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Recap / Batman: The Animated Series E64 "Read My Lips"

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When a new gang begins making major plays in Gotham, it's up to Batman to take down the gang leader Scarface and his "dummy", the Ventriloquist.

Tropes in this episode include:

  • Always a Bigger Fish: Rhino is so huge, he unnerves the cops, who talk about how he might just shrug off a bullet or a tank. He's also utterly terrified of Scarface's wrath.
  • Agitated Item Stomping: After Scarface produces the Incredibly Obvious Bug that Batman has planted on the Ventriloquist's suit, he throws it on the ground and start jumping on it. Justified and subverted because Scarface is a puppet and this is an obvious way to act out anger, but the Ventriloquist has to kneel down so Scarface can reach the ground.
  • Batman Gambit: Batman confronts Rhino in an alley and demands answers. Batman knows he won't get anything out of this, but it'll shake up Rhino enough to go running to the gang's hideout.
  • Beat Them at Their Own Game: After accusing the Ventriloquist of being the mole in Scarface's gang, Batman throws his voice to make it sound like the Ventriloquist is insulting his own boss. This causes Scarface's paranoia to boil over despite the Ventriloquist's protests.
    The Ventriloquist: It wasn't me! I didn't say that! My lips didn't move!
    Scarface: So what? You're a ventriloquist!
    • Notably, it's not that Batman is a BETTER ventriloquist (you can see his lips move), but just that Arnold Wesker's mental illness is so advanced that his Scarface personality instantly falls for the ruse.
  • Beware the Silly Ones: Batman's "yeah, right" reaction to seeing the "boss" of the gang seems rather foolish given how well Scarface plans his crimes and how successfully he manages to get Batman at his mercy.
  • Big "NO!": The Ventriloquist when Scarface is shot.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Batman takes down Scarface's gang, but the Ventriloquist is still fundamentally broken inside, and his sociopathic Split Personality is definitely not gone, which the final shot makes abundantly clear.
  • Bond Villain Stupidity: Scarface and his gang could have easily killed Batman when he was knocked out, but instead they tie Batman up over a pit of spikes, which he inevitably escapes from. Admittedly, Scarface suspected Batman had an inside man, so it's possible he was planning to interrogate him about it, but that's no excuse for not unmasking him.
  • Bunny-Ears Lawyer: Scarface is a split personality manifesting himself through a puppet, and yet he comes up with complex, airtight plans.
  • Call-Back: Batman recalls studying under Zatara. He says he learned a few ventriloquism techniques, which he uses to foil Scarface in the end.
  • Cement Shoes: Scarface discuss with the Ventriloquist about putting Batman in ''concrete boots". Turns out that Scarface was invoking the cliche gangster trope for a reason. (Scarface has discovered the bug Batman planted in the Ventriloquist's suit and is luring Batman into a trap.)
    Scarface: Batman's so hot, let's see him swim Gotham Bay in concrete boots.
    The Ventriloquist: A good idea, Mr. Scarface.
    Scarface: Bet your bow tie I'm right, dummy. Say, who dresses you anyway?
    The Ventriloquist: You're such a kidder, Mr. Scarface.
  • Death Glare: Scarface pulls this on Mugsy who questions his plan, shifting his eyes toward him before slowly turning his head.
  • Elite Mook: Rhino, whose massive frame and muscular build provide him with incredible strength and endurance. He's actually stronger than the already heavily built Batman, and Batman only wins using his superior martial arts.
  • Freak Out: Scarface's "death" completely shatters the Ventriloquist's mind, rendering him completely harmless, crying Broken Tears over the ruined puppet. Batman takes him into custody with no further resistance.
  • Genre Blindness: Rhino says he's safe so long as he doesn't take a swing at Batman, but Bats reminds him he's not dealing with a police officer.
  • Getting Crap Past the Radar: Scarface's 'death' is a Meta example. Timm points out on the DVD commentary that because Scarface is technically a hunk of carved wood and not a flesh and blood character, BS&P couldn't exactly raise objections to the puppet getting violently gunned down in the climax.
  • Gollum Made Me Do It: The Ventriloquist is a sniveling coward who has no control over the personality he projects into his Scarface doll, which hurls verbal abuse at him and threatens him constantly. The Ventriloquist treats Scarface as a completely separate person who just needs his help to move around.
  • Hair-Trigger Temper: Scarface, though actually toned down a bit from his comics counterpart.
  • Hollywood Density: Scarface's men are stealing a load of platinum. They unload the ingots one at a time and it's shown that of the three, only Rhino, who's twice the size of Batman, can lift an ingot with no problem. Batman is captured in the ensuing fight when Rhino tips what should be several tons of the stuff over. Surprisingly, Batman is only knocked out for a few hours with no noticeable injuries, when he should by all logic have been reduced to a red smear.
  • Insult Backfire: Scarface thinks that there is a traitor in his gang who has been selling them out to the cops. Dumb Muscle Rhino tries to prove his loyalty:
    Rhino: It ain't me, boss!
    Scarface: I know it ain't you, Rhino! You're too stupid to be a traitor!
    Rhino: [relieved] Gee, thanks boss!
  • Limited Animation: While hardly Rocky and Bullwinkle level, this episode is not up to TMS's usual high quality. There are many still shots where only a character's mouth moves, and there's very little of the "above and beyond" flair that they showed in episodes like "Feat of Clay: Part 2."
  • Made of Iron:
    • Batman has several tons of platinum dumped on him, only falling unconscious. If he could survive that, the Death Trap he was later placed into should have been no biggie.
    • Rhino is pretty clearly up there as well, considering how much it takes to put him down for good.
  • Oh, Crap!: Batman's memorable reaction to seeing Scarface for the first time.
  • Paranoia Fuel: In-Universe, Scarface plans his crimes too well to be identified. However, when his gang are caught on camera, Batman notices Rhino's sleeve was ripped, exposing his tattoo. Batman is able to identify him and confront him about the robberies. Later, Rhino runs back to report about this to Scarface, who believes there's a mole in his gang.
  • Paranoia Gambit: Batman claims that he found Scarface because he was tipped off by a mole—and fingers the Ventriloquist. Scarface orders his henchmen to kill the Ventriloquist. Since the henchmen aren't crazy, they realize that carrying out the order would kill Scarface as well. Unsure of what to do, they hesitate. This infuriates Scarface and convinces him that the whole gang is disloyal.
  • Punch! Punch! Punch! Uh Oh...: During their fight near the end, Batman unloads into Rhino's stomach to no effect. It takes Batman tripping Rhino and the big guy slamming his head into some shelves (which then fall on him) to take him out.
  • Sanity Has Advantages: Batman wins by taking full advantage of the gang boss's multiple personality disorder, setting Scarface against the Ventriloquist.
  • Shout-Out:
    • Rhino's "Gee, thanks Boss!" may be one to Mugsy, the large and dim-witted accomplice to gangster Rocky in the Looney Tunes franchise, who frequently ended up whimpering the same phrase while groveling before his pint-sized boss. Ironic, since Mugsy is also the name of one of Scarface's flunkies.
    • When seeing the platinum, Rhino utters "Yippee Ki Yay".
  • Spanner in the Works: Scarface has his men dress in masks, gloves, and other clothing to keep them from being identified. However, a guy with a video camera catches their escape from a job, in which Rhino rips his sleeve and exposes his signature tattoo. One search through the records later, Batman has a suspect to follow back to the hideout.
  • Spikes of Doom: Batman is suspended over a pit of mannequin hands with razor-sharp fingernails.
  • Spinning Paper: A montage of headlines details how effective the new gang in town is at robbery, thanks to Scarface's airtight plans.
  • Varying Competency Alibi: Batman tricks Scarface into believing that one of Scarface's henchmen betrayed him, in order to get Scarface riled up. Rhino, the Dumb Muscle of the henchmen, protests that it wasn't him who betrayed Scarface. Scarface says he knows it wasn't Rhino because Rhino is too stupid to pull off a scheme like that. Rhino takes this as a compliment.
    Scarface: My primanotion. I knew I was right. Which one o' you louses is it?
    Rhino: It ain't me, boss!
    Scarface: I know it ain't you, Rhino! You're too stupid to be a traitor.
    Rhino: Uh, thanks, boss.
  • Wham Shot: The episode ends with the doctors at Arkham Asylum thinking the Ventriloquist is making progress in his recovery, but the audience sees he's making a new Scarface puppet, also revealing that the Ventriloquist's case is more than just Gollum Made Me Do It.
  • Wrong Genre Savvy: Batman initially thinks (and probably hopes) that the Ventriloquist is the boss and just a little quirky.
  • You Have GOT to Be Kidding Me!: Batman's initial reaction when discovering who Scarface really is. He soon finds out that, nope, the Ventriloquist is very serious and very dangerous.