Darth Vader’s Elaborate Surprise Cloud City Dinner Table Plan Is Weird!

Look, The Empire Strikes Back is my favorite movie of all time, so what comes ahead is in no way meant to disparage its greatness. Frankly, I just like any excuse to write about it. But there’s always been one scene in Empire – which is also one of my favorite scenes – that has always struck me as a little odd. And not in a cinematic way, because cinematically it’s wonderful, but more in a, “If we assume for a second this character is a real person, what would possess this character to do this,” kind of way. And the scene I’m talking about is when Darth Vader is waiting for Han, Leia, and Chewbacca at a Cloud City dinner table. This scene is weird!

Okay, so we know that the hyperdrive on the Millennium Falcon isn’t working, so Han, Leia, Chewbacca and C-3PO arrive at Cloud City in hopes that Han’s sometimes friend, sometimes nemesis, Lando Calrissian, will help them out. Unfortunately, Boba Fett tracked them to Cloud City and alerted the Empire, who sprung a trap for our heroes. (By the way, I’ve written about this before, but I contend Lando did nothing wrong. Lando’s responsibility is to keep the people of Cloud City safe, not these fugitive criminals who just show up out of nowhere asking for help.)

So, what’s weird here is how long the Empire waits to actually capture Han, Leia and Chewbacca. Lando tells Han the Empire arrived right before they did, so why the wait? I’ll concede maybe Vader wasn’t there yet and Vader wanted to be personally involved before any move was made on them? I can buy into that, I think? But the part that I always wish was some kind of deleted scene was what went into the planning stages of the “big reveal.”

I’m just imagining Lando greeting Darth Vader upon his arrival. Then telling Vader, “Well, I kept my part of the bargain. Han, Leia, and Chewbacca are currently in room 307. Here’s the key card. I guess you can go up and get them.”

But instead of just immediately sending 50 stormtroopers to Han and Leia’s room, Vader tells Lando, “No. Here’s what we will do instead. I want you to invite them to dinner. Bring them to the banquet room. Then when you enter the banquet room, I will be sitting there waiting for them and it will be a huge surprise. I even have a funny line prepared.”

Lando: “Lord Vader, look I’m not trying to question your plan here, but wouldn’t it be easier to just go get them right now? I mean they are literally just sitting there.”

Vader: “No, Calrissian. I want to be sitting at the end of a large banquet table. When they enter the room, I will stand up.”

Lando: “Okay, but why will you be sitting? Why not just be standing. Don’t you think the sitting part is a bit much?”

Vader: “Carlissian, I want to be sitting. It adds to the effect that I’m just sitting down for a meal like anyone else would be. But when they enter, I will stand.”

So then, I can only imagine Boba Fett is listening to this wondering how he fits into this overly elaborate plan, “So what am I supposed to be doing this whole time?”

Then Vader explains, “No, you’ll be there, too.”

Fett: “Wait, I’m also sitting at the table?”

Vader: “No, bounty hunter. You come in later, after I deliver my punchline.”

So this is the best part. There’s no way Vader just came up with his big line right there on the spot. Of course he probably workshopped his zing a few times before all this went down. There had to be a moment when Lando and Boba Fett were both asking, “Wait, you’re delivering a punchline? You know, again, you can just go get them right now.”

“No, Carlissian. You will bring them to the banquet hall. When you open the door I will be seated. Then I will stand. Then I will say, [snikers] … ‘Eat up, numbskulls.’” A line, of course, no one likes. Then after a back and forth Vader finally comes up with, “Well, how about, ‘We would be honored if you will join us?’” And everyone finally agrees that’s not terrible. Then Vader adds, “Then, bounty hunter, you walk in.”

Fett: “So I’m not standing there when the door opens?”

Vader: “No. After I deliver my line, you kind of sidestep in from another room.”


Fett: “Do I say anything?”

Vader: “You do not.”

Lando: “Do you want us to set the table? With plates and everything?”

Vader: “Yes.”

Fett: “Are we actually going to eat?”

Vader: “No.”

Fett: “So what happens then?’

Vader: “I guess we just capture them.”

Lando: “I swear you could just do all that right now without this choreographed dinner table plan.”

Vader: [Force chokes Lando]

Lando: “Gaaaa … okay, the dinner table plan is a good plan.”

Look, I love this scene to death. It’s one of my favorite scenes in all of Star Wars. Cinematically, it’s just brilliant. What’s the last thing a person would be expecting to see at a fancy dinner table? High on the list would be Darth Vader, just sitting there waiting for a meal. But somewhere along the line Vader had to set this whole elaborate ruse into motion and there’s no way everyone around Vader wasn’t thinking, “This is very weird.” Also, I bet after, Vader looked around to everyone, very proud of himself, “See, wasn’t that great?”

Actually, yes, it was great.

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