G.I. Joe: “Skeletons in the Closet”
Every summer, content tends to get a little sporadic and sketchy around these parts. I’m going to make a concerted effort to keep up weekly posts until fresh episodes of Arrow return in the fall, though I warn you, the topics are probably going to be pretty random and self-amusing. Since it worked out pretty well last time, let’s take a look at another fabulous episode of the classic mid-eighties G.I. Joe cartoon, shall we? Here we have “Skeletons in the Closet”, a thrilling saga of retribution, espionage, ghosts, ancient cults, mystical creatures, and weird yet heartfelt attempts at Scottish brogues.
During a failed Cobra operation, the Baroness catches Destro canoodling in the bushes with a sexy blonde Cobra underling. Because the Baroness is awesomeness personified, she outwardly shrugs off Destro’s chronic infidelity, preferring instead to quietly plot terrible, elaborate vengeance against him.
Later, the Joes thwart Destro’s attempts to sell creaky old Cobra weapons to poorly-drawn versions of Gadaffi, Castro, and Khomeini.
(Just outside the building where the weapons deal goes down, an anti-war protest is taking place, at which a speaker addresses the crowd as “comrades” before hastily correcting it to “friends”. Oh, G.I. Joe. I’m assuming this is your terribly subtle and not-at-all offensive way of equating pacifists with Communists, right?)
Destro is rescued from the Joes by a sexy trench-coated lady named, ahem, Coverta Fatale, who is clearly the Baroness in a blonde wig and minus her Teutonic accent, and who is also clearly trying to maneuver Destro into some kind of nefarious trap to pay him back for cheating on her. Destro is, naturally, oblivious to all this. Over a romantic dinner, Coverta (snerk, “Coverta”) casually brings up his relationship with the Baroness, whom Destro breezily dismisses as “a confused creature with whom I have been erroneously linked.”
Ooooo. That’s going to come back to bite you, Destro.
Meanwhile, over at Joe HQ, Lady Jaye receives a letter informing her that she’s just inherited a castle in Scotland. It’s almost Christmas, and she’s got some vacation time coming to her, so she decides to jaunt across the pond and check out her new digs. She invites her maybe-sorta-boyfriend Flint along. He mutters something unhelpful about how this castle business sounds kind of sketchy, but maybe he’ll catch up with her later, if he can’t find some better way to spend Christmas. Then he disguises himself as a crusty old fisherman and sneaks off to Scotland to lurk outside the castle, secretly keeping watch over Lady Jaye.
They have a weird dynamic, Flint and Lady Jaye. Also, this episode has an odd motif of people donning elaborate disguises to fool their loved ones.
Lady Jaye arrives at her castle and meets the creepy housekeeper, who warns her, “Never enter the north chamber. It be cursed!” Lady Jaye promptly dons a lacy pink negligee, grabs a candelabra and a golf club, and storms into the north chamber to beat up some ghosts. Lady Jaye is no Baroness, but she is not without her own distinct brand of awesomeness.
After warding off a succession of supernatural nasties (in addition to ghosts, she encounters human-sized snakes and sword-wielding reanimated skeletons. You know, the usual), Lady Jaye stumbles upon an entire ancient cult hanging out in her basement. The cult members, who are all garbed in robes paired with gimmicky Archie McPhee-style animal masks, are gearing up to perform their annual Winter Solstice ritual of human sacrifice to appease a multi-tentacled alien creature living in a well. My parents threw amazing Winter Solstice parties each year while I was growing up, so I was pretty much on board with whatever this cult had planned.
The cult members capture Lady Jaye and dangle her in chains above the well, preparing to sacrifice her to the creature, and if you think we’re drifting into tawdry Lair of the White Worm territory, you’re not alone.
The Lair of the White Worm. Man. Anyone see that one? Directed by Ken Russell, 1988, featuring a dewy and nubile young Hugh Grant, plus Peter Capaldi (the new Doctor Who!), Catherine Oxenberg, and Amanda Donahoe. Basically, it’s exactly like this episode, only it’s really, really sleazy. Check out the surprisingly rousing and totally NSFW trailer, if you don’t believe me.
Destro arrives and puts a stop to this nonsense. (As the splendid recent G.I. Joe-themed episode of Community pointed out, the Joes and Cobra have zero interest in killing each other. Even though they’re sworn enemies, Destro seems vaguely offended at the idea of sacrificing Lady Jaye to the creature.) He’s flummoxed to discover the castle is Lady Jaye’s ancestral home. Turns out it’s his ancestral home as well, and in the midst of all the ludicrous madness surrounding them, Lady Jaye and Destro glumly deal with the unsettling revelation that they’re, like, cousins or something.
Flint stops skulking in the bushes surrounding the castle long enough to lend a hand in rescuing Lady Jaye from Destro’s clutches. Honestly, though, she seems to be managing pretty well for herself.
You’re showing an impressive amount of leg there, Lady Jaye.
A whole bunch of Joes arrive at the castle to help Lady Jaye and Flint, while a whole bunch of Cobra members arrive to help Destro. Heat-seeking missiles are fired, stuff gets blown up, Lady Jaye and Flint almost get eaten by a gigantic spider, and at some point, Lady Jaye’s negligee pretty much ceases to function as an actual garment.
Eventually, the Joes end up reducing the castle to a pile of smoking rubble. They all retreat to a nearby pub to swill pints of ale while watching it burn, looking extremely smug and self-satisfied about how everything turned out.
And then the Baroness rips off her Coverta Fatale wig and reveals her diabolical plan to Destro: Knowing Destro loved his ancestral home above all else, she lured Lady Jaye there, knowing it would inevitably lead to the Joes blowing the whole place up. “This is but a taste of what you will suffer if you refer to me again as, quote, ‘a confused creature with whom I have been erroneously linked,’” she coldly informs him. “Your brilliance is matched only by your thirst for vengeance,” Destro tells her admiringly.
A glorious mess of an episode. Incomprehensible plotting (the ghost was explained away as a hologram, but the reanimated skeletons, the human-sized spiders and snakes, and the multi-tentacled creature in the well? Yeah, those were all real)! Way too much nonsensical stuff going on! Unnecessary destruction! An eyebrow-raising amount of skin! In other words, it’s filled with everything we’ve come to love about G.I. Joe.