Thursday, June 9, 2011

The Return of the King S03 Ep. 09 (Part 2)

In which Arthur and his crew get beat handily by Children of the Corn.

Category: Arthur and All His Friends (it's a two-fer!) Fail at a Basic Life Skill

Basic Life Skill Failed: Medieval Knowledge

The episode begins with a shot of what appears to be a quaint medieval village. (Which, even though I've been planning to analyze this episode for a week, makes me SUPER EXCITED for the Highland Games and Scottish Festival this weekend! Awwwwww yeah!)

Then the Lakewood bus pulls up and the image is ruined. It becomes apparent that this isn't an old-timey episode from way back in the day, but one where the kids get to go to a medieval fair full of creeps peddling their spurious wares, as well as the occasional awesome Knight of the Templar. But that's okay because this episode is definitely one of my favorites.

Mr. Ratburn leads them off the bus and Buster is immediately drawn to--what else?--the fair's food. A man with flowing blonde locks wearing a kilt is pushing a cart and proclaiming, in the best Scottish accent PBS could afford, "Haggis! Two for a dollar!" Buster writes down this "important information," then turns to Arthur (who I guess would know coz his dad makes weird food?) and asks, "What's haggis?"

(Side note: I've tried haggis. It tastes like nasty, gritty, meaty oatmeal. This dish was made for a kid without taste buds like Buster Baxter.)

Arthur is spared having to answer the question by Mr. Ratburn being distracted by a shiny gold statue of a griffin (which is probably made out of cake or chocolate). Blah blah blah, Arthur thinks his class can win it because they're "the smartest" and "work the hardest," when suddenly an earthquake shakes Elwood City and everyone dies!

Okay, not really, but by, oh, ten-elevenths of the way through the episode, Arthur and his peers are going to wish that's what happened.

No, the earth's rumbling is caused by a handful of uniform`ed children trouncing off their non-traditional white school bus, chanting a menacing song about their school.

Smug and smarmy, Mr. Pryce-Jones, the teacher of the kids from Glenbrook Academy, marches off the bus and up to Ratburn. It turns out that he was Ratburn's third grade teacher and the only reason the golden griffin isn't in his classroom is because Pryce-Jones always takes it home with him.

So it's on. Like Donkey Kong.

While the grownups try to one-up each other, the two groups of kids whisper and point at each other. Having worn both regular clothes and uniforms to school, I have it on good authority that the Lakewood kids immediately hate the Glenbrook students because they're wearing very smart-looking uniforms. The Glenbrook students hate the Lakewood kids because they get to wear whatever they want to school.

But it becomes apparent that if they weren't wearing different clothes, no one would be able to tell the two third-grade classes apart! The Glenbrook kids are *SPOILER ALERT* dopplegangers of the Lakewood kids, the product of an evil scientist gone mad with DNA samples! be honest, if the Arthur animators had a wider repertoire, this would be more impressive.

Anyway, here's Arthur's doppleganger. Bam!

Francine's evil twin! She even has the same weird barrettes!

Muffy's dead ringer. Kind of. They have the same hair, so I'm assuming they look exactly alike.

The Brain's doppleganger. This one is a stretch. By the way The Brain reacts (a violent gasp), you'd think they looked exactly alike. Here's a hint, The Brain: you don't look remotely similar because you have no distinguishing features besides your intelligence and lavender sweater. Zing!

And the last of the main characters' doubles, the Buster "look-alike." No buck teeth, no rabbit ears. Just an eerie knack for putting away pies.

Anyhow, the Glenbrook kids whoop the heinies of the Lakewood kids in a maze challenge because they have Arthur, who can't figure out what "Hie thee hence" means, try to find his way through an uncomplicated maze. Ratburn even tells him to "use his head." Poor, dumb Arthur thinks that means to rip through the maze's cloth walls with his swollen noggin. They lose and Francine is sent to collect Arthur's remains.

The Sword in the Stone makes a cameo and Arthur returns to it several more times, convinced that he can figure out the trick.

Francine faces her dead ringer in a suction-cup archery match. And loses. (Because the Glenbrook girl slathers her arrow with spit and it knocks Francine's out of the bulls-eye. That doesn't work, btw. I tried it many a time with my dollar store archery set.)

The Lakewood kids lose a tug-of-war because the Glenbrook kids use leverage or whatever.

Arthur, Buster, Muffy, and Francine lounge on a picnic table near the lake after washing off the mud from the tug-of-war. (Where are the parent chaperons? This thing was created when I was a kid, and I most definitely had parent chaperons. Like, one for every five kids.) Mr. Ratburn comes up and tells them that Mr. Pryce-Jones is one of the best teachers private education could provide, teaching kids Latin in third grade (no one learns Latin in school anymore, especially not grade school). Mr. Ratburn muses out loud that he's not a "tough enough" teacher and the kids are horrified that they'll actually be competently taught. Quelle horror!

They take a break from the competition so they can eat a medieval lunch and the Glenbrook kids can mock the ignorance of what is supposed to be the brightest class at Lakewood. These mini-adults have clearly been bred without any normal emotions whatsoever. Mr. Pryce-Jones taunts Mr. Ratburn's teaching abilities because his (Ratburn's) third graders don't know the 42 English kings. (He has a whole 20 minute song.)

Heck, most third graders don't know the 44 presidents of the United States!

Arthur and his gang hope to high heaven that there's something at this fair they can win so Mr. Ratburn won't get even tougher. They think Buster can win the mincemeat pie eating contest, but then Glenbrook pulls out its most impressive victory of the day. Buster's doppleganger isn't just a mindless eating machine; he knows about the science of eating. He's been preparing for this contest weeks in advance. So Buster gets handed his butt on a medieval pie plate.

The Brain plays some weird trivia game and gets p'nwed because he doesn't give the answers that were correct in the Middle Ages. He does not win a sheep, as advertised in the wheel below.

Muffy loses a tennis match to her double. AND gets her heritage dissed. Turns out that Other Braid Girl is related to Henry V, a sore spot to Muffy because her family is a first generation of social climbers with no blue blood at all. Ouch, girl!

And finally, there is a collective failure at the castle building contest. Lakewood loses points for creativity and Glenbrook Academy wins.

After losing every contest, Buster finally admits his emotional eating. He asks if anyone else wants to get something to eat and Francine incredulously bursts "But you just ate six pies!" To which Buster responds, "I feel empty inside," with a haunted look on his pale, furry face.

It turns out, though, that the rules of the overall golden griffin competition was written in garglemesh (or is that Arabic?), so the Lakewood kids didn't ever have a chance to begin with.

Arthur somehow figures out how to get the sword out of the stone and is crowned King of the Medieval Fair. Mr. Pryce-Jones congratulates Mr. Ratburn on teaching such a free-thinking boy, which I can only take to mean that Pryce-Jones is as sarcastic as they come. Arthur? Free-thinking? Good heavens, "Arthur" is Latin for "conformity."

Ratburn is not replaced by Pryce-Jones, nor does he become "tougher," much to the disadvantage of his students. Where will they be in twenty years? In dead end jobs, slaving away their youth for a soon to be extinct floppy disk firm. Where will the Glenbrook kids be? Microsoft. Google. Yale.