The Once and Future Thing is an episode of Sparks Nevada, Marshal on Mars.
- Sparks Nevada - Marc Evan Jackson
- Croach the Tracker - Mark Gagliardi
- The Red Plains Rider - Busy Philipps
- Jib Janeen - Paul F. Tompkins
- The Marshal Station Doors - Annie Savage
- Folksy Hal (Narrator) - Hal Lublin
Sparks Nevada asks The Marshal Station Doors to take a letter to Ginny West, which he begins dictating. After a couple of false starts, he congratulates her on her newest troubleshooting adventure, confirms that Croach and Red are still in a relationship and tells Ginny he likes her.
Croach and Red enter The Marshal Station, and Red tells Sparks in a roundabout way that Croach is experiencing emotions and empathy. Croach denies this.
Sparks then talks about Ginny, and everyone confirms they are glad for each other's relationships. Red says that this is the first time since she and Cactoid Jim broke up that she's been happy to be with anyone. The Marshal Station Doors asks if she's sure that's true, because there's someone outside awaiting entry. Red tells the Doors to let Cactoid Jim inside.
Instead, Jib Janeen enters looking like Jim, sings Cactoid Jim descriptor, and hugs Sparks and Croach, despite no one wanting to him to hug them. Red refuses to even look at who she believes to be Jim. She says she thought the gate of her heart was closed to Jim, but now she's not so sure.
Croach tells his tribe's story of how there was once a youngling who would always wish to kick a sporting ball, but another youngling would always remove the ball just before the primary youngling was able to kick it. He now believes himself to be as the primary youngling, Red to be the secondary youngling, and the ball to be their relationship.
The Marshal Station Doors announce that she is confused, and the real Cactoid Jim enters, greeting everyone by saying "Hey all my buddies!" Jim and Jib challenge Red, Sparks and Croach to figure out which one of them is the real Jim and which is Jib, so Croach asks them what they would do if they came across an orphanage on fire. Jim says he'd save the kids, put out the fire and help them build a new orphanage, teaching them valuable skills. Jib, after confirming it's a human orphanage says he'd steal the orphan's secrets. Jim then says he'd steal their secrets, too.
Jim and Jib explain that they're both just joking, and Jib turns into his true form. Jim recounts his recent history. He speaks of how he dismantled Punishment Soccer before Jib froze him in carbonite and turned him into a coffee table, sold him to some aliens who sold him to Chesh Glutterfane, but then Red rescued him.
After that, he stopped an army of scum and villainy from emancipating Chesh at his trial, testified at that trial and got Chesh jailed for good, while convincing the army of scum and villainy to instead help build habitats for the needy, which turned small-scale crime into big-scale activism. He also rooted out big scale crime with equal parts smiling and shooting. He tried an experimental sun suit on a sun from a neighboring universe and now scientists can cure a supernovaing sun. He also ended things with Rebecca Rose Rushmore. Jim says that Rebecca is now more accepting of other beings. She also helped Jim realize all the anger he had inside of him towards Jib Janeen. Jim then ended the war between Earth and Jupiter, and confronted Jib.
Jim has Jib apologize to them for having them carry his children without their consent and promises to never do it again. Red asks how the babies are doing, and Jib says they're doing great and sometimes look like them for practice.
Jim reveals the other reason he's there -- to say goodbye. His friends from 500 years ago in the past are facing a threat so large that it threatens their present as well as the current present, and so he must go back to the past to right the first robot rebellion. Sparks and Jim say goodbye, and Jim calls Sparks the best space cowboy there ever was, hands down, in any medium.
Jim attempts to say goodbye to Croach, who cuts him off just to say goodbye quickly. Jim says meeting Jib was a treat and a half. Jim asks Red to go with him, as he could never get her out of his head or hurt, and they'll make a home in the past.
Croach asks Red not to do this, as he is no longer an "I" but a part of an "us" that they're just at the beginning of. Red says she's been moving forward for so long, and now she's confused that Jim is asking her to literally go to the past. Red decides she's tired of choosing between folks, states that she can do good on her own, and jumps into the portal, which closes behind her.
Sparks says that she did it, the past is being altered. The Marshal Station Doors reports that what was once a war has turned into just a skirmish because of Red's involvement, and that she survived. Croach asks if Red will be able to return, but the Doors is uncertain.
A new portal then appears, and Red steps out. She says Earth is real nice, and she had some epiphanies while back in the past. Love is a river, she says, and love ending can be a dam in the river. She says that Jim is the dam, but he ain't her damn river no more. Instead, she says that she thinks she and Croach are ready to try again and have a better relationship this time.
The portal is still open, and Red says in the past she spent some time with Jim's wife and son, Cynthia and Owen. Jim guesses the wrong wife and son, but gets the right ones on the second try. Red says they never got over his leaving, and asks him to go right the wrong of leaving them. Jim agrees, and says goodbye to them all again, including Jib, who will miss him the most.
Jim jumps in the portal, saying adios, for now.
Croach notes that Jim is gone, and the sporting ball of his and Red's relationship has not been removed. Red comments that Croach has been using a metaphor all day to talk about how much he likes her. She and Sparks tease Croach that next he's going to start singing.
Sparks then tries to arrest Jib for killing Antionette Fontaine's husband, but Jib teleports away. Sparks and Red run off to catch Jib, and Croach follows, after briefly singing "That adiosing Cactoid Jim!"
- Typically, Brian Stack's introduction before the episode includes a cast list. In order to keep Jib Janeen and Cactoid Jim's appearances a surprise, the cast was read after the episode had completed.
- The sporting ball metaphor is a reference to Charlie Brown.
- The robot rebellion which Jim was going to go help fix was probably caused by Ray Bogle having just invented sentient robots after the events in Mayors' Retreat.
- This is the 184th episode of The Thrilling Adventure Hour.
- The previous episode is Beyond Belief - Werewolf of Wall Street, with the special bonus episode The Great Thrilling Adventure Hour / Welcome to Night Vale Crossover released in between.
- The next episode is the TAH Panel From New York Comic Con 2014.
- The previous episode in Sparks Nevada, Marshal on Mars canon is Dinner and a Groovy (TAH #181).
- The next episode in Sparks Nevada, Marshal on Mars canon is The Night We Never Met (TAH #188).
This episode was recorded at Largo on September 6, 2014 and released on October 6, 2014.