To most of the fandom’s disappointment, Power Rangers Ninja Steel had an inauspicious start to the season. It arrived with very little hype or fanfare and, regrettably, the content of the show did little to enthuse even the most forgiving viewer. The story was thrown together haphazardly with little attention paid to integrating some of the eccentricities of Shuriken Sentai Ninninger (Ninja Steel’s parent series) and many balked at the repetition of the ‘Daddy issues’ used so regularly in recent memory. In short, the series just wasn’t much good. That’s all changed within the last few episodes, though, and the quality of the show has drastically improved. Episode 13, Ace and the Race, is no exception to that and builds upon the good work we’ve seen as of late.
The episode opens with the Mayor of Summer Cove welcoming us to the Lake Sunshine Fun-athalon, and the Rangers are preparing to compete in a relay race. As the race calls for three person teams, the team split in half with Preston, Hayley and Sarah comprising one team and Brody, Levi and Calvin making up the other. Moments before the start of the race, Calvin is distracted by a guy named Ace and his beautifully detailed car. Calvin goes to speak with Ace and his crew but promises to return in time for the race.
Meanwhile, on Galvanax’s ship, Cosmo Royale is introducing his newest contestant, Shoespike. The monster of the week bursts on to the stage with two Basherbots trailing behind him and rejoices at the fact he won the race. The peril our Rangers will face this week becomes clear as Shoespike exclaims, “You know what happens when you lose a race to me!” and the Basherbots are turned into trophies. Shoespike – whose Arnie-impersonator voice is reminiscent of Mighty Morphin’s Lizzinator – takes human form, declaring that once the Rangers touch his baton (careful) they will not be able to resist racing him.
Back on Earth, Calvin is taking a look under the hood of Ace’s car. He notices an oil leak and is talked into repairing it, but not before he pushes the car and its three occupants back to the school workshop. With Calvin missing, Brody and Levi are down a teammate. Enter Bob Shoespike, who volunteers to join the team. The pair touch Shoespike’s baton and are instantly transformed into douchebags, calling Sarah a loser before heading to the start line. During the course of the race, Brody shoulder barges Preston into the bushes and Levi launches a random competitor into the lake. Preston, obviously, takes exception to their behaviour and confronts them. Brody and Levi give Preston, Sarah and Hayley a hard time, again calling them losers. Bob Shoespike looks directly into the camera and adds “and you know what happens to losers…” before the three are turned into trophies before Levi and Brody’s eyes. The other competitors are also turned into trophies including Victor, who gets taken away by a stray dog. Shoespike reveals himself to be a monster and challenges the Ranger brothers to a three-legged race. The Rangers gladly accept.
Subsequently, at the school workshop, Calvin is finishing off the work to Ace’s car. Ace misnames Calvin as Malvin and Marvin during the course of the ensuing argument, caused by Calvin’s realisation that Ace is a fraud and that he hasn’t completed a single piece of work on his own car as he claimed. Calvin feels let down by his supposed friend, Ace, but Mick reminds Calvin of his own failures in friendship, having bailed on Brody and Levi in the relay race. He concedes and dashes off to rejoin his teammates. Trophy Victor is shotput into a fish tank, meh. Victor and Monty continue to be one of the main problems with this series but I don’t think they’re going anywhere.
Calvin happens upon Brody, Levi and Shoespike warming up for their race. He discovers the three Ranger trophies and they catch him up with the story so far. Calvin confronts Shoespike and joins the team. The Rangers struggle to run cohesively at first before noticing that Shoespike is cheating; his Basherbot teammates are in face dummies and Shoespike is running alone. Despite the booby-traps set by Shoespike, the Rangers win the race in a photo finish. A Basherbot delivers the Ranger trophies, for no reason other than they needed the Rangers present to match the Sentai footage, and the team morph to fight Shoespike. The battle itself, in fact, is a carbon copy of its Ninninger counterpart and culminates in Levi and Brody working together to destroy the monster.
Brody and Levi summon Robo Red and Bull Rider but Shoespike runs rings around them. Calvin arrives in his Tonka Truck and slows the monster down with makibishi. The team form the Ninja Fusion Zord and make quick work of destroying Shoespike once and for all.
Back at the race, Calvin apologises to his friends and, of course, they forgive him in the usual sickly sweet, saccharin fashion. Victor’s trophy is finally turned back into human form, whilst still in the fish tank, and the episode closes with Victor standing in the tank with seaweed in his mouth.
All in all, this was a solid episode. The Saban team made good use of what was a difficult Ninninger episode to adapt to construct a cohesive story. The highlight of the episode, for me, was Shoespike, who got far more screen time here than in the Sentai. His design was neat and the actor who played his human form did a great job, especially during the fourth wall breaking moments. Here’s hoping that Ninja Steel continues to trend upwards as it has in the last few episodes.