The Muppets 1.07: “Pig’s in a Blackout”

Rowlf advises Kermit.

Rowlf advises Kermit.

And so he retreats to Rowlf’s Tavern for a scene between Rowlf and him that more than makes up for the shoddy treatment Rowlf’s received up to this point, which is great because (a) Rowlf’s chowing down on an old shoe perfectly captures the sorts of “dog behavior” gags that Rowlf’s been doing since all the way back on The Jimmy Dean Show; (b) Rowlf provides the voice of reason, who helps Kermit find himself again, an indirect acknowledgment of the fact that at one time, he was the star of the Muppets; and (c) the scene beautifully references Kermit and Rowlf’s famous scene together in The Muppet Movie, both in terms of the concept of Rowlf playing the piano while he gives Kermit advice, as well as in Rowlf’s phrasing, which mirrors one of his most famous lines from the movie: “I finish work, go home, read a book, have a couple of beers, take myself for a walk and go to bed.” Here, he says, “I go home, draw a hot bath, get out, run around the house like a maniac, and chew on an old shoe”.


Which is a great gag, but more significantly, when Kermit tells Rowlf that sometimes he wishes he could be as selfish as other people, like Bateman, Rowlf responds, “Then you wouldn’t be you,” again providing the exact sort of sweet Muppet moment this show allegedly doesn’t do. And while chewing on an old shoe isn’t Kermit’s idea of unwinding, he does take Rowlf’s words to heart (proof that screentime is all about quality, not quantity; Rowlf isn’t on much longer than in his previous appearance, all told, yet this time, it’s such a meaty role, it feels bigger than it actually is) and creates a little piece of home in his own backyard, a realization worthy of Dorothy Gale herself. At the very start of the episode, Kermit had said that his current state in life wasn’t bad for a frog from rural Mississippi. That comes full circle in the end, when we jump ahead 3 weeks later to learn that he has had a small swamp built behind his Hollywood mansion, where he can sit by the water and pluck away at his banjo.


Which, of course, leads to the other great Muppet Movie reference of the episode, in which Kermit sings “Rainbow Connection”! You wanted more moments of warm Muppet nostalgia, people? Well, here they are! And remarkably for this show, the craziness quiets down for a moment and Kermit is actually allowed to get through the entire thing, and it is as beautiful and lovely and sweet and wistful as ever. Besides one brief interruption, that is, in which a neighbor yells out to Kermit, “LEARN A NEW SONG!” and he responds, “Shut up, Phil!” But the subversiveness of the moment, which lightly teases one of the Muppets’ sacred songs and images, is perfectly in keeping with Jim Henson’s mission statement and sense of humor, particularly because after Phil’s rude interjection, Kermit goes right back into the song and refuses to lose his happy place, making for a quiet end to a wonderful episode.


Someday we'll find it...

Someday we’ll find it…

And what’s also particularly lovely is that Kermit also says, “I love what I do and the folks I work with,” which beautifully addresses yet another issue some have had with the show, that Kermit and the others don’t seem to take the same joy and have the same sense of love and cameraderie in bringing Piggy’s show to the air every day as they did The Muppet Show. Here, he finally reveals his passion for what he does, and it’s a huge help in placing in context just why he puts up with so much hassle at work.


This mix of insanity culminating in a surprisingly sweet finish is also reflected in Scooter’s arc. Perhaps it wasn’t Kermit’s wisest move to hand Up Late over to his well-meaning but panicky assistant but, to be fair, the frog had just regained consciousness after a fainting spell. Much of the episode’s Muppetiest moments occur in the aftermath of that decision, in which Scooter’s seemingly reasonable move of turning up the thermostat a bit (according to Yolanda, Kermit keeps the office at a swampy temperature) causes utter chaos. Having possibly never been used before, turning it up causes a freon explosion that bursts in poor Beaker’s face, freezing him solid, and also leads to condensation that destroys Piggy’s entire new wardrobe, as well as every light in the studio exploding hours before the show.


And Scooter is ready to freak out, call it quits, and run away, but Gonzo stops him, which is particularly generous, given earlier in the episode Gonzo had been saying that he couldn’t believe Kermit had given the job to Scooter when he could have entrusted it to him, mentioning his days as a stuntman to show how he can behave well under extreme pressure, another great callback to the old days. However, when push comes to shove, like Rowlf with Kermit, Gonzo doesn’t make Scooter feel bad but rather gives him a sincere pep talk. “I believe in you,” he says. “It doesn’t matter how scared you are. You can do this.”


Supportive Gonzo.

Supportive Gonzo.

Muppets being supportive to each other and feeling like they’re in this together, doing something they love! And Scooter is so moved by his words that not only does he follow them but they inspire a stroke of genius in him. He lights the studio with candles, turning it into an energy conservation episode, with special guest, the a capella group, Pentatonix, who don’t need electricity to produce their sound!


And so, in the end, both Kermit and Scooter accomplish something they didn’t think they could. And Scooter even grows up a little, all over the course of an extremely well-paced, funny, and touching 22 minutes of Muppety goodness. It’s also likely the best constructed episode to date, as both the main plot and the subplot are directly woven together–Scooter’s plot occurring as a result of Kermit’s–both reflecting each other, and both challenging and rewarding the characters in unexpected ways. Ironically, The Muppets already seems to be turning into a better version of itself. A retooling is starting to feel less and less necessary.


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