After leaving Pottsfield, Wirt, Greg and Beatrice are now trying to reach the house of Adelaide, the Wise Woman of the Woods. In order to get Greg to stop singing, Beatrice tries to crush his indefatigable optimism. She tells him that the world is a miserable place and that he should be more like Wirt, a beaten down husk of a pushover who just quietly does whatever he’s told. Well, Wirt may be a triangle nosed goober cosplaying as David the Gnome’s secret abandoned lovechild, but even he has his pride. So when the trio stumble across a small school in the middle of the forest where a young woman named Miss Langtree is trying to teach a class of blank eyed animals to read, he joins the class just to spite Beatrice. Greg, who isn’t that big on book learnin’ (I know, stunned gasps all round) instead hangs around outside the school with a bunch of truant racoons, deer and possums.
As Miss Langtree explains in a wistful monologue, the school’s in real trouble. Her father, the owner of the school, is threatening to shut it down, her fiancée Jimmy Brown has done R.U.N.N.O.F.T. and there is the little matter of a mad gorilla on the loose.
When the gorilla attacks Greg and the truant critters they run into the schoolhouse just in time for lunch. The animals are being served bland mashed potatoes so Greg decides to mix things up by pouring mollases on their food. This leads to the song Potatoes and Molasses, one of the catchiest little ear worms you’ll ever hear. Before you know it all the animals are playing instruments and having a grand old time. But then Mr. Langtree shows up and demands to know if “Thiiiiiiiiiiiiiis” is what he’s been paying money for. Mr. Langtree says that the school should only be teaching animals to count and spell and confiscates all the instruments like a Tory education minister.
The trio sneak out of the schoolhouse in the middle of the night to continue their journey, and come across Mr Langtree sleeping rough in the forest. They overhear him saying to himself that, what with Jimmy Brown having run off and the whole gorilla situation the school is facing bankruptcy and that he has to sell the instruments just to keep its doors open.
The next day, Mr Langtree wakes and is horrified to find the instruments are gone. But then he hears music playing and discovers that Greg, Wirt and Beatrice took the instruments back and arranged a benefit concert for the school with all the animals playing the song they learned from Greg. The concert is a success and the school is saved. The gorilla attacks the crowd but Wirt trips him and his head goes flying off, revealing that’s he’s actually Jimmy Brown. Jimmy explains to a stunned Ms Langtree that he joined the circus to make enough money to marry her and they had stuck him in a gorilla costume, and that when he got trapped in the costume everyone was too scared to help him.
So the school is saved, the animals get to play their music, Beatrice realises that Writ isn’t a pushover and that sometimes optimism isn’t stupid and the gorilla’s reign of terror is brought to an end.
How was it?: Follies is Over the Garden Wall at its lightest, frothiest and silliest. The horror elements are almost entirely absent and there’s no real threat or peril (the gorilla is too silly to be scary even before you know it’s Ms. Langtree’s no-good handsome man in there). The episode has two of the best songs in the series, Ms. Langtree’s Lament and Potatoes and Molasses and some of my favourite lines (“Young man, go to the dunce box!”, “That’s right darlin’, I was the gorilla”). It’s also one of the more idealistic episodes, where the day is won not by Wirt’s practical no-nonsense attitude or Beatrice’s cynicism but by Greg’s unfailing optimism and belief that the world is a good, kind place.
Holy Crap, that sounds like…: Janet Klein (Ms Langtree), Sam Marin (Mr. Langtree) and Thomas Lennon (Jimmy Brown) aren’t big name voice actors, but they deserve to be.
Can I see some references?: I couldn’t place any specific animation references but the animals wearing fussy Edwardian clothes harkens to Beatrix Potter, whereas the truant critters and the Southern vibe of the schoolhouse reminded me of the works of Mark Twain.
This frog’s name is: Still Wirt Junior.