Time, and Relative Characterization in Pet Shops: “The Treasure of Henrietta Twombly” review

It’s kinda interesting how television works. We have a cast of characters we stick with, and can follow over time, as they develop and evolve in a slow and methodical manner.

Very few other mediums do this. Films are quite stand alone, we follow our characters for two hours, then never see them again. Or we get to see them for another two hours, and then maybe another two hours after that.

Books often times act like films in the same capacity, featuring standalone adventures, and a second one if they’re lucky. Of course there is the exception of proper series which could last for dozens of books, and often act like TV shows in that sense.

So I find that an interesting aspect of television. Where we meet the characters, learn about them, and sorta get used to them. So, if the show decides to dramatically change the setting for a single episode; like, say, 100 years into the past for a series of flashbacks; it can be a bit jarring, since we’re introduced to a whole new set of characters we’ve never seen before.

So, because of this, the writers often create duplicates. They keep characters we’re familiar with, and just transplant them into this new setting.

There’s even one film series that couldn’t avoid it: Back to the Future! You see, in Parts II and III we meet characters in 2015 and 1885 who are played by the same actors who played 1955 characters in the original film. Now they are, obviously, completely different characters, but they fit similar archetypes, and have similar roles in the plot. For instance, Thomas F. Wilson plays Biff, Griff and Buford Tannen, and all three characters are major antagonists at different points in history. During the films Marty also gets the chance to meet his son, daughter, and one of his ancestors, all played by him. That’s right, I did say ‘daughter.’

It’s a lot less jarring to see faces we’re somewhat familiar with, rather than a completely new cast. And it’s easy to get a sense of what their roles are when their faces are so familiar.

Sliders also did this. The show took place in a new universe every week, but it wasn’t uncommon to see the background cast and guest stars to be composed of familiar faces. Duplicates of characters we’ve seen before, or even duplicates of the main cast. But it’s used with a slightly different purpose, either using a case of mistaken identity for dramatic effect, or throwing us for a loop by having the duplicate of one of our heroes be the episode’s primary antagonist.

I kinda like this trope, it’s interesting seeing the characters we love in a different setting. See how a different environment would change them, even if they’re not technically the same characters.

Which brings me to a recent episode of Littlest Pet Shop, involving a treasure hunt, and flashbacks to the American frontier. This is gonna be fun!

The episode opens with the title sequence of a shitty reality show called Treasure Hunters.

I’ve seen a few of those shows. Since moving to the College dorms I’ve actually gotten basic cable, which is something I would never pay money for. But sometimes I’d wake up early, and not be in the mood to actually do anything, so I’d watch the Discovery Channel or something. It can be quite interesting, but after an hour or so, you’re thinking: Why the fuck am I watching this!? I’m not learning anything useful, other than: Working as a tow truck driver is hard. Then again, maybe that’s the point. Some people don’t appreciate those kinds of fields. Then you have that show about prospectors in Iceland. They’re looking for any kind of gold vein in the area, which is interesting. Then an avalanche happens and I yell at them to get the fuck out of Iceland! No amount of gold is worth your life!

But my favourite was a show called Income Property, which was about people deciding to renovate their shitty basement into a proper rental property that someone could live in. It ended with the host showing off the finished product. Then they turn to the front door where a bunch of people lined up to view the property and the host says: Alright, I’ll leave and act like I’m just another prospective renter, who just decided to leave a full camera crew behind! Not only that, a whole bunch of interested parties all already lined up when the first person knocks? Fuck you, that was staged. I find it impossible to believe they all arrived at the same time!

So where am I going with this? Well, I’ll come back to it. But this show, as the name implies, are about a team of treasure hunters. I say ‘team’ it’s actually one guy, one annoying Australian guy named Riley Robinson. And his latest hunt leads him to, of course, the Littlest Pet Shop. So, Reilly, and an entire television crew, bursts in with no one signing waivers.

And I mean an entire television crew! With lights and wires running across the floor, and dozens of teamsters eating from the snack table. It’s insane! One would think their production equipment would be a bit more portable.

Blythe is not so happy with this turn of events, and is a bit surprised that Twombly doesn’t bother kicking them out. I certainly would. Especially after the rude producer from last season’s So You Skink You Can Dance pushes them out of frame so they can begin filming.

When the pets learn that Treasure Hunters will be filming in the pet shop, both Vinnie and Zoe try to get acting jobs. Until Pepper gives the lowdown, explaining what a reality show is: “Instead of getting actors to pretend stuff, they get regular people to pretend stuff.”

Yeah, that pretty much sums up a lot of what I was getting at earlier.

So, turns out Pepper’s a big fan of the show. But she becomes less of a fan when she learns why they’re here. Seems there might be treasure buried under the shop, which we learn about through a flashback to the late 1800s… or early 1900s, I’m not sure.

Anyway, seems a Twombly ancestor used to live on the same plot of land.

This is Henrietta Twombly, and according to legend, she talked to her pets: A dog, a skunk, a hedgehog, a monkey, a mongoose, a panda and a gecko; whom she named Dog, Skunk, Hedgehog, Monkey, Mongoose, Panda and Gecko… respectively. Turns out this incarnation of Twombly is actually quite boring. But yeah, it’s the same pets we already know, only living over 100 years ago.

We also meet our villains, the Biskit Brothers!

BWAHAHAHAHA! A.K.A. the Biskit twins in drag! I love this! They even wear the same hair pins! You think the animators would’ve scrapped that, but it does add to the absurdity of it all!

Anyway, Past Twombly shows the Past Pets her ‘treasure,’ with the line: “As long as you have this treasure, my sweeties, you’ll never go hungry.”

It’s a trunk full of pet food! I’m calling it now, it’s pet food! They’ll never go hungry because it’s pet food.

But all the Biskits hear is ‘treasure,’ so they assume it’s gold or something.

Back in present day, the Australian prick is showing off a map that leads to the treasure, so they did a hole in the middle of the shop, not upsetting Twombly for some bizarre reason.

Pepper is also quite enthralled, but Russell bursts her bubble by explaining that it’s unlikely Twombly will see one red cent, citing the legal precedent of ‘finders keepers, losers weepers,’ which is actually not even close to true. So, our Mephitidite heroine covertly snatches the map, and spots a crucial clue. Which isn’t revealed to us until after another flashback where the Biskits break into Twombly’s home to steal the treasure, and the pets quickly hide it.

But before they can track it down, the local Sheriff arrives.

Oh, that is so apt! She should be some type of crime fighter in the present, since she already has a superpower.

I do find it a bit disappointing though, that we never learn whether or not Past Blythe or Past Twombly have the same powers as Present Blythe. They say Past Twombly talks to her pets but not whether they talk back. I think that would’ve been interesting to include. Some hint that Present Blythe isn’t the first one with animal-talking powers.

But I can overlook that. I can even overlook the fact that there’s a female Sheriff given the rampant sexism one would typically find in that era. Women didn’t get the vote in Canada until 1917, in the US until 1920; and as for the specific state of New York, it was also 1917. They say these scenes take place over 100 years ago, and it’s 2013, do the math. I know some may argue that, much like the Biskits, Blythe might have also had a gender swap, but her chest begs to differ. But I really don’t care, since I like this scene way too much. We’ll just say she’s just that good at crime fighting. A crack shot, and a hard ass! The Annie Oakley of Downtown City, with a touch of Wyatt Earp. I wanna write that story now!

Then again, if she was that good, she probably would’ve arrested the Biskits much more readily. Instead, even though it’s obvious they were guilty of breaking and entering, she lets them go with a warning.

Back in the present, we finally find out what the map was all about. Turns out, a hedgehog quill was traced out perfectly, which means the instructions the Australian douche was following wasn’t written for humans, but hedgehogs! This leads them to the alley beside the pet shop, where they learn they can’t dig through concrete.

Thankfully there’s a manhole cover nearby, which they move to reveal another flashback.

Seems the Biskit Brothers bought all the land around Twombly’s house, and started a major construction project. Which I’m not sure is exactly legal.

And it seems Twombly agrees since she walks off to find our resident Sheriff.

Then, the Biskits sneak down a hole, trying to find the treasure, which somehow works, and I shouldn’t have to explain why it shouldn’t.

Alright, I will. Even if they know the treasure is buried on Twombly’s land, that’s still enough of an area that just digging a tunnel would not result in them magically finding it. Unless they knew exactly where it was buried, which I don’t see how they would. The only way for that to work would be for them to dig a giant cavern beneath her house, which would result in the ground collapsing, and her home falling into a big pit.

Back in the present, the pets emerge from the manhole, with no treasure, and they assume the Biskit Brothers took it.

Suddenly, annoying prick announces that Twombly found an old blueprint to Sweet Delights, which she had for some reason, which clearly displays a secret room sealed into the wall.

So the rude bastard bursts into that shop and breaks down the wall, leaving Christie baffled.

By the way, Buttercream is still irritating.

Cue flashback, where the Super Biskit Brothers take the treasure, and after a chase sequence with the pets, and Sheriff, hide it in a wall.

Back in the present, Riley announces his discovery! “Look at this! I can’t believe what my eyes are s- there’s nothing in here.”

What a fucking tool.

After they leave, Pepper does some C.S.I.ing, and spots some paw prints on the ground. Flashback again to a crazy Benny-Hill-like chase sequence where the pets reclaim the treasure, and the Biskits try to chase them down.

Back in the present, our heroes follow their predecessors’ paw prints, likely preserved due to the fact that they were running through freshly poured concrete.

But eventually, they reach a dead-end, and decide to do some deductive reasoning. They determine that the most likely location for the treasure, since it was in the custody of the pets, was in their home, the hollow tree.

And it just so happens the tree was where the dumb-waiter is now.

They get in and start climbing up. Pepper confident they’ll find some type of clue.

But Penny’s grip slips and they begin to plummet, and oddly, break through the bottom of the shaft.

You know, after all the dumbwaiter crashes that have happened on this show, I’m shocked that it never broke sooner.

But eventually, they do stop, and find themselves in some type of underground cavern, with the treasure in their paws.

Another flashback, where the Biskits cut down Twombly’s tree, which lands on her cottage.

Which, unsurprisingly, is enough to give Sheriff Baxter reasonable cause to arrest them.

Why are they so shocked!? They destroyed her house! And it wasn’t in a subtle or quiet way!

But Twombly cuts a deal with them. They build her a nicer home, she won’t press charges. Cunning.

And so, we witness the birth of Twombly’s Feed Shop, which’ll eventually transform into the Littlest Pet Shop, which we know today.

So the present pets call for help, and Blythe and Riley pull them out. But then, the Australian turns into a dick again, as he claims the treasure, much to Pepper’s chagrin.

And yeah, it’s pet food. Plus one book, which I didn’t expect. A recipe book written by Henrietta. So now, present Twombly will be able to sell some of past Twombly’s recipes. Her legacy lives on!

Though, I find that a bit underwhelming. Granted, it makes sense given the context; but it would have been much more interesting to see something like a few gold coins buried at the bottom of the chest, especially after Riley was so dismissive of the whole thing.

But in the end, it certainly is treasure! It’s a family heirloom that Twombly had no idea she had. Now she can carry on an old family legacy. Everything’s a treasure to someone!

And that’s the episode. All in all, it’s a good one. But it didn’t manage to blow me away at any point, nor was it laugh out loud funny. But it was amusing, and we got a bit of back story on the history of Downtown City, and Littlest Pet Shop specifically. The only thing I think was missing was some back story on Blythe’s superpowers, which would’ve been nice. I’m surprised they haven’t gone that route yet. It’s a bit perplexing. Think of the potential, writers! Blythe can’t be the only one!

But I’m getting distracted. It’s a good episode, but not great. And that’s all that’s left to say. See you next time!


2 responses to “Time, and Relative Characterization in Pet Shops: “The Treasure of Henrietta Twombly” review

    • I plan to. But with college work over the past three years, and my own personal apathy, I’m just well behind on all of it. But I’m glad someone out there is interested. Thank you. This might just be the motivation I need.

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