April 16, 1989
Impractical Jokes is the twelfth episode of the first season.
Matt and Tanya arrive to find Stacy trying to fix the old telegraph sitting on the counter. She continues that there aren't many telegraphs left on the Indian Valley Railroad and she’ll be glad when all of them are replaced. Matt and Tanya offer to help but Stacy insists on fixing the telegraph herself.
Matt and Tanya dejectedly head over to the Arcade, saying to themselves that they only wanted to help. Mr. Conductor appeared to say they aren't the problem, rather Stacy is. He explains that sometimes busy people don’t think about what they’re saying. He continues explaining that Stacy’s mind was simply on something else. He adds that it is something friends learn to accept in one another. Tanya asks if it’s the same with the engines on the Island of Sodor and Mr. Conductor tells them about the time Gordon teased Edward about the cows.
After the story, Matt and Tanya find Stacy in a better mood. She hasn't been able to fix the telegraph and has decided to let Harry try. She tells Tanya that a telegraph is what train stations use to communicate with each other.
Just then, Schemer comes in, politely introduces himself to Stacy and kisses her hand. He then offers Matt a toy telescope, which Matt takes and goes off to look through. Schemer then offers Stacy a snack of some delicious peanuts. Stacy opens the jar and some spring snakes come flying out instead. Schemer then reveals his new business idea: Practical jokes. Stacy tells Schemer that she never liked practical jokes and considers them mean. Dismissing the girls’ opinion, Schemer turns to Matt, who now has a black ring around his eye from the trick telescope and upon seeing it in his reflction says "yuck".
Once Schemer is gone, Matt and Tanya express their opinion of how weird he is. Stacy says that Schemer is harmless and usually makes them laugh, so it’s best to accept him as he is. Mr. Conductor reappears and comments that the good thing about Schemer is when he has an idea he isn’t afraid to try it out. Stacy says that the bad thing about Schemer is he doesn't stop to think about how people will feel about his ideas. Mr. Conductor offers his opinion that practical jokes are silly and can happen in unusual ways. He then directs the children to the Anything Tunnel, which shows a brief animated interlude featuring an art patron dealing with some rather strange portraits.
By the time the children are finished looking through the tunnel, Mr. Conductor has disappeared and Stacy comes in complaining that the West Wind Limited has just arrived early and the telegraph couldn't warn her. Harry reveals that he met an old friend on the train who has decided to stop and say hello. Harry introduces Matt, Tanya and Stacy to Tom Callinan before he and Stacy go off to look at the telegraph. Tom teaches Matt and Tanya an old Irish working song before going back out to the platform to wait for his train.
Meanwhile, Stacy and Harry are in the workshop trying to repair the telegraph. They get increasingly annoyed with one another as Matt and Tanya worriedly look on. Mr. Conductor returns and the children tell him Stacy and Harry are fighting. Mr. Conductor clarifies that they’re just disagreeing and will make up before too long. Mr. Conductor decides to tell Matt and Tanya about James’ adventure when he found himself without his driver.
Once Mr. Conductor has finished the story, Stacy and Harry bring the telegraph out of the workshop so Harry can check the connection, despite Stacy telling him she’s already done that. The children suddenly get the idea that Mr. Conductor should use his magic to fix the telegraph, but Mr. Conductor refuses, saying it wouldn't be fair to Stacy and Harry after they've done so much work. He does give the kids a hint though; look for the little things for they hold big secrets.
Matt and Tanya go over to the ticket counter where Stacy and Harry are still stumped about the telegraph. Matt, remembering Mr. Conductor’s advice, looks down and sees a small break in the wire connecting the telegraph. When Harry fixes the cable, the telegraph begins to receive messages again. Schemer decides to try his ‘cultured’ act on Harry and puts out his hand to shake. They shake and Schemer gets a jolt from the buzzer in his hand, because he was holding it backwards. Schemer then tries another prank, asking the kids to smell the squirting flower on his jacket, only to end up spraying water on himself. Stacy uses the moment to show Matt and Tanya that even someone like Schemer can learn a lesson.
As all this has been going on, Tom has come back and the newly repaired telegraph receives a message that his train will be arriving in ten minutes. Schemer mentions that ten minutes is ample time for Tom to spend some money in the Jukebox. Matt and Tanya protest Schemer’s hard sell, so Schemer relents and puts his own nickel in the Jukebox. Inside, Didi asks what they will do with all the nickels they collect. Tex suggests having a big party, but Tito counters that life is a party and the nickels are staying put. Tex asks Tito when he started collecting nickels, and Tito recalls that it was back in ’57 during his first gig: the bandleader said ‘take five’ and Tito just never stopped! Didi says it’s time to stop talking and start playing, and the band plays its version of the song Tom played earlier.
Tom accompanies the Jukebox by playing a pair of spoons and begins to teach Matt and Tanya how as well. Unfortunately Tom has to leave to catch his train, leaving Stacy to take over showing the children how to play the spoons. Stacy and the children continue to practice their musical spoons as even Schemer begins to catch the rhythm.
- Mr. Conductor
- Stacy Jones
- Harry Cupper
- Matthew Jones
- Tanya Cupper
- Tom Callinan
- Edward (mentioned)
- Gordon (mentioned)
- Henry (mentioned)
- James (mentioned)
- Percy (mentioned)
Edward is feeling his age, clanking loudly as he goes about his work. While delivering cattle cars to market, his noisy train startles a herd of cows, which charge the train and break the couplings, causing some cars to be left behind. Gordon and Henry laugh and boast about Edward’s predicament; until one day both engines encounter Bluebell, a mournful cow, wandering on a bridge, searching for her lost calf. No matter what they or their crews try to shoo her away, Henry and Gordon become nervous around such a delicate animal. Eventually, Percy brings the lost calf to her mother, and the engines are able to leave once Bluebell and her calf are led away. But once word gets round, Gordon tries to turn the situation around for Edward – but the old engine knows what truly happened…!
After one delay too many, James complains about Edward being too old and slow, marking him as “old iron”, but Thomas and Percy reckon Edward could beat James in a race anyway. This is put to the test when, one day, naughty boys fiddle with James’ controls, sending the red engine down the line without his Driver or Fireman. A brave Inspector decides to pursue after the runaway in Edward, who eventually catches up to James and stop him just in time. James apologizes to Edward and Sir Topham Hatt, proud of his heroic deed, sends Edward to have his worn parts mended.
Jukebox Band Song Segment
- It is revealed that Tito started collecting nickels in 1957.
- To begin the first Thomas story, Mr. Conductor doesn't just blow his whistle, he blows it in Morse code.
- In keeping with his refined appearance in this episode, Schemer does not have the curl in his hair.
- Two more named Indian Valley Railroad trains are mentioned in this episode, the West Wind Limited and Empire Limited.
- Tom Callinan is a multi-talented performer who has been designated the "Official State Troubadour" of the state of Connecticut. More of him can be found here.
- The Indian Valley Railroad of 1989 must be a special place. Western Union and U.S. railroad companies ceased using Morse telegraph in the 1960's, and it's use lasted in Canada until the mid-1970s, with Mexico continuing to use the system until 1990 (Source).