Tuesday, April 5, 2016

MMPR Season 2 Episode 31: When is a Ranger not a Ranger?




Lord Zedd Pursues Career as Rap Artist
Aisha Manipulates Kimberly into becoming her Best Friend












If I told you good people how excited I was about an episode that starts with a description of how a kaleidoscope works, you'd think I was fucking with you right? Okay, just wanted to make sure.

No in all seriousness, this episode has one of my favorite moments in the entire season, quite possibly in the entire series. At least that's how I remember it from when I was a kid. It's totally possible that this episode hasn't held up at all, and it's nothing but 20 minutes of Zordon's latest colonoscopy, but I'm going to put my encroaching sense of dread aside. I am going to believe this episode can be good. If it isn't then I'll accept that too, but I have faith this episode can live up to the lofty expectations of a man who's spending his day off watching children's programming.

Our adventure begins as Adam explains to the Angel Grove High School class how a kaleidoscope works. He describes it as a device that light enters, and the light is then broken into a million pieces. For the multitude of scientist eggheads out there who frequent this blog, you might be saying "Wait a goshdarn second! That's how a prism works! Not a kaleidoscope!!" to the spouse you wish you had. Well you would be correct, and I would love to make fun of this show for mixing these two things up as well.

Unfortunately, I am a buffoon who wouldn't know a prism if it was delivered to me via Mike Tyson's fist. It would be slightly hypocritical for me to make fun of this show for getting something wrong when I would have made the exact same mistake. That's why I'll politely excuse myself from mocking this episode's mistake. Unless I'm running late on my deadline and can't think of anything funny to say.

Miss Applebee thanks Adam for telling his classmates how a toy works, and asks if anyone has a question for him. Skull raises his hand, but Applebee adds "Any intelligent questions?" Skull thinks for a moment before he slowly lowers his hand. A moment so good I wish I'd come up with it myself.

Bulk comes up with an intelligent question and asks "How tall is the tallest building in the world?" Applebee gets perturbed that he dared to ask a question that didn't relate to kaleidoscopes, because nobody is going to learn a goddamned thing in this classroom so long as she's teaching. Not only that, but she had the temerity to promote her deviant political beliefs to OUR children! Look at that woman letting her freak flag fly!

Just another attempt at shoving homosinuality in my face!

Lord Zedd takes interest in Adam's report and discusses it with the legion of fuckbois he calls his servants. For absolutely no reason, Zedd starts reciting a rhyme about the Power Rangers. He can't think of a word to rhyme with "bits", and Squatt finishes the rhyme for him. Lord Zedd gets defensive about his lackluster rap skills, and Squatt actually makes a joke at the evil emperor's expense.

I don't know if I can possibly convey in words how surreal this scene is.

First and foremost, Squatt actually said more than one line in an episode. That's utterly unprecedented in of itself. Then there's Lord Zedd arbitrarily rhyming about the scheme he's planning on enacting. When Squatt interrupts him, Zedd demands that his obese henchman from Nilbog never interrupt one of his rhymes again. This would imply that Zedd spends a lot of time rhyming about his evil plans. Something that, as I recall, he has never done one single solitary time he's been on-screen. What the fuck is this Dr. Seuss shit doing in Lord Zedd's mouth? This is a scene you write for a monster like Pumpkin Rapper who never stops goddamn rhyming. Not a villain like Lord Zedd whose only joy comes from genocide and sadness.

Kimberly, Billy, and Tommy enjoy a stroll through the park while they enjoy looking through Adam's kaleidoscope. Adam isn't in this scene with them, which likely means they stole it from him because they're shitty friends. Kimberly describes this children's dollar store toy as "far-out", because she's easily entertained and high out of her gourd.

This riveting afternoon of looking into a kaleidoscope is soon interrupted by the Z-Putty Patrollers. I don't know if it's only because of the Wasserman rock blaring, but this battle with the Putties really does it for me. Also it got a legit laugh out of me when this happened.

Y'know Zedd those Putties might need a little more time to cook.

During the battle with the Putties, Kimberly accidently drops Adam's kaleidoscope. This might be because she doesn’t give a shit about it since it doesn't belong to her. Even if that damn thing shattered into pieces, it's Adam's fault for letting her borrow it. Sorry chump, we're the veteran Rangers around here. After you're on the team for more than two weeks maybe I'll stop ruining all your worldly possessions. Don't count on it though nerd.

Lord Zedd sets his sights on the kaleidoscope and zaps it with a blast of energy from his staff. The resulting creature comes to life in front of the Rangers and announces himself as Scatterbrain.

Behold, a monster that makes sense as a cyclops

Billy, Kim, and Tommy morph to confront the Scatterbrain monster, who immediately blasts them with a beam from his prism-y face. As the beam subsides, the Blue, White, and Pink Rangers are left unmorphed. The three Ranger Teens look around in confusion as they realize they don't know who their friends are, or who they are for that matter. Scatterbrain laughs as he realizes his plan worked, and says some line I can barely make out. The guy doing Scatterbrain's voice sounds like he's gargling with marbles after he got his tongue cut out by the Yakuza.

Meanwhile, Bulk and Skull drop by the Youth Center and brag to Ernie that they're going on a top-secret stakeout to discover who the Power Rangers really are. In order to best disguise themselves, the boys are dressed in comical camo-colored ponchos, and have lightly smeared warpaint on their cheeks. To understand how goofy they look, take whatever you're imagining and remove even the smallest amount of dignity. They might as well be wearing lederhosen with targets on the ass.

The collective disappointment in the room is palpable

Bulk and Skull take a moment to say hello to their best friends, Adam, Aisha, and Rocky. Rocky is busy observing a Newton's cradle. First Adam with the kaleidoscope, now we got Rocky clacking Newton balls? Did Ms. Applebee ask the class to deliver a presentation on novelty toys of their choice? I can't wait 'til Aisha discusses the merits of a drinking bird, and maybe Tommy can bring in his favorite pet rock. Then the episode turns tragic when the class has to inform Tommy that "Rocko" isn't really alive, and can't really feel his warm hugs.

No more time for toys though, unless they're licensed by Bandai. Zordon buzzes the B-Team Rangers and they drop by the Command Center to ask what the emergency is, and why they aren't on any of the Power Rangers merchandise yet. Zordon ignores the second question as he elaborates on Zedd's Scatterbrain monster. A creature that breaks people into beams of light, and reassembles them without any memory of who they are. Oh no! Now who's going to volunteer at the Karate Bake Sale to find a cure for restless leg syndrome?!

The Junior Rangers show up in the park to rescue their amnesiac comrades, but it's going to be an awfully tall order. Billy is stammering off thesaurus words to Kim and Tommy, but Kim asks him "Why are you talking like that?" Thank you! I've been wondering that for a season and a half. Billy responds that he's not sure why he's talking like a philosophy major, and perhaps his buttocks are in firm need of a wedgie.

Thankfully the other Rangers show up to help and explain who their friends really are. Rocky reminds Billy that he's taken avoiding interaction with human beings to the next level, and he's also good at science. Then Aisha takes this shit to an absurd territory when she says "You're Kimberly, my best friend."

Alright let's cool our jets here for one second. Best friend? Excuse me? Aisha, you have been on this team for all of three weeks. Let's be real careful tossing phrases like "best friend" around. Just because you're the only two ladies breaking up this sausage party doesn't make you besties. Best friends my ass.

Kimberly pries for more information on who she really is, and Aisha reminds her that they do everything together. They go shopping...and that's the only example Aisha gives for things they do together. Because it's the 90's and that was all we needed to write a female character. Aisha tells the amnesiac Kim that they would go shopping together every day, and Kimberly responds with "That's really pathetic." Well shit. Excuse me guys, looks like this writing is becoming self-aware again.

Then comes something I'm a bit embarrassed to admit. It's a line I wish I didn't laugh at, but here we go. After Kimberly says she doesn't enjoy shopping, Aisha responds very earnestly; "She doesn’t like shopping? This monster's more powerful than any of us imagined." Maybe if this episode was really shitty and dumb that line would get a groan, but I chuckled at it.

Tommy asks what kind of monster they're talking about, and if this strange new world has something called ka-ra-te in it. Adam tries explaining to his friends about the evil villain Lord Zedd who resides on the moon, but for some reason these forgetful Fred's aren't too receptive to talk of space devils from beyond Pluto. Maybe you three should focus on getting these guys to remember their names before you start talking about how they're also top-secret karate slaves.

When Rocky suggests they take the amnesiac Rangers back to the Command Center, Tommy and Billy both protest. Pretty reasonably so, since these assholes were just talking about an evil galactic overlord who sends Moon monsters at them. To make matters even more complicated, Goldar shows up with some Putties and assures the perplexed Rangers he can refresh their memories. Honestly, this whole setup works really well for me.

It would be a hard sell to think the Rangers would willingly trust a bunch of strangers promising to keep them safe inside a magical Command Center. They don't know their own names anymore, so why would they believe a bunch of nobodies they don't recognize? The only reason they're willing to get out of their comfort zone is because a giant dog-faced monster showed up and started threatening them. It makes this scene a lot more believable than having the amesia-fied Rangers arbitrarily believe Aisha's team to keep the plot chugging along.

All six Rangers head back to the Command Center, where the amnesia crew are utterly perplexed at the otherworldly technology that looks like it was bought at a Dollar Tree. Billy meets Alpha 5 for the first time for the second time, and recites the exact same line that he had upon meeting Alpha in the first episode. That's an absolutely insane attention to detail from a show that seems to believe its main villain speaks completely in rhyme.

The best special effects 1994 could buy

Tommy and Kimberly react in horror when they see the freakish giant head monster bellowing at them. Kim whispers to Tommy and asks if maybe they should have taken their chances with that gorilla monster in the park instead. Zordon says the Rangers with amnesia will need to stay in the Command Center for further traumatization through exposure to interdimensional space heads. With their memories scrambled, the Ranger Vets don't have what it takes to battle any of Zedd's monsters. Unless he decides to recreate Mirror Maniac, then they might have a shot.

Aisha figures that Adam might have an idea to fix this dilemma. That's true, Adam did give a three minute presentation on how a kaleidoscope works. I bet he'll know how to cure our friends of their situational amnesia! Adam suggests using a prism to reflect Scatterbrain's beam at the afflicted Rangers, and hopes that it could reverse the effect of the monster's magic. I mean kaleidoscopes and prisms are the same thing aren't they?

Sorry. I lost track of time.

Rocky tells Adam to escort Billy to his lab, because….I don't know? He thinks it will jog some memories? It's not very well explored, and only exists to split the Rangers up for the next scene. I'd make a big fuss about it, but this episode has actually been quite good so I'm willing to give it a pass.

I mean that too. This has been a pretty clever episode so far. The new Rangers have to act as mentors to their amnesiac friends, and it's a cool way to subvert the team dynamic. It's one of the smartest things this show has done with the replacement Rangers. They're not treated like disposable body doubles for Jason, Trini, and Zack. They're rookies who have to show their seniors the ropes.

I know we haven't delved into Rocky or Aisha's character very much, but we don't really need to for this episode to work. In fact I would say this episode works because we aren't that familiar with them. The audience can relate to the fact that these virtual newcomers aren't in any position to boss the others around. It puts all three of them in an awkward position, and it's fun to see the second-string Rangers having to step it up and become the leaders of a team they've been part of for barely a month.

Rocky and Aisha take Kimberly and Tommy out to the park in the hopes they can hold Scatterbrain off. Because it's a commonly known fact that the safest place to keep people with amnesia is out in the open near kaleidoscope monsters. The only problem is that they make a crucial error in judgment during their teleportation.

Remember when I mentioned Bulk and Skull were plotting a stakeout today? Well they sure picked a damn fine spot, because they're right in the line of sight to see four of the Ranger Teens teleporting in. Maybe Alpha 5 was being extra careless, or maybe Rocky doesn't know how to check his surroundings. Either way, Bulk and Skull have now accomplished their goal. They now know who four of the Power Rangers really are. They're a bit stunned.

Bulk only brings his crow camera for special occasions.

It's kind of a cheap way for the Rangers to get their identities' discovered, and I think it could have easily been punched up. Maybe have them get hit by Scatterbrain's beam and Bulk and Skull could see them get demorphed by the monster. This just seems like a really careless way to resolve Bulk and Skull's season-long arc. Are you telling me that Alpha 5 was so stupid he couldn't find those two bulging lummoxes on his scanners? Now do Bulk and Skull have to take a blood oath like the three new Rangers did after Billy got choked by that snake? Or is that only applicable to people Zordon can use for menial labor without paying them? Maybe he can use these two as unwilling organ donors in case the Rangers need a fresh liver when Zedd makes a monster out of a beer bottle.

Bulk and Skull are appropriately crestfallen after learning that those dweebs are their long sought after white whale. All Skull can do is repeat a frustrated "Awwwww!" It's actually a great reveal. Even though these two should be elated to have finally uncovered the mystery of the Power Rangers, they can't help but be disgusted to learn the Rangers are actually those dweebs they know from science class. It's a really great moment that feels pitch-perfect to these characters.

Back at Billy's lab, Adam searches desperately to find a set of prisms to stop Scatterbrain. He then asks Billy where he keeps his prisms.  Billy responds and I quote "I have fucking amnesia you dickhead. I don't know who I am, let alone where we are or what you're doing. Leave me alone so I can process the fact I was just introduced to a gold-armored rat with wings and a floating bag of plasma shaped like a face. Could you give me two cocksucking seconds to scream my lungs out before you bother me with more of your inane bullshit?" Adam responds to this by coyly looking away and silently searching Billy's cabinets for prisms.

Aisha's group wanders around "the park" before running into Scatterbrain in an area more closely resembling a wasteland. Maybe he scrambled all the trees in the park and made them forget how to retain water. Or the show felt like filming a fight somewhere other than a park for the umpteenth time.

Aisha and Rocky morph to battle the monster while Kim and Tommy stand idly in the background. It's almost as if they don't know what's happening and are confused or something like that. I wonder what's wrong with them? Maybe they need to get more sleep. Shouldn't Aisha be telling them to stay hidden away from the giant glittery toy monster? Why are you going out of your way to remind these people what  a screaming nightmare their existence is?

Bulk and Skull enjoy the show as they not only watch two Rangers morph, but see the two battle Scatterbrain. The monster blasts his face beam at the Rangers, only for them to dive out of the way. Scatterbrain reacts by blathering about something I can't make out. Allow me to reiterate that this jackass monster talks like he drinks his coffee before it's done boiling. Fucking mushmouthed idiot. Maybe you should try scrambling your vocal chords and become comprehensible.

Adam finally locates a briefcase full of prisms and takes a pair of them to combat the monster. He and Billy teleport into the desert where Bulk and Skull manage to fill out their Ranger identity bingo cards. Scatterbrain sets his sights on Adam and Billy and fires his beam at them. Even though Adam and Billy are clearly holding up the prisms, Scatterbrain's magic goes unimpeded and scrambles the Blue and Black Ranger Teens. Don't hope for an explanation as to why, they just didn't work because it's convenient to the plot. Or because it was a dumb idea. I'm not sure.

Maybe whoever's directing this episode could have tried not having them hold the damn things right in front of the beam effect. That might have helped.

The Red and Yellow Rangers run off to try and retrieve the prisms from Billy and Adam's hands, but a shot from Scatterbrain's beam zaps the two, leaving them unmorphed and totally helpless. Billy's prisms go flying in the air and land in the dirt. Bulk and Skull watch from the bushes and even their piddling little brains can put together what's happened. The Power Rangers have lost.

Scatterbrain prepares to take his new captives back to the Moon, but there's one thing standing in the way of his plans. Well two things. Two very dumb things.

The Adventures of Bulkaroo Banzai

That's right. These two comic-relief dunces are standing toe-to-toe with one of Zedd's monsters. A monster who pretty effortlessly stopped the Power Rangers by himself. They're the two most ill-equipped people to fight this guy, but they're still going to do it to protect the Power Rangers. Even if they are total dorks.

It's such a crazy reveal that it almost seems unreal. These two characters are such hedonistic buffoons, but they're choosing to risk their own lives to help the Rangers out. These dummies are acting like out-and-out heroes, and it's magnificent. I love this moment so much for seriously. Even though Bulk and Skull have everything they ever wanted at their fingertips, they choose to risk life and limb to save the world.

Not only is all that build-up fantastic, but the scene plays out really well. Skull mocks the monster before telling Bulk he doesn't know if they have a chance of surviving this. There are also some excellent close-ups on Bulk and Skull's faces as they try to look tough while clearly being terrified of the monster. Then we pan back to see the boys holding Billy's prisms behind their back, waiting for a chance to strike.

In the blink of an eye, Scatterbrain blasts the bullies with his scrambling beam. As the beam strikes them, the dummies toss the prisms up into the sky. Light from Scatterbrain's beam reflects off the prisms at the amnesiac Ranger Teens, and changes them back into the Power Rangers.

That's right ladies and gentlemen. Bulk and Skull are the heroes of the day. God bless you two oafs.

Scatterbrain awkwardly stands around and seemingly doesn't notice that the Rangers have been unscrambled. Even when the Rangers run right in front of him to check and see if Bulk and Skull are okay. Thankfully the two goofballs didn't have much brain to scramble, and the only thing they've forgotten is the identities of the Power Rangers. Even though Scatterbrain's beam was supposed to completely wipe a person's memory. Whatever, we've already blown through 90 episodes trying to develop Bulk and Skull as characters. We don't have time to do that shit again.

Lord Zedd is infuriated when he realizes who his monster just lost to. He tosses a Growth Bomb to Earth and turns Scatterbrain massive. The primary five Rangers summon their Thunderzords while Tommy sits on his thumbs since the Tigerzord isn't in Sentai footage this week. The Thunder Megazord comes together and engages with Scatterbrain in an amazing fight. A battle that the Megazord has an incredibly difficult time with, and appears to be losing badly.

April Fools!

After the monster is finished off, we join Bulk and Skull talking up their heroics in the Youth Center. Sadly, the duo don't really remember what they did to stop the monster. They make up a bunch of bullshit about how they ripped the monsters teeth out and the White Ranger offered to autograph their ponchos.

Two girls in the crowd ask Bulk and Skull where the Rangers are now, and why they aren't stopping by to say thank you to the boys. Possibly because they're busy saving your shitty town from giant bone-hyenas and fist-statues you complainy Janeys.

Regardless, Bulk and Skull are left humiliated that they have no proof of their valiant deed. The crowd that's formed around them disperses, and the boys are left alone. For once you actually kind of feel sad for the guys. They're so prone to lying and acting like they're cool, but this one time they really did something amazing. It's natural that nobody will believe them, but you really want someone to commend these two for what they did.

Thankfully, Kim and Aisha were listening in on Bulk and Skull's story and join the sulking bullies at the Juice Bar. They ask about the story they were telling about saving the Power Rangers, but even Bulk and Skull know this is a set-up. Bulk tells the girls they can go ahead and laugh if they want, but they know for one brief shimmering moment they mattered.

But Aisha and Kimberly tell the guys they believe them. Bulk, pretty realistically, asks them why. Aisha says that in spite of everything else, these two always come through in a pinch. Kimberly adds that they're also courageous and honorable to boot. Bulk and Skull get incredibly jazzed over the fact a pair of women are complimenting them without being paid, and it's easily the happiest we've seen them in the entire series. It's adorable.

Bulk adds on a few more words to describe how brave he and Skull were, and Skull desperately looks at the girls and adds "Available!" Bulk throws in the most nonchalant and casual "So uh…you guys wanna go out?" and a bit of light shines in my cold dead heart. Obviously the girls rebuke the boys advances, but they still got that one glimmer of hope in their life. The episode also doesn't end on a down note, as Bulk orders ice cream for he and his buddy. Not out of sadness or as a way to eat their feelings, but as a celebration of a job well done. You know what? Just this once, I'm happy that these two don't fall face-first into the ice cream. Congrats boys, you earned it.




Your Weekly 90's Nostalgia: Easily Cured Amnesia




Personal Thoughts


I'm incredibly thankful this episode lived up to my expectations. I've been let down before, but "When is a Ranger not a Ranger" really stepped up to the plate. An episode showcasing Bulk and Skull like this isn't one I would initially expect to be so good, but it really works. There isn't much action with Scatterbrain, but it's made up for with a pretty solid Putty fight. I don't think I've ever said this about an episode before, but I think this could have done well as a two-parter. They could have expanded on the Raangers' amnesia and try and focus on who these characters would be if they forgot they were Power Rangers. Maybe I should just be happy with what we got and enjoy this episode for what it is. Why spoil something this nice with coulda woulda shouldas?

Scatterbrain is a pretty doofy looking monster, but his showdown with Bulk and Skull at least gives him a tiny bit of chaaracter that most monsters are lacking. I think my biggest problem with him is his wretched voice. A lot of the monsters lately have had this weird echo-y filter put over their voice actors lines, and it renders some of them sounding near incomprehensible. Why don't you let the doofus in the booth talk like a kaleidoscope-man and leave it be?

The last thing I'll say is I have vivid memories of one other moment from this episode. When Aisha tried calling herself Kim's best friend. Even as a little sapling I knew that moment was complete and utter bullshit. Aisha and Kimberly haven't even been seen hanging out together on-screen. What a bunch of nonsense. It's one of the few lines that really takes me out of this episode and reminds me how badly this show wants us to forget the old Ranger Teens.



3 comments:

  1. I wouldn't be surprised if the new teens' roles were originally written for the old teens. The best friend thing would've made more sense if Trini said it.

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  2. You are probably right. It's very likely that a lot of these stories and scripts may have been written out long beforehand and possibly with the intention that it was meant for the classic original line up, but obviously had to be adjusted in order to accommodate the new Rangers. It's very likely that the thing with the kaleidoscope and the prism bit might have originally been meant for Billy given he is the scientific one. But the way the story was structured by having the three veteran Rangers get their memories scrambled and then having the three newbies try to get them to trust them actually works better than it should.

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  3. I have always loved this episode purely for Bulk and Skull saving the day. Really, I would argue that nobody gets more character development over the course of their time on the series than these two, with this episode being a pretty significant milestone. While they've tried to help before (such as when chasing down Baby Jacob), this is the first time they've tried and succeeded completely on their own. This is one of my top two Bulk and Skull moments, right up there with the finale of In Space.

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