Mister T “Mystery of the Stranger” (part 5 of 6)
Up in the helicopter, Robin is holding a 1980s era VHS camera, and counting blue vans on the freeway. Supposedly, she’s using the camera to make use of newfangled “zoom lens” technology, which most certainly has not existed since binoculars were invented.
So… which freeway are they flying over? And how far is this from where Spike was abducted? Mr. T doesn’t know that the van stopped for five minutes when the kids tried to escape. If he’s behaving logically, he should be searching an area miles away from the van’s actual location. Luckily for Spike, Mr. T rarely behaves logically.
The tall, white kid complains that they’ve already found seven blue vans, and none of them were the right one. First of all, he’s right. This is a stupid plan and they should abandon it. But really, only seven? I’d have expected hundreds. Why do Los Angelinos refuse to drive blue vans? And why do they put mayonnaise on french fries? That’s just disgusting.
Robin zooms in on the license plate of Blue Van #8. It’s RNDC-581 which, according to my google-fu, is also a Unix command. The more you know…
Robin tells Ms. Bisby to swing around so she can get a look at the driver. Bisby replies, “I’m hanging a left at the next cloud!” Holy crap, Ms. Bisby is on a totally different plane of spiritual consciousness than the rest of us.
Ms. Bisby swings the helicopter around, and Robin sees that the driver is the guy she caught talking to Spike. He actually looks up and sees her in the helicopter. But other than changing lanes, he takes no action. How did he get to be this old without ever developing any sort of instinct for self-preservation?
Inside the helicopter, which is now almost as cavernous as the inside of the van, Robin excitedly tells everyone that this is the guy. Mr. T grows angry. He declares ominously, “Bisby, I – want – it.” And you know he’s seething with rage when he’s even more incoherent than usual.
The helicopter swings in low over the van as it travels down a busy freeway. I swear, it’s hovering maybe 20 feet above the freeway. This cannot be legal. Male bad guy says, “I’m gonna lose ‘em. Come on!” Um, male bad guy, they have no choice but to come on. They’re in the van with you. Also, how do you lose a helicopter?
The van exits the freeway, and Ms. Bisby declares that “Nobody gives Ace Bisby the slip!” The van barrels through a large warehouse, and Bisby yells, “Keep your heads down!” and flies the damn helicopter through the warehouse [!!]. And this has to be in violation of FAA regulations: flying too low; flying in restricted airspace; flying inside a building; attempting to kill your teenage passengers in a helicopter crash, etc.
They follow the van straight through the warehouse and out the other side. They then follow the van through a very tight tunnel. And then they follow the van into… into…
Oh, for the love of Michelle Obama, it’s the damn L.A. river channel. You know what I’m talking about. It’s been in Terminator 2, Chinatown, Repo Man and every other movie set in L.A. Going solely by what I’ve seen in films, there appears to be no route from any location in Los Angeles to any other that does not involve crashing through a locked gate, careening down an embankment, and driving like a lunatic down the concrete riverbed. And now it’s been immortalized in an episode of Mister T.
T is imagining what he’s going to do to the kidnappers as he sits powerlessly in the jump seat of the helicopter. And, once again, what is his plan? The executive helicopter for the Hollywood studio isn’t equipped with machine guns. It is, presumably, equipped with a radio. The only logical thing to do would be to call the police. I’m a little amazed that the cops haven’t already gotten at least a few calls. “Hello, police? There’s a windowless blue van being chased by a helicopter through my warehouse. Yes, ma’am, I know this is L.A. I know it’s Wednesday. Yes, ma’am, I know it’s the only way to get to the river channel. Yes, I should probably just move my warehouse. You know what, never mind. Good luck with your plan to beat up black people in alphabetical order.”
Totally of his own initiative, white gymnastics guy (Jeff) hands a rope to black gymnastics guy and tells him to tie it off. He then climbs out of the helicopter and down the rope. This is… this is just incredible.
The best—the absolute best—that Jeff can hope for is that he successfully lands on the roof of a speeding van. But the far more likely scenario is that the bad guys get spooked about actually getting caught, and do the only logical thing: kill the children. In fact, since Mr. T gave away the fact that he was onto them, they really have no choice but to kill them. That’s why these things are best handled by the police. Even the Los Angeles police.
So Jeff attempts to grab the van. He misses, of course, and does a face plant in the suddenly not-dry Los Angeles River. And then Danny Zuko drives by him while racing the Scorpions for pinks.
Jeff is floating down the river unconscious. Mr. T yells to him, “Jeff, you okay?” He can’t hear you, Mr. T. You’re in a helicopter. The van is getting away and Spike needs their help, but so does slowly drowning Jeff. Oh no, what do they do?
Commercial! The big toy for girls back in 1984 was My Little Pony. My cousin, who was four, had dozens of them, and now she makes more money than I do. And she was only abducted as a child seven times.
Back from commercial, Mr. T asks Ms. Bisby how low she can get the helicopter. I’d assume she can get it all the way to the ground, but Bisby declares, “I can take her down to a grasshopper’s kneecap!” And then she breaks into maniacal laughter and says, “I just love it when I talk that way!” At this point, I’m almost positive that Bisby is having mushroom-induced flashbacks to when she flew combat missions in ‘Nam.
She lowers the helicopter down to the water, and T hangs upside down from the helicopter’s skid while Bisby dips him into the river. He comes back up with Jeff. And possibly syphilis. Mr. T calls her “Ace” and tells her to take them back up.
In the helicopter, Jeff comes to, and Mr. T admonishes him, “That was a stupid thing to do.” Hey, that’s actually true. Mr. T is making sense. Then he undercuts his own message by adding, “Nice try.” And that’s Mr. T for you—a contradiction wrapped in an enigma drizzled in a tart reduction of body dysmorphic disorder.
Robin says that the van got away, and asks Mr. T what they should do now. T responds, “We get some help.” And now, 19 minutes into a 24 minute episode, Mr. T finally goes to the police. And, by “police”, I mean “exactly two police officers”. One of them is a guy in uniform who doesn’t speak. The other is every stereotype of a 1950s police detective that you can think of. He’s in a gray suit with a black tie, has a pencil-thin moustache, and is wearing a stereotypical Dragnet-style hat. A hat!
Down at the precinct, they’re reviewing the footage from Robin’s camera. Robin, who’s obviously working the controls of an old school VCR, loudly says, “Good thing that camera had film in it!” Or, you know, videotape. Same thing, right? So I guess this means they really were just using the camera for its telephoto capabilities, and they only actually recorded anything by pure happenstance.
They freeze-frame the video and get the license plate of the van. The detective orders the uniform to “run a computer check.” I’m not sure what that entailed back in 1984, but I imagine it required a shoebox full of punch cards, a difference engine, and four sturdy apprentices to turn the crank.
Jeff, whose last plan was to attempt to fall to his death, wants to know what good it will do to find the owner of the van. He’s got a point. Logic would indicate that the van was probably stolen. But Mr. T insists that the computer will tell them where the owner lives. It won’t, of course. It will just tell you where the owner claimed to live. Whatever. You know what? Mr. T is a crappy investigator. There, I said it. The only thing he could successfully investigate is the interior of his ass, because that’s the location his head appears to be.
You don’t like it, Laurence Tureaud? Come find me. I won’t tell you my address, but I’m sure you won’t have any trouble finding it when you investigate.
The detective answers a phone that wasn’t actually ringing. Not only that, but it’s a touch-tone phone with 16 buttons, in 4 rows of 4. But I can excuse this, because it’s entirely possible that the animators had never used a telephone before.
The detective talks on the phone with his hand on his hip and his arm akimbo, which can’t be comfortable. But he’s happy to hear that the computer came up with an address. He orders whomever is on the other end to mobilize squads 3, 9 and 12. I have one question here. What were squads 3, 9 and 12 doing before this?
The detective then informs Mr. T that the bad guy lives just outside of town. So, he’s already made one mistake. There are two bad guys, not one. That’s the kind of mistake that can get someone killed. And, of course, since Mr. T tipped the bad guys off, they’re probably not even heading for their house. Also, the detective just shared information about an ongoing police investigation with a civilian. All in all, he’s probably not going to get that promotion he wanted. Can he dig himself deeper?
Yes. Yes, he can. Witnesseth:
Mr. T: We’re gonna help.
Joe Friday: This is police business, Mr. T.
Mr. T: They swiped one of my kids. It’s my business, too.
Joe Friday: …Okay. Let’s go get some bad guys.
Actually, forget the promotion, this guy is probably not going to be a police officer after today.
I’m sorry. I’ve had a really bad attitude about all this. You know what? I like this plan. I’m happy to be a part of it. I think deputizing a lunatic is a good idea. Putting children in harm’s way is just the price you pay for wearing the badge. And flushing the fourth, fifth, sixth, eighth and fourteenth amendments down the toilet? Well, that’s all in a day’s work for the men and women of the LAPD.