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Old 2011-07-02, 11:26 PM   #8
Blackjack
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Con Job
Airdate: 25 February 2011
Written By: Steven Melching

Synopsis:
Bulkhead and Miko walk in on the rest of the team as they receive a signal from a starship headed to Earth. Arcee speculates that it is a trap, but when contact is established with the starship, Bulkhead immediately identifies the incoming Autobot's voice as his old friend and fellow Wrecker Wheeljack. Optimus Prime, despite only knowing Wheeljack by reputation, sends landing coordinates for Wheeljack's landing. On the Nemesis, Soundwave relays the intercepted transmission to Starscream. Seeing a chance, Starscream summons Makeshift, who, upon receiving data from Soundwave, begins to alter his shape. The next day, Ratchet has trouble getting the Ground Bridge starting up due to the damage sustained during the Scraplet infestation. The Autobots' radars pick up Decepticon signals closing in on Wheeljack's ship. The Decepticon fliers shoot down Wheeljack's ship in a desert in Egypt. However, as the Vehicons land, Wheeljack emerges and starts to tear the Vehicons apart with his bare hands, and later swords. In the Nemesis, Starscream tells Soundwave to deploy their plan. Ratchet gets the Ground Bridge operational. The Autobots go through only to find Wheeljack finishing off the last of the Vehicons in style. Bulkhead greets his old friend with a massive bear hug, and they return to base.

Bulkhead introduces Wheeljack to Miko, and the two seem to get along well. Wheeljack checks in with Optimus Prime. Only Ratchet is irritated at the situation, for the Ground Bridge fritzes off for good. In the Nemesis Starscream and Soundwave discusses their success in getting a spy into the Autobot base. The two Decepticons pay a visit to their prisoner, the real Wheeljack. While Makeshift's tracking device has stopped transmitting, Starscream is confident that Makeshift will improvise and activate the Ground Bridge so Starscream can send his troops in. Wheeljack scoffs at Starscream's leadership, nearly causing Starscream to kill the Autobot. Soundwave prevents Starscream, and the Decepticon leader concedes that Wheeljack may be of use. During the night, the Autobots (bar Optimus, because Primes don't party) and kids party. Miko plays the guitar, Bulkhead and Wheeljack (rather, Makeshift) engage in a game of lobbing, while Raf and Bumblebee dance. Makeshift takes the opportunity to fish information about the Ground Bridge from Ratchet. The Ground Bridge is in the middle of defragging and can't be used for a few hours. Starscream is not aware of this, of course, and wonders why Makeshift is taking so long, since Makeshift won't be able to keep the Autobots fooled for very long. Later on Bulkhead tells the kids about a battle the Wreckers were in, and Makeshift manages covers up for himself. Bulkhead comments that his old friend seemed different, but Makeshift waves this off as rocket-lag. Makeshift asks Miko to show him around the base. Left alone, Bulkhead confides his suspicions in Arcee and Bumblebee. Arcee tells Bulkhead that people change, but Bulkhead is determined that Wheeljack isn't the type to change.

On the Decepticon ship, Wheeljack manages to use his legs to strangle the Decepticon guard that gets too close, and use the guard's active weapon to free himself from his bonds. Miko leads Makeshift around the base, and despite Makeshift asking to get out for a drive, he manages to get the location of the Autobot base out from her. They return to the command center, but Bulkhead asks 'Wheeljack' in a rather hostile manner to tell the Battle of Darkmount Pass. After a short stand-off, Makeshift tells the story perfectly... but gets one crucial detail not found in Wheeljack's public record wrong, for Bulkhead was not part of the battle. Realising his cover is blown, Makeshift takes Miko hostage. In the Decepticon ship, Starscream, Soundwave and a legion of Vehicons wait for Makeshift to open the Ground Bridge. However, Wheeljack arrives. Starscream sics a wave of Vehicons on Wheeeljack but the angry Autobot tears them apart and pounces on Starscream. In the Autobot base Makeshift activates the Ground Bridge, allowing Wheeljack to return to the Autobot base, knocking Makeshift down. With Miko free, Ratchet shuts off the Ground Bridge before any Decepticons come through. Wheeljack and Makeshift draw their swords and battle, but the real Wheeljack trounces the impostor. In the Nemesis, Starscream recovers from Wheeljack's assault, only to see the Ground Bridge open again. He orders the Vehicons through, but Bulkhead lobs Makeshift into the Ground Bridge, knocking the invading Vehicons. As the Ground Bridge disappears, Starscream demands the location of the Autobot base from Makeshift. Makeshift was about to tell him when Starscream realizes a bomb is strapped to Makeshift's waist. He and Soundwave retreat off as Makeshift and the Vehicons around him blow up. The Autobots and kids party again. Early morning in the next day, Bulkhead suggests that they pick out a vehicle mode for Wheeljack, but Wheeljack tells them that he's not staying. Bulkhead concedes that his friend never changes. The next morning Wheeljack is about to leave, and offers to take Bulkhead with him, but Bulkhead is too attached to Earth and Miko to leave. Miko snaps a photo of Bulkhead and Wheeljack with her cell phone.

Featured Characters: Bulkhead, Miko Nakadai, Ratchet, Optimus Prime, Arcee, Bumblebee, Jack Darby, Rafael Esquivel, Soundwave, Starscream, Makeshift (killed), Vehicon Jets, Wheeljack, Vehicon Cars

Review:
Excellent. This episode follows the 'guest star of the week' that is the staple of current franchise-based cartoons, just like Transformers: Animated. Like past episodes, TF: Prime handles this excellently. While the G1 fanboy in me is crying bitterly that Wheeljack is not an crazy scientist (rather, he actually looks like Drift with his swords when seen from afar), this affirms that the Prime continuity is something new. Wheeljack is pretty cool, too, and I really like him. He's like a Wolverine-type loner, but even loners must have friends, right? His bad-ass attitude, and the softer (and party animal) side he shows in front of Bulkhead and the others, is very natural, not like characters who are constantly in full 'badass killer' mode 24-7. His arrival story is very plausible as well. No need to rely on gimmickry, he's just an Autobot who happens to come by! The whole switcheroo is not handled as obviously like similar tricks in the Japanese dubs, and the scripting was excellent. I literally did not see the switch happening between the panning off the Wheeljack vs Vehicons scene. Hell, in the very first scene where the fake Wheeljack appears, he kills two Vehicons! That's cold. Makeshift himself is a great character that is an excellent usage of one of Hasbro's stock 'name-to-slap-on-random-repaint' toy. Makeshift is certainly capable, with all his attempt to extract information from Ratchet and Miko sound off-handed like something the real Wheeljack might've asked in the same position. If you didn't know that Wheeljack was swapped for Makeshift (and if the show didn't pan to his narrowing eyes every time he gets information) it would be like one of those episodes in Armada or whatever where the kids welcome a new Autobot into their base.

The plot is the whole premise of what is happening in the Robots in Disguise series the Cons want to find the Bots' hidden base but in one episode this had more impact than twenty RID episodes. No, there are no things like 'why didn't the Decepticons rush into the Bridge?' in Prime, nosiree. Both Starscream and Soundwave shine for their short appearances here. While Wheeljack wipes the floor with Starscream's face in battle, Starscream is pretty great as a leader that no one actually respects. He actually comes out with a plot that would have worked if the Ground Bridge was not damaged due to the Scraplets last episode. I really, really love Starscream's voice here. It is hard Steve Blum was the same guy that worked on RID as Dark Scream! I just can't believe it. Soundwave also acts as Starscream's conscience of sorts, helping him to manage his temper when dealing with Wheeljack. I like how the generic Decepticon that threatens Wheeljack actually speaks, affirming that, hey, all the generics Wheeljack slew, even the two that Makeshift slashes to keep up his cover, are living, thinking beings. Optimus Prime not knowing everyone is a nice edge, and the episode gets rid of him pretty sensibly in that he goes off for a drive when the rest of the cast par-tay. Arcee also continues to impress, being a lovable snarker all the time, while being a voice of reason when it's needed.

Raf and Bee don't do much this episode but their dancing antics are pretty fun. Bulkhead and Miko both shine, undoubtedly. Wheeljack (and by extension Makeshift) really bounces off both of them well, and Miko's rather reckless and impetuous nature, like telling the fake Wheeljack that 'I'll have to kill you if I tell you' the location of the base, prompting a beat to see if Makeshift will squish the human... before Miko laughs and blabs the real base. She has grown from annoying brat to charming brat, although I dislike the 'barrage of questions' Miko uses sometimes like when she goes off with Makeshift-Wheeljack. Bulkhead is very fun, being like this big bear of a brother to Miko and Wheeljack, ever-faithful that he knows his friends better than anyone. And the scene at the end, while short, is effective so it is touching instead of being narm. Action scenes are, as always, the highlight of the episode, being excellently spectacular despite the focus not being placed on them. The two scenes where Wheeljack tears through Vehicons, and the curb-stomp battle between 'Jack and Starscream, are both excellently done. An excellent episode and an excellent introduction of a new member of the cast, but hopefully 'coming from space and leaving again' won't be repeated quite as much.

(Nine out of Ten)

Notes:
First appearance of Wheeljack. Wheeljack's appearance is heavily inspired by his G1 counterpart, but instead of the mad scientist from G1, Prime Wheeljack is an ass-kicking Wrecker. Also, like Optimus Prime, Wheeljack is given a mouth, but the battle mask turns his face back into his G1 self. Currently Wheeljack is the only character not part of the main cast that survives his debut episode.

Also the first appearance of Makeshift, the shapeshifter that copies Wheeljack's appearance with the help of Soundwave. Since it is pretty clear that he was intended to copy Wheeljack, no CG model was developed for Makeshift, and his 'true' form is a spiky robot, but is constantly kept in shadow. Note that when his cover is broken, his voice changes from James Horan (Wheeljack's VA, or a great impression thereof) to a raspy one voiced by Kevin Michael Richardson.

The Autobot base is named 'Autobot Outpost Omega One'.

There are several subtle visual homages to Revenge of the Fallen: the way Wheeljack's ship crashes in Egypt near the pyramids evokes ROTF's Decepticons landing. And when fighting the Vehicons, at one point Wheeljack tears off the arm of one and beats up others with it, like what Optimus Prime did to Starscream in ROTF.

Wheeljack and Bulkhead are both former members of the Autobot strike team Wreckers. Any self-respecting Marvel comic reader would know this as the crack strike team introduced in the Marvel UK comics, and has since made other appearances in other G1-based comics. This is the Wreckers' first mention in the cartoon medium, though. Wheeljack mentions that they might find some of the old crew in space, suggesting that the team has been scattered across the stars.

Arcee mentions that a huge mass of Autobots escaped to the stars when Cybertron went dark, just like the setting for the live-action Movie. Optimus Prime does not know every other Autobot out there.

Ratchet mentions the Scraplet infestation from last episode, which causes the Ground Bridge to fritz out at times. Also, Optimus vaguely references Cliffjumper's death.

Bulkhead and Makeshift play a game of 'lobbing', a warrior-class Cybertronian sport which involves, well, lobbing a huge wad of metal at each other. Later Bulkhead lobs Makeshift into the Ground Bridge.

Both Raf and Bumblebee dance to Michael Jackson's 'the Robot', and near the end they later evoke some moves from John Travolta's Saturday Night Fever.

Also adding to the G1 comic references, Makeshift mentions a battle in Darkmount near the Smelting Pit. Both were first introduced in the Marvel comics. Like the Marvel comics, the Smelting Pit is filled with molten metal. Although here it's called 'Darkmount Pass'.

The reason why Makeshift knew so much about Wheeljack (well, he barely covers up) is that he (or rather, Soundwave) read Wheeljack's public service record. Presumably every Autobot has one.

The way the Decepticons are baffled where the Autobots' base are due to Autobots using a teleporting system, whilst the Decepticons have a mobile base, is very similar to that of the setup of the Robots in Disguise series. Starscream is much more sensible than the RID baddies, though, knowing that to find the Autobot base they only need to run through the portal the second it pops up. Also, the Autobot base is able to block tracking devices planted on Makeshift.

As long as coordinates are known, the Autobot Ground Bridge can materialize even on the Nemesis.

Note that Wheeljack has Earth-mode kibble even though he hasn't scanned an Earth mode. Apparently the animators do not have Cybertronian models, and just go with Earth mode CG models even if they haven't scanned it. More of a budget reason than anything, I reckon

Arm Gimmicks:
-Soundwave is able to use his tentacles to input Wheeljack's data to Makeshift, allowing the latter to assume Wheeljack's appearance.
-Wheeljack can transform his right hand into a chunky blaster. Also, he has a G1-inspired battle mask.
-Wheeljack's melee weapons of choice are twin swords sheathed on his back.
-Makeshift, by virtue of copying Wheeljack, presumably has all of Wheeljack's gimmicks, though we only see the swords and the battle masks.
-Starscream launches one of the missiles attached to his forearms, the first time we see him do so.

Goofs:
When Optimus says that he knows Wheeljack only by reputation, the shadow of Miko's leg is oddly drawn.

Following with the grand tradition of differing bogey numbers, when the alarm goes off five Vehicons are seen, but when we pan back to the scene proper there are six Vehicons.

While last episode the Autobots left tracks in the snow, they do not leave any in the desert sand this episode.
 

Last edited by Blackjack; 2011-10-04 at 12:06 PM.
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