Ranger Station Episode 38: A Bad Reflection On You
With 800 episodes over the course of 22 years, the Power Rangers television show is arguably the single most successful live-action superhero franchise of all time, and certainly one of the strangest. Adapted from Japan's long-running Super Sentai series, created by manga legend Shotaro Ishinomori, the Power Rangers combined the giant robots and monsters of their Japanese counterpart with a completely different set of secret identities and problems, and became a pop cultural phenomenon. That's why we're looking back with an in-depth guide to Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, including its source material, Kyuoryu Sentai Zyuranger, in ComicsAlliance's Ranger Station!
This week, the Power Rangers and the Zyurangers face off against their evil opposites --- but only one team solves this problem by bathing with the elderly.
Mighty Morphin Power Rangers Episode 38: A Bad Reflection On You
Writer: Peggy Nicoll
Director: Robert Hughes
Original Air Date: November 27, 1993
I love Evil Opposites. They're one of the easiest superhero stories to tell, and even if the characters themselves aren't that great, they almost always make for a fantastic visual --- even if it can sometimes get confusing in a live-action show when you have two teams of identically dressed heroes in dinosaur helmets slugging it out on slightly grainy video footage imported from Japan.
Really, though, the fact that Super Sentai does involve those full-face helmets actually makes it work better than almost any other live-action take on the idea. You don't need to do fancy camera tricks or grab someone's twin brother, you just need the spare suits and extra suit actors that you already have hanging out on set anyway. I mean, this is a well they're going to go back to for the rest of the franchise --- though never quite to the extent that I think they want to --- but the fact that it doesn't happen more often than it already does is actually pretty mystifying.
Which brings us to this week's episode, and the first time that they take a stab at the idea.
Rather than opening on the kids, we start this week on the moon, where Rita is handing out orders to a gang of Putty Patrollers. See, Finster has cooked up a new monster called the Twin Man, and through the darkest of all moon magics, he's going to turn five Putty Patrollers into exact duplicates of the Power Rangers.
Well, not exact. They're all wearing sunglasses, which is how you can tell that they're... eeeeevil.
You'd think that kind of thing would be a dead giveaway when it comes to figuring out which group of teens were the bad ones, but consider the following: a) Given that he also granted the Putties both sentience and the power of speech, I think we can cut him a little slack on providing a handy visual signifier here, and b) The people of Angel Grove are, to put it charitably, not very perceptive.
We've had plenty of evidence to that fact over the course of the series, but iif you need a little more, the next scene provides:
I don't know about y'all, but at my high school, the administrators would flip out if a student didn't remove their sunglasses inside the building. I can only imagine how they would've reacted if the shades had also been accessorized with bolt-cutters and tire irons.
Mr. Caplan, however, doesn't seem to notice anything's wrong until after five honor students have dismantled the drinking fountain and filled it up with laundry detergent, an act for which the real Rangers are blamed and given detention. More importantly than that, though, is the fact that the ersatz Kimberly ends up making a date with Skull:
As you may recall, this is the second time this has happened. Back in "Power Ranger Punks," Kimberly also made a date with Skull while she was under the influence of the punk potion, and then later claimed that it never happened. And look, Skull's not a great guy or anything, but there has to be a point where you start to feel bad for the guy for being indirectly gaslighted by a moon witch on multiple occasions.
Incidentally, while I initially thought "the submarine races" was just a bit of nonsense, it turns out that it's actually teen slang from the '50s for going to the beach and making out. See, if anyone asked you what you were doing while you were necking in the front seat of a car, you could claim to be "watching the submarine races," which of course could not be seen from above the surface of the water. And now you know how to get some smooches if you ever find yourself in a Back to the Future situation. Thanks, Power Rangers!
The point of all this is that the real Rangers find themselves in detention --- and since Angel Grove's major export is Goody Two-Shoes, the only other students in detention are, of course, Bulk and Skull.
It's at this point, by the way, that Caplan refers to putting detergent in a drinking fountain as "the height of delinquency." Which, considering that this is a town that's almost stomped to death by monsters and robots every week, indicates a pretty interesting idea of what criminal activity looks like.
It turns out that Bulk and Skull are in detention so often that it's become part of their regular schedule --- and detention here is apparently less like traditional after-school punishment and more like isolating the children in a room in an otherwise empty school "for the duration of the day." Bulk's mom has even taken to packing him an extremely large detention snack in lieu of a lunch, and while that's really just a setup for Bulk to pull a full bottle of ketchup, a whole pie, three donuts, a ham sandwich, and an entire three-foot party sub out of an otherwise regular-sized lunchpail, it's nice to imagine that he has a good home life with a mother who cares.
While the Rangers are in detention, the fakes are taking their frame job to the next level, appearing in uniform as the Power Rangers and terrorizing the populace by blowing up cars with their Blade Blasters and swinging around patio furniture like a quintet of backyard wrestlers.
As is almost always the case in this kind of superhero story, the media is quick to turn on our heroes, and before long, the same reporters who cheerfully give us the news of Rita Repulsa's defeat every week are breaking into Bulk's favorite cartoon --- actually an episode of The Genie Family, an anime also licensed by Saban at the time --- and telling everyone that the Rangers have "joined with the forces of evil."
This leaves the Power Rangers with a bit of a problem: The only way to clear their name and save the world is to get out there and battle against the imposters, but in order to do that, they have to figure out how to get out of detention. Apparently, literally saving the world is less important than one of Zordon's weird rules about keeping their identity secret under the nebulous pain of "losing the protection of The Power."
Eventually, they remember that Bulk and Skull are collectively about as stupid as a sack of doorknobs, so they literally just tell them to put their fingers in their ears and close their eyes. At that point, you might think that the smartest option here would just be to teleport to the Command Center and see what was up, rather than standing in formation and shouting "IT"S MORPHIN TIME!" and then the names of five ancient animals at the top of their lungs. I mean, even Bulk and Skull have to have some kind of limit to their obliviousness, right?
Two things to note about this: First, Bulk and Skull apparently do not know the numbers between one and ten. They are in high school. America has failed them. Second, I'm always fascinated by trying to figure out what the transformation sequences in tokusatsu and anime look like to the people in the show, and we now have another clue to how they work. Whatever they might look like, they're quiet enough to go unnoticed by people with their ears plugged about ten feet away.
With that, the Rangers go into action, and before long they're facing off with their counterparts --- and their leader, Scorpina. Unfortunately for the bad guys, the duplicates aren't exactly all that durable. While they can stand up to a regular fight, one hit from the Rangers' Power Weapons turns them back into standard-issue Putties. And once that's done, they get to face off with Twin Man himself.
From there, the fight goes about like you'd expect, with one notable swerve: Rather than calling in the Megazord, the Rangers are able to defeat Twin Man with a shot from the Power Blaster.
With the monster gone, the Power Rangers are immediately cleared of all wrongdoing, and everyone acts like they weren't just calling for their heads.
Oh, and the Rangers also make it back to detention just in time to get Bulk and Skull in trouble for reporting that they're skipping out. And thus, the gaslighting continues.
As far as the setup goes, Episode 46 of Kyoryu Sentai Zyuranger, "Presenting The Vicious Squadron," is about as close to its American counterpart as it can be while still being about royalty from dinosaur times instead of high school students with attitude. There's a fake set of Zyurangers created by Bandora and her latest monster, Dora Mirage.
The only difference is that instead of soaping up Great Sage Barza's water fountain, the Fauxrangers start by just straight up punching people in the face while they're in uniform, and then move into a much more devious piece of the frame. See, when the real Zyurangers show up --- followed shortly by Lamy, disguised as a news reporter --- they just disguise themselves as regular humans in mid-fight so that everyone with a television sees the Zyurangers beating up seemingly innocent people.
With the incriminating footage --- and with Lamy going full J. Jonah Jameson by reporting that the Zyurangers have become both threat and menace --- the public is quick to turn on the team. It gets so bad that when they try to go into public to clear their names, people literally attempt to stone them to death in the street.
But the stones do not hurt nearly as much as the children saying that they no longer love the Zyurangers.
Clearly, things are getting pretty bad, but as they run to avoid the police and the torches-and-pitchforks mob that's forming, they end up stumbling into the back yard of a sweet old lady who takes them into her home. She lets them, in and provides some new, non-color-coded clothes for the boys, who assume that she's so out of touch that she just doesn't know who they are. For Mei, though, she has another plan, and it's... it's pretty weird, folks.
ACTUAL DIALOGUE IS AS FOLLOWS:
"I'm sorry, Mei."
"For asking you to take a bath with me even though we've never met before. You must be thinking I'm a strange old woman."
"No! ... Maybe a little bit."
"You made me think of my grandchildren."
The answers have only become more questions. Either way, I think we can all agree that this bathtub is way too small for two people to hang out and converse.
It turns out that it's also her birthday, so while the fake Zyurangers rampage through Tokyo, destroying bullet trains and racking up a double-digit injury count --- 64, according to the TV news --- the real ones decide that the best course of action would be to bake her a cake. But once that's done, she reveals that she's known all along that they're the Zyurangers, and believed in them all this time.
It's heartwarming, but while our heroes have been baking a cake, there are literal buildings exploding. Also, this guy in particular's bicycle:
But with their faith in humanity restored, the real Zyurangers head back into action, defeat their duplicates in record time, and then blast Dora Mirage into a heap of ashes with the Howling Cannon. Fight on, Zyurangers! Just maybe don't stop to bake a friggin' cake next time. Yeesh.
In Ranger Station, each episode of Mighty Morphin Power Rangers will be graded on a scale of one to ten in five categories, with a final score awarded with a maximum of fifty points.
Weirdness of the Monster: Pretty standard issue stuff this time, but you have to think that making a bad guy out of a bunch of mirrors was just asking to get shattered. 5/10
Deviation From the Source: Can you even imagine how heartbreaking this episode would've been if there were children who said they didn't believe in the Power Rangers anymore, instead of just grumpy-ass Mr. Caplan? Big missed opportunity. 4/10
Bulk and Skull Friendship: Bulk and Skull getting in trouble to spend time with each other is some serious Friendship Goal stuff. On the other hand, Bulk does throw a pie at his best friend, so... 7/10
Moral Lessons: Sunglasses are eeeeevil. 2/10
'90s Fashions: What's notable in the past few episodes isn't necessarily that the outfits are dated, but that Billy has taken to wearing tank tops, showing off the fact that he has apparently been sculpting his guns. 7/10
Total For Episode 36: 25/50