This article is part of the Cobra After-Action Report series.

G-I Joeeeee!Search and rescue missions can be some of the most dangerous and unpredictable operations that a modern military can undertake. They are launched with minimal intelligence and planning because time is of the essence. Most SAR teams have drilled and practiced a variety of techniques for recovering downed pilots and evacuating battlefield casualties. Unfortunately for Cobra Commander there is nothing in the Cobra manual about recovering a jet with a super-expensive "homing device" that will allow it to fly back to Cobra's secret base located surreptitiously inside of a giant cobra-topped castle.

You would have thought Destro could sneak in a 150 dollar self-destruct mechanism next to the 15 million dollar homing device. When Cobra Commander learns that the plane - captured by the US government - has turned up at a film studio to be used as a movie prop he decides to launch a recovery operation. Luckily for him no curious government agents or stunt men have decided to press the 5-inch rectangular button in the Firebat's cockpit that has "RETURN TO SECRET BASE" printed on it.

When you're an inept secret leader the best thing you can do in this sort of situation is to call in the assistance of an arguably even more inept mercenary and his gang of swamp-dwelling ingrates. Cobra Commander reaches out and touches Zartan and offers to pay him four million dollars if he can recover Cobra's precious aircraft. The plan is simple: go onto the set and pose as actors playing Zartan and the Dreadnoks, then simply press the button in the Firebat when no one is around and send it home. Easy as can be, but Zartan can't resist drawing this extremely simplistic and easy plan out into an epic saga of fumbling attempts to embarrass or beat up various GI Joe members.

Cobra's comedy of errors is in high swing in this operation and the Joes prove to be delightfully witless opponents who man to foil Cobra Commander at every turn through a combination of luck and implausible shows of bravado. But I am getting ahead of myself, let's talk about facts about "Lights! Camera! Cobra!"

Theater Commander: Cobra Commander
Theater Resources: Zartan and some of the Dreadnoks, a Cobra Firebat jet with a 15 million dollar "homing device," and Destro

Corps Level Resources:

A full squadron of Firebat jet aircraft
Company or greater force of Cobra infantry
Platoon or greater force of Crimson Guard infantry
3+ cute little Cobra four-wheelers

Known Opposing Forces:

A handful of GI Joes
Miracle Motion Picture Studios
A mincing Prince Valiant-like director and Ron Jeremy

Primary Mission Objectives:

Recover or destroy the Firebat with the 15 million dollar homing device

Alternate Mission Objectives:

Ruin the production of a movie that might cast Cobra in a negative light

Cobra's overwhelming superiority in numbers and military might has never gotten in the way of them bungling an operation. Let's find out just how Cobra Commander's surprisingly straightforward plan unravels.

198X, Day 1, 4:00 PMG-I Jeffff!Cobra Commander is standing around a quaint European village watching people being rounded up by his troopers. He uncharacteristically orders a mass execution and…wait a second, that's not Cobra Commander's voice! Who is this imposter? Just as the peasants are about to get a noodle in their neck some weird-looking GI Joe helicopters swoop in and some weird-looking GI Joes get out. A battle rages and Cobra Commander predictably attempts to flee only to be thrown through a paper wall by the Dukealike. Cobra Commander tears off his mask and we see that he's just a whiney old man who threatens to sue the fake Duke for playing too rough.

Cut is called on the set by a dandy with a cravat and tinted glasses who seems displeased with how unrealistic his movie is turning out. The producer at his side is none other than Ron Jeremy in a porkpie hat. We learn that the director's name is George and the producer's name is Marty and George plans to walk off the set unless Marty can find him some military advisors to make the action more believable. Marty promises to do his best and that probably means he's going to end up stuck with a bunch of scrofulous GI Joe characters with defining traits like "he's a sassy sailor who goes into battle with a parrot" and "she throws javelins." That will sure up the realism on your picture, George.

Not much later, Cobra Commander is enjoying a solitary meal when Destro bursts into his dining chamber. With news of a missing aircraft dancing from his iron-shod lips, Destro his halted mid-sentence by the sight of Cobra Commander eating and making weird bug noises without his mask on. Destro insists Cobra Commander put his mask back on and he averts his gaze like a weak-stomached southern belle who simply cannot bear the look of a man with too much sweat on his brow. Cobra Commander has a good laugh about this. After all, Destro is a man who had his head permanently encased inside of a mysteriously flexible metal mask. You would think he could pretty much stare at his own infant son being dissolved in sulfuric acid.

Look, I can do the scene, just give me a couple minutes with a fluffer.It's worth noting that Cobra Commander is dining alone on a simple meal of "brown lump" and a fine bright red wine. You would think he could afford finer libations, but I guess he spent all of his caviar money on his gigantic Cobra throne that probably has an escape pod in it.

Cobra Commander drops the hood back on and Destro explains that their Firebat jet that went missing recently has been located at Miracle Motion Picture Studios in Hollywood. Cobra Commander wants it back because he installed a 15 million dollar "homing device" in the jet. Apparently this device does not allow them to easily track the aircraft down, it's just a button you can push in the cockpit that will make the jet take off and fly back to Cobra's top secret lair. Oh no! Not the top secret lair that as usual consists of a huge stone obelisk topped by a 500 foot tall cobra head. God forbid the Joes manage to figure out where that 600 ton cobra head statue was delivered without calling up Crazy Hank's Cobra Statuary and Iconography Outlet.

Because the useless homing device computer that is causing the problem costs so much Cobra Commander refuses to authorize an operation to destroy the Firebat. He wants that computer back! How else will he get back the Credence tape he left in the cassette deck?

It's just like Oceans Eleven!To this end Cobra Commander calls up Zartan. Zartan and the Dreadnoks are in the middle of an extremely well-planned bank heist when Cobra Commander calls. They blow through the wall of a bank and then they have Ripper cut open the bank vault using his chainsaw. Ah, chainsaws, the favorite tool of lumberjacks and safe-crackers alike. As the Dreadnoks are loading the loot into the van Zartan answers Cobra Commander's call. Cobra Commander is all "come right away" and Zartan is all "there is a million dollars in this bank vault" and Cobra Commander offers him four million for a job. Zartan immediately cancels the bank heist, tells the Dreadnoks to put the sacks of money down, and they leave for greener pastures. I'm not too sure that I would have handled things that way, but Zartan's the boss.

198X, Day 1, 9:00 PM

Marty arrives at LAX to collect the Joes that have been assigned to advise on the movie. He is unimpressed with the rag-tag bunch consisting of the omnipresent Shipwreck along with Dusty, Blowtorch, Covergirl, and the mustache patrol of Mutt and Recondo. Marty bundles the bunch into a limousine and Shipwreck is highly impressed with the nightlife of Los Angeles. Covergirl shoots down his plans of a night on the town.

It's the famous LA hot spot Shintester Esfererel UeehmWhen they arrive at the studio they are greeted by George who explains that the government has loaned the studio a variety of GI Joe and Cobra military equipment. Shipwreck explains that the production needs a "smoke shifter" and George gets Marty to give Shipwreck cash and a corvette to go buy some smoke shifters. Covergirl realizes that Shipwreck is up to no good and she hops on a motorcycle to pursue the wayward sailor. Zartan, who is watching the proceedings from the shadows, dispatches Torch to keep an eye on the two Joes while Zartan and the other Dreadnoks needlessly plot to kill the others.

Torch scampers off to chase Shipwreck and Zartan sends the other two Dreadnoks into the desert to prepare an ambush. He then sidles brazenly up to Dusty and Recondo who are monkeying around with a GI Joe bike. They mistake Zartan for an actor even though he starts bragging about how much better Cobra vehicles are and trying to antagonize them. Zartan finally manages to get Recondo's mustache in a knot of blind fury and he uses the opportunity to challenge the Joe to a motorcycle race through the desert. This predictably ends with the Dreadnoks shooting the motorcycle carrying Dusty and Rocondo. The motorcycle flies into a ravine and generates a massive explosion. Amazingly Dusty and Recondo are only lightly injured, though they are both knocked out for a time.

How sleazy do your holes get, baby?Meanwhile, Covergirl tracks Shipwreck to a dive bar in Los Angeles. "Shipwreck, I knew you would be in the sleaziest hole in Hollywood," Covergirl remarks as Shipwreck wrestles with some angry ruffians in the bar. Surprisingly, shipwreck doesn't take Covergirl's comment as an opportunity to lay a particularly vile pickup line on her like "you can find me in one of your sleazy holes next" or "it was the sleaziest hole until you walked in here with a couple that put it to shame." The Joes engage in an exceptionally confusing brawl with patrons of the sleazy hole in which Covergirl is transformed into a dark-haired woman wearing completely different clothing and several identical men in gray suits are flung around like balloons. Even Torch gets grappled by a member of the Hell's Angels with some sort of hippy gigantism while trying to call the police.

198X, Day 1, 10:30 PM

Having disposed of Dusty and Recondo, Zartan and the Dreadnoks interrupt the filming of the movie. Ripper saws through the support for a huge water tank and sends it crashing on top of the main camera. The other Dreadnok takes a few shots at Blowtorch and Mutt, but Junkyard leaps in to save them, proving once again that he is the only dog in the world capable of mentally calculating the trajectory of laser blasts. Zartan is attempting to do something way too complicated with the Firebat when Blowtorch and Mutt attack. Zartan manages to drop a bomb on the tail section before he is grappled by Mutt. Blowtorch grabs the bomb just in time and hurls it into the air, saving both Joes and Zartan. The force of the blast briefly knocks the Joes out of commission and Zartan is able to successfully escape.

George is horrified to learn that none of the explosions and laser blasts were caught on film. Adding insult to injury Shipwreck tries to get George to bail Shipwreck and Covergirl out of jail. The Joes pick them up in Marty's limousine and by the next morning they have commandeered the Rattler and Flight Pods being used as film props to begin a search for Dusty and Recondo.

198X, Day 2, 8:00 AM

Zartan and two of the Dreadnoks are less than pleased to receive an angry video-phone call from Cobra Commander. He refers to Zartan as a fool and this makes Zartan apoplectic with rage. The Dreadnoks want to spring Torch from the hoosegow, but Cobra commander tells them in no uncertain terms that the Firebat takes priority. I'm not exactly sure why Torch is even in jail since he was beaten up while attempting to call the police.

Meanwhile, out in the desert Recondo and Dusty spots a pack of snarling animals that he refers to as "coyotes." They don't really look that much like coyotes, but their appearance becomes even more bizarre later. For now they begin to menace the two injured Joes and this sends Recondo's mustache into a rage. Mustache wants to pummel the coyotes. Mustache wants to smash and rend them into mangy coyote paste. Dusty holds mustache back, advising Recondo to "save his strength until [the coyotes] charge." Yeah, that's some real desert wisdom there Dusty. Stay sitting on the ground until the coyotes charge. How about even one of you standing up and scaring all the coyotes away? Nah, that would be too easy.

Ahhhhhh FREAKOUT!Just as things are seeming grim for Dusty and Recondo, Shipwreck arrives and zooms around scaring away the coyotes. One of them leaps up and latches onto Shipwreck's ankle. The supposed coyote has mutated into some sort of mountain lion were-creature by this point, but Shipwreck manages to knock it into a deep canyon. Shipwreck radios the Dusty and Recondo finding in to Covergirl and she and Blowtorch airlift the worthless saps to a hospital. Shipwreck returns to the movie studio only to find Mutt once again rendered unconscious by Zartan and two of the Dreadnoks. An inept fist fight follows in which Shipwreck gets the best of his three opponents only to be cold-cocked into the cockpit of the Firebat. Zartan hits the "fly back to secret lair" button and the canopy closes on Shipwreck as the jet takes off into the sky.

198X, Day 2, 8:00 PM

It takes the Joes a full day of lounging around the movie studio to remember that Torch is in jail and they can use him as a bargaining chip to get Shipwreck back. Covergirl's eyes pop to nearly anime scale as she realizes this and suggests they use a little "movie magic" to trick Cobra Commander. Girlfriend, you could trick Cobra Commander with three Dixie cups and a pea. You don't need Industrial Light and Magic.

Back at Snake Fortress Cobra Commander torments Shipwreck by having him balance on a girder above a pit of lava as Cobra troopers shoot at his feet. Shipwreck has nearly lost his balance when a call comes in from Covergirl. She has what appears to be Torch strapped to a table with a set of deadly spikes slowly be lowered over him. She wants Shipwreck or she plans to kill torch. In something that could almost be timely political commentary Destro remarks that GI Joe's desperation has caused them to adopt Cobra's vile tactics. Cobra Commander is less enthusiastic and seems more upset that the Joes will coerce Torch into revealing the location of his secret base. You know, the secret base for which the GI Joes know the phone number.

Back in the fake dungeon we learn that Recondo was actually posing as Torch with a little help from Covergirl's incredible makeup skills. In the world of GI Joe people's identities are so readily interchangeable that it wouldn't be surprising if the Baroness turned up as the Firebat jet later in the operation. Unfortunately, the Baroness is nowhere in sight in this episode.

Arrrrghh! My precious Firebat!Cobra Commander flies out to the film studio to make the prisoner exchange with an entire squadron of Firebats. For once Cobra Commander seems to have no secret plot in mind and it's the Joes who double-cross him. Shipwreck knocks Cobra Commander over and a massive firefight erupts. Cobra parachutes rain from wrecked Firebats by the dozens as GI Joe fighters swoop in to assist. Cobra Commander screeches as his precious "homing device" equipped Firebat is destroyed by the treacherous GI Joes. After blowing up most of the Cobra aircraft the Joes then amuse themselves by flying around the movie studio and shooting missiles at random set pieces. There are no Cobra troops in sight; the Joes just seem to be enjoying the wanton destruction.

Cobra Commander flees through a Western set with Covergirl and Shipwreck in hot pursuit. Shipwreck, abruptly sporting a Fu Manchu mustache, shoves a burning wagon into the front door of the "Saloon Child." Cobra commander flees out the back of the fake saloon and reaches Destro who is waiting in a Firebat on the set of a Roman epic. The Joes arrive just in time to make most of this set explode as Destro and Cobra Commander escape.

George and Marty are not very happy about the destruction the Joes have wrought at their studio, but then George realizes he got it all on tape. Covergirl seems genuinely unhappy that Cobra Commander got away. I guess Covergirl goes on so few missions that she hasn't developed the hardened cynicism of the other Joes about Cobra Commander escaping.

198X, Months Later

Joan Rivers shoots green lasers.It's the premiere of "The GI Joe Story" and all of the Joes seen earlier are wearing tuxedos and waiting for George to arrive on the red carpet. Yes, even Covergirl is wearing a tuxedo, which gives you the impression that she has just attended a lesbian wedding. Why is it that so many lesbian weddings have at least one of the women dressed as a groom but so few gay men opt to wear a bridal dress? I guess I'll just have to pretend to ask Covergirl, although I would have taken Lady Jaye for the man of the marriage.

George finally shows up and then dramatically thanks…his parents, without whom "The GI Joe Story" would never have been possible. Shipwreck blows his top and it's a hilarious moment all around!

Cobra Commander's modest plan to recover the Firebat was thrown into chaos by Zartan, who was more interested in fighting GI Joes than recovering or destroying the captured aircraft. When Zartan finally did get around to sending the Firebat home it was so easy that it just further highlighted all of his gross incompetence in this episode. Cobra Commander still deserves some of the blame. It was shortsighted not to include a self-destruct mechanism in the precious Firebat and it was even more idiotic to order a recovery effort rather than listening to Destro and just having a Rattler or something drop a bomb on it.

To summarize the idiocy thing of it this way: Cobra, a globe-spanning terrorist organization with tens of thousands of troops and hundred of high tech military vehicles, barely succeeded in stealing a movie prop. Covergirl was the only Joe in this operation who did anything other than brawl or be knocked unconscious. Mutt particularly deserves to get shitcanned for being knocked unconscious twice by Zartan.

Seen Any Elves? HAAHHAHAHAHA!


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