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:
It’s been a tense few days for the Pines family. First the grand re-opening of the Mystery Shack is crashed by a horde of zombies, then Dipper almost unleashes a murderous shape-shifting creature on the world and is forced to come to terms with his one-sided crush on Wendy. Now’s as good a time as any to unwind with a wholesome family activity, don’t you think?
Mabel runs into the living room with exciting news: her fashion tips for squirrels are going to be featured in the newspaper! She unfurls it only to find Pacifica Northwest, her rival ever since she first came to Gravity Falls, has taken up the front page. Mabel deals with her rich competitor getting the best of her again in her own way.
Dipper draws Mabel’s attention to a mini-golf course being advertised on tv. Apparently Mabel is a mini-golf savant, kicking butt since she could first pick up a putter. The Pines proceed to cheer Mabel up by taking her golfing. She does phenomenally, even attracting a decent sized crowd. But on the last hole, the one involving a windmill, the ball comes out in a random direction and ruins Mabel’s perfect hole-in-one.
To make things worse, who should come along but Pacifica and her family to taunt her. (“Soos, would it be wrong to punch a child?” asks Grunkle Stan. For once I’m with him.) Pacifica is also skilled at mini-golf, having been trained by a gold medal mini-golf champion named Sergei. She makes a hole-in-one on both the last course and the bonus round, and has the crowd passive-aggressively applaud Mabel for reaching second place.
A humiliated Mabel demands a rematch and screams that she’s a one-dimensional bleached blonde valley girl stereotype.
Pacifica is ready to kick Mabel’s butt then and there, but a storm closes out the golf course. She tells Mabel to meet at midnight to end this grudge match once and for all.
The Pines stop for a quick bite where Mabel confesses she’s not feeling very confident about beating Pacifica. Mini-golf is something she’s excelled at for so long, the thought of Pacifica topping her makes her question her talents. Dipper reassures her that if she does beat Pacifica at her own game, then Pacifica could never make fun of her for anything again, leading to this bit of awesomeness.
With her confidence restored and Grunkle Stan leaping at the chance to break his family into somewhere after hours (nothing like a nice illegal family outing), they speed to the golf course as darkness approaches. And, in one of my favorite heartwarming moments from Stan, he gives Mabel a trophy sticker from her book and tells her to knock ’em dead.
Having arrived early Mabel practices on the windmill hole. Each ball she knocks through falls short of the hole, however. Dipper doesn’t understand how it’s possible, but then he hears something moving inside. He and Mabel investigate and uncover –
After screaming through the commercials, their leader Franz (Patton Oswalt), calms everyone down and introduces himself. He is part of a race of sentient mini-golf balls that calls themselves the Lilliputtians. They control where the balls go in each course. On asking what brought them here, Mabel tells them about her rivalry, which is a subject they are all too familiar with. Each course has its own set of Lilliputtians that are themed to each setting – pirates for the pirate ship, knights for the castle, and perhaps the worst of all, French people for the Eiffel Tower replica – and they are at constant war with each other to determine which one is superior.
The Lilliputtians are in awe of Mabel’s trophy sticker which proclaims “U Da Best”. They ask her to give it to whichever mini-kingdom she decides is worthy of it to finally end their feud. Mabel doesn’t want to get involved, but Dipper tells her the Lilliputtians could help her score a victory against Pacifica in their game. It might be cheating, but if Pacifica can play dirty by throwing money at problems to make them go away – like the truth about her family not founding Gravity Falls – then Mabel has every right to do it. Mabel agrees to award the sticker to the Lilliputtians who do the best job in helping her win, on the condition that they don’t fight with each other.
Pacifica’s parents drop her and Sergei off at the golf course but don’t bother to stay since they have a fancy part to go to. They remind her before they leave that as a Northwest with a reputation to uphold she cannot afford to lose. The game begins and the Lilliputians repeatedly rig each course in Mabel’s favor, though they mock the others when Mabel’s back is turned.
The creativity in each hole is something to be admired. Each Lilliputtian’s method of controlling the balls fits their themeing to a T. Of course, the miners in their hole hit a snag when there’s a dangerous gas leak preventing Mabel’s ball from reaching the hole. The only one brave or strong enough to fight through it is one lone Lilliputtian known only as Big Henry. They don’t sugarcoat the trouble he goes through either. It’s funny because it’s a golf ball person and no one outside the mine has any clue what’s really happening down there, but they play it almost completely seriously, which I guess is the joke. It’s such a strange little detour in what’s been a fairly straightforward episode so far. If this were a live-action movie where Big Henry was played by someone like Michael Clarke Duncan , this would be the third act climax that would have everyone in tears. In the end, he makes the supreme sacrifice to see Mabel through.
Pacifica takes a soda break to cool down and Mabel congratulates the miners on a job well done, even hinting that the sticker could very well be theirs.
Franz, however, sees Mabel playing up to them and is furious that their hard work will have amounted to nothing (clearly he doesn’t know about Big Henry). Another Lilliputtian suggests that there may be another way to win Mabel’s favor.
Franz tells Mabel that the only thing better than beating Pacifica would be flat-out killing her and asks for the sticker. The pirates also kidnap Sergei and threaten to make him walk the plank in another dirty bid for the sticker. The Lilliputtians demand to be rewarded but Mabel’s had enough. Their fighting has made her realize how dumb rivalries are. In an effort to end their petty squabbling she encourages them to start working together and eats the sticker so no one can have it.
The Lilliputians admit that she’s right. They rally to start working together…to cut open Mabel and retrieve the sticker.
While the mob attacks Pacifica is sent hurtling towards the windmill, which is revolving at the speed of your average buzz saw. Though the exit is clear, Mabel won’t escape without saving her first. She unties Pacifica despite her complaining. Surrounded by the Lilliputians, Pacifica and Mabel’s only way out is teamwork. Together they putt their way through and they make good work of the balls. Pacifica even makes a sincere compliment about Mabel’s skills.
Dipper rescues Sergei and they all make a break for it on a golf kart while dodging the Lilliputtians’ traps. Mabel swats Franz and the rest of the little buggers away and they escape in one piece (though Sergei gets left behind). Pacifica wails on them for endangering her, but is powerless to resist an apology from Mabel in sticker form.
Mabel offers Pacifica a ride home and she’s forced to accept when another storm brews and it looks like her parents aren’t coming. The trip is a brief but entertaining fish-out-of-water scenario for Pacifica as she has to endure sing-alongs, a less than pristine seat, and is actually allowed to eat in the car. Also, we learn that she literally doesn’t know what sharing is. It’s one of my favorite moments in the entire show.
Once she’s dropped off, Pacifica halfheartedly thanks them for the ride and admits to Mabel that she had fun with her. Whether or not things are completely cool between Pacifica and Mabel are up for debate, but Mabel considers this a step forward. After all, beneath all the glamor and riches, she’s just a regular kid like them.
If you ever wondered how the inner mechanisms of your average mini-golf course worked or even imagined there were little people who moved around the balls in each hole, this episode might fulfill your fantasies. I have to wonder whether or not Alex Hirsch and his group studied how they function in real life or if they made it up. However, if you’re feeling disappointed that we get something more tame and one-off after the intensity and rising story arc of the past two episodes, I can understand where you’re coming from. It’s a very lighthearted goofy episode without particularly high stakes or resolutions, though I think after how big the previous episodes were, a small reprieve is necessary. Without spoiling anything I will say that this marks the beginning of a character arc for Pacifica, though it will be a while until it’s revisited. Patience is the key here.
Patton Oswalt is a highlight (as he usually is in anything he appears in), and I like how Franz is a mini-golf ball caricature of him in Dutch clothing. Jim Cummings, Matt Chapman, Kevin Michael Richardson and John O’Hurley also provide their top quality voices to the diminutive dweebs. Incidentally, this is the first episode animated by Yearim Productions, the animation company behind Dragon Tales, the Duck Dodgers tv show, and the first few seasons of Family Guy, among others, and they did a phenomenal job. In fact, this particular episode is remarkably closer to how Alex Hirsch and some of the other storyboard artists draw the characters; there’s a fluidity in the animation and expressions here that rarely appears in others. All in all, it’s perfectly fine episode. I don’t think it’s on many people’s favorites list, but it’s a fun diversion from the bigger story line.
And the Internet Went:
End Credits Craziness: The balls entertaining Sergei with a little number called “We Control the Balls”…FOR ALL ETERNITY.
Callbacks: The Mattress King from “Tourist Trapped” is now the King of the Mini-Golf Course. Mabel’s sticker book (or “sticktionary”) from “Mabel’s Guide to Stickers” plays a part here. Xyler and Craz from “Dreamscaperers” appear in Mabel’s fantasy of dissing Pacifica. Robbie’s explosion muffin graffiti appears throughout the mini-golf course. Dipper mentions their discovery of the Northwest family’s fraudulent legacy in “Irrational Treasure”, as well as how stressful the previous days have been, referring to the events of “Scary-Oke” and “Into the Bunker”. The episode of Ducktective on TV is the same one played in the Gravity Falls TV shorts. I should also mention the appearance of Pitt Cola, which pops up in every episode and is a nod to one of the series’ directors, Joe Pitt. This is the first time the soda is referenced out loud though.
Crowning Line of Hilawesomeness: On debating whether or not having the Lilliputtians help is cheating, Dipper has this to say – “Pacifica’s rich, Mabel. She’s cheating at life.”
Mabel SWatch (Sweater Watch): Green and yellow with a smiling star, and a putting green scene.
Dear Princess Celestabelleabethabelle: I’ve learned that cheaters never prosper, and the best way to end a rivalry is by working it out together instead of constant one-upping.
Have You Seen the Agents?
The agents are regrouping elsewhere…
Where’s that wacky triangle at?
Next time on Gravity Falls, we have a very important engagement with Mabel at the opera…the Sock Opera, that is. See you then.
Dedicated to the memory of Big Henry. May his legacy live on.