The Autobot Headmasters prove to be a smashing success, but the Decepticons soon find Nebulan partners of their own.
Japanese title: "Destron Strikes Back"
On Nebulos, the modifications to the Autobots' heads are nearly complete. All that is left is to select their partners. Duros, the combat veteran, takes Hardhead; Arcana, the oldest and wisest among them, takes Brainstorm; Stylor takes Chromedome; Gort takes Highbrow; and Daniel is placed in Arcee. Upon activating, the Autobots feel different and decide to make a test run. The Headmaster process is thus proven as good an idea as Brainstorm believed, as with the rebels' guidance, the Autobots trash the Hive's machines. Satisfied with their trial run, the Autobots and rebels decide that it's time to get the Key to the Plasma Energy Chamber. But the Hive is watching and recognizes Gort and Arcana within the robots. Some of them decide it's time to bring the pain, but their leader decides to watch...
Meanwhile, on Cybertron, the battle between the Autobots and the Decepticons appears evenly matched. However, there is no sign of Hot Rod and Kup's team, or the Key. Optimus Prime decides that it's time to find some answers, and leaves the battle, with Ultra Magnus following.
Back on Nebulos, Scourge is torturing the captive Autobots for the key, to the amusement of Apeface. However, Cyclonus realizes that these Autobots don't have the Key, or the others would be all over them. Bad choice of words, as the Autobot Headmasters appear. They quickly overwhelm the Decepticons and free the captives, taking the Decepticon ship in the process. Some of the Hive members believe that the Decepticons should be destroyed as well, but their leader has other plans. Capturing the Decepticons, Lord Zarak offers them a deal: Submit to the Headmaster process and allow the Hive to be their partners, giving them the strength to destroy the Autobots. Scourge tells them to get bent, but Zarak reveals that the offer was only a formality. Grabbing the Decepticons, Cyclonus and Scourge agree to deal, but only with the heads of the animals. Apeface unsurprisingly objects to the idea of ripping his own head off but his opinion is changed when Cyclonus shoots him in the chest and threatens death. The "vehicle" Decepticons offer their weapons. Zarak agrees, and the modifications begin.
Back on Cybertron, Optimus and Magnus have reached the source of the Autobot leader's quest: the chamber of Vector Sigma. Using the Matrix as an interface, Prime activates the supercomputer to communicate with the spirit of Alpha Trion. Alpha explains that the Key is on Nebulos, and that Vector Sigma arranged for Galvatron to learn of it. All of this is being done to bring about a second Golden Age, which depends on the merging of a human with an Autobot. Before the discussion is ended, Alpha Trion tells Prime to preserve the key at all costs. Prime is confused, but it's kinda hard to argue with God's will, after all. Optimus departs for Nebulos, leaving Ultra Magnus in command of the Autobots until his return.
On Nebulos, the modifications are complete, and the Hive members bond with the Decepticons. Zarak, however, remains behind, having plans for the Hive's city. Meanwhile, the Autobots are dragging the ship to the rebel base, when Cerebros arrives, badly damaged and mumbling that he found a city. The Autobots are able to stabilize him, but the Decepticons show up. Brainstorm is pissed that the Decepticons have their own Headmasters. He's even more pissed when Mindwipe takes the Key from him. However, Brainstorm manages to run a scan on Nightstick before the Decepticons run off. Using the scans gives Hot Rod and Kup an idea. Sometime later, Optimus Prime lands and is introduced to the Headmasters and the Targetmasters. With this force, the Autobots prepare to retake the Key.
Elsewhere, the Decepticons are getting grumpy, having to wait for Zarak and with nothing to shoot. Their boredom is relieved when Prime leads the Autobots in an attack. Arcee and Daniel manage to take the Key and get it to Prime. The Autobots circle Prime and Arcee, vowing to let nothing get through. However, from beneath them, Zarak raises the Hive's city. Suddenly, it begins to transform into something else. The city lands on the ground, and from the dust rises...Scorponok!
Original airdate: November 10, 1987
Production number: 6701-2
Written by: David Wise
(Numbers indicate order of appearance.)
"Yuck. Noble Autobots make me want to puke."
- —Apeface is not impressed by Kup and Hot Rod's valor.
"I am Zarak. I have a little deal to offer you, one which will enable you to defeat your adversaries. And all it will cost you is...your heads!"
- —Zarak, addressing the Decepticons.
"Did you get your questions answered?"
"Yes. And every answer led to a bigger question."
- —Ultra Magnus and Optimus Prime after the Autobot leader's communion with Vector Sigma.
"The boys all call me Nightstick. I hope ya like bustin' heads! AHAHAHAHAHA!!"
"I like busting Autobot Headmasters better."
- —Nightstick and Cyclonus see eye-to-eye.
"It's me, I'm Fracas! And if you think Blowpipe was bad, I'm worse!
"And you're louder.
- —Fracas fails to impress Scourge.
"Autobots! Prepare to feel the sting of....SCORPONOK!!!!!"
- —Zarak attacks the Autobots.
Animation and/or technical glitches
- While not necessarily an error, several Hive members resemble Kranix and other Lithone inhabitants.
- Brainstorm's face is completely gray when he says "Go hang upside down from a tree, Mindwipe!"
- There are various times when the Headmasters and Targetmasters are almost as big as the Transformers themselves.
- The animation scheme seems to miss the entire point of the Headmasters, treating the heads as cockpits rather the Nebulons' bodies.
- Right after the Decepticons steal the key from the Autobots, Spike says that "they can fly and you guys can't". Granted none of the Autobots can fly in humanoid mode with the exception of the Dinobots, but Brainstorm can transform into a jet and Highbrow can transform into a helicopter, so obviously they can.
- When the Decepticons are abducted by the Hive, one of the machines seen near the conveyor belt has a Decepticon symbol on it, despite no alliance between the two factions until a few moments later. Foreshadowing, perhaps?
- When Krunk is removing the key to the Plasma Energy Chamber from Brainstorm's body and declares, "The key, I have it!", Brainstorm's Headmaster partner Arcana replies, "Ah ha, but I have you, Nightstick!" before Krunk leaves with the Key. Why not just, you know, grab Krunk?
- In the Autobots' counterattack after Prime's arrival, how does Arcee know Scourge has the key? Cyclonus is the highest-ranking Decepticon in the bunch.
- Shouldn't the Matrix be unusable as an interface with Vector Sigma? The Matrix was shown empty in the end of "The Return of Optimus Prime, Part 2" after the hate plague was cured by the accumulated wisdom from within it? After all, it was months after it was emptied and the accumulated wisdom used was millions of years old. There's no way it could have returned to its original shining state as seen in the episode.
- This isn't an error per se, but Optimus seems rather dazed and confused throughout this entire episode. It's as if coming back from the dead left him as more of an old man than the hero from earlier episodes.
- Vector Sigma first appeared in "The Key to Vector Sigma, Part 1".
- The Hive line "exterminate, exterminate" is the catch-phrase of the Daleks, which is appropriate because the Daleks were also alien beings who lived in mechanical bodies to compensate for the severe atrophy of their real bodies.
- Optimus correctly guessed that the Matrix could activate Vector Sigma. Yet that idea doesn't strike him when Alpha Trion sacrifices his life to activate it in The Key to Vector Sigma, Part 2.
- Gort claims that "the Hive's bodies are withered and useless" due to their extreme hibernation and dependency of technology as a means of survival. Yet Lord Zarak is freaking jacked and ripped like Franco Columbo when we finally see him. Intel must not be too good on Nebulos.
- This episode marks the debut of the new Decepticon city-bot Scorponok.
- Cyclonus seems frightningly willing to murder Apeface over a disagreement. That seems a little extreme, doesn't it?
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