“The Stanchurian Candidate” is a pretty is a solid mid-season episode. Until the last few seconds there’s not too much that ties this episode to the continuing narrative of this season and it brings back elements from season one. In many ways it feels a lot like a season one episode, which is definitely not a bad thing.
The episode opens on Grunkle Stan, who is having a terrible day. His slippers were full of milk, the kitchen light exploded, all the spare light bulbs were gone, and – when he went to the store for new ones – he was tackled by the police for no reason other than that he told a bunch of kids he was going to steal the light bulbs. It was totally unfair. To top it all off, when he finally gets home he finds Ford replacing the broken light bulb with one of his own design and becoming the hero of the household.
Dejected, he goes to the living room and plants himself in front of the TV demanding it give him good news. When he turns it on, we hear news anchor Shandra Jimenez announce that Mayor Befufftlefumpter is dead. As she breaks down crying, as she is so happy to report real news, her co-anchor announces there will be a town hall meeting that afternoon to discuss the mayor’s replacement.
The whole town turns out for the meeting, at which Sheriff Blubs reads from the town charter. Apparently, anyone can run for mayor, provided that they cast a shadow, can count to ten, and throw their hat into the ring, which Deputy Derland helpfully brings before the crowd. The first hat to go through is the large straw hat belonging to Bud Gleeful, father of Lil’ Gideon, the child psychic the Mystery Shack crew helped throw in jail last season.
Bud assumes that by giving the entire town 50% off a used car that he’ll be able to run unopposed, but, just as he’s getting ready to swear himself in, Grunkle Stan’s fez flies through the air and lands in the ring. Stan gives a rousing speech about having a real election, prompting a flurry of hats to fly through the air and land in the ring. As the town hall erupts in chaos, Bud glares at Stan and tells him he’s just made a powerful enemy. He is going to win, and Stan is not going to like the Gravity Falls he wakes up in.
When the dust has settled Dipper and Mabel incredulously ask Stan what he’s doing. Stan explains that the mayor’s death really made him think about his own life. He’s already an old man, and he doesn’t have much of anything to show for his life. His brother Ford is almost certainly going to be famous one day and he just wants to do something great for once.
The twins, realizing that Bud is obviously up to no good, reason that they should get behind Stan, if only to stop whatever Bud might be planning. They go straight home and recruit Soos, Wendy, Grenda, and Candy and set to work planning the campaign.
To prepare Stan for the election, Dipper explains the convoluted electoral process in Gravity Falls. The first event is the Wednesday Stump Speech, held on an actual stump, where the candidates give speeches explaining where they stand on the issues. After that is the Friday Debate, where the candidates debate the issues and the citizens throw birdseed at the candidate they like best. At the end of the debate they release a Freedom Eagle that flies to the candidate with the most seed and bestows a birdly kiss upon them, anointing them mayor.
To get things started, they book Stan a radio interview. It fails so spectacularly that Dipper cuts the phone cord to keep Stan from incriminating himself. Candy holds up a tablet showing that Stan’s approval ratings have plummeted even though, when they started the interview, he was at zero. They try to convince him that he needs to follow prepared speeches written by them, but Stan refuses and insists on speaking his mind.
Not knowing what else to do, Dipper goes to Ford and tells him everything. Ford pulls out a necktie and hands it to Dipper. It’s a pair of mind controlling ties that give the wearer of the dominant tie complete control over the person wearing the matching tie. The twins give Stan the tie, but tell each other they won’t use it unless it’s absolutely necessary.
At the Wednesday Stump Speech, Stan’s opening remarks are about the amount of makeup the women of Gravity Falls wear. It’s immediately obvious that Mabel and dipper need to jump in. The twins take turns with the tie and say all the right things, prompting the crowd to erupt in cheers. By the end of the speech it seems he’s a shoo-in to win.
The next day, the newspaper headlines announce the success of Stan’s speech, and Bud Gleeful is at his wits end. He announces to his campaign staff that he needs to talk to his campaign manager. He enters a darkened room where a camera extends from a TV screen, on which Lil’ Gideon appears and berates his father from his prison cell. During his tirade we learn that the plan is for Bud to become mayor and pardon Lil’ Gideon, freeing him from prison. As this plan is failing fast, Lil’ Gideon brings out his backup plan: a single page from Journal #2 that he saved. The page contains a possession spell, which he uses to take control of Bud.
The next day Stan refuses to wear the suit and tie. He thinks he can do whatever he wants and the people will love him. When the twins insist he wear it, Stan tells them he doesn’t need their dumb advice, prompting Dipper to angrily tell him they’ve controlled him the whole time. Stan is furious and marches out, telling them he’s going to win the debate without anyone’s help. The twins, whose goal was always to thwart Bud over helping their Grunkle, decide they need a new candidate.
At the debate, the field is narrowed down to just four candidates: Stan, Bud, Tyler Cutebiker, and, surprise late entry, Soos wearing a necktie! None of these candidates have any idea what they’re doing, and everything goes terribly wrong. Stan proposes they wage war on neighboring cities, Soos/Mabel promises a kitten in every pot, and Bud/Gideon does a dance and sings about how “Crime is bad.” The simple folk of Gravity Falls seem to love the dance and, by first intermission, Bud has the most birdseed.
Backstage the twins try to figure out what is going on with Bud, just as his brain-dead body walks up with a screen attached to his stomach transmitting Lil’ Gideon from prison. Bud/Gideon grabs the twins and takes them inside a giant Mt. Rushmore style memorial being built in the late Mayor Befufftlefumpter’s honor. He ties them to a chair in a pile of dynamite and leaves, promising they will be sealed inside the memorial as soon as he wins the debate.
As the debate recommences, Stan does terribly and regrets what he said the kids. Suddenly, the twins fall out of the memorial’s nose, high above the crowd, causing everyone to go into a panic. Stan looks up and forgets about the speech, rushing to save his family. The crowd goes wild and tosses so much birdseed that it’s obvious that he will win. In a final act of desperation, Bud/Gideon blows up the memorial and causes Stan to leap from the mountain to save their lives.
Gideon freaks out in rage, but the crown loves it and throws all the rest of the birdseed to Stan. The eagle bestows upon him the “birdly kiss,” and it seems Stan won! The next day it’s announced on the news that he lost. Despite winning 95% of the vote, officials discovered his extensive criminal record and disqualified him from the race. Instead, the race went to the only candidate who actually filled out his paperwork, Tyler Cutebiker. Stan is disappointed, but admits it may be for the best.
In a brief epilogue we see Lil’ Gideon, who is lying alone in his cell, in prison. Suddenly, he gets up and rips down a poster that hangs on the wall, revealing a chalk drawing of Bill Cipher. He fills in the eye and says he’s finally ready to make a deal. The drawing begins glowing and the episode ends.
“The Stanchurian Candidate” was excellent, despite the fact that it felt like a displaced episode from season one. With Ford’s overall absence, (he was there, but not for long) plus the return of Lil’ Gideon, it really had the feeling of a much earlier Gravity Falls. And I loved it.
The best part of the episode was the return of Lil’ Gideon. He has been my favorite villain since season one, and I have missed his adorable, creepy weirdness. I can’t say it was a total surprise to see him, I suspected he’d be back as soon as I saw Bud, but it was so long since I’d seen him I didn’t care that I wasn’t surprised. The reveal that he’s still in contact with Bill Cipher was an excellent way to end the episode and that twist was one I can gladly say I did not see coming.
There were a lot of great quotes and character moments with the citizens of Gravity Falls in this episode. Gravity Falls has an excellent cast of minor characters, and so many of them got little moments to shine. The hilarious backstory of Mayor Befufftlefumpter was a great way to introduce the episode and the reveal of Tyler Cutebiker’s last name, and having him become mayor, was an unexpected but welcome twist. Tad Strange was a great new character and it was good to see the press of Gravity Falls get something to do again. I love that Shandra Jimenez had a pretty big role, and Toby Determined and his turkey baster was a hilarious callback for those who caught it.
Dipper: “I know Stan isn’t the best candidate. Heck, he’s committing voter fraud right now!”
Grunkle Stan on childhood education: “Put ‘em on an island and make ‘em fight for dominance. Also teach kids swears. That’ll bring ‘em into the real world.”
Lil’ Gideon: “I can’t sleep because my cellmate took my pillow for a wife!”
Shandra Jimenez: “Welcome all, to the final debate, in what is sure to be, on a cosmic scale, a forgettable blip in human history.”
Lil’ Gideon: “Why hello there! Long time no see! Except in my revenge fantasies where I see you on an hourly basis.”
All in all, this was an excellent episode. While it did feel like it would have been better off as part of season one, it wasn’t completely out of place and it did work. There was plenty of character development and, with the reveal at the end, a little bit of plot development too. With the introduction of the rift at the end of the last episode, I was hoping for a little more of the overarching plot, but what we got was great and we’ll get plenty more next time.
What did you think of this episode? Were you excited at the return of everyone’s favorite child psycho psychic?
Edited by: Hannah Wilkes