Plot: This episode explores the backstory of how Ingrid and Fillmore became partners in the Safety Patrol. Fillmore, having just lost his best friend and previous partner, Wayne, after he moved to Tennessee, tries to go solo on a case to clear the new kid, Ingrid, of a crime she didn’t commit.
Breakdown: As much as I hate to say this, this was a massively disappointing episode.
I’ve been really looking forward to rewatching the backstory episode because I didn’t remember it, and now I know why I didn’t remember it.
I feel like this episode needed to be a two-parter because it required more time to do the following.
– Flesh out Wayne.
We know he was very important to Fillmore and, maybe, the Safety Patroller who saved Fillmore from his troublemaking ways, but that’s about it. In order to really feel for their connection or care that he’s gone, we needed more time to learn about him and connect with him. He seems like a really nice guy, so it’s a shame he barely misses getting glossed over.
– A little more development on Ingrid and Fillmore’s meeting and relationship.
For someone who supposedly is super pissed that his BFF left and is gunning for the ‘lone wolf’ cop lifestyle, he sure takes a shine to Ingrid quickly and vice versa.
Ingrid was set on writing off this whole school from day one, even admitting to a crime she didn’t commit for the sake of getting expelled, but just knowing that Fillmore had a piece of irrefutable evidence that convinced him that she didn’t do it is enough to make them friends.
Both of them had very bull-headed attitudes that were extinguished way too easily. I liked how they started working together to clear Ingrid’s name, especially utilizing her skills in ‘forensics,’ but they needed more time to work on their relationship from the starting point. Maybe have Fillmore be skeptical purely because he’s upset about Wayne leaving, and then have him be kinda cold to her in interrogation or something, but then slowly realize she’s innocent and make amends.
– Make the case more complex.
The case was WAY too easy. I knew from the second I saw Parnassus that he was the culprit, and the instant someone said he was the smartest kid in school, I knew the motive. It was way too easy, even for a kid’s show. Fillmore!’s usually more clever than this. I was looking for them to subvert my expectations because it’s usually not the first suspect, but they didn’t include any other suspect, and he was constantly coming up with new evidence and pointing at Ingrid as a criminal.
We know it’s not Ingrid, because this is a flashback so of course she’s not, and we’ve never seen Parnassus in the previous episodes, so all signs point to him. The insanely bright neon signs…..set on fire….with sirens blaring ‘PARNASSUS DID IT.’
Another odd thing about this episode was the incredibly bad light they put X Middle School in. I have stated in the past that X is such a batshit crazy yet awesome school that I would’ve loved to have gone there when I was a kid, but this episode makes it look terrible.
It especially makes Fulsom look like a total bitch. New kid in school? Have a big assembly to not only introduce her, but also embarrass her by proclaiming she’s the smartest kid in school.
Think she’s blissfully unaware of the position this puts Ingrid in? No. This assembly is called for another reason. She knows that new kids are always the targets of abuse because they’re new and different, so, just to get all the abuse out of the way, she allows the students to pelt the new kid with foam balls for two minutes.
What the fuck? So, instead of stopping the abuse, the school just has it’s own kid version of The Purge by letting them abuse the new kid by throwing balls at them? And the faculty AND Safety Patrol just sit there? They’re ‘harmless foam rubber balls’ but who cares? That’s still terrible.
Who’s to say this even works? The kid is still new and strange to them. They’ll still either ignore or pick on them either way.
I didn’t much like that Ingrid also has a sordid past. Come on, that’s Fillmore’s thing. They can’t both be the reformed criminal. That’s just lazy. And why is this just coming up now? Why has Fillmore been called out for his ‘criminal’ past a few times before but everyone ignores Ingrid’s troublemaking days? Just because she didn’t go to the same school when that stuff happened?
Minor thing, but I also didn’t like that Lemmy, Parnassus’ ‘friend,’ took the heat for Parnassus’ crimes. He seems like a nice guy overall. After Ingrid helped save him in the tire fort, he grabbed her and saved her from the stink bomb in return. Fillmore and Ingrid have plenty of evidence to clear his name, but Fulsom won’t hear of it because Parnassus is a massive suck-up.
They actually failed for a change, and that’s just depressing. I know Lemmy helped Parnassus in the crimes, but he just seems like he does everything Parnassus tells him to, seeing him as his only friend.
He didn’t just throw Lemmy under the bus, either. Parnassus convinces him to make a full, taped confession right in the principal’s office with Parnassus standing right beside him. What a prick.
There were a couple of decent jokes like the cardboard boxes Fillmore runs into when he’s chasing ‘Ingrid’ have the words ‘Cliche Box co.’ on them, and the Safety Patrol in Tennessee not only uses horses, but their stable is in the Safety Patrol room. That does not, in any way, help this episode, though.
Such a shame. The potential of a backstory episode is so vast yet this is what we get. I hope we see more of Wayne and even Parnassus in the future, but as it stands, this episode was incredibly disappointing and just flatout not good.
Plot: As Miss Grotke, Miss Finster and Principal Prickly get stuck in their car during a snow storm after the school Christmas pageant, Finster and Prickly grumble about what irredeemable pests the kids are. Miss Grotke, however, brings them on a trip down memory lane to remind them of how great they are instead.
Breakdown: Dear Santa,
This year for Christmas I want Disney to stop lying to me when I pick up a direct-to-DVD “movie” of theirs.
What is it with Disney and repackaging episodes of their TV series as movies just because they add about 10 minutes of new animation to act as bookends? I get it with the Disquels that are made up of failed pilots for spin-off TV shows – gotta make money off the animation somehow. When they made Recess: Taking the Fifth Grade, I understood too because, again, that was a canceled spin-off and/or new season – gotta make money off the animation somehow. I don’t like it, but it’s understandable.
Then you have the Disquels that repackaged the final set of episodes of a TV series that did air, which is super lazy and just getting money for old rope. It’s deceitful, especially when you’re dealing with little kids buying these movies.
And then you have Recess Christmas: Miracle on Third Street, which is a special kind of deceitful money-grubbing. Not only are they repackaging old episodes of the TV show, but they’re completely randomly selected episodes that have 100% nothing to do with each other. They certainly have nothing to do with Christmas.
Take note of that DVD cover as it states absolutely nothing of containing any episodes of the series and blatantly calls it a full length holiday movie. (Even if you qualify this as a movie, it just manages to skim the hour mark without credits.)
Give Taking the Fifth Grade some credit – it didn’t market itself as a Halloween movie. It was just part of the motif for the runtime with the Halloween special being the ending. The framing device was moving on to the fifth grade, which actually was a running theme in all of the episodes of that movie.
In this “movie,” like before, the only episode that is Christmassy is the final entry, which was the main Christmas special of the series, but the bookends are also Christmas-oriented, and Christmas is right there in the title (Shouldn’t it be ‘A Recess Christmas’? Recess Christmas sounds weird.) meaning the movie itself is meant to be focused on Christmas.
Speaking of the bookends, the story there is extremely predictable. After the school’s Christmas pageant, and keep that in mind, I’ll get back to that later, Miss Finster, Miss Grotke and Principal Prickly try to drive to their homes for the holiday vacation when they get hit by some clod of snow, which causes them to get stuck in a snowbank. Prickly and Finster instantly assume the kids threw a snowball at them, which means they not only assume that the kids are pricks, but they also believe they have teleportation to instantly catch up to them after several minutes of driving when the kids were on foot, and that they’d give zero shits after watching them crash.
They were clearly shown to be in the suburbs just milliseconds before they crashed, and Miss Grotke even said they only went a few blocks from the school, yet despite being in a clear suburban area in a city, Prickly can’t walk far enough to get help, so they pretty much just resign themselves to dying, I guess.
I should note that this series seems to take place in some western/southwestern state or something because they never get snow, and it was in the 70s merely that afternoon (This is established in the bookends and in the final episode they show.) So, yeah, this is super believable. It just started snowing during the pageant, definitely wasn’t blizzard conditions, yet by the time they drive home there are already snowbanks to crash into? Snow deep enough to get stuck in? How was the ground even cool enough for the snow to stick in the slightest? Just because it snows doesn’t mean it accumulates, especially if it was 70 degrees that afternoon.
It’s at least believable that they crashed because people from areas that never get snow have little experience driving in it, nor do they have snow tires, but the rest is just ridiculous.
And you’ll never guess what the ending twist is.
TJ and the gang show up out of nowhere to suddenly save them from being stuck, proving that they’re good kids after all.
In the meantime, you have Finster and Prickly badmouthing TJ and the others and blaming them for basically everything wrong in life, even supposedly after the Christmas pageant, which, again, I’ll address in a second.
Miss Grotke (And Finster and Prickly for two segments) has to spend the entire “movie” relaying stories about the kids actually being good to convince them of their good nature – even expressing knowledge of events and dialogue exchanges that Grotke, Finster and Prickly could never have knowledge of in the slightest because this series almost always takes place from the kids’ perspectives.
First, Grotke claims TJ was good recently when Prickly selected him as temporary principal, conveyed through playing the episode Principal for a Day. However, he was never really good in that entire episode. He started out being way too lax, making all-day recess and basically letting everyone run free. Then he became way too strict as Prickly tried to mold him in his image. Then he ended the episode being way too lax again to the point of ridiculousness by getting a police escort for a couple of ice cream trucks to give free ice cream to every kid in school.
Prickly actually conveys this story because he’s admitting to Grotke that this was actually all a scheme to turn TJ into a teacher’s pet like Randall or Menlo, the latter of which they did this same conditioning to the year prior.
Next, Grotke argues that the kids don’t ruin everything and, in fact, make things better, by telling the story of the events of last Thanksgiving when they had The Great Can Drive. However, again, this is a really shitty example.
There’s a can drive going on at school for Thanksgiving, and whichever class collects the most cans gets a turkey dinner. I remember these can drives at school, but I never remembered there being competitions involved with them. TJ and the rest of Grotke’s class opt to not participate because they believe they have no chance of winning. The Ashleys always have their parents buy cans for them so they win every year. I don’t know why the Ashleys are so preoccupied with winning a cheap turkey dinner when their families seem kinda rich, but whatever.
This is also probably why I never remember can drive competitions being a thing. If you can just have mommy and daddy buy a bunch of cans, everyone would probably just cheat if the prize were worth a damn.
I also remember these drives basically being mandatory. You needed to bring at least a can or two in or else your teacher would endlessly hound you about it.
Mikey, being ever the gentle giant, realizes the true meaning behind this drive is for the betterment of the lives of those less fortunate, not to win some competition, so he takes over being the sole collector for the class.
Despite making his intentions VERY clear, several times in fact, his friends still pity him and act like he’s depressed over being so far behind in the competition. When the Ashleys come over to talk smack, his friends step up and join the competition, clearly taking it as purely a competition and not giving a crap about the less fortunate. It reaches really insane levels of competitiveness, especially over something as dumb as a turkey dinner. Provided by the school, I can bet it’s cheap as dirt and probably tastes as good.
I get that it’s really just to one-up the Ashleys, but the Ashleys motivations are just as confusing.
Each class collects 4,362 cans, which means they, collectively, have 8,724 cans stacked in the auditorium. It’s a really nice mountain of cans that would be incredible to give to the local charities.
However, since it’s a tie, all of the students are upset. An elderly woman helping to present the turkey dinner to the winner, being part of the first graduating class of the school back in 1928, happens to have one can that she was going to give to the winner (???What???Why???) This results in every single person in the auditorium losing their goddamn mind and charging this poor woman. TJ and one of the Ashleys start physically fighting over the can so they can win.
Let me remind you, at this point, that Grotke is explaining this story as an example of how the kids don’t ruin everything.
…..The can flies out of their hands and knocks the can mountain over, causing a massive would-probably-cause-several-fatalities avalanche of canned goods.
Every single can of food is obliterated.
Nearly 9000 cans of food for charity, gone. Splattered all over the walls, floor and ceiling of the auditorium. All because of one of the most petty competitions I’ve ever seen.
Mikey does give them all a good chewing out over it, thank God, but the damage is done.
Until, that is, the holiday miracle monkey pooped out a deus ex machina. In the time frame of one day, not even, probably, the other kids all banded together, networked, and gathered twice as many cans as they had before from other neighborhoods, groups and clubs. Not only that, but a local store owner heard what happened at the school and said “It’s about time (his) company put its money where its mouth is.” before donating a truck full of food to every homeless shelter in the city. That’s great and all, but why was hearing the story of a bunch of idiot kids wasting 9000 cans of donated food for stupid reasons the trigger that made him finally donate food to charity? Just because he felt bad about all of the wasted donations?
And the episode ends with Prickly announcing a toy drive competition for Christmas, so, womp womp, here we go again.
I explained that episode more in detail because 1) It’s a bonus Thanksgiving special review, hoorah, and 2) It was a really odd moment where I somehow felt heartwarmed while also feeling like someone beat every single character, barring Mikey, with an idiot stick. No, no—an idiot tree. Why Grotke felt the need to convey this whole story is beyond me. The conversation should have gone;
Grotke: “They do not ruin everything. They actually make things better! Remember when the kids collected all of those cans for the less fortunate this Thanksgiving?”
Finster: “What are you smoking, Grotke? They only did all of that after wasting probably $10,000 in canned goods, doing tens of thousands of dollars in damage to the auditorium – we’re still picking peas and kidney beans out of the rafters to this day – and nearly murdering everyone in the student body and an elderly woman with falling canned goods.”
Sure they made up for it later, but only because of insanely impossible circumstances that they pulled out of their asses. And it’s implied that they didn’t really learn anything from it if the toy drive thing was any indication.
The next example is Grotke arguing that Finster likes Spinelli specifically, which Finster responds to with the story of Spinelli staying over at her house at Weekend at Muriel’s. This is one of my favorite episodes of the series that first started shining a very sympathetic and human light on Miss Finster while also teaching Spinelli that teachers can be pretty cool people outside of school, even if they’re shrill and strict in school.
Even if Miss Finster takes it a bit too far sometimes, it’s still her job to keep the kids in line. She has her own style of teaching that works for her and her students. She’s grumpy, strict, and sometimes even mean and conniving, but she still loves her students and wants what’s best for them. This is one story that actually works to prove Grotke’s point, even if Finster tells her to keep it a secret.
The final story is the actual Christmas special, Yes, Mikey, Santa Does Shave. Grotke relays this story as proof that this is one of the best Christmases ever…..since it happened the same night as the movie. The pageant in the episode takes place immediately preceding the events of the bookends for this movie, which makes no sense because this movie was released merely a day after the finale of the series aired and has an entirely different animation style and quality to it than the flashback.
That also means Grotke feels the need to tell, from start to finish, a story that just concluded minutes before the movie started. What’s next? She’s going to tell them the story of how they left the school that night and crashed into an improbable snowbank, getting stuck, so she started telling long stories about their students to prove their good nature?
While we’re finally at the Christmas special for the “movie” I can’t say I have much to say about it. The episode as a whole is very much by-the-book.
TJ and the others wallow in their 70 degree weather as they watch the kindergartners get excited over Christmas, which they can’t seem to do much of anymore since they no longer believe in Santa….which is dumb because most kids their age would still be excited about Christmas because they still get presents and candy and whatnot. I adore Christmas and I never believed in Santa.
This is especially silly because these kids will still believe in the magic of Halloween when they get to fifth grade, but Santa’s too kiddy for them?
Mikey, being a pure Christmas cupcake, still does believe in Santa, however. His friends are respectful of this, but when it starts to get back to him that kids his age tend to grow out of the Santa myth, he goes to ridiculous lengths to prove his existence, which only backfires and proves to Mikey that he doesn’t exist.
A run-in with a James Earl Jones cameo, who turns out to be Santa, obviously, renews his faith in Santa – not because he found the real Santa, he didn’t know that until the end of the episode, but because he taught him that the magic of Santa and Christmas is about faith and giving. (If you’re wondering about the title of the episode, this version of Santa has a shaved face and seemingly dislikes that he’s portrayed with a beard all the time. I don’t know why he’s more upset about the beard instead of the fact that he’s almost always depicted as a white guy when, in Recess canon, Santa is black, but okay. I think we all need James Earl Jones to just be Santa in real life. It would make the world a better place.)
Meanwhile, some big-shot TV producer has chosen Third Street Elementary School to host his super diverse while also being offensive holiday pageant…which will have approximately…….5 BILLION viewers….That’s billion. With a B.
For comparison, last year’s Super Bowl had 100 million viewers, and the New Year’s Eve Time Square ball drop usually rakes in one billion viewers, in crowds in public or at home, worldwide….meaning this elementary school Christmas pageant is 50 times more popular than the Super Bowl and five times as popular as the ball drop. (Also, for some reason, Dick Clark is cameoing too in order to introduce the pageant.)
It’s already such an insane figure, but it’s even worse when you remember that people who work in TV and know these things wrote that into the script with a straight face.
Mikey has been cast as Santa because of his Robert Goulet singing voice (I’m not being facetious – that really is Robert Goulet providing Mikey’s singing voice. He’s provided his singing voice over the entire series.) but he no longer wants to do it when he discovers Santa’s fake. After talking with Santa Earl Jones, he realizes that he can keep the faith of Santa and the true spirit of Christmas inside of his heart. He can provide the magic of Santa to the littler kids by returning to the pageant and taking on the role of Santa Claus.
After the pageant, James Earl Claus praises Mikey on a job well done in the pageant. Mikey wonders how he knew he’d be there, and he says he invited him, which he didn’t, but then Mikey catches a piece of paper flying in the wind and discovers it was the letter he wrote to Santa. He had ripped it to shreds and thrown it to the wind, but it magically pieced itself back together again somehow. Then they see Santa flying off into the sky on his sleigh.
This is to be expected, of course, but it kinda ruins the message of having in faith in something you can’t see if you give Mikey proof of Santa’s existence (the paper) and then flatout show him and the other kids Santa flying in his sleigh.
I should really talk about this play because it’s kind of a mess. The producer wants it to be as diverse as humanly possible to get all of the politically correct people off his ass (not inferring that – he says it outright several times) but he also makes Vince “Good King Kwanzaa” instead of the spirit of Kwanzaa, which is really weird. I feel like giving Kwanzaa a king defeats the purposes of its messages.
When all is said and done, this play celebrating diversity in the holidays presents Christmas like it’s the best one. They LITERALLY all step aside to welcome Santa (Their “favorite guy”) and Christmas. And while all of the other holidays get a short blurb during their parts, Santa gets several lines and a musical number all to himself.
Overall, I did fairly enjoy this Christmas special. I won’t lie, my heart really hurt when Mikey finally came to the realization that Santa doesn’t exist. All of his sad at best and heartbreaking at worst attempts to prove to his friends, and sort of himself, that Santa was real coming to a crescendo of him admitting defeat in tears in the radio station cut really deep. His face coupled with the voice acting of Jason Davis really struck a chord.
Outside of that, it’s a predictable episode to be certain, but it’s mostly harmless, and it did eek out some Christmas magic. I really appreciated how Mikey’s friends were all trying very hard to not ruin Mikey’s faith in Santa. They didn’t lie to him, really, but they tried hard to keep their views to themselves so they wouldn’t ruin Mikey’s belief. When his faith broke, they all felt really bad about it, even if it was through no fault of their own. They were miserable because he was, and it showed how strong their bond of friendship is.
Back to the “movie” you’re left wondering how Prickly still felt the kids were all irredeemable monsters when Mikey literally made the 5 billion viewer show he was so obsessed about a hit merely an hour ago. The kids show up from the convenience void and free the teachers with barely a line of dialogue exchanged. The kids whip out a piano and other instruments from nowhere to sing a Recess-fied version of ‘Jingle Bells,’ which they somehow felt was noteworthy enough to mention on the DVD cover too.
Bottom Line: This movie left me feeling as hollow as a lie….because it is one. Never has one of these episodes-stapled-together “movies” left me feeling so insulted.
It was a lazy cash-grab attempt to throw some completely random episodes together, put a ‘Christmas’ label on it to help it sell, and call it a day. It’s made even worse than normal because this is a Christmas special. It’s supposed to fill me with Christmas spirit. All you do when you present a deceitful repurposed collection of episodes as a brand new Christmas special is suck all of the Christmas spirit out of me.
What’s even sadder is thinking about all of the kids who probably asked for this movie for Christmas.
They didn’t even use newer episodes. All of these episodes came from seasons one and two when the series had literally just ended with its sixth season a day prior to release. Not only is this a continuity nightmare in that regard, but the back and forth of animation quality is very stark. Recess never really had fantastic animation, but the early days were pretty bad and done in a completely different manner. The later days had crisper artwork and brighter colors, more fluid animation and a more Flash-y kinda feel to it (not really in a bad way.)
In regards to the episodes used, I somewhat liked Principal for a Day, I seriously disliked The Great Can Drive, I loved Weekend at Muriel’s and I was on pretty good terms with Yes, Mikey, Santa Does Shave. However, I don’t feel like I can wholeheartedly say the movie is better just because the episodes it uses are mostly good. That’s just cheating.
If you’re taking this as a Christmas movie instead of a collection of random episodes, you’re going to be massively disappointed. The narrative structure doesn’t lend itself to anything worth an elf’s spit in a bucket, and the bookends are only barely there. It’s mostly just setup to lead into the episodes instead of being a story on its own, and what story is there doesn’t make any sense and is predictable as hell.
While they get weird bonus points for bothering to include the Thanksgiving special too, only the final episode focuses on Christmas, so it’s not a movie to put on during the holidays.
If you’re going into this just wanting a grab bag of old Recess episodes without caring about the framing device, then it’s perfectly fine. The episodes they chose are pretty good for the most part. However, you can just as easily watch the entire series on Disney+ or Amazon Prime Video.
All in all, there’s absolutely no reason to watch this. Just watch the Christmas special as a standalone, and don’t give Disney any more satisfaction in this shady business practice.
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Plot: Pepper Ann is lucky enough to get to celebrate both Hanukkah and Christmas every year – Hanukkah with her mother, and Christmas with her father. She loves them both, but becomes very stressed when she believes her parents will force her to choose between the two holidays.
Breakdown: Pepper Ann is what you’d get if you mixed As Told By Ginger with Lizzie McGuire and maybe threw in some Doug. Despite watching Pepper Ann quite a bit when I was younger, I’d struggle to think of any episodes I remembered. I always liked watching Pepper Ann so I’m not sure why its stories haven’t really stuck with me over time.
Maybe it’s just because Pepper Ann as a character can be a little on the annoying side because of how self-centered she tends to be, or maybe the stories were rarely all that interesting, or maybe the extended cast didn’t lend itself all too well to standing out among a slue of objectively better casts. No matter the reason, there’s always one reason to go back to Pepper Ann – it’s catchy as hell theme song.
I know I had to have seen this episode back when it first aired, but I honestly don’t remember it.
But, hey, thank god I finally found another special to cover that has Hanukkah in it. And Kwanzaa’s mentioned! So….yay!
Pepper Ann has it pretty good. She is able to celebrate both Hanukkah and Christmas since her (divorced) parents each celebrate one holiday. However, after she bungles the school holiday diversity play when trying to play representatives of both Christmas and Hanukkah, she believes she overhears her parents saying she needs to choose between the two holidays with Christmas day being the deadline.
She struggles with the decision though never thinks to actually ask either of her parents about it directly. Each holiday has so many good things about them that she ultimately can’t choose.
She tells her parents as much, and, of course, they reveal that they were never going to make her choose between Hanukkah and Christmas. They were actually talking about Pepper Ann’s grandma choosing a doctor because they didn’t know which one to call when she was hyperventilating at Pepper Ann’s play due to a mouse.
Thus nothing was ever at risk and nothing really changed. Pepper Ann did learn a lesson about the holidays being about family, but…it’s not like she never knew this part. Family was near the top of her lists for both holidays as she was trying to weigh their benefits against each other. In fact, when we see her eating a holiday meal with her extended family, in the midst of them squabbling and complaining about ailments, she gives a small smile and writes ‘family’ down on her list in that moment, so she even realizes that family is a benefit of the holiday even when they’re behaving like that.
Meeting a few homeless people was a part of her decision, but don’t be fooled – there’s much less weight to that part than would be given in any of the aforementioned shows that I said seemed like they were inspirations for Pepper Ann.
Pepper Ann has been pestering her friends all episode to help her choose, and when Milo halts her for a second to introduce the homeless men at the soup kitchen and explain that they lost their jobs, she tucks the list away and leaves……then it’s right back to choosing.
Speaking of pestering, Pepper Ann is pestering her friends for the entirety of this episode. Pestering Nicky and Milo to run lines with her after she insists on playing both Christmas and Hanukkah in the holiday diversity play (Not only is it unfair to play two parts, but 1) How were Christmas and Hanukkah not taken before she was able to ask? All the kids chimed in to ask for a holiday, and no one said either of the two most popular winter holidays that entire time. 2) It’s REALLY unfair to have one person play the two most popular holidays.) Pestering Nicky and Milo to help her choose between Christmas and Hanukkah several times. They have their own holiday problems, but Pepper Ann always forcibly redirects the conversation back to her when they try to discuss anything else.
Speaking of Nicky and Milo, their plots are a little more interesting than Pepper Ann’s. Nicky is a very generous person, and she takes it upon herself to spend her holidays thinking more of others than herself. She’s giving up her presents for the sake of giving them to the less fortunate, she’s gathering cans for the soup kitchen, she donated her lamps to charity, she’s volunteering at the soup kitchen etc. Her parents are also donating some of her stuff without her permission, and any time anyone sends her a gift, it’s a notification that a donation has been made in her name to a charity.
However, we slowly start see her cracking with how overly generous she’s being, especially with Pepper Ann squawking in her ear about the struggle of choosing between two holidays.
It’s pretty interesting because most people want to make a charitable effort, especially around the holidays, but it’s hard to admit when you’ve gone overboard because you’re worried you’ll come off as selfish. The resolution to this is convoluted, but we’ll get to that in a minute.
Milo’s plot is that he was planning on going to Hawaii to see his dad for Christmas, but was unable to go, so now he’s spending the holidays working as a delivery elf for his mom and step-dad’s muffin basket business. He’s very bummed about not being able to go to Hawaii and even more about needing to do this degrading job, but he never loses his Milo attitude in that he’s very open and humble.
He instantly makes friends with, hangs out with and plays games with some homeless men from the soup kitchen.
All three of these plots are more fully ‘resolved’ when, out of the blue, a news station gifts Milo a free trip to Hawaii for spending Christmas at the soup kitchen, which is just mind-blowingly ridiculous for several reasons.
1) He DIDN’T spend all day at the soup kitchen. He was making a delivery to Nicky and stopped to take a break. He at least had to have been spending all morning making deliveries, and I can’t imagine he stayed too much longer. Even if he did, he would’ve been playing games with the homeless men not doling out soup.
2) It’s pointed out, but how did they not realize Nicky was actually spending all day there? Milo does give his trip to her for her work, but how lazy was the reporter to not notice this?
3) A free trip to Hawaii for going to a soup kitchen on Christmas? You might want to notify thousands of other people about that offer.
4) Speaking of which, when the gift gets passed back to Milo and Milo calls Nicky family, the news anchor not only extends the invitation to both of them since they’re family, but she further extends it to Pepper Ann who butted in to declare that she was also family. And then they FURTHER extend that to each of their extended family members. What is this news station thinking? Was the news anchor fired for this? That trip must’ve cost a fortune.
5) Pepper Ann didn’t deserve that trip. It’s nice that she went, but Milo had justification for going and Nicky earned it. Pepper Ann had a very superficial conflict in this episode, so allowing her to go to Hawaii too just seemed a little unfair.
But, hey, all of their family gets to go too so I guess it’s not too bad.
6) How insulting must it be to be one of the people in that soup kitchen to hear that someone won a super expensive trip to Hawaii with around 20+ guests for spending ONE DAY in the soup kitchen when these people are, ya know, homeless. With the money used to finance that trip, imagine what could have been done for the soup kitchen or another charity.
I really liked how they (literally) balanced Christmas and Hanukkah here. Neither holiday is ever once given more weight than the other, and that’s sooo refreshing considering how some other Proud Family specials that shall not be named failed so miserably in doing that with Kwanzaa. If there’s any good Pepper Ann’s list actually did, it’s in highlighting all of the goodness in both holidays equally. We got to see her playing with the dreidel, eating latkes and remembering the story of the miracle of Hanukkah, and then we’d see her chopping down a Christmas tree and singing carols. It’s very well done.
They dinged Hanukkah a couple of times by showing that Pepper Ann hates blood pudding and didn’t care for getting socks as a present, but I don’t think that’s too bad. It’s either a preference or typical kid stuff (I love getting socks as gifts now. I even ask for them. Socks are awesome.)
As a holiday special, I think this one’s just okay. It won’t give you the warm fuzzies, and it’s not particularly funny, plus Pepper Ann’s a bit too self-involved and abrasive in this episode, but it was an enjoyable ride and something I’d recommend for people who celebrate either holiday or both.
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Plot: Third Street School has a new fifth grade class – and TJ and the gang are in it! Yes, the infamous fourth graders have reached fifth grade. They’re growing older, changing, maturing. But when the familiar call of Halloween comes around, Spinelli finds herself unable to get into it after Lawson and his crew mock her for being too old for Halloween. Is Spinelli just in a Halloween funk, or is the gang really too old for one of their favorite holidays?
Breakdown: We get to return to Recess this Halloween!
For the last time.
I don’t just mean that as in this is the second and last Halloween special that Recess ever made, I mean that as in this is a strange case of their Halloween special being the series finale.
Recess had completed their six season run and was ready to either make a seventh season or a spin-off series (which, if the latter is true, likely would’ve been a slightly more mature Recess taking place in fifth grade instead of fourth.) They had animated three episodes of this season/series before it was suddenly canceled for no given reason.
In order to make money from what was already animated, Disney released the episodes with some new bookended animation thrown in to make a direct-to-video movie – Recess: Taking the Fifth Grade. While Halloween is a theme in all of the bookends, it is only given focus in the final entry, A Recess Halloween…..which is a really lazy title that I can only imagine was a first draft that no one bothered to rework because the title cards wouldn’t appear in this movie anyway unlike the TV series where they were always on-screen.
What I find particularly odd about this is that the show was meant to end after season five and the movie, Recess: School’s Out, was released, but it garnered a sixth season because its performance was particularly high after that. So it was popular enough to rip from its relatively sound fate and give it another season, and then, in the middle of animating the seventh season/spin-off, they suddenly cancel it out of nowhere? Why?
Unlike the previous Halloween special, which was a series of short ‘scary’ stories told by Butch, this Halloween special involves Spinelli, who is usually the one in the group most excited about Halloween, feeling like she’s outgrown the holiday due to Lawson mocking her for making Jack-o-lanterns and trick-or-treating. Unlike Lawson and his crew’s super mature Halloween festivities of….smashing pumpkins for no reason.
Spinelli becomes very sullen after this and doesn’t partake in any Halloween festivities, even the ones they offer at school like singing Halloween songs and eating a special Halloween lunch.
Let me just share that, when I was in grade school, I was a complete wimp….I still am a complete wimp, but now I’m all about horror and Halloween. Back then, however, even though I liked Halloween, I hated horror. I hated scary things. I especially hated haunted houses and hay rides. Every year at my school, they’d have a haunted ‘house’ set up in the cafeteria, and it was someone’s bright idea to force everyone to go through it if they wanted the special Halloween bagged lunch. I didn’t want to go through because I hated haunted houses, and this one was one of haunted houses where they grab at you, and I wasn’t having any of that.
The moral of the story is, I stole special Halloween bagged lunches as a child….And now back to our program.
This isn’t so simple a case as bullies being bullies, however, because it ties into their new common theme of growing up and changing. When the gang talks about all the fun things they do on Halloween, Spinelli explains that the magic has been drained from it, no matter what Lawson told her. She truly believes she’s outgrown it.
The other kids aren’t so quick to believe her, though, and set off trick-or-treating. While they start off in strong spirits, they quickly start having the magic of Halloween lifted away from them as well.
The massive piles of candy they get from one house – sugarless.
The creepy cemetery at another? The gravestones are plywood.
The creepy man sitting outside that same house that gives out candy? Animatronic. (And can I just add that the guy who owns that thing is extremely unreasonable? TJ lightly touches the animatronic man and the arm just falls off. Then the owner berates him for breaking it and tells him he has to fix it for all the kids who actually believe in that stuff….All he did was lightly touch it. What is your problem, dude?)
The creepy building they usually run from that they believe is a defunct prison haunted by inmates? It’s actually an old DMV.
It seems like the gang is doomed to sharing the same Halloween blues that Spinelli has.
Meanwhile, back with Spinelli, she has relegated herself to watching TV and handing out candy while her parents are out. When the diggers show up and tell her they’ll tell a nearby group of little kids to not visit the house because Spinelli’s such a sour grape, she decides to make a real effort to partake in the fun, if just for the sake of making those kids happy.
I really loved these brief scenes of Spinelli as she talks with the visiting kids. She gives them a fun scare and even gives another group tips on how to be scarier dinosaurs. It shows the audience that there are many ways to enjoy Halloween as you get older, and one of those ways is by creating the Halloween magic that you used to love (and might still love) for a new generation of kids.
Miss Finster visits, hoping to invite Spinelli’s parents out for a Halloween party. Spinelli is surprised to see that Miss Finster, despite her advanced age, is as much into Halloween as any kid. Showing a true sign of maturity, Spinelli asks to have a talk with Miss Finster about her conflicting feelings on Halloween. She thinks she’s too old for it, but tonight has shown her that she feels like she’s missing out on a bunch of fun.
Lending an understanding ear, Miss Finster tells her that age has nothing to do with liking stuff such as Halloween. You either like it or you don’t. It’s what you feel in your heart that truly matters. And you shouldn’t let anyone tell you what you should and shouldn’t like.
I enjoyed this interaction with Spinelli and Miss Finster. Not only do I love when Ms. Finster shows her much nicer mentor side (Especially to Spinelli because it’s a nice touch of continuity that the two are friends through Finster’s friendship with Spinelli’s parents), but I also like when we get peeks into her non-school personality. She’s very much a fun-loving gal.
Spinelli then decides to make the best of the night and go join her friends on their trick-or-treating rounds. She comes across Hustler Kid….who is wearing a Nixon mask. I laughed for a good minute at his scene. I doubt any kid watching that would get the joke of his costume mixed with his character, but it was hilarious to me.
Hustler Kids tells her the bad news that her attitude rubbed off on the other kids and now they’re having a terrible Halloween too. Spinelli feels incredibly guilty, but knows just what to do to make up for it.
She invites them out to their last usual stop, which is a house they believed was owned by vampires. The owners, however, moved out since the last Halloween, so Spinelli suggests that they, being super mature grown ups, go inside and look around.
Awaiting them is a slue of scares that she, Miss Finster, Miss Grotke, Principal Prickly and some of the other adults from town set up to scare the pants off of the gang. The plan works. They had a good scare and some great fun. Spinelli explains that they can grow up and mature while still enjoying everything they loved, like Halloween, if they still make the choice to like it, and they should never let anyone tell them otherwise.
This is a great message. It’s not about shedding something other people perceive as childish just to be more ‘grown up’ and it’s not about locking yourself in childhood nostalgia forever. It’s about letting yourself enjoy anything you want without allowing anyone to bully you into conforming to their view of what you should like or partake in, especially if it’s based on stupid qualifiers like age or gender. (And, hey, if I did that, I certainly wouldn’t be on this blog right now talking about cartoons and anime.)
The kids get a heaping helping of (sugary) candy and they all enjoy their Halloween together.
I really loved this Halloween special, and I’m a bit miffed that it is so good since I never saw this when I was a kid. Because it was a direct-to-video movie, I just never owned it and thus never saw it. I did see Recess: School’s Out in theaters and later owned it on VHS (still have it) but when it came to the other direct-to-video movies and specials, I never was able to get them. I’m not sure if they ever aired on TV. I only remember a lot of advertisements for the VHS.
For some reason I have the oddest feeling of deja vu when watching another episode in this movie, The Fifth and Sixth Grader’s Club, but I honestly don’t know why. Maybe I’m confusing that episode for another.
I’m disappointed Recess ended the way it did. Even though this is, technically, also a pretty sound ending to the series, I feel like this is one of those shows where we should have at least gotten a peek into their adult lives as the series finale. What’s especially strange is that the following movie (Which is not regarded as the series finale because it’s a prequel), a movie called Recess: All Growed Down is basically the exact opposite of what I wanted or expected because it follows the exploits of the kids in kindergarten (and also retcons it so that the gang knew Gus briefly as small children when he was supposed to be a new kid at the start of series.)
….Does anyone else find it weird that they canceled the series while Taking the Fifth Grade’s episodes were in production, yet after that release they make another new movie?
Recess is still a show near and dear to me, and I’m honored to review their last Halloween special and series finale for everyone on this year’s Animating Halloween.
Final Note: I find it kinda funny that TJ goes on about Spinelli always having the best and creepiest costumes on Halloween, but the two times we see her dressed up in this special she just has regular clothes on with a relatively bland mask added.
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Plot: Principal Folsom tasks Ingrid and Fillmore with finding Duappy, a Tamagochi that has lived for over four years – longer than any other virtual pet in the country. The TV show More is planning on doing a segment on X Middle School with Duappy being the headliner, but someone has stolen it from its owner, Everett’s, house. They take the case and soon find that this virtual friend might teach everyone something about real friendship.
Breakdown: Best episode so far. From start to finish, this episode is filled with awesome jokes, good and believable characters, two great parallel storylines and even a mystery that tripped me up.
Everett’s plight can still be applied today, even if Tamagochi has long since passed as a fad. For those keeping track, Ingrid states in this episode that virtual pets were a fad long since passed even when this episode aired. Just apply the virtual pet motif to a phone or a video game, and you’d have a similar situation in a bunch of kids.
I remember having three Tamagochis or Gigapets when I was a kid. A yellow one (much like Duappy) that had either a cat or dog as an option. I had a blue one, which was, oddly enough, a Rugrats themed Gigapet (I had to have everything Rugrats when I was a kid.) And yes, I mean you could take care of the babies. And I had a red one which was a t-rex.
Just like Ingrid claims, I couldn’t keep any of them alive for more than a few weeks. I take care of my real pets just fine, but it gets to be really monotonous with digital ones. They make really cute keychains, though.
Everett’s a likable kid, but he spends so much of his time and energy keeping up a virtual friendship that he never makes real ones. Seriously, this kid is way into this pet. He has a little bed for it and makes clothes for it.
While I can say I knew from the start that Loraine had something to do with it, they still managed to trip me up by throwing a curveball and revealing that two thefts occurred. Once that was established, I basically knew who the culprit was, but between points A and B they threw another twist our way. It was written extremely well, and I hadn’t been so invested in a case since the pilot.
Might I also praise this episode for using the ridiculousness of its universe to its advantage so much? Let me give you a taste – a crowbar was used to steal Duappy, and it was a Happy Cathead (Basically Hello Kitty) crowbar. A real crowbar….a pink crowbar….a pink toy crowbar….with a Happy Cathead head on it.
But that’s not all!
There’s a Happy Cathead store in the mall, in which someone is reading a ‘Virtual Pet Fancy,’ and the clerk tells them that they sell cases of those crowbars every week….Cases! Of Pink Happy Cathead crowbars…a week!
They seem like they’re at a dead end until the clerk tells them to check the address book. There is an address book hidden in the crowbar that pops out when you pull back Happy Cathead’s head…..What is the purpose of this thing?! Why would you need an address book when you’re using a crowbar?!….Actually, that has many burglary implications. But the fact that this is all combined in a toy marketed towards young girls is just hilarious.
Then, later, Loraine’s mom tells us that she was at the mall buying lobster polish…Before you can even absorb why that might be a thing, they show her holding a bag and it’s from a store called The Lobster Polishery….So this is not only a thing, but there’s a whole store dedicated to it. My head is hurting from laughter.
The case takes some pretty real and interesting curves in the character department as well. I mentioned that Loraine is one of the culprits, but she’s not made out to be a bad guy. She liked Everett, but couldn’t get his attention since he was so focused on Duappy. She also realized that he was damaging his quality of life by focusing on a virtual pet so much and, like she had realized recently, he seemed like he wanted to change who he was.
Everett doesn’t forgive her without a thought. In fact, it seems like he was going to dump her as a friend once he found out, but in the end he realizes that his real friendship with her is better than a fake friendship with Duappy.
It’s also a great contrast to the real culprit – Biana. She and Loraine used to be best friends on the cheerleading squad, but Loraine recently had an identity crisis and quit, meaning she didn’t spend as much time with her cheer squad mates or Biana anymore. She spent even less time with her when she befriended Everett.
Knowing Loraine liked Everett, Biana knew she stole Duappy, so she stole Duappy from Loraine and framed her (well, ensured that she’d get caught anyway) with the crowbar. She knew Everett would hate Loraine and never want to be her friend again if he knew she took it but was unable to give it back. Loraine would come back to her old friends for support, so she’d have her best friend again.
Her intentions are more sinister than Loraine’s, especially considering that Loraine was caring for Duappy (She mentioned she was feeding and cleaning up after him) and intended on giving Duappy back soon, while Biana wasn’t caring for it (it’s doing that ‘I need food/cleaning’ beeping noise when they find it) and had no intentions of giving it back. Though, I have to wonder why she didn’t just destroy it or throw it away if she didn’t want to get caught.
Loraine wanted to be Everett’s friend and bring him into a more real world, while Biana wanted to destroy Loraine’s friendship, hurt her and force her to recoil back to a life she didn’t want anymore.
In the B plot, this case makes Fillmore and Ingrid realize that, despite being partners and friends, they don’t really spend any time together outside of school just hanging out. Much of their time is eaten up by the safety patrol. They don’t even know some simple facts about the other that friends would otherwise know.
It’s true, though. Since most of the show itself focuses almost entirely on the safety patrol, we as an audience don’t really see the two of them hang out off-duty and just be friends. They definitely seem like friends, but is it just because they spend so much time together at work/school?
This episode also has some interesting one-off voice acting choices. I could tell Caroline Rhea was playing Everett’s mom, which is weird because she doesn’t have that much of a part. The More host is Mary Hart, a journalist and TV personality most known for hosting Entertainment Tonight. It took me a couple listens to catch on, but I knew I heard that voice somewhere. Why they got an actual journalist and reporter to play a role with about four lines is baffling. It’s cool and adds to the experience, but baffling.
They also got Steven Weber to play Loraine’s dad. Truth be told, his role was the one low point because his character had really annoying mannerisms. Plus, you can’t even tell it’s him. I only checked who voiced him because I was wondering if there were any more big names just thrown into the potluck, and lo and behold there was.
Overall, this is a fantastic episode with great obviously and hidden jokes, good characters, a great case and even great action.
Next episode, flashback time! How did Ingrid and Fillmore wind up being partners?
Plot: After messing up Principal Folsom’s birthday party, Fillmore and Ingrid are assigned to model train convention duty. While everything is calm for a while, a horrible accident causes the entire convention to be destroyed. Seeing the remote control for a model car in the rubble peaks Fillmore’s interest since model train enthusiasts and RC car racers are notorious enemies. What and who has caused this derailment?
Breakdown: One of my favorite aspects of Fillmore is how it takes some mundane thing and makes it something extremely important or popular. I know model train enthusiasts are still a thing, and many of them can be very intense, but to have this huge train convention at school and have this many students obsessed with model trains? With all of the various and off-color extracurricular activities at this school, I always wanted to be a student at X.
Exaggerating the topics typically gives the episodes some good moments for comedy, and this one is no exception. From O’farrell getting sick over the ‘carnage’ of the train crash to the reporter speaking in a 1920’s journalist voice and flying an RC helicopter over the wreck, this episode is one of the best Fillmore episodes for exaggerated comedy.
Plot B involves Fillmore losing his pet fish, Felonious. He had him for over three years, and was particularly attached to him because he was his only friend through his juvenile delinquent days. Everyone tries to cheer Fillmore up by buying him a pet fish, but he doesn’t want them. While this plot is kinda jammed alongside the episode for the most part, it does come full circle into the case.
Moreover, they don’t solve this problem by buying Fillmore a new fish….kinda. Ingrid understands that the reason he can’t just move on and buy a new fish is because he’s not really allowing himself to say goodbye and grieve. She buys him a therapy book on grief in children, and Fillmore accepts it without a fight or judgment. Reading the book not only helps him get over his grief and get a new fish, but it also helps him figure out who the perp is.
It was a very healthy and believable way this situation would’ve been handled in the real world, and I applaud the writers for that.
However, I do have some gripes. First, it’s completely obvious who the perp is this time. I knew it from the instant he came on screen.
Second, his reasons for committing the crime were weak. The perp today is a celebrity in the model train world, Oscar. He is moving away because his parents own a model train business and they’re not getting as much work in the area as they used to so they’re moving to a place where model trains are more popular.
Oscar didn’t want to move, so he sabotaged the entire convention to have everyone’s best stuff be destroyed, forcing them to buy more supplies from his parent’s store and preventing them from moving. I get the plan, but one or two days of good business doesn’t change the fact that the hobby is dying in that area. They’d have to move either way. He is just a kid, so maybe he’s just not getting the big picture, though.
Also, this isn’t really a gripe, but I am just now realizing that whenever Fillmore and Ingrid confront a suspect, most of the time they throw something in their faces and run away. The running part I’m fine with, even though I have mentioned how pointless that is, given school grounds and such, but why do they always feel the need to throw something at them? Distractions I get, but every single person does this. It’s hard to ignore at this point.
All in all, I loved this episode. The mystery was weak this time around, but that’s about it. Everything else is very solid, well-written and very funny.
Plot: Ingrid goes undercover as a Red Robin to uncover illegal operations. While Ingrid goes in with the mission in mind, she finds herself slowly getting too comfortable with them.
Breakdown: This episode was a bit of a mixed bag. On one hand, it’s very predictable. There’s no mystery as to who the perp is this time because they make it clear from the start, given the plot setup. The only thing we have to go on is wondering if Ingrid will choose to leave the Safety Patrol and become a Red Robin, which is kinda silly because we all know she wouldn’t.
The only reason to have any faltering faith in Ingrid is due to her still being excluded in some areas because she’s the new kid. Despite that, though, it’s not like she hasn’t found a place where she belongs, with the Safety Patrol, so whatever concern might exist is very shaky.
They try to make the play that Valejo is also treating her differently because she’s new, but it’s not a strong enough argument. He doubts her when she’s already undercover, but he doesn’t make his worries known to Ingrid. The only thing he says to her before she leaves is that she might be a bit too green to take on a well-known and long-standing criminal organization such as the Red Robins, which is understandable.
The aspect of Valejo worrying about Ingrid’s loyalties stemming from a similar situation happening with the current Red Robin leader was good, but the payoff was unsatisfactory. Valejo and Malika don’t even speak to each other in this episode, and Malika never turns over a new leaf or anything.
It would’ve been better if she and Fillmore got into it somehow before the case was brought up. They have butted heads on cases before, and Ingrid has been nudging the gray area on morality out in the field in the past already, so it would be very easy to integrate a bit of a fight at this point.
Not much happens to make Fillmore’s faith in Ingrid waver either. She knew they had a lot of cool stuff and missed one meeting with Fillmore. Then he’s suddenly confronting her about not falling in with a bad crowd, even if they offer acceptance, because that type of connection isn’t real. An improvement in that area would have been if they worked in at least one line of Ingrid mentioning how nice they are and how much they like her to solidify her own questionable loyalties.
You could also maybe have Valejo talk to her instead of Fillmore. He’s the one with the concerns and the past with the Red Robins.
There’s a major problem with this episode that was bugging the hell out of me. How can Ingrid even successfully go undercover? She may still be seen as the new kid, but she’s been around X Middle School for a decent amount of time now, and she’s been a Safety Patroller for quite a while. How can one of the biggest criminal organizations in the school not know who she is? Even by name?
It’s especially unbelievable given the current situation. The reason the Safety Patrol is going after the Red Robins is because they accidentally found a huge crate of ribbon candy in the lake and knew it must have been an old haul from the Red Robins – likely taking it from a competitor. Ingrid is the one who handled that discovery. The Red Robins are fully aware of this and even described it as a huge debacle, yet Ingrid’s name never came up? They never uncovered the identities of the Safety Patrollers handling that case?
Next episode, it’s a horrible (model) train wreck! When Fillmore and Ingrid find out that the (model) train was sabotaged, they have to hunt down the culprit to this (mini) disaster!
Plot: The school mascot, a lobster named Lobstee, has been stolen before a big boccie ball game. Without him, the morale for the team will tank and send X Middle School to their first loss against Gilby Middle School in over a decade. Who stole Lobstee and why?
Breakdown: I was a little meh about this episode. It’s another one of those episodes where the major plot point is very silly but not in a particularly funny way. Like, seriously, the team is so down due to the loss of their lobster mascot that they start doing so poorly they have no other choice but to lose horribly?
Wanna know something else? This isn’t the first time I’ve heard this plot. I’ve seen this on about five other sitcoms and cartoons. Why is it such a major morale blow for a mascot or whatever important school spirit icon to be lost before a big game? If anything, wouldn’t it make you want to beat the other team even worse considering that mascot thieves are almost always the rival school?
I liked that we got a bit of a glimpse into Fillmore’s home life, though. They even lend another LEO trope to him – having to skimp out on family time because the job comes first. It’s nice to see him have loving parents and not the bad home life you’d expect this ex-troublemaker to have, though that begs the question of what really made Fillmore so ill-mannered before.
I will fully admit that I didn’t catch onto the culprit this time until about two minutes before Fillmore and Ingrid did. Though, being fair, his reasons make no sense.
I first thought it was going to be the obviously fake psychic, Alistair. They put clear focus on him before the crime was ever committed, he comes in on the second act seeming like he’s going to take over the case, but he’s scrapped by the end of Act II because, well, they ‘caught’ him.
It turns out that Harrison, a journalist whose sole job is to report on Alistair’s predictions and the stories that follow, was the culprit all along. He had been feeding Alistair emails ‘predicting’ events that he was causing so he could literally make headlines. Alistair gets the fame and Harrison gets a quick beeline to the editor-in-chief job. However, Harrison clearly expressed disdain at his job earlier in the episode. He stated that he wanted to write articles that would change lives and impact people, but he’s stuck writing column after column of stories about a psychic making predictions, which, when you think about it, is really the same article over and over.
“Alistair predicted (event) and it happened. By Harrison.”
If his job was so menial and his columns were so, if you’ll forgive the pun, predictable, why would doing all this be a straight shot to the editor-in-chief job?
The climax was….good. Even if the chase kinda fizzles out and the revelation of Alistair getting his ‘powers’ back was silly even for this show. Neither Ingrid nor Fillmore believe in his abilities, but they make it a point to show Alistair continuously having ‘visions’ and following a path outside of school to Lobstee’s exact location.
The main lesson of the episode was in both Harrison and Alistair, in that they were both so obsessed with attaining their goals that they were more than willing to scam people and cause harm to others and the school. Alistair even quits pursuing his dream of being a great psychic because of it.
Taking the silliness of his ‘powers’ out of the equation, and while they don’t outright say it, he started losing his ‘powers’ when he started using them for personal gain, IE making a career out of it. He gained them back when he used them for good again, IE Finding Lobstee. That is a rather adult lesson to learn, and it’s easily applicable to kids. Some people get very caught up in pursuing their career goals or just goals in general that they don’t care who they hurt as long as they achieve them.
All in all, it’s an okay episode built around a tired as hell plot, but with a clever twist, nice background on Fillmore and a good life lesson.
As a final note, Harrison, you stupid son of a bitch, why the hell were you speaking your next ‘predictive’ email to Alistair out loud in the announcement booth during the game? I know there’s that dumb TV logic of ‘someone obviously talking to themselves and no one else can hear them because I said so’ but come on.
Next episode, Ingrid goes undercover as a Red Robin to find out if they’re behind a big theft case. But is Ingrid starting to sympathize with these known criminals?
Plot: While Fillmore deals with a troublemaker named Tony Clementina, all of the books in the library get mysteriously stolen. One bit of evidence points to Clementina, and Fillmore is compelled to believe he’s the culprit. But is he really a lost cause?
Breakdown: The crime this week is pretty outlandish, even for Fillmore. Are you seriously telling me a librarian was so obliviously lost in a book that they didn’t realize every book in the library was being checked out? If they did it book by book, that must’ve taken hours.
Also, the culprit is incredibly obvious from the get-go once you meet him because he’s a bit overly dramatic in his reaction to the crime – much like the first episode where the culprit is obviously the person who seemingly cares most about what was damaged or stolen.
His plan didn’t even make full sense. He complains about never being able to read the best books in the library because they’re always checked out. He wanted to keep all of the books, especially the best ones, for himself. But how did he plan it to take out the good books too as this mass and sudden book heist was happening if those particular books are always checked out?
There’s also the school-yard forensics going on. Fillmore has had a touch of forensics in their episodes so far, but this one was the first to really get down into it. And I gotta say, this is where any intelligent viewer would constantly call BS. I can handle the inconsistencies, oddities and outlandish goings on in regards to the crimes because that’s what they intend on doing, but a lot of this stuff is hard to swallow.
For instance, I get that Ingrid is a genius, but she can identify custard under a microscope, especially when it’s a year old? She can also microscopically tell the difference between two different salt samples from various brands of pretzels?
Also, they have fingerprinting. This isn’t really entirely out there because, for the most part, a good chunk of actual fingerprinting is done by hand in a visual inspection, so a kid might have the know-how to pull it off, which Tehama seems to be.
Despite realistically having Ingrid struggle for a while to lift the fingerprint properly (even though, after all of those attempts on that mug, all of the prints must’ve been destroyed by the time she was actually able to get one) they have her instantly, and from a distance, match the fingerprint of Fillmore’s with the fingerprint on a soda rocket she found in the gym’s ceiling.
I’m not expecting forensic precision and accuracy with a cartoon, especially one that is obviously embellishing on numerous aspects of school life for the sake of making a police setting possible, but it still catches my eye.
This brings us to the subplot. While the Safety Patrollers are chasing Clementina for an unrelated crime, Ingrid notices a soda can rocket lodged in the ceiling of the gym. Without telling Fillmore, she requests that it be taken down so she can examine it. She discovers that there is custard residue on it and asks around if there have been any incidents involving custard recently.
Tehama tells her that last year, before Ingrid transferred, one of the faculty members was trying to break the world record for largest bowl of custard. As he was trying to empty the last small bowl into the big bowl, the platform the big bowl was sitting on gave way, causing a huge custard flood in the gym.
Tehama points Ingrid in the direction of Fillmore since the brand of soda used in the rocket was only sold in Cleveland, where Fillmore used to live before they moved to wherever this takes place.
She matches Fillmore’s print to one lifted from the rocket, but keeps her findings to herself. However, she finds herself annoyed when he treats Clementina as a ‘lost cause’ when that’s exactly what many people thought, and some still think, of Fillmore back in his troublemaking days.
Fillmore realizes what Ingrid found out and explains what happened. He didn’t cause the custard spill. That truly was an accident caused by a buckling platform.
However, the rocket was his attempt to try to make the spill happen. The platform was already falling when he shot it off, and the angle of the wood sent the rocket into the ceiling, where it stayed for a year. He was caught sometime later on an unrelated but serious charge, and the Safety Patroller who nabbed him gave him an ultimatum – either help him with a case or spend the rest of the school year in detention. He decided to help and turned over a new leaf as a Safety Patroller.
We don’t yet learn the name of the Safety Patroller who helped him out, but it’s a decent backstory for Fillmore either way.
I will say that Fillmore is being kinda out of character in this episode. He’s usually not so dismissive of the criminals he deals with. Hell, he had faith in a kid who was so bad that he was isolated from the other kids and had to take his classes in a special prison cell with no one else in the room. Yet he’s now completely ignoring a plethora of hard evidence that full-out proves Clementina didn’t do it just because of one piece of easily planted circumstantial evidence and Fillmore’s seeming vendetta against him. It’s just not like Fillmore is all.
It’s also a bit weird how quickly Clementina turned around. Fillmore changed his ways because someone showed him a better path. Clementina went from a complete asshole criminal who only cared about money and prestige to someone who willingly wants to help the Safety Patrol without even being asked. Fillmore didn’t show him any better way before this point. They were butting heads the whole time up until the climax.
This episode is a big mixed bag. I liked the glimpse into Fillmore’s backstory, and the case was alright, but I don’t think they did enough with Clementina to really draw the parallels enough for this to be that impacting on Fillmore or the audience. The culprit was pretty obvious, especially since there were far fewer red herrings than normal (let’s see, it’s either the obvious guy everyone’s pointing the finger at immediately or the only other child character who has been prevalent so far. Hm.)
The crime itself was just a bit too far out there to be plausible unless X Middle School has the dumbest librarian ever.
In addition, the forensics stuff is mostly a bit too tough to swallow if you know anything about forensics, though it really is one of those things you just have to let slide for entertainment value. I know I just thought it was cool when I was a kid (and, hell, it sparked an interest in forensics so much that my focus for my degree was forensic psychology) And Fillmore’s on the OOC side in this episode.
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