This episode throws all kinds of new information at you right from the first words.
"Bluffington: Bumper sticker capital of the world."
See? So much more new information to come. This whole episode takes place at...
There are two typos on this sign. It clearly says "PUMPER" and I can't not point that out. I guess you could argue that a company that makes bumper stickers might think misspelling "picnic" is humorous, so that one might just be a weird joke on bumper sticker companies. But pumper stickers....
Anyway, it's the Bluffco family picnic, so naturally everyone in Bluffington is there. Everyone is playing games and having fun. Doug is reading.
He's reading Whiz Kids #49. It's a series about a brother and sister that solve mysteries. Doug is finally getting to the solution and it comes to this.
Doug is about to look at the solution when Patti snatches the book out of his hand and says that you're supposed to figure it out for yourself.
She says it's an easy one. Doug starts making wild guesses that are all wrong. Patti says you're supposed to look at the evidence and ignore all the motives.
Then Skeeter runs up to ask them about his missing wheelbarrow but notices the book and comments on how easy it was to figure out. He knew it all along apparently. Patti cuts him off so he doesn't ruin it for Doug, who gets back to hard thinking before...
"Professor Whiz kidnapped himself!"
"ROGER! He almost had it!"
So yeah, even Roger thinks that mystery was easy to solve. The first few minutes of this episode are spent showing that Doug doesn't have the critical thinking to work through a simple children's mystery story. Oh, and why did Professor Whiz kidnap himself? According to the book: "Professor Whiz kidnapped himself in order to test the brain power of his extraordinarily brilliant children." So yeah...Doug isn't extraordinarily brilliant.
Skeeter asks Roger if he'd seen his missing wheelbarrow and he gets defensive, saying he wouldn't get caught dead in that crummy race. So apparently there's a wheelbarrow race.
Finally Mr. Dink runs up yelling about something terrible when he also notices the book and comments on how easy it was. Poor, simple Doug. Anyway, the terrible thing that happened was sabotage. Somebody stole all of the bumpers for the wheelbarrow race. It actually sounds like a fun race for a picnic. Kids are blindfolded in wheelbarrows and their parents run them across the field to a hanging bumper. They have to slap bumper stickers on it. Doug never fully explains the rules, so I'm not sure how a team wins (most stickers in a given time, best accuracy, least injuries), but for a picnic, at least it's not a sack race, or a three-legged race, or an egg toss, or a series of jokes about ants ruining everything.
Seeing Mr. Dink break down into tears over the sabotage sends Doug into his first fantasy.
It's a classic noir-style mystery. Doug, P.I., is hanging out in his office when he confronts a shadowy figure...in his office. Hmmm. He accuses the shadowy figure, who fumbles his alibi, and then Doug rips off his overcoat, revealing that the shadowy figure has the bumper stickers strapped to his back. Case closed. Patti is impressed.
"Well, Patti Whiz...once you understand the criminal mind..."
"What are you talking about, Douglas?"
Just another case of acting out his fantasy and confusing those around him. And what a fantasy. It's just that easy. Detectives usually just wait around in their offices until shadowy figures come in and can't answer the first question without changing their answer 3 or 4 times in a row. It's also great that it's still a mysterious "shadowy figure." Doug solved the case by pointing out that a shadowy figure did it. What shadowy figure? I don't know. The shadowy figure in Doug's office. Arrest that figure!
Anyway, after the fantasy Doug and Patti decide to solve the mystery together. Then Porkchop walks up to them with a glove in his mouth and gives it to Doug, who then gives it to Mr. Dink saying, "you dropped your glove." Mr. Dink says it isn't his and Patti says, "Doug, you found a clue!"
No. Porkchop found a clue. At least according to the way Doug wrote about it in his journal. Also, it's a glove at a picnic in a park. If you're going to consider everything a dog brings you to be a clue in the case of the missing bumpers, then be prepared to deal with figuring out what the thief was doing with all those Frisbees, sticks, and dead birds.
With this first clue, Mr. Dink is excited and runs off to get some very expensive equipment to help out. When he runs off with his box full of bumper stickers, one flies out.
I'm going to assume the sticker is referring to the cold cut...
Right before the next fantasy, Doug narrates, "the Funnie Mayonnaise Detective Agency was open for business."
They're just in their tree house/office, taking a lot of calls when an alarm announces a shadowy figure alert. They hop on their bikes and chase him, ultimately catching him with an elaborate trap that involved cutting down a tree.
In reality, they start looking over the crowd at the picnic to determine who might have taken the bumper stickers. Doug is coming up with motives for people. Chalky's dad might have taken it because if they lost the race their athletic reputation would be ruined. Beebe's family might have done it because they hate running races and losing. Patti says, "Mr. Valentine." Doug disagrees immediately because he can't think of a motive. Patti shows him the inside of the glove.
Seems like the kind of thing you'd notice almost immediately. No one is going to hire the Funnie Mayonnaise Detective Agency. They look over at Joe and he drops a huge, cloth-wrapped bundle on the ground. They proclaim that it is the bumpers. Case closed! Then Phil Funnie walks over to him and drops another bundle! How could he be involved in the theft too! Doug has a fantasy about sending them both to jail.
Then Phil asks them if they want to help set up the bonfire.
So misleading. Then Mr. Valentine notices they are holding his glove, takes it and says, "well, I was wondering what Ruby did with my other glove." So it was Skeeter's mom!
Better go investigate the new suspect. They find her playing cards with Mrs. Klotz and Mrs. Dink, right next to the scene of the crime.
They overhear Mrs. Dink telling the other two about how she told Mr. Dink he could run in the family wheelbarrow race, if they had a kid. Then Roger comes over and starts to ask his mom something, but she cuts him off saying she already told him she can't run the race because her feet hurt from work. Maybe his father will be able to make it next year. Patti then tells Doug that his dad lives in Bloatsburg. So, if you've been wondering what happened to that guy...Bloatsburg.
Mrs. Valentine says something that makes Patti realize that Skeeter's wheelbarrow was stolen and used to steal the bumpers. They go back to the scene of the crime and again notice something that should have been immediately apparent to them; wheelbarrow tracks.
OH SHIT A SHADOWY FIGURE! Also, that wheelbarrow leaves two tracks. Magic wheel or some idiot pushing it backwards? You decide.
The shadowy figure turns out to be Skeeter. He's actually still just looking for his wheelbarrow. It certainly looks bad for him though, because when he looked in that dumpster he accidentally found all the bumpers right when Doug and Patti ran up.
Finally, Doug puts it together. It was Roger.
He really wanted to be in the race, but his deadbeat dad didn't feel like coming from Bloatsburg.
So, with all the bumpers back in place, it's finally time to do this shit. But Doug doesn't feel right. He solved the case, but feels unsatisfied. He gets the obvious idea to have Roger and Mr. Dink team up for the race and everyone is happy.
Yeah. Skeeter didn't find his wheelbarrow, I guess. The rest of the picnic goers didn't think this sounded like much fun, I guess.
I can only assume that Patti helped Doug take his time figuring out that Roger did it. It's so obvious he did it that she probably suspected it as soon as she heard the bumpers were stolen. Most likely she just wanted to let Doug feel smart for figuring it out, since he couldn't figure out the Whiz Kids #49 mystery before Roger spoiled it.
Pretty cool how the first full episode of season 3 paints a sympathetic picture of Captain Rickets. Sort of reinforces my idea that he just wants to be friends with everyone but really doesn't know how. Maybe if he had a dad that wasn't a shithead and showed up to picnics to have fun with his son, he wouldn't think that treating someone like shit was the way to show that you love them.