On their way to the next car, Tulip and co. find out that train cars sometimes rearrange themselves at random. The car now placed in front of them takes them to a chamber filled with knick knacks, all owned by The Cat that tried taking One-One a few episodes. The feline fiend tries desperately to get Tulip to stay by dropping tapes onto the floor, with one having Tulip’s name on it, basically forcing them all to try watching it out of sheer curiosity. But as soon as the tape starts, Tulips finds herself in a white void in front of a staticy screen that begins playing her strongest memories.
Some of them nice, like going on a road trip with her parents, some about going to water park, and some about her crouching in front of an empty couch for some reason. When the memories begin getting too happy, she realizes something’s wrong. The water park visit actually had her parents arguing about getting her glasses, and the empty couch had her dad crying. Soon the real source of her anguish arises: the day she learned her parents were separating, which she could only respond to with frustration and rage. Tulip then realizes that she’s been the one changing her memories, which snaps her back to reality, and realize the Cat was trying to trap her. Her number also starts going down, but she’s fed up and storms onto the next car. Once they all leave, the Cat’s car is taken to the monster, who was working with her to get Tulip and One-One.
Later, after relaxing a bit, the team enters a car that has a few things…missing. Or rather, there’s a bunch of things that aren’t complete or go together, but all seem to be thrown in here, like a group of turtle people and several unfinished houses. It also seems to stir something in One-One, who can’t stop stressing over how incomplete everything is, so he starts making efforts to “fix” things. Tulip also does her best to do the same, but finds that all the things they’re trying to “fix” are what this car has adapted to. Eventually, One-One starts messing with the gravity, forcing Tulip to tell him to stop, and that things out of his control aren’t his responsibility or fault. He snaps out of it, so the crew continues on their journey.
Well, things got pretty real there. Tulip’s repressed feelings about her parents’ divorce seemed to be something that was eating away at her, and the numbers on her hand seemingly going down in response to her opening up about those feelings was likely going to respond to some big confession about that, but I guess I didn’t expect such a psychological deep dive into those exact moments. I’ve seen a few versions of backstory exposition through memory hopping, but I don’t think I’ve seen many times where those memories weren’t taken at face value. As much as we like to rely on our version of events, especially for something so traumatic, the feelings we have about those events often cloud the truth about what happened. So it’s interesting to see how Tulip’s way of identifying her own memories was by noticing that what she was seeing was pulling them to extremes of joy and sadness instead of acknowledging their reality, which is far more mundane but no less depressing. It’d be nice if horrible moments in our lives were over the top cartoons that lessened the blow, just as it would be good if every happy memory was upped in enjoyment to 11, but that’s not usually how it really is.
We see some payoff for this in the second half, where Tulip explains to a spiraling One-One that the things in that car which he thinks he is responsible for aren’t really his fault. Which is not so subtly advice that she probably tells herself about her parents’ divorce. Even though she told them rather loudly that she knows it’s not her fault, that feeling of if she could have stopped it gnaws at her. Since I’m not someone with divorced parents, my experience with this is limited, but the way it’s portrayed here feels very raw and real in a way that whatever kids watching who are experiencing this might be able to relate to. And as a bit of an aside, I love it when characters give advice that is very clearly what they wish they had been told by someone else, since that feels more realistic and provides development for both the person receiving the advice as much as the one giving it.
In terms of long term plot developments, we get a bit more info about The Cat, but also that she’s working with the monster from the Corgi Car, and both have a bigger plan in mind. What could it beeeeeee?!