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Recap / Thomas The Tank Engine S 1 E 23 Dirty Objects

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U.S. Title: James in a Mess

Air date: December 25th (Christmas Day), 1984

Toby and Henrietta are settling into their new lives on the Island of Sodor, but they still look very old-fashioned and could use new paint. Due to their bad paintwork, the two become a subject of scorn for James who calls them "dirty objects". When Toby asks why James is red, James says that it's because he's a splendid engine who's never dirty and ready for anything. Toby then reminds James of the bootlace incident, causing James to become angry.

Later, James leaves his coaches and picks up a line of trucks for a slow goods train. James' bad mood is made even worse due to his hate of slow goods trains. Although the trucks start off behaving well, James is so rough with them that they vow to pay him out. As he climbs Gordon's Hill, James is supposed to stop and have his brakes pinned down. James, who had an accident with trucks before, should have remembered this, but forgets as he is too busy thinking of what he will say to Toby next time they meet. Seizing their chance, the trucks push James down the hill. Unable to stop, James zips through the station and crashes into some tar wagons.


Although James isn't hurt, he's left looking very dirty from the tar. Percy and Toby come to help clean up the mess and Toby makes fun of James reminding him that, as a red engine, he's supposed to look splendid and ready for anything. Percy and Toby shunt James back to the sheds where the Fat Controller is waiting. He thanks Percy and Toby for their hard work and tells James that he needs to be cleaned.

The Fat Controller rewards Toby a new coat of paint and agrees when Toby requests one for Henrietta too. Toby happily runs off to tell his coach the good news while James remains silent, knowing full well that today he is the 'dirty object'.


Tropes featured in the episode:

  • Actually Pretty Funny: The Fat Controller, who didn't seem to be angry about James' accident with the tar wagons, made a light-hearted quip about his accident at the end of the episode.
  • Aesop Amnesia: James is too busy thinking of a retort to Toby, and because of that, when he reaches the top of Gordon's Hill with his train, he neglects to stop and have his brakes pinned down. This allows the trucks to push James down the hill. The narrator remarks that after his previous incident with trucks, James should have known better.
  • Berserk Button: James was cross when Toby reminded him of the bootlace incident.
  • Butt-Monkey: James, although he brought it upon himself.
  • Call-Back:
  • Deadpan Snarker: Toby when he retorted with James' comment.
    Toby: "Oh, so that's why you needed bootlaces to be red-dy, I suppose."
  • The Freelance Shame Squad: Percy and Toby are teasing James who's covered up in sticky tar while clearing the mess.
  • Humiliation Conga: James gets pushed to tar wagons, being covered in tar much to the amusement of Percy and Toby, and he miserably watches Toby going to tell Henrietta the news of both of them getting repainted.
  • Ironic Echo:
    James: "I am a splendid engine. Ready for anything. You never see my paint dirty."
    (after the tar wagons crash)
    Toby: "It's James' shape. But James is a splendid red engine and you never see his paint dirty."
  • Jerkass: James.
  • Kick the Son of a Bitch: It didn't help that the Troublesome Trucks got back at James for bumping him, albeit disproportionately.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: James crashing to a line of tar wagons.
  • Never Live It Down: In-universe. James' bootlace incident is referenced once again.
  • Runaway Train: In light of their revenge on being bumped by James, the trucks pushed him down Gordon's hill, causing him to crash on tar wagons at the station.
  • Sticky Situation: James is covered in sticky tar after crashing the wagons.


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