Mister T “Fortune Cookie Caper” (part 8 of 8)

Back at the Chinese restaurant, Mr. T and the others perceptively notice the joint is completely empty. T immediately gives up and he and Kim head back toward the door, but Woody is standing by the register looking at the empty cookie bowl. Genius Woody actually says, “I wonder what this does?” and pulls the Mystery Lever [!], I guess just for the hell of it. Three guesses where Mr. T and Kim are standing when he does this.

Not only that, after they fall through the trapdoor, Woody looks all around wondering, “Where did they go?” [!] Uh, maybe through the huge hole in the floor?

Remember back at the start of this review when I kind of thought Woody was the smart one? Oh, how naïve I was in those halcyon days of yore.

Of course, the two scenes with the lever and the trapdoor sent me into a fond reverie back to the much funnier lever scenes in The Emperor’s New Groove. But alas, I must set aside such pleasant memories in order to complete my review of Mr. T’s “Fortune Cookie Caper”, in which every single character makes Kronk look like friggin’ Aristotle.

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Mr. T and Kim land easily on their feet, despite the hundred-foot drop, and they start to look around. Robin immediately hollers for help from inside the giant barrel. Mr. T walks up to it and muses that Robin and Jeff and Spike might get into less trouble if he leaves them in there. Hey, now when did Mr. T get to be the smart one?

Nonetheless, he knocks over the giant barrel, which I’m sure only cracked a few of their ribs. Then the whole lot of them start whining about Fong, and how he’s flown the coop, and they don’t know where he went.

But Spike remembers he has one last unopened fortune cookie. And he waited until just now to open it? This one’s message turns out to be, “Find your fortune after Hickory Dickory and 46.” Okay, can this actually be called a “code” anymore? I don’t think any “coded message” that has a one-to-one ratio of possible answers to correct answers really accomplishes the basic purpose of cryptography.

And let’s take a step even further back. What exactly is the purpose of these fortune cookies in the first place? If they’re meant to relay instructions from Mr. Fong to Mr. Boring Firebug, how did the dweeb know to go to the coin store on Water Street? Because Mr. T had that fortune. The first person to even see the fortune after the cookie was broken open was Miss Bisby!

And what was this last fortune for? To let Mr. Boring know where to deliver the stamps and coins? Who knows? And why were the fortune cookies all mixed together in a bowl, indistinguishably? Was Mr. Boring supposed to keep eating fortune cookies like Dozer until he found the one that had a coded message inside?

There’s got to be an easier way to run a crime syndicate.

Well, somehow that totally obscure clue leads them to Dock 47. But by the time they get there, Fong and his goons are aboard a large, flaming-red freighter, and already putting out to sea. Mr. T and the gang are left standing on the pier, and Fong, just for a change of pace, takes the opportunity to gloat. He calls back, “Once again, I am one step ahead of you!” Wait a minute. This is the first time Mr. T and Fong have met since the dinner and the blackout at the top of the show. Does Fong even have a clue who Mr. T is?

He’s right about one thing, though: Mr. T’s efforts to stop Fong’s plans haven’t exactly been a roaring success. The fashion and bookstore robberies went off unimpeded, and even while T was thwarting the coin shop heist, the rest of his team was getting sealed in a can.

Nevertheless, Mr. T barges onto the nearest barge and bellows:

Mr. T: Some crooks are escapin’! I need your boat!
Bluto’s Dad: Har har! The night is brisk with adventure!

Does that mean “yes”? These salty dogs never give you a straight answer about anything.

Caption contributed by Mark

“Arrrrrr!”

Well, evidently that’s what it means, because a moment later, the ship is peeling away from the dock to chase after Fong. Wow! That “crooks are escapin'” line really works? I definitely need to try that. “Hey, some crooks are escapin’! I need your Jet-Ski!” “Of course, why didn’t you say so? Here are the keys! Enjoy now! Buh-bye!”

So now we have the most thrilling maritime chase scene since Mitchell. The barge pulls up beside the freighter, and the thugs throw a huge crate overboard to try to sink the salty dog’s ship. But Mr. T, who’s climbed up a large tower that’s mounted on the barge for some reason, kicks the crate aside into the ocean [!!].

Jeff and the others are climbing up after him, and Jeff admits he’s afraid of heights. Not something I really expected to hear a champion gymnast say, but then I don’t believe most of what Jeff says anymore, anyway.

Bluto’s Dad, who, in case you haven’t guessed, speaks only Saltydoggese, crows to the thugs that “it’s time to swab the decks!” And then he turns his hose on them (now, now). The goons are blasted to the deck just as Mr. T climbs aboard Fong’s freighter with Jeff, Robin, and Kim.

Leaving the three kids to take care of two vicious goons—sure, why not?—Mr. T chases after Fong, yelling, “It’s you and me now!” What is this, Brokeback Freighter? I wish I could quit you, fool!

While Fong is evading Mr. T, the goons get the jump on Kim and threaten to use her as a hostage. But Jeff, who’s accidentally knocked over an oil drum, taunts the goons, asking if they’re “too chicken” to attack a man. (They aren’t chicken. There just aren’t any men present to attack.)

Fortunately, the two goons belong to the McFly clan and immediately advance on Jeff. They walk directly towards the spilled oil, and as soon as they set foot on it, they start flailing their arms. They instantly carom straight over the rails and into the ocean.

Caption contributed by Mark

Fong came to regret hiring dancing Cossacks to do his dirty work.

So either (a) these goons are legally blind and couldn’t see the big black oil slick, or (b) it was a special type of oil that only gymnasts can see. Or (c) it wasn’t really oil at all, and the goons are just inherently slippery all by themselves. Considering the same careening-into-the-water thing happened to the goon who tried to grab geisha-singer Robin back at the restaurant, I’m guessing it might be (c).

When the goons come up for air, Bluto’s Dad is waiting with a couple of butterfly nets [??]. He hollers at the top of his lungs:

Bluto’s Dad: I’M ABOUT TO CATCH ME A PAIR OF WATERLOGGED LANDLUBBERS!

YOU DO THAT, CAP’N! AVAST AND AHOY AND ALL THAT! (Pssst. Call the nurse. Grandpa didn’t take his medicine again.)

Fong is now at the wheel, and he seems to be steering the freighter straight toward a lighthouse. When Mr. T pounds into the wheelhouse, Fong tells him he has a dilemma: T can either save the ship or catch Fong. “No man can do both!” he sneers, running out of the room. Little does he know that “No Man” is T’s middle name! (Other than “that period”, of course.)

Caption contributed by Mark

“Don’t you love this painting? I got it at one of those art exhibitions at the LaGuardia Airport Marriott!”

Mr. T grabs the wheel and averts disaster by, you know, turning it. Fortunately, the freighter has the turning radius of a Jaguar XJ7 and easily misses the island. In fact, T banks the turn so tightly the freighter practically pops a wheelie.

Mr. T handles this crisis so quickly that Fong is still clambering into a lifeboat when T emerges from the wheelhouse. But instead of just grabbing him from the deck, Mr. T swings into the lifeboat and slams directly onto Fong’s back, snapping his spine and paralyzing him for life. Nice touch, Mr. T.

He then tells Fong his “fortune”: Fong is “going to spend a very long time in a very small cell!” So, Mr. T is enrolling him in a monastery? How considerate.

Caption contributed by Mark

Unfortunately, seconds later the freighter slammed smack into Connecticut.

Well, the music is already wrapping up the episode and putting a big red bow on it, so let’s follow suit. We’re back at the remains of Mr. and Mrs. Jeff’s Parents’ mystery bookstore. And the real mystery, as always, is how they ever managed to open a store in the first place, considering that both their skulls are obviously filled with mayonnaise.

Some architect is telling them that after they rebuild, they’ll have the most “prominent” store in New York, whatever the hell that means. But Jeff whines that the insurance money won’t cover the rebuilding. Hey, so I was right about Jeff’s parents’ being too mentally defective to master all the skills required to keep up an insurance policy. Like, you know, operating ballpoint pens, calculating postage, stuff like that.

Just at this moment, Lt. Exposition shows up to deliver the reward check for catching the Phantom Firebug. Now, considering the fact that he’s escalated his tired-cop look to the point where his tie is askew and his shirt is half off, the way he adds, “And it’s a big one!” is really a little disconcerting.

Caption contributed by Mark

“Here’s your check, folks! Now if you need me, I’ll be onstage at the Bad Boy Lounge.”

In a rare moment of non-selfish prickitude, Jeff figures he’ll have to share the reward with the team. But Mr. T says he doesn’t, and hollers at the others, “Right?” and they’re all like, “Um, sure.” But then they dutifully reply, “Right!” Whatever you say, Mr. T! Just please don’t make us jump over any more flaming dumpsters!

Jeff thanks the team, as ever with the same level of emotion as someone at the deli counter asking for half a pound of roast turkey. And then… we’re done! Wheeee! Ding, dong, the crazy man’s dead—

Oh right, the live-action bookend! This should be good.

Mr. T is sitting at the far end of that picnic table, but now there are seven or eight kids (or should I say “kids”?) arrayed around him at the table. (Other episodes from around this point in the season feature the same kids and the same grungy state park setting, giving away the fact that T filmed a whole chunk of these all at once during one of his days off from The A-Team.) In front of them are a bunch of open but still obviously empty and unused take-out containers. Hey “kids”, you know what’s even better than Chinese food? Pretend Chinese food! C’mon, dig in!

Mr. T epilogues that the crooks were now “cookin’ dinner in the state penitentiary!” For some reason this gets a laugh [?] from the “kids,” which clearly takes T by surprise. He smiles almost sheepishly, like he knows how dumb these lines are, and then soldiers on.

Caption contributed by Mark

A scene from The Surreal Life: Summer Camp Counselors.

Everything turned out fine for Jeff, he says: his family’s doing well, and he’s still on the team. So, Jeff’s parents needed him to quit the team and come home when sales were down, but now that they’re building a brand new store and restarting the business from scratch, they don’t need him? Ooookay, whatever. I guess making the store “prominent” overcomes all the problems of incompetent ownership.

And it really is bizarre to see Live Action T taking about his “friend” Jeff, and so on. It’s almost like all of these adventures are actually happening in Mr. T’s warped mind. In fact, come to think of it, that’s exactly what it’s like! Every episode, Mr. T talks to us for a few minutes, and then we just zoom directly into his addled brain and view the strange fantasies going on in there. That way, all the stalactite-hurling, and crocodile-swinging, and all that make a kind of sense! You know, it’s really the only explanation for how whacked out these stories are.

Then Mr. T wraps everything up with a final Nugget-o-Wisdom:

Mr. T: Sometimes life gives you a bad fortune! But you can’t let it get you down! Just keep pushin’, and everything’ll turn out jus’ fiiine! Take it from me! Mr. T!

That’s right, pushing solves everything! And if pushing doesn’t work, try shoving! Or better yet, busting through walls! Like me! Mr. T!

Mark "Scooter" Wilson

Mark is a history guy, a graphics guy, a guy for whom wryly cynical assessments of popular culture are the scallion cream cheese on the toasted everything bagel of life. He spends his time teaching modern history at Brooklyn College, pondering the ancient Romans at the CUNY Graduate Center, and conjuring maps and illustrations for ungrateful bankers at various Manhattan monoliths. Readers are welcome to guess at reasons why he’s nicknamed Scooter, with the proviso that all such submissions are guaranteed to be rather more interesting than the truth. Mark lives in the Midwood section of Brooklyn with a happy-go-lucky, flop-eared dog named Chiyo who is probably, at this very moment, waiting patiently for her walkies.

Multi-Part Article: Mister T "Fortune Cookie Caper"
TV Show: Mister T

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