“Ricky Hunter, you’re late, but at least you MADE it to my party!”
Read my 365 Days of Robotech write-up on “Sweet Sixteen” from last summer here.
WHAT HAPPENS: Despite Breetai’s orders, Khyron’s been regularly attacking the SDF-1. During a moment of calm, Rick Hunter frets over not having gotten Minmei a birthday present. His thoughts are interrupted by a call to a meeting. As Khyron pretends to put his forces through training maneuvers that will just HAPPEN to bring them in contact with the SDF-1, Rick is awarded the Titanium Medal for his actions during the battle at Sara Base. After the ceremony, Roy takes Rick aside and informs him that he’s been promoted and has been assigned two subordinates: big and boastful Ben Dixon and meek, slight Max Sterling. The two follow Rick to Minmei’s birthday party, where Minmei pouts over Rick forgetting her present and fawns all over Max. On the bridge, Lisa notices that her radar screen is empty — their radar is being jammed! Lisa gives the order for all Veritechs to scramble, interrupting Minmei’s party. Rick, Ben, and Max are given rear guard duty, only to face Khyron’s main force head-on. Ben charges in and proves an inept pilot; Rick bails him out, while Max deftly tears through the Battlepods. They follow the enemy back to the ship, and Rick meets Khyron in a duel just as Breetai finds out what Khyron’s up to. He employs a manual override beam to pull Khyron’s Battlepods out. As Rick retires to his quarters, he remembers that he forgot to get Minmei a present. He heads to the Chinese restaurant to beg forgiveness, but fishing around in his pocket he finds his Titanium Medal. Rick tosses it up to Minmei’s window, and when she asks where he got it, he says he’ll tell her later and runs home.
THOUGHTS: Things slow down so the creators can move some pieces around and add some new ones. Roy’s already being phased out, Rick’s being promoted, we meet Ben and Max, and we see the first evidence of Khyron as a recurring foil for not just our heroes but his superiors as well. It’s the little things in this episode I love: Richard Epcar hits a few flat notes as Ben Dixon, but I adore that laugh, full of bravado, he does when he’s boasting to Rick. I love watching the mayor conspiratorially tell Rick to watch out for Max as a potential rival for Minmei’s affection. And one of the best scenes in the whole episode is when Lisa orders out the Veritechs and every pilot in the Chinese restaurant piles into a single cab, and when the driver protests, one of the pilots tells him it’s an emergency. “All right,” the cab driver says, “but you’re all paying separately.” All nice little touches that elevate an otherwise fairly bland episode; Khyron’s plan, after all, is pretty weak sauce, and Minmei toying with Rick is nothing new, though she’s never been this overt about it before.
FIRSTS OF NOTE: Again, first appearances of both Max Sterling and Ben Dixon, and I love how the two are introduced, with Ben assuring Rick that “nothing will go wrong while I’m around, ah-ha-ha!” and Max looking especially pale and claiming he’ll need so much help. Once behind the controls of their Veritech Fighters, though, their true colors show, with Ben failing big time and Max having the time of his life tearing the enemy to shreds. Is it any wonder we find he’s a gamer in “Showdown,” the way he tells Rick he was having fun out there at the end? This is also the first and only time we see that override beam. I’d say it’s curious that Breetai never employs it again, but if memory serves the next time Khyron disobeys an order of Breetai’s it’s in “Blind Game,” and then once Breetai gets back from his leave Khyron defies Breetai in “The Messenger” and he just has Khyron’s men killed. The opportunity never really presents itself again.
RICK’S STATE OF MIND: Pretty pumped by his medal and promotion, but a teensy bit frustrated on the Minmei front; he’s having a hard time juggling the work and girlfriend things, and again, she’s still not quite his girlfriend, which he’s obviously aware of given that he says nothing when she starts openly flirting with Max. It’s a problem, even if he’s still mostly ignoring it.
DOES MINMEI SING? No. She steadfastly refuses to, in fact. Instead she tries to get Rick to sing. The implication seems to be that Max sings, but alas, that happens off-camera.