Someone has kidnapped Sari and it’s up to Prowl and Bulkhead to save her. Following in their trail is a suspicious Fanzone.
I’ve constantly emphasized the importance of memorable personalities and good character development as the driving backbone of a story. This is what personally keeps me invested regardless of the plot’s quality. Thinking largely on these terms, “Survival of the Fittest” is teeming with these things.
The spotlight centers on secondary character Captain Fanzone when he ends up as Prowl and Bulkhead’s unwilling partner. Suspicious of the two shortly after Sari’s mysterious kidnapping, he follows them to Dinobot Island to question their intent. Fanzone’s time with the Autobots has been vitriolic at best; his disdain for technology puts him off to the idea that they’re Detroit’s heroes. However, he’s not so idiotic as to refuse their service when he ultimately knows they’re here for the greater good, so he largely views them as a necessary evil. However, spending time with Prowl gives Fanzone the chance to understand how they think and see that they aren’t so different from each other. Both sides are concerned for Sari’s safety and devote their time and energy to her rescue. Fanzone realizes that the Autobots possess emotions and flaws just as humans do. Actions such as Prowl and Bulkhead keeping the Dinobots a secret from their commander, yet second guessing themselves reveals a very human side of them that Fanzone may not have paid much attention to. He doesn’t consider them brainless automatons, but when he’s constantly surrounded by malfunctioning machinery on a daily basis, it’s easy to form a negative opinion. By the end, Fanzone has come to respect the Autobots, which is way better than him acting as a constant nuisance to them.
Prowl’s attitude has come a long way since the first episode. There he held contempt for teamwork and treated his work with Optimus’ crew as an obligation. This is why his reaction to Bulkhead’s injury stuck with me. With him out of commission, Prowl and Fanzone only have a limited amount of time to locate Sari or Bulkhead will perish. Prowl is concerned for him and you can just hear his desperation as Jeff Bennet nails that panicking, frantic tone. He’s going to lose not only a teammate, but a friend.
“Survival of the Fittest” is also noticeable for portraying Bulkhead in a rare light. Usually he’s kindhearted and humble, and very little will push his buttons. When Sari’s life is threatened though, he flips his lid. Assuming that the Dinobots are involved, he quickly jumps the gun and angrily retaliates. He also does this when he meets the true mastermind behind her disappearance (it’s Meltdown, who’s as deliciously creepy as ever; he’s willing to experiment on a child for his own scientific ends and vengeance). This is how much Sari means to Bulkhead. When she’s in trouble, this drives him into a violent wreck. I especially think the close connection they shared in “Sound and Fury” carried over to this episode. In fact, the idea of friendship and devotion is a reoccurring theme in the episode and the overall show.
Sari’s fast proven to be a reliable and wily eight-year-old. While her spunky antics can sometimes be grating and her repeated offenses with the Allspark key gets old after awhile, she’s also capable of handling herself in rough situations. “Survival of the Fittest” is probably the best example of this act, as she refuses to stay still after she’s captured. Instead, she outsmarts Meltdown’s henchmen before aiding Prowl and Fanzone through clever tricks and indirect influence. The show took an annoying trait—frequently kidnapped tagalong kids—and subverted the heck out of it. Although, I have no idea why the Autobots think an eight-year-old human should learn martial arts to defend herself against the Decepticons. She’s cunning, but she can’t fight giant alien robots! I’m also not certain why Sari reacted fondly when one of the Dinobots flew to her balcony. She knows how dangerous they are. I know it was nighttime when it happened, so maybe she couldn’t see that well, but this scene always rubbed me the wrong way. All in all though, “Survival of the Fittest” is a fantastic episode that nicely progresses the characters and it’s definitely one of the highlights of season one.