Adventure Time: “Ocarina”
B+

Adventure Time: “Ocarina”

Jake’s lousy parenting skills are finally addressed

“Ocarina” begins with five baby birds crawling out of their nest because their father isn’t watching over them. Deadbeat dads are the theme of this episode, which explores Jake’s relationship with his five kids, and while Jake’s children have fared better than the baby birds without their father, they still yearn for a more active parental figure.

Jake has been absent in his children’s lives, and this week he discovers the consequences of his inaction when his son Kim Kil Whan buys the deed to Finn and Jake’s treehouse in hopes of getting his dad to start thinking like a responsible adult. It’s a complicated, mature episode examining father and son relationships through the experience of two stretchy dogs, and another installment that shows how much Adventure Time has grown since its conception.

Jake has spent most of this season in the background as Finn deals with his personal issues, so it’s refreshing to see him get the spotlight, especially with a story that has been aching to be told. We’ve seen Jake’s interactions with Jake Jr., but his relationships with the rest of his children have gone largely unexplored. This week, we learn that they’ve gone unexplored by the series because they don’t exist, and the only times Jake has seen his kids are the times that have been documented on screen.

Jake’s just not a very good father, and at the start of the episode he shows up three hours later to a picnic being held in honor of the kids’ birthday with a pocketful of macaroni salad to feed the entire party. And the worst part is that he doesn’t see anything wrong with his behavior. He cheers, “We’re real late!”, when he comes literally crashing into the party with Finn, and then throws the salad on the ground like he just did everyone a great big favor. He’s a disappointment, and “Ocarina” sees one of Jake’s kids taking an active effort to make him a better father by kicking him out of his home in hopes that he’ll finally grow up.

Kim Kil Whan buys the treehouse deed from Marceline in exchange for an insane bass, and then turns it into a 37-unit building with vacancies for anyone that can pay. Finn and Jake have emptied out their treasure room, so the best they can afford is a ladder, although it’s a finely crafted ladder with easy access to both top and bottom floors. They try to make this arrangement work, but when they end up in jail after using the bathroom, they realize that they’re going to have to figure out a way to get their home back, which means figuring out what’s really bothering their new landlords.

One of the things I really appreciate about this episode is the political commentary, which stems from Finn’s ignorance over why the law has forced them out of their home. “The laws ain’t made to help earthy cats like us,” Jake tells his bro, and then he proceeds to give him a rundown of the history of socioeconomic equality: Back in the old days, it was every man for himself, and the strongest, meanest men got the greenest valleys. Everyone else got sand, and that’s when the strong, mean men made the laws.

Once the people in power got the world how they liked it, they said this is fair now, this is the law, and they changed the rules of nature. In the accompanying animation, we see a border put up between the green and the sand, and when one of the weaker people tries to cross that border, he’s taken to prison. I can’t help but think of the current debate around immigration in the U.S. during that sequence, and it’s refreshing to see the show explore some deeper political ideas in the middle of the cartoon shenanigans.

Marc Evan Jackson is the voice of Kim Kil Whan, playing an uptight, no-nonsense character that isn’t far from his recurring guest role as attorney Trevor Nelson on Parks And Recreation. He’s fully committed to his dialogue, and Kim Kil Whan’s stony demeanor makes him a great foil for his goofy, irresponsible father. That goofy irresponsibility is where most of Jake’s charm comes from, though, and Kim Kil Whan needs to learn that.

When Finn and Jake follow Kim Kil Whan to his gorgeous home, they realize that he’s incredibly wealthy, so clearly he’s not interested in money. Jake finally puts the pieces together and realizes that what his son really wants is love, so he makes Kim Kil Whan an ocarina that will remind him of his father’s love whenever he plays it. The problem is that Jake doesn’t know how to make an ocarina so he essentially just gives his son a not-hollow rock with some ridges on it, but it’s the thought that counts.

Inside his home, Kim Kil Whan’s wife laments the failure of his plan to give his father a personality makeover, but as he looks at the ocarina, he realizes that he doesn’t need to change his father in order to gain his love. Jake isn’t winning a “Father Of The Year” trophy anytime soon, but he has plenty of love for his kids. He just needs to figure out better ways of showing it.

Stray observations:

  • Whoever plays the guitar for this show is wonderful. He/she is so great at setting a relaxing mood.
  • Love the visual distortion of Kim Kil Whan’s teleporting effect is awesome.
  • I was really hoping that all of Jake’s kids would be voiced by the Belcher family after Dan Mintz and Kristen Schaal were brought on the show, but alas, it was not meant to be.
  • My favorite moment of this episode is when Kim Kil Whan gets hit in the face with a bunch of pebbles. I just wanted to share that.
  • Nicknames for Kim Kil Whan: “real-time jingle-blaster,” “out-loud flim-flammer”
  • “Ugh. I’m covered in newbs.”
  • “So I guess this is the apartment you two can afford. It’s a ladder.”
  • “Oh, and flush once after you boom boom, but before you use the tp. And then once more in the middle of using the tp if you’re going to use a lot. It’s easier on the pipes.”
  • “I can’t wait to wash my gross fat butt.” 
  • “Fathers and sons, man. That’s the real thick chowder.”

More TV Club