G.I. Joe – Putting the Cobra Clutch on Cobra!

On request, and a fitting suggestion, I’m looking at some of the episodes of G.I. Joe that star Sgt. Slaughter. He first appeared in the season two mini-series Arise, Serpentor, Arise, which I’ll cycle back round to, and G.I. Joe: The Movie is on the to-do list, so today I’m looking at the standard episodes the Sarge appeared in.

My Brothers Keeper

The missing apostrophe in the title really annoys me. Cobra need a genius scientist to make their latest weapon work, so head to a sci-fi convention he’s appearing at to either recruit or kidnap him, depending on how willing he is. Sgt. Slaughter and Sci-Fi head there in costume on the premise that they won’t stick out and can capture Dr. Mindbender in the midst of the recruitment attempt. The scientist, Jeremy Penser, is more of a dick than Cobra could imagine, especially to his little brother, so he’s especially willing when Mindbender says he can help the wheelchair-bound genius walk again.

If we just focus on Slaughter, he’s fine. Not exactly nuanced, but he puts the effort in, and they maintain a continuity aspect of him being pissed off with Mindbender for including him in the brew that created Serpentor. The episode itself is average at best and melodramatic lack of logic at worst, but it’s a good demonstration of how the show improved by just focusing on small groups of characters, in this case Sci-Fi and Slaughter and the nice brother against the odd combination of Dr. Mindbender and the Dreadnoks sans Zartan, with Jeremy as the person switching sides.

As a side story, the brothers make up at the end, and one of the closing shots is the good brother placing his hand on Jeremy’s shoulder, who then puts his hand on top of his brother’s hand. A concerned parent, who seemingly was only watching and not listening to the episode, wrote a letter of complaint about evidence of a gay relationship until the studio replied and filled him in that they were brothers, as even referenced IN THE TITLE, so the guy walked his complaints back.

Ninja Holiday

After a training exercise in Southeast Asia, Wet Suit gets an invitation to the equivalent of a mixed martial arts tournament, which the Sarge vetoes, but end up getting kidnapped in place of him and brought to it instead. The organiser is French mercenary Pierre LaFonte, who’s organised these matches in order to establish who would be the best assassin for a mysterious contract. Sarge ends up having to fight for his life in a series of blood sport games.

This is an episode that as a kid I probably wouldn’t have liked, but as an adult I like a lot more. There are some good details that still resonate, like the mixture of entrants into the tournament (a kickboxing chef, a sumo wrestler, a giant African warrior, etc.) or the unexplained pale-skinned soldiers for LaFonte (are they zombies or some strange tribe of Vietnamese people that live in darkness?). In the final, Wet Suit, who’s part of the rescue mission, has to fight Sgt. Slaughter, so you have some working  of how they’re going to get a winner without killing one another. Then, when Sarge wins, the contractor is revealed in a neat twist as Cobra Commander, who is looking for someone to kill Serpentor for him, and he blows his usual gasket when he finds out LaFonte has produced Slaughter for him. Again, I liked this episode.

G.I. Joe and the Golden Fleece

Of the three non-special Slaughter episodes, this is probably the weakest, maybe because it’s the most different. I always felt Joe was better when it was more based in military or espionage reality than fantasy or science-fiction. During a battle, a strange ship passes overhead, and Cobra shoots at it, knocking out a glowing, golden object that when both sides try to claim it sends them back to ancient Greece, where they continue their battle while trying to get back.

The fun with this episode is with trying to create analogies for characters and ideas from Greek myth and legend, so Sarge is Heracles, Lifeline is Asclepius, the damaged Tomahawk on pontoons is the Argo, and Baroness and some Vipers flying Cobra CLAWS are the Harpies. “Heracles” meets King Augeas and has to clean his stables in a day to achieve something the Joes need. It’s all alright, and I loved the stories of the Greek gods and goddesses as a kid, but they try it a little too much in this episode. The most memorable bit is Lifeline showing surprise that Slaughter learnt a bit of ancient Greek in college, with the Sergeant taking offence and rebutting “What’s the matter?! You don’t think I was smart enough to go to college?!”.

Conclusion: Good showing for the drill instructor, who demonstrated he was more willing to work for his Hasbro money in the eighties than any payoff he could get from Verne Gagne or independent promoters. Apparently he’s got a new deal signed with Hasbro currently in his seventies, so maybe we’ll see a Classified figure of him very soon!