Evolving Integrity: “Hamster Hoods” review

I’m certain I’m not alone when I say, I want to be a better person. But that’s not easy. There are certain faults I have, that I know I have, that I just can’t seem to get past. One being a lack of self-motivation to write these reviews.

But how do you know what is a fault, and what is a virtue? My favourite example of this being: ‘faith.’ A lot of people think ‘faith’ is a virtue, and I could not disagree more. To believe in something when there’s no evidence for it, and even when there’s evidence to contradict it, is in no way a good thing. In fact, it might even be a sign of insanity.

To give you an example, let’s say a friend of yours swears that he did not brutally murder his girlfriend with a chef’s knife. He’s your friend, you trust him, and so you believe him. I can understand that. Now, lets say he swears this as he’s holding a chef’s knife, dripping with fresh blood, and standing over his girlfriend’s mangled corpse. If you still believe him at that stage, you need psychiatric care.

So I guess it’s good in moderation. Trust a friend, sure… until he proves you can’t.

But are there any absolute virtues? Traits that are always good, in all cases?

Tenacity’s a good one; the desire to never give up. It’s what got me through high school, and my first attempt at college. And most of the major advancements our society has gone through was only possible because of people who refused to give up when things got tough. The suffragettes, the civil rights movement, NASA…

But on the other side of the coin, you have those people who are trying to build perpetual motion machines. People who think that if they work hard, and keep at it, they can defy the fundamental laws of the universe. I imagine if they ever do succeed, it’ll just cause a system error and our entire universe would blink out and be replaced by a blue screen with white text on it.

What about honesty? Well, sometimes you have to lie. Take all those people in Nazi Germany who sheltered Jewish families during the holocaust. Honesty there would’ve gotten innocent people killed.

So, these traits are good in moderation. But too much of them can cause insanity, or just being downright evil. But there is one virtue which I think is absolute. One you can never have too much of: Integrity.

Integrity is basically being honest to yourself. Having a solid moral code you live up to, don’t compromise on, and don’t back down from. Of course, being completely immovable on basic issues isn’t good. But that’s not integrity, that’s just being stubborn. Take gay marriage for instance. Let’s say a politician who was against gay marriage suddenly 180s because he met a gay couple who seemed really nice, and were very much in love, and it made him realize that these people have as much a right to get married as the next couple. That displays a profound amount of honesty and integrity. On the flip side, if he changes his mind because a gay advocacy group promised him a million in campaign dollars, that would do the opposite.

So yes, integrity is most certainly a virtue. And such a virtue seemed to be the theme of a recent episode of Littlest Pet Shop.

The story is all about a string of robberies at Largest Ever Pet Shop, and so little happens in Downtown City that this is considered breaking news.

I guess when you don’t have a crack-smoking mayor, or a congressmen tweeting pictures of his junk, you take what you can get.

But anyway, regardless of how un-newsworthy this is, Fisher takes the opportunity to plug his store by saying: “We’re the only pet shop in Downtown City.”

Yeah, when I said this episode was about integrity, I didn’t mean everyone had it.

Yes, we’re continuing the odyssey of the new Fisher Biskit, post-pod-person-replacement.

Look, don’t get me wrong, I don’t think characters shouldn’t evolve. In fact, they should. But this isn’t evolution, this is regression. Fisher used to be an honest and successful business man, with a decent amount of integrity. Here, this integrity vanishes. Because the thing is, saying you’re “the only pet shop in Downtown City,” is so obviously and factually wrong, that no one would fall for it; and the fact that he even tried speaks volumes. Because I’ve never gotten the indication, before now, that Fisher was insecure. He’s a successful businessman! He should be more confident in his work! But no, instead he acts like a child, holding on to some deep-seated and irrational fear that he’s going to be run out of business, despite owning the largest and most successful pet shop in town. And now he’s resorting to cheap and ridiculous tactics that would only result in him losing the respect of every other pet shop owner in this city. And for what!?

True, recent episodes have shown that Littlest Pet Shop has been eclipsing them in sales, which might make his fear seem rational. But historically, one can assume they’ve done quite well; If they didn’t, a large store like that would’ve shut down years ago. So he should assume that it’s just a temporary fluke, and things will go back to normal soon enough. But he’s not, because he’s an idiot.

And I know what you’re thinking: “Wasn’t he always like this?”

Well, no. In the cake-off episode he demanded his daughters do the work themselves, rather than have Francois do it, and said he was proud they put some honest effort into their work despite the fact they lost; which showed a sincerity and honesty that is quite absent here. Continuing that, in the nest-hat episode, he insisted that the twins replace Blythe’s phone merely because it was the right thing to do. She wasn’t trying to charge them for it; in fact it appeared as if she was going to let it go. But Fisher insists they replace it, with their own money, nonetheless.

See what I mean when I say Fisher had integrity? And sadly, this isn’t a new thing. It really started during the food truck episode, when he suggested to his girls that the cornerstone of a good business plan is not to have a good product that the public wants, but to establish a monopoly by physically preventing anyone else from selling anything.

Not what I would call an ethical business practice. And this is nothing when you consider that subsequent episodes started turning him into a Captain Planet Villain.

But let’s leave this twit behind, and go over to the other pet shop, where Blythe and Twombly are watching this breaking news, and… alright, I’m well aware that this is terribly nitpicky, but there is a brief exchange between Twombly and Blythe that’s just terribly written. And I only bring it up, because it’s a joke structure I’ve seen before, and it goes like this:

Person A: I am very angry/annoyed/irritated.
Person B: Why? Because of the very obvious thing?
Person A: No, because of a relatively minor thing, or random joke.

This might be the laziest and most awkward method of building a joke I’ve ever seen. And I’ve seen it quite a few times, and am glad I finally get an opportunity to talk about it. The main problem here is the second line, which the character has no reason to actually say, and only exists to set up the third line. Why would she ask if it’s the obvious thing? She’d obviously assume it was the obvious thing without asking! Why? Because it’s the obvious thing! And the sad part is, it could be easily rewritten to be good! Particularly in this case. Here! I’ll do it now!

Twombly: Oh, that’s just terrible!
Blythe: I know!
Twombly: How dare Fisher say he runs the only pet shop in Downtown City!
Blythe: … Uh… I was talking about the robbery.
Twombly: Oh… that too.

And it’s actually funnier! Also, Blythe’s tone makes it seem as if Twombly being irritated at the robberies is unusual! No, that would be normal. Unless Twombly acting normal is considered abnormal.

But this is just one brief exchange. So let’s move on.

And after they speculate who might want to steal from a pet store of all places, Blythe decides to take the dumbwaiter back to her room, only to find it’s already full.

You think she would’ve noticed that stuff sooner.

Yes, apparently the dumbwaiter was filled with stolen merchandise from Largest Ever Pet Shop. How’d it get in there? No idea! I mean physically, it doesn’t look like it should’ve all fit. Hell, the thing was bursting at the seams! How’d they get the door closed. Regardless, Blythe is determined to return the merchandise to Largest Ever Pet Shop, since it belongs to them.

Yeah, I think we all know what’s going to happen, and so do the pets. They all warn Blythe that returning it would just make her look like the thief. But she’s undeterred, and promptly returns the merchandise.

So, of course the twins show up, and promptly accuse her of stealing it, but in an isolated display of moderate intelligence, ask the most logical question ever: Why would she steal it, only to promptly return it?

But of course they quickly forget that little bit of evidence, and continue to accuse her of thievery, and declare that they will prove that she and the pets are criminals!

Yeah, the pets as well. The pets are part of an international crime ring. Seriously! Why bring the pets into this!? What, do they think Blythe can talk to animals or something!? Well… she can… but they don’t know that! And then Blythe lets it slip that she has superpowers, because she’s about as good at keeping her identity secret as Spider-Man!

But it’s okay, since they immediately forget, because they’re thick.

Later that day, Blythe borrows Russell’s magnifying glass to begin her own investigation.

Though where she got the fingerprint dust is anyone’s guess.

Eventually, her search for any clues or trace evidence leads her to the wall behind the giant easy chair.

Again, you’d think they would’ve noticed it sooner.

So, she sends Vinnie and Pepper to investigate. Vinnie to facilitate travel, since he’s a gecko; and Pepper to act as a voice of reason, since she tends to be the most level-headed of the group. But Blythe doesn’t say that, she just acts as if she picked them randomly.

And they begin their journey, which should be very quick and-

… Okay, I think you might need a skein of thread there. I know what you’re thinking: What about bread crumbs? That was Hansel and Gretel! Get your mythology right!

Anyway, they forgo a method of returning, and eventually get lost. But once they realize they’re lost, they quickly find an exit, which is serendipitous. And it leads to Largest Ever Pet Shop.

Even more serendipitous. So now they know how the merchandise has been moving, but who’s been moving it?

Well, serendipity strikes again!

Okay, honestly, this is a bit contrived. Yes, turns out these two guys came up behind our heroic duo. A pair of cockney rodents from the Victorian era… because that makes sense. They explain that they’ve been providing needy animals in town with much-needed supplies… taken from Largest Ever Pet Shop. But they’re not stealing… they’re just borrowing stuff.

For those of you who don’t know, that’s her you’re-full-of-shit face.

But the owners of Largest Ever Pet Shop don’t need all this stuff, they argue. And the pets they help do. We even meet a few of them. They give a couple of balls to a pair of stray kittens; Not really a vital necessity. But they also give an exercise wheel to an overweight hamster, and a toy boat to a trio of ducklings who’s cries are driving their mother to the brink.

Shut up, you little cretins!

So they’re doing some good. But at the same time, they’re stealing! Yeah, Largest Ever Pet Shop doesn’t need the merchandise, and can afford the loss, but that’s beside the point! Fisher Biskit didn’t work his ass off to build a highly successful pet store, only for you to steal his goods!

But then, Vinnie has an epiphany: They’re just like Robin Hood! He robbed from the rich and gave to the poor! So what they’re doing must be good!

Well, that’s an oversimplification. You see, Robin Hood primarily robbed from the king, who was levying severe taxes, and generally abusing his power. In his view he was robbing people who robbed others. And besides, I don’t think he’s generally thought of as a hero, but an anti-hero.

But I understand why they didn’t explain that in the episode. However, I would’ve liked to see Pepper just say, “It’s not that simple, Vinnie.” Because that would’ve been enough.

And as I mentioned earlier, Pepper is the voice of reason. She’s the one who points out that stealing is wrong, and is quite steadfast in her belief. This is integrity. You know what’s right, and you know what’s wrong, and you stand by it. She’s obviously willing to hear other points of view, but doesn’t change her mind when the argument is based on fictional characters. You can’t just take stuff that doesn’t belong to you, no matter what you’re doing with it! And when the cockney rodents decide to steal some more goods, both Pepper and Vinnie decide to go after them. Only to get apprehended by the giant security robot.

Yes, because a couple stray pets are a major security threat.

So, the rodents, realizing how bad things’ve gotten, head straight to Littlest Pet Shop, because they can’t do anything to fix this on their own.

Meanwhile, Blythe’s been dealing with the Biskit twins, who were trying to get her to confess to the robbery, by emulating TV characters.

Surprise! They suck at interrogation. But they’re determined to prove Blythe did it, rather than just go where the evidence might lead. Sadly, a lot of cops act this way, which causes many of the most abhorrent miscarriages of justice you can name. They’re so certain of their gut instincts, that not even the evidence can prove them wrong. That’s shows a lack of integrity to me.

Anyway, with Vinnie and Pepper captured, and the thieves finally identified, it’s time for Blythe to set things right. She heads straight to Largest Ever Pet Shop to reclaim the pets. But can’t get past the Biskits who cry, “We caught them here just as they were about to steal more stuff!” Because that makes total sense! Animal thieves! It’s a major problem! Are they drunk!?

Yes, the actual thieves are animals, but they don’t know that! And let’s be honest: The idea of animals robbing the place is pretty absurd. The only one who even knows they’re sentient is Blythe! Unless Whittany can talk to animals too!

… Now there’s an idea!

Anyway! Out of nowhere, the news crew from the beginning of the episode arrives to report that the thief was caught for some baffling reason.

How is this newsworthy!? And besides, shouldn’t the police be handling this? In fact, throughout this entire episode, we don’t see any police! Do they even exist in this town? Well, we’ve seen them in previous episodes, so I’ll say, Yes! So, where are they!?

Anyway, as Fisher accuses Blythe of robbing his store, she manages to fight back with gusto. They have a brief back and forth, but Blythe is cornered when the reporter mentions that the stolen goods were found in at Littlest Pet Shop. And this is a problem, because she promised she wouldn’t turn the cockney rodents in.

But her response is simple, “I don’t know how it got there. But since you brought it up; Why would I steal it, only to return it!?”

Or at least that should’ve been her response, instead she just stammers.

Then, a bunch of stolen merchandise falls from the ceiling.

Well, that was random. And it comes courtesy of the rest of our main cast, and the cockney rodents, who’ve been busy recollecting all the hot merchandise.

And as Fisher gets a good look at all the goods he realizes something: This is merchandise they were throwing away.

How did he not notice this sooner!? Blythe dropped off a big bag of the stuff!

So it turns out the cockney rodents weren’t stealing anything! They were dumpster diving! That’s perfectly legal!

So Blythe suggests donating it to any needy pets in town. And Fisher jumps on board immediately. Both for the free publicity, and the fact that he’s currently on live television and not joining in would make him look like a cold-hearted bastard!

So with a happy ending like that, what is there left to say?

The biggest problem with the episode was Fisher. I used to have a lot of hope for this character, but midway through season two, it started to dissolve, and has now, officially, disappeared.

I hate it when shows do this. Oh, here’s a character who could be halfway interesting! Let’s ruin it! Let’s make them bland, or absurd, or comically over-the-top! Because now, Fisher’s just a generic villain. He has nothing going for him. He shows no sign of nobility or integrity, which he did have when he spent most of his time in the background. So basically, I liked him better in the background. He was more interesting there. There’s probably a lesson here.

Then there’s Pepper. I’m honestly not sure if many would normally place her as the voice of reason in the group, but since Russell developed a fear of ghosts, I can’t think of anyone else. And this episode cemented that.

She’s the most levelheaded and rational character in the whole episode. Specifically during the trip through the labyrinth, and their encounter with the cockney rodents. She’s the one reminding them that stealing is wrong, which should’ve been obvious.

And then there’s Blythe, who did nothing more than be a magnet for blame. But I guess someone had to take that role.

I think the most interesting characters were the Biskits. Here, they showed a bit of ambition and tenacity. Which is something we’ve rarely seen before. And we’ve never seen them try to investigate a crime before. It’s also the first time we’ve learned that their favourite show is a C.S.I. knock-off.

Heh, nerds! I kinda wish we got to see them do more than just grill Blythe, however. Perhaps they incompetently try to dust for prints using talcum powder and a feather duster.

But overall, this episode was pretty fun, but a bit bland. And it just made me irritated at both Fisher Biskit, and the Downtown City local news.

Get your shit together!

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