Power Rangers was made for children, in the ‘90s, and had a terrible small budget. Can someone really take a show to task for not being brilliant when it operated under such severe limits? When the episode is titled “A Chimp in Charge,“ I would posit you can and should.
The story begins in “Language” class, as the teacher assigns them to do a 10-minute presentation “on any language.” It’s exceedingly vague, but Billy (Blue Ranger) and Tommy (White Ranger) are excited to talk about Hieroglyphics. Aisha (Yellow Ranger) and Katherine (Pink Ranger) choose to discuss sign language with the help of a chimpanzee that Katherine has apparently been allowed to borrow for an unspecified amount if time and take to a public high school.
Rita Repulsa, who has gone from being the Power Rangers' gravest foe to pretty much just spying on them with her moon telescope and bitching, sees the chimp and uses it to mock her henchman Goldar (she says the chimp is much better looking). Their inane squabbling disturbs Lord Zedd, who remembers they’re supposed to be fucking with the Power Rangers, and he decides to turn their chimp evil. How this will help anything, Zedd doesn’t even try to explain, but since nothing else has ever worked I’ll give him a pass.
Back on Earth, everybody’s hanging in the mall, as security guards Bulk and Skull are called to investigate a theft from the food court. Someone has stolen a bunch of bananas. I’m not going to insult you by spelling out where this is going.
Zedd sends a bunch of his minions down to distract the Rangers while he tries to evil-fy the chimp; Kimberly very wisely tells the chimp to hide and leaves it completely unsupervised as the quasi-teens use their Ninja Coins to become the Ninja Rangers. What ensues is a fight scene, if you can consider a scene that is 100% flipping and flailing about and 0% people actually hitting each other to be a fight scene. In the “confusion,” Zedd’s chief scientist teleports down and tries to shoot the chimp with a monster-making beam of some kind, but the chimp outsmarts him until the bad guys just give up and go home.
Later, as Katherine and Aisha study their sign language, they again leave the chimp supervised, who sneaks out the door and right into the arms of the waiting Bulk and Skull. Completely trusting that wherever the chimp takes them will be the location of the missing bananas, Bulk and Skull are led directly to a fruit stand run by the living embodiment of Jamaican stereotypes, whose first inclination when he see a chimp approach his stand, is to dress it up with a vest, sunglasses, a mop head for “dreads” and a little cap. What’s most disturbing is that this man obviously has had a tiny, chimp-appropriately sized vest just hanging out with him, all the time.
Back on the moon, Zedd is pissed, and shoots the chimp from space with his staff, which turns into a human-sized Rasta-Chimp-Monster. Why Zedd didn’t just do this in the first place is unexplained, as is why the show producers didn’t think a Rasta-Chimp-Monster wouldn’t lower our children’s IQs by at least five points. This Rasta-Chimp-Monster can now speak English, but since all he says are the most heinous monkey-themed puns in existence, I'm not going to relay any of them to you because I don't hate you all that much.
Zordon summons the Rangers to HQ, including Adam the Black Ranger, who finally shows up. He explains that Lord Zedd has transformed Katherine’s chimp into “The Sinister Simian;” while Katherne wonders how they’ll defeat him without hurting him, Zordon tells Billy he’s in charge of figuring out how to turn The Sinister Simian back into a regular chimp.
Rasta-Kong, as I’ll call him, because “The Sinister Simian” is terrible, is rampaging through the park, if one could be said to be rampaging if one was only running around and grunting loudly while not doing any damage whatsoever. The Rangers — in their Power Ranger garb, not their Ninja Ranger outfits — try to reason with the beast, as Billy explains he needs to get a fur sample for analysis (which, it should be noted, he tries to get from Rasta-Kong with a pair of what are very clearly salad tongs).
Obviously, Rasta-Kong is having none of this and actually starts punching the Rangers, which has the truly preposterous effect of making small explosions that look like skulls wearing sunglasses. Eventually, two of the Rangers are able to hold Rasta-Kong down so Billy can get his hair sample (this requires, of coure, Billy leaping through the air in order to tong a stationary target). Billy then heads to the Mighty Morphin’ lab to do Science while the Power Rangers continue their brawl.
Zedd is bored, so he decides to make Rasta-Kong giant, another good decision he bafflingly didn’t act upon earlier. The Power Rangers are forced to summon their Shogunzords just as Billy arrives with an untested antidote housed in what appears to be a Nerf Vortex Aero Howler football painted silver.
A very brief fight ensues, where Billy is unable to get a clear shot at Rasta-Kong’s heart,which is where the antidote must be fired (as it is now a missile). But Katherine, who is hanging out in Tommy's White Shogunzord because she apparently doesn't have one of her own, has an idea.
She and Tommy distract the Sinister Simian by making the White Shogunzord speak to it in sign language. Even though it is a monster. Even though it now speaks English.
My friends, watching a man in a giant robot costume have a conversation in sign language with a man in a Rastafarian-themed monkey monster costume is a pretty sublime experience, so if you have Netflix Instant or Amazon Prime, I highly recommend you go to Season 3, episode 28 and fast-forward to 17:00, especially if you are drunk or hate yourself.
Suddenly, the Blue Shogunzord jumps from behind the White Shogunzord, and fires its healing missile right in Rasta-King’s chest, instantly turning him back into a chimp (although inexplicably no longer in his costume). Coincidently, the team instantly banishes their Zords and get back in their civilian outfits — off-screen, naturally — to pick up the almost certainly traumatized chimp.
On the moon, Rita Repulsa and Zedd’s marriage continue to deteriorate, and they blame each other for wrecking another horrible plan that was clearly doomed from the start. They yell and insult each other, and Goldar will likely go to bed crying yet again, wondering if it’s somehow his fault.
Back at the mall, Bulk and Skull’s complete lack of knowledge regarding the American judicial system has led them to bring in the Jamaican to the smoothie bar where the bananas were stolen. After an excruciating amount of dialogue from Bulk and Skull — only about eight lines or so, but Bulk and Skull get excruciating fast — the shopkeeper explains one of his workers put the bananas in the freezer by mistake.
The Jamaican explains he’ll sue, and storms off. But then the chimp gets off his seat, waddles to Bulk, slowly climbs up him and gives him a big kiss, and yet another astounding dumb Power Rangers adventure has thankfully come to a close.
What Have We Learned?
• It is terrifyingly easy to borrow a chimpanzee for the weekend in Angel Grove, California.
• Although if you do borrow or rent a monkey, you should probably try to keep it in eyesight at all times. Just a helpful hint.
• Jamaican people keep tiny vests on them at all times... just in case.
• Not that Amy Jo Johnson, the original Pink Ranger, was a preternaturally fine actress back when she did Power Rangers (although she’s done some decent work since), but man, she looks like Meryl Streep next to the girl who replaced her.
• Any scene with Bulk and Skull in it should be classified as a hate crime. Especially their background music.
• Speaking of hate crimes, the tiny eyeholes the Rangers wear in the ninja garb makes them kind of look like festive Ku Klux Klan members. Except for Tommy, the White Ninja Ranger, who looks like a regular Ku Klux Klan member..
• Skull has a cousin named Femur. I have to admit, the stupidity of this made me chuckle.
• Sometimes Science looks like things you can buy at a nearby drug store.
• I refuse to do any research on this, because this episode’s wretchedness made me so nauseous, but did the Pink Ranger not have her own Shogunzord? Was it broken in a previous fight, or did she always share the White Ranger’s Zord? Is it just because Bandai thought little boys wouldn’t buy pink Zord figures?
• Since the Rastafarian dressed the chimp up in the crappy Rastarian costume that became an essential portion of the Sinister Simian, is he an accessory to the crime? Maybe Bulk and Skull were a little premature in letting him go.
• I'd forgotten how much Rita and Zedd snipe at each other — it's like The Lockhorns in space. I can't imagine how many kids watched this, and upon seeing their own parents' relationship similarly disintegrating, wondered if their mom or dad would suddenly decide to go try and kill the Power Rangers.