by Brett White
Before you see “G.I. Joe: Retaliation” in theaters this weekend, there’s a little something you should know about the beloved 1980s G.I. Joe cartoon. Sure, it’s about an elite force of American soldiers taking on the evil terrorism of Cobra. But for the most part, the show was next level crazy. The only show that could potentially out-crazy “G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero” is “He-Man and the Masters of the Universe,” and that series isn’t even set on Earth.
For a show ostensibly about real American heroes, “G.I. Joe” brought the bonkers. Narrowing the series’ craziest episodes down was a hard task (almost as hard as the genetic pillaging Cobra undertook to create their master, Serpentor). Here are the five craziest episodes of “G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero.”
1.18 “The Phantom Brigade”
If you want to destroy G.I. Joe and all of your troops and tanks and lasers just aren’t cutting it, what would you do? If your answer is “summon three ghosts from less technologically advanced era and hope for the best,” then congrats! You’re ready to lead Cobra! The titular Phantom Brigade includes a Centurion warrior, a Mongolian Amazon and a pilot from World War I, who can only be defeated if their personal trinkets are nabbed from Cobra’s clutches… and buried. Come on, they’re already dead and now you have to mess with their stuff?
1.26 “The Gamesmaster”
The Gamesmaster in question is a wealthy guy who messes with a handful of Cobra and Joe agents to rid him of boredom. And by “mess with” I mean kidnap and drop them on his private island where toy soldiers are threats, robotic dragons roam free and the shrubs are made of marshmallows. At one point Cobra Commander and Lady Jaye nearly drown in a pool of butterscotch. The turning point of the episode comes when the Gamesmaster’s prized doll is destroyed. On top of all this, Flint wears a sweater vest for pretty much the entire episode.
1.29 “The Viper is Coming”
This has to be one of the more famous episodes of “G.I. Joe,” probably because it’s one of the weirdest. The episode follows the Joes as they react to a mysterious phone call alerting them, in a raspy voice, that “the viper is coming.” The calls aren’t even coming to the Joe Headquarters; they’re coming to a firehouse that Barbecue (a G.I. Joe, not an anthropomorphic food… although that idea isn’t too crazy for this show) helped renovate.
The rest of the episode follows the Joes as they systematically take out Cobra, waging a pretty efficient war against them when you consider that a mysterious phone call spurred the action. The Joes even destroy Cobra Recreational Base #3, where Cobra troops play volleyball and lounge around in tank tops, short shorts and their full headgear. The episode ends with the “viper” coming, who is actually a window wiper with a thick accent. Laughs are had by all except for those Cobra troops who just wanted to catch a show at the Zartan Entertainment Center.
2.14 “Glamour Girls”
If there’s one thing that G.I. Joe’s target audience was clamoring for, it had to have been more episodes centered around the complex world of modeling and fashion. This episode delivers! An international cosmetic tycoon named Madame Veil has created a “facial transference machine” which Cobra decides they must have (their reason: just ’cuz). Cobra kidnaps two women named Una and Satin so Madame Veil can suck out the youth from their faces and put it in hers, which is 100% how science works. The Joes go to the rescue, putting longtime Joe Cover Girl’s history as a fashion model to use.
2.26 “Joe’s Night Out”
It’s a good thing that it’s impossible for children to play in the vacuum of space, because this episode definitely gave kids a bunch of wrong ideas. In this episode, Wet-Suit, Dial-Tone and Leatherneck go to a night club that turns into a rocket ship. To be fair, the club looks like Seattle’s Space Needle, so, you know, “space” is in the title… so it makes sense?. The Joes discover that the club/ship is ready to explode unless the Joes go out into space and disarm the bomb. They then make a space suit out of materials found in the club. Think about that sentence for a bit. Crazy, right? Wet-Suit and Leatherneck go out into the vacuum of space wearing trash bag space suits and goldfish bowls over their heads. To add another level of crazy, why were there two goldfish bowls in a nightclub?
One episode’s Wikipedia summary is insane enough to earn a mention here. In the episode “G.I. Joe and the Golden Fleece,” the summary states, “Joe and Cobra forces race to capture a golden coil dropped from a UFO and the device sends them back in time to ancient Greece, where they are mistaken for deities.” Can we retroactively remove the word “real” from the show’s title?
And just for good measure, let’s include the single from Cobra’s hair metal band Cold Slither…
And the time Snake Eyes did some break-dancing.