In this episode, the stress is finally reaching a boiling point, becoming almost as big a problem as Puppetmon. Puppetmon seeks to correct this by setting up a little playdate.
Whamon ends up sacrificing himself to free WarGreymon to deliver the fatal blow. Whamon's death may not have been as dramatic or memorable as some of the others, but the fact that such sacrifices are becoming routine is troubling. How many more have to die?
...all right, are we caught up now? In each of the last three episodes, the dub induced cliffhangers, holding over Piximon's death, Whamon's rescue and MetalSeadramon's defeat to apparently make things more dramatic. It doesn't make anything worse... just a little weird. That ends here as the surplus material replaces a few traditional edits involving some gun play... which I'm not really going to complain about since this episode holds up just fine without them.
Anyway, the digidestined don't get to take all this in episodes. It's happening all at once and it's really bearing down on them by this point. The stress is getting to everybody, with Mimi again being the first to show it. She insists on stopping to honor Wizardmon, Piximon, Chuumon and Whamon. Once again, can you blame her? It's been a very long day (unless there was an overnight stay involved with Whamon, these last nine episodes have all happened on the same day) and both morale and patience is at an all time low.
This is evidenced less by Mimi's behavior and more in how Mimi's behavior leads to some epic drama in the group. Tai wants to get moving to confront the next boss, while Matt wants to take a break to calm down. What's beautiful about this scene is that everybody's mindset is correct: the good guys can't continue at this pace, but the bad guys won't slow down for them. The problem is that airing it out like this is only making things worse. Tempers flare and the group is even more tired and even less patient than before as they keep moving, an awkward silence hanging in the air.
Puppetmon can't stand awkward silences, so he loosens things up with a nice game, turning the forest floor into a conveyor and using dolls to teleport the kids from place to place, stopping occasionally to hit them in the gut or drop them on their heads. While everybody else is separated, Matt swears to protect TK, which TK misinterprets as a slight against his own ability. I'd say this is the stress's effect on TK, as he lashes out against Matt with a hell of a teamwork speech trying to get some credit for his contributions. Seeing this, Puppetmon chooses TK as his ideal plaything and captures him, subduing Matt in the process. Oh look! More stress!
While hiding from Puppetmon (who may or may not be packing heat), TK accidentally gets the digidestined back together. Matt's pretty distraught and obsessed with getting TK back. As we recall from episode 9 (not the Tai/Matt stuff; we'll get back to that in a bit), this determination to protect his baby brother can get dangerously unhealthy, and it shows when Kiwimon disrupts the hunt. Matt wants to forego the battle to look for TK, then wants Gabumon to Warp Digivolve to produce an instant win. Bear in mind that Kiwimon's a sad excuse for a Champion, and sending in a Mega would be overkill. It doesn't work because he's been spending the whole episode being pissed at his friends. Which continues when he absolutely eviscerates Sora for letting Birdramon kill Kiwimon instead of interrogating it for TK's location. Oh look! More stress!
As for TK? He's a crafty one. Matt's had no reason to believe that TK could take care of himself on his own because TK's never been properly tested on his own yet. This, however, is such a test and TK passes admirably. He shows some serious wits and gumption, calling out Puppetmon's lack of true friends to distract him and managing to destroy his playset that had been manipulating everybody. He finds Patamon and successfully rejoins the others. Happy as everybody is, it makes Matt feel even worse as he realizes that he was freaking out over nothing and that his big brother skills aren't as necessary as he believed. He slowly withdraws from the group...
As for Puppetmon... he's pissed that TK would just desert him like that, and swears revenge. Oh look! More stress!
My Grade: A-
- While walking through the woods, Kari randomly hears voices. Given everything that we now know about Kari after two seasons, I honestly couldn't tell if she's just hearing Puppetmon or something more mysterious. Pretty sure it's not Dragomon though.
- Puppetmon's manipulations produce some of the most violence we ever see against the digidestined. Joe's nailed in the stomach and falls into the mud, Tai's dropped straight onto his head and Matt's wrapped up past his mouth. Ouch.
- One reason I barely need to touch on the whole gun censorship thing is that the dub doesn't feel censored. There's only one scene where the censorship makes things awkward (where Puppetmon “scratches his leg”). The only real side effect is that we don't see how sadistic Puppetmon truly is, but there will be time for that later.