Mister T “Fortune Cookie Caper” (part 5 of 8)

In the next scene, the Magic Bus pulls up outside the “Private Eye Book Store”, presumably Jeff’s parents’ shop. It’s a small storefront tucked away in the ground floor of an apartment building, on a residential street. The bus parks right in front and, can I just say again, where the hairy heck are all the cars? None of the streets we’ve seen have any cars—parked, moving, on fire, or otherwise. This is a problem. If you’re driving around New York City and you see a street that isn’t completely lined with tightly packed parked cars on both sides, you better check your GPS and your Mapquest directions right away, because you’re probably in Pennsylvania.

As the team goes inside the store, we stay on the Firebug, who’s still on top of the bus. He stands up and pulls off his hood to reveal flaming red hair. A cartoon arsonist with red hair? No one’s done that before!

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In fact, he’s facing away from us, so the reveal is specifically to show us the hair, and not his face. I guess this is supposed to be our first clue to the true identity of the Firebug. But, of course, to make this mystery interesting, there’d have to be more than one redheaded guest character in the story. Right? Want to bet on whether the episode will be that clever?

Smart choice.

Caption contributed by Mark

Keep a close watch for anyone with hair kind of like this. It might be a clue.

Meanwhile, Jeff is introducing Mr. T and the team to his parents, who are both standing anxiously behind the register. Mr. T tells them a half-truth about Jeff being “one of the best” he has on the team. One of the four best, in fact.

Mrs. Jeff’s Mom offers them all sodas out of a cooler. These soda bottles, by the way, might as well have flashing arrows next to them for how bluntly they’re being established here.

Mr. Jeff’s Dad explains the store’s open late because business is bad. If things don’t turn around, he explains, “something drastic will have to be done!” How many “drastic” things can you do to pep up a bookstore? Other than burning it down for the insurance money, of course. Say, do you think that’s what they want us to think, in the very slight chance something happens to the bookstore later? Too bad the episode has already established that the arsons have nothing to do with Mr. and Mrs. Jeff’s Parents. I mean, a series of city-wide, high-profile robbery/arsons going back months is too weird a smokescreen for one failing bookstore owner’s petty insurance fraud. Even in the twisted world of Mister T.

At this point, a redheaded dweeb with thick glasses barges into the store and demands to know if they have “anything good.” Jeff snatches up the sale even though his parents are standing right there, and leads Redheaded Dweeb over to a glass case full of “classic first editions.” Dweebie, however, dismisses them all out of hand:

Red-Headed Dweeb: Boring! Blasé! Common-place!

Man, this particular voice actor has soared so far over the top, he’s achieved escape velocity.

Caption contributed by Mark

“Excuse me, I’m looking for the Archie Comics auditions?”

Dweebie lopes back over to Robin and randomly hits on her [!!], asking her what she’d think of a date with him. She just repeats his big line back to him: “Boring! Blasé! Common-place!” Burn! Funny thing is, Amy Linker’s delivery of the line is even worse than Dweebie’s, and she’s the regular. Not that any actor could say that line and not have it sound like they’re reading from Ben Brantley’s Three Dismissive Adjectives A Day Desk Calendar.

Eventually, Redheaded Dweeb leaves. Reeling from the loss of such a prime sales prospect, Mr. and Mrs. Jeff’s Parents decide to pack it in for the night. They invite everyone upstairs, but Jeff heads outside for some air. Mr. T catches up with him a moment later at the back of the bus, where he’s standing with one leg up on the fender, swigging from his soda bottle. “You wanna talk?” Mr. T growls. “I have ears!” Ears, yes. Brain, no.

Caption contributed by Mark

“Sorry, Mr. T. Normally a night of passion might be the answer, but not this time.”

Jeff whines that he’s going to have to quit the team to help his folks, and Mr. T is just so all right with that. Meanwhile, the Firebug is on top of the bus with his hood back on, but he immediately clambers down the other side. So, I suppose the Firebug can’t be Dweebie after all. If that’s what you were thinking, of course. Because that would mean he took off his costume, walked in the store, walked out, put the costume back on for no reason, climbed up on the bus again for no reason, and then climbed back down again. And that would be just too plainly stupid, even for a character on this show. Right?

Mr. T then gives Jeff one of his unique pearls of wisdom:

Mr. T: Remember Jeff, life isn’t a smooooth road! They’s potholes in it! You just have to bounce with ’em!

Wow. That’s the deepest potential email sig I’ve heard this week. Now if it were me, I would, I dunno, drive around the potholes. But in T-World, there is no avoidance. You must drive over the potholes, your undercarriage and shocks be damned! You must face your gigantic bolt of cloth and your flaming dumpster! Avoidance is for pussies! Suffer! Suffer and learn! BWAHAHAHA!!

Uh… where was I? Right, right. This episode.

Jeff, seriously bummed about getting stuck with the ‘rents again, finishes his drink and tosses the bottle in a trash can. As he trudges off, the Firebug reaches in and, obviously trying to avoid leaving prints, picks up the bottle with a stick. Although, he’s already wearing gloves, so I don’t know what’s up with the stick. Maybe he has special, customized fingerprinted gloves?

Upstairs, Mrs. Jeff’s Mom shrilly denies they wanted Jeff to know business was bad, even though it was practically the first thing they told him when he arrived. Robin lies and says Jeff will turn things around. Why exactly do the parents need Jeff to come home, anyway? All I can figure is that Mrs. and Mrs. Jeff’s Parents are so terrible at sales, that the moderately awful Jeff seems like a vast improvement.

Sloppy animation alert! Dozer, who’s sitting in front of Miss Bisby, sniffs something and starts walking across the living room as if he’s following a scent. Mr. T asks Dozer what’s wrong, and then we get a wide shot and Dozer has instantaneously leapt backward six feet to be sitting calmly in front of Bisby again [!]. Maybe Dozer does deserve to be on the team, after all.

The room is rocked by the sound of an explosion. Mr. T opens a window and peers down to see the first floor is engulfed in flames. He calmly announces, “Store’s on fire!” He asks Mr. Jeff’s Dad what his evacuation plan is, and Mr. Jeff’s Dad’s response is essentially, “Buh?”

Caption contributed by Mark

A horde of angry villagers corners Mr. T.

As soon as I heard “evacuation plan”, I knew we were in for some Education, and boy, am I sorry I was right. During this sequence, Mr. and Mrs. Jeff’s Parents reveal that not only are they incompetent at running a business, but they just plain suck at being alive.

When Mr. T orders the kids to tie together the bedsheets to make a “ladder” [?], Mrs. Jeff’s Mom, who apparently was strung out on crack during every single safety film they showed in homeroom, says, “Why don’t we go down the stairs?” and starts to open the door. Woody, looking like his contract with Ruby-Spears just got extended for twenty more seasons, cries out, “NOOOO!”

Sure enough, the hallway is engulfed in flames, and Mr. Wizard—I mean, Mr. T—pushes the door shut, and tells us to feel doors in a burning building before opening them. Mr. T must love occasionally encountering people even dumber than he is.

Caption contributed by Mark

“You mean the flambé part comes after I take it out of the oven?”

The bedsheet rope is ready, so Mr. T tosses it out the window and says he’s going to test it. I sure hope they, you know, tied the other end to something. I wouldn’t it past them to forget that step. But the spineless kids can’t wait for T to finish “testing” the makeshift rope, and they start climbing down after him right away. Eventually, they all make it down safely (bummer). Mr. T then hollers at “Mr. and Mrs. Harris” to hurry up. Wow, they have names? How boring! Blasé! Common-place!

Mr. and Mrs. Harris stand in the window quivering, having in the last few minutes slid even further down the evolutionary scale. At this point, I’d estimate that they have the intelligence and fortitude of pygmy marmosets.

Mr. Harris moans that they’ll never make it, and if I were Mr. T, I’d be like, “Suit yourself! Darwin wins again!” But Mr. T, perhaps not having grasped the nuances of natural selection, tells them to jump and offers to catch them. Hey, want to try out a great practical joke? If you’re ever outside a burning building and there are people trapped inside, say you’ll catch them just like T is doing here, and then don’t do it. Just step back and fold your arms and let them plummet to the sidewalk. I’m telling you, the stunned looks they’ll give you on the way down will be priceless. Not that I’d know from first-hand experience, or anything.

Caption contributed by Mark

“We’re literally too stupid to live!”

Mr. T is a better human being then I am, however, and easily catches both of Jeff’s parents. What’s really funny about this is that Mr. Harris holds his nose as he jumps [?] like he’s diving into the deep end of a pool. Well, the cloud of Mr. T’s aroma probably counts as a “pool”. A cesspool, anyway. Hmm, maybe Mr. Harris is smarter than I thought.

At this point I was getting really excited, because I was sure the show had totally forgotten the dog. But we now see Dozer at the window, and he jumps into Mr. T’s awaiting arms and licks his face. The Harrises might have done that too, but we didn’t see it. So, what happened is that all the humans bailed, and no one made sure the dog got out okay? I sure hope PETA got on their asses about this.

Caption contributed by Mark

Dozer later told his agent he would never again be talked into doing his own stunts.

At this point, Jeff wanders up, explaining he’d been out for a walk. Then he turns and exclaims, “Our store!” Like he didn’t notice the raging inferno ten feet away from him until just now. He doesn’t even say this with anguish, dismay, amazement, or any other identifiable emotion. In fact, his delivery is more along the lines of how Oliver Wendell Douglas says “Fresh air!” in the theme to Green Acres. He could just as easily be saying, “Yahtzee!”

Next day, they’re all sifting through the charred rubble, which seems to consist entirely of two-by-fours cut into even 18-inch sections. Lt. Exposition is there too, and he’s totally hunting for a patsy here, and he’s already fixated on Jeff. He muses that it’s a strange coincidence that he met Jeff at a fire, and then his own building burns down. Huh? What does that prove? Unless Jeff has a major crush on Lt. Exposition and really wanted to see him again, starting another fire just a few hours after meeting the cop on the Firebug case is probably not the smartest move.

Woody wanders through the wreckage and picks up one of the green soda bottles. He somehow identifies it as an “arson bottle”, even though it looks the same as all the other bottles. Note that Woody picks up this bottle, which he’s openly theorizing was used to commit a crime, with his bare hands. This is especially dumb if you remember from the pilot that he’s an aspiring lawyer.

The detective comes over and takes away the bottle by sticking a ball-point pen down its neck, making an idle comment about the importance of preserving fingerprints. Remarkably, he does this without actually coming out and telling Woody he’s an idiot.

Caption contributed by Mark

“Well, Woody, suppose this bottle is your anus, and this pen is… well, you get the idea.”

Lt. Exposition then provides a detailed definition of “arson bottle”: the arsonist, he explains, may have “placed incendiaries” in this bottle and used it to blow up the building. Spike suddenly regresses to about age four and burbles, “Inceneraries?” So Mr. T explains: “Hot stuff!” [!] Man, now I need to get on Amazon and track down a copy of Mr. T’s Fancy Words Dictionary (available in audio only). That has to be just hours and hours of pure, soul-enriching delight. Meanwhile, I’m thinking of all the evil ways in which I, and possibly all of you reading this, can use a sound grab of Mr. T shouting “Hot stuff!” Heh. Heheheh. BWAHAHAHA—what? Oh, right. This episode.

Kim wonders who’d want to burn down the store. Jeff unwisely exclaims that it doesn’t matter, because they’ll just use the insurance money to rebuild. Can you say that a bit louder, Jeff? I don’t believe the suspicious cop on the scene heard you clearly enough. However, my current opinion of Mr. and Mrs. Harris is that they’re mentally incapable of undertaking anything as complicated as writing regular premium checks, and sending them off to Allstate. So Jeff might have a nasty surprise awaiting him.

Jeff’s remark, and the fact that he was out walking around with no witnesses (gasp!), cements Lt. Exposition’s totally bogus suspicions about Jeff (or, more accurately, his estimation that Jeff will make the perfect fall guy). He tells Jeff to come down to the station so he can check his fingerprints against the bottle. Hey, why not pick on Robin instead? She probably burnt the place down just to make sure Jeff’s bitchy fortune came true.

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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