It’s that time again! I review an episode of the G.I.Joe cartoon every December. I’m not sure that too many people actually enjoy these, but the ones who do REALLY seem to like them. And isn’t pleasing a handful of people what blogging is all about? So here we go!
One thing I’ve learned from watching the opening theme is that it is really easy to lift up another human being in the Joe universe. Have you ever tried to pick up another person? It’s tough to get them more than a couple of feet off the ground. People are heavy! But the Joes can lift up Cobras (and throw them!) with ease.
Today’s episode: Twenty Questions
Last time I did one of these reviews, I came to the realization that the G.I.Joe team was wasteful, reckless and their very existence might have caused more harm than good. For continuity’s sake (because if there’s one thing that people appreciate when reading reviews of 1980’s cartoons, its continuity), I went with an episode that follows through on that theme.
As the episode begins, the Joes are engaged in an intra-team training exercise. It’s apparent that this episode will heavily feature Shipwreck, the team’s resident sailor. Shipwreck was based on Jack Nicholson, and came complete with a parrot sidekick named Polly. (Who is inexplicably not in this episode! Why would you have Shipwreck in an episode and not include Polly?)
During the exercise, Shipwreck gets hit by a laser. We’ve never actually seen a Joe get hit by an enemy weapon before, so this was a monumental occasion. Apparently, all the weapons do is cause people to glow for a few seconds. It is implied that these are only “training” weapons, but considering the lack of a death toll in most G.I.Joe battles, it wouldn’t shock me if these are the same lasers they use in real combat.
The training has to stop when a news crew, led by ace reporter Hector Ramirez shows up to do a documentary for the TV show “Twenty Questions.” For those of you who don’t remember the 80’s well, Ramirez was a very thinly disguised parody of Geraldo Rivera. Readers with strong knowledge of 80’s cartoons will know that Ramirez also appeared on the cartoon “Jem.”
Ramirez is there to determine if the Joes are truly necessary or if they’re a needless military extravagance. I can’t say that the Joes didn’t deserve this. In fact, I even predicted it!
Flint confronts the reporters, which is a bad, bad move for the Joes. Considering how much of a dick he is, Flint is the last guy you’d want talking to a news crew. He’d probably get the team shut down by himself. Amazingly, Flint does something smart and calls his superior – the much more personable Duke – so that he can talk to them instead.
In the meantime, he brings the news crew into Joe base and leaves them in an office. Yes, they just brought a news crew into the base of America’s elite military unit and left them alone without supervision. Flint should have been at least a little wary that these guys were actually Cobra agents in disguise.
Ramirez’s assistant Arnold is a conspiracy theorist who is driving the whole idea that the Joes are wasteful and need to be shut down. Good thing they didn’t make him look like a delusional nut or anything.
In yet another bad decision, Flint assigns Shipwreck to give the reporters a tour of the base. Naturally, Shipwreck shows the news crew the layout of the entire base. I’ve got to wonder if the Joes are trying to bait Cobra into an attack. Maybe they think the best way to justify their existence is by having Cobra attack their base. Or maybe they just wanted a chance to finally use that giant cannon they installed on the front.
The conspiracy guy taunts Shipwreck about the Joes’ uselessness, so Shipwreck responds by entering a “top secret” area to locate a Cobra base. He gets upset when the news crew follows him inside. It strikes me as odd that an area clearly marked as “Top Secret” doesn’t have any real security measures to prevent people from entering. Or maybe the designers assumed that the Joes would be smart enough not to let them into the base in the first place.
Shipwreck decides to smuggle the news crew into a helicopter so that they can investigate a reported Cobra sighting in the Rocky mountains. As he’s about to take off, he’s confronted by Rip Cord and Ace. They ask if he needs a co-pilot, and he suspiciously declines.
Honestly, that was the first smart move that Shipwreck made. In previous episodes, I’ve theorized that Ripcord is a Cobra spy, and that Ace crashes just about every time he gets into a jet. Even if he wasn’t up to something, it probably wouldn’t be a good idea to have either of them come along.
Shipwreck and the news crew fly to the Rocky mountains and we get our first appearance of a Cobra: Zartan! Zartan orders for the helicopter to be shot down, and the ensuing crash somehow results in zero casualties.
Back at Joe base, Ripcord thought Shipwreck was acting suspiciously earlier and decided to check up on him. (Or did Ripcord just need an excuse to lure the Joes into a trap?) They find that Shipwreck went to the Rockies, and send a search party of helicopters to go after him. While flying overhead, despite saying they needed to keep a close eye out, they somehow missed Shipwreck standing in a clearing waving at them.
This proves to be a good thing, because a squadron of Cobra Rattler jets appear and begin shooting down the Joe helicopters. (Since this is still relatively early in the episode, the Cobras are actually able to hit their targets.) The Joes are saved when Shipwreck stumbles upon a Cobra missile launcher and re-wires it to shoot down the Rattlers.
Shipwreck is busy celebrating his accomplishment when Zartan materializes behind him. (Part of Zartan’s abilities as a master of disguise allow him to turn invisible.) Zartan mocks Shipwreck and tells him that he should have watched behind him, but this seems unnecessarily cruel considering that Zartan was invisible. What good would watching behind him have done?
As it turns out, Zartan had a bunch of other Cobras with him. So even though he had a fully visible crew with him, Zartan still chose to make himself invisible. Seems like somebody likes to show off his fancy powers.
Shipwreck and the others are taken to Cobra’s underground base where they are brought face to face with Cobra Commander. Naturally, the Commander reveals all the details of his plan: (I know, I know. The reveal was done for the benefit of the audience so that we could learn what Cobra was up to. Still, it makes no sense in the plot!) They built an underground base so that they could raid a nearby military compound and steal their supply of explosive gas.
For some reason, Hector Ramirez thinks that this is an elaborate hoax. He asks Arnold to back him, only apparently Arnold is not what he seems!
That’s right, Arnold was really the Baroness in disguise. She infiltrated the news crew so that she could get Ramirez to discredit the Joes and lessen public support.
The plan itself wasn’t bad, but there were so many logical flaws in the execution, that it would require an entirely separate post just to list them all. Here’s the most prominent: The Baroness, how shall I put this, is not modestly endowed. And upon further review, Arnold did spend most of his time clutching objects to his chest. But shouldn’t Ramirez have noticed? I mean, this goes beyond the “man boobs” that you might expect from a guy working on a news crew. This is Meat Loaf in Fight Club territory.
Cobra even has a male master of disguise on the payroll! Instead of having Zartan standing outside randomly turning invisible, why not use him to infiltrate Ramirez’s crew?
At the Joe base, Duke finally arrives, ready to talk to Ramirez. Unfortunately, nobody can find the news crew, because after learning that Shipwreck went AWOL, the other Joe didn’t bother to report him. They just went out on their own to find him. Why is this team so undisciplined? It’s almost like the Joes face absolutely no repercussions whenever they disobey orders.
Having fully revealed his plan, Cobra Commander finally decides to eliminate Shipwreck and the remainder of the news crew by running them over with a giant drilling machine. Sure, they could have just shot them all at any point in the last ten minutes, but why do something simple when you could choose another method that would give them ample opportunity to escape? At least, the Commander didn’t have them compete in gladiatorial combat. I suppose that’s a step in the right direction.
Ramirez delays their execution by asking Cobra Commander for an interview. Always one to delay actually hurting a member of the Joe team, the Commander agrees.
In the meantime, Zartan led Cobra’s mission to steal the gas, and actually succeeded. In addition to the explosive gas, they also acquired tear gas, itching gas, and laughing gas. (This will come into play later.) Zartan returns to the base with the stolen gas when the Joes who had gone searching for Shipwreck show up and attack. During the battle, the canisters of laughing gas become ruptured, and the cavern fills with gas. Of course, this high quantity of gas isn’t lethal or anything. It just makes everyone laugh hysterically.
The Joes realize that all of the explosions are going to cause a cave-in, and that they’re all likely to die, but they’re laughing so hard that they can barely move. (I’ll admit that as a child, I found this scene to be hysterical.)
Eventually, they rescue Shipwreck and Ramirez and make their escape. Back on the surface, they are confronted by Duke and Flint who finally made it to the scene. Ramirez laughingly tries explains the situation to Duke, but he is barely coherent.
Despite the fact that the Joes recklessly abandoned their posts, when he sees everyone laughing so hard, Duke decides to just drop the matter. Remember what I said earlier about the Joes not facing any consequences?
This episode had it all: Lack of discipline by the Joes! Inexplicably bad decisions made by both sides! Cobra Commander going out of his way not to kill the Joes! Cross dressing! Zartan! The only real drawback was Shipwreck not having Polly with him.
I am curious what kind of spin Ramirez put on his story when it finally aired. Obviously, he couldn’t go with the whole “Cobra is a hoax” angle, but he could certainly play up how wasteful the Joes were.
Since there was another season after this one, the Joe team obviously didn’t get shut down because of it. Did Ramirez portray the Joes in a positive light due to them Joes saving his life? That seems unlikely. It’s more likely that the Joes took some sort of action to ensure that the story was never seen by the public. Would they have gone so far as to imprison or even kill Ramirez to keep him silent? That’s a sombering thought.
The Obligatory PSA
It wouldn’t be a G.I.Joe review if I didn’t also include one of their world-famous Public Service Announcements. Here’s one that features Shipwreck:
Two boys meet up in a rather desolate looking wooded area. One boy says that he’s running awy from home because his parents are mean. If they’re the ones who picked out his clothes, then he might have a point. Just look at the hat that he’s wearing!
Nowadays, a kid could probably get away with wearing that. In the 80’s? That kid was getting beaten up for sure.
Fortunately, Shipwreck is there to overhear the conversation, and basically tells the kid how much of an @$$hole he is for running away. The kid reconsiders, and all appears to be well.
But am I the only one who finds it more than a little creepy that some guy dressed as a sailor appears to be hanging out by himself in the woods? Kids, if you ever come across someone dressed like this in the woods, DO NOT TALK TO HIM!
Now you know. And knowing is half the battle!