G.I. Joe Celebrates the Winter Solstice with a Giant Pink Tentacle Monster
This article was originally published December 21, 2011.
For those of you who don’t keep up with astronomical milestones, today is The Winter Solstice! It’s the longest night of the year, and it’s an event that’s influenced winter celebrations in cultures all across the world. In ancient Rome, for instance, it gave rise to Saturnalia and the tradition of exchanging presents in the middle of winter that continues to this day. And in Scotland, it’s a time to get together with your family to honor the hot pink Cthulhu monster that lives in your basement with a human sacrifice.
Or at least, that’s what I’ve learned from watching G.I. Joe. Okay, okay, so maybe that particular tradition is limited solely to one James McCullen XXIV, better known to America’s daring, highly trained special missions force as Cobra’s resident international arms dealer, Destro. Then again, considering that the only other major fact I know about Scotland is that there’s a secret castle for teen wizards somewhere up there, it seems pretty plausible that this just some local custom.
Either way, it all goes down in the G.I. Joe episode “Skeletons in the Closet” by Flint Dillie. For me, it’s right up there with “Cold Slither” and “The Viper is Coming” as one of my favorites, if only because they completely do away with any pretense of being about the military, and instead just go straight into outright lunacy.
Our story begins in the aftermath of G.I. Joe taking out yet another Cobra operation, with Destro, the Baroness and an unnamed-but-foxy lady Cobra trooper legging it away from the scene of their latest failure:
As so often happens when you’re engaging in acts of international terrorism, someone decides to just go ahead and drop a missile on them. While they’re able to escape with minor battle damage — a trademark affliction of Hasbro properties — things turn pretty sour when the Baroness looks up from complaining about how much it sucks to work for Cobra Commander and notices the Cobrette getting awfully friendly with her man.
Truly, it is an act of hussiness most brazen, and should be met with an appropriate response. That said, Baroness interrupting and ordering the trooper to head back to the base that was just destroyed, where she will most likely be shot in the face or decapitated by Snake-Eyes, seems like it might be going a little bit far. And brother, she is just getting started.
Things only get worse when Destro tries to raise a little money by auctioning off substandard Rattlers and H.I.S.S. tanks to a crowd of terrorist stereotypes, only to have the operation shut down by the Joes. Fortunately, having been through this rigamarole about 64 times by this point, he has a plan in place for just such an occasion: A trapdoor that dumps him into the sewer.
You know, a lot of evil masterminds would be content with using a trapdoor to drop their enemies in the sewer. Being bold enough to use that tactic on yourself is the sort of outside-the-box thinking that makes M.A.R.S. Industries such a force to be reckoned with.
Anyway, while he’s running through the sewer, Destro is rescued by a legendary spy and licensed Carmen Sandiego impersonator called, I kid you not, Coverta Fatale.
Coverta and Destro take a ride in her convertible, where they engage in what I can only describe as “relentless flirting.” Apparently Coverta’s super into dudes who have to be hauled out of sewers. Who knew?
As for Destro, he goes right along with it — even to the point of referring to the Baroness as “a confused creature with whom I have been erroneously linked” — right up until she asks him to take off his mask. Thus, we get the cartoon version of the origin of Destro’s mask, which involves one of his ancestors being convicted of witchcraft and being forced to wear an iron mask… forever!
Pretty harsh, especially since it makes him look like a dollar store version of Big Van Vader. So harsh, in fact, that Destro’s entire family made a vow to fight against law and order to get their revenge for what was done to his ancestor. We call that motivation, people.
He also mentions that every year they get together for a family reunion on the Winter Solstice, but we’ll come back to that.
What matters right now is that having successfully slapped the forces of evil around yet again, the Joes are all gearing up for Christmas break. A letter comes into Joe HQ addressed to one Alison Hart-Burnett, better known as Lady Jaye. According to the letter, Lady Jaye has just inherited a castle in the Scottish highlands, and since she has a vacation coming up, she intends to head over and check it out.
You can probably see where this is going.
Yes, as Lady Jaye wanders around her creepy new manor, she comes across a pair of framed portraits that strike her as being strangely familiar:
No kidding: Upon seeing these portraits, Lady Jaye wonders aloud, “Where have I seen that face before?” And… really, Lady Jaye? I mean, I’ve got a bad memory for faces, but I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have a hard time sorting out whether or not I knew someone who had a head made of polished beryllium steel, especially if I saw that person every afternoon at three. And he was trying to shoot me.
Lady Jaye also meets the manor’s stout housekeeper, who informs her that the place is cursed — or to more acurately reflect the show’s idea of a Scottish accent, “this house be cahrrrrrsed!” So, as you might expect, Lady Jaye’s first instinct upon hearing this is to wander around by candlelight in a sexy nightgown.
Well, relatively sexy, anyway. But maybe people back in the ’80s were just really into doilies.
I gotta say though, this is something I really like about Lady Jaye: When she hears that her new house is cahrrrrrsed, she goes straight to walking around in the dark, alone, in lingerie. That’s pretty much the first three entries on the list of things not to do if you want to survive a horror movie situation, and she goes right for it. She is meeting that thing head-on.
And by that thing, I mean this thing:
And a pretty scary one for a show where the major threats tend to involve mind-control chewing gum or the dangers of hair metal. And just in case you were doubting its etherealness, Lady Jaye takes a swing at it with her candelabra and goes right through! Clearly, there will be no busting tonight, so she makes a swift retreat back to her room to try to puzzle things out:
Now, if you’re like me, your eye may be drawn to the hot pink bag of golf clubs in the corner. It’s been a while since I’d seen this episode, so I’d forgotten about those. I assumed that Lady Jaye might’ve just been stoked about playing a round of golf in the sport’s native land, and even though they might be pretty garish, that nightgown certainly proves that she likes a lot of pink in her life.
But then, when she hears a strange noise from the dungeons, we find out what they actually are:
Yes: The “golf clubs” are actually her signature deadly javelins, disguised to get through customs. And that is genius.
Sufficiently armed, Lady Jaye heads downstairs, and should you ever wonder how badass Clan Destro is, keep this in mind: They apparently killed Marvel’s version of Thor and kept his body in their dungeons.
But friends, that is hardly the only strange thing rattling around down in the basement. No sooner has Lady Jaye seen the skeletons than one of them actually comes to life, leading directly to Our Heroine being menaced by a giant purple cobra.
That’s not a metaphor, either.
Apparently Team Rocket’s down there causing trouble, too, but before Koffing can join Ekans for the attack, Lady Jaye escapes and runs directly into the best twist in G.I. Joe history: A bunch of people in crazy druid robes and animal masks standing around and worshipping a giant pink one-eyed tentacle monster.
That is also not a metaphor.
When Lady Jaye is captured and trussed up in her suddenly shredded nightgown and offered up as a sacrifice to the one-eyed tentacle monster, though?
Yeah… I’m going to go ahead and say that one is probably a metaphor.
Before she can be lowered down to whatever fate-worse-than-death one gets from a basement-dwelling Shuma-Gorath, one of the druids stops everything and starts asking her how she got to this house. Lady Jaye answers that she inherited it and just stumbled on the ritual/furry convention going on in the basement, and the guy in the cowl reveals that he knows she’s one of the Joes.
And how does he know? Because, as we all figured out fifteen minutes ago, he’s the guy who actually owns the castle: Destro!
And seriously, putting that dude in a cape is the only way that outfit could be more badass than it already is. The only downside of it is that you can’t see the high collar that is only rivaled by Dracula and Dr. Strange.
Speaking of the things Destro’s wearing, take a look at how his mask stacks up against his family members. I honestly can’t decide who got the better end of the deal here. On the one hand, it’s certainly a lot easier to strike terror into the enemies of Cobra with a metal mask that moves like an actual face than it would be if he was stuck with, say, a goofy horse mask. On the other, I’m going to go ahead and guess that unlike Destro, the horse dude and Professor Pyg over there don’t wear those masks all the time. Destro has to go to the store like that. Horse dude does not have that level of commitment.
Anyway, fortunately for Lady Jaye, there’s been a mysterious guy who looks a lot like Shipwreck poking around who shows up at the last minute to rescue her. They make their escape, and he whips off his outfit to reveal that he’s actually GI Joe Warrant Officer (and her love interest) Flint!
Two things about this: One, that dude was wearing an entire set of clothing under his disguise, complete with two belts, suspenders loaded down with shotgun shells and, most amazingly, a pair of gloves that he apparently had on underneath a set of fake flesh-colored hands. Two, is it really a good disguise to make Flint look almost exactly like Shipwreck, because that’s definitely what they do.
The Destro Family gives chase, and we get the rare treat of seeing Destro actually using his wrist-missiles:
It’s a Solstice Miracle!
Of course, it’s also pretty telling that he sets his missiles to seek out a target at 98.6 degrees, and then fires them down a tunnel right after he commands all of his relatives to move out in front of him. Didn’t really think that one through, James.
While all this is going on — and while Flint and Lady Jaye are fighting a giant spider, because there weren’t enough monsters living in Destro’s basement already — backup has arrived from GI Joe, who arrive in hang gliders and are quickly met with an entire army of Cobra soldiers, who come out of frigging nowhere riding four-wheelers with flamethrowers:
Once those are in play, it’s pretty much over for Castle Destro. The whole place, which has stood proudly for centuries as a monument to his family, ends up getting blown up, burnt down, and otherwise collapsed, and the tentacle monster that lived in the basement is now unleashed on an unsuspecting world to wreak whatever unimaginable horrors it desires.
Because the Baroness — who was secretly disguised as both Coverta Fatale and the housekeeper who was last seen fighting Flint and bouncing off the walls like Vega from Street Fighter — set the whole thing up to teach Destro not to flirt with other women. And so, we all learn a little lesson. Namely, do not f— with the Baroness or she will burn down your house.
And believe it or not, I’m pretty sure that actually is the True Meaning of the Winter Solstice.