A Tale of Two Stans was one of the most anticipated episodes of Gravity Falls in a long time, as the previous episode, Not What He Seems had been a game changer, with a cliffhanger featuring the shocking return of the author of the journals, and the revelation that he was Grunkle Stan’s twin brother!
The episode opens on two little boys exploring a boarded up cave on a beach. The kids are obviously twins, one wearing glasses and looking slightly more bookish than the other, who punches his way into the cave. The boys write their names on the wall to claim ownership, and we see that they are Stanley and Stanford Pines. Cue title sequence.
After the opening theme, we come back right where the previous episode left off, with the Mystery Shack crew still reeling from the revelation of Grunkle Stan’s brother, not to mention the discovery of his secret life, the stolen or fake identities, and the giant, interdimensional explosion.
Grunkle Stan seems overjoyed to see his brother, who does not seem to share his feelings, and immediately punches him in the face. This leads to an angry fight over whatever happened thirty years ago, whatever led to his being trapped on the other side of the portal. Their fight is interrupted by Dipper and Mabel, who Grunkle Stan introduces as “Shermy’s grandkids,” revealing another sibling that, up until now, we had not known about. Though, in retrospect, it probably should have been obvious.
The kids demand an explanation for everything, and Grunkle Stan’s brother agrees, addressing him as “Stanley.” The kids are shocked, as up until now, they, and everyone else in Gravity Falls, have been under the assumption that his name was Stanford. When they question this, his brother is aghast, asking why he would take his name! The kids demand answers, and Grunkle Stan complies, saying that the story started a lifetime ago.
From here we flash back to “1960 something,” to the two kids from the opening, Stanley and Stanford as children. Here we get a glimpse of their parents, who were not the greatest people, and were apparently not very involved in their kids’ lives. The twins spent their days away from home exploring the beach, and being each other’s best friends. We montage through their childhoods and we see that Stanford was very gifted, and Stanley was not.
In high school we find out that Stanford had a real chance to make something of himself, but everything was riding on a science project that Stanley accidentally broke. When everyone suddenly blames him for ruining Stanford’s future, Stanly suddenly found himself homeless, as his dad kicked him out. In order to survive, Stanley came up with project after project, scheme after scheme, all of which failed every time, forcing him to repeatedly change his name and move all over the country, sometimes out of it, in order to stay one step ahead of the cops.
Stanford meanwhile found himself at a community college where he got a PhD in just three years. Eventually he’d been awarded a grant to fund his scientific research, and, inspired by his six fingered hands, decided to focus his research on other scientific anomalies. This research led him to a place with a higher concentration of anomalies than anywhere else, Gravity Falls. Here he started keeping the journals, which grew into the three books that we know today.
His research eventually led him to believe that there was a source to all the weirdness found in Gravity Falls, another dimension that was bleeding into ours. He set out to make a portal to this other dimension and got in contact with his old college buddy, Fiddleford McGucket, better known today as “Old Man” McGucket, Local Kook. The two of them worked together for years, and eventually succeeded in creating the portal, but when an accident pulled McGucket into the portal, forcing on him unspeakable sights, too terrible to talk about, he left for good, telling Stanford it was too dangerous.
Ready to give up and without any other options, Stanford contacted Stanley, who by this time had hit rock bottom and was living in a run-down motel. But instead of asking him for help, he gave Stanley one of his journals and told him to take it as far away from him as possible. Stanley, angry that his brother didn’t want him around, threatened to burn the book instead of taking it away, resulting in a fight that turned on the portal, sucking Stanford into the void. The portal powered down, leaving Stanley alone, with no idea of how to get him back. He tried for weeks, but without the other two journals it was useless.
Finally Stanley ran out of food and went into town where he was mistaken for his brother. The people of Gravity Falls, having no idea what Stanford had been doing in the shack, told him that they would pay money for a tour of the place. Stanley obliged, and eventually the Mystery Shack was born. By day he gave tours and sold knickknacks, and by night he worked in the basement, trying to get his brother back.
Back in present day, the gang suddenly becomes aware that the agents, who had raided the Mystery Shack in the previous episode, have discovered the hidden entrance to the basement and are coming downstairs. With almost no time left, Stanford, thinking quickly, rigs up one of the memory erasing guns from the Society of the Blind Eye, and sets it to the frequency of the agent’s earpieces, wiping everyone’s minds. He then goes upstairs and makes up a bogus story that, in their dazed and confused states, they totally buy.
Stanford tells the kids that they can call him Ford, and Grunkle Stan sends them to bed. When the kids are gone Ford tells Stan that he wants his home, his life, and his name back. He tells him that he can stay for the summer to watch the kids, but as soon as they’re gone, he has to leave. Grunkle Stan agrees, but tells him to stay away from the kids. As far as he’s concerned, they’re the only family he has left, and he doesn’t want them in danger.
Upstairs, Dipper and Mabel worry that they might end up like their great uncles. Stan and Ford had been so close when they were kids but then they got all “Stupid.” The twins promise each other that they will never let that happen, and they go to sleep.
Random Things I Loved
The little Stans were great, and I kind of wish we could see more of them. I would love a spin-off show starring just the two of them going on adventures.
Speaking of spin-offs, how about one starring Stanford during his research years in Gravity Falls! The montage of discoveries teased so much, and the fact that he wrote three journals full of information shows that he had a ton of adventures that we know nothing about. I’d love to see them!
The montage of Grunkle Stan’s failed inventions and schemes was hilarious. I loved the terrible slogans, that totally told you exactly what the product was. The mob with the Stanco brand pitchforks was also hilarious.
I loved that we got to see the townsfolk of Gravity Falls in their younger years. It was so much fun to see all the characters, and try to pick out who all was there. The biggest, and best, surprise was seeing the elderly Duskerton couple, the ghosts from The Inconveniencing, still alive, running the Dusk 2 Dawn convenience store.
Little Stanley: “This is the greatest thing I’ve ever seen! And I once saw a dead rat floatin’ in a bucket!”
Biggest Question Raised
Who is Dipper and Mabel’s grandfather? We saw the Pines twins’ mother holding a baby the night that Stanley was kicked out of the house, but was that really Shermy? If you go back in time from 2000, the year that Dipper and Mable were born, even just 18 years at a time, the earliest that a potential grandfather could have been born is 1964. Barring teen pregnancy, which I doubt a Disney Channel show would touch, I don’t think that the baby is Shermy. It is possible that this is just an oversight by the writers, but Alex Hirsch and his team are usually extremely careful about this kind of thing. I would not be surprised at all if they either have an older brother, or another brother born in between them and the baby that we never met. We didn’t spend much time in the Pines’ family home at all, so it’s very possible there were people there that we were not introduced to.
This episode answered a ton of questions, but brought up a multitude of new ones. It answered questions that most people never even thought to ask. It added so much to the Gravity Falls mythos that it is easily one of the best episodes so far.