Thursday, October 23, 2014

Let's Talk About Rambo: Episode 20: Enter the Black Dragon

In a storytelling flourish the likes of which are rarely seen from this era of animation, this episode starts in media res with Rambo foiling a SAVAGE plot and subsequently getting into a man vs. submarine battle. Warhawk is piloting a submarine in a river as Rambo stands on the banks.

They shoot a torpedo at Rambo. I'm not sure if they thought it was going to continue its path onto land or what, but it doesn't matter, because Rambo shoots it and blows it up, then he shoots the submarine until it explodes. Six or seven times is all that is needed.

Warhawk is driving the damaged sub towards the sea to escape, and Rambo decides to swim after them. Trautman goes "They're out of our territory!", as if to say that they can't be pursued across some kind of national border.

Rambo, like a little kid, goes: "But I'm a free citizen!" and keeps swimming. I'm not sure if either of them knows how international law works.

Warhawk and company do end up escaping in a smelly cattle car on a train.

This is just the first five minutes of the episode. Since there's so much spare time left over, and Trautman is so pleased with the outcome of the mission, he suggests the Force of Freedom go on vacation! Rambo's like "Hey, I could use a vacation!"

Rambo takes Trautman back to his cabin and they have a campfire cookout. Then Rambo hikes further into the mountains the next day for his vacation. "Civilization is great," he says, "but without nature, what's it worth??"


Warhawk is tired of Rambo foiling his plans. Luckily, he has heard whispers of the existence of the world's greatest assassin....... BLACK DRAGON.

Not this guy, unfortunately.
This guy.
"Who's that?" the other members of SAVAGE ask.

"When he's on your case, you're as good as gone!" Warhawk explains.

Apparently they've all forgotten that they worked with Black Dragon just four episodes ago. When they tried to blow up the Hoover Dam. In fact, judging by the patch on the shoulder of his ninja suit, I think Black Dragon is already a full and qualified member of SAVAGE.

Anyway, they go to Japan to hire him to assassinate Rambo. After speaking with his ninja underlings, all of whom sound like 60-year-old Italian New Yorkers who have never heard a Japanese accent in their lives, Warhawk is finally able to meet with Black Dragon himself.

"You pay me what I ask, and I will do what you ask!" Black Dragon says.

"I accept your terms!" says Warhawk, as though they just had some sort of in-depth negotiation. But I mean, isn't that the most basic premise of why they were there? What terms are there to accept? They were already hoping to hire Black Dragon to do a job!

Cut to Rambo's cabin, where a dozen ninjas parachute from a plane!

So they're good at something, at least.
But Black Ninja is nowhere to be seen. SUDDENLY! There he is! Hang gliding onto the scene! I believe the implication was that he hang glided all the way from Japan.

They all go into Rambo's empty cabin and start hanging out. Remember, Rambo is on his hiking vacation still. Black Dragon picks up Rambo's bow and gets some sort of sense of him from it, sort of like how you give a hunting dog a piece of the person's clothing to track them. So Black Dragon now knows where Rambo is hiking, and sends his ninja team out to fight him.

Also, here's something you need to know about Black Dragon. Any time he wants to go somewhere that is more than 10 feet away, he covers the distance by doing either back or front handsprings. It's his preferred method of travel. He is the man!

So the ninjas find Rambo and attack him, but as Rambo tends to do, he disappears into the wilderness and creatively takes them out one-by-one. A few examples:

1. He tricks one of the ninjas into thinking that he is hiding underwater and breathing through a hollow reed. The ninja jumps into the water and slashes all the reeds and grass, looking like a fool.

So embarrassing
2. He turns a 30-foot tree into a catapult by tying the top end of it to the ground and luring a ninja into touching it.

3. He uses a forest rabbit as a distraction to get the drop on a ninja.

4. He creates a Rube Goldberg machine with at least four components (one of them being a life-like Rambo dummy) that ends with the ninjas being swept up into a net.

5. He hangs himself by his feet from a tree to make it look like he has been snared by a forest trap. When the ninjas get near, he makes them fall into a 20-foot pit that he somehow had time to dig out and disguise.

Meanwhile, KAT and Turbo have driven to Rambo's cabin to pay him a visit. They don't know if he'll be there, because he doesn't have a phone so they can't call ahead, which explains why Trautman has to fly a chopper to pick up Rambo at the start of most episodes. But it does not explain why, during the opening theme, Trautman picks up a phone and says "GET ME RAMBO!"

As you might imagine, KAT and Turbo are immediately captured by Black Dragon, which leads us to our final confrontation.

Rambo comes home and gets in an epic fight with Black Dragon. They are very evenly matched, even with all of the ninja equipment that Rambo has to contend with. For a while, they get into a cool sickle vs. makeshift whip (made out of a belt) battle. This is Rambo's all-time most challenging fight vs. a human, for sure! I believe one time he had a great deal of trouble fighting a panther. So animals are still his greatest nemeses.

The fight ends when Rambo elbows Black Dragon in the ribs, then picks him up over his head in a gorilla press position and tosses him out of the cabin. Black Dragon decides to come back and fight another day and disappears behind the pink cloud of smoke bomb.


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