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- “Harold wants to get rid of us."
"He doesn't need tunnels!"
"Don't worry; he's just counting sheep!"
"Counting sheep? Pah! He's counting how many engines he can get rid of!”
- ―Gordon, Henry and Percy
Thomas and the Rumours, spelt Thomas and the Rumors in North American releases, is the seventeenth episode of the fifth season.
One day, Thomas comes to a small station on his branch line, and he sees some children on the platform. The children are upset that their playground has been closed, as the sand pit is soiled and too dirty to play in. The children ask Thomas to help them, and Thomas promises to see what he can do as he sets off with his passengers. Thomas hopes things are not as bad as they are described, but as he passes the playground, he realizes the children are right. There is a large sign reading, "Playground closed until further notice".
Later, Thomas puffs back into the yard. But before he can tell the others about the children's playground, Percy rushes in with news that Sir Topham Hatt has chosen Harold to show a special visitor around Sodor rather than the engines. The big engines are shocked at this, saying that engines are meant to show visitors around the island, not "that whirly-bird thing", as James quotes.
When Gordon sees Harold, he believes Harold thinks he is faster than Gordon. Later, when Henry sees Harold, he believes Sir Topham Hatt chose Harold because he believes Harold is more important than Henry. Henry immediately denies this, saying Harold cannot fly through tunnels. Finally, Percy sees Harold near a field where there are sheep grazing on the branch line. Percy decides that Harold must be counting sheep, and he feels much better as he steams away.
That evening at the sheds, the big engines are starting to believe that Harold is trying to replace them altogether. Percy states that Harold is just counting sheep, but Gordon does not believe this, saying Harold is instead counting how many engines he can get rid of, and he decides to show Harold how useful he is the next day. Thomas still wants to mention the children's playground, but he knows that solving the mystery of Harold and his visitor is the first priority.
The next day, Gordon is on his way to collect his train when he sees Harold. Unfortunately, he and his crew are watching Harold, and they go down the wrong line. Ahead is a tunnel under repair, and Gordon's driver reduces steam and applies the brakes, but it is too late. Gordon plunges into the tunnel and crashes into something, with dust spreading everywhere.
Later, Thomas arrives with the Breakdown Train to rescue Gordon, and Sir Topham Hatt arrives as well, who is very cross with Gordon's driver. Thomas is worried that Gordon will be scrapped, which makes Sir Topham Hatt wonder where Thomas got such idea. Thomas, plucking up courage, tells him the whole story about the engines and Harold. As it turns out, this is not true; Sir Topham Hatt explains to Thomas he shouldn't listen to rumours, and then that the gentleman is making a new playground for the children; Harold was showing the visitor the island because it was easier to find a suitable site for the new playground from up in the air. The man declares that the sand cleared from the tunnel will be perfect for the playground; found by rumour, and by accident, as he laughs.
After that, Sir Topham Hatt still uses Harold to fly above the island, but now all the engines know Harold is not spying on them; he is, in his own way, just being very useful.
- Sir Topham Hatt
- The Special Visitor
- Bridget Hatt (not named)
- Harold (does not speak)
- Duck (cameo)
- Annie and Clarabel (cameo)
- Stephen Hatt (cameo)
- Jem Cole (cameo)
- Farmer Trotter (cameo)
- Tidmouth Sheds
- The School
- The Windmill
- Standard and Narrow Gauge Tunnel Runby
- Stepney's Branch Line
- The Mountain Line
- Sodor Hay Company
- This episode was adapted from the magazine story, Rumours and Speculation by Andrew Brenner. However, BoCo and Daisy were replaced with Thomas and Henry for unknown reasons.
- Stock footage from Trucks is used.
- When Gordon puffs onto the wrong line, the music in the UK dub fades in later and fades out earlier than the US dub and other international versions.
- The episode was released on the Spooks and Surprises VHS a day before it aired on TV.
- When Thomas puffs into Tidmouth Sheds, the decals on one of the milk wagons beside him are incorrectly placed higher up.
- When Percy first appears, he rushes in from a dead end.
- When Percy is on the turntable, part of its fencing is snapped.
- Studio equipment can be seen in the top-left corner in the close-up of Henry before he enters the tunnel.
- When Thomas puffs out of Callan, a signal tilts slightly to one side.
- When the children tell Thomas about the playground, one child looks happy.
- The title card for the US version uses the UK spelling of rumours.
- When Thomas passes the playground, there is a sign saying: "Playground closed until further notice," at the back of the playground. However, when Gordon passes the playground, the sign is gone.
- Percy's roof is lifted during the evening scenes at Tidmouth Sheds.
- Percy's eyes are wonky when Gordon replies about counting sheep.
- The special visitor's small scale model is wearing a grey suit while his large scale model is wearing a yellow suit.
- Henry's eyes are wonky when Harold leaves the sheds at the end of the episode.
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