Ranger Station Episode 42: A Pig Surprise
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, Pudgy Pig returns for an unprecedented third appearance, because Power Rangers only took about three months to really start giving up.
Mighty Morphin Power Rangers Episode 42: A Pig Surprise
Writers: Shuky Levy and Douglas Stone
Director: Robert Hughes
Original Air Date: February 8, 1994
If you watch enough Power Rangers, you're going to start to notice that there are a few things that keep coming back. With 22 years and counting, not to mention the other episodes and series that have only aired in Japan, that's something that's bound to happen, but generally speaking, they tend to be variations on a theme. It's like how there have been three separate teams based around dinosaurs, or how there's always some kind of mirror monster that can create an evil duplicate. What you almost never see, though, is the same monster showing up for a second try at the Power Rangers.
And that makes sense, right? Even if Finster wasn't just cooking up these monsters in his workshop up on the moon --- something that I've always taken to mean that Rita theoretically has the ability to make infinite copies of the major Monsters of the Week, and not just an endless string of Putty Patrollers --- there's the fact that they've already had a shot and proven that they're not that great at the whole killing-the-Power-Rangers game. Even if they almost won the first time, then there's no reason to think they'd do any better the second time --- quite the opposite, actually, since the Rangers know what they're dealing with now and have proven that being chopped in half by a giant robot made of dinosaurs is pretty effective in virtually all situations.
It's kind of surprising, then, that this episode marks the second full appearance of Pudgy Pig as an antagonist --- and its third appearance overall, if you count the brief cameo back in "Island of Illusion." As for why they decided to go back to that well (including editing footage from the same episode they used for its first appearance) rather than just doing something new, I'm not really sure. Maybe they were on a tight deadline and Toei's "Zyu2" footage wasn't ready yet, or maybe --- and this is my pet theory --- it had more to do with Pudgy Pig being the single most toyetic monster of the first season, and having plenty of action figures warming the pegs after the holiday was over.
Either way, we start with the Rangers in their civilian identities, doing exactly what you'd expect a bunch of kids described as "teenagers with attitude" to be doing: helping out at a local Pet Adoption festival by making kids promise to take good care of their new dogs and cats.
It's not just the standard array of pets, though. While the Rangers distribute small animals to all the good boys and girls of Angel Grove, an elderly woman rolls up into the park with a large pig named Norman, and asks them to find him a good home. There's only one problem --- well, one major problem among the several day-to-day problems that this entire setup invites, anyway. She's not a friendly old lady at all. As Zack discovers when he's running late and spies her walking through another part of the park, she's actually a Putty Patroller in disguise!
They've done this before --- notably in the episode where they were all briefly disguised as terrifying clowns, --- but this is something that Rita Repulsa never quite uses to her advantage. Like, if Putties can pass for normal humans to the point of being able to carry on complicated conversations like, "I need you to find a home for this pig or else I'll be so sad that I'll cry," and if this can allow them to get literally within arm's reach of the Rangers, then you'd think murdering Angel Grove's only protectors would be way easier than it seems. It's the same problem that the show has invited before with stuff like Goldar showing up at Billy's garage, but the disposability of Putties makes it pretty hard to ignore.
Still, I suppose you don't get your own palace on the moon by doing things the easy way. Rita actually is using the Putties' newfound knack for disguise to doom the Power Rangers, she's just going about it in a way that's a little more complicated than just walking up and whacking Jason upside the head with a two-by-four. The actual weapon... is Norman himself.
After Zack gets a solo fight scene against a whole gang of Putty Patrollers, he discovers a strange scientific device that looks like an Instamatic camera fell in love with an eggbeater and decided to start a family, and decides to take it to Billy so that he can do enough science at it to solve this mystery.
Alas, he's a little too late. By the time Zack gets to the Park, the Rangers have already given Norman away to his new owners: Bulk and Skull.
I've talked a little bit before about how, in retrospect, the first season has a very worrisome relationship between the Rangers and their two classmates. After their over-the-top level of aggression is toned down a little in the first few episodes, the show keeps on subjecting them to one "comedic" instance of public humiliation after another, and while I don't think this is meant to come off that way, doing a close watch of every episode has led me to the conclusion that presenting Bulk with what Kimberly refers to as "that disgusting pig" when he asks for a pet of his own might be the single cruelest thing those kids have ever done. It's brutal.
Or it would be, I guess, if Bulk and Skull weren't super into their new friend.
Unfortunately, it's not the perfect pet match that one might hope. By the time the Rangers figure out that the "lady" Zack fought was the same one who delivered Norman to Pet Adoption Day, Rita's plan to destroy Angel Grove is already in full swing. It turns out that the Putty's "device" is a countdown timer, and when it hits zero, Norman undergoes a strange metamorphosis into... The Pudgy Pig!
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So here's what's interesting: This version of the Pudgy Pig isn't a monster cooked up in Finster's oven. Instead, Norman is an actual pig, who has been transformed through a magic spell that was somehow controlled by the Putty Patroller's eggbeater. Why Rita would choose to go this route, instead of just having Finster cook up a monster, is never actually explained on the show, nor is it explained where and how Rita acquired a normal and presumably innocent pig to use in her plans. And while it's not entirely out of the question for Power Rangers to just not explain what it's doing sometimes, I'm bringing all this up because it's actually a major plot point.
After menacing Bulk and Skull for a while until they hand over a sandwich, the Pudgy Pig embarks on an oddly familiar reign of terror, and it's at this point that we get one of the most annoying exchanges on the show:
ZORDON: Alpha, use the Geomolecular Scanner to find the location of the Pudgy Pig.
ALPHA 5: Scanner's running, but he could be anywhere!
ZORDON: I'm certain he is still in Angel Grove.
ALPHA 5: There! The scanner has picked him up!
Okay, look. I'm not saying that every single scene has to advance the plot and keep things moving inexorably forward, but why would you introduce a problem and then immediately solve that problem in the next line. This adds nothing, and Power Rangers does this all the time. Is it just there to pad things out? And if so, why is this episode still under 20 minutes long.
Anyway, it turns out that Pudgy isn't causing trouble. As we discover through the miracle of slightly off-model Original American Power Rangers Footage...
... he's actually at a nearby farm, where he is attempting to romance a (regular, non-magical) lady pig.
And he's doing it with some very upsetting metaphors.
Why would you tell a potential lover that you wanted to make smoked, cooked flesh out of and/or with them. Unless that lady pig has an alarmingly specific fetish, that ain't gonna work out, Pudgy.
Either way, this weird courtship proves that Pudgy is actually truly Norman at heart, and --- in a plot complication that defies all logic --- his appearance was actually just a distraction to lure the Rangers to a nearby farm while a giant-sized Goldar smashed up the town. And keep in mind, this plan requires the Rangers to be distracted... from a ten-story manticore in gold armor.
Needless to say, it doesn't really work out. The Rangers summon the Megazord and make quick work of Goldar, who teleports back to the moon (and his normal height) rather than being bisected. As for Norman, Billy's able to reverse the process --- it turns out that the countdown device was actually "a transformer," which somehow didn't get them sued by Hasbro --- and love blooms in the pigsty.
Which, incidentally, means that the Rangers literally gave Bulk's pet away to someone else, which is a pretty astonishing dick move. But since Bulk and Skull are now terrified of pigs after being menaced by Pudgy, I guess it all works out?
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: When Pudgy Pig originally appeared, I ranked him at 5 out of 10. By the third time he shows up, that has to go down a bit, right? 3/10
Radness of the Music: There aren't any new original songs in this episode, but there is a pretty bizarre moment during Zack's fight with the Putties where someone decided to punctuate a karate move by playing Chopin's Funeral March on a children's xylophone. 7/10
Bulk and Skull Friendship: These poor guys. 6/10
Moral Lessons: Hey, if you know someone who's a little overweight and they want a pet, give them a pig, and then take that pig away as soon as they start to like it. What is wrong with you, Power Rangers? 0/10
'90s Fashions: Okay, instead of talking about the fashion, there's something more pressing this week. At one point, Trini says that she hopes these pets "land up" at a good home --- Land up, not end up. At first, I thought this was some weird Netflix subtitle thing, like how Netflix assured me that Skull said "come on, Hulk" at one point in this episode, but no, that's clearly what she says. Is "land up" some kind of weird mid-'90s California slang, or is this show just completely off the rails at this point? Someone please tell me. 5/10
Total For Episode 41: 21/50