“Roadside Attraction” is the 16th episode of Gravity Falls’ second season, but it really felt like a season one episode. It’s pretty much a stand-alone story, it held very few ties to the continuing narrative, and it focused on Grunkle Stan being the lovable criminal we all know he is.
The episode opens with the Pines family, as well as Soos, Grenda, and Candy, packing an RV as they get ready for a road trip to all Oregon’s biggest tourist traps. Grunkle Stan explains that every year the proprietors of these attractions prank the Mystery Shack, but this time he will get the jump on them and prank them first!
Mabel tells Dipper she packed for him and included his secret box from under the bed, which she proceeds to drop. A pile of pictures of Wendy spill all over the ground. Dipper scrambles to pick them up, but everyone around him starts groaning and tells him he needs to move on. Dipper doesn’t know how to move on, but Soos tells him that a road trip is the perfect way to meet new people.
On the open road, the gang arrives at their first stop. It’s the location of the most black-hearted proprietor in all of Oregon (according to Grunkle Stan): Granny Sweetkin’s Yarnball; The World’s Biggest! Grunkle Stan tells everyone not to let her face fool them. Apparently Granny Sweetkin’s set Grunkle Stan’s car on fire on two non-consecutive occasions.
When they arrive, Mabel leads the girls on an expedition inside the yarn ball, while Dipper tries to meet new people starting with a girl who appears to be his own age. He immediately accidentally insults her, and ends up with a handful of the girl’s ice cream as Grunkle Stan calls him away to help him at the yarn ball.
As they tie the end of the yarn to the RV’S bumper, Dipper tells Grunkle Stan about his girl problems. Grunkle Stan tells Dipper that all he needs to do is be funny and confident (as well as kind of annoying, but in a lovable way). Basically, if Dipper acts like him, all his problems will be over. Then he calls everyone back to the RV and they take off, unraveling the entire ball of yarn behind them and leaving Granny Sweektins in a rage as she throws her giant needle and vows revenge.
The next stop on their tour is Upside-Down Town, a house that is literally upside down. Everything inside is nailed to the floor, and guests wear velcro shoes to keep them from falling down to the ceiling. Inside Dipper tries out Grunkle Stan’s advice. He befriends a girl named Emma Sue by cracking jokes and offering to take her picture with her phone, then pretending to drop it. Everything works out great until she has to leave, but she writes her email address on Dipper’s arm. It would seem that Grunkle Stan’s advice worked!
Dipper is so happy that he walks around and is complementing everyone – including Candy, who seems to be a little more than pleased with the attention. As she blushes bright red, we hear Stan call from outside, “Now, Soos!” and the house begins to tip. He’s turning the whole place right-side up!
As they flee the scene of the crime, Dipper excitedly tells Stan his tips worked. He wonders if he should email her right away, but Stan tells him that she was just practice. He shouldn’t email her, but he should talk to mare girls. The more girls he talks to, the better he’ll get. Dipper tells Stan his tips are priceless and writes everything down in his notebook.
The trip continues and Dipper ends up with an armful of email addresses and phone numbers. Meanwhile. Grunkle Stan leaves a trail of destruction and Soos gets lost in a corn maze. No one even realizes he’s missing.
That night, while stopped at an RV park, Dipper shows Grunkle Stan all the numbers, but confesses he feels bad about flirting with all the girls and then never talking to them again. Stan tells him the best part about flirting on a road trip is that he’ll never see any of the girls again, so he shouldn’t worry about it.
Across the way, the girls sit around a campfire and play Truth or Dare or Don’t. When it gets to Candy’s turn, she chooses Truth and Mabel asks if she likes anyone. When she confesses her feelings for Dipper, Mabel and Grenda freak out. They are so excited for her that they start planning to match them up immediately.
The next day they set out on their way to their final attraction, Mystery Mountain. It’s a whole mountain set up like the mystery shack, but with REAL attractions. Candy excitedly holds up a pamphlet telling everyone that she’s read all about this place. They have sky trams, a mummy museum, and people have reported sightings of half human, half spider creatures there. Grunkle Stan in infuriated, saying, “Even their made-up legends are better than ours, today the mountain falls!”
As they get closer, Mabel and Grenda decide to switch seats, which puts Dipper and Candy together, and then leave them alone. Candy asks Dipper if he’ll walk around Mystery Mountain together. He reluctantly says yes, but is internally freaking out.
When they arrive Dipper tells Grunkle Stan that things have gone too well and now he thinks he has a date with Candy. Stan is delighted, but Dipper thinks he should just being honest with her and say no before anything starts. Stan tells him if he wants to move on he needs to say yes to whatever comes his way and, as if to prove his point, he spots a curvaceous blonde at the ticket booth wearing a name tag that reads Darlene. He tells Dipper to watch and learn and walks up to the booth, turning on the charm. She invites him to take the sky tram with her up to Widow’s Peak. As they leave he gives Dipper an excited look over his shoulder.
Inside the mummy museum Candy gets very cozy with Dipper. As her head falls on his shoulder, all the girls he met earlier show up and and demand an explanation for why he never called them. Dipper tries to explain, but his excuses don’t work and they all march out. This leaves him alone with a broken-hearted Candy, who tells him she thought he was a nice guy.
Up on the mountain, Stan and Darlene are getting quite cozy as well. She pretends to be scared of the spider imagery around them, but he assures her that the spider-people are an urban legend. She complements his bravery and he replies with, “What can I say, I’m a real catch.” “Yes,” she replies, “The catch of the day!” Her eyes turn black and Grunkle Stan screams as she attacks him.
At the base of the mountain a walkie talkie that Stan gave Dipper buzzes. It’s Grunkle Stan, who tells Dipper that Darlene is a spider-person and he needs Dipper to come rescue him. Dipper runs to get the girls as Darlene smashes Stan’s walkie talkie.
The kids make it up the mountain and tear Stan out of the webs before Darlene can get back. They jump onto the sky tram to escape, but – as the ride only goes 0.1 MPH – Darlene in her spider form easily catches up to them. She coats the entire tram in web, which seals them inside.
No one knows what to do until Candy pulls out a travel guide for the park. She tells the others the sky tram has a drop switch and there’s a geyser below them. She yanks the lever and the tram and Darlene plunge into the geyser, which launches them down the mountain. The tram hits the bottom, with Darlene still clinging to the outside, and destroys the ticket booth that was underneath the boot of a giant Paul Bunyan statue. The tram rolls away and leaves Darlene under the boot, which falls and traps her underneath.
The group breaks out of the tram, but Darlene still isn’t finished. She turns back into a human and tries to charm Stan again. It totally works, but – just as she’s about to bite him – the kids yank him back. Darlene falls back, defeated, but tells him – while he may have won this time – as long as there are men like him she’ll never run out of prey.
On the way home Stan admits to Dipper that he really doesn’t know what he’s doing. He’s been divorced once, and slapped more times than he can remember. When it comes to women, he’s a failure. Dipper tells him that, even though his dating tips were bad, he hasn’t thought about Wendy all day and he gained some confidence. He just needs to learn to use it for good. To that end he goes to the back of the RV and apologizes to Candy. She forgives him and tells him that after he fled the spider like a baby she lost interest.
As they get back to Gravity Falls, Dipper expresses regret over wrecking the other tourist traps, but Grunkle Stan tells him not to worry about it. Everyone loves his pranks and he never has to face any consequences for them. Just then they see Granny Sweetkins spray painting graffiti all over the Mystery Shack, while the other proprietors destroy the rest of the place and smash the headlights out of the RV. As they run away laughing, Grunkle Stan is confused. “I don’t understand,” he says, “I completely don’t deserve this!”
Over the end credits we see Soos still lost in the corn maze: “Okay, Soos, remember what your grandma taught you. When you get lost, stay exactly where you are and don’t move.”
“Roadside Attraction” is a bit of a setback for Gravity Falls. Not in the sense that it’s a bad episode (there’s nothing wrong with it) but in the sense that it aired completely out of order and thus makes no sense within the continuing narrative the show followed these past few months. Had this aired back in the spring, I feel like I would have enjoyed it a lot more. Instead it felt like it broke up the story we were already following. I wanted to know what was going on with Ford and the rift. I wanted another hint about Bill’s plan. I was hoping for another glimpse of Li’l Gideon. Instead we got a twenty-minute series of gags following Grunkle Stan on a road trip of revenge. Which, don’t get me wrong, was still very funny, but it just felt misplaced. Of course I don’t put any of this blame on Alex Hirsch. I’m sure all the blame goes squarely on the shoulders of the Disney Channel execs who are rather infamous for airing episodes out of order. Anyway, that’s enough of my little rant; lets get on to the good stuff.
Let’s start with the biggest reveal of the episode: Grunkle Stan was married! He tells Dipper he’s divorced once and, to my knowledge, this is brand new information! Who was he married to? What happened between them? Where is she now? If you decode the end credit cryptogram, (Thank you, Gravity Falls Wiki!) it reads: “Carla McCorkle returned all his flowers, Marilyn divorced him after only six hours, Beatrice slapped him for being a cad, Old Goldie’s the best girlfriend Stan ever had.” So apparently her name was Marilyn, the marriage lasted 6 hours, and I want to know this story.
Moving on, I loved the overall moral of this episode. Basically, “If you want to get a girl, don’t be a creep.” Grunkle Stan’s approach to getting girls was the approach of a lot of guys and it is a really terrible way of going about things. I loved how it was turned around by having Stan become the object. Only this time it was for food, not romance. This way of thinking basically boils down to treating girls like an object to be won. As a guy whose life-long best friend is a girl, (My cousin, BFFs since babies!) I see things from the girl’s point of view a lot better than most guys and I hate how bad they have it sometimes. Guys can be downright creepy! I really appreciated the message in this episode and I hope the kids of today take it to heart. Sure giant spiders won’t devour them if they act this way, but hopefully they get the idea.
Can I just say that I loved this villain? She was so creepy, both as a human and a spider, and her overall design was so good! Doctor Who fans will most certainly draw comparisons to the Empress of the Racnoss, but – as someone who absolutely loved the Racnoss – I thought this was the perfect homage to her. I don’t know if it was intentional, but I’ve never seen a centaur-like spider creature anywhere else, so I have to assume that’s where the idea came from. Even if it’s a total coincidence, I still love this design.
I really enjoyed all the great character moments in this episode, especially Candy’s; she really got the chance to shine in this one. With no focus on an overarching story the episode really had to rely on a lot of small character moments and visual gags, especially in the first half. Every location was unique and strange, and it really gave everyone a lot to play around with.
Grenda: “If I had a baby, I would name it ‘Grenda 2: The Sequel’!”
Mabel: “Oh! You would make such a good mother!”
Stan: “I was blinded by flattery! Also this acid she spit in my face.”
Stan: “You tricked me! I’m 80% certain you don’t really love me at all!”
Darlene: “My only weakness! A giant boot! A giant newspaper or giant cup would also have been pretty bad.”
I really enjoyed this episode. If it’s put back into the proper viewing order in the future, it’s a pretty solid, fun little story that does not fail to entertain. The only thing it had going against it was the fact that it was not the “real” next episode, but that’s coming soon enough. Stay tuned!
P.S. In making the screencaps for this episode I discovered some horrifying frames of Darlene, mid-transformation. I’ll leave you with one of them. Sweet Dreams.
What did you think of this episode of Gravity Falls? What do you think of Darlene?
Edited by: Hannah Wilkes