Sep 15, 2014

The Unexpected Joy of Bikini-Clad Baroness

The Unexpected Joy of Bikini-Clad Baroness
Ben Smith

Those of you that know me may find it shocking that I find myself in conversations discussing popular 1980s cartoons quite a bit. A recent discussion of such veered into interesting new territories (some would claim unseemly) thanks to my often repeated admission that, as a young boy, I never realized or considered that the Baroness could be the subject of sexual fantasy. I then wondered aloud if this was something that was true at the time of the show, or happened afterwards thanks to creepy old fans. Our illustrious editor said something to the effect of, "they did do an entire episode of her in a bikini." (A subsequent google image search to confirm this as true, revealed that if you google any female character from an '80s cartoon, you are guaranteed to find inappropriate fan art of the character. Even Gadget, from Chip and Dale's Rescue Rangers. Gadget is a mouse.)

I consider myself pretty well-versed on '80s cartoons, and yet somehow this episode has eluded my attention for the past 28 years. In an effort to ensure this doesn't also happen to you, I present to you.

Written by Flint Dille

The episode begins zoomed in on two holograms of robots fighting. The holograms look very much like Optimus Prime and Shockwave of the Transformers. (Knowing that the name of the episode was the Gamesmaster, this immediately led to me hoping that the villain of the show would be the same guy that hunted Optimus Prime in the classic episode "Prime Target," which was their cartoon version of "The Most Dangerous Game.")

Alas, it's merely a bald man with a goatee. (Disappointment achieved.)

The man declares himself bored of such conflicts and decides to try a new game. The camera turns to reveal that the other participant in this conversation is a creepy looking clown. (Disappointment relieved.) A clown named Koko. This is already my favorite cartoon ever created.

(My immediate questions. Is this a real clown? Is it a robot clown? If he's real, is he a willing friend, or a captive? Did he kidnap some small child and raise him as a clown companion? If it's a robot, did he make it himself, or did he buy a robot clown and decide to stick with the clown theme?)

Without transition or explanation, The Gamesmaster immediately begins spying on, and kidnapping members of G.I. Joe and Cobra.

First up is Flint, described as “second in command” of the Joes. (The command structure of the Joes was of great interest to myself and the boys I knew. While Flint being second in command is contradicted in other episodes, he most likely is, since according to the file cards on the back of the toys, he's a warrant officer. We all know that General Hawk is the actual commander of the Joes, and while Duke may seem like he's running things, he's the First Sergeant, therefore enlisted, therefore not an officer. Actually, the First Sergeant probably would be running the day-to-day show, and the operations, but is still outranked by all the officers in the chain-of-command.)

Flint is, by all appearances, off duty, since he is wearing a sweater vest and khakis. Yet he is also wearing his beret (which makes no sense, but is also something I can totally see Flint doing).

Flint deserves to be kidnapped and beaten for the sweater vest alone, and that he is, while inside an elevator which is pulled into the sky by a helicopter. A helicopter piloted by this clown.

Is this the same clown, or does the Gamesmaster have multiple clowns at his disposal?
Next, he creepily watches Lady Jaye through the security camera at a department store while she shops for clothes.

As she makes her way to the dressing room, Koko the clown teases the Gamesmaster, to which he replies, “I do not have a crush on her, Koko.” This is in case it isn't exactly clear to the adolescent viewer that this is not normal behavior.

To hammer that wholesome point home, we see Lady Jaye unbutton her top, and the camera pans down to the floor, where we see her dress fall. (It's like this episode was produced by Marv Wolfman and George Perez.)

Then we get our first ever (I assume) shot of a Joe bra, before a crate envelops her and wind-up robots cart her away. (I know I probably shouldn't find these grown men's attempts to sneak in inappropriate sexual content into children's programming so entertaining, but it's very nearly a pastime of mine. Micronauts vs X-Men being the pinnacle of this undeclared sub genre.)

Next up is Baroness, enjoying a nice bikini-clad soak in a jacuzzi, before the lid slams down trapping her, and she is wheeled away by robots.

Last but not least, Cobra Commander, disappears in a trap door while overlooking a parage ground of troops, and is replaced by a robot. Destro comes walking up to the robot to complain, as Destro is known to do, but the Commander's head jack-and-the-boxes up on a spring, prompting Destro to put everyone on alert. But not alert enough to see the robots carting the Commander away.

Afterwards, the Joes, primarily Duke and Scarlett, and the Cobras, primarily Destro and Zartan, both separately assume the other side has kidnapped their people, and make preparations to get them back.

After an indeterminate amount of time, the four captives each wake up in giant cribs filled with suspicious looking stuffed animals (or as Duy calls it, Thursday). Lady Jaye is back to fully clothed (which has implications in itself).

(At this point, the considerate thing to do is at least offer the Baroness some of your extra layers of clothing. She'd probably turn it down, but you should still offer. She's basically naked! Lady Jaye is even wearing a coat she doesn't really need. There's no need for Flint to hold so tightly to his precious sweater vest, hand it over. Jerks.)

The Gamesmaster introduces himself and their current situation over the intercom. Hidden somewhere on the island is a one-man helicopter. The winner finds it and flies away, and the rest die. Simple enough.

Giant robot toy soldiers packing much heat come bursting into the room, and take aim at the four captured Joebras.

At this point we reach our first commercial break, thanks to the short animated intros and outros to the commercial break. Apparently kids were too dumb to figure this out without being told. Ironically, this is the most effort the show ever put into a transition.

We're back, the toy soldiers fire, but the four captives duck safely out of the line of fire. The window shatters behind them, and they make their escape.

Cobra Commander trips and falls while going out the window (because he does that) and then trips again, sending himself tumbling down the steep hill outside, landing on his face. At which point everyone laughs, including the Baroness. Which is just mean.

(I love the competent terrorist/former car salesman version of Cobra Commander from the comic series, but the bumbling idiot of the cartoon has a certain level of charm as well. It's like the U.S. government created an elite special missions force to combat the Three Stooges.)

The two Cobras and Joes immediately decide to split up and fend for themselves.

G.I. Joe pilot Ace (the Joe equivalent of Launchpad McQuack) is flying over Greenland to check out some intel on Cobras in the area.

He finds them quick, as the Cobras hit his Skystriker with a missile, but not before Ace is able to safely parachute away. (The reflexes and sense of anticipation it must take for these soldiers to always evacuate the exploding vehicle is impeccable. Sometimes the missiles are in-flight and they're already on their way out.)

Ace is quickly surrounded by HISS tanks, and Destro arrives, announcing that he needs information from him.

Flint and Lady Jaye are walking along, when they ascertain that they are in the middle of a forest made out of candy. At which point this exchange takes place . . .

Lady Jaye: "That can’t be real."
Flint: (very excited) "I think it is, I took a caramel apple." (Stupid grin.)

While they are admiring a bush full of "Bon Bon berries," Baroness and Cobra Commander attack, wielding giant candy canes. I am both frightened and hungry now.

Lady Jaye goes flying into the nearby candy lake, followed quickly by Cobra Commander.

At this point, the greatest battle in the history of the cartoon begins. Baroness versus Flint. Its pretty much a microcosm of the age old debate, sweater vest versus bikini. Due to the level of importance, I need to make sure I break this down move by move.

Baroness swings at Flint with the cane, but he’s able to maneuver himself out of the way, and grab her from behind in a bear hug.

She headbutts him in the face, freeing herself (and my heart).

Baroness lets loose with a roundhouse kick, which Flint is able to counter by doing a handstand and locking his legs around hers, which I'm sure is textbook martial arts.

"You’re good Baroness, but I’m better." (To be fair, Flint also says this to Lady Jaye in bed.)

Flint then tosses her away using his feet, and she flips through the air and lands in a crouch.

Before she can recover, Flint runs up and tackles her to the ground.

Lady Jaye finally breaks out of what I can only assume is her extreme fascination with what is happening, and finally calls for help, as she is sinking in the caramel lake. Cobra Commander, useful as ever, corrects her by saying it is butterscotch.

As he lays on top of her, restraining her arms, Flint says, "What do we do now Baroness, we can either save them, or we can fight." (That isn't the word I was expecting that sentence to end with.)

"You’ll get Lady Jaye out first, you might double team me." (I know I would.)

"If I get the commander out first, we will definitely jump you." (So much innuendo.)

They come to a mutual agreement to not have lakeside sex, and to each save their opponent. Baroness pulls Lady Jaye slowly out of the sweet candy lake, and Flint saves Cobra Commander.

Elsewhere, Duke and two joes rise from the swamp in eel gear, and then immediately walk over to a Joe Jeep covered with a tarp, get in, and drive off.

(What was the point of swimming in the swamp if the Jeep was already in place? Did they expect no one to notice the Jeep in the middle of a clearing in the swamp forest, because it had a tarp over it? The tarp wasn't even properly secured. Are Joes required to arbitrarily swim through something before boarding vehicles?

Anyway, they drop in on Zartan, who is in the middle of checking on some vials of “deadly swamp flu.”

Back to the action, Cobra Commander bickers with the Joes about how best to proceed in their current situation, when they’re suddenly under attack by a giant robot dinosaur/dragon thing.

Of course, Cobra Commander trips and falls while they all run away. Flint turns around to save him, because, "GI Joe is dedicated to saving lives, even Cobra Commander’s." (Funny, I think the goal would be to kill Cobra Commander and end the menace of Cobra once and for all.)

Flint successfully draws the creature's attention, and is scooped up (along with a patch of dirt) in the mouth of the robot. After a few seconds, Flint's body is dropped to the ground, apparently lifeless. He is immediately carried away by robots.

Lady Jaye is stunned and distraught, while Gamesmaster declares, "one down, three to go."

Baroness, for some reason, comforts Lady Jaye by suggesting they get their revenge.

Commercial break, numero dos.

Destro interrogates Ace about the kidnapped Cobra Commander and Baroness, but Ace claims to know nothing about it. He instead asks Destro what they’ve done with Flint and Lady Jaye.

Destro is interrupted by a Cobra Viper with news that Zartan has been taken prisoner by the Joes. Destro laughs and laughs at the idea that he would care what happens to Zartan, because that's what Destro does. He laughs.

The Viper finishes relaying the Joe's message, which is that they’ll exchange Zartan for Flint and Lady Jaye, which does get Destro's attention.

Gung-Ho threatens to make Zartan drink the swamp flu if he won’t tell them what happened to Flint and Lady Jaye.

"Shoot me, anything, but don’t give me that."

They ask him again where the Joes are, and Zartan, worried only about himself, offhandedly says they're probably with Cobra Commander and the Baroness, making him the first person to actually consider the plain truth.

Destro radios in, and suggests that maybe a third party is involved, and they should work together to find out.

Robot pallbearers carry Flint's casket to his freshly dug grave, but he surprises them by popping out and using his martial arts skills to throw them into the hole.

Elsewhere, the other three captives find the helicopter. Cobra Commander offers to fly to the nearest island and send help, but not even the Baroness is buying that line.

The Commander pushes Lady Jaye down and runs for the copter, but is tackled by the Baroness. Lady Jaye gets up and tries to run past, while Baroness says, "better you than him." (Baroness is a really bad ally.)

Lady Jaye is grabbed at the feet by Cobra Commander, and falls to the ground. Now the Baroness is making a run for it.

Lady Jaye stops her by pulling her hair from behind, and then they get into a slap fight. (This, along with the Flint fight from earlier, I can only assume jump-started puberty for a large portion of the pre-teen viewers.)

Cobra Commander breaks his attention from the show long enough to run for the copter again, but obviously trips and falls yet again. He has the balance and mobility of a one-year old.

The Gamesmaster interrupts all the buffoonery by sending in a giant lawn mower to kill them all.

Gamesmaster is having fun watching them run away from the giant mower on his monitor screen, when he is interrupted by Flint, who says,  "Turn it off, or get hurt." Except Gamesmaster is not quite as unformidable as he might have appeared, towering over the much smaller and sweater-vested Flint.

He tosses Flint aside with ease. Flint hits the wall and comes back for more, before getting bellied into the wall again.

Flint spies Lady Jaye in trouble on the monitor, and is able to use his martial arts skills to trip Gamesmaster, guiding him right on top of Koko, destroying him.

Gamesmaster cries out in anger, while Flint randomly hits buttons on the console to stop the mower, which eventually works, of course.

Gamesmaster then starts throwing a fit on the ground like a big bald baby (which is also Duy's screen name on many online message boards).

Flint radioes the Joes for help, and is able to tell them about the Gamesmaster before getting cut off.

Duke and the Joes track the signal, and prepare a joint strike team with Cobra.

Shortly thereafter, Gamesmaster’s arsenal of toy planes and boats meets the Joe Skystrikers and Cobra Rattlers approaching his deadly island.

At first they laugh at the silly toy planes, until the first wave of missiles hit.

After some aerial fireworks, the ground forces parachute down to the island.

Scarlett and Zartan enjoy some flirting after blowing up some toy soldiers.

Zartan: "You’re good."
Scarlett: "The competition keeps us in shape."

Gamesmaster is throwing a fit at the turn of events, and is about to take it out on Flint, when the Joes and Cobras come busting in, guns ablaze with fury. He retreats, with Duke in hot pursuit.

Destro asks Flint where Cobra Commander is.

"Knee deep in a marshmallow swamp."

Destro doesn't believe him, until Flint points to the struggling Commander on the monitor, and then Destro laughs again, boisterously and loud.

Gamesmaster escapes in a slingshot propelled UFO-shaped ship, and vows to return (but never does). (Also, he's flying away backwards, which seems like the incorrect position to fly in.)

The Joes and Cobras relax, celebrating their victory, as seen in this screen capture.

(So many things happening in this image. Scarlett and Zartan continue their inexplicable flirting. Ace is holding one of the broken toy soldiers. Is he going to take it home? Is he despondent over it? Neither side is used to hitting their non-vehicle targets, this could be distressing for both sides. Why does Cobra Commander always have his hands on his hips when he speaks? Is it for balance?)

Cobra Commander comments that they work well together, and that they should join forces permanently, because clearly the Joes will fall for that. They don't.

The episode ends with Cobra Commander arguing with the Joes about who should leave first, and not trusting the Joes won't attack them either way. (Deal or not, shouldn't the Joes just kill them all right then and there? They're terrorists! At least apprehend them. Duke is going to get an earful over this one.)

So ends the best episode of the G.I. Joe animated series ever produced. So many boundaries inexplicably pushed by individuals producing a children's entertainment program. We have stalking, sexual innuendo, female slap fights, double-teaming, Joe bras, buttons undone, buttons redone, viscous goo all over everyone, and don't forget the sweater vests. How they ever got the sweater vest past the censors is beyond me. I can say with nearly 100% certainty, that George Perez has filmed his own home video version of this entire episode. Heck, the Gamesmaster could pass for a young Perez. I'm now just going to assume this was a rejected script for the comic series drawn by George Perez, that they then used for the cartoon. It's the only answer that makes any sense. Marv Wolfman wrote a lot of episodes for the GI Joe cartoon, and this one has his creepy claw fingers all over it. Flint Dille, speak the truth. Unburden yourself after all these years. No need to cover for your creepy friend any more, let everyone know the full story.

We need to know. We deserve to know. Because knowing is half the battle.


Wade said...

"Gadget is a mouse": So I guess you've never heard of furries, huh?
Re: Lady Jaye's clothes, they were at her feet when she was boxed, so one could assume they were with her in the box, thus allowing her to put them back on.

L winters said...

Zartan and Scarlett would have made one wild pair.

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