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"My master Crayak offers you an escape. In his compassion Great Crayak has struck a deal with that meddling nitwit Ellimist. Crayak would free you, Jake. Crayak would free you all. All will be as it would have been if you had simply taken a different path home."
―The Drode to Jake[src]

Megamorphs #4: Back to Before, published in April 2000, is the fourth and final Megamorphs companion book to the Animorphs series, written by K.A. Applegate and Michael Grant. It takes place between The Other and The Familiar. It is narrated by all six Animorphs.

Plot

Official Description

What would you do if you had the opportunity to change your life? Not just where you live or who you hang out with, but your past, present, and future? Sounds like it might be pretty cool, right? Well, that's what Jake thought. He thought it might be easier if the Animorphs had never existed. If they'd never met Elfangor. If they all had the chance to be "normal" kids.

Jake gets his wish.

But things aren't quite as simple as they seem. Just because the Animorphs no longer exist doesn't mean the Yeerks no longer exist. Except now Jake, Rachel, Tobias, Cassie, and Marco can't morph. They don't even know the Yeerks are out there. And it's not such a wonderful life...

Plot Summary

After a particularly vicious battle, Crayak sends the Drode to tempt Jake into accepting an alternate reality in which the Animorphs did not walk home through the abandoned construction site, did not meet Elfangor, and did not gain their powers.

The results are drastic: a friendless Tobias joins The Sharing, and is infested by a Yeerk named Odret 177, who is later revealed as a spy for Visser One, and is subsequently killed. Marco runs into his mother, but she escapes before he can confront her, and he ends up dating Rachel. Jake discovers that his brother Tom is involved with dangerous dealings after a Yeerk security leak. And all the while, Cassie has a strong feeling that all is not right. Ax manages to escape from his Dome Ship, and begins to warn the people of Earth about the Yeerk presence.

The Yeerk response is immediate: they abandon their silent invasion and launch all-out warfare. In the ensuing chaos, Marco, Rachel and Cassie are all killed, although Cassie mysteriously returns to life and kills Visser Three. Ax commandeers the Blade ship and aims all of its weapon at the Pool ship in order to end the invasion of Earth, at which point the Drode and the Ellimist temporarily stop time, returning the deceased characters to life and returning everyone's memories. The Drode complains that the events in this timeline are doomed to cause failure, and the Ellimist reveals that Cassie is an anomaly, a rare individual who is grounded in the true timeline and will disrupt any other timelines that try to take its place, thereby explaining Cassie's feeling that something was not right. It is also revealed that the Ellimist manipulated events (or as the Drode exclaims in disgust "stacked the deck") to ensure that Cassie, Marco, Tobias, and Ax (the anomaly, the son of Visser One's host, Elfangor's time-shifted son and Elfangor's brother) were predestined to become Animorphs.

The Ellimist restores everything to as it was, with only Cassie retaining the memories of this altered timeline, deciding not to share the adventure with the other Animorphs. Back in Jake's room, the Drode decides not to try to tempt Jake into accepting the alternate reality.

Appearances

Protagonists:

Supporting Characters:

Antagonists:

Other Characters:

Locations:

Items:

Major/Highlighted Events

  • After another deadly and gruesome battle, Jake is paid a visit by the Drode, who offers to alter reality so that the Animorphs never walked through the Abandoned Construction Site, thereby preventing them from meeting Elfangor, learning about the Yeerk invasion or gaining their powers. In a moment of weakness, despite wishing to refuse, Jake accepts.
  • Time is reset back to the beginning of The Invasion, where the five kids take the long route home. Over time, Tobias stops latching on to Jake and, after being assaulted by bullies, joins The Sharing, where he becomes a Controller. His Yeerk, Odret 177, is loyal to Visser One and pretends to be a representative of the Council of Thirteen, preventing Visser Three from launching open warfare and stating that it is the Council's order. When Visser Three discovers the lie, he has both Tobias and Odret executed.
  • Cassie hears a voice calling for help from the ocean and has memories of Marco in her barn, despite the fact that he has never been there, as well as flashes of a red-tailed hawk she believes should be in the rafters of the barn along with an alien named Ax.
  • During a school field trip to the museum, Marco flirts with Rachel and asks her to go out with him. However, Marco's mother is suddenly transported from the Pool ship to the museum, much to the shock of both her and Marco, who spots her. Marco and Rachel give chase but are forced to flee when they are shot at with guns and Dracon beams. The pair then begins to date.
  • Ax acquires and morphs a shark to escape from Dome ship; after swimming to the surface, he hijacks multiple television stations to reveal his existence as well as the existence of the Yeerks to humanity.
  • Jake notices Tom stealing their mother's minivan to head to a TV station and sneaks along in the van, scared for his brother after having noticed Tom's Dracon beam, which he mistakes for a gun. After nearly being killed, Jake notices that Tom is working with the police as well as Chapman, Tobias and "Mr. Visser", all of whom are affiliated with The Sharing. While hiding, Jake notices his hands slightly transforming into that of a tiger's, although they quickly revert back.
  • Jake has Cassie, Marco and Rachel meet with him at Cassie's barn and explains that Tom and the Sharing are part of a conspiracy. The four decide to team up to discover the truth behind Tom and the sudden reappearance of Marco's mother, while Cassie remarks that the four of them becoming a team feels like a step in the right direction in ways she cannot understand.
  • Jake and Marco go through Tom's room, and after seeing Ax on his TV, Jake makes a phone call to Cassie. Their plans are overheard by Tom, whose Yeerk orders Jake and Marco to comply or be killed. Rachel shows up with a baseball bat and bludgeons Tom, crippling him, while she and Jake both steal a Dracon beam. A Bug fighter begins to fire in the open, and while the two cousins manage to escape, Marco is killed.
  • Jake, Rachel and Cassie become fugitives and hide for a few days. While resting at the mall, they notice Hork-Bajir entering and forcefully rounding up human hosts, as Visser Three has opted for a full-scale invasion. They encounter Ax, and the four head to the roof, where they plan to steal Visser Three's Blade ship. During the ascent, Rachel and Cassie are both killed.
  • Jake and Ax enter the Blade ship, where they find Visser Three. Cassie, who has mysteriously been resurrected, uses a Dracon beam to vaporize the Visser, killing him. Ax then commandeers the Blade ship, flying into orbit and preparing to fire all of the Blade ship's weapons at the Pool ship, thereby crippling the Yeerk invasion of Earth. Additionally, Marco is resurrected and reappears in the body of a gorilla.
  • The Drode appears and halts time, complaining that Cassie's resurrection is illogical. The Ellimist then shows up and the Drode realizes that Cassie is an anomaly, who has a latent superpower to ground herself in a true timeline, thereby breaking down any alternate timeline she is transported to, explaining why this timeline experienced 'glitches', such as Cassie's memory flashes, Jake's hands morphing, Marco's mother ending up on Earth and Marco's resurrection and subsequent gorilla morph.
    • It is also revealed that the Ellimist 'stacked the deck' and that four of the six Animorphs did not become so by chance: Marco, Tobias, Cassie and Ax were chosen in advance to become Animorphs by the Ellimist, the four chosen because Marco is the son of Visser One's host, Tobias is Elfangor's time-shifted son, Cassie as the sub-temporally grounded anomaly and Ax is the brother of Elfangor. While the Ellimist did reveal in The Andalite Chronicles that Tobias and Ax were predestined to join up with four other humans, this is the first instance where it is revealed that Cassie and Marco were predestined as well.
  • The Ellimist resurrects Rachel and restores the memories of the present day Animorphs; Jake is aghast when he realizes he accepted the Drode's offer while Tobias is unable to bring himself to believe that he became a Controller. Considering the exercise a failure, the Drode terminates the alternate timeline, restoring the true timeline. This wipes everyone's memories of it with the exception of Cassie, who decides not to inform the Animorphs of these alternate events due to Jake and Tobias' negative reactions.

Morphs

Morpher Morphs acquired Morphs used
Jake -- Siberian Tiger, Peregrine Falcon
Rachel -- Grizzly Bear
Tobias -- Red-Tailed Hawk
Cassie -- Wolf
Marco -- Silverback Gorilla (Big Jim), Osprey
Ax -- --
Ax Tiger Shark, Human Tiger Shark, Human
Visser Three -- Human (Main; "Mr. Visser")

Trivia

  • Jake mentions the second retirement of Michael Jordan, thus marking the events of the present day as occurring after January 1999.
  • In the first book, the five kids left the mall to walk towards the construction site on a Friday night. However, in the alternate timeline where the kids never met Elfangor, the walk home is now on a Wednesday night. While the book never explicitly specifies Wednesday, the book keeps track of how many days it has been since the timeline diverged; by doing the calculations with a day of the week given later on in the book, it reveals that Day 0 was on a Wednesday in this timeline instead of a Friday like in the original.
  • Since the present day Animorphs are transported to the altered past at the end, this marks the fifth and final time in the series that the Animorphs travel through time and the fourth time they travel to the past. This is also the sixth and final time Tobias has time traveled, and the fifth time he has time traveled to the past, as Tobias briefly visited the past in The Change.
  • This also marks the fifth, sixth, seventh and eighth time that an Animorph is shown to be killed, with alternate versions of Tobias, Marco, Rachel and Cassie being killed via Dracon beam. This is the second time thus far where Marco and Rachel are depicted as having died, with Marco having been killed previously in The Android and Rachel in Elfangor's Secret.
  • This marks the fifth time in the series where an Animorph is depicted as being infested, following Jake in The Capture, alternate Rachel in The Stranger, Cassie in The Departure and Ax in The Sickness.
  • ANIBASE: One revelation in this book is that Cassie is an "anomaly", and, as such, is capable of holding the real timeline in place so that a false timeline will degrade over time. But Katherine didn't come up with this concept until the book was almost finished. She said: "Sometimes I know what I'm doing all the way through a book, and sometimes I don't figure it out till it's almost over. I was about ten pages from the end [of Megamorphs #4] before I thought, oh, that's how we'll do it! Then I had to 'back-write' to get it all to make sense. Yet another lesson in why you shouldn't mess with time travel."
  • ANIBASE: This book marks a change in who portrays the characters on the covers. The models for Jake, Rachel, Tobias, and Marco all went off to college and new, younger models were hired to portray them. Only Biko, the Cassie model, went to a school close enough to continue on as a cover model, and, as a result, she is the only Animorphs model to have been on every cover since the beginning! However, Jake and Rachel's original models "return" for the next two books (The Familiar and The Journey) as those covers were completed earlier.

Goofs/Inconsistencies

  • Jake has a nightmare about his past morphing experiences, citing the time he morphed a termite and was trapped between a piece of wood. While Jake did acquire a termite in The Secret, he never morphed it. Jake is one of the two Animorphs to have acquired a morph they never used, along with Tobias and his mountain goat morph he acquired in The Reunion.
  • Tobias states that his "father" disappeared before he was born and that his mother most likely ran away. While this matches up with what Tobias said in The Pretender, earlier on in The Encounter, Tobias remarks that they both died while in The Change, he muses that they both left him. However, this is lampshaded by Tobias in this book, who admits that he makes up stories about what truly happened to them sometimes and cites that the truth was lost a long time ago.
  • Ax is able to transmit his thought-speak through television. While it might have been possible that Ax constructed a device that allowed thought-speak to be translated through radio waves, no such implication was ever made.
  • Cassie is revealed to be a sub-temporally grounded anomaly who breaks down any alternate timeline she ends up in. However, her presence and powers did not break down the alternate timeline created by Visser Four in Elfangor's Secret, which caused the Animorphs to have differing personalities, despite the fact that the reason she was chosen to join the Animorphs in advance was to prevent alternate timelines from successfully overwriting the original. The Cassie in that alternate timeline was unable to discern that her timeline was an altered one and did not realize the difference until the Drode had restored their true memories and personalities.
    • According to K.A. Applegate, this is because she did not come up with the idea of Cassie having these timeline grounding powers until she was writing this book. However, in-universe, the inconsistency still applies.

TV Episode

The plot of Back to Before is similar to the episode "Not My Problem". The TV episode was written independently of the book, and the book was written without knowledge of the episode.[1]

  • It is the Ellimist who grants Jake's wish to be normal in the TV series, not the Drode (Crayak having never been introduced in the TV series), apparently to make a point to Jake that his actions as an Animorph have been for the best when he is feeling particularly frustrated at the seemingly pointless war.
  • In the TV series, all of the Animorphs except for Tobias (and the apparently absent Ax) are Controllers, while in the book only Tobias is made a Controller.
  • In the TV series, none of the Animorphs realize that the timeline is wrong, although Tobias at one point notes that he and Jake should have been on the same side, suggesting some awareness of what should have happened; in the book, Cassie is an anomaly, a rare individual who is grounded in the true timeline and will disrupt any other timelines that try to take its place, and realizes that the timeline is wrong.
  • In the book, only Cassie remembers the alternate timeline because she is an anomaly, while in the TV series, Jake remembers it very clearly.

Gallery

U.S. Images

International Covers

References

Books
Main Series #1 The Invasion | #2 The Visitor | #3 The Encounter | #4 The Message | #5 The Predator | #6 The Capture | #7 The Stranger | #8 The Alien | #9 The Secret | #10 The Android | #11 The Forgotten | #12 The Reaction | #13 The Change | #14 The Unknown | #15 The Escape | #16 The Warning | #17 The Underground | #18 The Decision | #19 The Departure | #20 The Discovery | #21 The Threat | #22 The Solution | #23 The Pretender | #24 The Suspicion | #25 The Extreme | #26 The Attack | #27 The Exposed | #28 The Experiment | #29 The Sickness | #30 The Reunion | #31 The Conspiracy | #32 The Separation | #33 The Illusion | #34 The Prophecy | #35 The Proposal | #36 The Mutation | #37 The Weakness | #38 The Arrival | #39 The Hidden | #40 The Other | #41 The Familiar | #42 The Journey | #43 The Test | #44 The Unexpected | #45 The Revelation | #46 The Deception | #47 The Resistance | #48 The Return | #49 The Diversion | #50 The Ultimate | #51 The Absolute | #52 The Sacrifice | #53 The Answer | #54 The Beginning
Megamorphs The Andalite's Gift | In the Time of Dinosaurs | Elfangor's Secret | Back to Before
Chronicles The Andalite Chronicles | The Hork-Bajir Chronicles | VISSER | The Ellimist Chronicles
Alternamorphs The First Journey | The Next Passage
TV Tie-Ins Meet the Stars of Animorphs
Graphic Novels #1 The Invasion | #2 The Visitor | #3 The Encounter | #4 The Message | #5 The Predator | #6 The Capture
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