Friday, June 20, 2014

Kim Possible: A Study of the Episode "Two to Tutor"

Kim Possible was an animated show that premiered on the Disney Channel.  With its surprisingly high-quality stories and sharp, interesting characters, it was one of the few cartoon shows I watched at a time when I was out-growing cartoon shows.  Kim Possible was a teenage superhero who went to school in the daytime and saved the world at night.  She had a best friend side-kick named Ron Stoppable who was clumsy and failed a lot, but good-hearted.  Rounding out the team was Rufus, the pet naked mole rat owned by Ron.  My favorite episode of Kim Possible is Two to Tutor, and I’m going to explain why below. 

First of all, it contains the most interesting of all villain subplots.  In fact, I would argue that the villain subplot is best part of the episode.  (Not that Kim Possible main plot is bad; more on that later).  Senor Senior Sr. is an evil mastermind of a villain and his son, Senor Senior Jr., is the one of the dumbest sons of a villain ever.  He cares more about his hair and looking buff than being a superhero.  Well, in this story, Senior has finally had enough and hires…Shego.  Shego is the sarcastic sidekick of borderline insane villain Doctor Drakken, and one of the smartest villains in the Kim Possible roster (in a typical Drakken-Shego episode, she exists to point out the flaws of Drakken’s plan).  Shego immediately stops Junior’s lounging around and starts setting up various mock-up scenarios for Junior to steal something.  The thing is, it actually works!  Junior actually gets better, to the surprising chagrin of Senior, who is pushed to wayside whenever he wanders in on Junior and Shego are practicing.  The reason it works is because it show two typical villains in nontypical roles: Shego as a teacher and Junior as someone who actually gets smarter and better.  I found myself rooting for Junior because of his better performance.  But he was a villain so he has to get his comeuppance.  But it was especially fun to see Shego guide him to improvement.  Then they decide to steal something for real…

The main plot of Kim Possible is her struggle in Home Economics, specially blending for a cooking class.  This is also fascinating, because the tagline of the show is “she can do anything.”  But for one episode, Kim actually struggles with doing something: Home Economics, which a “stereotypical” girl should be great at.  Ron, however, is a natural in the class (another flip of the “stereotypical” expected behaviors).  He is patient with her and tries to teach Kim a zen-like approach to cooking.  After a few failures, Kim is ready to give up and wonders how she can complete the assignment.  To make matters worse, Ron’s cooking is so popular he decides to open a new restaurant – within the Home Ec. classroom.

The way the two stories intersect is Junior and Shego decide to go after the cookie recipe for Granny Crockett’s Frontier Cookies. Kim and Ron know that Junior and Shego are working together but don’t know why.  After that both Ron (and Junior) find what they’re looking for by suggesting a web search for “really valuable” and “heavily guarded” (!). Kim and Ron find it a few hours before Junior and Shego arrive and wait for their eventual break-in.  Shego and Junior do break in like pros but they didn’t count on Kim and Ron waiting for them.  Shego and Kim fight over a large blender and Kim falls in.  Shego turns it on, but Kim, having learned her lesson from Ron, becomes “one with the mixer” and comes out alive by grabbing and holding tight to the metal spinning beaters.  Kim comes out of it alive and surprises Shego.  Meanwhile, Ron can’t physically match Junior, but when he comes on the conveyer belt ready to fight, Rufus dumps cookie dough all over him, rendering him incapable of fighting back.  Of course, both Shego and Junior escape at the last second.  Given the nature of the cartoon, it’s unlikely that Junior will remember the lesson he’s learned, but he does say to Shego after Senior tells him he no longer needs her services, “You changed my life.  I will never forget you.”  Finally, Ron’s restaurant was shut down (something about a naked mole rat serving food), but Kim shows her prowess with the mixer and admits to Ron she had a great tutor. 

Two To Tutor is great because it flips general conventions of both the villains and the heroes themselves.  The characters are the most interesting they’ve ever been, and we can’t wait to watch what happens.  This makes it one of the best episodes of the show.

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