The episode begins with two boys running and peeks through a board that cover an abandoned cave. They are shown being friendly to each other. One of the boys try to pull the board but failed. Then the other boy punches the board and destroyed it, and they get inside. Then, they write their name in the wall to let people know that they "own" the place, after they leave, it's revealed that they are young Stanley Pines and Stanford Pines.
Stan Pines, cornered under the Mystery Shack, greets the Author with a hug. However, the author responds to this by punching Stan and refuses to thank him for freeing him from the Universe portal, saying that he took a huge risk by re-activating it. In addition, the author says that Stan was the reason he was trapped in the first place. Mabel interjects and asks what is going on, and Dipper is so excited to meet the author for the first time he nearly barfs, respectively. Stan introduces the kids as the grandchildren of their brother, Sherman. We soon learn that the Stan that Mabel and Dipper know is actually named Stanley and he stole his brother's name: Stanford. Stan says that he has a lot of explaining to do, and starts to explain his life story.
Stanley and Stanford were twins born in the town of Glass Shard Beach, New Jersey during the 1960s. Their parents owned a pawn shop, their implacably stoic father and their mother, a pathological liar/phone psychic. The two loved exploring the town's beach and one day, they came across a cave that held a broken ship. The twins made it their goal to fix it up and use it to sail around the world together to hunt for hidden treasure. Throughout his life, Stanford was bullied for having six fingers, but he knew he always had his brother, Stanley, beside him.
The twins could not have been any more different. Stanley was a troublemaker who was barely able to graduate while Stanford was a straight A student who won most of the science competitions at school. One day, a perpetual motion machine Stanford built for a science fair earned him an opportunity to be accepted into his dream college, West Coast Tech. Although Stanley still had his dream of sailing around the world in their boat, Stanford had his mind set to get into the college.
One night, an upset Stanley went into the gym to look at Stanford's experiment and hits the table in frustration, accidentally destroying the experiment. When the college admission team came to look at Stanford's experiment the next day and saw it wasn't working, they denied Stanford's entry into West Coast Tech. Stanford confronted Stanley at home, and Stan's family believed that he did it on purpose to try to prevent Stanford from going off to college without him. Filbrick gets so angry he kicked Stanley out of the house for ruining their chance of becoming rich. Stanley then dedicated his whole life to getting enough money to prove his family wrong by becoming a businessman. However, his products were unsuccessful and Stanley got banned from many states and countries, using fake identities to travel to new places. Stanley went to prison in three different countries (one of them Colombia).
Meanwhile, Stanford gets accepted into Backupsmore University and graduated at the top his class, acquiring a grant for his scientific research. Stanford decided to study anomalies, attracted to them because of his anomalous six-fingered hands. After some research, Stanford pinpointed the place in the world with the highest amount of anomalies, Gravity Falls, and moved there in mid 1970s. Stanford enlisted the help of locals to build his house and went around the town recording all of his research and findings in three journals. Stanford ultimately believed that all the anomalies of Gravity Falls had to originate from another dimension, and decided to build the Universe portal to help him get there. He enlisted the help of his college buddy, Fiddleford McGucket, whose technical know-how resulted in the complete construction of the Universe portal.
When the portal was activated for a test run, McGucket was almost sucked in. Stanford managed to pull him out, but McGucket wasn't himself and began to act strangely. He spoke in backward ciphers and issued a strange warning: "When gravity falls and earth becomes sky, fear the beast with just one eye." After recovering, McGucket told Stanford that the portal was too dangerous and urged him to shut it off, quitting the project when Stanford didn't do so. McGucket decided to forget what he had seen. Once Stanford began to hear whispers and felt that he was losing his sanity, he asked the only person he could trust - Stanley - to come to Gravity Falls.
As the two meet in Ford's home, Stanford asked Stanley to hide the first journal far away from Gravity Falls to prevent anyone from being able to operate the portal. Stanley becomes upset at his brother for telling him to move all the way to the other side of the world after they had just met for the first time in ten years. After Stanley almost burned the first journal with a lighter, the two begin to fight over the journal. Stanley's back was burned on the portal's control console in the process, resulting in him getting his "tattoo" as the portal ends up accidentally activating. Though Stanford tried to apologize, Stanley punched him in retaliation as he cursed him for being a failure as a brother and push him out of anger, causing Stanford to got too close to it and getting sucked in. He throws the first journal to Stanley just before the portal shuts off, trapping Stanford in another dimension.
Stanley tried to find ways to reactivate the portal, but couldn't without the other two journals. Eventually, Stanley ran out of food and went into town. He tried to buy some food but had no money. When the people inside the store noticed him and believed he was Stanford, they asked if he gave tours of his house, which was legendary for the strange things inside. Stanley agreed to give people tours in order to gain money and assumed his brother's identity, Stanford Pines, to do so. He also faked his own death in a car crash to further bury his old identity and his past. The Murder Hut, later renamed to the Mystery Shack, became a success over the years, but every night, Stan tried to re-activate the portal to get his brother back. Stan also admitted that he had to lie to everyone in town (including the twins) over the past few years, as he couldn't risk anyone learning the truth about the portal. Covering Ford's mortgage allowed Stan to keep the property, and by extension the portal, under his control and intact. Losing the portal would have meant forever losing any chance of getting Ford back.
Realizing now that Stan was just trying to save Ford, Dipper apologizes to Stan for his disbelief towards him, and Stan forgives him. Unfortunately, the government agents overhear the gang talking downstairs and are about to head down toward the basement. Soos claims that he forgot about the government agents, which reminds Dipper that he still has Old Man McGucket's memory eraser. Ford uses the device to make a sound wave that wipes the memory of the government agents. He then pretends to be a government official and tells the government agents that the readings they got were just radiation from an unreported meteor shower, and tells them to leave. After the agents leave, Dipper and Mabel express their gratitude towards Ford, and Dipper get prepared to ask the "2 billion questions" he has for Ford, but Stan tells the twins to go to bed, much to the twins' disapproval. Soos then slides off to call Wendy about the events that had occurred.
Later that night, Stan and Ford look themselves over in a mirror, pondering how much they've changed over the years. Stan is hurt when Ford categorically refuses to thank him for getting him back to Earth. Ford then proposes a deal: Stan can stay for the summer to watch Dipper and Mabel while Ford stays in the basement; but when the summer is over, Stan must give Ford his house and name back, and the Mystery Shack must be closed for good. Stan bitterly agrees on one condition: Ford must stay away from the twins as he doesn't want them in danger and he claims them to be the only family he has left. Mabel, who was eavesdropping, is concerned and asks Dipper to promise that they won't turn against each other in the future, which he does, but Mabel is still uneasy about it as she lies awake and Dipper goes to sleep.
As the credits roll, Soos is still seen talking to Wendy on the phone about the two Stans at three in the morning.
- Directed by:
- With the Voice Talents of
- Kristen Schaal as Mabel
- Jason Ritter as Dipper
- Alex Hirsch as Stan and Soos
- Brad Abrell as Agent Trigger
- Linda Cardellini as Wendy
- Declan J. Krogman as Young Stan
- Jonathan Banks as Mr. Pines
- Jennifer Coolidge as Lazy Susan
- Christian Mardini as Young Ford
- Ken Jenkins as Pa Duskerton
- Nick Offerman as Agent Powers
- J.K. Simmons as Ford
- Kari Wahlgren as Mrs. Pines
- Kevin Michael Richardson as Sheriff Blubs
- Gregg Turkington as Toby Determined
- April Winchell as Ma Duskerton
- Additional Voices
- Casting by:
- Stan's real name is Stanley Pines, while the Author's name is Stanford Pines.
- Stan has been banned from at least thirty two states in the USA: New Jersey, Montana, North Dakota, Nevada, Arizona, Arkansas, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Tennessee, Florida, Kentucky, Illinois, Indiana, Texas, Maine, Massachusetts, Wyoming, Connecticut, Wisconsin, Iowa, Kansas, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Colorado, Vermont, New York, Ohio, Missouri, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, and South Carolina.
- Stan took Ford's name and turned his house into the Mystery Shack because he needed to pay Ford's mortgage after he was sucked into the portal. It was the only way he could pay it after the townspeople assumed he was Ford and said they would all pay money to see things like the Mystery Shack exhibits.
- Ford and Stan are about sixty years old.
- Stan's greed for money stems from wanting to prove to his family that he can make millions after being kicked out of his home.
- Stan went to prison in three different countries.
- The mark on Stan's back, presumed to be a tattoo by Dipper, is actually a burn mark from the portal's control console.
- Lazy Susan got her eye shocked in an accident at the first tour of the Mystery Shack, which is why her left eye is always closed.
- Ford and Stan's father's first name is Filbrick.
- Ford and Stan have a brother named Shermie, who is Dipper and Mabel's grandfather.
- Blubs' first name is Daryl, and he used to work at the Dusk 2 Dawn convenience store.
- Tyler got his catch-phrase, "Git 'em," from his mother.
- The Mystery Shack was originally called the "Murder Hut."
- Manly Dan, Jeffy Fresh, Byrone, Rosie, Ma, Pa, Lazy Susan, Tats, Sheriff Blubs, Mr. Valentino, Tyler, Toby Determined, Shandra Jimenez and Pizza Guy all lived in Gravity Falls thirty years ago.
- "BLENDIN WAS HERE" is written on a board at Glass Shard Beach, a reference to Blendin Blandin of "The Time Traveler's Pig" and "Blendin's Game".
- Stan and the twins' "PINES!" cheer from "Scary-oke" is shown to have originated from Stan and Ford's childhood.
- The episode continues immediately where "Not What He Seems" left off, following Ford's emergence from the portal.
- Soos mentions his fan fics written about Stan, which were first brought up in a cryptogram found in Dipper's and Mabel's Guide to Mystery and Nonstop Fun!
- Stan and Ford's hometown of Glass Shard Beach was previously mentioned in "Society of the Blind Eye" on a page of Journal 3.
- The high five wasn't widespread until the 1970s, so Stan and Ford's "high six" and Crampelter high-fiving his friends shouldn't ordinarily exist. However, in "The Time Traveler's Pig" Mabel shared a high five with Fertilia Mecc (later credited with it's invention), thereby introducing the high five in the 1800's.
- A restaurant called "Hot Belgian Waffles" can be seen next to the Pines family's pawn shop, a phrase Stan yelled in "Headhunters" and "Not What He Seems."
- Stan and Ford christen their ship as the "Stanowar," the same name of Stan's rowboat in "The Legend of the Gobblewonker."
- The mask Stan used to scare Dipper in "Tourist Trapped" can be seen on Stan's childhood bed.
- The portrait of the unknown woman in the room first seen in "Carpet Diem," is seen hanging next to Ford's trophy shelf in their childhood home.
- The science project next to the Ford's "Perpetual Motion Machine" is a "Footbot 1000" made by Stan, a callback to the Footbot in his story from "Bottomless Pit!."
- Stan recalls his adventures outside of the country, referenced in "Dreamscaperers" and "Soos and the Real Girl."
- Octavia, the eight-legged cow from "Mabel's Scrapbook: Petting Zoo," appears as an illustration in a book that Ford reads at college, though it is likely a different mutant cow as this occurred 30 years prior to Octavia's appearance on the show.
- A box reading Dungeons, Dungeons, and More Dungeons can be found in Ford's dorm room, a reference to his fondness for the game and the name of the succeeding episode.
- A photograph depicting Stan and Ford boxing is taped to Stan's car, alluding to their days of boxing lessons first seen in "Dreamscaperers."
- The giant wooden hand that grabs Ford's car bears a strong resemblance to the giant wood foot from the promotional art for the show.
- The Shape Shifter from "Into the Bunker" is seen hatching from an egg.
- Ford investigates the Floating Cliffs and documents them within a page of Journal 1, which was first briefly shown "Not What He Seems."
- Shmebulock's father, Shmebulock Senior, is examined by Ford during his study of Gravity Falls.
- The room Ford performs his supernatural research in is the same room first discovered by Soos in "Carpet Diem," and is later where Stan spends his first few nights alone in the Mystery Shack.
- Several photographs that appear in the show's opening sequence make an appearance.
- Ford drafts the portal schematics in Journal 1 first revealed in "Gideon Rises."
- McGucket's laptop found in "Into the Bunker" appears as a prototype within his home.
- The partnership between Ford and McGucket initially established in "Society of the Blind Eye" is revisited during their construction of the portal, as well as the unholy visions Fiddleford is subjected to during his time in the machine.
- Stan mentions Rico, his former Colombian cellmate from "Dreamscaperers."
- Stan's failed Stan Vac product from "Dreamscaperers" appears in his motel room.
- The postcard that Ford sends Stan from Gravity Falls is the same one appearing at the end of the opening sequence.
- The trap door concealed behind the living room wall Stan mentions in "Little Dipper" is seen during Ford's inhabitance of the Mystery Shack.
- The tattoo on Stan's back, first revealed in "The Legend of the Gobblewonker," is revealed to be a burn mark from a fistfight between him and his brother.
- The Dusk 2 Dawn convenience store from "The Inconveniencing" is a part of Stan's story, when it was open and when Ma and Pa Duskerton were alive as the owners. The teenagers they hated are also shown dancing outside their store to rap music, reiterating why they hated teenagers.
- Stan Bucks make a reappearance, first used in "Summerween."
- Pictures of Dipper and Mabel from "Legend of the Gobblewonker" are seen on Stan's desk.
- The memory eraser from "Society of the Blind Eye" returns.
- On "the very real report" Stanford is reading to the Agents, Mabel has drawn the possible outcome of the snake's and badger's child, a snadger. This couple was brought together in "The Love God."
- Ford mentions retreating to the basement to contain any damage from the portal, which was later revealed to be a dangerous interdimensional rift in the following episode.
- Stan's reliance on copying Ford's answers to succeed in school may have resulted in his incredibly poor vocabulary.
- The episode is thirty minutes long, and had no commercial breaks during its debut airing. For reruns, the run time of this episode is 36 minutes, including commercial breaks.
- Beginning with this episode, a photo of Ford with Journal 1 replaces the photo of the pterodactyl in the theme song. This change persists for the rest of the series.
- The hole in the boards (in the episode and on it's title card) is shaped like a triangle, a reference to Bill Cipher and his theme of Triangles.
- The words "BLENDIN WAS HERE" can be seen on the boards that blocked the cave on Glass Shard Beach.
- One of Stan's failed products was called "What a Racket!" Alex Hirsch has said that Bobby Renzobbi once sold a product with the same name.
- Stanley's science project, "Footbot 1000," is next to Ford's Perpetual Motion machine at the science fair. Footbot appears in Stan's story in "Bottomless Pit!"
- The shop on the left side of "Pines Pawns" in Glass Shard Beach is named "Hot Belgian Waffles." Stan frequently exclaims these words when he is shocked. The shop on the right side is named "Knuckles Sandwiches."
- When Stan is trying to fix the portal in the flashback, he has the books Theoretical Physics Made Stupid and Code Breaking in the lab.
- This episode was viewed by 2.3 million viewers on Disney XD, a new record for the network.
- The list of West Coast Tech rejects includes at least Dianne Bonnetant, Paul Mandell, Stanford Pines, Mara Dorgenstern and Thomas O' Shant.
- Near the end of the episode, Ford mentions Floppy Disks and 8-tracks when asking about the Agents mission. This is due to Ford being unaware of technology progression having made these formats obsolete, yet 8-tracks were and only have been used for audio.
- The title "A Tale of Two Stans was a reference story of "A Tale of Two Cities" which later used by the Dog Man creators for the 3rd Dog Man series, "A Tale of Two Kities"
- After Young Fiddleford stuck his head through the portal, he says YROO XRKSVI GIRZMTOV backwards. Once this Atbash cryptogram is decoded, this reads BILL CIPHER TRIANGLE. (Old Man McGucket said this previously in one of his memories in "Society of the Blind Eye.")
- The ending cryptogram is 23 / 5-4-3-22-22-9-6-10 / 4-9-3-17-16 / 10-19-1 / 14-19-6-5-19-25 / 10-23-4-15-2-19 / 18-15-12-22-6-15-21-13 / 1-23-5-10'4 / 4-9-9 / 21-6-19-23-4-15-2-19 / 16-23-2-15-10-17 / 4-1-15-10-5 / 1-23-5 / 10-9-4 / 16-15-5 / 8-12-23-10 / 5-9 / 16-19 / 14-3-5-4 / 5-16-6-3-17-17-19-20 / 23-10-20 / 10-23-11-19-20 / 22-9-4-16 / 5-4-23-10. Once decoded it reads A STUBBORN TOUGH NEW JERSEY NATIVE, FILBRICK WASN’T TOO CREATIVE. HAVING TWINS WAS NOT HIS PLAN, SO HE JUST SHRUGGED AND NAMED BOTH STAN.
- The code at the end, TIZOLHAJSIW CKMMWZPMKQ: GLY KJQBH can be decoded using the Vigenere cipher, and the key SIXER, to reveal the message BACKUPSMORE UNIVERSITY: YOU TRIED.
- The key to the cipher can be found on the map in the Stans' room all the way to the right.
- On the scene where Ford is writing the page Floating Cliff, a symbol code can be seen on the top right corner of the Journal, with some parts covered up by his fingers. when decoded, it reads(dash is the covered parts) MY COMPASS GOES HAYWIRE THE CLOSER I GET TO THEM. DOES THIS MEAN I THINK IT DOES ? THE ANSWER MAY BE UNDERGROUND.
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