Before I start this review, I want to give my thanks to wiki admin Crystal Shadows for her very, very insightful and thoughtful response to my review of "A Duck's Tale". That really meant a lot to me. In almost a decade of knowing the show, I don't think I've ever had such an in-depth conversation about Peep before. Just thinking about it almost gets me emotional---in such a good way.
I'm just going to say that this next episode I'm about to review is one I really, really enjoyed!
Synopsis of Episode
We begin on a dark blue background, which shows the birds standing behind a groundhog, who stares at it's shadow on a wall and makes gestures with it's hands. The dreamy music from "The Red Ballmoon" plays in the background.
We open to a wide shot of Peep's can in a dreary, late winter setting. (I love these episodes, so this is a great first sign). As leaves blow past, we hear a little noise...it's Peep peeping! We fade in to see he's sleeping in his can with Chirp. Awww. During this, Joan explains that it's a cold and gloomy February day. Personally, I really like the month of February. Back in February of 2008, I remember I was really into Peep and would tape it on Saturdays when it aired on KCTS. Ah, good times.
Joan explains that on days like this, there's only one thing you can do. We watch the pair sleep for a second more, and then the can suddenly rattles loudly, which wakes them up. Quack sticks his head upside down over the can entrance and cheerfully says, "Hey, let's play a game!" Chirp, annoyed at being woken up, tells him to forget it, and that she's not moving until spring. Quack tells her that that's the whole point---this game will get rid of winter, guarantee. He starts to tell them what it's called but stops, sticks his head up, and looks around. Seeing nothing but the leaves blowing around, he drops his head back over the can entrance and, discreetly and with his eyes narrowed, that it's called "Bring Spring". "Bring spring?" Chirp repeats. She gets up, and annoyed, asks what Quack is talking about. She and Peep walk out of the can, Chirp telling Quack that spring isn't something you can bring. Quack looks around again and shhhhhs her. (Only it;s more..."Shhhhhhh....shhshhshhhshhshhshhshhhhhhhhhhh!" Haha. He stands up on the can, and quietly tells them that it won't work if everyone knows about it. He steps off the can...and falls on his face. But physics don't seem to hurt him here and he gets up unhurt. Clearing his throat, he tells them that they have to find a secret place to play, and, telling them to follow him, runs off into the front left corner of the frame. Peep and Chirp give each other a deadpan look and follow him.
We fade to a shot of the sky with a fence post visible and pan down to a wide shot of the birds at the garden. Joan explains that Quack decided to check here first, as gardens are usually empty in winter. As he looks around, Peep and Chirp look incredibly cold from the way they're standing. "Yeah, looking good!" Quack cheerfully (but quietly) tells them. "Very secret," he adds, nodding. He turns around and does a double take. We pan out to see what he sees: a lurmy in the garden. It raises it's head (although it has no face) to look at Quack. Quack turns away and says, "Oops, worm. Forget it." Chirp desperately tries to convince him that the worm isn't going to tell anyone about his game. "I'm not taking any chances," Quack says. "Nope. No siree-bob!" And he happily runs off into the lower right corner of the frame. Chirp and Peep watch him go, Peep shivering. Chirp rolls her eyes and follows Quack, and Peep, despite shivering in the cold, continues on, too.
We fade to later. Quack comes into the frame and listens intently. He narrows his eyes, and, satisfied, declares, "Much better. Completely private." We get a wide shot that shows they're by a hollow log a little ways from the deep dark woods. Peep and Chirp come into the frame from the bottom left corner, as Quack continues, "No one can hear us now." It's then that we hear a familiar voice say, "I can hear you." Quack does a double take and looks around. The skunk comes to the front of the log and, lying down, looks at them with his usual bored frown, hand on his face. Quack angrily stares at the skunk, and with a "Hmmph!", turns his back and walks off, Peep and Chirp following. Chirp comments that it'll be summer before he finds the right place.
We fade to Quack sitting on the edge of his pond, with his head in the water. We pan out to see Peep and Chirp watching him with deadpan expressions. Quack then brings his head out of the water, looking very happy, and after shaking his head dry and quacking, brightly and loudly announces that the fish are too sleepy to listen, so it looks like they're ready to play! Peep and Chirp continue to stare at him. Quack happily yells at them, "I SAID...ARE YOU READY TO PLAY??!!", staring at them brightly. (I've got to give Jamie Watson credit for his vocal range here!) "Yes," the other two say boredly.
"OK!" Quack says. "The first thing we gotta do to bring spring is stand in a circle." Still unenthusiatic, Peep and Chirp join him in forming one. "Now put your right foot in," Quack says...huh, that sounds familiar. "What?" Peep says. "Just do it, ok," Quack tells him, annoyed. "Right foot in..." And he puts his left foot in. Peep and Chirp put in their right; Quack realizes his mistake and quickly corrects it. "Good," he says. "Now stick your right foot out..." Yeah, this definitely sounds familiar. They all do it, and Quack continues, "Then you have to shake it all abooouuuuttt!!!" Because all of a sudden, he's grabbed by something! We get a wide shot and see it's a groundhog, who lifts him up as Peep and Chirp watch in surprise, and the sets him down and walks off. Chirp shakes her head and watches it in shock, her jaw hanging open. She looks to Peep. "OK, am I dreaming," she says, "Or did a strange animal just pick Quack uuuuuuuuppp!!!" Because as she's said it, the groundhog has come up behind her and picked her up too. "What are you doing?" she asks it. "Put me down!" The groundhog does so. Angry, Chirp tells it, "You can't go around picking up birds! Don't you know that?" "But I'm looking for something and you might be on it!" says the groundhog (it's a female). She holds Peep up, getting a surprised, "Hey!" out of him.
This results in a really sweet Quack moment, as he angrily goes up to the groundhog and tells her, "Put down the Peep. I'm only gonna say it once: Put down...the...Peep." The groundhog sets Peep on top of Quack. "Not on me!" Quack says angrily. Annoyed, he then tells Peep to get off, as he's on his hat. During this, the groundhog has sat down, looking depressed, and now says, "I'll never find it!" Hopping onto a rock behind her, she adds, "Never, never, never." Chirp, who is looking concerned, hops over and asks what. "My shadow!" replies the groundhog. "Everyone went looking for their shadows today and I wanted to find mine, only...I can't because I don't know what it is." "You don't know about shadows?" Chirp asks her, giving her a strange look. (To be fair, Chirp herself didn't know about them before the episode "Shadow Play".) The groundhog shakes her head. Chirp explains that shadows are "a copy of you that's on the ground". "Or a wall...or anywhere, really," she adds. "And it's just like you," Quack adds, hopping into the frame from the right, "Only it isn't!" (Chirp looks at him strangely as he says this.)
The groundhog thinks about this for a moment. Peep explains to her that when it's sunny out, you get a shadow of your exact shape. He draws a circle in the dirt with his right foot as he says this, and crouches down in it. Chirp goes on to quickly explain that sometimes, it's an entirely different shape, and that it depends on where the sun is. As she does this she erases Peep's circle, draws two lines in front of where it was, and a circle in front of that. "Right," says Peep, "and because there's no sun today you can't see any shadows at all." The groundhog looks at him stangely, then says, "You know what? You guys are really bad at explaining stuff." Haha.
The birds look at each other and, smiling, nod in unision as Joan explains that they realized that a shadow is indeed difficult to explain,. They walk off into the right of the frame, Chirp gesturing for the groundhog to follow with her right wing, as Joan tells us that they decided to show the---and here she actually falters. As the groundhog follows them, Chirp asks what she is. "A groundhog," the groundhog says, looking at Chirp like she's crazy to not know, before continuing Chirp stares after her and thinks for a second before going, "Oh," and hopping off after them into the bottom right of the frame.
"They decided to show the groundhog her shadow", Joan continues (I should mention I hadn't realized that the groundhog was female up to this point---she has a gender neutral voice and no features to indicate she's female), "using a flashlight from the dump." As she says this, we fade to a show of the dump, and pan out to see a wide shot of the birds and the groundhog entering a trash can that has a flashlight facing it, right at the edge of the entrance. Quack, instead of entering like the rest, hops up on the flashlight. From the inside of the can, we see Chirp telling the groundhog to sit n the middle of it. "OK, Quack...hit it!" she then says. With his left foot, Quack hits the button on the flashlight, creating (of course) a flash of light. The groundhog squints as the light hits her. "I don't get it," she says. "I just see a light." Chirp then comes up to her and nudges her so she is facing the back of the can, in the direction of her shadow. We pan out to see the amazed groundhog watching her shadow reflected on the back of the inside of the trash can. Peep and Chirp stand on either side of her, their own shadows not quite reaching as far. "That's it!" cries the groundhog excitedly. "That's my shadow!" She waves at it, watching it "wave back". We get a nice profile show of the inside of the can as she cheers and waves her hands excitedly. She then steps back, and then moves forward, watching it change shape. As she reaches the back of the can, she touches her hand to the back of the can, making it look like she's holding the hand of her shadow. She takes it off and the shadow of her hand grows in size a little, and then places it back on the back of the can, and takes it off again. She stares at her hand and, fascinated, muses, "Weird."
As the birds walk over to her, Chirp asks what's so important about a groundhog's shadow anyway. A little uncomfortable, the groundhog tells them it's kind of not their buisness, but since they helped her, she'll let them come to their meeting. "But you have to promise not to tell any groundhog secrets," she says sternly. "Or else." "Or else what?" Peep asks. "I don't know," the groundhog says, shrugging. "Just...or else." As the birds stand there in the light, Quack looks worried at this, Peep looks at Chirp, and Chirp looks at him boredly. Peep then looks at Quack, who looks at him with the same worried look, and Chirp looks at him with her signature smug smile. "OK," Peep then says, nodding, as Quack continues to look worried and Chirp continues to smile.
We fade to a shot of the bleak looking "big wide world", and pan down to see a hole in the ground. In the underground tunnel, the birds follow the groundhog, who tells them that when they get to where they're going, they should try to pretend they're groundhogs. Quack does a double take, and then gets a sly look. "Eh---gotcha," he says, before taking a deep breath which he holds, bending down, and walking cross-eyed. "What do you think?" he asks Peep and Chirp. "Does this look groundhoggy?" To me, it doesn't really, but it's kind of cute. As Quack explains that it's all in the cheeks, Chirp just watches him with a smug smile as she follows, briefly looking at Peep knowingly. Peep himself looks a little amused.
We cut to an underground cave, where a bunch of groundhogs are gathered. The birds and their groundhog friend enter, Quack still pretending to be one. We pan out to see four elderly looking groundhogs at the opposite end of the cave, with a particularly elderly looking one (who has a walking stick) standing between them and the younger looking group. We focus on the elderly groundhogs, and then on the birds and their friend. "Those are the important groundhogs over there," she says. "They're talking about something important." As the elders appear to reach an agreement, the head turns to the younger groundhogs, clears his throat, and says, "Friends and relatives...eh that big blue duck in the back..." Quack here does a double take on being recognized as a duck, and deflates his cheeks, looking angry. "Since time and memorial," the head continues, "groundhogs have been given a sacred trust. Which is to assertain the secrets of the season, and determine when the vernal equinox will make a..." "Excuse me? Yeah you? The old guy?" Quack suddenly says, getting the head's attention. "Can you talk so ducks can understand? That'd be great, thanks." " Hahaha!!!
The leader stares at him, annoyed, and then continues. "So, on February the second...which is today..." Wait, hold on, they know dates? BTW, this episode was uploaded to Youtube on February the 2nd, 2010, back when the Vancuver Olympics were about to be in full swing. Good times! I'd moved on from Peep by that time but now I wish I hadn't, as that is so cool that it was uploaded to Youtube months before it even aired, assuming Wikipedia is correct. (It probably isn't). "...groundhogs go outside to look for their shadows," the leader says. "If they find them, it means six more weeks of winter. "If they don't, it's a sign of spring." At this the birds and their groundhog friend look very happy, despite the fact that the groundhog found hers. "Since nobody found any shadows today," the elder says, "I hereby proclaim that spring has arrived!" The younger groundhogs cheer at this. Our party, aside from Quack, doesn't look happy, though. "Excuse me, excuse me!" says the female groundhog. "I saw mine, I did, I saw it!" The others stop cheering and turn around to look at her. "I saw my shadow, clear as day!" she says proudly. "Right?" she asks the birds. They nod enthusiastically.
"Really?" says the leader, walking over to them. "Odd. Well, if that's the case, then I hereby declare that spring isn't here." And at this the birds look surprised. "Meeting ajourned," he concludes, as the female groundhog claps and the others look annoyed and disapointed. "Yay, yay, yay, yay, yay!" she cheers, clapping, as the others file out of the cave. "Wait..." she says, seeing what's happening. "Is that a good thing?" She looks over to where the other groundhogs have disapeared, as the birds turn to each other. The birds then shake their heads sadly.
We cut to wide a shot of Chirp's bush late in the day. We see the birds coming up over the hill it's on. "Are you telling me that spring would be here right now if we hadn't helped that groundhog find her shadow?" Quack says, as they eventually come to a stop. "I don't think groundhogs have anything to do with spring," Chirp says with a sheepish smile. "And neither do shadows." "Hey, you're right...I forgot!" says Quack. Looking smug, he then says, "Well there's only one way to...bring spring!" With the last two words he winks at them with both eyes.
Peep and Chirp stare at him. Chirp asks where he got that goofy game from anyway. She then hops up onto her branch (wow, she can do that well!) "It's not a goofy game," Quack says, annoyed. "It's a real true fact." "Says who?" Chirp asks. "Me," Quack responds. And then he mumbles out of the left corner of his beak, "...and Beaver Boy...a little." "Beaver Boy?" Chirp asks, surprised. "What does Beaver Boy know about spring?" "Whoa-ho...whoa, whoa..." Quack says in surprise. "Hey, if you don't wanna play...then we'll bring spring without you. Ready, Peep? Put your left foot in..." he begins, as he sticks out his right and Peep his left. "That's right! Put your left foot out..." Then annoyed, he says, "No! Not that left, the other left." He gives Peep a smug look and poor Peep looks kind of scared but obliges. "And then you shake it!" Quack continues, shaking his right foot, while Peep shakes his left. "Shake it all about! Yeah! And after that...", and here we cut to another wide shot of them at the bush, "...spriiiiiinnnngg!" He finishes with a jump, and Peep does the same thing.
As if to prove Quack wrong, the wind blows ominously, and leaves fly past. The birds watch it. Peep begins to shiver. Quack looks around and annoyed, says, "Let's try that again I'm not feeling it. You put you right foot in and then maybe you put your left foot in too" (and of course he's putting in the wrong feet again while Peep puts in the correct ones) "or maybe no feet let's try no feet Peep...and, uh, see if that works. Is everybody cool with that?" As he's talking, we pan up to Chirp watching them. She rolls her eyes with a smile, and then, as more wind and leaves blow past, she crouches down to sleep. Awwwwwww. (I should mention she usually sleeps standing up, which is very odd, but still cute too.)
"Bring...sprrrriiiiiinnnngggg!" Quack brightly finishes again, crouching down and jumping. and Peep follows. More wind and leaves blow by. "Or maybe we can jump in, all of us," Quack continues, as he shakes his left foot and Peep his right, and they jump, "...and all around together, and maybe...maybe, we can do some leaning," (and here they put their feet behind them and bend backwards) "and work in a little bit of shimmy, I love the shimmy." And here Quack shakes his right foot and Peep his left. As they're doing this, the camera slowly pulls back, and wind and leaves continue to blow past. And we fade out.
Thoughts on the Episode
Wow, what a perfect episode. Everything about it was Peep on one of it's best days. It had great humor, writing, storytelling and characterization. I don't know where to begin, it's such a good one.
First of all, I love the winter setting. Like most shows, Peep might be primarily set in what's clearly the spring or summer, but it has it's share of fall and winter episodes, and I love those as they're my favorite time of year. Showing the "big wide world" in a less cheerful light, is always something I appreciate that they take the time to do. And I just look the bleak, quiet atmosphere.
The characters were all great in this one, but Quack obviously stole the show, as usual. His idea of a bringing spring was downright funny, and although Beaver Boy was mentioned, he at least didn't appear in this one. Castwise, we mainly have the three birds and their new groundhog friend, who is pretty funny and I wouldn't mind seeing again if Peep were to ever resume production. There's also the underground colony of groundhogs, which was funny to see. Whoever voiced the leader did a pretty funny job. And finally we get another cameo from the skunk, whose intentions are once again left pleasantly ambigous. Oh, and the lurmy, too.
Another great thing about the episode is that it involves a lot of exploring, something I always enjoy seeing on Peep but which hasn't come up much in the episodes I'd reviewed before now. We start at Peep's can, then walk around, visiting the garden (cool to visit that in winter), the skunk's log, and the edge of Quack's pond. Then we go over to the dump (again, cool to visit in winter) but mainly spend time inside the tunnel of a trash can, which is interestingly done. And then, saving the most exciting for near the end, we take a trip underground to visit the groundhog colony. We wrap up our long, chilly day of exploring in the evening at Chirp's bush (I love when an episode ends at the end of the day it takes place on mostly or entirely; it gives such a sense of completion to me). All in all, not bad for nine minutes!
What else is there to say? The story is great. It has a clear beginning, middle and end and is entertaining from start to finish. It has great humor and atmosphere, and is just downright great. The fact that Peep could still pull of episodes this great by it's fourth season says a lot about the writing team. It says a lot about Kathy Waugh's ability to write a really great Peep episode, too. (Why, oh why couldn't she have given us something like this for part two of "The Sounds of Silence"?) Would I put this one in my top ten? I want to a lot, but since season 4 isn't a season I watched back in the day, it hasn't had as much time to become as well-known to me as the episodes of the first two seasons have. Add to that the fact that there are also a few episodes that are probably better, and this one ends up below the top ten but not in any way for lack of greatness.
I still think it's awesome that this was the first episode uploaded by the official Peep channel, now getting close to a decade ago, and even better, on the actual day it takes place on! It's a perfect episode to watch on that day, espicially on a year that the Winter Olympics are being held, considering the year it was released. Ah, to go back to those days...
Well, this episode was without a doubt my favorite that I've reviewed so far. And again, thank you so much for the lovely response to my review of "A Duck's Tale". I really enjoyed that.