OK, sooooo...I've finally got a computer. Which means I can actually type these reviews! For my review of "The Sounds of Silence" I had to write everything down by hand as I watched the episodes, and then copy it on my phone. It was a hassle and I would have waited to do it, but it was the 10th anniversary of the episode, so I sort of had to write it. But it's such a relief now that I can type these reviews and will hopefully be able to get them up much faster!
So I decided to do this one because it's one of the most important episodes of the series and one that could only come at the beginning. In fact, I have some reason to believe it's the pilot episode of the series. Whichever way, it's a good one, even if it's not Peep at it's most ambitious...wow, I'm getting ahead of myself here, aren't I? So without further ado, on with the review.
Synopsis and Review
We open to a yellow title card depicting Quack standing on one foot and smiling, seeming to be gesticulating
behind him with the other. Not much to it but it's incredibly cute.
The episode begins with a night sky full of twinkling stars. We pan out to see Quack's pond, with a blue blob in it (his butt). Joan Cusack, our dedicated narrator, begins by telling us that every night at half past eight (or therabouts) Quack gets ready for bed. Funny, that's about the time it is now where I am, and instead of getting ready for a good night's rest I'm sitting here typing this review. Hopefully it won't take too long!
Quack surfaces from the water and smacks his lips, then inhales some water with his beak, gargles, swishes it about in his mouth, squirts it out into the air, and then submerges himself mostly in the pond before the water hits him. He then comes back up, sighs contentedly, and yawns. "But tonight was different," Joan continues. "There was Quack minding his own buisness when out of nowhere came the worst, the stinkiest, the most disgusting thing he had ever..."
At this point, Quack, whom during Joan's narration has opened one eye (and then the other) in surprise and started holding his breath, exhales, then starts to hold his breath again, and wonders out loud (through mumbled speech) what the smell is. He submerges himself in the water and then comes up again, still holding his breath. He swims to the shore of his pond, saying he has to get out of here as he can't breathe, and starts running, holding his breath as he does so.
Quack runs to Peep's can (in sillohuette view, much like Chirp runs from her bush in "The Sounds of Silence"), asking if he can hear him, and then dives into the can, yelling at him to wake up. No need, as he gratuitiously wakened the sleeping Peep by bumping into him. Peep is nice about it, of course, tiredly asking Quack what he's doing here. Quack responds that he's getting away from the awful...and then sniffs, and finishes, "...smell?", confused about where it went, as he doesn't smell it in the can. Peep then yawns and wishes Qu
ack good night. Quack tells Peep he can't go back to his pond, the smell is so bad. "You don't know how much I suffered!" he goes on, before falling into a deep sleep himself. What's funny is Peep has this trilling snore and Quack, well, Quacks when he sleeps.
We cut to the can at morning. Quack's rear is sticking out of it and, unsurprisingly, he's stuck. He loudly complains that the can is too small and Peep has to move, to which Peep tells him he's trying. Thankfully the pair manage to squeeze themselves out, and tumble onto the ground. As Peep blinks at Quack, Quack says, "You know Peep, you're my best friend, but please, don't...eeeveer..." (he sort of sings the word here) "...ask me to spend the night again!" Peep looks kind of hurt at that, but forgets it as Quack says that it's time for him to go home and get rid of the awful smell. Peep is curious about how Quack will do it. Quack blinks, and says, "I'll speak to it sternly...I'll say, 'BEGONE, YOU BAD SMELL!'...uh, something like that." Peep is very amused at this. "Oh, what? You don't think I can scare away a bad smell?" Quack says, glaring at him. "Well...I'll show you!" He walks off and Peep follows him.
The two walk down the hill in search of the awful smell, as Joan explains. Quack finds a flower and sniffs it. "Nope, not that." He continues on, but Peep stops to smell the flower too and likes it. Just then a bumblebee comes up behind him Peep sees it and apologizes, and lets the bee land on the flower.
We cut to a bush with an old sock lying next to it. Quack finds it, sniffs it, and is revolted, declaring there's no way the smell could be that. As he walks away, he ends up climbing onto a skunk's back and looks around, wondering where the smell went. Just then, the skunk gets up and looks up at Quack. Quack jumps off it, screaming, and falls to the ground, just as Peep joins him. Quack glances at Peep and then tells the skunk in a hurt voice that it shouldn't go around surprising ducks like that, as it's very impolite. The skunk yawns, giving a tired, "Whatever." Quack, however, decides to question the skunk about the smell. The skunk bluntly tells Quack that he, himself, is the bad smell. Quack, surprised, takes a whiff of the skunk's tail and seems unconvinced. The skunk then clarifies that it's not a body odor but a scent he actually creates, telling Quack that he does it to those who bother him, lifting his tail to help explain. Quack is surprised and even a little impressed, briefly (and unsucessafully) attempting to try it himself. The skunk informs him that only skunks can do it and that ducks are useless in that respect., before going back to sleep. (OK, before I get ahead of myself, I'll just point out that this is what seems to convince Quack that the skunk is antagonistic. However, aside from his line about "you shouldn't scare ducks like that", there was really nothing the skunk could have taken to understand how much Quack values his species.) Quack is annoyed by this and continues on, Peep following.
We cut to the pair continuing to walk down the hill. Peep, maybe in an attempt to try getting Quack's mind off the skunk, brings up the beautiful flower they saw earlier, asking if he wants to smell it again. Quack, however, is more interested in what the skunk said---that skunks can make a bad smell whenever they feel like it. Just then, the bumblebee from earlier joins them. Peep tries talking to it about the flower, and Quack tries talking to it about how skunks can make smells that can scare ducks out of their ponds. The bee isn't very impressed by the latter, claiming he can actually sting those he doesn't like and scare them away, to Quack's surprise (yikes...I'm surprised he got this far in his life without finding out the hard way!) Quack then asks Peep to take a look and see if he has a stinger on his rear. Peep points out that he doesn't have a stinger, but does have a nice little feather. Quack sighs and walks off, with Peep following.
The two pass near a tree, Quack grumpily muttering, "No smell, no stinger...what's next?" Just then, we see the back of a porcupine smacking it's tail into a tree, lodging some quills in it. The porcupine turns around, apologizing if he scared them, saying it was an accident and that he tries to be careful with his quills. Quack goes up close to the quills, inquiring about them. The porcupine explains about his quills, saying that if anyone messes with him, he sticks them (Peep gasps at this). "Sometimes I just don't know my own strength," the porcupine says, walking off. Quack stares at the quills a moment longer, then looks himself over, and then looks at Peep. Peep tells Quack he doesn't think he has quills either---not that kind. "I knew it.," Quack says. "No quills, no stinger, no smell, I'm just a nice, sweet, harmless, pathetic...duck!" Miserable, he walks down the hill, Peep looking concerned as he watches.
We cut to Quack's pond. Quack walks to the pond edge and falls forward into it, miserably resurfacing. "And so, Quack went home," Joan says, "to float around and feel sorry for himself. Ducks are supposed to be perfect, but as far as he could tell he had no way to defend himself."
I'm going to give another sort of interlude to look at Quack's situation here. As I pointed out in my last review, Quack is usually a character who comes across as very confident, so suddenly knowing he is more vulnerable then others is understandably news he isn't taking easily. However, what's interesting is that he equates the idea of being pathetic with that of being kind and harmless. While he isn't these things most of the time, he's friends with two birds who definitely are. And then there's the fact that he believes ducks should be "perfect". All of this points to Quack being, deep down, perhaps a lot less confident than he lets on.Anyways, back to the story. Quack hears someone whispering his name. He looks over and it's Chirp, drenched in sweat. Quack sadly tells her it's not a good time, giving the exuse that he's busy. Chirp, however, says she's been looking for him everywhere (she didn't try his pond first? huh) and that she needs his help. She hops onto him and explains that Tom has been chasing her all day and she needs help getting rid of him. Quack explains to her that she has the wrong duck, as ducks are no good at getting rid of things (I don't get why he'd say she has "the wrong duck", then, but whatever). As Quack closes his eyes to presumably take a nap we hear a voice offscreen saying, "There you are." Quack's eyes widen and AAAAHH!! both of them scream at the sight of the blue cat suddenly standing on the edge of the pond (I should mention this isn't Tom's first appearence but it's his first one aired). Much to Chirp's pleasure and Tom's chagrin, though, Quack swims out of the cat's reach. Chirp points out that that is what she wanted Quack to do. Quack is confused, as all he's doing is swimming to get away from the cat. Chirp points out that swimming is what Quack does best, and that he's the best swimmer she knows. "Go, Quack, go!" she adds. Quack brightens and says, "You're, right, I forgot. I forgot about---THE POWER OF DUCK FEEEET!" Classic Quack. Anyways, we get a few more seconds of swimming to avoid the cat, and...god, THIS. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t6fknDHAbGs Quack is a little better, saying, "Am I going too fast for you, Tom? Should I sllooowww down?" Tom is tired out and panting, "Just wait...I'll get you...later..." and walks off. The birds cheer that they did it. Quack swims Chirp back to shore, where Chirp thanks Quack for outswimming Tom. Quack is very proud of himself for being such a good swimmer. "In fact," he tells Chirp, "you might even say...'Quack, you're the best swimmer I know!'" (swimming in a circle as he delivers that last bit.) "Go ahead, say it," he adds. Chirp just rolls her eyes and tells him it's because of his feet (didn't Quack just acknowledge that?). The two then compare their feet. Quack is very happy to have the biggest, widest, fastest feet in the world. Chirp tells him they're not that big, but bigger than hers, that's for sure. She then hops off, thanking Quack again and saying goodbye as she does. Quack then announces to "everyone" that he has big feet. No more mr. nice guy! (Not that Quack has ever really been that.) He then notices something and swims towards it. We see the skunk drinking from the pond. Quack says that that goes for the skunk, too, and to not make smells down here. "If you do, I'll...I'LL SWIM AWAY!" he finishes smugly. "AS FAST AS I CAN!" he adds. The skunk tiredly says, "Whatever," and walks off. We cut to a wide view of the pond as Quack swims around it singing, "Hoo there's nothing like a duck, nothing in the world, oh you're really out of luck, unless you happen to be a duck---thank you!", finishing by giving a quack. Of course, he'll be singing basically the same song for the next 119 or so episodes, but it's still a cute enough way to end the episode.
Thoughts on the Episode
Where to begin here? This is definitely the first Quack-centered episode of the series. It's not the best one to start the series off on. I never really considered it one of the signature Quack episodes of season one like "Quack and the Very Big Rock", "Stuck Duck" and "The Incredible Shrinking Duck", since it wasn't included on the classic "Quack Knows It All" DVD compilation, but instead ended up on the "Peep Floats" compilation. And there's also the fact that it's not the best, imo.
But then there's also the fact that I have reason to believe that this was the first episode of the entire series. It was the first to air on KCTS---the supposed episode one was aired before episodes 11---and back in around 2008, this episode would be the first of season one shown.
So...if that's true, it says a lot about this episode. The first story of a show called Peep and the Big Wide World is focused on Quack. Not that that is entirely surprising. Quack is the show's breakout character, the one the writers love, and whom gradually got more episodes to himself than Peep. Still, it's particularly interesting to think that the series began with an episode focusing on him.
This would be great, in my opinion, if it was simply a better episode. Not that it's a bad one, it just felt rather dull. Quack wasn't as funny as he can be in this one, Chirp wasn't in it much and (as I mentioned) was a little annoying, and you could pretty much take Peep out of the episode entirely and it wouldn't change a thing. Heck, not even Joan Cusack had many particularly good lines here.
But is it bad? Definitely not. As I mentioned in my review of "The Sounds of Silence", it had does a bold thing by making Quack feel vulnerable. (Notice both episodes are written by Kathy Waugh.) Unfortunately here, it sort of just feels like it comes up out of the blue a little. I can understand the frustration of not having any means of self-defense---if anything, this episode taught me the importance of it. But I think it would have been better if Quack tried, with the help of Peep, to actually find his self-defense instead of just deciding he has none after comparing himself to three other animals. Actually, I'm surprised Peep didn't offer to try to find that out for Quack. Considering how fast discovering it brought him out of an already short-lived depression, that really could have helped a ton!
By the way, did you notice how Quack mentions he "forgot", when Chirp points out his abilities? The way he says "THE POWER OF DUCK FEEEEEEET!" indicates he's said that quite a bit in the past (he says it in several other episodes too). Before he met Peep and Chirp, did he have something of a memory problem, like Pixar's Dory? Quack's backstory (before Chirp hatched) is largely kept a mystery, which I really like, but it also raises questions as to how well he even remembers things. This could really explain a lot of his "stupidity".
On top of being the possible debut of our three favorite birds, this episode also introduces Tom (all of them first chronologically appear in "That's a Cat"); although his appearance is very brief, it establishes him as an actual threat to the birds. However---possibly because of this---he barely appears after this season. We also meet the skunk, a character who continues to appear occasionally throughout the series and whom I talked about in my review of "The Sounds of Silence". He shows practically no emotion, to the point that it's debatable what his intentions are, despite Quack's sound belief that he is nothing other than a jerk. The fact that he is the one who starts this story---by creating the smell that bothers Quack---makes him rather important, so the scene with him at the end works very well.
What else is there to say about the episode? One thing that makes it particularly weak as a Peep story is that the three birds never all appear onscreen together. That's a little better than some episodes, where Chirp isn't even around. Speaking of Chirp, I didn't care for her much in this one. As I mentioned she was rather annoying in the clip I posted, she had practically none of her signature sarcasm, and from what I can tell, this was likely Amanda Soha's first time voicing her, considering Chirp sounds more like she does in the last two seasons than she does in the first three. All in all, this is, to me, a very average episode that was the shape of things to come in the Peep universe. In fact, it may have really introduced us to that universe, and if not, it was still the first to really introduce us to our favorite duck. Is it a great one to me? Definitely not. Is it a good one to me? Sort of. What I don't like is that it took a really interesting idea---Quack being depressed---and went pretty much nowhere with it. If some good plot potential is wasted, it's harder to like an episode.
With that said, it's still a good episode to have come at the beginning of the show's run. There's a later episode about Chirp being sad about not having a bird call of her own that I felt was done better and shows to me that the show's writing really improved after this episode. Sure, there are still some low points, such as "The Sounds Of Silence, part 2", but Peep is a show that actually has consistently good writing, not something you see a lot. If this episode is what helped get the writers there, I'm perfectly fine with any flaws this episode has.