Mister T “Fortune Cookie Caper” (part 4 of 8)

Cross fade to a new scene, which starts on a street sign filling the shot, before picking up Mr. T’s Tour Bus rolling along. According to the street sign, we’re on the “1000 W.” block of Plymouth Street. Okay. First of all, if we’re talking Manhattan, 1000 West Anything Street would be somewhere out in the Hudson River. But there is no “Plymouth Street” in Manhattan. And the one in Brooklyn is too short to get up to the thousands. So where the heck are they?

We lose the bus and hold on a storefront called “Future Fashion Design”. What’s interesting about this is that down the street is another shop called “Contemporary Fashion Design”. If this were Futurama, there might have been a very funny joke about what each of those shops actually sells, but, this being Mister T, we must settle for the extremely mild humor of the mere juxtaposition of the two shop names.

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We’re still looking at this storefront, and I’m hoping the mannequins are going to burst out of the windows like on Doctor Who and start slaughtering the regulars. But the shop just blows up instead. Boooo-ring.

Mr. T commands Miss Bisby to stop the bus, and the team all piles out. Robin points at the burning building and calls out, “Look!” Yes, Counselor Troi, we can see it’s on fire. But she’s actually directing our attention to a figure running out of the building with a briefcase in his hand. He’s dressed in gray fireproof gear, including a hood with a slit visor.

Caption contributed by Mark

The dress code at Hell’s Brooklyn office is as real bitch.

In this shot, incidentally, we can see the really big address plate over the door of the shop, and the address is “1492 Plymouth”. Could we see this sign in the earlier wide shot of the store before it exploded? Actually—yes! A shocking lapse in the sloppiness we’ve come to expect—no, crave—from an episode of Mister T.

Mr. T tells “everyone else” to come with him, and what happens next made Sam Adams shoot straight up my nose. So Mr. T and the gang end up chasing the bad guy down a wide alley behind the exploded store. The firebug sees them and, slowing up at a dumpster, he tosses something into it which causes the contents to instantly burst into flame [!]. In light of what happened at the restaurant, I would call this device a Woody, but I believe some of our more deviant readers would misunderstand my meaning.

The firebug then shoves the dumpster down the alley toward T and the gang. So, I’m thinking this guy is really, really strong. Maybe not “spin a crocodile over your head” strong, but he was able to launch a fully loaded steel dumpster from a resting position to a cruising speed of at least 20 miles an hour with one push. Remember that for later, because the writers sure won’t.

Mr. T points up to a fire escape that’s about twelve feet off the ground. “Up there!” In the sky! Is it a bird? Is it a plane? Is it a totally insane cartoon character? Immediately Robin, Woody, Kim, Jeff, and Spike [!!] just launch themselves straight up in the air and grab the fire escape bars. They even lift their legs to a perfect “L” position. Holy shit! I mean, this is impressive enough for the older kids, but since when is Spike a world-class gymnast? That was a much bigger jump for him, and he did it so effortlessly I started looking through the episode titles for another explanation, like, say, “The Mystery of the Bionic Brat”.

T looks down and we see that when he said “everyone else come with me”, it included Dozer [!]. The dog whines a little, which I guess translates as, “Please don’t let the dumpster cream me.” He jumps into T’s arms and then T leaps straight up like the others and grabs a rung of the fire escape one-handed. He too raises his legs to a perfect “L” position, which must have been hard, what with a dog throwing off his balance. But T sure makes it look easy. Damn, can I have the steroids he’s having? I mean, the milk? Mr. T, can I try the milk you’re drinking? (Wait, that sounded dirty. Never mind.)

Here’s the best part, though. As the flaming dumpster roars by underneath them, we get a good look at the alley, which is about fifteen feet wide—wide enough, in other words, that when the dumpster came rolling toward them they could have just stepped out of the way.

Caption contributed by Mark

Tonight on the X-Olympics—the Six Meter Flaming Dumpster Leap! Meanwhile, stay tuned for the Electrified Pommel Horse!

Once the flaming trash has rolled past, they all jump down. Woody pointlessly says, “Now that’s a new way to use a fire escape!” Must … kill … cartoon … dork. Sorry, where was I?

His brilliant plan foiled, the firebug seeks escape and smashes a nearby window with the briefcase. The team follows him into a large warehouse space that initially seems to be full of people in totally bizarre clothes, all standing around motionless. At first, I thought they were in some sort of Star Trek waxworks museum, especially since the women are wearing next to nothing. But then I realized that the alley ran behind the store that blew up, which means we’re now in the basement of “Future Fashion Design”. So these are actually mannequins kitted up with “future fashions”. Judging by this, the future will be entirely populated by clones of Buck Rogers and the Spice Girls. Kill me now.

Caption contributed by Mark

The Legion of Super Mannequins has yet to prevent a single crime.

Mr. T warns the kids to be careful, because “you never know what he’s going to try!” That’s why you should always bring four or five children and a dog with you whenever you’re chasing dangerous criminals. Spike sees a figure in gray at the end of a line of mannequins and yells, “That’s him! I’m gonna get him!” And Mr. T totally just stands there and does nothing. Mr. T’s motto: Why tackle the crooks yourself when you can let a ten-year-old with delusions of T-like grandeur do it for you?

However, the joke’s on Spike: it’s just a mannequin. Once it’s knocked over, they see the real firebug, who turns and runs away. Wait, isn’t the bad guy supposed to swap costumes with a mannequin, and escape unnoticed? Wasn’t that the whole point of going into the basement with all the costumes? No? So, then, the plan was… what exactly? To spend a few hours drawing women in capes and fishnet stockings on Ruby-Spears’ dime, you say? Oh, okay. That’s reasonable.

The teams runs after the firebug, but they soon lose him in another corner of this basement, which is apparently as big as Yankee Stadium (but is probably more conveniently located). Suddenly, a roll of red fabric the size of a Buick [!] is hurtling toward Robin, who yells out, “What the hairy heck?” It’s been said before, but as catch-phrases go, that one really, really sucks.

She quickly avoids Death by Muslin by leaping up. No, not to one side, out of the way (seriously, you can never leap out of the way of anything on this show), but over the bolt of the fabric. She turns a somersault In the air, and comes down on the unrolled fabric on the other side, as the bolt rolls away from her. This not-leaping-out-of-the-way thing reminds me of those moments in Super Mario Bros. where you can only jump up when you meet an obstacle, never to the side. No wonder Flint Dille did so well with video games later.

Next, the other four kids are also being threatened by three gigantic rolls of cloth. I don’t understand. Has the team been miniaturized or something? Because I really don’t think they make bolts of cloth this big. Anyway, the other kids (including our child gymnastics prodigy Spike) also easily somersault over the bolts and come down on the unrolled cloth.

Caption contributed by Mark

The team is attacked by giant ribbon candy.

Then Dozer gets his own bolt of cloth hurtling toward him [!]. Yes, the firebug must have decided he really needed to take out the dog, too. So Dozer jumps up on top of the bolt and starts running against the unrolling cylinder [!], like this is a log roll. After a few seconds of this, he attempts a leap onto the unrolled fabric like the others, and at first it looks like he sticks a perfect handstand landing on his front legs [!!], but then his momentum crumples them from under him and he smashes on his face. Sorry, Dozer. Not everybody can be on the team. Thanks for coming to tryouts, though. Hey, leave the towel. Don’t growl at me! Stupid dog. Thinks he can get on the team with a measly 9.6…

But wait. There’s one more giant bolt of cloth, and it’s hurtling toward Mr. T! Guess what he does. No, really. Go ahead and guess. After all we’ve been through with this show, you must have some inkling.

That’s right, he punches it [!!].

Man, this show is just too beautiful for words.

Mr. T makes sure everyone’s okay, but of course the bad guy got away. So they decide to leave, for the following reason:

Mr. T: No point in hangin’ around here like a bunch o’ dummies!

Dummies! Get it? Because they’re in a clothing store, and… mannequins… and… (cough) um, anyway. Moving on.

Outside, the fire department is hosing down the building, which is still an inferno, even though there was no sign of that when they were all inside the building a minute ago. Mr. T and the gang are all gathered around the tour bus being thanked by Lt. Exposition of the NYPD.

Lt. Exposition is indeterminately Asian, and the voice sounded really, really familiar to me. So I skipped ahead to the closing credits and checked out the Additional Voices. Unfortunately, it’s not by character, and the list seems long enough to be the guest voice talent for several episodes lumped together. But among the few names I recognized (including June Foray, the voice of Rocky the Flying Squirrel [!]) was the one I was looking for: Keye Luke.

Caption contributed by Mark

“Yes, my name really is Lt. Good-Chinese- Character-For-Balance-With-Chinese-Villain. Call me Goochi for short.”

Keye Luke is the famous Chinese-American character actor who’s been in everything from M*A*S*H to the Star Trek episode “Whom Gods Destroy”. He was also Master Po on the original Kung Fu. And I’m sure that’s him playing this Asian detective. So, just hearing Keye Luke drawl out the name “Mr. Teee” is worth the price of admission all by itself.

Anyway, Lt. Exposition, who has his tie undone in that tired-cop, Barney Miller look, is explaining that the arson seems to be the work of the Phantom Firebug. He’s been “terrorizing New York for months,” the cop explains, having so far attacked an art gallery, an antique store, and so on.

As he’s rattling on, there’s a crane shot showing the Firebug is on top of the tour bus [!], creeping along. Wait, where’s the briefcase he had before? In fact, come to think of it, he didn’t have it the last time we saw him either, when he was running away in the warehouse/basement. So, did he stash it somewhere, necessitating having to come back to the crime scene in order to retrieve it? Was it mostly empty, and he simply stuffed the contents down his fireproof pants? Or did he just say, “Screw it, I’m going after Mr. T’s neck chains instead?” C’mon, tell me! I must make it all make sense! You can’t leave me hanging with this stuff! Stupid lazy bastards. All right, I’ll just assume he stuffed whatever it was down his pants. So what was he there to steal, anyway? Rare, first edition swatches?

Lt. Exposition: He strikes from nowhere and vanishes into the night!
Woody: There must be a pattern. All we have to do is establish what it is!

Thank you, Professor Einstein. Hilariously, Mr. T totally smacks Woody back into his place:

Mr. T: The detective can do his job fiiiine without us! Let’s split!

Because you don’t talk back to Master Po, fool!

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"

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