June 9, 2012

Inhumanoids, episode 12: "The Masterson Team"

As she lounges in Infernac, nagging Metlar, the Statue of Liberty watches Hector Ramirez on Twenty Questions introducing the team Senator Masterson has pulled together for his expedition to rescue her. Ramirez and Masterson themselves will be going, along with mustachioed leading man Dusty Aykroyd, former heavy-weight champion boxer Smokin' Joe Abdullah, film director George Landisberg (back from the previous episode), and famed French treasure hunter and explorer Jean Pierre Croissant. They'll journey into the Earth on four small dirigibles.

Auger smashes a portable tv in response to the news story, then he and Liquidator, clad in tuxedos, join Herc in the main room of a church for the wedding of Stella Blaze and Dr. Bright. When the priest asks if there's any objectors, Tendril rips up through the floor, yelling "STELLAAAAAAA!!!" The couple quickly completes the ceremony, then everyone runs like hell.

With Bright off on his honeymoon, the rest of Earth Corps shows up at Brad Armbruster's hospital room, where he's still cocooned in the wreckage of his falen jet. He recounts the story of his encounter with Sslither. Herc suspects Blackthorne was involved.

The Masterson dirigibles pass through Granite territory, where the Senator quickly improvises a speech of gratitude for their alliance, drawing cheers. Soon after, Granok and his Granite forces are locked in a fierce battle with Sslither and his squad of animal-headed humanoid monsters. Granok is captures of Sslither, but just before the Granite leader is killed, the snivelling Granahue arranges an alliance with Blackthorne and reveals the path of the Masterson expedition. Granok is spared, but held by Sslither as a hostage.

Earth Corps arrives at Big Sur where they learn from the Redwoods that Sslither was once ruled over all the Inhumanoids. Even Metlar was his slave, building monuments to his master's glory all over the world (pyramids, etc.). Metlar eventually grew tired of playing second fiddle and set a trap, encasing Sslither in a layer of hyper-dense magma and locking him away in the temple where the beast was later freed by Blackthorne.

As the Masterson Team nears Infernac, they come under attack from Metlar's soldier army, who pierce the dirigibles with arrows. Sslther and Blackthorne arrive and Slither has his monsters rescue the Masterson Team just before the dirigibles plunge into the river of lava.

At Infernac, Metlar is interrupted from his building of a hottub for the Statue of Liberty by a new bulletin where Blackthorne says he's holding the Masterson Team hostage until he enacts his revenge against all his enemies. Metlar orders his legions to attack, but they refuse to stop working on the hot tub until they hear otherwise from their new leader: the Statue of Liberty.

Earth Corps races into the earth. They're stopped by Manglar, who offers to lead the heroes to Sslither's lair if they'll help him take out Blackthorne. Granahue shows up and with his forces and attacks the heroes, but the General Granitary takes command and has Granahue arrested as a traitor. Granitary reminds everyone of the alliance between the Granites and Earth Corps and lends the heroes a squad of Granite soldiers.

At Infernac, the Statue of Liberty's nagging gets so insufferable that Metlar stomps off, looking for a foe to smash.

Earth Corps, Manglar, and Granites arrive at an ancient city where they face off against Blackthorne, Sslither, and Sslithers monsters. Manglar runs off after being injured and the fight is largely a stalemate, until Metlar shows up, looking to face off against his old master. While they duke it out, Earth Corps frees Granok and the Masterson Team. Metlar triumphs over Sslither and struts back home in victory. Blackthorne confronts Sslither over their plan falling apart, but the Inhumanoid turns on him and chases him off. Sslither escapes and Blackthorne falls into Granite custody. As our heroes return to the surface, Hector Ramirez and Senator Masterson argue over how to put a spin on the bungle that was their expedition.

Armbruster has finally been freed from the mangle of wreckage and Earth Corps sits with him in his hospital room as they watch the latest Twenty Questions. Masterson is about to apologize for his expedition's failure, but they're suddenly interrupted by the bulletin that the Statue of Liberty has been put back in its place. Masterson takes all the credit for his team's bravery, and Auger shuts him up by putting a bed pan through the tv.


"What a bunch of panty-waisted, kiesh-eatin', moist-eyed wimps!" -Auger

Hoo boy, Tony. I'm going to be very curious to hear your thoughts on this one. :D

I absolutely love the setup: in his bid for the presidency, Senator Masterson decides to personally see to the rescue of a Statue of Liberty, pulling together a team that essentially consists of Gerald Rivera, Tom Selleck, Evander Holyfield, John Landis, and Jacques Cousteau. Looking at their alter egos in reverse order, Jean Pierre Croissant calmly narrates the nature documentary of their journey in his French accent, George Landisberg doesn't really do anything, Smokin' Joe Abdullah constantly rocks his dirigible with shadowboxing as he dares Metlar to face him one-on-one, and Dusty Aykroyd... also doesn't do anything but briefly pine about the film he'll one day make from this: Hot Liberty.

And that's where this show fumbles. Other than some occasional bits - mostly Smokin' Joe, Croissant, and spin from Ramirez and Masterson - nothing much is actually done with this team. Landisberg and Aykroyd never try to make an action blockbuster out of things. Masterson and the prominently-featured spin-heavy Granite politician Granahue never once cross paths and out political worm one another. Smokin' Joe - despite a great moment of refusing to back down before a swarm of archers, to the point of snatching an arrow from the air just before it hits his head, then starts to eat it (!!!) - never goes toe-to-toe against Metlar. Worst of all, the team never ever ends up encountering the animated Statue of Liberty! Seriously, Dille, how could you not have a scene where they bungle their way to rescue her only to have her chew them out for bothering her while she's trying to enjoy some tv and a hottub. Hell, a perfect ending would be Metlar just giving them the statue back to get her off his back. That kinda happens, but it lacks the personal exchange that would have made their entire expedition worth while.

Instead, nope, the Team's hilariously impractical dirigibles are downed with arrows and they spend the second half of the episode off screen as hostages. Gah!

A lot of the secondary story is fun, with everyone betraying and allying with everyone else - especially with the inclusion of the snivelling Granahue - but Sslither is one Inhumanoid too many. There's nothing he and his nameless monster things do here that couldn't have been done by D'Compose and his zombie soldiers in yet another bid for power. Yes, there's the backstory of how he once ruled over all the Inhumanoids, but Metlar trudging the Earth at his beck and call, building all of the ancient monuments, is nonsense instead of the epic backstory it was intended to be. And their eventual confrontation, where Metlar beats his old master down, doesn't have any more weight to it than we've gotten from the numerous sequences of Tendril being knocked around.

It's a distraction and nothing but. The Masterson Team makes for a great plot. Granok being captured and Granahue betraying everybody with a power play that shifts Granite allegiances makes for a great plot. Reawakening an ancient evil so powerful that even Metlar once bowed to it as a servant makes for a great plot. These are all great, promising plots. Separately. Squashed together the way they are, they stumble all over themselves and keep stealing the spotlight from one another, to the point where none of them fulfils their promise. And this isn't even an issue of the serialized structure of the show, because each of these could have been explored without upsetting the flow from one story to the next. Or, hell, even stripping one thread out and giving the other two a little more elbow room might still have worked.

And that's not even the end of the threads they've crammed in here! In the last episode, the painfully underdeveloped Armbruster was last seen already in a fully constructed Exploration Suit. Here, things retcon back a little as he's first seen in a twisted bundle of steel, then finally freed of it an in a hospital gown and bandages. What was the need for this? You've already put him in the suit, so either use it now, or just save him until the next episode. This doubling back has no reason beyond passing word to Earth Corps about the existence of Sslither, which he should have done in the last episode. And then there's the wedding of Stella Blaze and Dr. Bright, which comes completely out of nowhere, then returns to that realm as they retreat to their honeymoon and are never seen nor heard of again for the remainder of the episode. I will admit, though, that the scene is very amusing, with a gossip fashion commentator and the ceremony rushed by the arrival of Tendril, who scream out "STELLAAAAAAAA!!!" I had a good hard laugh at that one.

Tony, I can't fight you on this one. This episode is a mess. There's a ton of great stuff to be found, but there's too many things slapped together in such a haphazard fashion that the potential of much of it has fallen loose. That said, I'm excited to check out our final episode. With the title "Auger... for President?", how can I not be.

Some thoughts:
  • The recurring joke of Auger breaking tvs is seriously my favorite part of this series. Here he smashes a portable set at the wedding, puts a bedpan through the one at the hospital, and when he suggests catching a show when they return home, Liquidator is quick to say "Not on my tv, you won't!"
  • Both Blackthorne and Granahue are in Granite custody. I wonder if they'll be sharing a cell in the next episode.
  • Am I the only one picking up some signals between Ramirez and Aykroyd when they started pawing one another as Aykroyd said "Hot Liberty."?
  • Why Dusty Aykroyd? "Aykroyd" doesn't exactly conjure the image of a dashing leading man. Sorry Dan! And Croissant? Really, Dille? Really?
  • Smokin' Joe kicks ass. I want him back and on the lead team.


Wow, man. Just... wow.

Flint Dille, on behalf of the SSSS, I would like to present you with this gift card to the Home Depot so that you can finally buy the one thing you didn’t manage to squeeze into this episode: a kitchen sink.

What we have here is an episode full to bursting. It’s a smorgasbord of the interesting and the bizarre, flying from plot to plot with the focus of a housefly. Look, this is a Saturday morning cartoon, so you should be able to synopsize it in a sentence, right? Hell, you can synopsize Lawrence of Arabia in a sentence...

“A chronicle of British officer T.E. Lawrence’s experiences in Arabia during WWI.”

Does it fill in all the details? No, but it’s enough to give a potential viewer a thumbnail of what to expect. Now let’s try it with "The Masterson Team", shall we?


I stared at the screen for nearly ten minutes while my brain attempted to eat itself. Since I didn’t have much luck coming up with a synopsis, let’s try coming up with a key word search instead...

Marriage - Statue of Liberty - Slavery - Celebrities - Dirigibles - Reality TV

Take a moment to re-read those again. I know, right?

I’m utterly perplexed by this show. I really am. I don’t know what the Hell it’s trying to be anymore. I’m all for thinking outside the box, but this series thinks outside the cosmos. The biggest problem, however, is cramming. Too much plot. Too many characters. Every week, it’s someone - or something - new. This ain’t the frickin’ Love Boat, Mr. Dille! Look, I kinda get why there are so many characters being jammed in. Toys. It’s all about toys. It’s the need to try and stuff in so much plot that confuses me. It’s as if Dille treats his ideas as perishable commodities that he has to use before they expire. I’m sure that he knew this series probably wouldn’t continue beyond its initial 13 episode order, but why not tuck a few of these ideas away for later just in case?

To be sure, there are enjoyable elements here. Like Noel, I got a few chuckles from the various “celebrities” and the whole “The Mystery of Al Capone’s vaults” (which aired about eight months prior to “The Masterson Team”) vibe to the expedition. And I actually liked the back story of Metlar’s servitude to Sslither and building the monuments. In theory at least. The problem is that it deserved more than a brief flashback, but I understand there was a wedding to get to. Wait, what!? Where did that come from? It’s not just the brevity of the courtship, it’s the necessity. I have to wonder where were they going with this. Sadly we’ll never find out.

Noel, this ride just keeps getting stranger, and I have no doubt the finale will be the strangest of them all. I’ll see you back here next week when Auger decides to throw his hat, if not his shoe, into the ring for President.

Random thought for a random show:

In a bit of irony, the secret tunnels beneath the Lexington Hotel, which eventually led to the special “The Mystery of Al Capone’s Vaults”, were discovered by Sunbow construction.

And before I go, I mentioned last week that Brad Armbruster is also the “real” name of Ace, the original fighter pilot of the G.I. Joe team, allowing us to infer that the two characters are one and the same. Here’s the profile from the back of his original file card...

File Name: Armbruster, Brad J.
SN: AF335986725
Grade: O-3 (Captain, USAF)
Birthplace: Providence, RI
Primary Specialty: Fixed Wing Pilot, Single and Multiple Engine
Secondary Specialty: Intelligence Operations

Ace would rather fly than do anything else. During high school he worked after school and weekends to pay for flying lessons. Spent one year flying pipelines in Alaska and two years stunt flying for movies. Enlisted USAF at 22. Duty most previous to G.I. Joe assignment: senior instructor USAF Fighter Weapons Squadron "The Aggressors" (pilot combat training school). Qualified Expert: F-5E, F-15, F-16, XP-14/F. "Ace has one major character flaw: cutthroat poker. A predilection for gambling would ordinarily disqualify an applicant for the G.I. Joe team but in Armbruster's case you can hardly call it gambling since he NEVER LOSES. That's why we call him Ace!"

Tune in next Saturday as we dive into another Inhumanoids adventure with "Auger... For President?".


Grigori Strohov said...

That's no coincidence on Sabre Jet; Flint said they liked to recycle to keep things cohesive so yes, Sabre Jet is indeed Ace from G.I. Joe.

Also - the files for the Inhumanoids clip & collect data files on the backs of the toy packages were written by Larry "G.I. Joe" Hama.

Tony Williams said...

Also - the files for the Inhumanoids clip & collect data files on the backs of the toy packages were written by Larry "G.I. Joe" Hama.

Ooooh, I didn't know that. That alone makes me curious to check them out. Big fan of Mr. Hama's. G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero was an outstanding toy line, but it was Hama's work on the file cards that breathed life into it. Also loved the comic. That original run is my all-time favorite.

NoelCT said...

I wasn't aware of the Larry Hama collection. Nice!