Aug 10, 2017
Mister T “Mystery of the Stranger” (part 6 of 6)
Fade up on a lonely two story house out in the middle of nowhere. I mean, it is absolutely nowhere. There’s nothing but dirt all around, there are no other houses in view, and a lonely windmill stands beside a ramshackle, log fence way behind the home. And I call shenanigans. There is no way this house is located in Los Angeles County. We look to be up in Northern California, somewhere around Clovis. If I had to guess, I’d say Indian Camp Road, just before Tollhouse meets Millerton.
So, Joe Friday and squads 3, 9 and 12 are probably well outside of their jurisdiction.
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It doesn’t matter, though. Joe Friday and Mr. T and the whole gang hide behind bales of hay, and Friday lifts his walkie-talkie to issue this command: “Eagle 3, home plate! Move out!” And a zippity dippity doo to you too, sir.
A dozen squad cars descend on the house from out of nowhere. Meanwhile, inside the house, Spike and Blond Kid are sitting on a couch, their hands still bound, while the bad guy couple tenderly embraces. In the window behind them, you can actually see all the squad cars approaching, but the bad guys don’t notice. Bad Guy Male tells Bad Guy Female, “With the dough we get for these two, we can afford that trip to the islands!” It’s too bad they lost Katie, otherwise they could have gotten a room with an oceanside balcony. City view just isn’t the same. But, really, how much time are they going to spend in the hotel, anyway?
The two finally notice that police officers armed with shotguns have them completely surrounded. They grab Spike and Blond Kid, saying, “Come on. You two are going to be our insurance policy out of this mess!” And I think I remember mentioning that this was a possibility. The moral of this episode should be: “Hey, kids, always follow police procedure. Here’s a World War II-era handgun and a pony. God bless America.”
They bust out of the door, each one of them holding a child as a shield. But take a look at this screencap and see if you can spot the flaw in their plan.
The complete FUBAR that is this rescue attempt continues as the bad guys are allowed to make it to the van with the kids. Settling into the driver’s seat, the man says to the woman, “The coast is clear. Nothing can stop us now!” Except, of course, for the fact that they’re still surrounded by the LAPD.
Also, Mr. T suddenly pops up next to the driver-side window. So, not only has T violated the police perimeter, he’s also blocking their shot.
Mr. T reaches inside the van, grabs the steering wheel, and rips it out. He just rips it the hell out, and tosses it to the ground. Only then does the bad guy take the time to roll up his window and lock the door. Good thinking, man. That’ll stop a guy who can pull the entire steering column out of a car.
Sure enough, Mr. T just yanks the driver-side door off. Then he tears the van in half and uses it to fight the Abomination.
The bad guys wisely use this time to escape out the side door with the kids. Again, this only makes sense if the van’s seats magically disappeared, but that’s actually the least of this scene’s problems. Now the rest of the gymnastics team suddenly rushes up to them, yelling, “Get ‘em!”
The bad guys split up. The man gets Spike, and the woman takes Blond Kid. She’s running down the road and Blond Kid is running right along with her. It might be a good time for him to fall to the ground, or struggle in some way, but he’s gone completely Patty Hearst here. Can you really develop Stockholm Syndrome in 11 minutes?
The two girl gymnasts are chasing the woman. Shenanigans, I say! Robin is Spike’s sister. Would she really leave his rescue to other people, and rescue some other kid instead? Perhaps the writer didn’t want to create a situation where the girl gymnasts have to fight a man. Because violence in a children’s cartoon is acceptable, so long as it’s unisex.
Robin and Kim suddenly, and for no reason, do front hand springs that impossibly launch them into the air faster than they were running. Take that, Isaac Newton! Conservation of momentum is more of a guideline than a law, anyway.
They collide with the woman, knocking her down. She obligingly holds her hands behind her back as two police officers run up and cuff her. Oh yeah, the entire house was surrounded by police, wasn’t it? I was wondering where they’d gotten to.
The two gymnastics guys are chasing the bad guy and Spike. They try the same front flip that the girls did, which works for a moment. The bad guy gets knocked down, but then he raises his arm and somehow causes the two boys to continue tumbling off-screen. It doesn’t make a lick of sense. But whatever, the bad guy pops back up with Spike and continues running.
He pulls Spike into a barn, shutting the door behind him. Dozer is left to bark and scratch at the closed door. Wait, they brought the dog? To a hostage rescue? Mr. T tells Dozer that it’s alright, because he brought his “key” with him. He gestures to indicate that the key is his fist. And the hammer is my penis. Then Mr. T begins punching holes in the door. As he does this, he says the following completely awesome line which, by the way, is now my ringtone:
Mr. T: Two things are sure things: What you did was wrong, and you’re gonna pay for it. That’s a guarantee… from Mr. T.
Hell yeah, it is. And Mr. T’s listless, uninterested tone as he delivers this line only makes it even more amazing. He makes people pay for their crimes so often that he’s bored to tears by it, that’s how awesome he is.
T then kicks the door open. This makes punching the holes kind of superfluous, doesn’t it? The only purpose it served was to give T time to say his line. But the bad guy has one last trick up his sleeve. In the barn is a carriage, which for some reason is already hitched up to a horse and ready to ride. The horse has just been standing there all this time.
Bad Guy loads Spike onto the carriage and snaps the reigns. The horse goes galloping through the door that Mr. T just kicked open. And you know, I can understand Spike being hesitant to throw himself out of a moving van, or even being unable to work the latch with his hands tied. But Spike is just sitting next to the guy in a big, open carriage. Jump, you putz!
Mr. T runs after the carriage. He jumps for it, but misses. I’m not sure how he misses. He was even blocking the door the horse had to run through, so all he had to really do was not move, but he couldn’t even manage that.
T runs into the barn and gets another horse, which is fully saddled and ready to ride. He shouts, “Move it, horse!” Yes, this means he’s now sunk to intimidating wildlife.
Mr. T rides up to the carriage and, for some reason, there’s now a sheer cliff face behind them. Something tells me the animators weren’t terribly familiar with the topography of Southern California. Also, where the hell are the police during all this? There’s a random disconnected shot of Mr. T grabbing some sort of strap and tearing it in half, which somehow cuts the carriage loose. The horse wisely continues running out of the scene and towards freedom.
The carriage is still moving. It’ll stop shortly, because nothing is pulling it, and its whole front end is plowing into the dirt. But this isn’t good enough for Mr. T. He jumps from his horse onto the back of the carriage and kicks both back wheels off. The whole thing grinds to a halt, a whole 4 to 6 feet sooner than it otherwise would have.
Mr. T jumps on the bad guy, grabs him by the collar, and lifts him up. In accordance with proper police procedure, he calmly informs the bad guy, “You either face prison… or me!”
The bad guy begins sobbing, “P-p-p-prison. Please, prison!” Mr. T congratulates him. “That’s the first smart thing you’ve done.” I agree. It is smart. Because pretty much anything the guy says from this point on will be inadmissible at trial. On behalf of the criminal defense bar of the State of California, thank you, Mr. T. Email me if anyone you ever catch doesn’t walk.
Back at the police station, Katie and Blond Kid are released to their waiting parents. Robin and the team all hug Spike. Joe Friday comes in, but now he’s ditched his hat somewhere. Friday tells the kids that the bad guys are going to jail and won’t ever bother them again. He tells them to go home with their parents and “don’t ever go with a stranger again.” It’s nice to see those three credits in Grief and Trauma Counseling that he took at Chico State are being put to good use.
Friday saves his best stuff for Spike. “You were lucky, Spike, believe me. I’ve got a big file on kids who were never found.” Well, that’ll stave off the nightmares. Also, shouldn’t he have, you know, a separate file for each kid? Mr. T takes the opportunity to also lecture Spike about strangers.
Oddly enough, T says, “Boy, don’t you ever get in a stranger’s car or van again!” So, I’m guessing pickup trucks, jeeps, and Winnebagos are still perfectly valid places to receive free puppies?
Then Mr. T gives Spike a big hug and a kiss on the forehead [!]. Seriously. You see, Mr. T is a complicated man, and no one understands him but Ms. Bisby.
And now for the live-action conclusion. The kids are all sitting on hay bales as Mr. T wraps the lesson up. And I have to say, Mr. T is ripped. I mean, he’s frakking huge. You’d expect the animated T to be an idealized version but, if anything, the cartoon is actually less muscular than real T.
Just like in the beginning of the episode, Mr. T starts out addressing the kids, but at some point just looks in the camera and talks to the viewer directly. Take us home, Mr. T.
Mr. T: If a stranger stops you or calls you over to his car for something, take two steps backwards and be ready to run. If a stranger offers you a toy, some candy, or a puppy, take off. And you and your family work out a secret code word. If anybody says they’re picking you up ‘cause your mother couldn’t make it, ask him for the code word. And if they don’t know it, you don’t want to know them. Take it from me, Mr. T.
I can’t complain. It’s good advice. And unlike other episodes, it actually has something to do with the story they told. Child abduction really is a huge problem. 800,000 children are reported missing in the United States every year. Of course, when you weed out all the false reports and runaways, there are only about 115 children abducted by strangers each year. Out of a juvenile population of 73 million.
Wait just a tic. That works out to one child out of every 634,782. There’s a greater chance of being killed by an asteroid.
It turns out that the vast majority of child abductions are custody disputes. A child is 1,774 times more likely to be abducted by a parent than by a stranger. Then why is the media always going on about stranger abductions?
I called the media and asked. The way they explained it, the problem is twofold. One, there’s pretty much nothing anybody can do about parental abduction. And two, it doesn’t make for particularly exciting television.
So, God bless you, Mr. T. God bless you, Kimmer Ringwald. And God bless everybody else on TV for scaring the hell out of kids for no reason. Your dedication to telling a better story is the mark of a true professional. Who cares if shows like this bear absolutely no relationship to the facts, skew public perception, and ultimately result in a massive waste of tax dollars? At least you got paid. In the end, that’s really all that matters. And that’s one to grow on.
Jordon Davis is a Ruby-Spears production. Images of the Los Angeles River are used by permission of the City of Los Angeles Department of Public Works, Division of Engineering. Special thanks to the Entertainment Industry Development Corporation, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Charles and Marilyn Davis, and the Film Board of Canada. Not affiliated with Jordon Davis International, a religious and charitable organization.