EPISODE REVIEW: Ben 10 Ultimate Alien: “Basic Training” (Season 2, Episode 8)

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After beating up an illegal alien elephant (Which is just fun to say, and funner still to type, even if you’ve got carpal tunnel like me), Team Ben is summoned involuntarily to the Plumber Academy. Seems up to this point they’ve only had field commissions (Nice touch), and now they’ve got to go through formal training, or else they’re off the force. En rout they meet up with an alien kid named Tac, who idolizes Ben. As per usual, Gwen is taking everything very seriously, and Ben isn’t. As per unusual (A phrase that may not have existed prior to this review, but I like the way it sounds so I’m gonna’ continue using it), Kevin is taking it seriously as well.

No sooner on the space station campus, Ben runs afoul of the BMOC/Senior Cadet, a green-skinned with the unlikely human-sounding name of “Branigan.” (I’m assuming this is a very elliptical gag linked to Zap Branigan from Futurama, but for all I know, it might just mean the screenwriter had a thing for over-orchestrated 80s Moroder-pop and was listening to “Gloria” or “Spanish Eddie.”) No sooner is this out of the way, they manage to run afoul of their drill instructor, Magister Hulka. Ordinarily this wouldn’t be such a bad thing - your first moments with a DI are supposed to go really badly, it’s part of the program - but Ben makes it worse.

Actually, all of ‘em make it worse: Gwen tries to solve a security problem she heard about on the way in, Ben tries to help out Tac. The only one with a clue is Kevin, who’s spit-and-polish nature is really surprising the others. Ben continually violates orders, and uses his powers in training, despite that being forbidden, getting them in far worse trouble.

Beyond this, there are a series of accidents. It quickly becomes apparent that someone is trying to kill Magister Hulka. Despite being specifically ordered to stay out of it, Team Ben gets involved. Their main suspect is Branigan, but, defying my expectations, it turns out that the bad guy is just a never-before-seen villain of the week who Hulka sent to the Nullvoid years before. He’s broken out and is looking for revenge.

After some dusting up, Team Ben, Tac, and Branigan (Who’s not such a bad guy once you get to know him) work together to save Hulka and the day. After graduation, Hulka rewards Ben for his improvisation and lateral thinking under duress.

The End.

OBSERVATIONS

Ben: “Classes are too much like school.”

They make it clear that they’re on the station for at LEAST a week, probably more like two. How does this fit in with their schedules back on earth? Are they even still in school? Is it summer break? Did they get time off? How? I mean, the Plumbers are still covert, right? Everyone knows Ben’s a superhero, but nobody knows he’s an alien cop, right? “Just sit back and tell yourself, ‘I should really just relax’” I guess.

When it looks like Branigan is the bad guy, they decide to ‘stake him out’ you, know, ‘undercover?’ This consists of Gwen in a tank top and boxer shorts, shadowing him through the station. After about 30 seconds of this, my oldest kid, “Republiboy,” said, “If they’re trying to keep a low profile, then why do they have a beautiful teenaged redhead in shorts and an undershirt walking barefoot through a space station full of guys in armor? How could they think no one would notice that?”

As if on cue, Branigan spots Gwen and chides her for being so obvious. Then Kevin and Ben show up, explaining that they were using her to distract him so they could watch him. It was a cute bit. Clever, too.

Gwen: “A 98? How could I only get a 98?”
Kevin: “Relax, Gwen, you only need a 72 to pass. Which I exceeded. What’d you get, Tennyson?”
Ben: “95. People think I don’t pay attention, but I’m paying attention.”
Gwen: “Suddenly my 98 is seeming less impressive.”
Ben: “And this is me not paying attention.”

Turns out Branigan had figured out someone was trying to kill Hulka as well, and was shadowing the guy to make sure he’d be ok.

Will we see Tac again? Probably, but probably not very often. This series has always been good about setting up interesting recurring allies, then forgetting they exist.

Kevin *really* wants to be a Plumber. We’ve gotten glimpses of this before, but this was more over than most. Ben is still playing superhero, and this is obviously a transitional gig for Gwen, but this is Kevin’s life. Interesting: Does Kevin thing he’s just a transitional gig for Gwen as well? Probably. Got some implications of that when he was all ka-ka-koo-koo last year.

Why is the barracks so big for just four cadets? There were like 30 bunks in there.

One gets the feeling that this whole thing was for the benefit of the other Plumbers more than Team Ben: They’re running off loose-cannon style, which has got to nag at the regular grunts.

WILL CONSERVATIVES LIKE THIS EPISODE?

More than most, I think yes: It’s very respectful of the military and basic training as a rite of passage. Ben is a completely insubordinate jerk, as usual, but it’s important to note that he is clearly shown to be wrong Every Single Time He Does This in the episode. Hulka clearly explains that everyone needs the same basic training, regardless, and makes a good argument as to why. Interestingly the episode distinguishes between training and inherent ability. Ben’s intelligence and lateral thinking get him a commendation ultimately, *BUT* they repeatedly drive home the fact that his training was not the appropriate time to use those kinds of abilities. Much like it’s not appropriate to do squat thrusts in math class.

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