Mister T “Mystery of the Stranger” (part 4 of 6)

The helicopter finally takes off and makes a dramatic flyby over today’s highly visible landmark, the Hollywood sign. By the way, they’re now flying without even filing a flight plan. I guess that’s good, because I don’t know where on that form they would put in, “looking for a blue van.”

Caption contributed by Jordon

Nice to see you, Hollywood sign. Say hi to the Golden Gate Bridge, the Statue of Liberty and, to a lesser extent, the CN Tower.

Back in the windowless van, the other two children have given up and resigned themselves to their fates, whatever they may be. But Spike is still struggling to get his hands free. The middle-aged bad guys don’t seem to notice, although he’s grunting quite a lot. “Something’s gotta be done,” Spike says, rallying the other two, “and we’re the only ones who can do it!” I assume the little girl is just thankful that Spike stopped talking about his imaginary friendship with Mr. T.

At that point, two equally stunning events occur. The first is that Spike somehow unties himself. It’s never explained how. The ropes just suddenly disappear. The second is that Spike makes the following statement: “Just because we’re little guys doesn’t mean we don’t have rights!”

Just pause and marvel at this line for a second. “We don’t have rights.” He’s been abducted and tied up in the back of a van for no pleasant purpose. Yet he still takes the time to debate inherency versus imposition in a republican system of justice. He’s like Jean-Jacques Rousseau if Jean-Jacques Rousseau had been kidnapped for resale.

Caption contributed by Jordon

”Men in a state of nature, having no moral relations or determinate obligations one with another, could not be either good or bad… Hey, my ropes came off!”

He unties the other kids. When the van comes to a stop at a light, they open the side door and all bolt in different directions. The man yells, “They’re getting away!” Yes, sir, they are. And there are only two of you, so you can’t possibly catch all of them. At least one will make it safely to a police sketch artist. Also, if you abandon the van to catch them, you risk alerting someone with your suspicious behavior. Your best bet now would be to just get on the freeway and drive until you hit Tierra Del Fuego.

Oh… you and your wife are going to chase them on foot? Good plan. Forget what I said. I didn’t know what I was talking about.

The woman begins chasing after the little girl whose name I can’t be bothered to remember. The girl runs up to a newspaper stand and shouts, “Help! Help me! That lady’s after me!” The newspaperman answers with a befuddled, “What’s wrong?” Well, I’m no expert, but I’d say the girl needs help because that lady is after her. In any case, the little girl just runs away and the lady turns around and quietly exits, stage right.

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The female bad guy goes back and confabs with her cohort. “I’ll get the little boy, you get that Spike kid!” See? They can’t be bothered to remember the other kids’ names, either.

The little blond boy runs into a drycleaners. The woman spots him, and I have no idea how. She took off in another direction after the girl, doubled back, and only then started chasing after him. It seems like he should have been able to use that time to get out of her sightline, but I guess no one ever accused him of being particularly smart. Or even particularly well animated.

Despite a sign saying they’re open, the drycleaners looks pretty much abandoned, so the woman makes short work of catching Blond Kid. As she’s dragging him out, a worker materializes from the back and sees the struggle. She explains, “My son’s a bad boy! Hide and seek, indeed. You’ll be punished for this, young man.” Blond kid lets himself be dragged away without saying another word. And…

…I buy it. That’s a realistic portrayal of what a kidnapper might say, and how a young child might act. Good for you, episode. You got something right. Let’s see how quickly you screw it up.

Spike runs into a supermarket with the male bad guy right behind him. Good thinking, Spike. Supermarkets have decent security, lots of cameras, and are nice and crowded. Except for this supermarket, which in the middle of the day is almost as deserted as the drycleaners.

Caption contributed by Jordon

I’ve never been to Los Angeles. Is the population really eight?

Spike somehow gets the bad guy to fall into a shopping cart [!]. He shoves the cart into a pyramid of cans, which all crash to the ground. He then runs up to a clerk and shouts, “Mister, mister, you’ve gotta help me! That guy over there kidnapped me!”

I’d like you to stop for a moment, and think about what you would do if a child ran up to you and said that. How would you react? How would anyone? Well, this is what Kimmer Ringwald has the grocery clerk say: “My display! Leave me alone, kid, I’ve got a mess to clean up!” The clerk then literally runs away.

So the bad guy grabs Spike and drags him out. Spike is screaming, “Help me!” as they pass a couple of shoppers. One of them says, “Shouldn’t we do something?” The other, obviously having read a great deal on the subject, answers, “Nah, it’s his kid. He’ll take care of it.”

Caption contributed by Jordon

”Put some flowers on Algernon’s grave… kid being abducted… I like pie.”

As they pass by another clerk sweeping the floor, Spike yells, “Help me! This guy’s kidnapping me!” The clerk looks up… and keeps on sweeping. I told you everybody in this episode was crazy.

Okay, I’m not saying it’s impossible for a crowd of people to ignore a call for help. It happens. It even has a name. I’m just saying it’s stupid to put this in an episode aimed at children. What message are kids supposed to take away from this? “Listen, kids, if you’re ever kidnapped, don’t bother calling for help. Nobody is going to care. If you need a hand, there’s one at the end of your arm. I’m Mr. T and I approve this message.”

Meanwhile, the little girl is still running. She rounds a corner and just about smacks into a police officer. And not only is the cop in full uniform, but he has the kindliest face since Charles Durning played Santa Claus.

But the little girl…. Ah, the hell with it, let me go back and find out her name: Katie. There. Katie remembers that the bad guys showed her fake badges, and she even has a flashback to this event, complete with the picture being blurry around the edges. So she runs to a nearby flower shop and asks the woman behind the counter if the guy really is a police officer.

So, Mr. T wants you to know that when you’re in trouble, find a florist. See, that’s what Spike did wrong. He went into a grocery store. What an idiot. I bet the grocery store didn’t even have a floral department. Incidentally, if I were the cop, I would use this time to maybe call this in, and tell the dispatcher to send a couple cars, an ambulance, a victim’s advocate, DCFS, two priests, a Lutheran minister, and whatever the Quakers call their guys, as fast as humanly possible.

Caption contributed by Jordon

”La la la… I’m not very good at my job.”

The shopkeeper inspects the cop’s badge, and tells Katie that this is, in fact, the genuine po-po. Katie runs to him, crying, “I was kidnapped!” At this point, the proper police procedure is as follows: 1) find cover and shield the child; 2) get on your radio and say the following: “Jebus Fuck, send everybody! You know that scene in Terminator 2? Send more guys than that!” But what the cop actually does is put his arm around her and walk off.

So Katie is safe. Spike and that blond kid who isn’t Spike are not.

In the van, the bad guys are tying the two boys up again, only tighter this time. The man wants to make sure they don’t get loose because “we lost the girl and I don’t want to be out any more money!” Really? Is that your biggest concern? A witness who can identify you is now in police custody. I think you have bigger problems than your profit margin.

By the way, the interior of the van has turned cavernous. It’s the size of like a comfortable studio apartment. It’s the kind of thing that’s only possible if the bad guy is really Dr. Who.

Caption contributed by Jordon

”Over there I’m thinking of putting in a breakfast nook. And here’s where my band will practice.”

Spike tells Blond Kid that he won’t be able to untie himself this time. So tears start gushing out of Blond Kid’s eyes, and he explains it with, “I only cry… when I get real scared!” Or when that one Melissa Manchester song comes on the radio. To be fair, that one chokes me up every time, too. The van pulls out, and finally—finally—they get on the freeway.

I must warn you: From this point in the episode until Spike is rescued, there is nothing but complete and utter insanity. Nothing that’s happened so far in this episode could adequately prepare you for what you’re about to see. Hell, nothing that’s happened in your entire life could prepare you for this.

Jordon Davis

B.A. Political Science, SUNY Albany - 1991
Master of Public Administration, University of Georgia - 1993
Juris Doctorate, Emory University - 1996

State of Georgia - 1996
State of New York - 1997

Fields Medal (with Laurent Lafforgue and Vladimir Voevodsky) - 1998

Follow Jordon at @LossLeader on Twitter.

Multi-Part Article: Mister T "Mystery of the Stranger"

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