This was one of those episodes of Clone Wars that made me wish I had a child on hand to watch the show with me, because this was one of the most child-geared episodes of the season. (Even more than the "Young Jedi" arc.) The Republic droids were sent on a covert mission, one that brought us a thimble-sized military officer, the Republic's own horror movie mad scientist, and a bumbling droid who threatened to become the second coming of Jar Jar Binks (albeit without the racist undertones). But in the end it proved a pretty simple, if forgettable, side adventure, one whose protagonist is ultimately more competent than I feared.
This episode promised to star R2-D2 and his fellow Republic droids as they embarked on a mission to retrieve a Separatist decoding module from one of the battleships. But the astromechs don't speak English and aren't really equipped for heartfelt discussions, so we also get a speaking droid: WAC-47, who enters the scene late for Mace Windu's briefing and chatters all the way through it. Then Windu bows out and introduces the droids to their field commander, Colonel Meebur Gascon, the teeny little military guy. Gascon is the stereotypical straight-laced commander, the sort of guy who tolerates no guff. The sort of guy who would use the word "guff" in a sentence. He also happens to be one apple high.
Naturally, Gascon despises WAC at first squawk. WAC constantly interrupts him (taking issue with Gascon calling all the droids "mechs" when he clearly is not) and calls him "captain," "commander," "corporal," pretty much any officer title that starts with "c" and isn't "colonel." But Gascon, for his part, is an experienced field commander, one who thinks that the best way to earn his team's respect is by constantly insulting them. He refuses to call WAC by his name, instead terming him "cyclops."
A few of the droids get modifications at the hands of the uber-creepy Dr. Gubacher, who fondles his subjects lovingly with his spindly fingers as he talks about all the weird upgrades (and downgrades) he's going to give them. Wouldn't mind seeing this guy pop up now and again. R2 gets those rocket boosters, while the other droids get a super-magnet and a laser cutter. One poor droid gets his memory taken out, and we find out why Gascon has been selected for this particular mission: he fits inside a droid's memory banks. When WAC complains that he hasn't gotten any upgrades, Gascon snaps that it's because he's "just a pilot."
There's nothing like a challenge to get a screw-up to screw up faster. WAC sets a collision course for the Separatist battleship, which lands their ship in a tractor beam. All the droids, including the one Gascon is hiding in, are taken into custody. Gascon tells everyone to stay calm, but R2 disobeys orders, attacking one of the guard droids. WAC actually helps take down the other, providing a distraction so one of the astromechs can zap him.
They continue with Gascon's plan, triggering a temporary power loss to put the security system on manual override, which naturally alerts the battle droids to the fact that something fishy might be going on. WAC volunteers to distract the security guards away from the vault, and Gascon agrees against his better judgment. WAC actually has little trouble with the task, simply telling the guards that General Grievous has ordered him to test the vault's security. The Clone Wars hinge not on the prowess of the Republic, but the stupidity of low-level Separatist droids.
It's Gascon who ultimately falters, sticking his host droid's toolkit into a boobytrapped lock, shorting him out. Unnerved, Gascon tells the droids that one of them is going to have to open the vault door and grab the encryption module. When one of the astromechs beeps that he should grab the module himself, Gascon hedges, saying he's not prepared for this sort of crisis. WAC presses him further, Gascon admits that he's a military strategist, not a field officer. "You're a map reader?" WAC asks, and the astromechs giggle in response. (Incidentally, when Gascon says that his size might have played a "small role" in his being chosen for this particular mission, I can practically hear R2-D2 beep either, "No pun intended" or "That's what she said.") Then, while Gascon is busy monologuing about how he's waited a lifetime for a field assignment like this, R2 just goes ahead and unlocks the door.
Riding high again, Gascon outlines the next phases of their plan, explaining just how they'll manage to grab the encryption module. But now WAC has his doubts about following an officer who's never been into a battle—a notion that gives Gascon the huffs. WAC, speaking on behalf of the droids, agrees to follow Gascon's plan on the condition that he starts being nicer to them, "You have to stop calling us stupid names, shorty." That line pretty much sums up the episode. Sure, Gascon isn't the nicest military officer we've seen (though he's by no means the worst) and the droids aren't exactly soldiers, but they've been disobeying orders left and right while WAC can't even be arsed to remember Gascon's title. But Gascon agrees to play nice until one of them screws up again.
The rest of the mission goes off more or less as planned, although the battle droids appear just as R2 is about to seize the module. The Republic droids' quick thinking and Gascon's willingness to engage the tactical droid mano-a-roboto gives them a chance to grab the chip and flee. On the way, though, they come across the fallen body of Gascon's host droid, and R2 refuses to leave without his comrade. Gascon, having just learned a valuable lesson about droids and their feelings, agrees, and on their way out, they are once again aided by the utter guilelessness of the Separatist droids. Gascon offers back pats all around and WAC finally calls him "colonel." End scene.
I'm kind of on the fence about this episode, which I felt was a bit gimmick-laden between WAC and the pint-sized colonel. I was prepared to thoroughly hate WAC when he showed up—the last thing the Star Wars universe needs is another character whose key traits are incompetence and a tendency to talk too much. But by the end of the episode, after WAC showed he could execute a plan with a little restraint and that he clearly understood the capabilities of the astromechs better than Gascon did, I didn't hate him, but I didn't particularly like him either. Watching and rewatching the episode, I got the sense that this was one of those episodes that likely appeals more to the younger Clone Wars audience, and I'm just being grumpy about a character aimed at kids. So I throw it out to you all (especially those of you who watch with younger viewers): what did you think of this episode and of WAC?