The Most Dangerous Game, Third Earth edition.
We open on a landscape that is blackened and burned by a landing spaceship. Emerging from the craft, Safari Joe brags about the accuracy of his landing, which he likens to his accuracy with firearms. Safari Joe, a bald guy with a huge mustache and a monocle, turns out to be the best big game hunter in the galaxy. He has come to Third Earth in search of new prey: The Thundercats! He orders his robot assistant, Mule, to set up their camp and the holojector, which he will use to analyze his prey before hunting them.
We cut to Wilykit and Wilykat, on their spaceboards. As usual, Wilykit is making Wilykat look like a goon, this time by literally flying circles around him on her board. In the bushes nearby, Safari Joe is stalking them. He twists a giant rotating section on his gun (presumably to select the variable ammo that this weapon seems to use) and shoots some large darts into the spaceboards.
Wilykit and Kat lose control (each blaming the other for the problem), and then the darts explode splitting the spaceboards in half (Panthro’s probably going to be pissed that he has to fix them yet again), which sends Kit and Kat plummeting to the ground. When they hit, they are ensnared into bags that Safari Joe has laid out for this precise purpose. Safari Joe comments on his own achievement: “Safari Joe does it again.” He says this a lot. I think he’s trying to make it into his catchphrase.
We cut to Cat’s Lair, where Panthro is distressed about his inability to see past an “electronic blind” that is set up around the ship’s landing site. Cheetara runs off to fetch Lion-O.
We cut to another part of Cat’s Lair, where Lion-O is lurking behind some heavy equipment, sneaking up on a bucket. As he creeps towards it, Snarf dashes out from another direction and kicks the bucket.
Apparently Lion-O and Snarf have been playing the game “Kick the Bucket”, a phrase which doesn’t seem to have the same morbid connotation on Thundera that it does in our society. Before Snarf and Lion-O can start another session, Cheetara arrives and fills Lion-O in on the whole “unscannable spaceship” thing. Lion-O joins the other Thundercats in the control room to hear the litany of things that can’t get through the electronic blind. Lion-O immediately suspects the Mutants, but Panthro explains that the technology is too advanced for them.
Even the Sword of Omens’ sight-beyond-sight can’t get through!
Their remote sensing capabilities exhausted, Tygra decides to check it out on foot, and Cheetara joins him. Meanwhile, back at Safari Joe’s ship, Mule has assembled personalized cages made out of Thundrainium for all of the Thundercats. Safari Joe arrives and deposits Wilykit and Kat in their cage, and asks Mule to call up the next target on the holojector. It’s Tygra!
Mule’s rundown is that Tygra’s “defense systems” include paranormal strength, agility, an energized bolo whip, and invisibility. Weakness: except when he’s invisible, Tygra cannot swim. I’m not really sure where Mule’s getting his intel, though, since Tygra didn’t seem to have any problems swimming after he lost his whip and became visible back in episode 16 (granted, he was captured by the Mutants shortly thereafter, but it wasn’t for lack of swimming ability).
Mule also gives his report on Cheetara. Her “defense systems” are super-speed, paranormal senses including an undeveloped sixth sense, and a power-staff. Weaknesses: Cheetara can maintain her top speed only over short distances. Additionally, she is vulnerable to fire, lightning, and energy bolts. You’re probably not going to believe this, but I have those exact same weaknesses. Year after year, those things would show up on my performance reviews at work. Again, though, I question how well-researched Mule’s report is, since he doesn’t even mention how frequently Cheetara gets caught in nets while he’s cataloging her weaknesses.
Safari Joe recognizes that the full-grown Thundercats represent a larger threat than Wilykit and Kat, and asks for recommendations from Mule. Mule suggests neutralizing their defense systems. Surprisingly, Safari Joe doesn’t berate him for offering this utterly obvious and worthless advice.
We cut to Tygra and Cheetara. Safari Joe, perched in a tree, shoots something at them. Cheetara pushes Tygra out of the way, but the projectile that Safari Joe shot clamps around her ankle and then lifts her up into the air with its rocket thruster.
Safari Joe, who doesn’t seem to believe in doing things halfway, shoots three more of the rocket-cuffs, which attach to Cheetara’s wrists and other ankle, and she is stuck suspended helplessly in midair, which Safari Joe reckons will prevent her from running at super-speed.
Tygra demands that Safari Joe let Cheetara free, but Joe is dismissive of both Tygra and his bolo-whip. Tygra charges, but Safari Joe switches his gun to flamethrower mode, which surrounds Tygra with a ring of fire, which somehow causes him to break through the ground and fall into a pit (I’m not really clear on the physics of this, but I’ll be generous and assume it’s part of a trap that Joe rigged up earlier, since he clearly had the area staked out before Tygra and Cheetara got there).
From the edge, Joe uses his gun to blast a hole in the side of the pit and opens a channel to a nearby underground source of water. Water starts to rush in and rapidly fill the pit. Tygra is defeated by his recently established “unable to swim while visible” weakness, even though he’s got his whip with him the whole time. Safari Joes does it again! Wow, that phrase really is catching on.
Snarf heads into the control room and tells Panthro and Lion-O that he can’t find Wilykit or Kat. Panthro decides to take the Thundertank out to have a look around.
We cut to Safari Joe’s camp, where we see that the captured Thundercats have been dramatically weakened by their Thundrainium cages. Cheetara wishes she could warn Lion-O, and laments not having her staff. Safari Joe takes the opportunity to taunt her by holding her staff through the bars and then pulling it away when she grabs for it. Cheetara wants to know why Safari Joe is doing this. He explains that he’s doing it for sport, as he is a sportsman. Cheetara takes the position that Safari Joe is actually a bully, not a sportsman. Joe points his gun at the cat-woman locked in a three-foot-by-three-foot cage next to him and demands that she retract her slanderous accusation and admit how sporting he is, but she refuses.
Mule gives Safari Joe a report on “the deadly Panthro”. His “defense systems” are paranormal strength, mastery of all fighting arts, and shoulder-spikes endowed with “remarkable properties”. He’s also a master mechanic, but apparently he’s at his most deadly when he uses his “fighting sticks” (AKA his nunchucks) and the dangerous substances he might conceal within them. Weaknesses? Panthro fears bats. Again, huh? Bats? That’s never come up before, and if he’s cataloging Panthro’s fears, why no mention of Panthro’s embarrassing freakout when he saw Bushie the giant treetop spider in the coda of episode 16? I think Mule is just making this stuff up as he goes.
We cut to Panthro cruising along in the Thundertank. He figures that he’ll be seen in the bright moonlight anyway, so there’s no sense trying to use stealth. He switches all the weapons systems on the tank into active mode. He approaches the edge of the electronic blind on foot, and decides to try driving the Thundertank through it. Safari Joe, however, fires several explosive rounds which hit the ground and cause the Thundertank to flip.
Panthro crawls out and whips out his nunchucks, which have a much longer chain than usual. He leaps at Safari Joe with one end of the nunchucks twirling over his head, and he seems to use it like a helicopter rotor to dodge Joe’s shots in midair. Joe, however, has been using energy-bat rounds in his gun!
The energy-bat engulfs Panthro, and he’s knocked unconscious. Safari Joe does it again! Now, I know what you’re thinking: Those energy-bat rounds are just too dangerous, and ought to be more strictly regulated. This might be appealing on the surface, but when energy-bat rounds are outlawed, only outlaws will have energy-bat rounds.
We cut to Cat’s Lair, where Lion-O is gearing up to go after the other Thundercats. Snarf wants to join him, but Lion-O tells Snarf that he has to stay behind and protect the lair. Snarf advises figuring out what he’s up against before charging out into the unknown. Lion-O agrees about the wisdom of this advice, but wonders how to implement it. This is Jaga’s cue to materialize and fill them in on the “Safari Joe is hunting you” situation. Jaga explains that Safari Joe is a formidable opponent who knows all their weaknesses.
We cut back to Joe’s camp, where Mule gives his report on Lion-O. Lion-O’s defense systems turn out to be: paranormal abilities rivaling those of the other Thundercats, the Claw Shield with its array of defensive properties, the mystic Sword of Omens, and the Eye of Thundera embedded in it. Unfortunately, attempting to analyze the Eye of Thundera like this shorts out and destroys the holojector.
We cut to Lion-O who seems to be calmly strolling away from the Cat’s Lair. A large pit opens up under his feet.
Lion-O is surprised that Safari Joe was able to catch him in a pit so close to the lair, but doesn’t think the pit will be especially bothersome since he’ll be able to jump out easily. However, since he was warned about how clever Safari Joe is, he realizes that Safari Joe wants him to jump out. He holds the Sword of Omens by the blade and lifts the hilt over the rim of the pit like a periscope. When he pulls it back down, he looks through the sight-beyond-sight holes and sees that Safari Joe has lined up a shot for when Lion-O exits the pit.
Lion-O grabs the Claw Shield onto the rim of the pit, giving Safari Joe the impression that he’s climbing out in one location, but he leaps out in another direction. Safari Joe shoots the Claw Shield, since that’s where he expected Lion-O to be, and Lion-O gets away unzapped. Lion-O starts hopping around like an idiot, and Joe shoots at him and misses several more times. Safari Joe is rather upset at this, since he never misses.
Joe shoots the rocket-cuffs that he used on Cheetara, but Lion-O knocks them away with his sword. Lion-O, feeling triumphant, takes a moment to gloat about Safari Joe’s impending defeat. Then: “Thunder, thunder, thunder, Thundercats, HO!” Unfortunately, all of the Thundercats that usually come running when he does that are currently locked up in Thundrainium cages, a situation which Safari Joe gleefully explains.
Safari Joe uses the flamethrower mode on his gun, but Lion-O blocks it with the Eye of Thundera.
Lion-O also makes short work of an energy-bat with the sword. Noting that all of his attacks have been thwarted through use of the sword, Safari Joe suggests that it’s the sword rather than Lion-O which is giving him trouble. Lion-O offers to fight Safari Joe without the sword if he promises to release the other Thundercats. Safari Joe accepts the offer, but wants Lion-O to get rid of the sword first. He offers his word as a sportsman that he’ll follow through on the deal. Lion-O buys it, but that Safari Joe is a tricky one. He had no intention of letting the other Thundercats go! He just starts shooting at Lion-O as soon as he puts the sword down. He doesn’t hit, but Lion-O is forced to retreat back to the Cat’s Lair. Lion-O taunts Joe, and Joe realizes that Lion-O is trying to lure him into hunting inside the lair, where Lion-O will be at his most dangerous. However, since Lion-O will only have his strength and wits to fight with, Joe doesn’t regard that as a very high-risk proposition and heads into the lair after Lion-O. I have to side with Safari Joe on this one, Lion-O’s wits are not especially frightening in most instances.
Safari Joe searches through the lair while Lion-O sneakily avoids him. Eventually, Joe catches a glimpse of Lion-O in the room that he and Snarf were playing in at the top of the episode, but Lion-O sneaks away again. Lion-O appears to be close to getting the drop on Joe, but then oafishly falls into a pile of crates and equipment.
However, before Safari Joe can take the killshot (or even finish his catchphrase), Snarf runs up behind and kicks the bucket into his back!
This knocks Joe to the ground, and he drops his gun, which begins to discharge wildly. After it stops firing on its own, Joe grabs his gun and begins roaring, but he can’t seem to spot Lion-O. As he begins crawling forward, however, Lion-O appears and stands directly in front of him. Joe tries to shoot, but he’s out of ammo! Without his gun, he turns out to be a snivelling coward. Lion-O expresses the opinion common among cartoon characters that most bullies are cowards.
In the coda, they have taken Safari Joe back to his spaceship and made him promise never to hunt again. Panthro has reprogrammed Mule to enforce this restriction.
Panthro inquires about how Lion-O defeated Safari Joe, but Lion-O explains that Snarf did it, and awards him the title of Kick the Bucket champion of Third Earth. Snarf indulges in this rare moment of praise to caper and frolic like a spaz. All of the Thundercats have a good laugh, and offer up a spontaneous “Thundercats, HO!”