Jealousy within circles of friends is a common occurrence, and it’s hard not to judge yourself against the accomplishments of a person with whom you share a strong personal connection. You can probably think of that friend who always gets better grades that you, or makes more money than you, or is always doing cool, exciting things that you only experience through their social media feed. (If you can’t, you are probably that friend.) When that jealousy bubbles up, you have two options: Accept that the value of that friendship outweighs the envy and continue a positive relationship, or succumb to resentment and push that person away. Under the influence of the grass demon wrapped around his soul, Fern takes the latter option in “Three Buckets,” but in his case, he’s pushing his friend away so he can take his place and live the satisfying life that eludes him.
Fern wastes no time putting a plan in action to get rid of Finn. Last night’s episode had Fern deciding that the only way to be the best version of himself was by taking the place of his human doppelganger, but when his entire existence is defined by failure, the probability of Fern’s success is very small. For a while, it looks like Fern might actually take Finn off the board. He fools Jake, BMO, and NEPTR at the start of the episode when he tries out his shapeshifting ability and poses as Finn (with Finn’s total support), and he traps Finn in a dungeon chamber when they go exploring under the pretense of getting some bonding time. Left with just a chair, a trash bucket, and a pile of dirt in a meatloaf tin, Finn is in dire straits, but because this is Finn, he has the means to escape and doesn’t even know it.
Finn has a secret weapon: his bionic arm. His prosthesis has all kinds of cool features, which he hasn’t been able to access because the microphone was caked over with old ketchup. Once the microphone is cleared up, Finn learns all about the extra settings Princess Bubblegum has programmed into his arm (see a full list in Stray Observations), including a weed whacker feature that is especially appropriate for his current situation. The action then immediately cuts to Finn ambushing Fern in a giant field, where they engage in a fight that ends tragically for both of them.
Finn recognizes that there’s something wrong with Fern because his eyes get all demonic during the fight, and he wants to try to calm his friend before taking this too far. Unfortunately, his arm ends up escalating the situation despite Finn’s best intentions. When Finn says “finality,” his arm hears “fatality,” turning the weed whacker to its highest setting and plunging Finn’s hand deep into Fern’s abdomen. Fern is obliterated in the process, exploding into a shower of grass that rains down on a traumatized Finn. He’s in complete shock after accidentally murder his doppelganger, and this dramatic moments leads to one of the episode’s biggest laughs when BMO immediately realizes what happened. “I know the look,” BMO says. “You just killed someone.”
BMO has never been especially good at reading the room, and while he doesn’t realize how shaken Finn is, Jake definitely does. He goes over to his bro and gives him a hug, and the episode could easily have ended on this somber note, but instead concludes with something more ominous. In the dark of night, a mysterious man walks through the field where Finn and Fern fought, gathering Fern’s remains before asking him if he would like a new uncle. This comment plus the man’s physical similarity to Martin suggests that he’s Finn’s uncle, introducing a new branch of Finn’s family tree to be explored in the future.
The title of the episode comes from the three buckets that appear in the story: the trash bucket in Finn’s prison cell, the bucket that Finn has in his backpack, and the bucket that is used to gather Fern’s remains. The title card also shows Fern using three buckets for a variation on the “coin in the cup” magic trick, with a ring instead of a cup. That ring doesn’t appear until the final scene, where it’s being worn on the uncle’s finger, suggesting that this new character may be the mastermind of some sort of grand scheme. I assumed that Fern was a new villain at the end of last episode, but it looks like he’s just another pawn.
- I would have liked to see how Finn uses his arm to get out of the chamber, but I understand that there are only 10 minutes in the episode and some stuff has to be glossed over.
- Things Finn’s bionic arm can turn into: small guitar, hard drive, cursed scroll, dehumidifier, weed whacker, torque wrench, rock drill, pasta maker, crab claw, deep tissue massager, fan, spindown dice, toaster, ear piercer.
- Finn’s arm answering all of his questions during the fight is very funny. The writers could come up with a lot of fun jokes with that conceit.
- Everyone in the house hates it when Jake plays his vuvuzaila (I’m sure I’m not spelling that correctly).
- “Imitating uncool people infects you with their loserishness.”
- “I’m sorry, I don’t actually know how to make meatloaf. That’s just a pan of dirt.”
- “Do you know who my favorite is? It’s NEPTR. I’m a NEPTR guy!”