly, borderline father-son relationship. This is due mostly to the off-screen chemistry of Jon-Erik Hexum and Meeno Peluce. They claimed to have a friendship very similar to Bogg and Jeff. You can see it shining through their performances. There is a depth and realism that cannot be denied. They were acting partners, but they were buddies. Phineas Bogg is only about 13 years older than Jeffrey Jones and in many ways, was still like a big kid. The same is often said of Jon-Erik himself.

Jeffrey's presence forces Phineas to be a responsible adult...much in the same way Jeffrey's aunt and uncle would have had to be if they accepted the challenge of raising him. Jeffrey probably never saw them again and I doubt he even wanted to. He never looked back in regret or missed his beautiful aunt Elizabeth...his only deep sense of loss was for his parents. He even worried more about school, then those two. In a very tough manner he tells Phineas point blank,

"You got me into this, you're getting me out! I've got school tomorrow!"

It's only natural that Phineas wants nothing to do with Jeffrey from the beginning. He makes no bones about his feelings throughout the Pilot episode. He is in a massive hurry to get Jeffrey back, but alas, his omni can only go up to 1970 and it is somehow stuck in the automatic mode. So we get a plethora of loving one liners from Phineas...

"I gotta get you back! What year?"
"Nice to know ya, kid, but I work alone!"
"You little toad! Don't you ever touch this omni again!" 


Jeffrey doesn't take any of Phineas' guff, and Jeffrey gives it to him good, after Phineas rattles on that he's going to lose his job because of him.

"Who do you think you are? You knock me out a window, you bring me here, wherever I am, you deserve to lose your lousy job!"

Jeffrey can be one tough kid, as is evident in 'The day the Rebs took Lincoln.' He's all ready to rumble with a street urchin whose wise mouthing him.

In a beautifully shot and acted scene on the beach during the Pilot episode, Phineas and Jeffrey have their first real blowout. The scenery is breathtaking, the clouds are gorgeous and heavy against the ocean and sets up the mood perfectly. Phineas is very angry that Jeffrey made him leave Mary Murphy in the midst of World War I, and that he interrupted his little romantic moment with her. Not to mention that Jeffrey told Mary that he's Phineas' son and that Phineas is a widower. The Voyager is just furious at his situation and ranting aloud...again. At this point, all he cares about his reputation, the one I like to call, 'Playboy of the ages.'

Jeffrey, looking too adorable for words in Phineas' hat... berates him publicly, telling him to,

"Can it! You're stuck with me until you put me back in my room where you found me! Besides, you don't know anything about history, you messed the whole thing up!"
Phineas is at his wits end and feels very dumb and foolish that he couldn't figure out the cause of the red light in 1914...he then says something that pierces Jeffrey's heart after Jeffrey tells him his father's dead.
"If he's anything like me, you probably did him in too!"

WRONG THING TO SAY!
Jeffrey tosses that hat and runs away in tears. Phineas literally has to wrestle him to the sand and hug him close to calm him down. Up until now, Phineas didn't think about how this whole cosmic trip has affected Jeffrey. Like mean aunt Elizabeth and uncle Tom, he was being self-centered. 
Phineas sincerely apologizes for his mean remark and in the next scene the two are sitting on the rocks having a long heart to heart...something Jeffrey probably had not done with anyone since his dad died.

 Jeffrey's story about trying to save his parents in the burning camper is so sad, you want to burst into tears with him. Beware the syndicated version, which cuts out how there was a fire and he couldn't get them out! I compared and was shocked at how much syndication actually cuts from every TV show.

 At that moment, Phineas comes to understand Jeffrey's vulnerability and deep guilt over his parent's death.  He seems at a loss for words as he thoughtfully ponders the story. He gently removes his coat and places it over Jeffrey.

"Don't blame yourself, kid. Just get some rest."

From that moment on, Phineas handles Jeffrey's bouts of tears and frustration with patience and tenderness, always remembering that,  

"You're still a kid....a pretty good kid."

Phineas doesn't treat the boy like an infant or coddle him.  An arm around the shoulder, and his quick wit is enough to bring Jeffrey back to his senses and carry on with their important assignments. Don't take it from me, watch some of the crying scenes in 'Bully and Bully,' 'Agents of Satan,' and 'Cleo and the Babe' to see what I'm talking about. Meeno certainly knew how to pull our heartstrings and cry at the drop of a hat...which some critics would say he did too often.  I say then, that they don't understand the emotions of children.

Jeffrey Jones was a child who lost everything he had in the world and became displaced from the last bit of comfort he knew. He was a stranger in strange lands and first and foremost...he was still a kid.
You can literally see Jeffrey grow up before your eyes in the series. His experiences are unlike anything a child would or should ever have to face. Jeffrey proves his deep intelligence and value as a true Voyager in 'World's Apart.' He is literally forced into another time zone without Phineas. Through his boyish enthusiasm and quick thinking, he helps the invention of the electric light bulb come to pass.

Jeffrey comes to the rescue again in 'Cleo and the babe' when he teaches Phineas how to pitch 1982 style and Babe Ruth 'The sultan of swat' himself, how to hit 1982 style. He had a chance to use the general knowledge only kid would consider in that situation. There is the daring rescue attempt of Harriet Tubman in 'Created Equal' which gave Phineas cause to both scold and praise him for acting like a "Real Voyager."

There are so many examples where Jeffrey is allowed to shine, it would be impossible to mention them all here. As all fans of the series would agree, he is just a real, 'pretty good kid.'

There comes a point where he has to correct Phineas for his wayward thinking in 'Barriers of Sound.' Reminding Phineas of something he once told him....
Near the end of the Pilot Episode, Phineas consoles Jeffrey and tells him of their great responsibility to help others. It is one of my favorite quotes ever, it reminds me of certain vows I personally made a long while back. 

"I know it's hard, I've been there too. Whenever you feel that way you got to think of all the interesting people in front of you, who really need your help. We've got responsibilities, we're Voyagers!"


At the turning point on the beach, I believe that Phineas secretly decided that Jeffrey was there to stay. In the remainder of the Pilot and any subsequent episodes until the the trial, he doesn't makes mention again about bringing Jeffrey home. In fact, Phineas cements the relationship at the closing of the Pilot by emphatically telling him,  "We're Voyagers!"
After which, the cannons roar and he races with him like a football to safety. A little tidbit, Jon-Erik did this scene with a damaged thumb...caused by Meeno of all people, after he slammed a door on it. How Bogg and Jeffensian! I think I just coined a new phrase!

  I often wondered why Phineas didn't ever think to bring Jeffrey straight to VHQ and demand to know why and how he got time warped to 1982 and stuck with a kid? That answer doesn't come until the Trial episode. By then, Phineas and Jeffrey are what I like to call, 'PB and J.' They go together just like peanut butter and Jelly. We learn that Jeffrey was meant to be a Voyager and they had chosen Phineas to handle the responsibility of giving him hands on training...how clever. I like to think that it was a new teaching technique the Headquarters was developing, training them young before they go to Voyager school!

I believe that Phineas knew how to bring Jeffrey to VHQ, he just never tried...because deep down, Phineas wanted to keep him.

"That aughta give you a pretty good idea why you'll never touch this omni again...oh, what am I saying...nice to know ya kid..."

 He enjoyed the boy's company. You can see he appreciated having someone to pal around with and share his thoughts and feelings. Despite the little funny bickering and disagreements, Jeffrey's presence widened his heart to more than just the pretty ladies. he had opened Phineas up to the possibility of being a real father.

3 comments:

  1. So nice to see I'm not the only one who spotted all these possibilities; you've matched my own personal analysis almost line for line...including a few I worked into my own story on FFN (shameless plug for "Gift of a Son"! ;D)

    Jake

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  2. A very interesting analysis, and well done! The beach scene is one of my favorites too, because of the emotion involved and how it really gives the viewer insight into the true natures of both Phineas and Jeffrey - not just a smart-mouthed whiz kid and a grouchy, somewhat dim Lothario, but a grieving, emotionally scarred child and a gentle, caring protector. It's moments like that that really brought life to "Voyagers!" and made it more than just a time-traveling action series.

    Regarding the "balcony" thing...I actually tend to think what Phineas landed on was more of a ledge than a balcony, and probably a very narrow ledge at that, judging from how he struggles to climb through Jeff's window and his utter terror after he finally makes it to safety. A building like the one Jeffrey lives in would be more likely to have window ledges, plus there doesn't seem to be any kind of balcony access in Jeff's room and I don't think Phineas would look so horrified if he knew the kid was falling out of a window with a balcony below it. As for why Elizabeth and Tom don't notice the noise that accompanies Phineas's arrival, I've always posited that they might think it's Jeffrey's television set going - he might have turned it up both to drown out their argument and as a sort of passive revenge on them for discussing him the way they did.

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  3. to Casey: I agree with you about the narrow ledge. Not necessarily a window-sill, which I think is what you're referring to, but an actual ledge. A lot of the high-rises in New York have them, narrow ledges jutting out from the wall of the building, marking where one storey ends and the next begins. You see them a lot in movies---case in point: Ghostbusters II. There's a scene that takes place on a ledge outside the apartment of one of the trio. I don't remember the character's name, but it was the one played by Bill Murray.

    Now why didn't I ever think of the TV-set explanation? It's so obvious! (slaps forehead in disgust)

    ---Jake

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