"We Take a Zebra to Vegas," the sixth episode of Percy Jackson and the Olympians, begins where the fifth episode, "A God Buys Us a Cheeseburger," ended. Percy, Annabeth, and Grover are headed to Las Vegas to meet Hermes, beg for a ride, and continue the journey to Santa Monica where Percy will meet with Poseidon before continuing the quest into the Underworld to retrieve the Master Bolt, save Sally Jackson, and stop the looming war between Zeus and Poseidon.
That's the plan anyway, but it quickly goes off the rails. Hermes is more difficult to find, and time works differently at The Lotus Hotel. It's much faster, which immediately puts the demigods at a disadvantage and puts the quest in jeopardy.
There have been a few major changes in Percy Jackson and the Olympians from The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan, but the sixth episode is where things start to veer off. There is a key change in the second half of the episode that sets the stage for what's next. Before we get into that, let's talk about what happened at the beginning of the episode before we break down some of the big reveals, changes, and questions.
SPOILERS AHEAD FOR PERCY JACKSON AND THE OLYMPIANS AND THE LIGHTNING THIEF.
Who is The Headmaster?
At the beginning of the episode, Percy traverses the dreamscape to find a man sitting behind a desk. He's lecturing the lightning thief, who Percy can't see. He's unhappy. Thanks to the captions, this person is called "The Headmaster." Is it Hades? Is it someone else?
“Do you think you’re special, Lightning Thief?" The Headmaster asks. "Do you think you can not be replaced? I gave you all the tools to steal the Master Bolt only to watch it taken from you. That mistake has been corrected, but there is too much at stake for you to fail me again. The war ahead of us, the war beyond Zeus and Poseidon’s war. Give me reason to question your worthiness again and there is another that just might be ready to take your place. Isn’t that right, little hero?”
The Headmaster looks at Percy and the dream ends. In the past, these dreams Percy was having were about being lost in what looked like the desert. This is the first time Percy has eavesdropped on some sort of conversation. So, who is the Headmaster? What's going on?
I would guess this mysterious being is the same one that Percy has been hearing from this whole time. It's curious because we've only heard from what the captions call "The Voice" in Percy's dreams. The Headmaster is different, but it may be the same being using another mouthpiece to address another who has stolen the Master Bolt and lost it.
From The Lightning Thief, we know "The Voice" in the desert of sorts is Kronos. We also believe that The Headmaster is also Kronos. There's a lot more going on that meets the eye and ear here, but that's for another time. There were so many big moments in this episode.
Big changes and reveals from The Lightning Thief in Episode 6
"We Take a Zebra to Vegas" features some huge changes from The Lightning Thief. Most of the changes seemed to be the result of condensing the story, but others just worked a little bit better.
In the episode, Percy and Annabeth use a drachma to call Camp Half-Blood. They talk to Luke, and they say that they know who stole the bolt. They think Clarisse is the one who stole the Master Bolt. Percy tries to ask Luke about Hermes, his father, but Annabeth ends the call without talking to Chiron, who Luke says is holding camp together over the coming war.
This happens in the book, but this version is a bit out of order, but that's okay!
Grover unlocks the truck with the animals when they arrive in Las Vegas. They seek out The Lotus Hotel, which they find very easily. It’s like part Casino part part theme park! Grover reminds them that like Odysseus who ate the lotus flowers, they might forget everything when they enter the casino, which could then throw off the rest of the quest. They’re on a time limit, and they split up while looking for Hermes.
Annabeth tells Percy about Hermes, Luke, and their relationship, including Luke’s mother who is a seer. Something bad happened to her, and Annabeth wants the opportunity to make that right.
As I recall, this doesn't actually happen this way in the book. We don't learn about Luke's backstory and its significance this early in the story. It's definitely something to watch, as the rest of the story falls into place. This will likely be one of the big changes that the series makes, one that could have been explored in later seasons but makes sense now.
Grover, on the other hand, finds a satyr named Augustus, who ate the lotus flowers and is losing his memory. Grover tells Augustus about Uncle Ferdinand, and he tells Grover that he found Pan. Augustus needs help to find Pan and break through to him. Grover is clearly tempted! Later, Grover realizes something bigger is happening at The Lotus! He didn’t eat the flowers, but he also forgets what he is doing and why he’s there. Oh no!
Percy finally reveals to Annabeth that he’s been having dreams. He’s been contacted by a powerful figure and voice. He reveals that there’s a second part of this, beyond Zeus and Poseidon’s war, something bigger. This is obviously a huge part of the season, and Percy's refusal to loop the others in should have consequences. In the book, Percy's been filling Grover and Annabeth in on his dreams. They think they are Hades until this part of the story when they begin to question if Hades is behind these dreams.
Hermes (Lin-Manuel Miranda) finally meets Percy and Annabeth, and he knows what they are up against. He doesn’t want to help them, but Annabeth says that they are friends of Luke’s. Hermes, Percy, and Annabeth have a little sitdown and chit chat about Luke’s past and the night Luke and Hermes last saw each other. Luke, Annabeth says, will appreciate his dad if they help them. Hermes shares that he and Luke continue to hurt each other, and that’s why they don’t have a relationship. He says he won’t get involved, but Annabeth and Percy try to leave. First, Hermes reveals that Poseidon wants to intervene, but he knows that it will make things worse. Percy realizes that something weird is going on. Time is moving differently.
This is another part of the story that's different in The Lightning Thief. Percy and the gang don't seek out Hermes at the hotel. They're just trying to get to Santa Monica, but they get stuck in the loop. Hermes being at the casino does make a lot of sense, and it allows the creative team to introduce the character who plays a bigger role later in the larger story.
They realize Hermes is trying to mess with them, so Annabeth steals his car, a very special car. They need to find Grover before they can leave, but their memory is not working so well. They find Augustus, who tells them where Grover is. He’s playing some virtual reality game, and they get him back on the quest in the parking garage, where they find Hermes’ car, a note from Hermes, and instructions on how to get to the Underworld. Percy tries to drive and nearly kills them all.
In the book, they also find a random cab, but Hermes' taxi works, too!
When they exit the car, they’re on the beach in Santa Monica. Finally, Grover’s memory returns. Percy walks into the water to meet his father, apprehensively. He swims down to the bottom and finds a light. Poseidon is not there, and the deadline of the solstice has passed. Nereid, the spirit from the Mississippi River, tells Percy that his father has left him a message. He’s proud of him, but the quest failed. They must return to Camp Half-Blood. Percy begs for Nereid’s help, and she gives Percy some pearls of sorts to bring them back from the Underworld.
“Save the world, and then go save your mother," Nereid tells Percy before the episode ends.
Okay, so the episode ending is the biggest change! In the book, Percy and the gang have another day to finish the quest. In the TV series, time has run out. The war between Zeus and Poseidon has begun! It will be interesting to see what the ramifications are for this change. If Percy and the gang are now targets in Zeus's war, they could have other challenges instead of what's already ahead of them with the journey to the Underworld.
Nereid does give Percy some pearls to use when he needs them most, but she only gives Percy three in the books. It's clear that the show is setting up the mission for Percy to venture into the Underworld to save his mom.
That's all for now! Percy Jackson and the Olympians episode 7, "We Find Out The Truth, Sort Of," hits Disney+ on Tuesday, Jan. 23, 2024. It's the penultimate episode of the season!