My Year With The A-Team: Season 1, Episode 13 – The Beast From the Belly of a Boeing

Hannibal and a blinded Murdock try to fly the plane

“We’re just in time to watch a group of renegade porn actors, plus a poor man’s Marvin Gaye, hijack an airplane.”

Had my first A-Team dream last night. A real-life friend of mine, a radio host, was working for several different stations, one of which was just across the Mexico/U.S. Border. This upset some kingpin or other in Mexico and he was trying to take over the station or some nefarious type thing, and my friend thought the A-Team might be able to help. I was the go-between; I told him “my friends” would come by and they’d be able to solve the problem. I woke up just as the van pulled up to meet us; I guess my work was done.

But the more I think about this, the less I like it. I can understand why I subconsciously see myself as an intermediary; for years I thought my role in life was to collect interesting stories and share them, and often that’s what I do. Heck, this is a go-between project! I watch the show and relay the good stuff back to you, right?

It’s a good role, mind you. Take Gram Parsons. He used to say that his dream was to play a concert with half an audience of wild rock ‘n’ rollers and the rest old-school country music fans, and to get them singing and clapping and dancing together. Pretty noble stuff, if you think about it. But TV is my new medium, and on TV the go-between is the guy on the sidelines, the man behind the scenes. He gets all the important players together so they can fulfill their various destinies. It’s not noble; it’s barely even there. And I want to be more than barely there; I want to be in on the action, the way the team is. Someone else can bring me over and I can drive up in an awesome van and take on the scum who hassle the good honest residents of nonexistent small towns. And it’ll be my plans that come together. Intermediaries, it’s been a pleasure, but this former go-between is taking action!

So it’s settled. Starting tomorrow I’m taking up target shooting, American kempo, alligator wrestling and cliff diving. I can’t wait to see what my dreams start looking like now!


The Beast From the Belly of a Boeing

Wild Guess Preview: The A-Team is hired by a carry-on bag that’s being threatened by a full and menacing luggage set. Hannibal has the team stow away in a plane’s cargo hold dressed as luggage, but things get out of hand when the luggage handling system accidentally re-routes Triple A through Singapore and B.A., drugged and sleeping outside a “Hudson News” kiosk, is sold to a Dallas businessman along with some M&M’s and a Stephen King paperback. The team wins out in the end by leaving a jar of cold cream slightly open inside each piece of renegade luggage, messing up all the clothing inside and convincing the owner to travel with just a backpack from now on.

The Recap: We’re at a very large airport, and we’re just in time to watch a group of renegade porn actors plus a poor man’s Marvin Gaye hijack a plane owned by the fictional Beller Airlines. These flabby dudes and their bad mustaches (one of them looks like Adam Sandler, ick) call themselves the “United People’s Resistance” (suggested motto: “united we resist”) and their first act as terrorist hijackers is to ask for permission to take off. “We have just hijacked your flight – could we please take off?” The air traffic controllers, who aren’t sweaty dumbasses, say no. The hijacker pilot says let us take off or we’ll start shooting. The air traffic controllers say nothing, which I guess is permission by omission, and they’re airborne.

This worries the two Beller executives, who have been told the pornjackers are demanding $5 million in cash and safe passage to Libya. They want to pay the ransom, but they’re not actually in charge, they’re just filling in for the actual Mr. Beller, who is away on a fishing trip in Greece. What’s really interesting here is that this big-time airline is literally run by three guys. There’s no large and baffling corporate structure; there are three executives and then everybody else works directly on aircraft or at a gate. Anyway, one of the execs has tried to track down the A-Team via some “Vietnam veteran activist groups,” but says it’s a dead-end. At that very second, Hannibal walks in and starts throwing sandwiches at them! Then he explains that he’s Hannibal. The other exec thinks it’s all crazy.

Hannibal's weird disguise
Hannibal doesn’t dye his hair, he’s just prematurely orange.

Hannibal arranges for the team to meet him at the airport; he says they owe Beller a favor because during Vietnam the airline got them a special flight home for Thanksgiving or something. Hannibal’s plan is for he and Face to dress as Beller executives and offer themselves as substitute hostages, while B.A. and Murdock sneak into the hull and then subdue everybody. B.A. is suspicious that he’ll have to fly, though Hannibal assures him he won’t have to leave the ground. Murdock is somewhat subdued himself; his doctor has decided he’s well enough to leave the mental institution, despite his tales of Billy the invisible dog and “a giant fish eating the White House.” B.A. unhappily takes that crazy fool to the airport while Hannibal, Face and Triple A take a limo to meet the hijacked plane. Hannibal’s executive disguise makes him look like the lovechild of Chuck Woolery and Ronald Reagan.

B.A. freezes
Murdock wins at flashlight tag, mostly because B.A. is in a coma

The plane lands, lured by Hannibal’s promises of a briefcase full of money (Hannibal and Face look longingly at the five million bucks before heading off to the mission). Murdock and B.A. drive up in the fuel truck, posing as ground crew and climbing into the cargo hold while nobody’s looking. The porn guys free the hostages, and take Hannibal and Face as planned. What isn’t planned is that the hijackers take off before refueling is complete, which means they’re flying with B.A. on board and when B.A. realizes this he freezes in place. Murdock hilariously tries to snap him out of it, singing snatches of “Chattanooga Choo Choo” as “Catatonic Choo Choo” but to no avail. So Murdock climbs up into the cabin, hits a hijacker with a wrench, and ties him up in cargo.

This is the only thing going right at the moment – inside the plane, the thugs have caught on to Hannibal’s disguise, and they’re not even worried because they’re going to ditch the plane and parachute into anonymity, leaving Face and Hannibal to “go for a swim” when the fuel runs out. But they can’t seem to find the dude who was going to get the parachutes. One of the porn dudes goes back to find him and Murdock takes him away at gunpoint as well. And suddenly it dawns on me that Howlin Mad Murdock IS… Passenger 57!

H.M. Murdock is Passenger 57

Now two of the skyjackers are tied up, and B.A. awakes, screaming “WE’RE ON A PLANE? WE’RE ON A PLANE?!?” But he calms down when Murdock explains that Hannibal and Face are in trouble, and they come up with a plan, which they share with Hannibal and Face by tapping Morse code under their seats. Face pretends to need a bathroom break, and when he gets there he and Murdock knock out the Marvin Gaye-looking guard. (Hannibal tells the other guards “I never go to the bathroom.” Ever?) This leads to a big fistfight, which in turn leads to a gunfight, and this leads to the next plot point when Murdock gets a powder burn and can’t see. Also, Jackson, the hijackers’ leader, manages to shoot out a window, which depressurizes the cabin a la “Goldfinger” and sends him flying out the cabin door. (Don’t worry, he’s got a parachute.)

Triple A's got a gun
The name is A… Triple A

So the bad guys are history, but now the plane is out of control and their pilot is a crazy fool who can’t see. Hannibal mentions that he took an introductory flight course once; Murdock says if Hannibal will be his eyes, he can probably land the plane. B.A.: “This is my worst nightmare.” They explain this plan to the Beller execs on the ground, who then devise a secret plan to get Hannibal to fly into the ocean while making him think he’s flying to the airport. Triple A is outraged, but they say they have to do it or the plane could wipe out “half the city.” Um, L.A. is kind of big, isn’t it? They pull out of autopilot and Murdock calmly instructs Hannibal on pilot technique – why no one ever thought to do a “Murdock Flight Simulator” I’ll never know. Triple A grabs a gun from the guards and tells the execs to actually help them or she’ll shoot. They start helping.

B.A. and Hannibal are gonna crash!
WE GONNA CRASH! WE GONNA CRASH!

Finally the airport is in sight and they head toward the runway. Hannibal grits his teeth and prepares to bring her in, but B.A. starts freaking out again, yelling “WE GONNA CRASH! WE GONNA CRASH!” and grabbing Hannibal tight. Face has to hit him with a briefcase like twelve times before he sits back down. They go in for the landing… hit the ground… and crash right into the terminal! What fun. Face says to B.A. that maybe flying isn’t so bad, but B.A. is already catatonic again. Hannibal says he loves it when a plan comes together.

The team is on the ground a week later, and Murdock is healing fine, but B.A. is scarred for life. Face goes through the finances – they got one percent of the $5 million ransom, but after expenses, retirement and taxes (B.A. “We don’t pay taxes!?!”) they’re left with $236. They drive Murdock to the asylum to get his stuff; while there Murdock runs into the doctor who released him, and doc is talking about aliens and crazy stuff. Turns out the doc is crazy and tried to release all of his patients! Murdock is brought back into his room, where he yells “HOME! HOME AT LAST!”

Wild fun, and very out of the ordinary – aside from the unique setting and premise, I love that Murdock saved the day here! And the last few minutes, where they try to land the plane, were interesting despite being very un-A-Team-like. I’d go on about how much I enjoyed this one, but I have an hour booked at the gun club and those targets aren’t going to fire on themselves.

Comments

comments

Leave a Reply