"Episode XXXVI: Jack, the Monks, and the Ancient Master's Son" is the thirty-sixth episode in the third season of Samurai Jack. Jack is attacked by two monks, who he realizes are members of the order he once trained with. Their master informs Jack of an ancient temple that can send him home, but which is protected by an army of stone warriors.
While trekking through a hazardous jungle, Jack is besieged by a constant itch. Upon opening his robe, Jack finds it swarming with countless biting insects which he quickly brushes away. Wandering his surroundings, he senses a presence. Out of nowhere, he is immediately attacked by two Xiaolin monks. Dusting off their first attack, they assume a fighting stance, while Jack successfully parries the attacks against him and assumes a defensive stance. Both parties are perplexed by the attire of one another. They study the footwork of one another. As the monks switch from one martial arts style to the next, Jack switches in response. Jack manages to dodge and evade an ever increasing series of strikes.They start verbally announcing the techniques they use during the fight and countering the others. The fight ceases in a defensive pause; the monks are astonished and demand to know how Jack knows these techniques; he states he is a Xiaolin as well. The monks deem this impossible given their order has maintained centuries of seclusion. With his exhibitionism as evidence, Jack and the Monks demonstrate the various styles including Mantis, Southern Fist, Eagle Claw and Water Beetle. As a final test, the monks ask if he knows the principal secret sign of the Xiaolin (a raised index finger and suppressed thumb) signifying Brotherhood which Jack performs.
Confirming this, the monks rejoice and announce that the Grand Master must be informed. Upon opening a secret panel, they reveal their temple to Jack. He enters and is astounded to find many monks practicing and meditating. Jack is impressed that the Temple has endured for centuries thanks, in no small part, to the Grand Master whose training includes martial arts and manipulation of chi/qi to the point that many advanced students can perform what can only be seen as levitation and telekinesis. Entering the Grand Master's Sanctum, Jack is awed to discover that the Grand Master is a centuries-old man whose body has become interwoven with a tree and frozen in a perfect meditative stance. Jack introduces himself and states that he was the pupil of master Chu. The Grand Master replies that he too was Chu's pupil as a child when Jack was training for his battle with Aku. Eventually, Aku did attack and destroy the temple but he and the survivors rebuilt the temple in secret. Over time, the Grand Master's chi became so powerful that he attained the ultimate sense of awareness and has been sustained by nature itself for centuries. However, he's impressed that Jack has been around for so long, believing him to be far more powerful than even himself. Jack corrects him, pointing out he was sent through time. His glimpse of joy is eclipsed by panic, when he recalls Aku's near constant surveillance. He attempts to leave, believing he has exposed the hidden temple, but is relieved when the master informs him that Aku's surveillance is shielded there.
Seeking a portal to the past, the Grand Master informs Jack of another temple built far to the north that possesses such a portal which only opens for a few moments at the suns zenith (directly overhead). The two monks volunteer to guide and assist him on his journey with the blessing of their order. Arming themselves with a broadsword and staff, they set out for the better part of a day. Eventually they reach their goal, a massive vertical temple complex covered with bamboo scaffolding and boardwalks. As they ascend, Jack cautions them... he feels a presence. In utter silence in a state of alterness for several minutes, they surmise that a threat is near. Jack dismisses it and continues. Their party is instantly attacked. Stone Guardians built out of the mountain spontaneously come to life and attack the trio. They continue their way to the top as the guardian army continue to attack. They proceed to fight their way up the scaffolding level after level. As the sun's zenith is coming, the monks demand Jack go inside the temple as they will hold the army off for Jack to succeed. He runs towards the entrance to the chamber containing the now active portal. The monks continue their valiant fight, their weapons broken and their skills outmatched by the stronger stone army. Jack can only listen to the cries of pain from the beleaguered monks and the ever-increasing guardian horde. Jack is presented with a Hobson's choice: help the monks and give up the use of the portal or go through the portal knowing full well the monks will be killed.
In a flash of light, the energy feeding the portal disappears. The monks, believing Jack has completed his task, cherish his success. Knowing that they won't survive this onslaught, the monks commit themselves to fighting to the last and dying with honor. Jack suddenly appears and strikes down several guardians, ordering the monks inside. Climbing to the roof, they topple a statue which crushes the remaining guardians. The temple interior collapses and they escape through the oculus. Though thankful, they are confused as to why Jack aided them while giving up his chance of returning to the past. Jack says that though they were willing to sacrifice everything, he was not. With the portal destroyed, Jack must find a new way back, a circumstance he's become all to familiar with.
- Casting by
- Collette Sunderman
Notes and Allusions
- The monks agree to assist Jack on his quest take up arms before setting out. One of the monks is armed with a Dao, a traditional Chinese fighting sword developed as early as the Chinese Bronze Age. The other is armed with a Nangun, a staff.
- When Jack first encounters the two monks, their fight is very similar to the old computer game International Karate. The 2-D sideview, the animation, the fighting-style, and even the music is similar to the original on the Atari ST.
- The Shaolin "Secret Symbol" of a raised index finger is the same one used on the TV series Kung Fu and Kung Fu - The Legend Continues by the late David Carradine.
- Jack's decision to help the monks actually saved them not just from death but from non-existence. It serves as an example of temporal paradox. If Jack had gone back in time and successfully defeated Aku means he would never have attacked the previous temple. The new temple would never have been founded and the monks that reside there may never have been indoctrinated. In a sense, the monks that were helping Jack were also aiding in their own destruction.
- The army of guardian statues is a subtle homage to the real life Terracotta Army. A huge collection of terracotta sculptures depicting the armies of Qin Shi Huang, the first Emperor of China. It's a form of funerary art buried with the emperor in 210 B.C., they were not re-discovered until 1974.