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'Pandemic 2: The Startling'
South Park episode
Episode no.Season 12
Episode 11
Directed byTrey Parker
Written byTrey Parker
Production code1211
Original air dateOctober 29, 2008
Episode chronology
'About Last Night...'
South Park (season 12)
List of South Park episodes

'Pandemic 2: The Startling' is the eleventh episode in the twelfth season of the American animated television series South Park.[1] The 178th episode of the series overall, it originally aired on Comedy Central in the United States on October 29, 2008.

It is the conclusion to the previous episode, 'Pandemic'. In the episode, the boys are lost in the Andes where they discover the startling secret behind the attack of the giant guinea pigs. The boys now have the power to rescue their town and the rest of the world from the onslaught, but Michael Chertoff, the Head of Homeland Security, stands firmly in their way. Meanwhile, Randy bravely documents the destruction while trying to save his family.

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The episode was written by series co-creator Trey Parker and is rated TV-MA L in the United States.


The episode opens with a monologue recap by Craig Tucker, who is retelling the events up until now in his journal. Craig is stranded in the Andes Mountains with the four main characters and pilots Captains Gabriel and Taylor at a false rendezvous point. They look for help in the jungle, but find only a 'land of the giant lost world', filled with giant fruits. Taylor and Gabriel are killed by baby Guinea bee larvae, and the boys flee.

Craig and the boys discover a temple, inside of which are carvings depicting a prophecy that details all of the events of the previous episode. They learn from this that the Peruvian flute bands kept the murderous guinea pigs within the jungle. Craig is featured in the final carving. In spite of the intrigue of the carving, Craig refuses to do any more investigating and begins walking back through the jungle. The other boys follow him, complaining of boredom.

Interspersed throughout this story are various flashes in Colorado with Randy, Sharon and Shelley hiding from giant guinea pig monsters (all of which are portrayed by real live-action guinea pigs wearing costumes), a parody of the movie Cloverfield. They hide at home, in a damaged bus, on the roof of a Best Buy, a grocery store, and an Outback Steakhouse. Randy does not stop filming the entire time, and uses unnecessarily shaky camera work, as well as constant zooms and heavy breathing to convey just how 'startled' he is by the whole ordeal. The other townspeople, especially Sharon, begin to grow very annoyed by his obsessive taping of the event. Eventually, Sharon has had enough and angrily demands Randy to stop filming, but he says that the video 'will be a very important family relic, years from now'; frustrated, Sharon attacks his camera. Also, the townsfolk discover that the guinea pigs take on various other permutations, including guinea rabbits, guinea bees, guinea bears, guinea mice, guinea rats, and guinea-saurus rexes, all of which supposedly originate from the aforementioned 'giant world'.

The Guinea Pirate

Meanwhile, Homeland SecurityMichael Chertoff travels to Machu Picchu to finalize his plan for world domination. He accidentally runs into the boys and orders his guards to kill them, claiming they are a Peruvian flute band (which in the previous episode were all prosecuted and ordered sent to Guantanamo Bay). Stan insists that they are not, and that the bands are the only forces which could stop the guinea pigs. Michael Chertoff snaps, revealing his plan to take over the world. One of the guards, who has had enough of all this, shoots him in the back, but that does not stop the director, since there was no human blood in him. He then reveals his true form, that of a 'guinea pirate' (a live-action guinea pig in a pirate outfit). Craig insists that he wants no part of this; he just wants to go home, and he walks away from the scene. But by doing this he accidentally steps on a stone tile, activating some sort of magical ritual in which 'sparks'[2] shoot from his eyes and paralyze the Guinea pirate. While concerned by this, Craig's dry tone does not change as he states flatly, 'Okay, now there are sparks shooting out of my eyes...' When it's over, he sighs, realizing that there are some things you can't control.

The episode ends with a second monologue by Craig, telling the aftermath of the incident, as a pan flute cover of Gary Numan's 'Cars' plays in the background. The U.S. government releases all the pan flute bands, who then drive the guinea pigs back to the jungle. Craig concludes that you never know what life has in store for you, and also that he will never trust anyone who asks him for money again. He is shown shutting his front door on the boys, who have come to his house dressed as a Mariachi band, presumably beginning the cycle over again. It is also revealed at this time that Randy forgot to put a tape in his camera after buying it, therefore making his entire effort to tape the ordeal pointless. Meanwhile, back at the office of Homeland Security, the new Director is informed that the guinea pirate has broken out of jail and has begun to attack the city. The ending sequence shows the escaped giant guinea pirate roaming through the streets of Washington D.C. in his black-and-white prison uniform.



The monsters and shaky camera style of cinematography are a reference to the 2008 American monster movieCloverfield.[3] The subplot, in which the giant guinea pigs attack a small town is a parody of Night of the Lepus. The guinea pig costumes were purchased online.[4] According to the creator commentary, the guinea pigs used in filming refused to move when put into the costumes and it took hours of filming to get one usable shot for the episode.[5]

The Guinny Valley where the guinea pig monsters originate from is a parody of Land of the Giants and Land of the Lost (referenced to in the episode as 'Land of the Giants Lost World').


The episode received mixed reviews. The A.V. Club graded the episode a C-, stating 'That was too damn long to tell a story with so little substance and so few real laughs. Kinda like Cloverfield. Maybe that was the point'.[6]

Home release[edit]

'Pandemic 2: The Startling', along with the thirteen other episodes from South Park's twelfth season, were released on a three-disc DVD set and two-disc Blu-ray set in the United States on March 10, 2009. The sets included brief audio commentaries by Parker and Stone for each episode, a collection of deleted scenes, and two special mini-features, The Making of 'Major Boobage and 6 Days to Air.[7]


  1. ^'South Park Episode Guide – 1211'. South Park Studios. Accessed October 25, 2008
  2. ^'Episode 1211 – Pandemic 2: The Startling'. (2008-11-16).
  3. ^Entry from Tuesday, November 4, 2008 FAQ archive at South Park Studios
  4. ^
  5. ^Parker, Trey (November 2008). South Park: The Complete Twelfth Season: 'TPandemic 2: The Startling'(Audio commentary) (DVD). Paramount Home Entertainment.
  6. ^Modell, Josh (2008-10-29). 'Pandemic 2, The Startling'. The A.V. Club. Archived from the original on 2012-07-17. Retrieved 2011-10-08.
  7. ^Liebman, Martin (February 26, 2009). 'South Park: The Complete Twelfth Season Blu-ray Review'. Retrieved January 25, 2017.

External links[edit]

  • 'Pandemic 2: The Startling' Full episode at South Park Studios
  • 'Pandemic 2: The Startling' Episode guide at South Park Studios
  • 'Pandemic 2: The Startling' on IMDb
  • 'Pandemic 2: The Startling' at
Retrieved from ''

It was the second day of autumn term at a small boys’ school in South London in 1979. Without warning, 78 schoolboys and a handful of monitors simultaneously fell ill. Symptoms included vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain and, in severe cases, depression of the central nervous system. Several patients were comatose with episodes of convulsive twitching and violent fits of fever. In many patients, there were signs of peripheral circulatory collapse. Within five days of the initial outbreak, all patients recovered in full, though some hallucinated for several days, Mary McMillan and J.C. Thompson report in the Quarterly Journal of Medicine. But what could cause such a sudden and mysterious illness?

Turns out, a bag of potatoes left in storage from the previous summer term.

After careful analysis of the sequence of events, the onset of symptoms was pinpointed to about four to 14 hours after the boys had eaten boiled potatoes that had a high concentration of the toxin, solanine, a glycoalkaloid that was first isolated in 1820 in the berries of a European black nightshade. Nightshade is the term used to describe over 2,800 species of plants in the scientific family, Solanaceae. Eggplants, tomatoes, and some berries are common members of the nightshade family—many of them contain highly toxic alkaloids.

That said, the potato is the most common cause of solanine poisoning in humans. But how do you know when solanine is present in a potato? The tuber is turning green.

Though the green color that forms on the skin of a potato is actually chlorophyll, which isn’t toxic at all (it’s the plant’s response to light exposure), the presence of chlorophyll indicates concentrations of solanine. The nerve toxin is produced in the green part of the potato (the leaves, the stem, and any green spots on the skin). The reason it exists? It’s a part of the plant’s defense against insects, disease and other predators.

If you eat enough of the green stuff, it can cause vomiting, diarrhea, headaches, paralysis of the central nervous system (as evidenced by the incident above) but in some rare cases the poisoning can cause coma—even death. Studies have recorded illnesses caused by a range of 30 to 50 mg of solanine per 100 grams of potato, but symptoms vary depending on the ratio of body weight of the toxin and the individual’s tolerance of the alkaloid. The following cases recorded in various medical journals include examples of some of the most severe cases of solanine poisoning (many of which resulted in death):

1899: After eating cooked potatoes containing 0.24 mg of solanine per gram of potato, 56 German soldiers experienced solanine poisoning. Though all recovered, in a few cases, jaundice and partial paralysis were observed.

1918: In Glasgow, Scotland, 61 people from 18 separate households were affected at once by a bad batch of potatoes. The following day, a five-year-old boy died of strangulation of the bowel following extreme retching and vomiting. According to “An Investigation of Solanine Poisoning” by S. G. Willimott, PhD, B.Sc. published in 1933, the case was investigated by scientists, R. W. Harris and T. Cockburn, who concluded in their article, “Alleged Poisoning By Potatoes” (1918), that the poisoning was the result of eating potatoes which contained five or six times the amount of solanine found in normal potatoes. Willimott cites this particular occurrence as an example of the toxin’s prevalence: “A review of the literature reveals the fact that authentic cases of solanine poisoning are not so rare as authorities appear to believe.”

1922: In autumn of this year, a serious epidemic broke out in Germany which was traced to the abnormal content of solanine in the potato crop.

1925: Seven members of a family were poisoned by greened potatoes. Two of them died. According to reports, symptoms included vomiting, extreme exhaustion, but no convulsions like that of the schoolboys in London. Breathing was rapid and labored until consciousness was lost a few hours before death.

1948: A case of solanine poisoning involving the potato’s nightshade relative, the berry, was recordedin the article “A Fatal Case of Solanine Poisoning published in the British Medical Journal. On August 13 of that year, a 9-year-old girl with a bad habit of snacking on the berries that grew along the railroad tracks by her house was admitted to the hospital with symptoms of vomiting, abdominal pain, and distressed breathing. She died two days later. An autopsy found hemorrhages in the mucosa of stomach and middle section of her small intestine. The stomach contained about one pint of dark brown fluid.

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1952: According to the British Medical Journal,solanine poisoning is most common during times of food shortage. In the face of starvation, there have been accounts of large groups eating older potatoes with a higher concentration of the toxin. In North Korea during the war years of 1952-1953, entire communities were forced to eat rotting potatoes. In one area alone, 382 people were affected, of whom 52 were hospitalized and 22 died. The most severe cases died of heart failure within 24 hours of potato consumption. Some of the less severe symptoms included irregular pulses, enlargement of the heart, and blueing lips and ears. Those who displayed these ailments died within 5 or 10 days. Authors John Emsley and Peter Fell explain their book Was It Something You Ate?: Food Intolerance: What Causes It and How to Avoid It: ”In the final stages there were sometimes a state of high excitability with shaking attacks and death was due to respiratory failure.”

1983:Sixty-one of 109 school children and staff in Alberta, Canada, fell ill within five minutes of eating baked potato. Forty-four percent of those affected noted a green tinge and a bitter taste in the potatoes.

Not to worry though, fatal cases of solanine poisoning are very rare these days. Most commercial varieties of potatoes are screened for solanine, but any potato will build up the toxin to dangerous levels if exposed to light or stored improperly. Often, the highest concentrations of solanine are in the peel, just below the surface and in the sprouted “eyes”—things that are typically removed in cooking preparation—though Warren would argue even boiling water in potato prep dissolves only a little of the alkaloid. Emsley and Fell continue:

Most people can easily cope with the solanine in the average portion of potato and show no symptoms of poisoning because the body can break it down and rapidly and excrete the products in the urine. But if the level of solanine is as high as 40 mg per 100 g of potato, symptoms include diarrhea…even coma.

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The best way to prevent solanine poisoning is to store tubers in a cool, dark place and remove the skin before consumption. A general rule for avoiding illnesses like the ones described above? Green and sprouted? Throw it out.