Pie in the Sky
Writing Credits: Sindy McKay, Larry Swerdlove
First Aired: February 2, 1990
Title reference: The metaphor pie in the sky means a silly, fantastic idea.
Production Number: 53
The episode begins with the Rangers out on a 'search and rescue' mission. They travel across rough terrain; across a walking path; over a brick wall; (Dale narrowly avoids being hit with Monty's grappling hook.) and hack through a dense floral underbrush. Soon, their target is within sight!
"Big deal," scowls Chip, "We found a Frisbee."
Well, it is a big deal to the puppy who's been missing it. The puppy's gratitude is of little solace to Chip who's grown tired of little cases.
Back at Ranger HQ, Chip voices his opinions while Gadget and Monty install Gadget's newest device, 'the super sensitive gyro-compass navigation panel', into the Ranger Wing. A small swallow flutters down to Chip. She introduces herself as Midge. She explains that she's looking for Capistrano. She was able to follow everyone else last year. But this year, there's no one to follow and now Midge is lost. Gadget offers the Rangers' services in helping Midge get to Capistrano. But Chip refuses to help her. He goes so far as to even make poor Midge cry. This causes the other Rangers to cry too. Chip, feeling badly, gives in and agrees to help Midge.
The scene changes to somewhere in the desert. Several mirrors rise up from the ground to activate a bird attracting magnet. Once the birds are captured, we meet Ma Sweeney and her rotund son, Todd Sweeney. After a brief rant, Ma Sweeney leaves Todd to work the magnet.
Meanwhile, the Ranger Wing flies into the area. Gadget's gyro-compass is also affected by the solar powered electro-magnet. So she lands near Ma Sweeney's factory. The Rangers are confused as to why they aren't in Capistrano. Midge suddenly spots a flock of blackbirds and rushes to join them. The Rangers go looking for her and find not so much as a feather. Zipper's directions lead them to the factory. They find Midge all right - as well as a room full of caged birds and two guard cats; Jack and Nichols.
Monty, Gadget and Zipper work on freeing Midge. A bit of Dale's goofing around earns himself and Chip the attention of the cats. The chipmunks manage to elude their feline followers. They hide just in time to see Ma Sweeney enter and turn on her pie baking machine. All of the birds, plus Monty and Gadget are sucked into the machine. They find themselves trapped under a heavy pie goo in a pie tin. The tins move along a conveyer belt towards a fiendish baker's oven. If they don't escape soon, they'll all be baked alive!
The chipmunks arrive too late to the empty cages. Zipper leads them to the pie conveyer where everyone is struggling. Chip acts quickly and tells Zipper to bring him the end of the pie dough that's splattering out of one of the machine's nozzles. Zipper throws him the dough which he feeds into the conveyer belt's gears, losing his beloved hat in the process. The dough causes the gears to stick tight, forcing the conveyer belt to stop just in the nick of time. The chipmunks free everyone as fast as they can.
Ma Sweeney and Todd enter just in time to have all of their birds fly the coop. Having lost all of her birds, Ma Sweeney is furious. Todd suggests that she simply turn up the electro magnet to attract a bunch more birds. Ma Sweeney reminds him, once again, that the magnet can't be turned up. The Rangers overhear her and set off to locate the magnet. Chip suddenly spots Midge struggling with something in the conveyer belt. She rescues his hat and returns it to him, earning his approval.
The Rangers search for the magnet by air only to be stuck upon it when Todd turns the dials up too high. He remembers what Ma said about doing that and shuts the magnet off. The Ranger Wing plummets towards the ground. A quick bit of flying allows them to crash into a flour pile. The good news is that everyone's ok. The bad news is that Jack and Nichols still want rodent burgers. Monty and Dale are left to distraction duty while the others go magnet hunting.
The other Rangers finally get the magnet's controls to work only to find out that too many of the mirrors have been broken. The magnet won't work without a solar energy source! Shiny pie tins are the solution. The team litters the ground with the tins until the magnet activates. Almost immediately, the magnet attracts an airliner. The plane's landing attracts the sheriff who attracts a quick arrest for both of the Sweeneys.
Gadget comments that Chip finally got the 'big case' that he wanted. The chipmunk leader bestows his hat upon Midge and comments that he doesn't care how big the cases are. It's the little ones that matter even more.
The Rescue Rangers
Jack and Nichols (the guard cats)
Gyro-compass Navigation Panel
'Pie in the Sky' could be one of two things. It could be a metaphor for 'a silly idea'. It could also be a play on the phrase 'Eye in the Sky' most notably used by helicopter-based news cameras.
'Sweeney' and 'Todd' are a play on the name 'Sweeney Todd' who was a fictional villain made popular by various England stories of the mid 19th century.
The cats, Jack and Nichols, names and personalities are a parody of the actor, Jack Nicholson. Nicholson is most noted for portraying neurotic characters. One of his most well-known performances was as Jack Torrance in the movie version of Stephen King's book 'The Shining'. His signature phrase became "Here's Johnny!" Nichols actually parodies the phrase with his own version, "Here's Dinner!"
Most of the birds that Ma Sweeney has caught are blackbirds. Could this be a subtle tribute to the first verse of the song 'Sing a song of Sixpence'?
"Sing a song of sixpence, a pocket full of rye
Four and twenty blackbirds baked in a pie
When the pie was open, the birds began to sing
Now, wasn't that a dainty dish to set before the king."
Ma Sweeney sings a parody of the song during the course of the episode. Her version goes like this:
"Sing a song of sixpence, a pocket full of rye
Mrs. Sweeney makes you her favorite chicken pie.
When the pies were open, the birds began to sing
Sweeney girl, you're finally richer than the queen!"
Midge's name could have been inspired from several places. Midge Hadley was a Barbie line doll from the 1960s. Midge Klump is an Archie Comics character. A 'midge' is also a two-winged insect. Midge is most likely a derivative of the word 'midget' which means 'a tiny person'. After all, Midge is a very small swallow. She's even smaller than Chip!