Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers Episode 14: Foul Play in the Sky

Pilot Drinks On Job, Crashes Plane
Critically Acclaimed Actor Becomes Lizard

Based on everything I've written so far, try telling me something about Kimberly aside from how she was your first love. She's cute and she does gymnastics and she likes shopping. Were you able to come up with much more? She taught a deaf girl how to dance, she doesn't like pollution, a potion turned her into Biff Tannen, and she helped a little girl get kidnapped. Those aren't character traits though, just things they had her do. She, like the rest of the characters, are supposed to be stereotypes and fit in a mold. None of the episodes really lend themselves to fitting those characters into a mold though and just become rather interchangeable. Today all we're focusing on is Kim going on a plane ride. If you just swapped her and Zack it wouldn't make any difference at all.

Kim gives Trini a call on a payphone to tell her how excited she is to go flying with her Uncle. For some reason Kimberly is ecstatic about going flying in an airplane, even though the big point of this show is how these teenagers all ride Dinozords, and hers is the only one that flies. Wouldn't an airplane be a bit of a downgrade from that? Kim's Uncle Steve comes up and tells her he just got a letter and wonders who it's from, also that it's about time to go flying.

We transition to the Juice Bar where Zack's helping Jason work out, and nothing even related to Trini talking on the phone with Kim can be seen anywhere. We'll cover exactly why later, but for now just pretend she's off camera.

Zack gets an eyeful of the girl of his dreams Angela. What the fuck? I thought Zack and Jason were an item, who's this trollop? This show is ruining my OTP here something fierce and I will not stand for it. The only saving grace is that thankfully Angela is also black, because in the 90's interracial dating was illegal. There are magical wizards with talking robots who give teenagers dinosaur robots to fight demon space witches and servants of chaos made by a Satan worshiping sheep; but the second Kim asks Tyrese to the dance that's when this show is getting the plug pulled.  Zack moves in on Angela and asks if she wants to chill with the Zack man, and she tells him to get fucked. Jason feels for his beloved though, and can't bear to see him in pain.

Jason Juice Bar gif
Who wouldn't want to rest in those beefy arms?

There isn't a particularly good reason for Angela to not like Zack, she just seems to have no interest in him. We don't get a moment of her telling him he's too full of himself which appears to be the issue. It's mostly just that this is a kid's karate show so relationships have to be one-sided so we can make jokes about how bad someone is at flirting.

Zack Angela
If you're colorblind this image will look much less ridiculous to you.

Rita is observing the Rangers, because she has absolutely nothing else to do but brainstorm ways to fuck with some teenagers. However she wasn't watching Zack while plotting to make a monster to cockblock him. Instead Rita is planning on drugging Kim's Uncle so that he crashes the plane with her in it. Repulsa seems to have taken the training wheels off because she's going whole hog into killing one of these kids. She's going to Buddy Holly that whole goddamn plane before she has to deal with one more headache. Rita asks Goldar to send down the Snizard monster as soon as Kim is out of commission.

...Oh right Goldar! The guy who's ostensibly Rita's second in command?  The guy who we last saw sneezing because of Pineoctopus and his magic fairy dust? Yeah he's the guy helping make plans now. Goldar becomes significantly more important later on but it's interesting how little attention they paid to him early on in the series. Usually if he wasn't going down to fight they wouldn't even show him in the background. It's not worth holding this against Power Rangers though, it's just a show trying to find its footing with regards to a golden dog man.

Back at the plane where Uncle Steve's left his can of soda sitting on the wing, it's Squatt of all people who teleports down to put a sleeping potion inside of Steve's drink. This is the 2nd time in the last 3 weeks that the villain's plot has revolved around slipping space drugs into someone's drink. Maybe space these episodes out a little better guys. Squatt miraculously manages to not fuck up his insanely simple task, and vanishes back to the Moon Palace to receive his customary pat on the head.

Fear not though, because we're in no short supply of idiots this week. Bulk and Skull are sitting on a bench while watching planes fly by like they're observing a miracle of technology invented before their very eyes. Bulk spies Kimberly about to board a plane, and takes Skull as they chase after her. Kim reacts the same way you would if you saw these two goobers chasing after you.

Literally every face she makes is perfect.

The two beg to ride the plane with her, because Bulk and Skull just REALLY want to ride in one of them air-o-planes they've seen in the moving pic-a-tures. They also know that if they make a move on Kim inside the plane she won't be able to say no, because of the implication. Kim tries to make a point about the plane not having enough room, but cuts herself off before she destroys the last shred of Bulk's waning self esteem. Uncle Steve misses every single hint Kim is dropping and says her "friends" can come along if they want, and the bullies get in the backseat of the plane to take solace in ruining Kimberly's exciting day.

The plane takes off while Bulk and Skull are crammed into the backseat and clearly terrified of the fact they're off the ground. Bulk actually has a pretty good line when Skull asks if he's afraid of flying, "No, but I'm afraid of crashing." It's not hilarious on paper, but Paul Schrier's delivery on this material is really good. It's a testament to why people remember these two despite the crazy fantasy elements surrounding them.

Kim tries to forget about the party crashers and instead looks at the beautiful scenery stock footage of the four locations the Ranger Teens love hanging out at. She even passes by the mountainside where she and the Teens first morphed. She doesn't have much time to reminisce though, because Uncle Steve is starting to feel the effect of Squatt's Moon Roofie. Bulk and Skull hear that their pilot is feeling a little dizzy, and scream their heads off as the plane starts to teeter and fall out of the air.

Finster hears that the plan is working perfectly, and happily cranks a Snizard out of the Monstermatic. We get a bunch of exposition on how Snizard can summon cobras that will suck the energy out of the Power Rangers, but it all comes from Goldar this time around because we need to build him up as an actual character instead of a lumbering idiot like most of Rita's crew.

Snizard US Footage
Snizard also volunteers at the local puppet show.

Bulk and Skull freak the fuck out while the plane goes down and Kim screams at them to shut up because she's trying to solve this problem. The bullies conveniently faint, allowing Kim to ask Zordon what the hell she's supposed to do if she wants to get out of this alive. Zordon and Alpha get into contact with Kim and honestly Amy Jo Johnson's acting is pretty good. You can tell how petrified she is and it's nice to see after seeing how hammy she and David Yost were a few weeks back as punks. Alpha brings up an extremely logical point and tells Kim to just morph out of the plane.

You see that? Right there? That's a really excellent point. It's great that they bothered to even address that Kim is able to do that. Obviously Kim isn't going to ditch her uncle or the two morons to save her own skin, but it's fantastic the show actually addresses the easiest way she could resolve her problem. It's logic this show doesn't need at all, but they're respecting the audience by doing so. 

Rita sends the Snizard down to attack Angel Grove while Zordon realizes she's trying to pull some wicked shit. Alpha says he'll stop being a stammering ninny and instruct Kim how to land the plane. What follows is a really awkward cut outside the Command Center, and all of a sudden we just see the other four Ranger Teens inside the Command Center looking at nothing in particular on the ground. Don't worry about that for now though, because the Rangers have a Snizard to fight.

Before we get into the fight itself, I'd be remiss to not mention Snizard is voiced by one Bryan Cranston. Last week we had Alex Borestein doing a voice before she found her fortune and now we have a guy who's one of the biggest names in Hollywood voicing a lizard monster. Never stop dreaming kids. I also spent several hours trying to think of some good jokes based on Mr. Cranston's roles on T.V. and was able to come up with a few zingers!

The Rangers try and beat down Snizard but he absolutely demolishes all four of them. They try to shoot at the "Zapper Apple" he has atop his head, but he reflects their energy back at them and ties them up with snake ropes he shoots out of his throat. This is the 5th week in a row the Rangers have been completely blindsided by a monster, and it's fantastic.

Snizard gif
Don't even pretend Billy.

Kim calms herself down and begins to get control of the plane with Alpha's instructions. The episode manages to be pretty tense here. We cut to the Rangers being completely ineffective against the Snizard a few times, while Kim is stuck in the air trying her best not to become the new Amelia Earhart. Bulk and Skull wake up from their bout of Convenient Fainting Syndrome to see Kim flying the plane. After a nice meaty double take, the two scream and pass out again. An intentionally funny moment? You spoil me Power Rangers.

Zordon informs Alpha that the Rangers need Kim's Power Bow to finish off Rita's monster. Alpha must divert his attention to Kim, and not the other four who are doomed to become snake chow. It's good they let us know that Kim is necessary to beat this monster, but this would have been more effective to learn earlier on. Without being told that she's necessary to beat Snizard until now it just looks like Alpha wants to save Kim so she can go get covered in snakes and die with the rest of her team.

Alpha starts backsassing Zordon, which we really ought to see a lot more of. He gripes that he needs four arms to take care of all the shit going on today. It's a moment that turns Alpha 5 into less of a spazzy annoying robot into a frustrated machine who can't keep up with all these crazy space alien shenanigans. We're really overdue for a scene of Alpha just chewing Zordon out and telling him to stop barking orders with his big blue jowls.

Alpha keeps Kim calmed down and tells her she can do anything she sets her mind to, and because believing in yourself creates miracles or something, she lands on the runway. Uncle Steve wakes up and helps her stop the plane, all while a control tower buzzes and asks what the fuck this plane is doing without alerting them to an emergency. Thanks Kim, you just got you uncle's pilot license revoked.

Kim runs off as fast as she can and morphs to fight Snizard. She teleports in at the absolute last second before Snizard can kill the other four Rangers with an arrow from his snake bow. She knocks the arrow out of his hands, and Snizard summons the Putty Patrol to take Kimberly down. Kim however has a difficult time with them!

Pink Ranger Putties

Kim frees her friends from the Snizard's snake ropes and fires her Power Bow at the apple on top of his head. With a single arrow, Kim blasts Snizard's Zapper Apple and he explodes. It's incredibly anticlimactic and makes Snizard look like a gigantic chump. No Power Blaster, no Zord fight, no nothing. Just a nice arrow to the apples. Rest in shit Snizard.

Kimberly Snizard
What are you looking tense for Billy you didn't do anything.

There's a silly little wrap up in the Juice Bar where Kim impresses a total hunk of a boy about her flying prowess, while Zack and Jason are disgusted at heterosexual displays of affection. Also Zack totally ruins his chances with Angela again by bumping into her, causing her to spill a tray of milkshakes all over Bulk and Skull just as they walk in. The episode ends with us all laughing at the two bullies, but we're left to wonder if maybe Kimberly was meant to crash that plane. Perhaps she actually thwarted death's design, and all four of the passengers in that plane were meant to be smeared all over a mountain. Until we see Skull decapitated by a train running over a piece of sheet metal, we'll never know for sure.

Your Weekly 90's Nostalgia: Payphones

Personal Thoughts:

Yet another episode I have vivid memories of seeing half of. I had the first half of this episode on tape and was super excited to see what would happen when the Rangers would fight the Snizard. Unfortunately after the bullies scream and freak out about Kim flying the plane my copy of the episode would cut out and I would lose the back half of this episode. Which is a shame because Kim killing all those Putties is one of the best scenes I've seen all season.

Speaking of this episode on tape, I mentioned that the VHS tapes that focused on one of the Power Rangers had "No Clowning Around" as the Pink Ranger tape, in spite of her not doing anything of note in that episode. Why wouldn't they make this episode the Pink Ranger episode? Also in case anyone was wondering, let me list off the five VHS episodes and the character they ostensibly represented.

Day of the Dumpster: Red Ranger
High Five: Yellow Ranger
Food Fight: Blue Ranger
Happy Birthday Zack: Black Ranger
No Clowning Around: Pink Ranger

I promised you good people I'd explain what the deal is with the episode having weird moments with regards to the Kim flying the plane subplot and here we are! A lot of this is stuff I've gleaned from various sources but the long and short of it is that this episode had a filmed plot that went completely unused. Kim was originally supposed to pass out due to some magic something or other from Rita and Alpha would help her overcome it.

The scene in the Command Center is awkwardly framed because they're attempting to mask the fact that there's a couch inside of it with Kim resting on it. They do a reasonable job of it but occasionally you can still see a big vague shape in the Command Center. Trini also points directly at where Kim should be laying when she tells Alpha to take care of Kim so everything feels slightly off about the whole scene. Take a look between Trini and Jason in this gif and you'll see what I'm talking about.

So why reshoot this? The only solid reasoning I've seen is to turn Kim less into a damsel in distress archetype which I think makes sense to a certain degree. It's not certain exactly what the original script would have had Kim doing while passed out on the couch, but presumably Alpha would find some cure to magic her awake. Which does make her look like less of a hero and more of a bland character who can't do anything herself.
Kim avoiding a plane crash is a much more interesting sequence of events than her taking a snooze in the Command Center anyway, so I'd say they made a significantly better choice with this plot.

This episode also has Bulk and Skull acting significantly more comedic than they have been in the series so far. I don't want to give too much away about the important character arc these two go through, but they lighten up their bully horseshit later on in the season and this is the first glimpse of it.

You guys know by now how much I love the monsters, so let's talk about Snizard! He's a really damn cool monster that has a lot of style to him. Cranston doing his voice helps give him a lot of flare as well. Saban also got good use out of the Snizard costume even though all we see of him in U.S. footage is a brief scene of him "emerging" from the Monstermatic. Keep him in your back pocket though because we're not done yet with the Sniz. Just Fondue.

I mentioned earlier that there was no Power Blaster used on Snizard, but in the source footage that was how they finished him off. In the Sentai, the arrow only broke Snizard's apple. As we saw a few weeks ago Kim was able to kill Terror Toad by herself as well, so it's interesting they gave her so much importance. Especially in such a short time frame.

By the way, do you remember when this show had Zord fights? We haven't had the Rangers fight a giant monster in 3 weeks now. Maybe they should have spaced these episodes out a little differently if they wanted to sell the fuck out of those toys. Of course this show is now a gigantic cultural mainstay and I'm some dork muttering about it on the internet, so I'd call it a draw for Bandai and I.


  1. I remember Amy Jo Johnson being a perfectly capable actress. She definitely stood out to me among the rest of them. Bulk and Skull also, I thought, fit their roles very well, so it's no surprise to me that there was so much good stuff in an episode that kept those three characters together. Having said that, I don't remember this one at all...I must not have caught it back in the day.

    It's strange. I was young when this show was on the air, but I still "knew" on some level the difference between bad acting, passable acting, and good acting. The faces she makes when Bulk and Skull come running (in your .gif) really show her tipping into good acting territory, while most of the rest of these guys struggle to make it to passable.

    Something tells me though that had the Kim-passed-out-on-a-big-sofa element remained in it, a lot of youthful fantasizing would have gone differently.

    1. Main issue is the writing which was appalling for early MMPR and especially Turbo. Say what you will about Blake Foster, very few people can pull off a performance when your only acting direction is "act like a kid" and that's it.

  2. I love this episode. My only complaint is someone should have told AJJ to not jerk the plane's steering wheel back and forth and just hold it steady, making corrections as needed.

  3. And I thought all those claims of glimpses of a sleeping Kimberly were just rumors fueled by the notion that all episodes must have started out exactly like the Zyuranger plot before rewrites...

    What made this episode weird for me was that I made the mistake of watching the "Reversion" first this year, which cuts the entire scene where Squatt drugs the soda, and that makes it very confusing as to when and how that happened. (But those flashbacks to the pilot episode were vital to keep?)