Recap / Gravity Falls S1-E1 "Tourist Trapped"
"The gnomes are a powerful race!"
The first episode of Gravity Falls.

It seems like an average summer day in a small town called Gravity Falls, Oregon. Cookouts are held, children are playing, everybody is having fun. That is, except for the two kids in a golf cart being chased by a giant monster. "My name is Dipper. The girl about to puke is my sister Mabel."

We then go to a flashback that takes over most of the episode. It turns out that the two are staying in Gravity Falls for the summer with their cheapskate great-uncle, or "Grunkle", Stan. Mabel looks at it as a positive experience ("Yay! Grass!"), while Dipper is more skeptical, and irritated at living in Stan's ramshackle house. The place doubles as a local tourist trap, the "Mystery Shack", a Museum of the Strange and Unusual full of such dubious attractions as "Sas-crotch" and Rock-That-Looks-Like-A-Face Rock, and Stan occasionally forces Dipper and Mabel to help out.

When Stan's employees Soos and Wendy refuse to hang up signs in the spooky woods around the Shack one day, he shanghais Dipper into doing it. Out in the forest, Dipper comes across a fake tree, and within it he finds controls to a secret panel containing a mysterious journal, which contains pages of information on the monsters and other strange phenomena in Gravity Falls, as well as a dire warning from the anonymous Author: "TRUST NO ONE."

Meanwhile, Mabel is trying to get her big summer romance, and meets a boy named Norman. Mabel is head over heels, but Dipper is suspicious, especially as he reads the book. Based on Norman's pale skin, stiff movements, and mysterious bleeding, Dipper comes to the conclusion that Norman is... a zombie!

Soos inspires Dipper to investigate and get further proof that Norman is a zombie. Mabel refuses to listen, thinking her brother is just being paranoid, and leaves to go on a date with Norman. When Dipper notices he has footage of Norman's hand falling off, he rushes off to warn Mabel. Dipper gets Wendy to toss him the keys to the cart ("Try not to hit any pedestrians"), and Soos gives him a shovel (for the zombies) and a baseball bat ("In case you run into a piñata").

However, Norman outs himself... as a bunch of gnomes. They're looking for a new queen, and want Mabel to join them in "holy matri-gnomey". A stunned Mabel decides to break off the relationship... only for the gnomes to kidnap her anyway. Dipper arrives just in time to help Mabel escape the gnomes, and the two flee. The gnomes combine into a giant "Super Gnome" and give chase, bringing this episode full circle.

They arrive at the Mystery Shack, but end up cornered. Fortunately, Mabel has a plan: she tricks the gnomes into thinking she'll surrender, and then attacks them with the leaf blower she'd earlier used for kissing practice. As the battered twins go back inside, Stan lets them take a piece of merchandise from the store each for free.

As the episode ends, Dipper rethinks his earlier paranoia, saying "When you battle a hundred gnomes side by side with someone, you realize that they've probably always got your back." As Dipper wonders what other mysteries await in Gravity Falls, Stan enters a mysterious secret passage behind the soda machine, revealing there is more to him, and the series, than meets the eye.

Tropes in this episode:

  • Accidental Pun: "Will you join us in holy matri-gnomey? Matri— matrimony! Blah, I can't talk today."
  • Advertised Extra: Sort of, that zombie Mabel befriended in some early trailers? He turned out to be a bunch of gnomes in disguise.
  • And Now You Must Marry Me: The gnomes kidnap Mabel and try to force her into marry all of them so that she can become their new queen.
  • And This Is for...: "That's for lying to me, that's for breaking my heart, and this is for messing with my brother!"
  • Batman Gambit: Done by Mabel of all people!
  • Batter Up!: "And this is in case you see a piñata."
  • Big Damn Heroes: Dipper immediately comes to Mabel's rescue after she's been kidnapped by gnomes.
  • Big, Stupid Doodoo-Head: Mabel tells the gnomes "You guys are all butt-faces!"
  • But Thou Must!: Mabel gets a guy to read a note asking if he likes her. The only responses she provides are "Yes", "Definitely" and "Absolutely!!!".
    Mabel: I rigged it!
  • Chekhov's Gun: The leaf blower that Mabel uses for kissing practice is used to defeat the gnomes.
  • Crying Wolf: It's implied Dipper believed in and investigated the paranormal long before he encountered real cases in Gravity Falls. As a result, Mabel doesn't believe him when he claims Norman's a zombie.
  • Early Installment Weirdness: Dipper narrates in the episode about his experiences, and writes a bit in the Journal by the end. These elements never show up again after this episode.
  • Establishing Series Moment: The first few minutes of the episode consider of Mabel and Dipper fleeing from a strange, mysterious monster. The reveal that Norman's not a zombie but a bunch of gnomes also sets up the weirdness.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • When Dipper shows Mabel what he suspects Norman is, at first he opens the book on the gnomes article by accident.
    • Mabel grabs Norman's arm (covered by his sleeve) and admires his muscle, which she regards as a pleasant surprise. There's a surprise in there, alright.
    • At the end of the episode, Grunkle Stan enters a secret passageway behind the vending machine, the meaning of which is a major mystery throughout the series.
  • Getting Crap Past the Radar:
    • One of the many statues Grunkle Stan exhibits in his tours is a bigfoot in a pair of underpants called the "Sascrotch".
    • The gnomes' plan for Mabel to marry all of them—take into consideration that Mabel's only twelve and it's mentioned that there's at least a thousand gnomes.
  • Grappling-Hook Pistol: Mabel gets one at the end of the episode.
  • Gulliver Tie-Down: Mabel is victim to this, courtesy of the Gnomes.
  • How We Got Here: The episode opens with Dipper and Mabel fleeing an unseen giant monster.
  • Laugh of Love: After Mabel flirts with a boy whom she has a crush on and inadvertently knocks him over, she laughs happily.
  • Let's Get Dangerous!: Mabel defeating the Gnomes with a leaf blower.
  • Literal Metaphor: When Mabel decides to 'spill the beans' on her having a boyfriend, she knocks over a can of beans.
  • Mars Needs Women: G-rated version: The gnomes wanted Mabel to become their queen by marriage.
  • Nice Hat: Dipper gets the pine-tree hat he wears for the whole series after his old one gets snatched by a gnome.
  • Pet the Dog: Grunkle Stan gets a moment like this after feeling guilty for mocking Dipper and Mabel, and lets each of them take anything they want from the Mystery Shack. In true Grunkle Stan fashion, he tells them to do it before he changes his mind.
  • Rise from Your Grave: Spoofed when Norman falls into an open grave.
  • Running Gag: There's a different cryptogram in the ending credits of each episode. This episode's cryptogram reads "ZHOFRPH WR JUDYLWB IDOOV." Once decoded, it reads "WELCOME TO GRAVITY FALLS."
  • Sequel Hook: The ending with Stan entering a secret passage behind the vending machine not only tells us there are even greater mysteries of Gravity Falls, but that Stan has some Hidden Depths.
  • Shovel Strike: Soos gives Dipper a shovel to use to save Mabel.
  • The Un-Hug: Dipper and Mabel's "awkward sibling hug."
    "Pat, pat."
  • Unwanted Assistance: When Dipper and Mabel are running from the gnomes, one of the leaps onto Dipper's face. Mabel attempts to help him by punching the gnome off, but ends up bruising Dipper as well.
  • Vampires Are Sex Gods: G-Rated version. Mabel was expecting Norman to be a vampire after Dipper suggested there's something fishy about him, and when Norman said he wanted to confess something:
    Mabel: Oh Norman, you can tell me anything. (thinking) Please, be a vampire! Please, be a vampire!
  • Vomit Indiscretion Shot: Dipper kicks a gnome in the stomach, whereupon it barfs a rainbow.
  • We Will Meet Again: Jeff as he flies into the distance.
    Jeff: I'll get you back for this!
  • Wham Line:
    Jeff: We'll never forget you, Mabel...because we're going to kidnap you.
  • The Worm That Walks: All the gnomes cling together to form a giant.
  • Wrong Genre Savvy: Due to his appearance, Dipper believed that Norman was a zombie, with his theory convinced when he saw a video clip of Norman's hand coming off. Much to his surprise, and that of the audience, he was actually a totem pole of gnomes and the hand that fell off was actually a fake. Dipper even lampshaded that he was way off.