The Skywalker Six: Explaining The Plan to Rescue Han In ROTJ

A couple weeks ago, Mike Ryan put out a funny post at Uproxx that said he dared anyone to explain the Return of the Jedi “rescue Han Solo” plan that happens in the first act of the film.

He threw down the nerd gauntlet.

The Star Wars nerd gauntlet.

And so, here, on the day that The Last Jedi is released in digital video, I am picking up that gauntlet, and I am — wait, what do you do with a thrown gauntlet anyway? Is that even the right terminology? A thrown gauntlet? A gauntlet is an armored glove, so I guess it’s someone throwing their glove to the ground, but man, you shouldn’t throw that away, dear duelist — now your tender hand is exposed, like the tendon of Achilles.

Plus, this is Star Wars, where the chopping-of-hands is all-too-common.


Point is, who would I be if I did not defend this (erm, admittedly absurd) plan?

So, here’s the thing, as a kid, I never really questioned what was going on there. That’s not to say it’s plainly writ or sensibly told, and in fact is more chalk-uppable to the fact that I was, well, a kid. Things just make sense to you when you’re a kid because you have the critical thinking skills of a sea cucumber. It looked cool, and it ended with Luke Skywalker flipping off a desert diving board and then lightsabering some dudes into a giant tentacled butthole. It was great.  Logic? Who gives a shit about logic? Pssh.

And of course, Star Wars cares very little about rigorous logic. The books sometimes do, but the films? Nyeaaah, not so much. We’re not exactly talking about a methodical devotion to science or physics or any kind of common sense. Hyperspace moves at the speed of narrative. TIE fighters shriek like banshees despite the void of space. Droids are basically enslaved sentient beings but everybody’s like, “No no, it’s cool, we’re their makers, so basically they’re into it? I guess? Shut up.” The point of Star Wars isn’t exactly to turn your brain off, but it is to turn your heart on, and let that organ be the shepherd that guides you through all the stars and all the wars.

Just the same, nerd gauntlet.

So, here’s my explanation, loose and flabby as it may be, of the Return of the Jedi heist on Jabba’s palace — because, ultimately, that’s what it is: a heist.

Think of it as an Ocean’s Eleven slash Leverage style caper.

Before we begin, this is what you need to understand about this Skywalker Six heist — it’s not just a single-serving plan, but rather, a series of failsafe sub-plans that culminate in the kind of extraction and result you’d get if you were all sitting around a roleplaying game table trying to get your characters to perform any complicated task (robbing a bank, invading a country, scheduling and hosting a galactic orgy). It’s less a “finely-tuned machine” of a plan and more the “Millennium Falcon” plan — it’s a ship, once designed for a purpose and since re-purposed with spare parts and swaddling tape and lots and lots of hope. Probably some midichlorians. That’s right, the Falcon is a Jedi. You know it. I know it. Artoo and the Falcon are basically the masterminds behind the entire Star Wars series — and you can learn more in my upcoming novel, Artoo and the Falcon, coming out from Del Rey Star Wars in May, 2042.


Let’s do this.

Fresh out of the gate:

It’s Lando.

Lando has to go in first. He’s their scout. He hides in plain sight as a guard in the palace, and he’s just chilling there. One might ask, how does he get a job there, but you have to take for granted that he’s one of the galaxy’s greatest swindlers and con artists — if anybody can con his way into a job at the den of iniquity belonging to a greasy butt-slug, well, it’s Lando Motherfucking Calrissian. Plus, Jabba’s gang doesn’t seem to be particularly discerning in terms of its employment practices, do they? From blubbery rancor keepers to murderous Twi’lek dancers to crummy bounty hunters, Jabba keeps a pretty cruddy crew around. I don’t get the sense he’s really in charge of hiring practices, either. Whatever shitty LinkedIn variant they use, it isn’t working. Point being, Lando is there.

So, Lando knows what’s up.

He’s on the scene.

And he probably knows that Jabba needs a translator.

Because Jabba destroyed his last translator.

Enter the droids.

The droids are utility players. Luke offers them up as a “gift,” knowing that his threat against Jabba won’t work — Jabba’s not a pushover, he’s not going to be like, “Whoa, what, a couple of droids? For Han Solo? FUCKING SWEET. Boshuuuuda, motherfuckers, I hit the lottery. Somebody get Solo down off the wall. Dengar, you do it. Don’t give me that look, Dengar, you diaper-wearing scum, just do what I say or you’ll be rancor chum.”

And you can already see what Luke is doing here with this plan — he’s basically stacking the deck with his best players. He’s putting into play a number of critical assets, all hidden in plain sight, all able to be on-scene when the shit goes down. At any point, the plan could work and they could get Solo, and if that happens, it doesn’t end with barbecued Hutt-slug, but in place are also a series of failsafes — if the plan foils at Point A, they move to Plan B, and if that fails, then Plan C, and on and on, until, well, crispy strangled Hutt.

(Now, here you say: it seems foolish to waste their critical assets on this. Couldn’t they get someone else to do it? But to imagine that is to ignore the theme ever-present in Star Wars: a small group of characters eschewing the larger strategy to save their friends. Is it smart to rush into the Death Star to save Leia? Or wise to leave your Jedi training to help your pals on Cloud City? Han goes against the New Republic to help free Kashyyyk, and Leia goes against the New Republic to begin the Resistance — this is their whole schtick. Again, it’s a series of movies that is far more interested in following its heart rather than its head. Their devotion to one another is what stirs hope and what literally changes the galaxy time and time again.)

Okay! So, the droids get their roles. Artoo is on the barge, but also, he’s Artoo, master of wandering around and going wherever the fuck he wants to go (seriously, that’s kind of his entire modus operandi, isn’t it?), and Threepio is right on the dais with Jabba.

Enter Leia and Chewie.

Leia, dressed as now-dead bounty hunter Boushh.

Boushh, who needs a — wait for it — translator.

(Meaning, Threepio is essential to this part.)

She gives up Chewie, threatens everyone with a fucking hand grenade, Jabba is like HO HO HO I LIKE THE BALLS ON THIS MASKED WEIRDO, and everything is happy. Now Leia-as-Boushh sneakily sneaks to Solo, makes a lot of noise getting him down, unfreezes him and —


*the mad cackle of a monkey-lizard*

So, at this point, I think there was a very real chance she could’ve gotten away with it. I suspect it was intended that maybe, just maybe, she was going to go in, get Solo, and get the fuck out again — I mean, the exit to the palace is right there. You go up some stairs and the door is like, a hundred yards away. And here you might say, well, what’s the deal with Chewie and the droids? Fuck ’em? Remember, though: Lando is in the house. Wouldn’t take much for Lando to free Chewie in the chaos, and the droids are pretty crafty themselves — well, okay, Artoo is crafty. Threepio would basically just say ohhhh in a panicked, mournful voice as he spun around in a circle for an hour, but Artoo can save both their aluminum asses, as he does repeatedly.

But, it fails.

The curtain falls and somehow, Jabba has hidden himself in like a… a breakfast nook or whatever? (You wanna try to explain something, explain that: how exactly does Jabba and his entire cabal hide in what essentially looks like a walk-in closet?)

So, Leia’s now on Hutt-Slayer duty, and Solo is with Chewie (meaning Chewie works as a good support system for the blind smuggler when he’s released), and now it’s time for Luke to show up, all bad-ass and, let’s be clear, a little bit Dark Sidey.

(I mean, real talk: his first move is to Force Choke some Pig Dudes.)

From here on out, it’s Skywalker, the big gun, showing up and knowing he’s going to need his whole team for total extraction. And here the question might be, well, why doesn’t Luke just go in by himself right at the beginning? He could’ve, but that would leave him vulnerable at several steps along the way — getting Solo down and out is a task all unto itself. He needs assets in play. And the palace is stacked now with friendly faces. All of whom come into play at various points of the plan’s execution.

The rancor is an unexpected speedbump — though I figure he should’ve known, given Lando being in there, but maybe Lando forgot to mention that. Maybe Lando was in love with the rancor? Maybe they got up to some sexy times? We just don’t know.

Luke keeps his (new) lightsaber off him, expecting capture — and he keeps it in Artoo, knowing that Artoo has the Force and would clearly weave the narrative in such a way to ensure that Skywalker had access to his shiny new laser sword.

From there, he’s got that saber out, Lando’s on the scene, Artoo is going to free Leia, Leia is going to slay that gropey slime-worm, and so on and so forth. The players play their parts. They bring death to the Hutt’s regime. Huzzah and hooray.

So, to me, that’s it — that’s the plan. A kind of clumsy, “get everyone in and then work to get everyone out” heist, a heist that would work poorly with only one of them in there, but that works much better with several assets in play to support redundancies and failsafes.

Now, if someone wants to explain to me the plot of Attack of the Clones

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  • The only thing that didn’t make sense about that perfectly logical explanation was the last sentence. Trying to find someone who can explain Attack of the Clones is a hopeless, probably pointless, undertaking.

  • Obi Wan has fun doing his best Philip Marlowe impersonation while Padme and Anakin take up an absurdly large amount of screen time trying to convince us they are even remotely attracted to each other. And then everyone everywhere become gladiators for the bug people, because it was inevitable anyway. But the important thing to remember is that we learn Artoo can fly and Yoda can duel, so everything else is largely immaterial to the story arc.

    • That’s all fine and good, but I mostly mean — what the hell with the clone army? It makes literally no sense. Who made them? Where do they come from? Why are they adopted at all as an army of the Republic? What the what?

      • It’s the Sifo-Dyas character that makes everything hopelessly confusing, since they don’t bother to explain why he commissioned the drone army at all in the movie. If the writers had just made Count Dooku (ridiculous name even for Star Wars) responsible for the whole thing it would have made much more sense and formed a tighter plot.

        • I always just assumed that Sifo-Dyas was an alias; either Dooku, Sidious or A N Other Sith stole his identity after he died and used it to commission the clones so that there would be no paper trail leading back to the Sith or Palpatine. That, or Sifo-Dyas was the Sith before Maul or between Maul and Dooku (can’t remember when he was supposed to have died in the timeline).

          My main question is why Obi Wan never questions how Palpatine knew about it and suddenly summons it at the dramatically appropriate moment.

  • On the point of the Clone Army and why they are there in the first place, it all comes down to Lucas Logic (it’s a real thing, somewhere out there hovering above Skywalker Ranch). Lucas Logic is all about things representing things (which is what story is anyway), and he wanted things to match up with the OT, “rhyme like poetry” as he says. But the Clone Army is supposed to represent the folly of the Jedi, this so-called peacekeeping force that essentially commands a war machine, and falls right into Sidious’ trap (It’s a trap? Another one? Guh!). The Jedi, for all their posturing, are just the flip side of the Sith, so they do the same things that the Sith do just for the greater good (granted, killing a younglings is frowned upon).

    The ends justify the means. If we need a Clone Army that conveniently springs up from the past then so what? (Maybe AOTC is actually a noir and ObiWan is Sam Spade, and Padme’s the femme fatale meant to lure Anakin into lovey dovey area to prep him for heartbreak and confusion so he can’t let go of her and turns the Dark Side!). If it’s all part of Sidious’ convoluted long game plan to upend the Republic that no one will ever figure out, not even Sidious himself because Lucas only gave him the cliff notes, then why not? Also, if I have a completely loyal clone army numbering in the millions of millions of majillions that will execute my Order 66, and my order at Cantina Burger for a number 6, Rancor sized, why not just get rid of them and go with a rigorous training program to brainwash kids so they grow up as loyal soldiers, even thought I don’t need to, but since the OT didn’t have a Clone Army, I have to ditch them for continuity’s sake, and quickly change the aesthetic to cloudy gray and pretend they never existed, so…………………………………..

  • I liked the first one, I’ve seen it 39 times and would sit down again to watch. Saw the second one twice, sat through the third one too embarrassed to walk out of a studio screening. Did walk out halfway through the fourth one, passed on the next two, was unimpressed with the one under discussion here, and finally choked on “I know what you’re going to say – I’ve changed my hair style” and went running from the theater having forced myself to sit to that point because I may be doing business with She Who Is Responsible For This Crap. The news that the talentless hack who did the most recent one has been give all of the next ones saves me the trouble of worrying about this steaming pile of “corporate product” further. I guess I’m too old and possession of a brain works against me. I’m sure all of them are fine if you’re 10 when you see each of them. Now pardon me while I go back to engrossing myself in the hardback first edition of The Foundation Trilogy I discovered at the local library used book sale this past weekend.

    • I don’t recall this being a place to invite scrutiny of The Last Jedi, a film I loved considerably.

      Please wipe your feet before you come in my front door, thank you.

    • In addition to the general undeserved anger and general hating in this post, did you really bash Star Wars as stories for 10-year-olds and then hold up the Foundation Trilogy as a paragon of storytelling for the enlightened? I’ve got some nostalgia for that series, but reading it as an adult is definitely not the same. Perhaps you just prefer Seldon’s magic math over Yoda’s space magic…

  • “Maybe Lando was in love with the rancor?”

    Judging by the reaction of the rancor-keeper after Luke did it in, that beast was as loveable as it was large and carnivorous. Real tears, streaming down his one-browed face to dampen his broad and spongy bosom! I would not be surprised if Lando’s private apology to Luke for not mentioning it was, “I was just down giving it scritches the day before. Who would have thought it was dangerous?”

  • My personal handwave is that Lando and Leia were both gung-ho about their plans, and Luke was all, “No, that’s not going to work.” “Totally will.” “No, it really won’t. I grew up on that planet, I KNOW about that guy, this will NOT WORK.” “Luke, you need to have faith!” “ARGH NO NO NO fuck it, I’ll send R2 in there with my lightsaber before Leia goes in so he’ll be ready for me when those two inevitably fail.” (Lando having conveniently pitched his idea when Luke was still woozy from anesthesia from the limb replacement.)

    And then saunters in and keeps in mind that Jedi act out of defense (something he’d forgotten when he fought Vader on Bespin, and that didn’t work out too well for him). So he intentionally makes himself look ridiculous, because he doesn’t want Jabba to take him up on his offers. He wants Jabba to laugh and say “nope.” Because after having grown up on that planet, Luke knows all about Jabba and the horrible things he’s done to people, and if he’s got the opportunity to kill Jabba, he’s going to take it: that’s why he plants his lightsaber in R2. And this way, he’s satisfied all requirements: he’s technically given Jabba warning of what will happen, but at the same time, done so in a way that guarantees Jabba won’t take that warning — hey look, he’s free to kill Jabba now, because it’ll be in self-defense.

    (I don’t think that was the intention behind the writing and directing of that scene. I don’t think ROTJ is well-written or well-directed, and I think there was maybe 2 seconds’ worth of thought that went into the rescue sequence — “this will look cool. Let’s do it.” “But shouldn’t Lando or Leia –” “I SAID, ‘LET’S DO IT.'” But I like my handwave anyway.)

    • Even though you’re probably right and the director had no idea how meta he was being, that makes SO MUCH SENSE. Going by backstory, Luke has to have known all about Jabba, his palace, his temper, his methods. He grew up on Tatooine, there’s no way he couldn’t have heard the details about the only major crime lord to occupy the same planet. That’s a really smart handwave.

  • March 13, 2018 at 2:15 PM // Reply

    “what the hell with the clone army? It makes literally no sense. Who made them? Where do they come from? Why are they adopted at all as an army of the Republic? What the what?”
    The Kaminoans made the clone army. They come from the clone facility on Kaminoa. Sidious, or one of his henchmen, commissioned the clone army. Jango Fett was recruited by Darth Tyrannous.

    They were adopted as the republic’s army because they were given to the republic at the exact same time they really needed an army. “Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth” type of situation.

    Palpatine’s plan was to gain power through constant war. The plan was to use the war as an excuse to gain emergency powers and to get the Jedi out in the open. This plan wouldn’t work out to well if only one side had an army.

    • Yes, but that doesn’t really look hard at how batshit that is.

      The Jedi discover that one of their own commissioned the creation of a clone army — which is not a Jedi thing, at all — way out in the middle of nowhere, and the clones in this army are based on a dangerous bounty hunter who is tied to the assassination attempt on Padme.

      So, already, right there, the clones are fraught — they are a random army created by a random Jedi, and born of a murderous, anti-Republic bounty hunter who is STILL THERE on Kamino when Obi-Wan shows up.

      Then! On Geonosis, we see that *same bounty hunter* working for Dooku, and then there’s this giant Jedi fight, and the Jedi start to lose and…

      Apparently, Yoda has enough time to go and wrangle a full-scale assault on Geonosis using this army? The one made from the guy who is working for Dooku and tried to kill Amidala and Obi-Wan? WTF?

      Literally none of that makes sense.

  • March 13, 2018 at 4:57 PM // Reply

    Hmm. Nope. It’s much simpler than that. Luke’s a Force user, can see the various strands of fate, right? He saw the one possible future that woukd allow him to rescue Han. He needed the offer of the droids ro be rejecyed. He not only knew Leia would be captured, but needed it to be so to take Jabba out etc etc

    Every other vision of the future he saw lead to failure.

    • March 13, 2018 at 5:05 PM // Reply

      Omg sorry about the typos. Also my reply sounded much more dismissive than intended (sorry) – just that I always thought Luke knew exactly what was going to happen and that it was the only way it could be done.

      Which made me wonder – did he tell Leia and Co how it was going to play out? Probably not.

    • I don’t hate that idea, not at all — though I feel like it probably takes an assumption on the part of the viewer, since Luke’s Force abilities — and his ability in particular to see the future — is not really clarified well in the OT.

  • One thing that gets overlooked, I think, is that some of the specifics weren’t actually important. Take the barge, for example. People say, “What if Jabba hadn’t gone to the pit? What if he’d ordered them executed in the palace? Luke’s plan wouldn’t have worked!” What, do you think Luke couldn’t have worked around that? Because at that point in the plan, all that was left was for Artoo to get him his lightsaber and for the Skywalker Six to bust out. The location didn’t matter. For all we know, his plan didn’t even include the pit.

    • That’s often an issue I have with complaints about film plans (often in heist movies):

      “What if bad guy had done X instead of Y? The plan would have failed because it depended on Y happening!”

      No. The plan we saw on screen depended on Y, because Y had already happened at that point, so they kicked in the element of the plan that depended on Y. If X had happened, then they would have used the plan that depended on X. Any decent plan almost certainly as a number of fallbacks and conditionals to handle different circumstances arising during execution, so the plan we see on screen is just the appropriate elements of the larger plan playing out as required.

  • Just finished reading the original novelizations recently to gear up for TLJ novelization. In those books it mentions how Luke sneaks into Jabba’s palace several times to steal astromech droids being used on the barge leading up to the beginning of ROTJ. That is mentioned when R2 is getting “on boarded” for his new job by his snappy new droid Boss as well. I feel like Luke even looks at Threepio like “Oh I know” when he is trying to explain what Luke is standing on in Jabba’s throne room. My feeling? Skywalker knew he could get his Six onto that barge and away from Jabba’s Palace just like he knew he could stack the deck in his favor. Lando has some good internal monologue about when to play their hand or not leading up to it too…. Great piece Chuck! Love your style dude.

  • I was doing OK until “giant tentacled butthole”. Then I remembered why I don’t read your posts while drinking coffee. My nose hurts. You know what, that is *exactly* what a Sarlacc looks like and now I can never unsee it. Goddamit Wendig.

  • You nailed it. I always kinda assumed that Luke’s plan of last resort was to lure Jabba away from his palace where there would be fewer guards and an easier escape. I’m sure Luke grew up hearing stories of folks getting tossed into the Pit of Carkoon and wanted to force Jabba’s hand until there was no other option but to feed everyone to the Sarlacc. However, the Rancor seemed to be Jabba’a favored method of execution those days so Luke was on monster duty when the stealth approach failed. It’s telling that Artoo didn’t toss Luke his laser sword during the Rancor fight, but saved it for the actual endgame.

    • Not telling at all. Luke didn’t signal R2 suring rancor fight because he is a Jedi and had it under control.

      That, and, iirc, R2 was nowhere near, so….

  • I am truly baffled that a writer for the Star Wars franchise can’t comprehend or imagine or research the how and why behind the Clone Army creation. Is it iron-clad real-world logoc? No. Is it aligned with the loose logic used in all the other SW films? Yes. Sidious manuevered the creation, controlling both sides of the conflict, knowing full well that he could incite war one way or the other through political and dark side means. Conflict gives rise to more power, overwhelm thr Jedi … well, the reat is in Sith.

    And the plot behind AotC isn’t that much more complicated: a senator opposed to creation of an army is threatened, Obi is tasked to find the attacker and Anakin tasked to protect, plots converge when Obi needs help and … Clone War starts.

    This stuff has a solid, basic logic behind it. But, so too does the “heist” of Han Solo, and that seems to cause confusion so perhaps I take my understanding for granted.

    • I understand the politics behind it and the scheme — I’m not confused about that. I actually like all the weird political maneuvering going on in the prequels — the manipulations of Palpatine are legendary, and I get why the Jedi fall for it.

      BUT, the manipulations specifically put forward in AOTC are just nonsense.

      Padme is nearly assassination.
      That assassination leads to Jango Fett, a bounty hunter and murderer.
      Fett is literally the template for an ARMY OF CLONES, purchased by… y’know, some rando Jedi we’ve never heard of. The Jedi don’t know about it. They’re notably cagey about it.
      Obi-Wan gets caught on Geonosis.
      Anakin and Padme do, too.
      They are then thrown into an arena overseen by Dooku and, wait for it, the same bounty hunter asshole who is the template for the clones, thus drawing the easiest conclusion that the clone army is some hinky janky wonky trap scheme, and yet, the Jedi don’t even seem to CONSIDER this — instead, Yoda just… shows up with the clone army. Like, right when they’re needed, he somehow appears, et voila, to engage in not merely an extraction of the Jedi, but a full-scale assault (!) on Geonosis with the clone trooper army (!!) they just learned about (?!) that is definitely based on a creepy murderous bounty hunter (!!?#(*$) — and everyone’s like, “Cool, we have an army now.”

      It’s just utter nonsense.

      And it’s not utter nonsense because of plot mechanics, it’s utter nonsense because character motivations and character intelligence are shuttled to the side to let the plot come through. The plot leads. Lucas needed something called THE CLONE WARS, and he jammed that square peg into that circle hole hard as he could. Never mind that everyone in the situation should’ve literally known better — nope, they all just look the other way because the *plot* needed them to.

  • I would totally read “Artoo and the Falcon.” That is now a story the Star Wars universe is in great need of.

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