My Year With The A-Team: Season 3, Episode 7 – Trouble on Wheels

The A-Team is in a garage and look surprised

“We’ve stumbled upon the A-Team Stock Footage Salute to the American Worker!”

One thing my new Mr. T doll can’t fix, apparently, is the weather. We’re in the heat of late summer, and while central New Hampshire isn’t a tropical sun belt, it’s enough to make it hard to get comfortable as I write an A-Team recap. And that’s something I’m not that good at anyway – I may have mentioned this earlier in the year, but for the life of me I can’t find The Spot for doing this kind of work. In the course of watching one episode I usually sit 23 different ways in at least two or three rooms. Right now they’re all sweaty and humid, and at night the neighborhood skunk comes out, which forces all the windows closed and everything gets sweatier and more humid. I have read that good writers need to create physical space to facilitate their writing, but they never say whether that suggestion applies to jackasses who recap TV shows, so I haven’t pursued it. Instead, I sit, I lay out, I stand, I lean, I contort massively (ok, not that) all hoping to find the appropriate A-Team recapping position. What we need is an occupational therapist with a specialty in 80’s action shows, e.g. “The Ergonomics of Hannibal Smith” – anybody know one?


Trouble on Wheels

Wild Guess Preview: The team, looking to wind down after all the mobster-fighting hubbub in “Double Heat,” buys tickets to the WORLD OF WHEELS WORLD OF WHEELS monster truck rally at the local civic center. But a crooked event planner enters the awesome van in the demolition derby, where rest and relaxation quickly turns into death and dismemberment. A special broadcast only available this Sunday! SUNDAY! SUNDAY!!!!

Hannibal and Rudy Garcia team up
Hannibal and Dennis Becker, what a team!

The Recap: These factory scenes look awfully generic – I think we’ve stumbled upon the A-Team Stock Footage Salute to the American Worker! There’s welding, there’s hoisting, there’s faux John Fogarty music… it’s like a preparation montage without a villain. Good news: this week’s guest star is Joe Santos, who played Dennis on “The Rockford Files”! Less good news: the camera pulls back and we learn these auto workers have been building a beige K-Car. There must be a metaphor about clouds and silver linings here somewhere, but I’m blind from all the welding footage and can’t find it.

Joe Santos’s character is called Rudy Garcia, and he’s a plant foreman at the National Motor Company in Van Nuys. He’s just finished a hard day of working hard when two dudes in hoods knock him silly with a crowbar and toss him into their getaway car (which is not a K-Car). They take him to a dockside warehouse and shine bright lights at him, even though he’s blindfolded, and they warn him not to speak out against unnamed atrocities at the auto plant. See, if National would just institute a grievance policy, the workers wouldn’t resort to terrorism.

Rudy and his busted face drive away, and go straight through a stop sign, which puts a motorcycle cop on his tail. Rudy’s wondering if the cop has got SCMODS, but it’s actually Hannibal, doing one of his tests of character: he asks Rudy for a bribe but Rudy rejects it, saying he’d rather take the ticket. And so Hannibal hands him a ticket with “YOU HAVE JUST FOUND THE A-TEAM” on it. “I like an honest man, Mr. Garcia,” says Hannibal. And here comes the awesome van, with a mustache-free Face hanging off the side to collect their phony stop sign.

Rudy tells Hannibal the evil worker dudes are running a scheme to steal new car parts off the assembly line. But he can’t figure out which workers are the evil ones – me, I’d look for guys who keep hoods and bright lights in their desk drawers. B.A. is incensed that honest working men are getting a raw deal. Face is impressed Rudy and his men took up a collection to hire the team, and Murdock is excited that Rudy will give the team jobs in the plant so they can scope out the scammers. Hannibal tells Rudy he’s just hired the A-Team. Cool.

Face is dressed like a pimp

Face, the Avenging Disco Godfather

New job time! Hannibal is working on the manufacturing floor, while Murdock and B.A. are doing some kind of painting job. Murdock, of course, manages to get paint on B.A.’s jumpsuit, and the big guy chases the crazy fool into the street just as Face drives up in a convertible and HOLY CRAP HE’S DRESSED LIKE A PIMP. Face is setting up a phony auto parts supplier as part of their sting operation. He says the pimp outfit is part of the scam, but I don’t remember anybody at Autozone wearing a feather hat and a purple leather jacket.

Back inside the plant, Hannibal is helping himself to a box of carburetors at the end of the work day – which is the cue for the goons to whack him with their crowbar and drive off with him in the back of their not-that-awesome van. I can see now why these guys wear hoods most of the time – yecch. The team follows in the awesome van, but they lose the trail because some dumb kid walks in front of the van at an intersection. B.A. asks “you okay, little brother?” but he’s too disappointed in losing Hannibal’s trail to teach the kid to make ashtrays.

Hannibal is on his own, knocked out in the back of the villains’ van, and this is a chance for the producers to use a whole heap of stock footage that has seemingly nothing to do with anything. Seriously, that rowboat scene in “Willy Wonka” makes more sense than this – they show kids at school, an ocean wave, a jackhammer… is this one of those long French documentaries from the 80’s where they wander around a mall for six hours and call it a film? Hannibal wakes up in the dockside warehouse with the hooded hoods and their shiny lights. They tell Hannibal they don’t want competition in selling black market parts, but Hannibal, playing along with the scam, says his buyer won’t like that.

The “buyer” is Otto’s Auto Parts Store – Face is proud of the name – and the store is where Hannibal recuperates from his beating. It’s also where we learn why they showed all that bizarre stock footage before: Hannibal was wearing a recording device in his wristwatch, and B.A. matches up the street sounds in the recording to a local map, which is how the team finds the smugglers and their secret warehouse. The team dons black hoods and they’re able to take the thugs by surprise, though the lack of bright lights means the smugglers refuse to say who they work for. Hannibal says fine, we’ll take the truck you just loaded instead. And they drive off. Face is confused: why not round them up now? Hannibal wants the name of their boss, who he figures must be “a real heavyweight” if the smugglers won’t give up his name. And he figures the head smuggler will get mad and try to retaliate.

Murdock in a soda machine
At this moment, Devo is wondering where their jumpsuits went

And retaliate he does – or at least his hirelings do, pushing around some of Rudy’s workers and making everyone nervous and irritable. Hannibal, as always, has a plan to spy on the thugs – he puts Murdock inside a lunchroom soda machine, and he listens in as the dudes blab about their smuggling. One of them, Hoyt something or other, says something profound. “The guys that ripped us off ain’t auto workers. It’s gotta be someone inside… someone right here in this plant.” Auto workers in an auto plant, eh? You can see why Hoyt is heading up this operation! Murdock thoroughly enjoys his time in the soda machine – not only does he remember every incriminating thing the dudes said, he also made fifty cents when one of them bought a soda!

Murdock plays Crazy Willie

Elsewhere, Ricardo Montalban is wearing a bomber jacket

Hoyt touches base with head smuggler Jimmy Durkee, who is very upset and wants his stolen parts back immediately. Hoyt says don’t worry, I’ll find the guys that hit us somehow, at which point Hannibal walks by and insinuates that his old boss, Crazy Willie Veano, took the stolen parts. Crazy Willie is made up, of course – actually he’s Murdock made up in a fancy white suit and a Brando impression. Hoyt tries to push Crazy Willie around and get his truck back, but Murdock explains “the only thing Crazy Willie ever gives back… is trouble.” So much for that idea. Hoyt slinks back to an unhappy Durkee and reports that “Crazy Willie is bananas… he’s liable to do anything!” Durkee doesn’t care: “The only thing he’s gonna do is bleed.” He wants Hoyt and the other smugglers to get some guns and “move in on that auto store.” And that’s only half the plan: the rest of the goons go to Rudy’s house and take his whole family prisoner. Rudy really ought to call Rockford at this point.

Murdock gets arrested

This week on “Real Stories of National Auto Internal Security”

The team is armed and ready for a fight, but before they can take down the thugs outside, a cop from “National Auto Internal Security” busts in and arrests the team for stealing auto parts. Huh? Hannibal explains that they’re working with Rudy Garcia, but the “cop” says Rudy’s been kidnapped and they’re the prime suspects. And then a flash of memory comes across his face: “I caught the A-Team!” he squeals with nervous delight. Murdock has a flash of genius and pretends that he’s a “dumb clerk” who ended up working side by side with these deadly fugitives, and the cop falls for it – literally, as Murdock drops the garage door on him at just the right moment. Unfortunately he then drops the same garage door on B.A.’s shoe, and… yeah. Murdock advises him to “think happy thoughts” to dull the pain. B.A. “Ok: I’m thinking you got hit by a bus.” Ha.

The A-Team's armored deathmobile

Armor plating and machine gun nests optional. See your local dealer for options.

Hannibal says the only way to rescue Rudy and his family is to use a classic military tactic, “the reverse frontal assault.” And before we have time to ponder the logic of a reverse frontal assault, it’s montage time, and the team soups up Face’s pimp convertible into the usual armored deathmobile. B.A. can’t drive with his foot all messed up, so they put Murdock at the wheel; I doubt anything could go wrong here. They peel out to go stop the thugs, to the tune of a song called “Trouble on Wheels.”

Hannibal has a megaphone built into the deathmobile, and he gives the thugs five seconds to surrender – on five, Murdock drives through the wall of their hideout and starts the big gunfight. But that’s not the team’s only trick: the headlights have been rigged to shoot motor oil! The literally greasy thugs try to run for it in a pickup truck, but the team follows, and tosses a few sticks of dynamite in the right spot. That blows out a thug tire and causes their truck to flip over. Hannibal and Face wrap up the fight with a few kicks and pucnhes; B.A. can only watch because he’s injured. Afterward Murdock pats himself on the back for his fancy driving: “I didn’t do so bad, did I, big guy?” he asks, only he smacks the car as he says this, and the car comes down on B.A.’s foot again. Jeez.

Rudy is grateful to, and impressed by, the team “The way you put that car together, you’ve got a lifetime job here.” And with Hoyt and company going to prison, they’ll need to do some hiring. (Why Rudy didn’t just fire them at some point, I’m not quite sure; wouldn’t that have solved the problem?) B.A. just wants his van, except there’s a problem: “We know where your van is… most of it,” explains Murdock, who brings out the van’s lower chassis; it looks like Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. B.A. chases Murdock and says he’s a dead man. And that’s all.

Much, much better than the last episode – I was worried we’d get into the doldrums again, but Joe Santos pulled us right back out. I didn’t even mind that the villains were pretty useless – they’re just low-level parts thieves, they’re supposed to be useless. When a reputed mob boss is useless, that’s another story. Good plot, everybody had some fun (except poor B.A.) and I’m feeling good. But I’m still not feeling comfortable – maybe I need a preparation montage of my own, so I can sit comfortably for the next recap. Hey, I could even add a few machine gun nests to the chair. I’ve been meaning to anyway.

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