Monday, April 4, 2016

Recap: Gravity Falls "The Time Traveler's Pig"

Okay, no. Something's up.

I postpone this post because I'm sick, and then at 2 AM, the day before it's supposed to go up, I finish my review.... and my Recap disappears. Like it was retconned from history. I don't know what's going on, but that won't be the only paradox today as I talk about Gravity Falls.

Get ready for more explanations about temporal mechanics!
The episode begins behind the Mystery Shack, where Grunkle Stan is supervising the construction of the latest way he's found to fleece the local rubes, which he calls "The Mystery Fair."

Ferris wheel courtesy of the Mushroom Kingdom.
Grunkle Stan: "There she is, Mabel. The cheapest fair money can rent! I spared every expense."

So it's basically the anti-Jurassic Park.

Dipper joins the two of them by way of falling skytram.

Dipper: "I think the skytram is broken. Also, most of my bones."

But that's enough fun for now. Stan passes out a bunch of fake safety inspection certificates.

Grunkle Stan: "Go slap one on anything that looks like a lawsuit."
Mabel: "Grunkle Stan, is that legal?"
Grunkle Stan: "When there's no cops around, anything's legal."

This might just look like a regular Grunkle Stan-ism, but keep in mind that Sheriff Blubs and Deputy Durland took a train to Silly Water Fun Slides in Grand Lakes, Michigan just last episode. It's very possible that Grunkle Stan is getting away with whatever he can while the only two cops in town are on vacation.

With that sorted, Stan heads over to check on the dunk tank, which Soos has just rigged to Timbuktu. Even if someone hits the bullseye dead center, the dunking arm ain't budging.

Grunkle Stan: "There's nothing on Earth that could knock me down."
Soos: "Yeah, except for, like, a futuristic laser arm cannon."

Grunkle Stan ignores Soos's oddly blatant foreshadowing in favor of looking for his red screwdriver.

Soos: "Maybe some magical creature or paranormal thingum took it."
Grunkle Stan: "Oy. You been spending too much time with those kids."

And yet, it seems as though a strange bald man, hiding behind a row of port-a-potties, is using said screw driver to adjust some kind of camouflage jumpsuit.

Bald Man: "The mission is proceeding as planned. Over."

Yes, because walking around as a floating head is much less suspicious than wearing a grey jumpsuit around.
As Baldy continues to lurk around, the finishing touches are put on the Mystery Fair. Soon enough, the clock strikes noon, and Grunkle Stan goes over the loudspeaker to announce the opening of the dunk tank. He insults a few customers, and they respond by buying baseballs to hurl at the dunk tank. Many hit the mark, but the rigged game refuses to drop Stan into the frigid water, to their disappointment and Stan's delight.  Meanwhile, Dipper and Wendy are over at a food vendor eating some corndogs bent into a question mark shape, which Dipper calls "unnatural."

Wendy: "But, Dipper. They're so... delicious?"

Good to know the Riddler gave up his life of crime to sell corn dogs.
They have a good laugh over the joke as mustard drips onto Wendy's sleeve. She heads off to clean it up while Dipper whispers the "I love you" that he can't bring himself to actually admit. Mabel stops by with some cotton candy, happy to see that her brother has finally stopped being a dork around Wendy.

Dipper: "Isn't this amazing? I just dove in! I said, 'Hey! You wanna hang out at the fair?' And you know what she said?"
Wendy (flashback): "Yeah, I guess so."

Tyrone would be proud of you, Dipper.
Dipper: "All your advice about just going for it, it's finally paying off!"
Mabel: "When are you going to learn, Dipper? I'm always right about everything."

But to sour the mood, the lingering scent of body spray wafts up, followed closely by Robbie. He's looking for Wendy so he can show her the super-tight jeans he just got.

Those pants don't leave much to the imagination. And apparently, there's not much to leave to the imagination.
Dipper: "Yeah, I think I saw her in the bottomless pit, you should really go jump in there."
Robbie: "Maybe I will, smart guy."

As he leaves, Mabel calls him a jerk. But as Dipper points out, he's got tight pants and a guitar. And teenage girls love that sort of thing. He vows to keep Robbie away from Wendy at all costs, and Mabel promises to back her brother up every step of the...

Mabel: "OH MY GOSH A PIG!"

Well, that didn't last long.

Mabel runs off to a folksy-type carnival game where if you can guess the weight of a pig, then you get to keep it. Mabel takes a look at all the pudgy, pink swine until one looks back at her and grunts in a way that sounds suspiciously like "Mabel."

Mabel: "He said 'Mabel!' Either that or 'doorbell.' Did you say 'Mabel,' or 'doorbell'?"

The pig grunts again, and Mabel has made up her mind: that pig is hers, despite whatever cruel remarks Pacifica Northwest might make as she walks by.

Pacifica: "Oh, look. Mabel here found her real twin."

You know, Pacifica, for somebody who doesn't get along with Mabel at all, you sure spend a lot of time at the place where she lives. Lonely much?

Mabel is mere inches from the pig of her dreams. She just has to guess its weight.

Farmer: "Ah, Old Fifteen-Poundy! So, how much you guessin' he weighs?"
Mabel: "Um... Fifteen pounds?"
Farmer: "Are you some kinda witch?"

The farmer hands over the pig, to Mabel's delight and the applause of the townsfolk.

The farmer's advice, however, goes ignored.
Mabel: "Everything is different now...."

Over with Dipper, Wendy has returned from cleaning up the mustard on her shirt and they spy one of those knock-the-bottles-down games. And Wendy has her eye on the prize.

Wendy: "I don't know if it's a duck or a panda, but I want one."
Dipper: "My uncle taught me the secret to these games. You aim for the carny's head and take the prize when he's unconscious."

Despite Grunkle Stan's more recent advice that anything is legal when no cops are around, Dipper's going to try and win Wendy that prize fair and square. Dipper hands over a game ticket, and the carny hands over a baseball.

Carny: "You only get one chance."

Dipper's one chance hits the table holding up the bottles and ricochets into Wendy's eye at top speed. As her black eye swells up, Dipper runs off to get some ice. When he runs back to her, he accidentally bumps into Baldy, who also seems to be in a bit of a hurry. Probably because his clever disguise of a floating head has worn off, and people can actually see his jumpsuit.  Dipper manages to scoop up all the ice back into the bag, but it's too late. Robbie found Wendy and offered up his sno-cone for her injured face.

Wendy: "Robbie, thanks, that's really sweet. The gesture and the flavored syrup."

Wendy, that's going to start stinging real soon. But it won't sting as much as what happens next. Dipper can only watch in horror as Robbie asks Wendy to be his girlfriend.

Wendy: "Yeah, I guess so."

As Dipper stands in shock, Mabel comes over with her new best friend.

Mabel: "His name is Waddles! I call him that because he waddles! Waaaadddddddddddlllllles!"
Dipper: "Everything is different now...."

Mabel gets the hint when Dipper points at Robbie and Wendy running over to the rather suggestive-looking Tunnel of Love and Corn Dogs.

It's like, how can your mind not go to the gutter when you're literally seeing a sausage go down a pink love tunnel?
As the sun goes down, the party is basically over for both Dipper and Mabel. Dipper's day can't get any worse, and Mabel's day can't get any better. Dipper lounges on a skee ball game for a while, with a frown on his face so strong that that even Waddles in a doctor costume can't cheer him up.

Dipper: "Mabel, do you ever wish you could go back and undo just one mistake?"
Mabel: "Nope! I do everything right all the time."

"Mabel, you ate toothpaste once."
"And that cute paramedic took me to get my stomach pumped! Good times."
Dipper takes a look at the situation. Robbie asked Wendy out. Because he was there with the sno-cone. Because Dipper was late with the ice. And Dipper was late with the ice because of that bald guy from earlier. The one who's still sneaking around the fair. Right in front of Dipper, in fact.

Dipper: "Hey, you! Tool Belt! You ruined my life!"
Bald Guy: "Huh?"
Dipper: "Don't 'huh' me, I've seen you before! What's your deal, are you following us around?"
Mabel: "And why are you bald? What's that all about?"

The Bald Man (Justin Roiland) freaks out and tries to get his broken stealth device working. Not only is it camouflaging to the wrong backdrops, but it doesn't cover his head or hands. He tinkers with his wrist device some more as Mabel comes up with a theory.

Mabel: "Are you from the future or something?"

The bald man panics yet again and tosses something in her face.

Bald Man: "Memory wipe!"
Mabel: "...This is a baby wipe."

Exhausted, Baldy gives up and admits that he's a time traveler.

Dipper: "So, wait a minute, if you're from the future, do you have, like, a time machine, or something?"
Baldy: "That's... kinda how it works."

Unless you're Henry DeTamble.

With this new knowledge, Robbie's relationship with Wendy isn't looking as concrete as it was.

Dipper: "Can I borrow it?"

Baldy refuses on the grounds that his time machine is an extremely delicate and sensitive piece of equipment.

Dipper: "It looks like a tape measure."
Baldy: "You shut your time mouth!"

Dipper and Mabel are starting to think that perhaps this guy's just a crazy bald man, so he demonstrates his machine's capabilities with a quick blast to the past and back, returning in a King Henry costume.

Baldy: "Guess where I was."
Twins: "Whoa!"
Baldy: "That's right! Fifteen years ago, there was a costume store right here!"

He travels back to return the outfit, and comes back with his head and clothes briefly on fire, explaining not only why he's bald, but possibly also why that costume store isn't around anymore....

And he formally introduces himself as Blendin Blandin of the Time Anomaly Removal Crew in the year 207̃012. Twenty-snyeventy-twelve, for those of you trying to decipher that symbol over the seven. His mission is to stop a buttload of anomalies that they had tracked back to this particular date and time, but he can't find anything.

Blendin: "I don't if it's some kind of paradox, or if I'm just really tired...."

The twins hand him some tickets and suggest that he should relax for a bit, and he decides that he's earned a little break. He goes to ride the barrel spinner ride, but Soos makes him take off his tool belt beforehand.

Soos: "One of your tools might fly off and accidentally fix something."

As Blendin enters the ride, Soos vows to watch the belt like a hawk while the twins steal it. That is what we DnD players call "Failing a Spot Check."

Once inside the Shack, the twins figure out what to do with their new mastery over one of the very dimensions of their universe. Time is now theirs to command. The tapestry of history is now theirs to weave as they see fit.

Mabel: "Let's go get two dodos and force them to make out!"

At least it's less potentially-damaging to the time stream than trying to kill Hitler.

But Dipper wants to be really cautious. After all, paradoxes, you know? So they'll just be going back in time six hours. Dipper will attempt to not whack Wendy in the eye, and Mabel will relive the first time she met Waddles.  They set the time machine, hit the back button, and zap back in time as the world reverses around them. The journey proves successful, save for the fact that Dipper's hat is on fire. He quickly pats it out and they emerge from the Shack to find Grunkle Stan announcing the opening of the dunk tank.

Mabel rushes over to the pig booth and doesn't even pretend like anything's normal, grabbing up Waddles.

Mabel: "Fifteen pounds! And yes, I am a witch."
Farmer: "Well, time to round up a mob."

Dipper runs over to Wendy, who is already on her way over to the panda-duck booth.

Wendy: "There you are."

All right, let's talk time travel. Quite frankly, this episode is not good at time travel.

On a minor point, Dipper and Mabel are traveling within their own personal timeline, which is simply a matter of preference. When it comes to time travel in fiction, the primary versions are Personal Timeline Travel, and Duplicate Timeline Travel.

Duplicate Timeline Travel is what was used in the Back to the Future films. Marty McFly went to 1955 in the first film, and then went back 1955 in the second film. So in 1955, there were two Martys running around, one of whom was slightly older.

But if BttF2 used Personal Timeline Travel, once Marty McFly came back the second time, he would "overwrite" the Marty from the first film, and would have had to relive the events in 1955. Generally speaking, the Back to the Future model is the time travel story standard because it solves most paradoxes that might pop up with Personal Timeline Travel. In this very episode, for example, if Dipper manages to have a nice time with Wendy and win her the panda-duck, then why would he need to travel back in time at all? So he doesn't travel back. Meaning that he doesn't fix the events of the day, meaning that Wendy ends up with Robbie, meaning that Dipper has to go back in time...

Paradox.

But as I said, this is simply a matter of preference. Seeing as how time travel... you know, doesn't exist, there are a couple ways to go about it. And this way, there aren't multiple Dippers running around trying to impress Wendy in a blatant rehash of "Double Dipper." So I can forgive the inherent problems with this portrayal of time travel.

But my main problem is that this episode isn't very good at remembering what happened when. When Stan opened the dunk tank at noon, Wendy and Dipper were eating corn dogs. But when Dipper goes back in time to the exact same moment, Wendy is already on her way to the carnival game.

All things considered, it's still a minor point, as you could assume that Dipper suddenly disappeared before they went to go get corn dogs and things are progressing earlier than they did in the original timeline, but it's still rather distracting once you notice it happening.

Anyway, Wendy wants her panda-duck, and Dipper buys his shot.

Carny: "You only get one chance."
Dipper: "That's what you think."

You know, the real victim is the carny that Dipper's conning, here.
This time, Dipper knocks down all the bottles... only for the ball to ricochet back and whack Wendy in the same eye. Robbie comes over to comfort her with his sno-cone and asks her out. Just like the first time.

So, logically, Blendin should be running around the Mystery Fair in a hurry, right now. Now, does he still have his time machine, or did it suddenly disappear when Dipper and Mabel arrived from the future with it?

Timey-wimey, I guess.

As Robbie and Wendy head off to ride the Tunnel of Love and Corndogs again, Dipper convenes with Mabel to discuss the temporal implications of this apparent predestination.

Mabel: "Oooh, maybe it's a time curse! Waddles, can you say 'time curse'?"
Waddles: *grunts*
Mabel: "<squeals> Your face is so fat!"

Dipper resolves to try again, and he and Mabel travel back again as the farmer's angry mob starts their witch hunt.

Over and over and over again, through various versions of the same events, Dipper keeps hitting Wendy in the eye, no matter where he stands, which hand he uses, or anything. And yet, Mabel keeps having the time of her life with Waddles.

Dipper: "Uh, Wendy, how badly do you want that stuffed animal thing?"
Wendy: "more than anything in the world, Dipper."

Eventually, Dipper is reduced to writing trigonometry on a popcorn cart to calculate trajectory while Mabel knits a sweater.  So, we can either 12-year-old Dipper knows trigonometry, or... he's spent so long repeating the events of the same day that, like Bill Murray in Groundhog Day, he could take as much time as he needed to learn a new skill.

Dipper: "It's like there's one variable missing...."
Mabel: "What's a variable?"

Your face is a variable!
Dipper seems to have struck upon the solution, but need Mabel's help. So she'll just have to postpone winning her pig for a little bit. Dipper approaches the booth with Wendy again and whips the ball straight up in the air, whereupon it bounces off the booth, hits the Shack, where Mabel lifts up a gutter to direct it, bounces off Grunkle Stan's dunking booth, and hits the bottles for a bullseye.

Carny: "Your stuffed creature of indeterminate species, miss."

Before Robbie can ask Wendy out, she brags about her new stuffed animal, sending him sulking off.

Robbie: "Whatever. Can't even tell what species it is."

With Wendy's stuffed animal sorted, Mabel goes to re-win Waddles... only to discover that Pacifica Northwest just guessed his weight.

Farmer: "It's all yours, no one else's. Ol' Fifteen-Poundy. Yours. Forever."

Well. Looks like somebody was feeling unfulfilled with her shallow life and wanted true companionship of an animal. Or maybe she's just doing it to spite Mabel. Either way, Mabel runs off screaming, finding Dipper exiting the Tunnel of Love and Corndogs. She explains the situation, and tells Dipper that they need to go back in time to fix this. But Dipper refuses because he can't risk the day being messed up again.

They fight over the time machine, but it gets caught on the nearby ride, pulling on the tape and activating the machine. And so, Dipper and Mabel suddenly find themselves on a lonely trail in the forest.

Dipper: "When are we?"
Mabel: "The real question is when are we? ...Oh, wait, did you already?"
Dipper: "Yeah, I already."
Mabel: "'Cause I was gonna."

As somebody who thinks the whole "The real question is when are we?" line is cliche and overused, I got a kick out of that.

The ground starts rumbling as the mighty buffalo of the Oregon plains begin charging at them. The twins run from the majestic creatures, but fall off a cliff in their haste. Luckily, there was a covered wagon on the trail below them, as part of a wagon train.

Settler 1: "Be on the lookout for mountain lions, travelers!"
Settler 2: "Dysentery! Who wants dysentery?"
Wagon Settler: "Forge ahead, mighty oxen! For a new life awaits us on this... Oregon Trail!"
Mabel: "Where are we, the seventies?"

Well, that's when the game was created by the Minnesota Educational Computing Consortium. Which is why the guy on the wagon is named Grady Mecc. It's a tribute to a time when games were real games, you dang kids.

You want graphics? There's your dang graphics. HD my rear end.
Grady Mecc is excited to hear two new kids in the back and assumes his wife, Fertilia, has given birth to their seventh and eighth children.

Fertilia: "It appears I have. More little hands to render the tallow."

The Mecc children are amazed by these strange kids from the future, and Mabel decides to rip history a new one. Partially for fun, but partially to spite Dipper, who gets after her, despite messing with history himself all morning. Mabel shows off her calculator, light-up shoes, and teaches Fertilia how to high-five after telling her that women are going to be allowed to vote in the future.

"Also, birth control pills. But it's kind of too late for you, huh?."
Having had enough of screwing up history, Dipper activates the time machine, sending them both to the Mesozoic era to screw up pre-history. And naturally, they just happen to end up right next to a T-Rex. Some quick button pressing takes them to the distant future, where a gigantic omnipotent Time Baby unleashes unchecked chaos upon the world.

Mabel: "This future seems neat."

Mabel! Throw that baby wipe in its face! It has no object permanence!)
Repeatedly hitting the buttons on the machine ends up taking them to random points earlier this summer, like when Old Man McGucket started yelling about the Gobblewonker, the unveiling of Wax Stan, and the gnome-golem. Eventually, they end up outside the Mystery Shack in the dead of winter. Strangely enough, there aren't any attractions, signs, or anything to indicate that the Mystery Shack is the tourist trap we all know and love. But the twins are more distracted by the time machine overloading and sending them to who-knows-where. After they disappear, the owner of the shack opens the door and looks outside.

Well, well, if it isn't Stanford Pines... For the first time. Dun dun duuunnnnnn!
The twins end up in a dark, soundless void. They scream in terror over having traveled to the end of all time... until Mabel wonders why it smells so gross at the end of all existence. They open up the door, and discover that they were simply in a part-a-potty back in the present.

Dipper: "But which present?"
Wendy: "This is the best present ever!"

I'm wondering why the writers didn't follow that up with Pacifica calling Waddles the worst present ever, but perhaps Waddles is more akin to "dinner" than a "present," per se.
Once again, Mabel and Dipper argue over using the machine to save Waddles.

Mabel: "But what about Waddles? He was my soulmate!"
Dipper: "You said that about a ball of yarn once! Do you really want Wendy to date Robbie?"

Mabel goes off and starts hitting her head against the totem pole in sadness. Dipper isn't buying the act, though. He knows that she'll be fine in a day. To prove it, he travels forward in time by one day... and finds her still there. He travels forward by a week... and she's still there. A month, and she's still there, despite looking like crap. In fact, she's part of the tour now.

Soos: "And if you look to your left, you'll see Miserable Mabel, the girl who went bonkers after he dreams were shattered by some heartless jerk. Oh, hey, Dipper!"

So Dipper goes back one more time and sets things right.

Wendy: "I don't know if it's a duck or a panda, but I want one."
Dipper: "Wendy, I just wanted to say that... well, I just wanted to say that people make mistakes. And when they do, you should forgive them. And also that tight pants are overrated."
Wendy: "Dude, you lost me."

More than she realizes.

Dipper takes his ball and throws it, bouncing off the stand and into Wendy's face. As Robbie comforts her with his sno-cone, Mabel and Waddles rush up and hug him, while Pacifica has to make do with the angry chicken she won.

Dipper: "I couldn't break your heart, Mabel. Besides, there's no way Wendy can date Robbie all summer, right?"

But before life can go on, Blendin grabs the time machine from them.

Blendin: "Do you have any idea how many rules you just broke? I'm just asking; I wasn't there with you. It was probably a lot, right?"

In a flash of light, two more Time Agents, Lolph and Dundgren (named after action hero Dolph Lundgren), appear to arrest Blendin for all the time anomalies that just sprung up.

Lolph: "There's settlers high-fiving in the 1800s, and calculators littered across eight centuries!"

"We sent Daniels back to try and fix your mess, but we lost track of him somewhere around the second World War."
"What? There was only one World War."
"Not anymore."
"Thanks to you, not only is there now a second World War, but unregistered time travelers are attempting in record numbers to assassinate Adolf Hitler."
"The painter?"
"Not anymore."
Blendin tries to tell the truth, but it doesn't come out quite right.

Blendin: "It was those kids! And their leader, Waddles!"
Dundgren: "That's a pig, Blendin."

Blendin vows to head back in time and keep their parents from meeting... which the twins note must have failed, because they still exist. As the Time Agents take Blendin away, Grunkles Stan hurls some insults at the two of them, leading Lolph to shoot his futuristic laser arm cannon at the bullseye, finally dunking Stan.

They head back to the future as Dipper realizes that all those anomalies Blendin was sent back to stop were only created because Blendin was sent back to stop them in the first place. As Mabel struggles to wrap her brain around the temporal mechanics, Dipper struggles to tolerate seeing Wendy and Robbie hanging out together. So to thank Dipper for everything, Mabel sics Waddles on Robbie's candy apple. The hungry pig jumps up, knocking over a pot of hot water onto Robbie's tight pants, shrinking them far past the point of comfort. The ensuing pain and shrinkage makes him the laughingstock of the fair, much to Dipper's delight.

Dipper: "That'll do, pig. That'll do."

In the future, humanity's eternal overlord, the Time Baby, punishes Blendin by forcing him to clean up Dipper and Mabel's mess. And so, he heads into "Legend of the Gobblewonker," "Headhunters," and "Tourist Trapped" to clean up the stuff Dipper and Mabel left behind. After snapping at a stray gnome, he heads back to the future as the episode leaves us with one final message: "MLG S.T. DVOOH ZKKILEVW." And with that, the episode ends.

Now let's review!

2 comments:

  1. That bit you did with the time cops was just brilliant. I really wish they did that in the show for real.

    Also, I hope that Blending is some otherdimensional version of Morty in their multiverse (as the two shows are pretty closely connected with Bill popping up for a quick cameo once).

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    Replies
    1. Time travel gives endless opportunities for gags, though perhaps the one I came up with would be a little too dark for the show proper.

      And who knows? I'm sure Hirsch and Roiland would both get a kick out of that theory.

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