Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers Episode 16: Switching Places



Idiot Goblin Drops Priceless Galactic Artifact
Hormonal Teens Switch Bodies, Hijinx Refuse to Ensue. 








Credit where credit's due, this episode begins by establishing the one thing Squatt is absolutely fantastic at; providing expository dialogue to set up the plot in less than half a minute. You see, Squatt has come to Earth to tamper with Billy's newest nameless invention. In doing so it will scramble up Billy's brain and leave the Rangers helpless against Rita's next monster.

Of all the people in your gaggle of space idiots to send to Earth to rewire a machine, you send Squatt? Squatt is a blue goblin with a unicorn horn and an underbite that would make a bulldog blush and he's your first pick to do something that requires thinking? Lucky for him all you need to do to make this machine malfunction is switch two electrodes, and Squatt gets to call it a day. What we don't see of course is Baboo twiddling his thumbs by his space cell phone, waiting for Rita to give him a call about his next important task.

So what does Billy's stupid new invention do? Well he explains to Kim that the machine can allow people to read each other's minds, which can let Kim know all the disgusting things Billy has been thinking about her ever since they met. Billy leads Kim to his new device, which is just a bunch of plastic shit on the wall with some wires taped to it, which she seems to believe is morphenomenal. Her delivery on that word is so awkward it defies all logic. It's so bad you can actually see her straining to say it right.

Kimberly morphenomenal
P...Please don't patronize me Kim I worked very hard on this.

While this is happening, Bulk and Skull have snuck into Billy's garage and are watching the demonstration of his bullshit magic science mind reading machine. Yeah the two guys who have seemed like sociopaths the past few weeks are just sneaking inside a nerd's house, it's cool though. They think about how this device could change their lives, likely by putting them into bodies that don't fall down every time an object is put in front of them.

While the bullies watch Kim and Billy get inside the machine to test it out, they run afoul of a "ferocious" dog that's sitting outside the garage. The kind of dog that looks really nice whenever it's not clearly being prompted by an off screen trainer to bark at people. It chases Bulk and Skull off to maul them to death Cujo style while Billy flips the switch to test his invention.

Billy's invention lightly spews sparks and shakes the teens around while the actors look uncomfortable inside of the 20 dollar pile of props. Hard to blame them considering the set was so fucking cheap it actually lit Amy Jo Johnson and David Yost on fire during a take. Hey, it's cool you want to make a show on the cheap, that's fine. But if you're going to do something that can potentially kill 40 percent of your cast maybe you need to test it out first.

Speaking of testing things out first, Billy and Kim exit the machine and soon realize the machine didn't work quite as planned. Billy starts talking like a valley girl and Kim starts talking like Encyclopedia Brown. This is when you realize we've hit the show's requisite body swap episode which should be the free space on your sitcom plot bingo card.

Goldar announces to no one in particular that their forces have finally uncovered the magical lamp of the Genie from Canine 4 of the Wolf's Head Galaxy. What's the monster's name you ask? Oh it's just Genie. Why bother giving him a name when a title will suffice?

Short Blue Henchman and Tall Blue Henchman rub the lamp to see what this Genie is all about, making this the first episode that Squatt has ever done more than one thing. The Genie soon emerges and says genieric things about their wish being his command or whatever. He doesn't seem threatening or interesting at all, just a blue genie dog. This just goes to show you that Finster is the only one who should be making monsters around here. Ignore the Pineoctopus, Finster was sick that day.

Genie Power Rangers
Did everyone on that planet look this stupid?

Bulk and Skull sneak into Billy's garage after the mind-swapped teens have already left, intent on testing the machine on themselves to try this mind reading business. We get a nice goofy joke between these idiots where Bulk says he'll try to read Skull's mind, and Skull asks if it's okay to think of Kimberly. He says it with an earnest smugness that reflects his character perfectly, as Bulk just dismisses him out of disgust. Bulk turns on the machine, and ends up switching the two's brains so we have something else to cut to when the episode is running short.

Bulk Skull Switch
Sometimes I lay awake at night wondering how much money these two made off of shaking their faces.

This episode does something right that I think Power Ranger Punks completely missed the mark on. Kim acting like Billy and Billy acting like Kim are a lot more fun to watch than Kim and Billy serving up a nice juicy ham and cheese sandwich with their bully acting. The actors are playing each other's parts while having fun with it, and acting more like a human being than a cringe worthy stereotype. It's goofy as hell, but it's more my style of goofy as opposed to complete over the top schtick. What can I say? I need some subtlety in my dog faced genie teenager karate shows.

Billy as Kim tries to teach a cooking class to a bunch of teens who notice how homely she's become, and Kim as Billy gives shoddy advice to a classmate asking how to do "file sorting" on his computer. Thankfully he didn't ask to do anything even more complicated like "surf the web" or "hack the database."  Kim even advises the young man to press the d-d-d-delete key! Billy thinks he's successfully made a cheese souffl√©, but because we need to make more messes, it somehow turns into a giant balloon of cheese and explodes a bunch of goo all over the rest of the class. 

Billy and Kim are completely at wits end with each other, as Kim-Billy yells at Billy-Kim for making her look like a cheap tramp with her makeup smeared everywhere. Realistically if you put a socially awkward dork inside some hot cheerleader's body, you should be pretty grateful all he's doing is applying your makeup like shit. Billy's even wearing a massive ugly purple sweater, likely so he doesn't even have to worry about the stress of putting a bra on. Let's just all be thankful this isn't a two part episode about Billy and Kim really figuring things out they never thought they'd understand.

It's about this time the rest of the Rangers find out what's going on, halfway into the episode. We haven't even seen them so far but they just come waltzing down the hallways of the school to see Billy dressed all preppy and Kimberly looking like she's auditioning to be the next Joker.

Billy as Kimberly
Or he got stung by a bunch of bees on the way to school.

They don't seem to be all that concerned with the turn of events, and they don't suspect Rita of anything involved in this, just that Billy's fucked up another invention. Why even bother with the prologue of Squatt making Billy's machine malfunction if everyone just believes it was Billy's fault to begin with?

Meanwhile, Bulk and Skull are at the Juice Bar after having had their brains swapped. They've dressed up in each other's outfits, somehow getting a fat guy in Skull's little coat. Bulk in Skull's body is eating a gigantic sandwich because of course he is, and Skull in Bulk's body is egging him on. You can tell that Paul Schrier and Jason Narvy totally get each other and are having a fucking blast acting like each other's character, and it's absolutely beautiful to watch. Billy and Kim swapped around is fine, but it doesnt even compare to Bulk and Skull acting like each other.

Bulk as Skull
Someday I'll understand Bulk's hubcap helmet. Someday.

Rita sends Squatt and Baboo to Earth with the Genie inside of his lamp so that Zordon won't be able to detect him. They mentioned this point earlier about how the magic lamp will conceal Genie and keep Zordon from figuring out they're up to something, but they still send Squatt and Baboo to Earth to unleash him. If you want inconspicuous maybe don't send down Space Abbot and Costello.

Squatt rubs the lamp to unleash Genie and, I'm not making this up, drops the fucking lamp. He doesn't drop it and pick it back up, he drops it and looks sad that he's completely ruined everything. It fell maybe four feet, just waddle your fat ass over and get it back! Squatt was doing so well this episode, he almost had a hat trick of doing things. He switched two things, rubbed a lamp, and almost rubbed a lamp again. Good try idiot.

Squatt Baboo idiots
He dropped it so badly it fell from Japan into America

Completely disregarding all that stuff about not being able to notice the Genie, Zordon instantly tells the Rangers they need to go find a lamp in the park. Is this because Squatt dropped it that Zordon can tell what happened? Doesn't matter, the Ranger Teens have the lamp now. Zack brings it back to the Command Center where Zordon warns the Teens there was once a ferocious Genie inside of the lamp. We don't see Genie teleport out of the lamp or have an indication he's terrorizing the Earth, but we have his lamp so that's good enough, whatever. Zordon sends the Rangers to fight Goldar and some Putties that have been sent to pad out time Earth.

The Rangers morph while Alpha 5 promises to take care of the lamp. Goldar is waiting for the Rangers down by some train tracks and fights the Power Rangers for a good half minute before Zordon informs the Rangers the Putty Patrol is a distraction and the real danger is the Genie. No shit Zordon, the Putties are a diversion every single week.

The Rangers are abruptly teleported into a canyon somewhere where the Genie throws spears at them and ties them up with junk that looks like silly string. Before Genie is able to utilize his demonic array of celebrity impersonations from 30 years ago, Alpha teleports the Rangers away. Without any sarcasm at all, the fight between the Rangers and Genie lasts 13 seconds before they're called away. It's such shitty abrupt editing that it takes you out of whatever fight is supposed to be happening here.
 
Zordon brings the Rangers back to the Command Center to inform them how bad they fucked up in that fight, and to combine their power or something. So really as long as the Rangers can combine their powers the Genie will never be able to defeat them. Awesome! We'll keep that in mind Zordon, thanks for nothing.

The Rangers teleport back to a park somewhere and pose while talking smack to nobody in particular about how the Genie is going down. Suddenly, Rita teleports down to Earth where she fires energy from her wand at the Rangers to let them know she means fucking business. All of a sudden she fires a bolt of energy that produces a giant sized Genie. 

Usually when Rita makes monsters grow she throws her wand at the Earth, it splits the ground open, and smoke billows out to make the monsters gigantic. This time all she does is fire a beam and now the monster's big. The Rangers are facing the fight of their lives, a giant blue dog with a turn operated drill and Hammer pants.

Well I'll be damned, puffy pants.

The Rangers call on their Dinozords to fight the Genie, and did you forget this episode was about body switching? We hear Billy and Kim talking as each other all through the episode, but it doesn't play into the fight with Genie whatsoever. They just morph and they're perfectly capable of fighting the same as they always have. Don't even worry about them doing something more interesting.

Alpha stresses over how the Rangers can't possibly defeat the Genie after all that lying they did to them about sticking together being the key to all of this. Sorry kids, teamwork doesn't mean shit against flamboyantly dressed genie dogs. As Alpha analyzes the Genie's strength he finds that the secret to his strength is all in the lamp Alpha's conveniently holding.

Alpha plans to vaporize the lamp inside of the teleportation system, which must mean if one of the Ranger Teens is giving Alpha lip, he can just make them burn to death when they teleport to the Command Center. Zordon says to dissolve it carefully or else the entire Morphing Grid will be destroyed. What's the Morphing Grid? It's the vague presence that gives the Rangers their powers. Basically like a less insulting midichlorians.

The Rangers try to put up a fight against Genie, but he has absolutely no problem taking them head on and trashing them. Jason tells the Rangers they need to reroute energy to the gobbledygook systems if they want to beat the monster. It's completely pointless to have them attempting this fight because Alpha is already in the process of destroying the Genie's lamp to finish things up. It might be a more dynamic fight if we knew the Rangers couldn't beat Genie and needed to hold him off until Alpha could help out, but instead we see them fighting against the monster completely in vain. The Genie is actually about to finish the Ranger off pretty gruesomely as Alpha is at work destroying the lamp.

Maybe those red stickers in the cockpit will help!

Alpha says if they don't hurry up they're going to be cleaning corpses out of the Ranger suits for the next few months, but Zordon gives him the go ahead to finally dissolve the lamp. As it fades away into nothingness the Genie turns into white energy and vanishes. It's a completely underwhelming finish to a monster that was only around for a good 2 minutes, and it happens so goddamn quickly there's no time to even process the fact that the fight is over. Wasn't this episode about changing bodies or something?

Oh of course it was! We're back in Billy's garage now to finally get that horrible body swap situation taken care of. The one that hasn't made any narrative difference in the last 10 minutes. Well Billy has rerouted the wiring to hopefully get those tits off his chest once and for all, and because the episode is almost over the teens get back into their original bodies.

We're not done quite yet though, Bulk and Skull bust into Billy's lab pleading to have their bodies changed back. We don't see why they hate being in each other's bodies, but it might have something to do with the fact Skull's body has gained 40 pounds in the last 4 hours. Billy and Trini actually contemplate leaving the two as is to teach them a lesson for fucking with Billy's malfunctioning junk, but instead they decide to help the two bullies as long as they promise to remain ineffectual and stop doing any on screen bullying from now on. The two oblige and are turned back to normal. Now that the status quo is safe and sound, we can forget this tedious episode ever happened.

I gotta tell ya guys, this episode feels like the writers are stuck in a bit of a rut. If they don't up the stakes a bit next week I might have to jump ship.


Your Weekly 90's Nostalgia: Disregarding Actors Safety


Personal Thoughts:



Holy shit this episode. This episode should have just been a forgettable waste of time, but instead it has no idea what it wants to do and becomes a total mess. To enjoy this episode, just watch the first 10 minutes and then shut it off while imagining a more fulfilling ending. I never saw this episode as a kid, which I'm ecstatic about. I don't have any ties to this bland nonsense from my youth so I can see it as it really is. A mediocre filler episode with no action to coast on, and some good acting from Bulk and Skull as well as Kim and Billy to almost give it an ounce of merit.

Speaking of Kim and Billy, I want to go back a few episodes and look at who we've been focusing on. Let's start with Episode 11: No Clowning Around, which was all about Trini protecting her niece. Then we had Power Ranger Punks, with Kim and Billy acting like completely different "characters". Next was Peace Love and Woe which focused on Billy falling in love, and then Foul Play in the Sky which was a Kim episode. Dark Warrior was last week and mostly focused on Billy with a little Trini in there as well, and today we had Kim and Billy acting like different characters. That's a month's worth of episodes, and have you noticed anybody missing?



Jason is ostensibly the leader here but we haven't seen anything focusing on him since Episode 4. We get little bits and pieces of him and Zack throughout almost all of these episodes, but it's so weird to me that they set up episodes that focused on three of the Rangers while shafting the other two. They often focus on specific Rangers when the Sentai footage requires it, and No Clowning Around, Power Ranger Punks, Peace Love and Woe, and Foul Play in the Sky definitely were built to focus on specific characters; however Dark Warrior just had Trini get hit by a cannon in the ground fight. They cut out her beating the monster so it really could have been an episode about anybody.

This week? This week had so little Sentai footage it barely matters at all. There's nothing Blue Ranger or Pink Ranger centric in the footage, so why bother going back to them after we had them acting like total assholes in Power Ranger Punks? Why waste an episode that can focus on literally anything with a generic body swap plot? Shoehorn in a few minutes of Genie fight footage and then make it about Zack trying out for a blues band or something. Wait shit, someone write that fanfiction: Zack Joins Blues Traveler. We can call Walter Jones see if he'd be up to film it!

The Genie is such an awful monster that I can barely even stand it. In the Japanese episode Genie was a benevolent force that Rita managed to capture. Here he's just a generic blue dog that doesn't make any impression whatsoever. It doesn't help that this episode has some of the shoddiest editing yet.
During the Putty fight, we see Squatt and Baboo attempting to act menacing to something off screen. Then Red Ranger reaches out in protest but gets slashed by Goldar. There's no dialogue in the scene, so it means absolutely nothing. In the Sentai stuff, they were attacking some kids who had Genie's lamp, but if you aren't going to keep something like that in the episode, then why not cut that scene out since it's pointless in the context of your episode?

What I also think needed a bit of creative editing was the fight with Genie and Megazord. We cut from Genie about to drill Megazord's face to Alpha and Zordon fretting in the Command Center about destroying the lamp for a solid half minute. If you want to cut that shit tighter and make it look more threatening, then cut it so the drill is just about to hit the Megazord as the lamp is dissolving. If you cut as the Genie has the drill hovering over Megazord it just looks like he's standing there waiting for Alpha to kill him. It's the most basic fucking editing for an action set piece and you completely botched it and remove all tension because it might take a little more effort.

I can defend the creators of this show by saying they did what they could with the very little footage they could use for this episode considering the majority of the footage with Genie was him hanging out playing Nintendo with kids.

Genie playing Nintendo


So on some level I understand why the fight footage sucks and doesn't really mean anything. They didn't care much about it and knew if they were going to use this footage the episode was going to require a lot of heavy lifting from the writing staff to carry it. Well next time try not wrapping your story in a boring body switch A-plot that means absolutely nothing for the monster B-Plot and is all but forgotten aside from throwaway dialogue for the next half of the episode.



6 comments:

  1. Ew. I can only imagine what Billy would be doing in Kim's body.... 0_____0

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  2. Luckily, Billy-Kim didn't get ahold of Billy's lance...

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  3. Somewhere, Brad Harp is spinning in his grave.

    Also, good on Billy for making the cutouts on his Mindswap Plot Accelerator exactly the same proportions as Bulk.

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  4. Numerous things to consider with this episode:

    1) Why did Billy as Kim need to put on his glasses? Mind swapping doesn't affect eyesight.

    2) Kim and Billy's transformations are the usual stock ones. No indication of Billy as Kim wearing glasses.

    3) Kim and Billy totally saw each other's naked bodies while changing clothes and likely did unspeakable things to their naughty bits.

    4) Ditto for Bulk and Skull.

    5) Why bother changing clothes at all?

    6) Why buy new clothes?

    7) Why did Billy and Kim immediately leave the garage after the accident occurred instead of trying to reverse it?

    8) It's unclear how much time passes in this episode, but let's assume the mind swap occurred on the day before the school scene. Whose houses did Billy/Kim and Bulk/Skull stay at, and what kind of explanation did they give their parents?

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    Replies
    1. For 1, it would be reasonable enough to guess that Kim wears contacts, but Billy is way too uncool to do that. But I prefer to conclude that Billy's myopia is purely psychosomatic.

      That, or pursuant to number 3 on your list, after about 30 seconds of private time in Kim's body, Billy discovered that his mom was right all those years and he WOULD go blind.

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  5. When you got to Bratboy I was going to just point out that Kakuranger did a similar plot for Zashiki-Warashi as Zyuranger's genie episode, but then I noticed that the genie's head appears to have been reused on a random extra yokai in a few other Kakuranger episodes...!

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