- Japanese title: "The Virtual Reality Trap" (バーチャルリアリティの罠 Virtual Reality no Wana)
The Autobots have been captured by the giant Soundwave hologram which is slowly absorbing them into his hand, to which Optimus Prime assures them is fake (much to Bumblebee's dismay). The real Soundwave is still reprogramming the Autobots which is near completion, but a cable snaps and sparks, causing the giant hologram to disappear. The Autobots fall into the ground and realise that there could be a "weakness in Soundwave's VR program", to which Prowl attempts to exploit by using Processor over Matter (which works, to surprise of Bumblebee) and successfully breaks free into the real world, only to be caught out by Soundwave. He is forced back into the Virtual World, and just before attempting to try again, a white flash in the sky blinds the Autobots. Regaining sight, they find they are back into the Human forms, unable to Transform back into their bodies. Soundwave begins "Operation: Organic Control" to prevent further interference. All over town, the Soundwave toys emerge from their packaging and begin to hypnotise everyone.
An enraged Bulkhead, wielding a traffic light, begins destroying the "crazy video game". Ratchet states that "it doesn't work that way" and they would need to find Soundwave's interface or some sort of icon that suggests Soundwave. On cue, a black van with red tinted windows resembling Soundwave drives through. Optimus instructs the Automen to drive vehicles (the very vehicles their own altmodes were based on) to give pursuit, but Optimus is baffled at the controls.
Sari arrives home looking for her dad but encounters a toy Soundwave instead. From his lair, Soundwave watches Sari kick over the toy, realising that her techno-organic body is "immune to the music", prompting for her destruction. Sari finds the Professor and pleads for help, but he ignores her. Another Soundwave toy appears from behind her and the Professor advances on Sari, saying in the monotone voice "The Techno-organic must be destroyed". He continues to repeat the message, but Sari escapes by blasting a bookcase ontop of him and flying out the window.
The Automen have gained some control over the vehicles (including a backwards Ratchet). The chase leads to a snowcovered Drive In Theatre, and the Soundwave vehicle is cornered. Ratchet shouts in victory "Now we've got him...", only to see 9 more Soundwave vehicles emerge from the surrounding hills; "...right where he wants us!". In an attempt to escape, a black and red Soundwave appears on the cinema screen and controlling the seatbells, captures the Automen. Soundwave begins to resume his reprogramming, but the Automen cannot fight it
Sari arrives at Dinobot Island before being attacked by the Dinobots. Sari asks for their help, but they attack her instead, to which she fights back. Grimlock recalls his attack, but denies her help. Noticing that one was missing, Grimlock states that he became a traitor; a pet. A tall lanky green a purple bot is seen on the shoreline, covered in a straw hat and pants, writing in the sand. Sari finds him asking for help, but he too denies her claiming he "already has a pet"; Snarl, who gallops towards them when called. Scrapper queries about the location of the other Constructicons, but she instead requests a job of him, with the reward of a "few trucks of premium grade motor oil", but he states that they're stuck on the island. But Sari suggests they construct a boat. Once done, they being travelling to the main land (Sari has to forcefully convince Scrapper to help), but are intercepted by the "hero" Wreck-Gar. Sari officially dubs them the "Substitute Autobots". Arriving at the mainland, Sari instructs the Substitutes to "Transform and roll out", which leads to an uncoordinated attack. As she regroups them stating they have the "element of surprise", Soundwave bursts through the ground. As the Substitutes begin to attack, the other Autobots arrive, fully hypnotised by Soundwave, who begin their advance to destroy her.
Sari instructs Scrapper and Snarl to take on Bulkhead and Ratchet, while Wreck-Gar and herself take on Optimus, Prowl and Bumblebee, Sari tries to reason with them, but Soundwave states that they would not be "swayed by human emotions". Sari tells Wreck-Gar to cover her (to which he does; with a large sheet), but Bumblebee shoots at her. Wreck-Gar searches in his depository looking for "something heroic" and accidently knocks out Prowl and Bumblebee. He finds a large tree trunk, but Optimus slices it to pieces. With Bumblebee and Prowl back up again, Wreck-Gar attacks the Autobots, but Sari is attacked. Meanwhile, Scrapper began flinging snowballs at Bulkhead and Ratchet, only to be knocked away. Soundwave gains control over Sari's jetpack, causing her to fall into the snow below, along with Scrapper, Wreck-Gar, then Snarl, and they realise that Soundwave is controlling all of them at the same time. As they split up to individually attack the Autobots, Soundwave cannot focus his power of all the 'bots at once. Snarl tackles Ratchet, wrapping him in the road buffers and Scrapper encases Bulkhead in ice. Wreck-Gar listens to Soundwave's music, suggesting that it needs an accordion. Bumblebee ambushes Sari, but Prowl snatches her out the way, and struggles to destroy her when pinned, but Sari blasts him off. Wreck-Gar tangles Bumblebee up with Christmas lights and sings, causing Sari to realise that they were "beating the Autobots". But Optimus attacks all three with a powerful blow as Soundwave can focus all his control on him. Snarl rams at Optimus, but is taken by the horns and slammed to the ground. Scrapper defends his pet, but Optimus brings a billboard down on them. Sari attacks Optimus, but Optimus grabs Wreck-Gar and uses him as a shield, causing his depository to explode and a large heavy object to land on his head knocking him out. Optimus begins to attack Sari, but Prowl, now free of the programming, knocks Soundwave's keytar out of his hands. But Optimus slams down his axe and comes to, and realises his actions. Sari emerges from behind the axe and thanks Prowl (who used Processor over Matter to free himself). Furious, Soundwave deploys Ratbat to destroy the Autobots. Soundwave tackles Optimus who loses his axe, while Ratbat picks up Prowl and collides him into a nearby building. Optimus struggles to reach his axe, but instead grapples Laserbeak and slams it into Soundwave. Optimus reels Laserbeak in and forces it to transform into its guitar. Soundwave recalls Ratbat, and the two strike their guitars. Optimus overpowers Soundwave, jumps high into the air, and smashes Laserbeak into Soundwave, destroying his body, thereby releasing the humans of his control (and the Soundwave toys all break down). Soundwave, now reduced to his tape cassette, gets turned off by Sari, before being snatched away by Laserbeak.
Porter C. Powell cries over his money loss of having to refund all the toys. Relieved, Scrapper and Snarl begin their return to Dinobot Island (Scrapper apparently wasn't aware of any "overtime"). Wreck-Gar arrives and begins cleaning up the city with a vacuum cleaner. Sari claims the difficulty in leadership, while Optimus counters with the difficulty in being human. Prowl notices the irony that "technology lead [them] to a greater understanding of what it means to be organic", like family. Wreck-Gar, now sporting a beard, shouts "Ho, Ho, Ho", tossing rubbish all over the city
(Numbers indicate order of appearance.)
Ratchet: C'mon transform already! Don't leave me stuck in this flesh bag!
- —Geez Ratchet, we know being a human sucks, but it's not that bad.
Driver: (when Bulkhead accidentally rams him) Hey! Take it easy, lead foot!
Bulkhead: What? It's not lead anymore!
Bumblebee: (crashing into Bulkhead from behind) Virtual Fanzone's gonna be ticked!
Optimus: I have to hand it to the humans, driving is much more difficult than it looks!
Ratchet: (driving backwards) This ain't so hard.
Prowl: It's merely a matter of becoming one with the machi-AAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHH! (pops a wheelie)
- —The Autobots take their turn at driving... and fail miserably.
Isaac Sumdac: The technorganic must be destroyed.
- —How can Sumdac do anything to kill Sari. He might just Prod her.
Grimlock: Intruder! Dinobots destroy puny human!
Sari Sumdac: Wait! I came here for your help!
Grimlock: Dinobots not help puny human, Dinobots destroy puny human!
(Grimlock and Swoop shoot fire at Sari who repels it with an energy attack from her hand)
Grimlock: Ok... Grimlock not destroy puny human.. but Dinobots not help puny human either!
Sari Sumdac: Hey... weren't their three of you? Where's the other one?
Grimlock: Me Grimlock not talking to him. Him traitor. Dinobots not pets.
Sari Sumdac: Who would want a Dinobot for a pet?
- —Good question Sari... I mean think of the food costs...
Scrapper: Day 48... still separated from my colle... uh my buds. I've befriended and trained one of the local wildlife. Ah not again!
(Scrapper laments as the water washes away his writing on the sand of the beach)
Sari Sumdac: Scrapper, I need your help!
Scrapper: Forget about it, I've already got a pet. Snarl! Come on boy! Come on Snarly!
Sari Sumdac: Snarl? Who's Snarl? Woah..
(ground shakes as the Dinobot Snarl arrives after which Scrapper throws a barrel which Snarl retrieves)
Sari Sumdac: You named him Snarl?
Scrapper: Well I was gonna call him Slag but I think he took it as an insult.
- —This coming from the girl who came up with "Substitute Autobots"...
Scrapper: Look kid... even if I wanted to help you, we're stuck on this island so, uh... what you going to do?
Sari Sumdac: You're a Constructicon... why don't you just construct a boat?
Scrapper: Construct a.. hey! Why didn't I think of that?!
- —A moment of stupidity on the part of Scrapper.
Sari: You have got to be pulling my leg!
Wreck-Gar:(Grabs Sari's leg) Ok I've got to be pulling your leg. I am Wreck-Gar, the leg-pulling hero!
- —Not sure who's been missed more, Wreck-Gar or Blitzwing...
Sari: You guys can't just go running off like that without a plan. Right now we have the advantage. We have Soundwave outnumbered and we have the element of surprise.
Soundwave: (bursts from the ground) I am Soundwave. Resistance is futile.
Scrapper: So much for the element of surprise.
- — Soundwave's awesomeness pwns Sari yet again.
Sari: (after Soundwave brings out his mind-controlled Autobots) Man, am I happy to see you guys. I actually thought I was gonna have to lead these losers into battle.
Optimus: (monotone) The technorganic must be destroyed.
Sari: Oh, slag.
- — Today just isn't her day.
Sari: Scrapper, you and Snarl take Bulkhead and Ratchet. Wreck-Gar, you're with me.
Wreck-Gar: Gosh, this is so sudden. Aren't we a little young to go steady?
- — Um, EW!
Sari Sumdac: Cover me!
Wreck-Gar: You got it!
(throws a sheet on top of Sari)
- —One would think Sari would have learnt that people tend to take her too literally.
Sari Sumdac: Erghhh... with heroes like that, who needs Decepticons?
(Laserbeak attacks Sari)
Sari Sumdac: I didn't mean it literally!
- —We warned you Sari... we warned you...
Scrapper: Take that, and that, and that! Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!
(Scrapper as he transformed into vehicle mode and begins throwing snow at the brainwashed Autobots)
- —Scrapper... why the slag are you attacking them with snowballs?
Wreck-Gar: Ha Ha! Catchy, easy to dance to, but you know what it needs?
(Pulls out an accordion which gets swiped and destroyed by Laserbeak)
Wreck-Gar: (Sigh) Everyone's a critic.
- — Definitely Wreck-Gar.
(Snarl charges Optimus Prime who grabs the Dinobot, lifts him up and slams him into the ground)
Scrapper: Hey, hey, hey! That's cruelty to Dinobot!
- —Who knew Scrapper was an animal rights activist.
(energy bolt from Sari that's being shot at the brainwashed Optimus Prime instead accidently hits Wreck-Gar in the back which sends garbage flying everywhere, and a toilet eventually lands on his processor)
Wreck-Gar: Haha! The mighty Wreck-Gar is no match for the... uh mighty Wreck-Gar... ur wait, who's side am I on again?
- —Wreck-Gar has lost it after a bump on the head...but it's kind of hard to tell the difference.
Wreck-Gar: Wrap the bot with strings of garbage, Fa-la-la-la-la, la-la-la-la
- — Christmas has come early this year; spread the gift of Wreck-Gar's awesomeness to all!
Soundwave: Your axe is useless, Autobot.
Optimus Prime: But yours isn't.
- — Who knew Optimus was a rock-n-roll fan?
Optimus: Time to change your tune Soundwave, Operation: Face the Music!
(Smashes Soundwave in the face with his own Guitar/Laserbeak)
- — El Kabong!
Porter C. Powell: I'm ruined! I'll have to refund every last penny!
Isaac Sumdac: And you can start by refunding mine!
- —And, good ol' Karma finally bites Porter C. Powell. In the buttocks. Taking his wallet with it. The one in the left cheek pocket.
Scrapper: Hi ho Snarl!
(Snarl proceeds to kick Scrapper mid-air)
Scapper: I shoulda got a kitty cat
- — I hear Cheetor's housebroken.
Wreck-Gar: Ho Ho Ho, Merry Christmas, garbage for all the good little children!
- — I'd hate to think what the bad little children get.
Animation and/or technical glitches
- When Prowl attempts to use Processor Over Matter to escape the simulated world, his visor is split for a moment by his helmet's crest.
- When Prime uses Wreck-Gar as a shield, the hole Sari puts into his back is magically healed in the next scene. Mabye because he never had that Allspark fragment taken out of his back. Which, as we all know, heals Transformers.
- In the simulated world, Ratchet has a scar over his left eye. In one scene with the ambulance after he backed up into Bulkhead, the scar is over his right eye. Then it's back to the left again.
- When Wreck-Gar is vacuuming up the pieces of Soundwave, at one point he vacuums his own foot. Seconds later it is back to normal.
- Why didn't Ratchet notice Wreck-Gar?
- And why didn't Bulkhead notice Scrapper either?
- Soundwave controls numerous amounts of mindless drones in pursuit of a small group of heroes led by a technorganic seems kinda familiar. And just like Beast Machines Megatron, Soundwave has trouble controlling all of his "minions" at the same time.
- The Witwicky family makes a cameo appearance at this point when the smaller Soundwaves are hypnotizing the humans. In part of the crowd you can clearly see an Animated version of Daniel, Spike, and Carly Witwicky whom is holding an unknown baby. (presumably her and Spike's second child) They appear again, briefly, when Optimus Prime destroys Soundwave's body with Laserbeak and the humans are released from his control although they apparently have not moved in the interim.
- It's not the first time a Soundwave has mass-hypnotized humans or experienced a deathlike explosion.
- Nor its the first time an old Autobot has driven backwards.
- It is also not the first time that a Decepticon has been transformed against their will by an Optimus Prime.
- Not to mention that when a Soundwave-controlled Optimus Prime easily picks up Snarl and gives him a piledriver, this is not the first time that a charging Dinobot has been lifted clear overhead and tossed like so much plastic toy box wrap.
- Scrapper tells Sari that he was considering calling his new pet "Slag", but he dismissed the thought because he thinks it an insult. This a is reference to G1 Slag, who is a triceratops (while Snarl is a stegosaurus), as well as the real-life reason for Transformers Animated Snarl not being called Slag.
- Grimlock and Swoop call Snarl a traitor for becoming a "pet" in a way like Beast Wars Dinobot who left the Predacons and was labeled as a traitor as well.
- In the virtual world, not only does giant Soundwave have Music Label Soundwave' color scheme, the army of normal-sized Soundwaves are colored as the Electrostatic Soundwave toys, which resembles Generation One Soundblaster.
- In the virtual world, the driver who mouths off to Bulkhead drives a truck similar to the alt mode of Generation One Motormaster.
- Bulkhead wields a traffic light as a melee weapon, like Prowl's first Deluxe-class toy.
- In the fight with Soundwave, Optimus physically forces Laserbeak to transform into his Guitar Mode. Now if that would just happen to one of the big Transformers. Oh, wait. It did happen...to a certain counterpart of the original Soundwave.
- This is the second time Soundwave escapes as a little cassette player. The first was his first appearance.
- Scrapper being found on an island and making an unlikely friend is similar to the movie "Cast Away".
- Wreck-Gar challenges Soundwave's musical attacks by pulling out an accordion, the favorite instrument of his voice actor, "Weird Al" Yankovic.
- Soundwave informs the Autobots that resistance is futile, even pronouncing "futile" as the Borg do.
- The name "Substitute Autobots" is a reference to the Legion of Substitute Heroes.
- Bumblebee carjacks Captain Fanzone and responds by telling Prime, "What? It's not like the guy's real". This could be a reference to the Grand Theft Auto game series.
- Sari's line "It's supposed to be a silent night." is a reference to "Silent Night", the popular Christmas carol.
- When Scrapper pelts Ratchet and Bulkhead with snowballs, he references the Christmas carol "Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!".
- Since it's Christmas, Scapper, Snarl, and Wreck-Gar could be loosely viewed as a reference to the Three Wise Men, or in this case, the "Not-so-Wise Men".
- Scrapper yells "Hi-ho Snarl, away!" a la the Lone Ranger with his horse, Silver.
- Sari line "With heroes like that, who needs Decepticons?" is similar to the quote "With friends like these, who needs enemies?"
- Optimus Prime's act of smashing the guitar and chopping Soundwave in half emulates the acts done by Pete Townshend at the end of almost every The Who concert.
- What happened to Wreck-Gar's Autobot Symbol on his chest. Did it wash away when he was in his sea bed?
- The Dinobots are easily startled nowadays. Since being beaten by Jetfire and Jetstorm, it seems a single energy shot from Sari is all it takes to scare them off. This isn't how they use to be.
- This is the last Transformers Animated episode featuring the Dinobots.
- This is the last episode where Jazz doesn't appear. Jazz makes an appearance in all episodes after this one.
- Grimlock accuses Snarl of being a traitor for becoming a pet to Scrapper, but he enjoyed playing fetch with Bulkhead from the short Bulkhead plays with Grimlock.
- Soundwave still thinks Sari Sumdac is a human. It seems Soundwave hasn't seen that she has robotic components?
- Ratbat is seen in his bat mode for the first time.
- Sari is referred to as a Technorganic.
- Where are Sari's other weapons, like the arm-blades and hammer? Didn't she have control over them anymore because of the overload of upgrades from the episode "TransWarped"?
- Snarl is finally referred to by name for the first time. Apparently, he didn't have a name until Scrapper gave it to him. One must assume the same goes for Swoop, who was recently referred to as "Swoopy" by Blackarachnia. As of this point, though, whether Swoop will take on this description as a name is unknown.
- This episode marks the triumphant return of Wreck-Gar. He seems (slightly) less prone to suggestion this time around. Looks like Ratchet really got through to him last time.
- It's still unknown where Mixmaster and Dirt Boss are after the events of "Three's a Crowd", and according to Scrapper, it's been 48 days since they were separated.
- That is one incredibly tough raft, holding Snarl, Scrapper, and later Wreck-Gar, who leaps onto it. Scrapper may not be that much of a hero (or villain, for that matter) but when it comes to construction, he's the bot.
- Grimlock says he's not talking to Snarl. So he can talk after all? Unless it was a Dinobot language.
- When Optimus cuts Soundwave into pieces, a dial-up tone can be heard in the background. Is a modem from the 1990s among Soundwave's components?
- When Optimus hits Soundwave with Laserbeak, the "Ka-bong" sound from the Quickdraw McGraw cartoons can be heard.
- Laserbeak is apparently tough enough to break Soundwave into shards, while not suffering a single scratch. Say what?
- For a Decepticon, Soundwave is easily breakable. This might be because he's made from earth metals, instead of the true-blue Cybertroinan alloys.
- The Automen don't know how to drive. (e.g. Ratchet driving backwards, Optimus spraying foam all over the road,and Prowl almost falls off his motorcycle when he accidentally pops a wheelie.) If that isn't irony, nobody knows what is.
- How, exactly, did Soundwave even create/obtain Laserbeak and Ratbat?
- The virtual Electrostatic Soundwave that appears on the drive-in screen sports the damage Sari's attack did to the real Soundwave earlier.
- Scrapper either has a Five O'Clock Shadow or just rust on his face when he was writing in the sand. Did he need a razor or a sander?
- If Laserbeak had any smarts in his processor at ALL, he would've transformed into bird mode and flown away WHEN PRIME THREW HIM IN THE AIR...
- Insert numerous "Guitar Hero" jokes here.