Splash Mountain is one of Disneyland’s most famous rides (Space Mountain and The Matterhorn would round out my top three). If you take a look at an approximate track layout, the ride noodles around the cartoon scenes from Disney’s most infamously insensitive feature Song Of The South, depicting Br’er Rabbit as he evades Br’er Fox and Br’er Bear. After twists and turns peacefully observing the goofy animatronic set-pieces, the log car climbs up into the dark before crashing down into the water, and then takes a slow jaunt back around to the start, dripping from the drop down the flume.
“Tramps” follows the structure of that theme park ride—goofy set-pieces leading up to a climactic action, followed by a peaceful dénouement leading off in another direction. It’s a struggle to carve out a place for these quarter hour shows between web shorts, which at times resemble movie comic strips, and conventional half-hour comedies. Perhaps thinking of them as a theme park ride—the more leisurely ones like Splash Mountain and Pirates of the Caribbean can take around 10 minutes—with quick, surreal scenes linked together through the bare bones of a plot, makes a good amount of sense.
The episode works its way into the surreal notion that tramps, the antiquated train bums who stow away on freight trains, would have a King, and an alien mythological origin on a distant planet running on Sterno. At first, Monsanto, Brett, and Susie don’t take their bum informant Spoons seriously, but after a Sterno and vomit-filled fever dream, Monsanto is all set to track down King Otis’ kidnappers.
A generic military villain wants King Otis for the tramp’s true power: imagination. But instead of dreaming up terrifying new weaponry, they can only extract ideas for delightfully charming cartoonish inventions like the Heathcliff (or the “Homeless Garfield”), the ability to put a fish in your mouth and pull out just the skeleton, and a mouse canoe made from a hot dog bun.
But as with many of the best Eagleheart episodes, the final turn puts a beautiful cap on an otherwise hilarious episode full of great one-liners. The E.T. parody with the dumpster is inspired, and the Tramp ride on the hallucinogenic home planet is so bizarre that it doesn’t matter that the show lifts completely off the rails and soars through the air with no clear direction. Everyone is having fun with the wild tangents that arise, and to watch a show that isn’t bothered by formula and gives in to whim and whimsy is refreshing.
Eagleheart isn’t afraid to paint itself into a corner and then just say “fuck it” and walk out of the room, and that’s exactly how this episode ends. It’s the only logical way to end such a surreal jump into a theme park style, if there’s such a thing as logic in the dreamlike progression of this show.
- Brett tries to kiss Susie on Spoons’ advice. After she vehemently rejects him: “Spoons told me to!” “Well don’t listen to Spoons!”
- King Otis’ other imaginary weapon: a boot that sings Al Jolson songs.
- Sterno is essentially gelatinous rubbing alcohol. Don’t drink that shit, you’ll go blind.