In 20 years Mabel is going to rob the world blind. And Stan will be so proud.
After Mabel accuses Stan of being a terrible boss, the two make a bet: that he can make more money on vacation in three days than she can running the Mystery Shack. While Mabel starts off full of optimism, her determination to be 110% nice (and thus nothing like Stan) winds up leading to disaster.
While Mabel and Dipper’s relationship is definitely the most important to the show, Mabel and Stan’s might be my favorite. It’s a treat to watch their similarities emerge over the course of the show, particularly given that you’d think Stan’s initially crust aphorisms about “being a man” would (in another show) prevent him from really warming up to his grandniece as an equal. Instead, we have two characters with an excellent ability to read people, a burning desire for attention and to be liked (which, for Stan, has translated into the desire for financial gain; it’s complicated); and a boisterous, outgoing personality mixed with an unshakable protectiveness. Heck, they’re even both fair hands at crafting, if the various cobbled and apparently successful oddities around the shop are anything to go by. These similarities will pay deeper dividends later in the series, but they’re plenty enjoyable on their own, providing some great heartwarming quiet moments (see Stan coming away from his panhandling during “Double Dipper” to cheer Mabel on during the contest). To this day I mourn that we never got to see Stan teach Mabel how to box.
The rest of the character interactions are a big part in elevating this episode as well. While the plot is a pretty familiar one (Steven Universe did it too, with “Joking Victim,” and that’s just in recent memory), it’s elevated by the fact that most of what goes wrong isn’t just because the other characters are taking advantage of Mabel’s kindness. I mean sure, Wendy is, because she’s at that stage of teenagehood where empathy is rather less than premium; but Dipper and Soos are both excited to contribute. It’s a pleasantly nuanced depiction of leadership, expanding the lesson beyond the idea that one needs to “be tough” into the fact that you also have the hard job of nixing ideas that are enthusiastic but won’t work in the long haul. Little details like Mabel having no concrete conception of money until she has to pay for repairs to the Shack are great for authenticity as well (because of course the average 12 year old doesn’t get money, they’ve never had to provide for anything but their wants).
Topping it off with yet another solid balancing act on both Mabel and Stan being right and wrong seals the deal on this as a topnotch bonding episode between the main five. Surprisingly, this was a one-off story idea (submitted by Tommy Reahard), and it’s heads and shoulders above the others as far as fitting into the show’s developed tone and rhythm. Aside of the fact that even Stan is probably responsible enough not to leave two twelve year olds alone for three days. I choose to believe that Soos stayed over and made waffles of debatable quality. In the microwave.
Today in Fandom
Please don’t make me tell you about all the people who latched onto the idea of “furry Dipper” after this episode. Though it did lead to one excellent Twitter exchange where Hirsch offered to answer any question, and someone got there first with “is Dipper a furry.” To which the response was, “you had one chance, and you wasted it.”
Since this is an episode about Mabel taking over Stan’s job, it seems like a pretty good time to bring up one of the fandom’s many alternate universes: “Relativity Falls,” colloquially, was a collection of what-ifs age swapping the cast. So, kid Stan visiting his Grauntie Mabel for the summer, cool scruffy dude Manly Dan working the register, Soos’ abuela as the Shack’s constant fixture, and so on. I confess that I found the highlight of this one to be in the interpretations of Mabel (usually aged with more than a shade of Stan’s willingness to con suckers while retaining her love of handcrafted sweaters) – it’s pretty damn cool to see some of Stan’s more serious moments done up with a badass old woman.
CREDITS CIPHER: Heavy is the Head That Wears the Fez
That’s right, they classed it up with some Shakespeare this week (Henry IV, Part 2, in fact). Which, given that that play’s central figure plays at being a lowlife as part of his plan to lower everyone’s expectations of him and thus not notice his abilities in plotting. Hey, wait a minute…
According to the preview pages of the upcoming Journal 3, we may in fact have our answer to “who writes sentences like that?” (besides the obvious one, of course). It would seem that Ford and Fiddleford encountered the Gremloblin in the woods, and Ford was preemptively writing about how to defeat it after Fiddleford threw his canteen at it. This….this did not work, it seems.
More painfully, the book Mabel finds (Succeeding in Management 1983) is our first snapshot into Stan scrambling to make a living and start getting money to rebuild the portal. I’m not sure if I find it more likely that he read every book on the subject he could get (possibly “forgetting” to return most of them to the library) or just got that one and figured that he could wing his way through the rest of it using his con knowledge – we see firsthand that he’s excellent at thinking on the fly as far as exhibits are concerned; it was probably the more long term issues of sustainability that caused a snag. Certainly he did some serious reading, since the Mystery Shack (and its prior incarnations) has done a whole lot better than Stan’s previous disastrous business ventures.
And just to cap off the sad train, here we have yet another case of “Mabel and/or Dipper is successful because they have their sibling and friends to rely on, while one of the original Pines Twins fails because he is on his own.” But then, it says a lot of important things about Stan that he’s willing to spine up and accept being wrong…when he actually is wrong. Then again, 30 years of resentment on both sides has a way of warping things.