Christmas Reviews: “The Spongebob Christmas Special (Christmas Who?)”

All right, I have to start with a bit of a confession:

I freaking love Spongebob Squarepants.

Yes it’s been overplayed and overmarketed to death.

Yes the internet is overly saturated with memes spawned from it.

Yes Nickelodeon has dragged it out far longer than it should have like some other animated shows starring yellow characters I could mention to the point where the characters are zombie versions of their old selves.

None of that can ruin the classic first few years of its existence for me. When it was good, it was really freaking good; like Seasons 2-8 of The Simpsons good – bright, colorful and silly with wry and surreal humor that appeals to both kids and adults without pandering to one or the other. My friends and I still quote it in our conversations and it never fails to crack us up. I still regard it as one of the best cartoons to come out of the past two decades (it’s been on air for almost 20 years now, holy shit I feel old…)

So needless to say getting to finally talk about one of my favorite episodes, the Christmas one, has got me as excited as our titular character doing double overtime at the Krusty Krab. Let’s take a look at The Spongebob Christmas Special, aka “Christmas Who?”

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Christmas Reviews: “Marge Be Not Proud”

Happy Holidays everyone! That’s right, as a present to you all for sticking around for so long without consistent movie reviews, I’m bringing back mini Christmas reviews for the month of December. Once a week leading up to December 25th I’ll be sharing thoughts on some of my favorite shorts, specials and TV episodes that center around the most joyful time of the year.

Speaking of stories, sometimes the best ones can come from personal, even uncomfortable places. Mike Scully, longtime Simpsons writer who was behind the episode we’ll be looking at today, was once pressured as a boy to engage in some shoplifting and was caught almost immediately. The experience traumatized him, but as he jokingly told Variety in an interview, “It’s great to be paid for reliving the horrors of your life.” “Marge Be Not Proud” could have been an episode that wouldn’t feel out of the ordinary if it took place on any given day, but the fact that Scully decided to have it happen around Christmas gives it some extra weight both in context of the plot and in real life. This was the first Simpsons Christmas episode since “Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire”, exactly six years ago to the day. Let’s see if it lives up to that one’s standards.

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Gravity Falls Review: “Dungeons, Dungeons, and More Dungeons” (S02E13)

If you’re new to the blog or just want to revisit from the beginning, click HERE to read the review for “Tourist Trapped”.

Previously on Gravity Falls: Dipper and Mabel have learned that their family tree extends a bit further than they thought when Grunkle Stan returns the Author of the Journals and his long-lost twin brother the REAL Stanford Pines (“Ford” for short) from a distant dimension. There’s little cause to celebrate, however, since their reunion has brought old tensions to the surface. Dipper wants nothing more than to pick the Author’s brain but Mabel fears that this could be the beginning of the end for the Mystery Twins’ perfect sibling relationship, just like how it was for Stan and Ford. There’s no way one could lead to the other though, right…?

So it looks like things are settling back into how they used to be. Dipper’s got his head in the Journals, and Grunkle Stan and Mabel are hanging around doing their favorite activity together, absolutely nothing.

Then Ford emerges from his lab tackling a blood-sucking octopi-Cyclops.

As you do.

Ford subdues the creature and turns down Dipper’s offer to help dispose of it before returning to the basement. Stan warns Dipper to stay away from his brother and his crazy dangerous shenanigans, something that Dipper simply can’t do now that the Author of the Journals is living in their own home; not even Mabel planning a viewing party for Ducktective’s season finale can distract him from his thirst for answers.

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Gravity Falls Review: Not What He Seems (S02E11)

If you’re new to the blog or just want to revisit from the beginning, click HERE to read the review for “Tourist Trapped”.

BE WARNED – THIS IS A MAJOR EPISODE AND THERE WILL BE SPOILERS.

Previously on Gravity Falls: Dipper and Mabel Pines have been spending the summer in Gravity Falls, a place where the supernatural is a daily occurrence and their Grunkle Stanford Pines runs a tourist trap called the Mystery Shack…during daytime hours. After dark Stan has been working on a giant machine deep within the Mystery Shack, one that’s been hinted at in the enigmatic Journal written by an anonymous Author and kept by Dipper. As for its purpose who can say, but as Stan comes closer to fulfilling his goal, the authorities – and the countdown to doomsday – are closing in…

 

Night has fallen on Gravity Falls, and once again Stan is hard at work with his portal. While flipping though his Journal, he skims over a warning that overusage could lead to gravitational anomalies and endanger the area. But Stan’s come too far to give up now. The portal is ready at last. He activates it, briefly causing everyone and everything in Gravity Falls to levitate as they slumber, and the countdown begins:

Within eighteen hours, the world will be changed forever.

 

…Special abbreviated intro time!

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Gravity Falls Review: “Northwest Mansion Mystery” (S02E10)

If you’re new to the blog or just want to revisit from the beginning, click HERE to read the review for “Tourist Trapped”.

Previously on Gravity Falls: Twelve year-old twins Dipper and Mabel Pines are spending the summer in Gravity Falls, Oregon, a little town where the strange and supernatural are almost everyday occurrences. When Dipper’s not trying to learn the identity of the Author of the enigmatic Journal that’s been aiding him in his adventures, or Mabel isn’t trying to start the perfect summer romance, they’re evading ghosts, monsters, zombies, and attracting the attention of a powerful demon who once sought to wreck their great-uncle’s mind. As of late Mabel’s formed a tentative truce with her former rival and rich bitch Pacifica Northwest after saving her from some murderous mini-golf balls, but things are complicated when it comes to her and Dipper…and they’re about to become even more so…

 

C-can it be? An episode review perfectly appropriate for Halloween at last? Huzzah!! Come everyone, let us partake in the Dance of Joy!

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We begin not with the Pines family but with the Northwests in their resplendent mansion overlooking Gravity Falls. Preston Northwest (Nathan Fillion) and his wife are preparing for a gala event they’re set to host the following evening. Pacifica enters wearing the wrong dress – lake foam green, not sea foam green like her mother requested. Pacifica insists that she likes wearing this dress, but her father rings a tiny bell that silences her protests.

Without warning, the plates, silverware and chairs begin to float around the room and smash themselves. Preston insinuates that this unusual occurrence is a strangely familiar one. With only several hours left to deal with this supernatural problem, the Northwests happen upon the one person who could save their party.

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The next afternoon Dipper settles himself in for a nice long marathon of his favorite show “Ghost Harassers”. Too bad for him it’s preempted by Mabel, Candy and Grenda wanting to watch live coverage of the rich and famous arriving at the Northwest Mansion for their annual high-society gala. Only the uppest of the upper-crust are allowed in while the common folk must content themselves by tailgating outside the manor gates.

Dipper shares my thoughts on these kind “news stories”; that it’s pointless celebrity worship that nobody should care about, especially when it’s about the Northwests, who have caused them so much trouble in the past. He even says that he’d tell Pacifica Northwest she’s the worst to her face. Then Pacifica shows up at the door asking for his help. His response?

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When Mabel overhears Pacifica telling him to name his price for his aid, she demands Dipper give in so she and her friends can attend the party. Dipper and Pacifica reluctantly agree and she drives them up to the mansion. While Candy, Grenda and Mabel fawn over the fanciness, Preston welcomes Dipper and has Pacifica go dress him in more suitable party attire.

The girls get a sneak peek at the guest list and learn a wealthy young hottie from Austria, Marius Von Hauser, will be attending. As much as they want to pursue him Candy says that chasing someone in that league would only end in disaster and they tentatively agree that he’s off-limits. That doesn’t stop Mabel and Candy from taking turns flirting with him when Grenda’s not around since her outspokenness usually scares guys away. But Grenda finds out, they fight, she tries the whole “your shoe’s untied” trick on Marius to prove a point and I’m just getting this B-plot out of the way rather than cutting back and forth to it so we can focus on the A-plot.

All paranormal activity signs point to a painting of a very manly lumberjack in a room decorated with hunting trophies by Gaston (though there’s a surprising lack of antlers in all of this decorating). Dipper’s not too concerned with dealing with the pesky poltergeist, though. When it comes to the Journal’s ghosts, you’ve got your Caspers, your Slimers, your Pinheads and your Freddys to name a few, and chances are a spirit that pops in and out of pictures and just floats furniture around is gonna be in the first category.

And then Sam Raimi takes over directing duties.

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Flesh, skin and clothes appear on the skeleton and it takes the form of a disfigured lumberjack with a beard of hellfire. It declares its thirst for Northwest blood and chases the kids through the manor grounds and back. A quick look through the Journal reveals that ghosts from paintings can be trapped in a silver mirror and Dipper spies one hanging on the wall of the bedroom. But Pacifica refuses to let him fetch it since their muddy shoes would ruin her parents’ favorite carpet and get them angry.

While arguing they fall through a portrait into a secret room where discarded furniture and other things are stored away. The ghost follows them in, ripping dust cloths off old paintings and knocking over boxes of silverware in its haste to kill Pacifica. Dipper finds a silver mirror in one of the boxes and throws it in the ghost’s path before it can finish her off. The impact blasts them out the window into the garden, but the ghost is captured and Pacifica uncharacteristically shows a fair bit gratitude to Dipper for saving her life.

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The Northwest family thanks Dipper, none more so than Pacifica, and her parting with Dipper is adorably awkward. He leaves to make sure the ghost is exorcised properly, wondering aloud that maybe Pacifica isn’t as bad as he thought. The ghost laughs ominously, saying Dipper’s naivete reminds him of how he once felt when he was alive, and shares his tale:

Years ago the Northwests asked the lumberjacks of Gravity Falls to build them a mansion with the promise that, upon its completion, they would throw a grand party for the entire town once a year. Many hardworking folk died to ensure the mansion was built, but after years of labor the task was done. Yet the Northwests refused to let the common people who toiled away for them to be a part of their celebration and shut the gates to them permanently. As they trudged off, only the lumberjack remained behind to rail against the Northwests; but the deforestation around the mansion’s hilltop caused a terrible mudslide which resulted in his death. With his last breath the lumberjack cursed the Northwests, vowing to return 150 years to the day should the mansion gates still be closed, and spill the blood of the family who could never keep their promises. And not only did the ghost keep his word, but the Northwests knew he would…somehow.

Dipper is furious that the Northwests used him to avoid responsibility. Preston is welcoming guests, including Gravity Falls reclusive and ancient Mayor Befufftlefumpter, when Dipper storms back in. Pacifica is happy he returned but he tells her to can it and accuses them of not breaking the curse when they knew how to do it themselves all along and making him put his life on the line. Preston gloats that there’s no way he could hold a party for the richest, most powerful people in the world and have “his kind” mingle among them. Pacifica tries to apologize that she couldn’t tell him the truth but her father rings the bell again and she instantly shuts up.

This convinces Dipper that Pacifica is as terrible as her whole line and declines the invitation to stay at the party to finish exorcising the ghost. The lumberjack tells him that if he sets him free instead, they can both take revenge on the Northwests and their kind; but Dipper refuses only because Mabel is still at the party and he doesn’t want anything to befall her. He does however give in to the ghost’s final request to take one last look at the forest. Unsurprisingly, it’s a trick to get Dipper to drop the mirror. Once broken, the lumberjack is freed and it flies back to the mansion with Dipper in hot pursuit. He brings the taxidermied animals to life and begins turning all the terrified guests into wood.

Overhearing the lumberjack proclaim the only way to reverse the spell is for a Northwest to open the gates, Dipper searches the mansion for Pacifica and finds her in the hidden room in one of the most striking visuals of the episode.

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In an episode that features some of the darkest imagery so far in the series, these are a few brief seconds that have resonated heavily with fans. Here we have Pacifica, raised from birth to act like an adult shown as what she really is – a lonely, scared, sad child.

Pacifica shows Dipper the reason why she’s so down and out with her flashlight. Surrounding her are portraits of every deceitful selfish act committed by her bloodline, things long covered up that she once believed were lies, now sneering down on her.

You wanna know why this room was locked up? This is what I found in here – a painted record of every horrible thing my family’s ever done. Lying, cheating, and then there’s me. I lied to you just ‘cuz I’m too scared to talk to my stupid parents. You were right about me. I AM just another link in the world’s worst chain.

Dipper promises her that it doesn’t have to be this way and they rush back to the great hall, which has become a forest of humans (even Mabel isn’t saved). Dipper confronts the ghost but it turns on him and leaves Dipper screaming for his life as he is transformed into wood.

For the coup de grace, the ghost begins to set the mansion aflame with the intention of burning everyone inside. Pacifica distracts him by promising to open the gates but the ghost calls her bluff. As she reaches for the lever, her parents pop up from a hidden shelter demanding she think of their reputation. Pacifica hesitates, but presses forward.

Then her father brings out the bell.

The tiny ringing drives Pacifica crazy, though to Preston’s annoyance she won’t give in.

And finally she jams down on the lever.

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As the plebs pour in, the satisfied spirit gratefully tells Pacifica she is not like her family, lifts his curse and moves on to the afterlife. Preston is helpless as the masses turn his soiree into a uncouth but lively shendig. Even Pacifica and Dipper get in on the fun, messing up the carpet without a care. Pacifica thanks Dipper for believing in her. As for the girls, Mabel and Candy apologize to Grenda and the three reaffirm their friendship. Marius then approaches Grenda, confesses he’s taken by her boldness and gives her his phone number. Everything is going perfectly for nearly everyone…

 

…until Dipper bumps into Old Man McGucket, who’s been looking for him. He just finished fixing the laptop and wants to warn Dipper that something crazy is about to happen soon, something that could very well mean the end of the world. Dipper’s not in the mood to worry about that kind of thing, however, and he goes back to the party, leaving the inventor to fret over their swiftly impending doom.

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This episode is easily among my top ten favorites. “Northwest Mansion Mystery” did to Pacifica what “Society of the Blind Eye” did to Old Man McGucket, taking a character we didn’t think could be capable of such depth and shining a light on them, with the added bonus that “The Golf War” helped foreshadow that. I’ve made no secret in the past that I wasn’t a fan of the one-dimensional valley girl bitch stereotype that Pacifica was in Season One – a sentiment shared by fans and the creators alike – so seeing her do a complete 180 while providing a peek at just why she turned out the way she did was certainly welcome. Those scenes with the bell, while not delved into, are pretty uncomfortable to watch; that on top of Pacifica’s repeated “You wouldn’t understand!” when Dipper asks why she’s so afraid of upsetting her parents brings up some unfortunate implications.

Speaking of Dipper and Pacifica, I never really took the fans shipping them seriously until this episode. In fact…it kind of made me ship them too. Their banter is fun to listen to, there’s some good chemistry, and they end up bringing out the best in one another. Sadly this is as far as a possible romance gets between the two of them, but you need only look as far as the internet if you’re not fully satisfied (just be careful when you do).

This is actually one of the very few episodes where Mabel’s subplot doesn’t really hold my attention; when it goes back to the girls arguing over pursuing Marius I just patiently wait for the scene to end so we’ll return to Dipper and Pacifica. Kevin Michael Richardson does a menacing turn as the lumberjack ghost, though there’s not much of a difference between his voice and the one he does for Sheriff Blubs. And I don’t know what it is about Nathan Fillion and douchebags but he plays them so well. As for the rest of the episode, there’s a lot of great spooky atmosphere, from the colors and strong shadows to the ghost’s haunting, which like I said is very reminiscent of Evil Dead. Much like the episode itself it manages to be both funny and scary, and like the best Gravity Falls’ adventures, is tied together with a lot of heart. And of course, there’s that ending which hints at greater and more terrifying things to come…

 

And the Internet Went:

End Credits Craziness: In the midst of the ghost’s chaos, a couple hides inside a closet. That couple is none other than… Agents Powers and Trigger in disguise! Powers reports that the bureau is detecting increasing readings from the Mystery Shack, and it’s time for them to act. Then they bicker like a married couple over where Trigger put his cell phone before Tambry stumbles upon them and makes things even more awkward.

Callbacks: Now that the Society of the Blind Eye is no longer a thing, supernatural happenings are gaining more attention as seen by the newspaper in the opening. That same giant vampire bat was featured in the Journal in the very first episode. Mabel and Pacifica are still on good terms after the events of “The Golf War”. Dipper casually rubs in the fact that Pacifica’s family lied about being the town founders as discovered in “Irrational Treasure”. McGucket has kept his word to look into his past and fix the laptop as a result of “Society of the Blind Eye”, though he keeps up the kooky old hillbilly act to throw off suspicion.

And then there’s the way Dipper is frozen into wood, as prophesized by the Shapeshifter from “Into the Bunker”…

 

There’s also the matter of a book I’ve failed in my duties as a Gravity Falls aficionado to mention, a large oversight considering I own a copy signed by Alex Hirsch (yes, really.) It’s called “Dipper & Mabel’s Guide to Mystery and Nonstop Fun!”, and it’s a cute little book full of activities and jokes aimed mostly for kids. Why I bring this up, however, is the inclusion of hidden messages sprinkled throughout that foreshadow certain events that were brought to light in this episode: Grenda will marry rich, the mayor of Gravity Falls is not long for this world, and the end of the world will come quicker than the end of summer…

Crowning Line of Hilawesomness: In an episode so full of good ones it’s hard once again to choose, but I think I’ll go with a tie between Pacifica’s confession and what she says to Dipper once she breaks her cute-awkward thank you hug –

“…Can I pay you to pretend that never happened?”

Mabel SWatch (Sweater Watch): Mustard yellow with a cartoon moose and hot pink pine tree border on the sleeves and hem. The pink dress she wears to the party just barely counts as a sweater since she knitted it herself.

Dear Princess Celestabelleabethabelle: Our family’s past and upbringing are not what make us, it’s what we choose to do in spite of it.

Have You Seen the Agents?

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“…We really should have picked a better place to hide.”

Where’s that wacky triangle at?

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Next time on Gravity Falls –

Hey, I just realized Grunkle Stan wasn’t in this episode. I wonder where he could be…


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“Hey Shelf, you finish the review yet?”

(gasp) Kitty!

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“Ugh, it’s me, Cynicism. I’m trying out my Halloween costume. I’m going as Optimism. What do you think?”

Wow, I didn’t even recognize you. Nice work.

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“Yeah, yeah, save it for the actual holiday. Are you done yet or not?”

Just finished.

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“You made any progress with the…you know…”

I wish I could say I did but –

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“Oh come ON! It’s been a month since we last talked and you did NOTHING to get ready like you told us?!”

Don’t blame me, I’ve got a life outside this blog you know.

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“Yeah, some life. Some life that isn’t even gonna exist with the rest of us if you make one more slip-up. But hey, what do I know? You’re the one sitting around working on your dumb little picture books while ordering everyone else to prepare for the -“

All right, all right, I’ll see what I can do for November!

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“You’d better. I know we don’t have that many readers but there’s a fair few who’ve been looking forward to what you’ve had planned since last year.”

You think I don’t know that? You think this is the first time I’ve let my readers down? Listen to me you adorable little abomination, I may be stuck right now when it comes to doing movie reviews, but no matter how long it takes, I always finish what I start.

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“Good. Now quit yappin’ and get crackin’.”

I will.

But you know, since I’ll most likely be too busy to go out on Halloween, I might be more motivated to finish quicker if someone were to bring me back some candy…

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“…Fine. But I’m gonna throw out the junky ones so it can form into a giant child-eating monster.”

I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Oopsy…

So…Christmas just keeps coming earlier and earlier every year, doesn’t it?

All right, I confess I done goofed up. In the process of writing it I accidentally gave you guys a brief peek at one of your presents two months early. Blame WordPress’ system update that took me longer than it should have to figure out how to revert a scheduled post back to a draft and vice-versa.

So now you know that I’ll be doing Christmas-themed mini-reviews for December again. Surprise! Since some of you already got a look at what may – or may not – be highlighted that month, I’d like to apologize for the confusion in what happened with the disappearing post. If you’re wondering what else I’ll be reviewing, well, you’ll just have to wait and see what the holiday holds.

Shelf out.

Gravity Falls Review: “The Love God” (S02E09)

If you’re new to the blog or just want to revisit from the beginning, click HERE to read the review for “Tourist Trapped”.

Previously on Gravity Falls: Twelve year-old twins Dipper and Mabel Pines are spending the summer in Gravity Falls, Oregon, a little town where the strange and supernatural are almost everyday occurrences. When Dipper’s not trying to learn the identity of the Author of the enigmatic Journal that’s been aiding him in his adventures, or Mabel isn’t trying to start the perfect summer romance, they’re evading ghosts, monsters, zombies, living mini-golf balls, and attracting the attention of a powerful demon who once sought to wreck their great-uncle’s mind…

 

Dipper and Mabel are hanging out with Wendy and her friends in the graveyard watching the clouds go by when the sky is filled with hot-air balloons. Wendy tells them that it’s time for the Woodstick festival, an annual weekend-long concert featuring indie hipster folk music. When Dipper admits he’s never been to a concert before, everyone makes plans to go. A ghostly moan from an open grave disrupts the atmosphere. Thompson, the group’s butt monkey, is coerced into checking it out and finds it’s only Wendy’s ex-boyfriend Robbie Valentino, who’s been miserable since she dumped him and has been pining for her since.

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Hey, you’d feel the same too if Linda Cardellini dumped you for an Avenger.

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Who Has Two Thumbs and a Tumblr?

This blog, that’s who.

I’ll be sharing my all reviews on there as well as random thoughts and things I like (things that are safe for work and the family, by the way; I’m no sicko). If you don’t follow me here on WordPress you can through there and immediately get updated when I publish something new.

Also, it’d be really nice to have some followers that don’t go by the name “obese-loving-mama”. Just sayin’.

https://upontheshelfreviews.tumblr.com/

 

Addendum: This is my 100th post on this blog. How about this for a milestone?

Gravity Falls Review: “Blendin’s Game” (S02E08)

If you’re new to the blog or just want to revisit from the beginning, click HERE to read the review for “Tourist Trapped”.

Previously on Gravity Falls: Twelve year-old twins Dipper and Mabel Pines are spending the summer in Gravity Falls, Oregon, a little town where the strange and supernatural are almost everyday occurrences; Dipper and Mabel, usually along with their friends Soos and Wendy, have encountered everything from ghosts, zombies and demons to shapeshifters and time-travelers. One in particular has a bone to pick with the Mystery Twins after using him to mess with the space-time continuum…

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“All right, but what I don’t get is how did the police know you were stuck in one of Stan’s weird displays?”


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“It’s quite simple. You see, if my good friend President Trembley hadn’t spied our dear Miss Shelf in the Mystery Shack and informed me of her wrongful imprisonment, we wouldn’t have been able to alert the authorities and she would still be trapped in that glass tomb.”

I owe you both my life. One more round of tic-tac-toe with Mabel and I thought I’d lose my mind.

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“Think nothing of it. Should you ever need my services again Miss Shelf, I am always happy to oblige.”

Thank you, Baron.

…Actually, there is something. You say you’re friends with Trembley?

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“We do have opposing thoughts regarding the public visibility of knickers, but yes, I consider him a friend and ally.”

Would you be able to reach him quickly and deliver him here?

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“Of course. Why do you ask?”

Trembley said he’d return when this country needed him most, and I’ve got a feeling that day’s not far off…it’s time to get ready.

 

Oh, wait. There’s a review to do first.

 

The episode opens in the year Twenty-sneventy…you know, I haven’t the courage to try to spell it. Here it is.

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A shadowy figure dodges through the streets of a futuristic hellhole chased by Lolph and Dundgren, officers of the Time Police. They catch up to him and reveal the fugitive is former Time Officer Blendin Blandin, recently escaped from time prison after being incarcerated for wreaking havoc in the 21st century. Before he can be carted away, Blendin shocks those present by publicly invoking “Globnar”. The officers put away their handcuffs and ask who it is that Blendin wishes to challenge – Dipper and Mabel Pines.

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