Knight Rider “Deadly Maneuvers” (part 3 of 3)

Jump cut to nighttime, and Knight is sneaking into the same bunker where Colonel Ladd was snooping around earlier. It’s still not even locked up with its flimsy padlock. While Knight provides more evidence for the eventual courtmartial of everyone involved in the base’s security, Lt. Ladd is working late in the computer room. She’s starting to notice something weird on the teletype—ask your parents, kids—but the pieces haven’t all clicked together with her yet.

Inside the bunker, Knight discovers the same stacks of artillery shells that the colonel did, as well as the still open can of blue paint. He sniffs the paint—hey, that explains a lot about him—and then looks up at a handy dandy reference chart on the wall.

Apparently, the shells are identified by color-coded bands, with this particular shade of blue denoting 90mm armor piercing. One of the wooden crates nearby is open, so he snatches up one of the shells… and starts to scratch at its blue stripe with his keys! In the pilot, we were told that Knight is a Vietnam veteran. Don’t they teach you in the Army to not piss off the artillery shells? Maybe he went through the same training as the people responsible for security on “Engelhart”.

With a little scraping, Knight finds that the blue paint comes off, and that there’s a yellow stripe underneath. A quick glance at the chart on the wall lets Knight know that yellow means…

Knight Rider "Deadly Maneuvers" (part 3 of 3)

And here we actually have some veracity in Knight Rider. Tactical nuke artillery shells were only one of about a million different ways of delivering atomic death developed during the Cold War years. Obviously, everyone knows about ICBMs and free-fall bombs… but artillery? Really?

Really. Atomic Annie, everyone.

Yes, tactical nuclear artillery shells were in the U.S. inventory until the early 1990s. And there were nuclear land mines. And depth charges. And air-to-air missiles. And ones you could launch with a bazooka. How is it we’re still alive? The planet should surely be ruled by cockroaches by now.

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Knight manages to get out of the bunker without being spotted, but Lt. Ladd is not faring as well. She barges into General Duncton’s office, printer paper in hand, only to be confronted by Major Sanderson, sitting behind the general’s desk. She shows him the printout, which has something to do with artillery shells, and he… pulls a gun on her! Damn! He’s in on the plot, too!

One of the goons ushers her out to a jeep, in full view of one of Ladd’s underlings. The goon drives Ladd to the testing range, and locks her in one of the target tanks. He wraps a chain around the exit hatch to keep her from getting out, but he doesn’t lock it or anything. I think locking anything was against official Army policy back in 1982.

Caption contributed by Mark M.

Should say, “If you’re here, it’s already too late, numbnuts!”

Also, twenty points to whoever spots the spelling mistake in the sign above.

The next day—’cause tactical nuclear warheads can always wait ‘til morning—Knight finds that Ladd isn’t at her post, and from the witnesses he meets, he pieces together that something bad has happened to her. He races back to the munitions bunker to find Major Sanderson and the goons loading all the nukes into a truck. They’re planning on selling the bombs to some foreign customer, apparently. The blue paint was just a ruse that allowed them to keep the nukes lying around without anyone noticing.

Well, without any more than three people noticing, anyways.

Knight tells KITT to take care of the goons while he chases Sanderson into the bunker. KITT traps the poor guys up against the wall, and Knight easily disarms Sanderson. Knight basically threatens to blow Sanderson up with one of the nukes, forcing him to reveal where Lt. Ladd is locked up. Knight locks—finally!—everyone inside the bunker and dashes off to save Ladd.

Caption contributed by Mark M.

Armor-piercing or tactical nuke, doesn’t matter. They’re both just as dead.

Stock footage kicks in, as various soldiers from the 1950s and 1960s fire their guns. In 1982, fireballs appear around some of the vehicles on the test range, but so far no one has come close to hitting the tank Ladd is in. Realistically though, it’s awful hard to hit a target from a distance of twenty or thirty years.

Knight drives onto the firing range, and calls General Duncton on KITT’s radio-phone. Duncton is in on it, too! Oh no! He orders everyone to fire at the black Trans-Am speeding around the target area. The GIs from the Korean war open fire again, and just for good measure, the General orders that three heat-seeking missiles be fired at KITT, as well.

So now, in the last few minutes, they’re starting to spend some money on this episode. Explosions and fireballs flare up all around KITT, but there are no direct hits, of course.

The stock footage soldiers have fired so much, in fact, that they’re running out of shells. A couple of soldiers from ‘82 head off in a truck, to get more… armor piercing shells. “Hey, look! Someone’s already loaded them up for us!” And so, they hop in the truck-full-o’-nukes and head back to the range.

Knight and KITT are able to decoy two of the three stock-footage missiles by lighting a brush pile on fire with KITT’s rocket-booster, which today is functioning just like a flamethrower for some reason. The third missile somehow manages to lock in on the malfunctioning refrigeration unit of the food vendor’s truck. You know, the food vendor that pretended he was Knight’s uncle so that we could learn about the funny business cards in Knight’s wallet? That one.

Caption contributed by Mark M.

Komedy, ahoy!

The roach coach blows up real good, and various snack foods fall from the sky. Presumably, all the bags of Cheetos that are raining down somehow travel back in time, because the stock footage Army men seem to become a little less accurate in their fire. You can’t eat a Ding-Dong and aim at the same time, man. In any case, Knight makes it to Ladd’s tank and gets her out just in time.

Good thing it wasn’t locked.

Meanwhile, the truck carrying the nukes is pulling up to the firing area. They’re just about to start loading the nuclear rounds—into the one, lonely gun that’s actually in 1982—when Knight drives right through their positions, telling them to cease fire.

Caption contributed by Mark M.

Well, it is a Firebird…. Ow! Don’t hit!

The general tries to make his escape in a tracked vehicle, but Knight uses KITT’s rocket boost flamethrower to stop them. The general jumps out, and Lt. Ladd rips the stars right off his lapel. That’s not a euphemism, either; Knight grabs him, and Ladd literally pulls his rank off. Burn, Duncton! When the junior officers are yanking the stars right off your uniform, I think it’s a good sign you’ve lost their respect.

Later, all is resolved in the general’s office, where Major Rainey—the only honest officer left on base—is presiding. Devon also makes an appearance, chewing Knight’s ass upside and down, even though he just saved the world from likely nuclear annihilation. Then the president calls, and Devon takes all the credit. The big jerk.

Roll credits.

Knight Rider "Deadly Maneuvers" (part 3 of 3)

This episode, like the pilot, is a fun bit of turn-your-brain-off entertainment. But the first regular season episode really is quite different from the pilot. There’s a lot less indestructible car action, and a lot more generic “mystery of the week” gumshoe stuff going on. But I’m sure the budget for a single, one-hour episode (of a series that had yet to prove itself) didn’t allow for a whole lot of KITT-related mayhem.

Character-wise, Knight and KITT have bonded, and now they trust each other. They still bicker like an old married couple, but Knight’s not threatening to have KITT’s voicebox removed anymore. Also, Devon’s character has been duplicated with Bonnie, because we can’t get enough of snooty people insulting Knight in various, erudite ways. There’s also a lot more of the Hoff in this episode than the pilot, relatively speaking. Devon and Bonnie are hardly in the episode at all, so we spend all of our time with Knight and, to a lesser extent, Ladd.

When we finally get to the stunt work at the end, things are handled competently. There aren’t any visible ramps or seat muppets to distract one’s attention like there were in the pilot.

So, that was fun. Let’s do it again sometime! Stay tuned for more Knight Rider recaps!

Mark M. Meysenburg

Mark teaches at Doane College, a liberal arts college in Crete, Nebraska. Most of his teaching involves computer science, but Mark also occasionally teaches mathematics and the history of science; he has also been known to offer three week courses on the worst movies ever made.

Mark’s bad movie obsession was kindled in the early 1980s by the Medved brothers, then fanned to full flame by late-night showings of Plan 9 from Outer Space. Who could have predicted the long term effects of satin-pajama-clad, mincing alien menace?

Mark’s other interests include homebrew beer and wine, and practicing and teaching martial arts.

Multi-Part Article: Knight Rider "Deadly Maneuvers"
TV Show: Knight Rider

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