Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers Episode 9: For Whom the Bell Trolls


Teenagers present meaningless activities to their peers.
Episode deprived of narrative weight.








Did you remember the Ranger Teens went to school? Neither did I! The Rangers are in class and are participating in hobby week where they can explain their one characteristic to the audience.
Trini is asked to present her hobby first, because she has the least character of anyone in the classroom. She wheels in a big cart of dolls which are supposed to represent countries from all over the world, but it's just one Japanese doll and a bunch of other dolls thrown in vaguely ethnic clothing. Trini presents her number one favorite doll of them all, a dressed up troll doll from Switzerland named Mr. Ticklesneezer.

Troll Power Rangers
Where does Mr. Ticklesneezer fit into God's plan for us?

Yeah this ugly little nothing of a doll is the apple of Trini's eye, who wouldn't love him?  Trini likes him so much because he belonged to her mother, also because he has the worst name ever written to paper. It sounds like the name of some sex act your loser friend in high school told you his cousin in Louisiana did. I'm sure "Ticklesneezer" is in between Pink Sock and Rusty Trombone on the list of sex acts that "totally happened."

I want you to stop reading right now and say the word "Ticklesneezer" out loud. If nothing happens then try looking in the mirror as you say it. Look yourself dead in the eye while the word falls from your lips. Did you feel the dignity drain from your body? Now imagine how I feel every time the characters mention that name and look through my very soul as if to tell me this is what my childhood was. A motherfucking ticklesneeze.

Bulk and Skull rightfully make gagging noises during this presentation, because they don't like anything except being stupid, beating up nerds, and falling into cakes. Trini explains some legend about Mr. Ticklesneezer capturing things in a magic bottle. I know how he feels, because my dad captures his feelings inside a magic bottle too.

Rita is watching this presentation and calls horseshit on Trini and her gaggle of dumbass dolls. When she was a little girl Rita had to learn magic spells and how to be evil, and she never got to play with dolls, so she vows to finish off Trini. From here on out we can just assume that any of Rita's evil plans simply stem from the little love she received as a child. I don't know what Goldar's excuse is though, I think he was just a latchkey kid.

The Rangers' teacher, Ms. Appleby, has had enough ticklesneezing and asks someone else to present their hobby. Jason goes next and practices some patented White Guy Karate by twirling a bo staff around. It's okay for him to bring what's ostensibly a weapon into the high school because it's the 90's. Bulk isn't impressed with his display of raw masculine physique and scoffs at Jason like it's a bunch of bullshit. Bulk being dismissive of people with sincere talents is great, because he has no reason to be such an abrasive prick, but he still hates everyone and everything. 

Bulk and Skull disgusted gif
My reaction to this episode.

Kim demonstrates how her hobby is gymnastics by doing a handstand on the front desk, which Ms. Appleby gives the glowing review of "That's very nice dear." Lady, that high schooler just flipped onto your desk, maybe you could act less like a Grandmother entertaining the kids at Thanksgiving. Zack goes next and he likes to...surf? I've seen this show a lot as a kid and I don't remember a single moment where Zack implies any interest in surfing, outside this one of course. All we really get on Zack's hobbies are just that he likes to dance, so I dunno where this is coming from. We also get an embarrassingly dubbed "Cowabunga!" from what is absolutely a voice actor in their early 30's not trying at all to sound like a high school student.

Billy shows off his remote controlled volcano, and it dribbles down a bunch of pink foam in what's supposed to be how lava works. This sounds pretty dull but Ms. Appleby looks at this thing like Billy's just painted the Mona Lisa.

Ms. Appleby reaction face
As God as my witness this will be the only impression of Ms. Appleby I give you.

Bulk and Skull walk up to Billy and Trini and start up some G rated bullying. The two throw Trini's Ticklesneezer doll around and act a fool. Skull tosses it to Bulk, but Trini catches it, as Bulk leans over to grab it from her and accidentally activates Billy's volcano project, spraying a hot bubbly explosion all over his face.

I have to give the director credit for this moment, because every scene of Bulk getting messy so far has been telegraphed so far in advance that it takes away any excitement. There's always a really tedious cut to whatever food is about to fall on him so we know exactly what's going to happen. The mess stuff with Bulk doesn't always work because you're ten steps ahead of the characters and you just know exactly what to expect. This scene is actually able to surprise you because they just leave the volcano there and don't bother focusing on it to remind you there's still a mess to be made. It might be the only thing I like in this episode.

The scene shifts to Trini in her bedroom putting all of her dolls away, giving close attention to Ticklesneezer of course. It's the only doll that has a name, it stands to reason it gets to sleep on her night stand with its big ugly smile. This scene seems odd to me and I finally know why; this is the first time we've ever seen any of the Power Rangers at home. These characters are only ever at the Juice Bar, the Command Center, or as of 3 minutes ago, school. They don't seem to have parents or siblings or actual lives outside of their selected quirks. Honestly I think Billy just lives in his garage and sleeps in the RADBUG,  all while he contemplates leaving the engine running with the garage door shut tight.

Rita sends Squatt down to grab the doll, which is the only task she's given him since they were released from a space dumpster. It's probably the only thing easy enough for him to do so she jumped at the opportunity to include him. Squatt teleports directly into Trini's room while she's asleep and I'd like you to think for a moment what that means. The villains are able to directly beam one of their own into the house of their mortal enemy while they are sleeping. They utilize this ability to take one of her dolls away from her.

Squatt uses some weird looking machine to shoot a laser at the doll. The laser turns Mr. Ticklesneezer into one of Rita's monsters so he can be used to wage psychological warfare on Trini and prevent her from fighting when pitted against her most beloved childhood friend turned into a soulless demon with a heart corrupted by black magic. Oh wait did I say he's a monster? No he's just a giant goober.

Please Power Rangers, Mr. Ticklesneezer lives in Florida, you can call me Ralph.

Rita brings Ticklesneezer back to base and just as you might assume from someone named Mr. Ticklesneezer, he's a stuttering goofy dumbass. Rita point blank asks him what it is he actually does. Maybe Rita should have done a background check on this dopey troll before using her evil magic on him. Ticklesneezer mumbles out how he collects things in his "Goodie Bottle", and I'd like to attempt my earlier experiment above with the phrase "Goodie Bottle." Please try and say that in the mirror, looking yourself in the eyes, and see how long it takes you to feel dignity again.  If you're lucky, Candyman will put a hook through your spine before your feelings come back decades later. Rita's plan is to have Ticklesneezer sent to Earth where he can suck stuff up in his Goodie Bottle. There he can collect some childhood memories for her, like fathers telling their daughters they love them, and a night where you don't have to sob into your pillow.

Trini and Billy meet up at the Youth Center to retrace her steps so she can find where her doll might have gone. It's weird that not only do we not get a scene of Trini waking up to find Ticklesneezer missing, but her behavior now that he's gone seems no different than before. She's not really worried, she looks more like she has an errand to run that she kind of doesn't want to do. I'm not expecting her to be screaming her head off for her ugly doll, but I think a little bit of actual fear for her most cherished childhood toy might benefit this episode.

Ticklesneezer falls down to Earth and starts looking around for things to collect in his bottle. He sees a yellow motorcycle and decides it's the perfect item to begin his collection on Earth. Ticklesneezer collects things with his bottle by uncorking it, producing a magical mist which sucks in an object, shrinking it down and placing it inside the bottle. This is actually called "stealing" here in America Mr. Ticklesneezer. I don't know what kind of Babes in Toyland bullshit you think this is, but if you keep this up you'll get tossed into Federal Pound-Me-In-The-Ass Prison so fast they'll be playing spin the goodie bottle with you for 5 to life.

Bikers are a pretty polite bunch, I'm sure they'll let this elf monster go scot-free.

Billy and Trini drive around town trying to find Ticklesneezer, but since he's not at the Youth Center or school, they're all out of sets he could be at. Thankfully the monster Ticklesneezer has met them halfway and is standing right in front of their car. Their reaction of dull surprise prompts Ticklesneezer to suck them up, as he thinks poor acting is one of the best goodies around. Trini and Billy are stuck inside the car, sucked into Ticklesneezer's bottle, as they scream for help. Ticklesneezer says he won't hurt them, and they'll just be part of his collection forever. Honestly if I had to look that giant oaf in the eyes and listen to his goofy ass voice talking about goodies for the rest of my days, I'd pull the keys out of the ignition and slit my wrists.

We break up the tension of goodie collecting with a superfluous scene of Jason karate chopping bricks in the Juice Bar. Bulk tries to do the same thing with a cake in a scene so telegraphed the blind could see it coming. There's no joke to it, Bulk just chops a cake and he's sad that it made a mess on his hand. It's so lackluster it actually takes away how good the earlier Bulk scene was. Zordon mercifully has some news for the Rangers and teleports them to the Command Center.

Jason, Kim, and Zack are given the scoop by Zordon and Alpha. Rita's sent down Putties, Goldar, Squatt and Baboo to protect Ticklesneezer now that he's captured some Rangers. Zordon is currently mulling over replacing Billy and Trini if this is the monster that's gotten rid of them. The remaining Ranger Teens morph to some train tracks and trash the Putties in as much time as it takes to get to the end of this sentence. It's a pretty good fight but has no fighting with Ticklesneezer, because as you might be able to tell from looking at him, Ticklesneezer isn't much for fighting.

Mr. Ticklesneezer abruptly decides he wants to get away from the fight. What's the matter Ticklesneezer you fucking chicken hawk? They're fighting because of all the shit that went missing, now you accept what's happening because of this Goodie Bottle bullshit. You think you can just run away from this fight? You make me sick.

As he runs away, he very clumsily trips over a cement block and tosses his bottle into the distance where Kimberly grabs onto it. Kim fidgets with the bottle but Goldar isn't having any of that bullshit, and knocks her around with his sword. He hits her hard enough to send the bottle flying onto the train tracks, where a train is coming right at Billy and Trini because dramatic tension.

Kim is getting beaten down by Goldar and some Putties as she struggles to reach her friends before they're smashed to pieces. We cut to Ticklesneezer helplessly calling for someone to stop the train, because he's too stupid to try and get his precious bottle back for himself. Kim escapes the fight with the Putties at the last second to dive in and catch the bottle right before the train runs over it. She pops it open and releases the car from inside the bottle, letting Trini and Billy morph to fight the remaining Putties.

Ticklesneezer laments losing his bottle because he's a lazy clumsy shit. Rita shows up to tell him to stop being so ineffective and go back to doing what she said. He complains that he doesn't have his bottle so he can't do what she says. I actually have to side with Ticklesneezer here, the whole idea was to capture things so if that's what Rita wants and he can't do it, he's pretty useless. Well Rita doesn't really care, she just makes him grow anyway.

Mr Ticklesneezer gif
A young Sneezer got it bad cause I'm brown.

The Rangers call on Megazord to beat up Ticklesneezer, but he pops open his bottle and captures Megazord inside of it. Remember when he was missing his bottle last paragraph? Doesn't matter anymore we have a zord fight to watch. Ticklesneezer calls Megazord the best goodie of them all, and it's really cheap at toy stores everywhere. Like all people who collect Megazords, Ticklesneezer is a stuttering weirdo who guffaws at every opportunity, while obsessing over things that don't matter and updating his blog every Tuesday.

Jason calls for the Power Sword, which knocks Ticklesneezer flat on his ass and releases Megazord from inside the bottle. Megazord grabs the bottle and spots Rita and the Moon Crew standing on a building watching the battle go down. Jason tells Rita she's going to get bottled up if she doesn't release Ticklesneezer from her evil spell. All the villains hold onto Rita's wand as she casts a spell to keep her and her boys on the ground, except for fat ol' Squatt who goes flying into the sky. Ticklesneezer stands by stammering and begging for his bottle back, while Megazord tries to suck up the Evil Space Aliens. It's actually a pretty neat moment seeing the Rangers going against Rita in such a close capacity. It's so exciting in fact that a young Japanese giant came to watch!

Sentai Mr Ticklesneezer oops
If I were that kid I'd be hiding from Ticklesneezer too.

Rita blasts Megazord and teleports her gang away from the fight. After 10,000 years stuck in a dumpster Rita probably doesn't feel much like getting stuck inside another magical space jar that soon. Zordon tells the Rangers that Ticklesneezer is a good hearted doll and will return the things he's stolen if they ask him to. The Rangers tell him to knock this stupid collecting shit off and return all the things he stole. Ticklesneezer plays innocent and says he didn't mean to hurt anyone so he uncorks all of the bottles he has with things inside, even though he only had one bottle earlier.

It's great to see Ticklesneezer is so stupid that he assumes kidnapping people and saying they're his goodies means that it's okay to collect them. If you put a person inside of a bottle they still have to eat you fucking creep. This guy has the mentality of a serial killer; if the cops went into his apartment there would be nothing but the stench of rotting corpses and children's shoes scattered to and fro. Then the police would cuff him against a table lined with blow all while he sobs and says "NO YOU DON'T UNDERSTAND THEY'RE JUST MY GOODIES!"

But we can't just end there, we need something so massively dumb it couldn't be collected inside any Goodie Bottle. It turns out this whole episode was just Trini's dream! Trini wakes up and looks to see Ticklesneezer is gone! Oh but he just fell onto the floor, he was safe the whole time! Thank motherfucking God.

Here's a real question, why does any of this have to be a dream? What is happening in this episode that's any crazier than anything else that's happened in this show so far? This is the most nonsensical ending to an episode of a show about dinosaur robots and karate against space witches I've seen in my life.


Weekly 90's Nostalgia: Goodie Bottles



Personal Memories

I may have laid it on a little thick, but I don't like this episode much at all. Even as a kid I've found it really boring and not fun in the slightest. I get that the monster is docile and isn't one that the Rangers need to be fighting, but they still give him such a dumb personality that I don't care what happens with him or if Trini gets her doll back or anything at all with regards to Senor Ticklesneezer.

Obviously my memories of the show may bias me, but I recall even as a child thinking that the fact this was supposed to be a dream sequence was really weird and didn't make any sense. I read somewhere that one of the three writers on this episode wanted it to be a dream so that they didn't need to turn Ticklesneezer back or anything like that, and to give it a surprising twist ending. I was very surprised! I had no idea three writers could make something this awful.

Speaking of not wanting to turn Ticklesneezer back, why bother? They had the costume for him and used it a lot. All those scenes of him tripping and dropping his bottle, capturing the car, talking to Billy and Trini, and transforming inside of Trini's house were U.S. footage. They could have just had him shrink back down into a doll after the zord fight was over, it wouldn't make any difference.

I'm almost sad they ended up getting the costume for Ticklesneezer, a lot of the Japanese footage for him was unusable because his Japanese counterpart was hanging out with a little Japanese boy, the same one you saw above hiding behind Megazord. I can't imagine opening a crate from Japan and seeing that goofy looking troll's face staring back at you. It slowly sinks in that now you're obligated to adapt this episode just because it'd be a waste of money not to.

Speaking of Sentai suits, we get to see Squatt in U.S. footage for the first time in this episode when he teleports into Trini's room. I'm not sure if they were waiting on getting the costume from Japan and couldn't use him right away, or they just didn't feel like using him until now. For the first half of the season he'll basically be Rita's emissary for anything Earth related if they need to film new footage for it. I honestly appreciate that because it actually gives the character something to do aside from talk about how he likes to eat.


4 comments:

  1. Trini dreams about a living Ticklesneezer, and we're not supposed to see this as evidence if mental illness?

    They should have made her take a whole bunch of cold medicine before bed. Otherwise she really needs someone to talk to.

    Bonus challenge: you open the crate and see the Ticklesneezer costume. You have to write an episode about it. What's your plot?

    Personally I'd make him Finster's retarded cousin.

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  2. Reading/watching this shit back, it's a wonder MMPR garnered any fans at all. I guess colorful costumes, karate, flips, and big ass robots > stupidity and logic.

    Ticklesneezer is no Stilt Man.

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  3. You have done nice analysis and love the reaction GIF.

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  4. So the plot of this episode is as follows:

    Trini shows off her dolls for class.

    Rita is jealous of Trini and wants to punish her.

    Trini goes to bed.

    Trini dreams a MMPR adventure, including scenes that she's not involved in, but she also skips over scenes that she should have logically experienced, such as noticing Mr. Ticklesneezer was missing. Most notably, Trini accurately dreams of the moon base, Rita, and her flunkies.

    Trini wakes up a-okay, meaning Rita never followed through on her threat to punish Trini.

    Actually, having this be Trini's dream makes a bit of sense, explaining skipping over parts of the story as well as Trini's dull reaction to everything. Dreams are weird like that sometimes.

    On a serious note, the scenes of Trini driving kept making me think about how Thuy died, and it felt uncomfortable to watch.

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