Hey, everybody, it's Zany Town! I bet it's craaaaaaazy in there! I bet the menu's got a loooooot of Zs! I bet it's a thinly veiled, lawsuit-proof version of Jillian's or Chuck E. Cheese's! Let's go in! It'll be fuuuuuuun!
We see what appears to be a giant bandicoot wearing a uniform left over from Hall and Oates' 1983 Try Not To Notice The Really Big Height Gap tour, surrounded by rollicking children. Then we see a children's birthday party, attended by another suffering soul trapped in a giant chicken costume and a hideous checkerboard vest. Then we get to a giant ball pen where a winsome moppet is frolicking picturesquely, stopping only to inquire in dulcet tones, "Do you see, do you see?" If this were 1936, she'd be played by Margaret O'Brien. If I were recapping Uncle Tom's Cabin, this would be the scene in which Little Eva breathes her last. In other words, it's time to set your watches and place your dead pool bets, because there is no way a kid this cute lives past the credits. The mom grins indulgently, and our tiny cherub goes back to frolicking, with a break for taking off her sweater that only serves to hammer home the point that these two enjoy the kind of mother-child bond that makes Attachment Parenting advocates weep in envy. Mom keeps a watchful eye on Ruthie until someone runs over her foot with a toy truck. She diverts her gaze for a moment -- this is what we in the recapping biz call "a plot point" -- and when she focuses on the ball pen again, Ruthie is nowhere to be found. Cue the most exploitative two minutes on television this week: the mother's rising panic as she realizes that she's lost sight of her daughter, her frantic scanning of the room, and finally, her gut-churning search. Just in case parents in the audience weren't already shuddering in vicarious fear, the sound effects department kicks in and begins adding a dislocated echoing sound to everything, just to make it creepier. As the mother searches, other women protectively grab their children, since no detail is too small to be overlooked in this sequence. Eventually, someone dressed in the hideous Zany Town uniform asks the woman what's wrong, and she replies, "I can't find my baby." The employee sprints over to a control panel and initiates a security procedure the folks at NORAD whipped up as a lark. Gates clatter down to trap everyone inside, conveniently forgetting that angelic children like Ruthie are bodily assumed into Heaven, and where there's a will, there's a way. The minute the doors are locked, the children run towards them. Fortunately, this is an excellent screening test for determining who is smart enough to live; sometimes, it pays to lag behind. Ruthie's mom stands there alone -- none of the other mothers dare go near her to offer comfort, because Missing Childitis might be catching.