Riding the Airwolf – Season 1, Episode 6: Echos of the Past

The Basic Plot:

Stringfellow Hawke must decide if he wants to give up Airwolf when his brother is rescued.  It becomes complicated when he learns that Dominic and Archangel died during the rescue.

Review and Analysis:

This is one of those episodes that you have to shut off your ENTIRE brain to actually enjoy it.  Because if you allow yourself a moment to even consider the episode in any way, you may find yourself firing off expletives faster than Airwolf can shoot missiles.

The Adventurous Nurse:

This poor nurse is used as the plot link driver between Acts 2 and 3.  Also, she gets Damsel'd.

This poor nurse is used as the plot link driver between Acts 2 and 3. Also, she gets Damsel’d.

Stringfellow doesn’t escape the hospital without this young woman.  He also never figures out that the St. John Hawke who shows up at his hospital bed is a fake (the nurse does).  And the reason why she goes to the floor Hawke is on in the first place?

More tabloid journalism.  Oh, and the Spy who dropped it is as rock-stupid as the brother he's trying to scam.

More tabloid journalism. Oh, and the Spy who dropped it is as rock-stupid as the brother he’s trying to scam.  Also, 2 headlines of people getting killed and injured fail to make the Headline.

Because she was scolded by a fake Charge Nurse AND fake St. John drops this fake newspaper trying to help said Adventurous Nurse pick up her dropped cups.  Did she do her own investigation and find that the Charge Nurse was fake?  Was she gathering evidence to approach the Hospital Director about something being amiss on the “Private Floor?”

Or are we supposed to believe that curiosity was going to assault this cat and the Adventurous Nurse just needed to know what was going with the Mysterious Man allowed on the Forbidden Private Floor with a Fake Newspaper?

[Even in the 1980s, that makes little sense.]

Rock-Stupid Helicopter Pilot:

The nurse doesn't know St. John, but can recognize the difference between 2 similar people.  Meanwhile, St. John's brother can't.

The nurse doesn’t know St. John, but can recognize the difference between 2 similar people. Meanwhile, St. John’s brother can’t.

The Spy Team stages a helicopter crash and had somehow commandeered an entire hospital floor.  They drug Stringfellow with Special Drugs to Cloud his Cognitive Abilities.  While this is happening, they flood Stringfellow with false Future Items – most notably that Diana, Princess of Wales, was divorcing Crown Prince Charles (why?).  Also, he gets told that his mentor Dom and that guy Archangel are killed during the mission that was supposed to finally retrieve St. John – and gets newspapers to back up that claim (why they would publish something like this is another matter).

He then gets Hoodwinked by a Spy with a fake Firm credentials.  Then a man who looks almost like his brother shows up – and String believes it.  String opens up about his personal feelings to this man.

And, with that, String tells the fake Firm Director where Airwolf is.

The first question I had running through my head when I viewed this episode (I never saw this particular one during Airwolf‘s first TV run on CBS) was, “Why didn’t Dom use The Lady?”  Granted, we are supposed to believe that Dom would have continued to keep Airwolf’s location secret from Mr. Briggs, but this is the mission for which Stringfellow would have used Airwolf for.  Dom is checked out on Airwolf (with the 1st Season exception of using the turbos) and could fly it like any normal US attack helicopter (especially since Dom and Archangel ‘die’ while flying an AH-1 Cobra).

Secondly, while I can understand some confusion about what was going on around him, I cannot understand how Stringfellow could be standing in a fake studio in the Hospital itself, having realized that he’s been given Drugs to Confuse Him, and having deduced that at least some of the hospital personnel are fake – and yet he is unable to identify that the St. John Hawke that had been visiting him was also a fake.  Was Stringfellow having hallucinatory flashbacks of his “actual” brother when the fake was visiting him (think of the final scene in Smokey & the Bandit 3, where Buford Justice, having caught Cletus Snow, posing as the Bandit, hallucinates that he’s caught The Bandit, Bo Darville)?

[Having trouble buying that one for a dollar.]

Tabloid Journalism:

The tumultuous relationship between the Prince and Princess of Wales is what is used by the “Communists” to convince Stringfellow that his is “The Future.”  You see it in the newspapers (plural) and the TV news station that Stringfellow watches from his bed.

It is odd, because outside of this episode, you rarely see Stringfellow watching anything remotely like television otherwise.  If you look at his home, he doesn’t even own one.  He spends his down time with his dog, playing the Cello, or entertaining houseguests (of all kinds).

But no TV.

Yet, the TV figures prominently here.

Go figure.

The “We Hate Libya” Moment Episode:

Normally, these episodes only had momentary callbacks to Tripoli, al-Qaddafi, Castro, Cuba, or even Nicaragua.  These served to remind the viewer that these people and countries are part of the Evil Empire and had to be considered Evil.  On top of this, they were also to be considered Faceless – and valid targets for Airwolf’s fantasy armament at all times.

We don’t get the callback in Echos of the Past.  Instead, we get the whole hog.  Including Communist Cuban (Nameless) Pilots flying MiG-15 interceptors – which are, in 1984, 4 generations outdated in terms of fighting ability, avionics, and weapon systems.  And MiG-15 planes never carried guided missiles (radar-guided or heat seeker).

The Worldwide Communist Intelligence Network:

And NO ONE from the US Intelligence Network knew they were IN the US until sometime close to this moment, when Stringfellow was noticed as being 'missing.'

And NO ONE from the US Intelligence Network knew they were IN the US until sometime close to this moment, when Stringfellow was noticed as being ‘missing.’

The overarching enemy of the Airwolf team (and The Firm) is this superior network of double agents, sleeper cells, Communist Satraps, and their apparent ability to create far-flung and far-reaching plots that the American Intelligence Apparatus (CIA, NSA, The Secret Service, FBI, The Firm, etc.) could never hope to match.  They even have the ability to infiltrate the US and Allied services at high levels.

In Echos, Satrap Libya figured out that Airwolf may not have been destroyed (events of the Airwolf Movie/Series Premier), so al-Qaddafi places a phone to Yuri Andropov (leader of the USSR) for a helping hand in getting Airwolf.  Andropov then calls an East German Spy Agency, who get the help of a British Mercenary pilot.  In turn, they hire another deep cover agent to make him a doppelganger for St. John Hawke.  When they dupe String into giving them the location of Airwolf, they acquire a C-130 Hercules transport, take Airwolf, and fly towards Satrap Cuba, where Andropov contacts Fidel Castro to coordinate air support for the C-130.  Once there, the C-130 would be refueled and flies off to Libya (payment for the fuel handled by officials in Havana and Tripoli).  Lastly, the conference call between Tripoli, Havana, Moscow, and the combined Mercenary/Russian/East German Spy Team in the US to synchronize the watches and declare “Long Live Communism! Down with the Capitalist Imperialist Pigs!”

[Did you buy any of that?  Because that is the Overcomplicated Villain Plot required to have this episode executed in the fashion that it does.  So, my condolences if you did.]

The International Incident:

A rogue transport and 4 MiGs are in the air.  But they show up at Mile Marker 13 on the Atlantic, so no US forces can deploy.

A rogue transport and 4 MiGs are in the air. But they show up at Mile Marker 13 on the Atlantic, so no US forces can deploy.

The final part of the plan involves the East German Spy Team flying the C-130 over the Gulf of Mexico to [Communist Satrap] Cuba to refuel and fly to [Communist Satrap] Libya with Airwolf in the cargo hold.  And it looks like the Bad Guys are going to win, because they manage to fly the rogue C-130 (at cruising altitude – with no flight plan and no ID codes) out to 13+ miles in the Gulf and have joined up with a flight of (Stock Footage) MiG-15s.  However, Airwolf escapes and manages to fly – and destroys the C-130 with everyone onboard (except Russian Dr. Mind Bender).  Also, Airwolf destroys 3 of the MiG-15s.

Now, can someone bother explaining why no American airbase or Naval Air Station between Nevada to Florida ever bothers to send up fighter interceptors?  Standard operating procedures actually dictate the launching of interceptors on sortie for unidentified aircraft (by transponder, or lack thereof, and filed flight plan).  And the C-130 is no match for the F-8 Crusader (which was in retirement stage) or the F-5 Tigershark (also in retirement stage), or the F-4 Phantom II (which actually sees alot of stock footage in Airwolf).  Thus, the C-130 would have been intercepted and forced down by vintage 1980s Fighter Interceptors like the F-16 Falcon, the F-15 Eagle, or the F-14 Tomcat – all of which could could also take on Airwolf if need be.

Also, in cases of Hot Pursuit, which would apply in this instance, getting beyond the 12-mile limit into International Waters would not “save” the C-130 from being interdicted.  Besides, who would lodge the formal protest at the United Nations?  The only country that could at this point would be Cuba, because an American Attack Helicopter needlessly shot down 3 of their fighters in International Waters.  While a claim could be made by The Firm regarding the C-130, no such claim could be made regarding 2 of the 3 MiGs Airwolf shoots down, when it is clear that they were disengaging from the battle and retreating.

But, since [Evil Communist] Castro was involved in a plot along with [Evil Communist] al-Qaddafi, they cannot access such international resources without somehow being exposed as Evil Communist leaders involved in an Evil Communist Plot.

Note on Evil Science Women:

smug dr evil witch

Yep, Definitely Evil

With very few – and I mean VERY few – exceptions, you could count your Evil Female Scientist to have the following features:

  • She is older than the hero.  This is, of course, unless she plans to defect to the US.
  • Because she is ‘older,’ she will be depicted as being both less conventionally attractive – and less sexually available to the male audience.
  • She will have a European-sounding name.  For the (lazy) American viewer, her name will sound either German or Russian.  If she is German, she will be from East Germany, where the stereotype of German women looking more masculine than men reigned supreme – on American television.  You’ll see this many times, and not just in Airwolf.
  • Her overall competency will never be called into question.  This is not true of Science Women who are Not Evil.

If you wanted to call empowerment into question, this is one angle that should have been explored.  Only the Evil Scholared Women are ever called in for their actual knowledge and skills – but they are not pretty to look at.  The Not-Evil Scholared Women are beautiful, even sexy, but their competency is questioned often – and their skills are usually disregarded at the end, which is typical for a 1980s Action Show.

American Intelli-Idiots:

And yet, they are a step above the CIA, but just below the NSA.  Go figure.

And yet, they are a step above the CIA, but just below the NSA. Go figure.

This is actually the first time that you see Dom and Archangel in this episode.  While the Russians, East Germans, the Libyans, the North Vietnamese, and even Privateers can manage to find Stringfellow at will, The Firm, with its vast network of operatives, can never seem to find this guy.  Even The Firm’s “Sweeper Teams” can’t find him – unless they are Evil Double Agents.

It’s a wonder that the United States wasn’t overrun (ala Invasion USA or Red Dawn).  Unless, of course, the far-flung Evil Communist Organizations often demonized in American media actually existed to the extent often depicted.

[Place your bets, people.]

Final Thoughts:

Echos of the Past is one of those episodes that gives the viewer a full dose of The Red Scare.  The Evil Communist Plot surrounded a concerted and convoluted effort to capture Airwolf and Stringfellow Hawke and sending both back to Libya.  Only because of a beautiful (and Adventurous) Nurse does Hawke figure out that he’d been duped – after he’s fallen for the Evil Communist Plot.  No one at The Firm could keep tabs on the East German Spy Team or the other Mercenaries hired by the Evil Communist Satraps.  And they manage to sneak a large plane not flying in Military Air Traffic Lanes or using a proper transponder out to sea without so much as a peep from NORAD directing Mach 2-capable fighters to shoot that plane down.  And the whole incident is simply given the Mea Culpa, even though no one seems to know where Russian Dr. Mind Bender is.

But since this ends on Archangel getting some comeuppance (for what, I cannot tell), everyone laughs and the credits roll.

So Red Scare leads to Plot Hole Torpedoes.  Echos of the Past sinks beneath the waves.

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