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Episode 49: "Plumbers Academy"

CARTOON SUMMARY

We start with a shot of a strange, day-glo blue castle with grape-purple pastel rooftops. The Mario gang run past, shrieking their heads off. Roughly 4, 3 seconds of emptiness later, Koopa runs past with some Troopas. Ah, the lameness of SMBSS chase scenes shines again. Mario, as the narrator then explains that they're in a bit of a tricky situation. No further details are specified, we'll never know what has led up to this completely suspenseless chase scene in one of Koopa's castles (I'm presuming it's his, at any rate). Still, the way this show works, no plot at all is probably better than a standard crap plot.

Anyway, after some running around, the Mario gang find themselves "surrounded" more or less. And that means a bit of a fight scene. Now, if they stop running away like wimps and actually try to fight less than one minute into the episode, we are seriously violating the laws of SMBSS cookie-cutter boring plots. Still, this is compensated by the fact that only Mario and Luigi fight. Toad and the Princess remained glued in place, watching the birdies or something. Mouser and some Koopa Troopas attack with thin rapiers. Mario and Luigi retaliate by using a yellow plunger and a yellow wrench respectively. Quite how oddly-colored common house or garden plumbing tools will safeguard one from sharp and pointy weapons of death is not very clear, but it seems to work here. During the clash, Koopa grabs the Princess' wrist and drags her off the celluloid, while her voice actress yelps out an extremely wooden and lifeless "yow" (or maybe she's saying "yawn"). Mario decides that it's time to whip out the big guns and throws his yellow plunger at Koopa. Animation gaffe; the yellow plunger suddenly turns red while it's hurtling through the air. The animation supervisor has been dragged out in the street and shot for this. Mario's amazing color-changing (but mostly yellow) plunger glues itself to Koopa's nose, and the Princess runs away. Another animation gaffe here, though less noticeable; Koopa looks as if he's half-embedded into the wall and hovering over the ground due to misplaced celluloid layers. Woops.

Not pleased with having his nose stuck into a big condom on a stick, Koopa then pulls on a pair of pastel-lavender Dim extra soft-touch stockings (size L, also available in plain or pink). This causes the ground under the Mario gang to cave in. They plummet into a deep pit, and land completely unharmed at the bottom. Well, what did you expect, that they'd actually fatally injure themselves from a long fall down to a hard surface? Our heroes are now imprisoned in Koopa's pit-thingie. Which is not very tragic, as he won't kill them anyways. He never does, the twot. Instead, Koopa takes on a suggestive pose and orders Mouser to pull the funky plunger off his nose, but Mouser fails miserably.

Meanwhile, down in the Pit of Death (c), Mario is sulking over the fact that his dear yellow plunger is lost, as it has remained stuck on Koopa's nose (look for a very small dubbing error when Luigi first speaks to the de-motivated Mario). Who cares about your shitty plunger anyways, Mario? Well, nobody in the world does, but Mario tries to make a big deal about it because he got the crummy thing from some president of some United States or something. Toad is impressed. We're not. It's only the ruler of some dodgy place where McDonalds comes from. But all the same, Mario begins to tell the elaborate story of How He Got Some Plunger, complete with a lengthy flashback that will take up most of this episode. Now, one short, faintly niggly point that needs to be made for the sake of logistics. Mario and co are stuck at the bottom of this pit, in the grasp of their mortal enemy, desperately seeking a way out of this horrible peril during the few instants they still have left to live, -so why in bloody hell would they want to listen to a long, stupid flashback story all this time?!-. For Pete's sake, now is not a moment for nostalgia, nobody in their right minds would care about Mario's story in a moment like this. But in the SMBSS, they're all out of their minds, so everyone pulls up a cozy chair and listens to Mario's 7:42 minute monologue. It's not like they have anything better to do.

On to Mario's dumb story, then. A flashback begins, back in the days when he and Luigi went to some academy for their "basic draining" (hilarity works it's side-splitting ways again). If this episode's title is to be taken into account, they went to the only academy in the world that has a spelling mistake in it's name. Makes sense for two cretins of Mario and Luigi's degree. It also looks as if the Mario bros don't age, as they look exactly the same in this flashback as they do in the present-day scenes. Now, as luck would have it, they stumble onto a fat and extremely unpleasant plumbing instructor of sorts who is called Sergeant Kooperman and wears a bizarre brown costume with vague airs of military attire to it. Since his voice actor is the same as Koopa's, he's obviously supposed to be a mirror-image of our favorite overweight foot-fetishist. But the Sergeant also vaguely looks like Wario due to his deformed giant nose. Look for a fat plumber in yellow and purples dungarees as well in this scene, who's standing next to a skinny plumber with creepy eyes and a foot-long convex nose. These two look vaguely like Wario and Waluigi, but don't do anything at all. Anyway, Kooperman immediately hates Mario and Luigi, which is a perfectly natural reaction, and he sito presto decides that he's going to make them fail miserably at their plumber-training.

Sergeant Kooperman proceeds to subject the Mario brothers to some severely inhumane treatment. He makes them walk around with bathtubs over their heads. Then, he orders them to climb up long ladders, still with the bathtubs on their heads. Maz and Lui chuck the laws of gravity away and walk up the ladders instead. But once they've accomplished this task, ol' Kooperman orders them to do it all over again, which results in some very clumsily-cut footage, where the Sergeant-man moves his lips for no reason at all. Also note that Kooperman has the superhuman ability to produce a megaphone out of thin air when he needs to shout a little bit louder. After that, Mario and Luigi must unclog a sink in a very tight time limit. A dubbing error sneaks in which causes Mario to speak in Luigi's voice, just when you thought things couldn't get any worse. They end up unclogging those sinks, and badly-drawn sewer rubbish splashes into Kooperman's face. He's not amused and declares that the Mazza bros are now on K.P. Wuzzat? Krap Plots? Nope, it means Killer Plumbing.

This Killer Plumbing translates into the two brothers having to dig a deep hole into the ground for no reason at all. Doesn't seem very Killer to me, and not all that Plumbing-based either, but oh well. When Mario whines about wanting a drink of water, Kooperman tells them to get out of the pit and gives them one last assignment; they must fix together a bunch of pipes within a time limit, but they can't use wrenches. They slot the pipes together into some kind of creaky contraption in 2,36 seconds. The Sergeant then turns on the water, and predictably, the whole pipe-complex collapses and crashes down.

What happens next is extremely difficult to describe in words. I've rewinded the scene a dozen times (no wonder people say I have a masochist streak), and I still can't understand one thing of what is going on. What seems to happen is this (take a deep breath and try to follow); Maz and Lui's pipe-structure, after falling apart tumbles to the ground and lands in such a way that it forms a neat, fully hermetically sealed fence around them. Which, of course, is completely impossible, but it gets even more strange. The water is still running, and it's gradually filling up this pipe-fence area, which really does seem to be completely hermetically cut off from the rest of the world, as not one drop of water leaks out of it. Instead, it gradually fills with water, threatening to drown Maz and Lui (que some movingly lifeless cries from a very bored-sounding Luigi). Sergeant Kooperman then cold-bloodedly decides to murder the Mario brothers. This is one of the few occasions when the imminent death of the Mario bros is actually mentioned in so many words. And because he tries to kill them for such a petty reason and in such a bizarre way, it becomes screamingly funny. What Kooperman does is to haphazardly dump a bunch of pipes on top of the improbable pipe-wall that imprisons our heroes, thus creating a completely water-proof roof as if by miracle. It is absolutely ridiculous to look at. Did the writers think, for one minute that such a completely impossible plot element would be believed? You can even -see- clear gaps between the pipes when their prison-thingie is drawn in full view, the water should be pouring out of it by gallons. The way Mario and Luigi save their lives is equally ridiculous. They just push against the pipes, which brings everything crashing to pieces while it was solid enough to hold tons of water without leaking a drop just an instant ago. A large flood of water washes the Mario brothers away, and they find themselves in front of a statue of the legendary plumber Salvadore Drainado. And for you good kiddies with good memories, yes, that is the same person as the annoying character from episode 14. Mario looks at a dumb motto on this statue, which highly inspires him, but Luigi prefers to push off and try to become a librarian. Super Mario Librarians, has a pleasingly stupid ring to it.

Out in the street, Maz and Lui spot a hastily drawn semi-crowd. Qué passa? A rather rude policeman informs them that the US president in question is driving the current Russian president around Brooklyn. Hmm, so we get cold war era politically sensitive issues suggested here? In the worst animated show in the world? Heck, anything can happen. The Marios decide to stay and watch.

Kooperman, meanwhile, proves us that he can act just as stupidly as the Mario brothers. He's trying to fix this ugly woman's sink, but it doesn't work. Outside, large sacks of something called "Drain Buster" are waiting for him, so he decides to resort to this method. Only, in a highly debile move, he picks up a sack of rapid-drying concrete instead. It even says "fast-dry concrete" on the sack in huge letters, so how they could get mixed up is beyond me. Maybe Sergeant Kooperman can't read. He dumps the concrete into the sink. Oddly, his clothes have turned green in this scene. And just for good measure, he then starts to chuck sackfulls of the same fast-drying concrete mixture into the sewers. Some dopey-looking road workers point out this faux pas to Kooperman. They seem angry that he's using "their" concrete, even though they let him rip off the concrete right under their noses just a minute ago. This, of course, spells disaster.

Maz and Lui are still eagerly waiting for these president characters to show up. They eventually do; some simply drawn facsimiles of apparently Gorbartschov and one of those Yank blokeys (I can't keep learning their new names, they're all the same to me anyways) whizz past in a sunroof Audi all-terrain station wagon with airbags and built-in CD player, available in gray, black and metallic blue. The crowd is voiced by some blokey who goes "oi oi oi" all the time, and it's all over in less than four seconds. Some excitement. However, disaster then strikes; the sewers burst open and a lot of suspiciously pastel-blue water floods the streets in rather unconvincing fashion. The presidential Volkswagen is being mellowly pushed backwards (note that it suddenly has oddly miscoloured Spanish-Japanese flags on it instead of the Russo-Yank ones from a while ago). All the bystanders run away shrieking. The situation is drastic; at this rate, Russian Vodka import rates might go up in all of Brooklyn. Only a plumber can save the day now. And Mario, disregarding Luigi's whimpering decides that this is their chance to prove their worth as true plumbers.

So Mario and Luigi steal some flippers and scuba masks from a diving equipment store (yellow ones for Mario, salmon-color ones for Luigi), with another warbly insert song in the background. They also steal a pneumatic drill from some more dopey construction workers, and dramatically dive into the water from a high platform. After some paddling through the strangely clean-looking sewers where they encounter an alligator with some cute babies, who immediately runs away, the Mario brothers find a big wall of concrete in the water pipes. Not sure if sacks of concrete formula dumped into the sewers would really form into a neat wall in one spot, but what do I know. Using his stolen drill, Mario eliminates this wall, and in a very rushed scene, the water vanishes from the streets, and the happy little presidential parade trundles along again. Hooray. Maz and Lui receive the honors, and at some kind of temple-building, a blokey with smokey-blue Ray Ban glasses hands them a yellow plunger for Mario and a yellow wrench for Luigi.

Which is all very nice, but it doesn't alter the fact that Mario and co are still stuck in the pit in Koopa's castle in the present time. A little pep-talk from the Princess makes them move their arses, however. Using the yellow wrench Luigi still has handy, they screw open some nearby pipes sticking out of the walls (there are always some pipes around -somewhere- here). This causes large amounts of water to flood their pit-prison, allowing them to swim upwards and away into freedom. Just another illogical, but handy use of water. Note that Luigi seems to be holding a severed hand or something while they're swimming out of the pit. Now to get Mario's plunger back...

Koopa, meanwhile, is playing with his S&M dungeon toys. He's strapped down to a wooden rack, while Mouser uses some kind of motion-powered contraption to try and violently pull the plunger off Koopa's nose. The whole scene is dripping with kinky overtones, so typical of Koopa. But his playthings don't succeed in getting the plunger off, so Mouser fetches a bowl of pepper and suggest Koopa takes a "big schniff" of it (oh, sniffing powder on camera again, boys?). This doesn't work, though, because Koopa can't inhale anything with the plunger on his nose. Mario and his group barge in at this moment, and Mario shoves the bowl of pepper in Mouser's face. For no reason whatsoever, Mario is suddenly wearing yellow scuba diving glasses again in this shot. Mouser hurls himself off the celluloid, sneezing like a maniac. Toad and the Princess take advantage of this to roll Mouser up in the rose-pink carpet adorning the floor. The now sausage-ised Mouser is then locked in a cupboard, where he screams bloody murder. Using plain brute manual force, the mythical yellow plunger is then ripped from Koopa's nose by the combined efforts of the Mazza bunch. Cruelly, they leave Koopa strapped down to his dominance-table even though he did ask nicely to be freed.

They rush out of Koopa's castle, and into the green fields of freedom. Look closely to see the jewel on the Princess' dress getting miscoloured. Mario is dead happy to have his plunger back. He then says something completely unfunny which still gives everyone hysterics, and the yellow plunger painfully turns red again during the last shot. Ouch.

WHAT'S GOOD?
  • A brave attempt to do something a little different than the usual boring filler-episode fare, which if anything, does make a change.
  • The scenes between Mouser and Koopa, strapped down on his S&M table are rich in perverse implications.
  • The brief shot of the swimming sewer-crocodile family is adorably cute.
  • Implications of Cold War-era political issues, although very slight, are sort of interesting.
  • An attempt to show some of Maz and Lui's past seems like a good enough idea, and the change of settings is appreciated.
WHAT'S BAD?
  • The one scene where the Mario Brothers end up trapped in this mysterious, and completely water-proof pipe-wall embodies all that is so horribly wrong with this show. It's so rubbish as to almost become unwatchable.
  • There are one or two major coloring gaffes throughout this episode, and while they don't plague the overall ep as much as in some others, they do stick out very painfully (ergo, Mario's supposedly special yellow/gold plunger turning red).
  • In a mere space of ten minutes, both the whole flashback story and the present-day jostle at Koopa's castle had to be set up, which means a lot of elements are shamefully rushed, flimsy and lacking in impact.
  • Many parts of the plot seem -terribly- dumb (the concrete mix-up thing, for instance).
  • What intense or action-ish moments are thrown in are all pretty tame and over in just a few seconds. Little to no suspense is the result.
  • Water is drawn rather poorly and used to the characters advantage or disadvantage in several completely illogical ways.
OVERALL
There is, buried deep under the dumb plot elements and big coloring errors, a small glint of promise in this episode. The meat of the storyline is something refreshingly different from the usual plot formula. Okay, it's still rather dumb, full of lame non-humour and completely unfathomable plotholes. The scene where Maz and Lui are menaced to "drown" in their pipe-prison remains etched in animation history as one of the most rancidly stinky dog turds ever to have been written and drawn. Koopa fans will no doubt be pleased with the little dungeon scene between him and Mouser. Other than that, this is just like every SMBSS episode; an example of utterly awful and loathsome animation. But it deserves a few bonus points for at least bravely -trying- something a little new.

EPISODE RATING: 2.5/5.0

LIVE-ACTION SEGMENT
The Mario brothers receive a strange phonecall; supposedly, it's their president on the line, telling them that the Russian premier Gorbartschov is in Brooklyn and on his way to visit them, of all people. For once, Maz and Lui actually react normally enough and presume that this whole phonecall is some kind of dumb joke. They hang up after retaliating with some high-degree verbal abuse (well, a pun attempt from Mario, actually, which is about as severe as verbal abuse can get, come to think of it). But, in a move of great non-surprise, a blokey who vaguely looks like Gorby himself then pops up. He's short, fat and bald and has a mark on his forehead, which is probably close enough a resemblance for a show with such low expectations. He's also accompanied by Boris; a blokey with a hearing aid who's as authentically Russian as I am a pure-blood Tahiti native. The purpose of Gorby's visit is that he wants to learn the secret of the Mario bros' infamous pizza-cooking method. Fine then, but things start to look hairy when the Gorby lookalike, in a fit of meddly creativity begins to mix in several ingredients of his own into the pizza, which Mario reckons are rather dodgy (they're Yank actors, after all, they can't deal with anything foreign without denigrating it). A catastrophe is imminent; if the Gorby facsimile eats this pizza and decides it's disgusting, an international crisis of terrifying scope could break loose, or so Luigi reckons. Maybe even worse than the mad cow's disease outbreak or the release of a Best of Boyzone CD. Despite some attempts from Luigi to avert the inadvertible, comrade Gorby does taste the pizza, and while his initial reaction seems negative, he actually really lurrves it. He then pushes off, overflowing with enthusiasm for everything good and Yankee (allright then, one blow in favor of the hamburger-chompers; they have a knack for making petty fun of other nations when they're not making themselves look like utter idiots). Note that, with it's politically sensitive content and of course complete awfulness, this little travesty could have very well triggered off global nuclear warfare if it had been shown to Russian eyes in the cold war period. You'll never believe how close they came.