Power Rangers Retrospective Part Five: Oh Jesus Christ

So, first things first: I’ve put a bunch of thought into what I’m going to do with this series, in light of the revelation that there are sixty episodes in the first season of this show. I really don’t feel like dedicating upwards to a year to doing Power Rangers recaps just to cover the first season. This has been fun, but I don’t care about Power Rangers that much, and it’s already starting to feel a bit samey.

So what I’m going to do is that this will be the end of me covering every episode in the series. That’s a good ten-episode retrospective, that’s not bad at all. I am, however, going to keep watching it, and I’ll come back and do recaps for episodes which strike me as particularly interesting/bad/important.

But first, we have to get through two more episodes. And oh boy. The first one is…it’s definitely a thing.

09: For Whom the Bell Trolls

We open in a classroom. It is apparently ‘hobby week’, and all the students are invited to talk about their interests. Basically, it’s Show and Tell. What the hell class is this supposed to be? These guys are supposed to be in high school? Jesus. Anyway, Trini gets called up to show off her doll collection. She starts with this Japanese doll, which is apparently wearing an “authentic kimono”.

Looks more like cheap felt to me.

But her favorite doll is…Mr. Ticklesneezer.

THe most horrifying troll doll imaginable.

Mr. Ticklesneezer belongs to her mother, and is a horrifying abomination in the eyes of the lord.  As if just looking at him wasn’t enough to tell you that there is something deeply wrong with it, Trini also informs us that there’s a legend associated with him (and even pulls out a huge book to support that claim): apparently he has the power to capture things and store them in a magic bottle.

Free me from my prison, temporal being, and I will give you powers undream't of by mortal man.
Free me from my prison, temporal being, and I will give you powers undream’t of by mortal man.

Help me.

Rita’s watching from her moonbase, of course, and in a surprising turn of events, we actually get something resembling sympathetic characterization for her:

I never got to play with dolls when I was a little girl. Who had the time? I had to learn to do evil spells and be bad while she plays around dolls all day!

Her actions this episode are motivated by jealousy over a childhood she never got to enjoy! That’s…not bad, actually. This doesn’t actually ever come up again, but good job, writers. You made an effort.

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Back in the classroom, the other Power Rangers show off their hobbies while Bulk and Skull unenthusiastically chirp them from the audience. Jason shows off some karate moves with a Bo staff, Zack is apparently a surfer, Kimberly does a handstand on the desk, and Billy has…a model volcano?

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I’m not sure how that’s a hobby, but whatever. The teacher’s reaction to it is priceless:

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After the class ends (apparently it’s an English class; the assigned reading for the weak is “Question Marks: Why Do We Need Them?”) Bulk and Skull grab Mr. Ticklesneezer off the desk and start tossing it around like a couple tools. Skull tosses it a bit too hard, Bulk reaches out to catch it, and winds up accidentally setting off Billy’s volcano in his face.

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I’m not sure if this actually counts as a food-based humiliation, since who knows what that stuff was, but the goop they used while filming it would almost certainly be edible, so I’m counting it.

Bulk Food-Based Humiliation Count: 8

Trini takes her creepy doll collection home and wishes them good night. As soon as she’s asleep, Rita sends down Squatt to abduct Mr. Ticklesneezer, on account of it being her favorite. Squatt blasts the creepy horrible thing with a green beam and it grows…into a horrifying man in a costume.

Only the dead can know peace from this evil.

Only the dead can know peace from this evil.

They teleport out to the moon, where Rita basically puts on a job interview for him. They remind us that his special power is to collect things in his ‘goodie bottle’. The plan, apparently, is to stick the Power Rangers in there as well.

And then for some reason Rita starts speaking in rhyme?

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To Earth you’ll go

with your bottle in tow,

and when I say obey

you’ll do as I say!

Whatever you say, Gruntilda.

Ticklesneezer gets sent down to what is really obviously a Japanese school sports yard, and starts sucking things up into his bottle. A motorcycle!

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The Tokyo Tower!

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And, when he runs into them while they’re driving around looking for her lost doll, Billy and Trini in her car!

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At the Youth Center, Jason’s punching boards in half. Bulk and Skull are watching and somehow this inspires Bulk to karate-chop a cake, somehow injuring his hand.

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Bulk Food-Based Humiliation Count: 9

Zordon calls them into the control center and explains that problem. Not only is Ticklesneezer sucking up everything in sight, but Rita has also deployed Squatt, Baboo, Goldar, and an army of putties to protect him while he does. They teleport out to a trainyard and fight some putties on top of trains for a while.

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Ticklesneezer sees the fight happening and decides to just bail, but he trips on a cinderblock and the bottle containing Billy and Trini goes flying. Kimberly grabs it out of the air and tries to pop it open, but Goldar jumps in out of nowhere and it goes flying again, this time landing on some train tracks, with the train bearing down.

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Fortunately, Kimberly rescues them at the last moment and pops the bottle open, freeing Billy and Trini, who transform and join the fight.

Meanwhile, Ticklesneezer is just hanging out behind some barrels, wondering where his bottle went. Rita pops up on a nearby apartment building and orders him to collect up the Power Rangers. When he protests that he can’t without his bottle, she basically calls him a whiny baby, and then makes him grow.

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Apparently this gets him his bottle back somehow, because after the Power Rangers do their dinozord thing, Jason declares that their number one priority is to get the bottle away from him. Of course, he immediately sucks up the Megazord and sticks him in a bottle. That went well.

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They call down the Power Sword (once again incorrectly called the Megasword) and it lands…somewhere? And somehow they frees them from the bottle? And then the Megazord does a weird little jig after being freed.

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This fight scene isn’t great.

The Power Rangers grab Ticklesneezer’s bottle off of the ground, and make a threat to Rita: either release the spell on Ticklesneezer, or they’ll bottle her up for good. That’s right, they have an opportunity to get rid of Rita forever, and they squander it on saving a damn doll. Our Heroes.

Then Ticklesneezer, freed from Rita’s spell, opens up his bottles and puts everything back where it belongs. And as this montage plays we start fading out, to Trini in her bed mumbling to herself…

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The whole thing was a dream. The show then tries to do a DOUBLE fakeout, by having Ticklesneezer not be on her desk when she turns the light on, but she finds that he just fell on the floor.

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Fuck me, fuck you, fuck this show.

Also the epilogue scene shows up Bulk and Skull’s hobby: they pick fleas off of stray dogs and use them for a flea circus. Some hijinks ensue but more importantly: turns out their real names are Farkas and Eugene! It’s not clear which is which, but my bet is on Skull as Farkas and Bulk as Eugene.

10: Happy Birthday, Zack

Well, that was a horrendous and massively overused cliche. But don’t worry, they wouldn’t do that twice in a row, right? Right? Right?

Okay, I’ll save you some time and suspense. You know those episodes where it’s someone’s birthday, and nobody’s acknowledging it and are acting kind of distant and jerk-y, and they start to think that everyone’s turned on them, and then it turns out they were just planning a surprise party for him the whole time? It’s one of those episodes, and so by-the-book about it that it’s painful.

In the opening scene, Ernie is using Billy’s new invention, the cake-o-matic, to make a birthday cake, while Kimberly and Trini prepare for the party and Billy…wanders around listening to some music? He gets so into it that he doesn’t even notice when his machine starts freaking out and dumping blue goo all over Ernie.

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Ernie Food-Based Humiliation Count: 1???

Rita and her crew have their own birthday surprise planned for Zack, though. Spoiler alert, it’s a monster!

Back at the Youth Center, Jason pops in to thank Ernie for keeping the place open late so they can decorate for Zack’s party. The most incredible exchange occurs in this scene.

Ernie: And speaking of surprises, you guys will never guess what I found out about the Power Rangers.

Billy (Feigning ignorance): The…Power Who?

Ernie: You know, the superheroes with the large Dinozords?

Jason: Ah, the ones with the colored costumes.

Ernie: That’s them! You know, they’ll do for Angel Grove what Batman has done for Gotham City.

This conversation has so many implications. Are the Power Rangers part of the DC Universe? Are they going to get an assist from Superman? Is Zordon literally Abin Sur? How did this line ever get past Saban’s legal team?

The rest of the conversation isn’t actually that interesting, just Jason screwing with Ernie a bit and spreading rumors that the Power Rangers are aliens.

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Enter: Bulk and Skull. Why are they hanging around the Youth Center after hours? Your guess is as good as mine. But having stumbled across a birthday party in the making, they’re determined to be total assholes about it. Bulk literally blows his nose with the banner Trini had made, and when she protests, Skull gets handsy with her, and more than a bit rape-y:

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What do you say I help you paint another one? After we’re done having a little *gumsmack* fun.

Yeesh. Thankfully, this is pretty brief, as she shoves him right into a pile of stuff. Haim Saban’s dark soul is then appeased with offerings of slapstick: both Bulk and Skull wind up running into a pole, and Bulk falls in a box of balloons while Skull goes face-first into the malfunctioning Cake-o-Matic.

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Skull Food-Based Humiliation Count: 1?

Meanwhile, Rita and Finster are picking out their birthday present for Zack. Rita goes flipping through the Finster’s Catalogue, which has neat illustrations of some old favorites.

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Finally, they settle on this little number, which they had apparently used before to great success. I gotta admit, that’s a pretty good design!

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Meanwhile, Zack’s on his way in at the Youth Center! Why the fuck is everybody hanging around this building hours after it was supposed to be closed? Well, whatever the reason, that means it’s time for a COMICAL FAST-FORWARDS as everyone hides all the party favors and decorations because he struts in. He’s looking for the gang for some reason, but Ernie deflects him while everyone else hides.

So, normally making a monster is as simple as Finster making up a clay model and shoving it in the oven. Today, though, they’re going to extra effort: first, Finster and Baboo hammer out a (really crude-looking) sword. Then Rita says a magic spell over it, summoning up the Nasty Knight, who is another victory for good monster design.

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At school the next day, Zack runs up to Kimberly and tries to fish for birthday acknowledgement. Unfortunately, since the rules of birthdays in fiction demand that everyone involved in a surprise party pretend to have no idea whose birthday it is, she dissembles. It’s pretty cringey.

Kimberly: “Oh my gosh.”

Zack: “You just remembered something, right?”

Kimberly: “Yeah, and I feel really terrible about it.”

Zack: “Hey, don’t sweat it. People forget stuff all the time.”

Kimberly: “I know, but this was really important to somebody that I really care about, and I, um, hope that SHE’LL forgive me.

Zack: “Well of course she wi–She’ll? Wait, did you say she’ll?

Kimberly: “Yeah! It’s my poodle’s birthday and I forgot to buy her a birthday present.”

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Holy shit, what an awful lie. Not to mention, why? Are you deliberately salting those wounds? What the fuck?

Zack sulks off, hurt, and shoves his way through the rest of the gang as they walk in.

Jason: “What’s wrong with him?”

Kimberly: “He thinks he forgot his birthday.”

And why would he think that, Kim? What possible reason could he have for thinking that? Who put that zany idea in his head!?

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Zack is so bummed out by this that he foolishly goes on a walk in the Nondescript Quarry (apparently cutting class to do so? The horror), and delivers one of the worst soliloquies I have ever heard.

“They knew my birthday was coming up. How could they forget? I guess they were just too busy thinking about their own lives. That’s messed up.

Thankfully, Rita and company show up before we have to sit through any more of this. The birthday party is on! They send the Nasty Knight against him. He transforms and fights back, but he gets pretty solidly wrecked. And then Goldar jumps in, and he gets wrecked even harder!

Zordon detects that shit is going down in the Nondescript Quarry, and sends the rest of the team to back Zack up. Astonishingly, the Knight proceeds to singlehandedly body the entire team at once. Not only does he drop them all on their asses, but defending against his blows fucked up their weapons, to boot.

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So they do this thing again.

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But not only does he completely no-sell it, he deflects it right back at them!

And if that wasn’t bad enough, Rita uses her magic to – you guessed it – make him grow. The Power Rangers go full Megazord, and even call down the as-yet unbeaten Power Sword, but the Power Sword suffers the same fate as all of their weapons and the Megazord gets wrecked in short notice as well! The Power Rangers are on the ropes and they haven’t even laid a finger on the Knight yet.

Zack figures it out:

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Zack: “Man! I just figured out why ugly-man’s beating us! Any energy we throw at him, he just reflects right back at us! That’s why our weapons all burned out!”

Jason: “So what do we do?”

Zack: “Reflect HIS energy back at him, along with a bit of our own!”

Kimberly: “Morphenomenal, Zack. We’ll give him a little bit of his own medicine.”

Uggggggggh. There’s that word again.

They give Zack the controls, and when the Knight goes in for the kill, they…catch his sword with some eye beams? Or something? The point is, they steal his sword’s power, and use it to recharge the Power Sword. Their first blow breaks the Knight’s blade in half, and the second finishes it off.

In the epilogue scene, it’s Zack’s surprise party! And there’s lots of dancing! And the cake-o-matic starts going off again and making a mess. And there’s a birthday song that isn’t Happy Birthday, thank you copyright law, but that doesn’t suck either!

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Overall, this episode is…shockingly good? I mean, it’s built around one of the hoariest cliches of all time, sure, but for all that…Rita’s plan made sense, the buildup for the monster was way better than normal, the monster’s design was strong, and the fight scene itself had tension and stakes. The first half was pretty standard Power Rangers fare, but the back half was genuinely fun!

Billy’s Worst Line: It’s been a while since we had a proper one of these, but this episode was full of doozies. The worst one by far, though, was the very first one, when he’s talking about the music he’s listening to: “You’re right, Kimberly! The performers assembled to create this harmonious tune transcend all predecessors to this genre of music!”

Morphenomenal Count: 7

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