16-19: Path of the Rhino

Dom shows up and joins the team as the White Ranger.

Last time on Power Rangers: RJ and Flit helped out each other in turn, becoming friends.

 

Mischief and Laziness

A blond guy gets off a ferry in Ocean Bluff, doing a bit of sleight of hand seemingly for his own amusement.

Over in the temple, Grizzaka has a Crystal Eye but wants the seven others to have all eight Phantom Beasts back.  Carnisoar expresses concern since this faction and the Phantom Beasts feuded in the Beast War.  Grizzaka wants to ally with them, pointing out that being divided led to both groups losing the war.  Somehow he’s oblivious to the fact that he’s already similarly alienated Dai Shi for possessing a human.

Dom shows up at JKP, deciding to ‘prank’ them by pretending to be a health inspector.  To me, his antics came across as more malicious than silly.  He got tomato all over Casey just for kicks, which clearly upset him.  Pranks should make everybody involve amused, not just the prankster.  Showing up in casual garb, RJ happily greets Dom as an old friend of his.  The two head up to the loft to catch up- RJ explicitly mentioning he has to tell Dom about Dai Shi.  The trio is bemused by this turn of events.

Camille shows up with a red Rin Shi who has the crocodile spirit.  She briefly spots the Crystal Eye, but when asking about it refers to it as a “dragon’s eye”.  The Overlords quickly shoo her and the red Rin Shi away.  Grizzaka wants to find Dai Shi, as they’ve noticed his absence.

Dai Shi is running through a brook at this point.

Up in the loft, Dom flat-out states that he gets antsy when in one place too long but is willing to help out at JKP while present.  Casey decides to have Dom clean the underside of tables for the wads of chewed gum to remove (I’m guessing that surge of kid customers due to the toy store has its downsides).  He warns him that he’ll “inspect” after Dom’s done.  For his chore, Casey grabs the white ‘bucket’ of supplies to go clean the toilets.  The episode just intentionally or accidentally made it clear that Casey didn’t shove off the ‘icky’ chore to Dom out of revenge, as Casey himself has an at least equally icky chore.

Fran is folding dish clothes at the counter.  Dom opts to go chat with her instead of doing his chore.  That’s… that’s not okay.  You don’t offer to help out somebody with their chores and then back out when it’s not a fun one (particularly when the other person isn’t doing a fun one either).  Under other circumstances, Dom and Fran chatting about books would be cute and borderline shippy even to me, but… Dom is talking with Fran as a stalling tactic, either deliberately or subconsciously.  I cannot approve of that.

Out on a street, RJ is talking with Lily and Theo.  They’re all in casual garb, and I suspect they were doing grocery shopping (personal or for JKP).  RJ admits that six years ago, Master Mao sent Dom out to find his focus since otherwise he couldn’t be chosen as a guardian but Dom hasn’t found it yet.

The red Rin Shi attacks within earshot of the trio.

Casey returns, unhappy that Dom didn’t do the requested chore.  And it turns out that when Dom bumped Casey’s uniform hat into the trash, Casey’s Solar Morpher fell in as well, further aggravating him when it’s found due to its beeping.  On the one hand, Casey should have been more careful about where he puts his morpher.  On the other, Dom should have been less cavalier about knocking items over.  On a third hand, I admittedly wouldn’t want to put a morpher too close to toilets when cleaning them, so it makes sense for Casey to have put it down.  Actually, on that note, maybe he hoped/intended Fran to notify him if it beeped while he was working.  Hmm, that’d explain things- when I re-watched the scene, that does seem to be Casey’s intent to keep his morpher away from toilets.  Morphers are surely waterproof, but I wouldn’t want to put one near a toilet either.

Fran eggs Dom into following Casey out of the JKP.  I’m not sure why, since she knows Casey’s leaving for a battle as there’s “trouble”.  Then again, maybe she figures that Dom knows what’s going on and therefore could be helpful to the quartet.  After all, she knows what they get up and clearly saw that RJ and Dom are close (therefore he must have told Dom about everything).

Attention on the Shiny

The morphed RJ attacks first, with the morphed Theo and Lily showing up moments laster.  Crocovile goes into monster mode to fight all three Rangers.  Obviously, RJ rallies first.  Casey shows up to put on his morpher and, well, morph while Dom is lurking nearby.  After Casey’s morphing sequence is shown, the camera cuts to the impressed Dom.

All four Rangers charge at Crocovile but can’t gain the upper hand.  Dom attacks the monster, leading both RJ and Casey to tell him to back off.  For whatever reason, Dom treats the fight as if it’s a game.  Casey saves a skateboarding civilian when the car Dom uses as part of his antics goes skidding towards the guy.  Crocovile then leaves for some reason (to cause havoc elsewhere, maybe?).

While Dom is impressed that they’re Power Rangers, Casey is officially prickly.

Once back in the loft, RJ tries to get the trio to calm down regarding Dom.  The blond wants to join them in fighting Dai Shi as a Power Ranger, and this is where current-me loses a lot of sympathy for him.  Teenage-me hadn’t noticed (although she [me?] didn’t like Dom then either) that it was clearly implied that RJ had alerted Dom about Dai Shi’s escape off-screen, presumably modifying his story to exclude the morphers for whatever reason.  Actually, that itself is worrying that RJ, Dom’s own friend and fellow Pai Zhua person, didn’t alert him about the morphers.

The point is that Dom likely knew about Dai Shi attacking Ocean Bluff in that scene where he said he’d only visit for a few days.  So he only wanted to join the team when he learned that the ‘perks’ included a morpher.  Yes, Theo got excited about becoming a Power Ranger, but he was already dedicated to fighting Dai Shi with or without one, just like Lily.  Casey was more reluctant, but going from ‘handing out towels’ to ‘fighting the Big Bad’ in what couldn’t be more than a few days had to have given him mental whiplash.

Even more frustrating is that the show could have easily altered the plot to remove this utter selfishness.  Dom could have learned via the news about the monsters attacking Ocean Bluff and pieced things together, then made his way to the city to offer his assistance in fighting Dai Shi.  He could have sought out RJ, rightfully suspecting a link between his friend with the Violet Wolf spirit and the new Violet Wolf Ranger.

Hang on- how long did Dom and RJ really know each other?  What happened six years ago for Dom to be nudged out of the academy by Mao and for RJ to fall out with his dad?  Suddenly I’m suspecting that these events were linked somehow.

Basically, I’m with the trio doubting that Dom is taking this seriously.  After all, Dom didn’t really react to his antics nearly harming a civilian.  Obviously the villains’ actions are their own responsibility, but Dom’s flippant attitude makes Andrew Hartford look like Zordon in terms of seriousness and maturity right now.

The two guys stalk off, with a worried Lily heading after them.  RJ is torn between his old friend and his new students.  Dom decides to make them want him to join the team.

And of course, now Dom is actually helping out at the JKP since the trio has something he wants- their permission to join the Power Ranger team.  Fran and Dom end up being more playful than working in the kitchen.  There are multiple wads of pizza dough stuck to the walls due to ‘swatting’ the balls as part of making things fun… which seems like an unnecessary waste to me, but hey, Dom thought it was amusing to smack down on a tomato and cause Casey to get covered in its ‘guts’.

It turns out that Dom didn’t check the labels and put in hot chili pepper instead of regular pepper in the pepper shakers, upsetting quite a few customers to his confusion and Casey’s annoyance.  To be fair, Theo did something similar while multitasking… but the show ultimately treated that more seriously than this.  Also, Theo was actually distracted by doing multiple chores/hobbies at once; Dom, in contrast, seemed to just not be paying attention to what he was doing.

Up in the loft, Lily and Theo are training with the orange training versions of their original weapons.  Dom shows up, a bowl of his snack in hand, to give what sounds to my untrained ear valid advice.  RJ is tinkering with technology nearby and gets his hopes that this will be an olive branch.

However, Dom didn’t think about his greasy fingers when he touched the weapons, so things go poorly.  Look, I could buy that Lily and Theo either didn’t notice due to having been focused on training or kept their mouths shut out of a futile hope that it wasn’t that much grease, wanting to not actually antagonize Dom.  On the upper level, Casey nearly gets hit by one when it goes flying.

Dai Shi has found the Rhino Nexus (an ancient temple overshadowed by a Rootcore-sized tree).

A uniformed RJ finds Dom in the JKP kitchen.  Dom has accepted that he’s not fitting in and wants to leave.

Later, in the kitchen, Fran calls out the Rangers for not ‘trying’ to accept Dom.  Look, I can buy that Fran thinks this is a case of the cool kids not accepting a new member, particularly as it’s likely that she underwent such treatment during her school years.  But… Dom legitimately wasn’t fitting in.  I think Ziggy did a better job of trying to prove himself as a Ranger, which is kind of sad (I love Ziggy but he’s not exactly physically skilled).

An upset Fran leaves to do a delivery.  Casey heads after her with minimal nudging from Lily.

Suddenly Acceptable

The two of them take the JKP Jeep to a dock.  Spotting Dom on a bench, Fran heads over to chat with him.  Casey is miffed.  Yeah… Dom’s prank got him covered in tomato (which can be tough to get out stain-wise), Dom volunteered to help but didn’t, Casey’s morpher got accidentally put in the trash, Casey had to save a civilian when Dom’s antics frustrated Crocovile, Dom accidentally caused a lot of customers to be not only upset but physically pained, and Dom’s greasy fingers nearly got Casey beaned in the head.  I’m impressed that Casey has stayed at ‘mildly frosty’ towards Dom- I think I’d be borderline Antarctic in his shoes.  This is why Casey is a cinnamon bun like fanon!Charles.  Speaking of whom…

93charles

Daw, look at the cutie.  Yeah, now I feel better.  Can you tell that this episode is stressing me out?

Fran is a bit hurt that Dom left without saying goodbye, but she still opens up to him about how the team opened up to her (uh, that’s probably not helping Dom’s feelings, Fran) and does her best to reassure him.  As she heads off, a huge sign comes loose and starts to fall- right over her.

Dom uses his “Rhino Power” to save the day.  An impressed Casey apologizes for having thought that Dom was just a “goof-off”.  Hmm.  I suspect Casey is being influenced by his own nerves (and Theo’s initial dismissal of him) and how he ended up morphing for the first time to rescue Fran.  I can see why Casey would change his tune, given Casey’s empathic nature.  This also doubles as possibly accidental foreshadowing by shoring up Casey’s belief in giving people second chances to prove themselves as more than they appear.

Putting on his Solar Morpher, Casey gets a memo from his friends.

Lily and Theo are in Jungle Master Mode as they and RJ fight Crocovile elsewhere in the city.  Camille is nearby, shouting out encouragement to the monster.  Casey shows up on his Strike Rider to batter Crocovile, quickly shifting to his Jungle Master mode.  When Dom arrives, Lily is astonished as she thought he left while Theo remains prickly.  RJ gives Dom a bracelet to “Ranger Up” his Rhino Spirit, which magically transforms into a massive morpher.

“Jungle Beast, Spirit Unleashed,” Dom calls out and his morphing sequence is seen in full.  Afterwards, he goes, “With the Power of a Rhino, Jungle Fury Rhino Ranger!” as there’s white smoke and the following explosion behind him.

The quartet is pleased but an upset Camille calls upon a horde of Rin Shi.  Dom takes on the minions and is an admittedly powerful warrior.  Next he takes on Crocovile, RJ expressing his confidence in Dom’s toughness.  He does easily destroy the monster, further upsetting Camille.  Pleased, the others welcome Dom to the team.

A damp Dai Shi nears the Rhino Nexus, only to hit the force field protecting it.  He goes into armored mode to attack it, but gets tossed back and de-armored almost at once to his silent frustration.

Back at JKP, everything is going smoothly now.  Dom juggles to amuse the customers and the others admit that it’s nice to have a sixth worker.  The blond makes a ‘present’ out of the gum to Casey (wadding it all into a ball and putting it in a box with a red box).  The group is more amused than anything.  Casey even touches it.  He’s either braver than I am or knows that being a Power Ranger bolstered his immune system (look, that time Kimberly was sick, it was a flu capable of infecting a monster- possibly just for the humor of it, still).

Conclusion

Okay, so I think I made my feelings fairly clear throughout the episode: Dom got forgiven for his ‘silliness’ way too readily for my tastes and Dai Shi’s side plot barely got any attention.  The Crystal Eyes were mentioned for the first time to start laying the foundation for an upcoming mini-arc.  I will concede that it’s entirely valid to state that the other Rangers might have been taking things too seriously of late and needed somebody to lift their spirits and remind them to have fun sometimes.  But that’s not the episode we got.

The episode clearly took Fran’s side that the team didn’t really try to intergrate Dom into the group, but I’m not sure that’s true and/or it needed pointing out that it did take a while for the trio to become a proper team- for that matter, there just was an episode about adjusting the dynamic now that RJ was a fellow Ranger and not just the mentor.

I just wish that the episode had realized that Dom’s goofiness was a legitimate concern for the team, particularly when it comes to letting a near-stranger join a superhero team.

Fran came to Dom’s defense about them not giving him a chance to show them “what he was really made of” and then the quartet was silent before Fran took the phone call about a delivery but I have to wonder what would have happened if Casey had pointed out that Dom offered to help out and didn’t as he thought it was all ‘making pizzas’.  Lily and Theo could have argued that they did try Dom’s advice, but they hadn’t realized he hadn’t wiped his greasy fingers so Casey nearly got hurt (as it’s only practical to have clean hands when using weaponry).  Theo could concede that he did put salt instead of cheese in the shakers once, but chili hot peppers are more harmful to tongues than an excess of salt- and that incident was a sign that Theo himself needed to shape up, not his teammates.  RJ could reveal that he did make Dom a morpher as he hoped that the others would accept him as the team needs to be cohesive in their decisions.  Casey could ask about when RJ took Dom about Dai Shi’s escape (I’m not happy about Dom only deciding to stick around to fight Dai Shi when he learned morphers were involved).  Casey and Lily could argue that the ‘health inspector’ gag was more mean than funny (Casey for the tomato on the shirt- which Fran didn’t seem keen on either- and Lily for the heavily stressed implications that JKP would be written up for what turned out to be non-existent issues).

To top things all off, I’m afraid that Dom’s actor Nikolai Nikolaeff just doesn’t have the same level of chemistry that the preexisting cast has (and always has) with each other, making him stick out even further as an outsider.  In most seasons, that level of chemistry would be okay for teammates as he’s a good actor given the shoddy material he has to work with, but the rest of the team just plays off each other so well that his interactions with them seem forced and awkward in comparison.  That’s a meta issue in casting more than anything, but that only worsens the entire situation.

 

Next time on Power Rangers: Dom seeks out the Control Dagger.

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