Tooncrap #21 - South Park: Pip

Low Expectations
Comedy Central: 2000

Written by: Raymond Gallant

I haven't really touched upon South Park's contributions in the world of the awful animated atrocities. And while I'm still a big fan of the show, I can easily say that the show has produced many a turd sandwich, and the early seasons are no exception. while, granted, a lot of those have to do with the original format of the show not fully holding up, much like the early Simpsons episodes for the most part, Some are just bad episodes because the idea and execution were both just horribly done. And no better case is this than with the fourth season episode "Pip".

Pip was one of South Park's early characters. And much like many of the early characters, he was basically a one gimmick character with little to no development throughout the show's first three seasons. He pretty much was just the kindly British kid who Cartman called French. Granted, he does get a moment of awesome in the "Conjoined Fetus Lady" episode, proving to be unstoppable at dodge ball whenever he's being picked on. Other than that moment, he really did nothing of note.

Which makes giving him a solo episode even more strange. Not to mention a solo episode based on a work of Charles Dickens no less. You see, Pip was based on the protagonist Pip Pirrip from the book Great Expectations. Considering South Park's propensity of shock value and lowbrow humor, having Trey Parker and Matt Stone parody the works of any famous author, let alone Dickens, seemed like a joke to begin with. And considering how many people consider this one of South Park's worst episodes, I guess it was a joke no one laughed at.

So, let's see how bad "Pip" truly is, as we review this thing.

We open the episode with...

Malcolm McDowell? I guess the so' 'op was cancelled, so Trey and Matt managed to get him to do opening segments. He is introduced as "a British person", and tells us that this episode will focus on Pip, and be South Park's representation of Great Expectations.

We go straight into the story as Pip goes to see the graves of his deceased parents to tell them about how much fun it is that his sister abuses him.

But before Pip can head home, he's grabbed by an escaped convict. Feeling sorry for him, Pip, being an apprentice blacksmith, decides to free the convict from his shackles and offers him a sandwich.

Pip returns home to his abusive sister, and her husband, a dimwitted yet kindly blacksmith named Joe. Who can make a metal orange, but sure the hell can't make money. So, with the family poor and starving, they find a job for Pip in the paper. A wealthy woman named Miss Havesham is seeking someone to entertain her adopted daughter. And since Pip is for the most part just a nice kid, they figure he can get it done.

Pip heads to the Havesham estate, and is greeted by her adopted daughter Estella, who pretty much constantly calls him the worst names imaginable, since she's kind of a bitch. Pip meets Miss Havesham, who has essentially never left the mansion in many years, and is interested in seeing Pip and Estella play together, mainly in hopes that she will break his heart. However, whenever Estella tries to break Pip's spirits, it doesn't work, because Pip's so overly kindhearted, and infatuated with Estella, that he doesn't mind being abused.

It also turns out that Pip isn't the only boy being paid to play with Estella, which appears to be all part of some plan by Miss Havesham to break his heart.

Pip's good luck continues as a lawyer from London arrives to tell Pip that an anonymous benefactor wants him to come to London to learn to be a proper gentleman. Pip of course believes that it's Miss Havesham. But regardless, Pip is to become a gentleman of great expectations.

Upon arriving in London, Pip is greeted by his roommate, a boy named Pocket, who is particularly chatty. It also turns out that this is the same boy who was also paid by Miss Havesham to play with Estella. Pocket tells Pip of Miss Havesham's backstory, while constantly trying to teach him of proper table manners.

Essentially, Miss Havesham was a spoiled girl, who had fallen in love with a man. The two were to married, but when the wedding day came and the groom never showed up, which explains why she's never left the mansion.

Now a proper gentleman, Pip goes to Miss Havesham to thank her for helping him. She tells him of how much Estella has changed, and asks if he loves her. She tells Pip that a ball will be held the next day, and Estella will be there, and for Pip to go after her. Which again is part of her plan to break his heart.

So, for the most part, despite being a very dry episode, they have followed most of the book's major plot points of the story. Pip becoming a gentleman, Miss Havesham stringing Pip along in his love for Estella in hopes to break his heart. For the most part, it really is a cliff notes version of Great Expectations.

And then it all falls down a cliff with the third act, which is usually the point in a South Park episode where the writers seem to be stuck in how to finish the story, so they throw together some bullshit out of the blue.

The best example of this being the episode "South Park is Gay", where despite no logic in it at all, the big revelation is that the stars of Queer Eye for the Straight Guy were actually crab people in disguise.

At the ball, Pip is reunited with Estella, and learns more about her. She has no heart. Not in the sense of a lack of a beating organ, but no emotion of empathy. She also has a boyfriend named Steve who's 17 and has a car. So, despite all of Pip's efforts to become a proper gentleman, it's proven to be all for naught. He returns to Miss Havesham, only to learn that she had set the whole thing up in hopes to break his heart completely. And it definitely appears to have worked.

So, why did Miss Havesham do all this? In the book, it was simply due to her hatred of men after being abandoned on her wedding day. So, you'd think that would apply here.

Nope, it was because she needed the tears of brokenhearted men to use for her genesis device, which will fuse her soul into Estella's so she can continue to break the hearts of men.

Can-Can I get a visual representation of this episode right now?


So, yeah. We spent two acts with a dull, accurate enough representation of Charles Dickens' book Great Expectations, only for the third act to feel like it was ripped off of Banjo Kazooie.

Oh, and she has an army of robot monkeys...

I can't imagine why people don't like this episode.

Pip escapes, but passes out in the street. He's rescued by Joe and Pocket, who also introduce him to the person who actually did send him off to be a gentleman. It turns out that it was the escaped convict, who managed to turn his life around in London and become a millionaire. Since Pip was the only person who ever treated him with any ounce of respect, he wanted to help Pip in becoming a proper gentleman. Pip learns his lesson, that being a gentleman doesn't mean being fancy, or well mannered, it means being a gentle man. And the episode ends here...

Or at least it would have made some sense in doing so until we added all the bullshit with Miss Havesham, so Pip, Joe, Pocket, and the convict return to her manor to kick her ass and save Estella.

The foursome return as Miss Havesham has the genesis device ready to go, with several men hung by their ankles. Since they were all former boyfriends of Estella (And considering the age gap for most of them, that's pretty damn creepy), she wants them to cry to power up her device. As Pocket tries to stop them from crying, Pip tries to prove to Estella that she can be kind. However, despite Pip proving it with bunnies, all Estella does is snap their necks.

Also, the Ex-Con ends up dead because I guess Miss Havesham can spit acid now.

However, after killing about 25 baby bunnies, Estella is tired of it, which I guess is enough for Pip to believe that she does indeed have a heart after all. She escapes the device, which causes Miss Havesham to burn to death. Everyone escapes, Pip and Estella are in love (I guess), and all of Pocket's baby bunnies are still dead.

And that's "Pip". Is it the worst South Park episode? I don't really think so. There have been far worse that have dealt with either poorer subject matter, or just terrible writing. However, the problem is that the episode is particularly boring. It lacks any really funny moments or dialogue that makes it particularly memorable. Pip just isn't a particularly memorable character, so having this episode with the lack of Stan, Kyle, Kenny, Cartman, or even Butters, really hinders the episode. This situation would bite them in the ass later on with another episode, but we'll save that one for another time

And despite trying at certain points to stick with the story of Great Expectations, the third act feels so stupid, that it really makes this episode even more pointless. I get that it's South Park, and they try for mostly over-the-top situations, but this not only felt out of place, but uninspired as well. It's just a story that never felt like it had a place in South Park.

Fans of the book wouldn't care for it due to its attempt at crassness, as well as the third act being a massive WTF. And fans of the show wouldn't care for it since most (let's be honest) aren't ones who would probably well verse themselves in literature. It reminds me of the joke from "Weight Gain 4000" where Wendy revealed that Cartman's report was nothing more than "Walden" with Cartman writing his name over Henry David Thoreau. Which led to the line "I bet if Walden was a sitcom, you'd all know what it was". That line I think speaks toward the general disinterest of this episode.

After this episode, Pip never really made many appearances, and was killed off for good in the controversial episode "201". Perhaps Trey Parker and Matt Stone had high expectations for young Pip Pirrup, but in the end, they certainly weren't great.