G.I. JOE’S “COBRA C.L.A.W.S ARE COMING TO TOWN”
Original Air Date: November 7, 1985
Cobra pulls out the oldest trick in the book: Shrinking its operatives down to miniatures and stuffing them inside Christmas toys in poorly thought-out, Trojan Horse attempt to ruin Christmas…
Before G.I. Joe was a cartoon series it was one of the world’s most famous line of toys (and technically before that it was a comic strip in the 40s, but let’s focus on the toys for now). In the early 60s Hasbro decided the world needed more manly toys for children (boys) to play with; thus, “America’s movable fighting man” was born. The term G.I. Joe wasn’t officially trademarked until 1965. As America saw its way through the Vietnam War, the G.I. Joe action figures took a step away from war themes, becoming “The Adventures of G.I. Joe.” At the war’s end Hasbro attempted to ditch the military theme entirely and renamed the line “Adventure Team” in 1970.
The original “Adventure Team” is probably worth a good chunk of change these days
The 70s saw the not-dolls gain more lifelike features including “realistic” hair, movable eyes (frankly a very creepy addition), and the ever-so-famous “Kung-Fu Grip.” Those who had the toys might remember using these action men to do the most mundane things like, say, pick up peas at the dinner table or grab small tufts of the uppity housecat’s hair. It can’t have just been me. The toys popularity grew exponentially as the brand expanded and G.I. Joe became an international license. In the 80s Marvel picked up the franchise for a promotional comic, the success of which led to G.I. Joe: Special Missions. In 1994 both the main comic series and the Real American Hero action figure line came to an end, though the comics have been picked up again and again by several other publishers hoping for Marvel’s success. Marvel eventually snagged the series again in 2010 and picked up right where it left off in ‘94.
The Joes are the “ultimate weapon of democracy!” Honk if you love patriotism and explosions!
All these fun facts about the franchise finally bring me to the main point: The animated series. The main series ran from 1985 to 1986 and had a total of 95 episodes in this time, all focusing on the struggle between good (the Joes) and evil (Cobra, a terrorist organization set on world domination).
Get tough, yo!
Since its end, G.I. Joe has aired in several more adaptations including a few branching mini-series, quite a few video games, and some movies, though none are quite as memorable as the original show. Of course, the things we remember most about the show are the PSAs that closed off the episodes. “Now you know, and knowing is half the battle.” “Cobra C.L.A.W.s Are Coming to Town” is episode 39 of the 1st season and is perhaps the least Christmas-y Christmas special ever made.
The episode starts out festive enough, with the Joes picking up toys for the kids at “Children’s Hospital,” because I guess nothing screams “covert government agency” like a toy drive where all the bins are marked with the agency’s name.
Easy, breezy, beautiful Cover Girl looks pissed
Just as the Joes are celebrating their bounty of toys, Wild Weasel- possibly the stupidest pilot moniker ever- attacks, driving the team into an outcrop of rocks so Firefly can plant fake toys in the toy bin while they aren’t paying attention.
I’m entirely sure why the Cobras didn’t just put the fake presents in the toy drive box before the Joes picked them up, but I guess if they were smarter their billion dollar plans wouldn’t fail in every episode.
Deck the Compound
Once the decoys are in the bin Wild Weasel takes off and Duke, Cover Girl, and Shipwreck return to base. Upon unloading the toys and even commenting on the rocking horse, NO ONE NOTICES ITS CREEPY FUCKING BLINKING EYES. I would have thought that was a dead giveaway, but apparently all their covert military training never taught the G.I. Joes to suspect the blatantly obvious.
Seriously, guys? That doesn’t look sinister to you?
Ignoring the toys for now Duke turns on the “Defense Grid” and the team gathers for Christmas dinner cooked up by Roadblock, but Mutt slinks away to whine to Junkyard about how sad the holidays make him. It’s nice to know I’m not the only one who talks to my dogs like they’re people.
He won’t answer you Mutt. They never do…
As Mutt and Junkyard wander into the garage where the toys are stored, shrunken Cobras pop out of the fake toys Firefly planted and attack Mutt with mini-weapons and gas before destroying the defense grid, allowing back-up to break in and turn them back into normal-sized Cobras. With most of the Joes off-base those remaining are pretty quickly knocked out and the Cobras get to celebrate their (temporary) victory.
“A Trojan rockin’ horse?! We’ve been snookered!” -Mutt
When the Joes regain consciousness and find Duke missing, the Baroness reveals the Cobra plan in true confidant villain fashion and shows our heroes a video of Zartan impersonating Duke and threatening Keystone City. This elaborate plan was set in motion so Cobra could steal the Joes’ weapons and vehicles and make the world think they had turned traitor, which in itself isn’t a terrible plan; a little clichéd and easily foiled, but not as bad as some other Cobra plans.
“This is when I tell you all about our evil plans so you know exactly how to stop us.”
Cobra Commander gets to make a pun about putting the Joes on ice before they are locked in a meat freezer. Why he thought they would NEVER figure out how to get off meat hooks, I will never know. It is at this point that Shipwreck makes a joke about having a “meaningful relationship” with the slab of meat hanging next to him. I honestly don’t have anything to say about this, it just needed to be mentioned.
Don’t worry kids, he isn’t hurting the meat. This is how adults hug. You see when a grown-up man loves meat…
Normally the villain will stop after laying out their plan in detail, but Cobra Commander is one cocky motherfucker and in the spirit of the holiday he leaves the key to the Joes’ handcuffs RIGHT IN FUCKING FRONT OF THEM WITH A GODDAMN BOW WRAPPED AROUND IT. Because he was just so sure they would never slip off those hooks.
I was not exaggerating. That’s a fucking bow around the key to the Joes’ freedom
Shipwreck frees the other Joes but as is usually the case, they are informed it’s too late to stop Cobra’s genius plan. By this point, Destro has fixed the “Molecular Reducer Enlarger” that was dropped during the initial siege of Joe headquarters (because when Cobra makes a gun it has to be as fragile as fucking glass) and uses it to try to shrink the Joes with little success, though he does manage to hit Polly, shrinking him to fly-size.
Hey Destro, your, uh, gun is a little crooked
The Joes win the fight with a good ol’ fashioned dog pile. This isn’t really important but… come on. I wasn’t NOT gonna bring it up.
Quick! Jump on him while he’s distracted by a bird!
With Destro taken care of Tripwire uses the “Molecular Reducer Enlarger” (I will never get tired of that name) to unshrink Polly and the team takes off in Cobra vehicles, totally not noticing Polly turning into a giant mutant bird as they leave the building.
Yeah, I can see how that would be easy to miss
Since Cobra stole all the Joes’ equipment it seems only fair for the heroes to return the favor. Using Cobra vehicles they proceed to blast the fuck out of their own gear in an attempt to stop Cobra before it destroys Keystone City.
That’s going to be expensive later BUT WHO THE FUCK CARES?!? EXPLOSIONS!
Being the superior pilots they all are, the team takes out most of the Cobras, but not before Cobra Commander downs Cover Girl. Surprise hero Giant Polly literally swoops in to catch her before she dies in a fiery crash! Because there is absolutely nothing weird about that, or anything else that has happened in this episode.
Polly is going to need a big-ass cracker when all this is done
Polly scares the piss out of Cobra Commander (because who the fuck wouldn’t freak out at the sight of a mutant bird?), who ejects from his jet, taking Duke with him before dropping the Joes’ leader. Wanting to keep his streak going, Polly catches him before he meets his unfortunate end with the ground. Is it bad form to have the same rescue performed twice in less than a minute?
If you ask me it looks like Polly is about to eat Duke, but that could just be my ornithobhobia talking
I guess…. Polly saved Christmas? Oh, and Keystone City, but mostly Christmas. If there is a message here, I have no fucking idea what it is. Science saves? Build a Molecular Reducer Enlarger? Turn more birds into giants because they might one day catch you as you’re falling to your death?
You know what? If this is what science leads to then fuck that noise. I quit life
In the end everyone got into the holiday spirit (except Shipwreck) and I’m preeeetty sure Cover Girl and Duke are gonna bang later. I’m also pretty sure those kids at “Children’s Hospital” are never going to see those toys.
Get some, Duke.
Jesus was nowhere to be seen in this Christmas special; not an allegory, nor a mention, not even a Christmas cross.
Not even a little Santa. The poor old guy didn’t even get referred to once. I was really hoping to see Duke in a fat suit.
Nothing gets me in the holiday spirit quite like burly men with a hard-on for patriotism and valuable life lessons, however, both of those things seem to be missing “Cobra C.L.A.W.s Are Coming to Town.” By the end of the episode I felt like the only thing I learned was that Shipwreck hates Polly and Cover Girl definitely wants in Duke’s pants (but come on, that sexual tension is in every episode). As I mentioned earlier, this is possibly the least festive Christmas special I’ve ever seen. After beginning the episode gathering toys for underprivileged kids, the Christmas theme disappears after the first 5 or so minutes, only to return in the last 2 minutes of the show. I was hoping for at least one team Christmas jingle (Polly’s garbled attempt at “Jingle Bells” doesn’t count). I wouldn’t recommend turning this particular special into a family tradition, but I do recommend giving it a watch just in case you’ve forgotten how ridiculous G.I. Joe is, because from start to finish, “Cobra C.L.A.W.s Are Coming to Town” is one of the series’ face-palmiest episodes. I’d even put it up there with “There’s No Place Like Springfield.”
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“Cobra C.L.A.W.s Are Coming to Town” appears on the first disc of the G.I. Joe A Real American Hero Season 1.3 DVD set. Ultimate Joe completists can also pick up the episode in the G.I. Joe Complete Collection, which contains over 2000 minutes of patriotic stupidity. Oh, and there’s also a terrible movie too.